Monday, August 13, 2018
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily Aug. 13, 2018, at Our Lady of Częstochowa Shrine in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, during the evening Fatima Mass and rosary procession.
Simeon predicted that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction — the cause of the rise and fall of many; and that a sword of sorrows would pierce his mother’s heart. Today, the 13th of August, reminds us of the truth of these words that speak to us across the centuries in the Word of God, words that should comfort us in our trials as we struggle to witness to hope in a world that, because it wishes to live without God, without reference to his truth, finds itself increasingly without hope.
101 years ago, today, the shepherd children of Fatima were to go to Cova de Iris, as they had in other months, where they were to meet the Lady whom we know now was the Queen of Peace, the Blessed Virgin. Thousands had gone before them hoping to catch sight of the vision; but the children did not arrive. They were kidnapped by the town’s major, taken to a police station, where they were threatened with various punishments unless they recanted and declared that what they had reported was a fraud.
Though they very young — simple children of simple people — they refused to deny the truth of what they saw. The mayor and his cohorts thought that they could put fear into the hearts of these shepherd children — but they failed. In fact, when the day was over the children were released — and it was the mayor and his people who were afraid.
In today’s reading from the Book of Revelation, the beloved apostle to whom Jesus entrusted Mary, his mother, writes of the struggle between the woman and the dragon. The dragon, in St. John’s vision, certainly represented the power of the anti-Christian Roman emperors, from Nero to Domitian. Next to the power of the Roman Empire, the early Church must have appeared as a defenseless woman with no chance of survival and even less of victory.
But the passage refers more than just to the struggle between the early Church and Nero; rather it refers to the epic battle between good and evil that the People of God are engaged in while we traverse this “valley of tears.” And how often, throughout history, the power of evil and hatred seemed so much stronger than the power of good and love. This was certainly the case during much of the 20th century: World War I, the Great Recession, World War II, the Cold War — and serial holocausts: Armenians, Jews, Cambodians and, of course, the unborn killed through abortions.
But Fatima reminds us — God has the last Word. In the epic battle between good and evil, God will win — and we will share in that victory if we heed Fatima’s message of peace, a peace found in and through repentance and reparation.
As Pope Benedict said in a catechesis on the text of our first reading, the dragon, “exists in new and different ways. It exists in the form of materialistic ideologies that tell us it is absurd to think of God; it is absurd to observe God’s commandments…Today, too, it seems impossible to imagine a God who created man and made himself a Child and who was to be the true ruler of the world.” But even though this dragon in its new incarnations once again seems to be invincible, it is still true today that God is stronger than the dragon: It is love which conquers rather than selfishness.
Mary — the mother of sorrows, the queen of peace — is the woman clothed with the sun, as described in the Book of Revelation. “Clothed with the sun” is a poetic way of saying that she is totally with God. She is “the sign of the victory of love, of the victory of goodness, of the victory of God; a great sign of consolation.” Again, allow me to quote the Pope Emeritus, “this woman who suffered, who had to flee, who gave birth with crises of anguish, is also the Church, the pilgrim Church of all times. In all generations she has to give birth to Christ anew, to bring him very painfully into the world, with great suffering.”
And so, as the woman who confronts the dragon is Mary, the woman in John’s Book of Revelation is also the Church, “the presence, the guarantee of God’s love against all the ideologies of hatred and selfishness.” That the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church is shown in Mary’s own exaltation as Queen of Heaven and earth. In Mary’s child, the dragon is vanquished.
At Fatima, Mary entrusted to the shepherd children — and through them to us — a great weapon to use against the dragon of the Apocalypse. It is a simple yet powerful weapon for the spiritual warfare that is part of our daily life in this “valley of tears.” That weapon is the Holy Rosary. It is not a weapon of violence or intimidation but rather one of peace and healing: for praying the rosary leads us to a more intimate relationship with the Mother of Mercy, our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope. In a world still threatened by weapons of mass destruction, we have in the rosary — as Mary indicated to the shepherd children of Fatima — a weapon of mass conversion. Indeed, at Fatima, Mary urged prayers for peace — and for the conversion of Russia. If we examine history through the lens of faith, it would be hard not to see the connection between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet empire which had so threatened world peace throughout much of the 20th century and those countless rosaries offered for peace especially by those who lived behind the Iron Curtain.
The rosary, then, as a prayer that has us gaze upon Jesus through the eyes of Mary, can help us embrace life: to understand that life is not a burden to be endured but a gift to be shared. In this way, the rosary is a powerful antidote against the “culture of death” of our contemporary society — a culture in which the dignity and the right to life of the unborn, the disabled and the aged is increasingly discounted. The quiet witness of those who pray the rosary outside of abortion mills testifies to the efficacy of this prayer as a weapon to oppose what Pope Benedict has called the “new dictatorship, that of relativism and the domination of technology” and Pope Francis has denounced as “ideological colonialism.”
Today, we recall the kidnapping of the shepherd children of Fatima. Their witness reminds us that “…Faith, which seems weak, is the true force of the world. Love is stronger than hate.” And so, as they prayed at Fatima, let us say with Elizabeth: “Blessed are you among women.” Let us pray to Our Lady of Fatima with all the Church: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”