Through Mary to Jesus
Seven hundred years ago, three strangers met in the streets of Rome. They had never seen each other before when they came to the corner of the cobbled street. But it was not necessarily miraculous that, without introduction, they recognized each other. Who, indeed, had not heard of Friar Dominic, who had been recruiting subjects for a new Religious Order, or of Brother Francis, whom birds and beasts obeyed, and who was always saying, "Blessed are the poor"? And everyone in Rome knew Angelus, the contemplative who had come from Mount Carmel in Palestine and went about preaching penance, moving all who heard him to tears for their sins.
As the three famous heroes of Christ approached one another, seemingly by coincidence, the pressing throng following each of them became expectant. We can well imagine that the faces of the Saints lighted, and their hearts sang at the prospect of greeting others so close to Christ.
Those who witnessed this meeting -- which to this day is commemorated by a special chapel in the great church in Rome near which the Saints met -- had a strange thing to record.
As Francis greeted Angelus and Dominic, and Dominic then greeted Angelus and Francis, the founder of the Dominicans predicted that Angelus would be a martyr, that Francis would bear the wounds of Christ, and then he said: "To your Order of Carmelites, Brother Angelus, the Mother of God will mark as a universal sign of affiliation to her, your Scapular; and to my Order she will give a devotion to be known as the Rosary. And one day, through the Rosary and Scapular, she will save the world."
This prophecy was made before the Scapular and Rosary devotions were ever founded. It smouldered in the memory of scholars long after the devotions had come into being, through apparitions of Our Lady.
But as century followed century, the memory grew dim. Only a few old books still preserved it. The Middle Ages passed, the "Reformation" came and one group after another defected from the Catholic Church -- all claiming to be the true church, protesting to decay in the old church. Then came a new age marked by the discovery of wonderful machines and sources of power. And men changed still further. Many said there was no God at all. Wars came, more dreadful and widespread than the world had ever seen. The Pope was maltreated, His Papal States taken away. The Catholic Church was declared dead. She was not expected to live out the century.
At this dark hour, the Pope defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception: that the Mother of God had never for one instant been under the domination of Satan, not even by original sin.
Almost immediately after this, Lourdes happened. We say "Lourdes happened," because we do not know quite how to encompass all that happened in one phrase. It was the most spectacular appearance of the Mother of God in history. There was not one apparition, but several. And the miracles! It was almost as though Christ once again walked the earth, and people were flocking to get His blessing and to touch the hem of His garment. Indeed, wasn't that exactly what was happening?
Have you ever asked why Our Lady came at Lourdes? We had already the obligation of believing in her Immaculate Conception; most Catholics had believed in it for centuries anyway. And did we imagine that the secular press would print the story of Lourdes? To this day the number of favorable articles that have appeared in the secular press in any non-Catholic country could be counted on one's hands. Not sufficiently great numbers of conversions have been wrought through Lourdes to make this the principal reason for it.
It is the Catholics themselves who have been most affected -- strengthened in their faith, and forced to a new realization of the IMPORTANCE OF MARY. Why hadn't Our Lord come? Why had He sent His Mother? Why had He made Her the cynosure of all eyes and minds and hearts?
The Answer at Fatima
Just when the wonder of Lourdes had thoroughly permeated the Catholic mind, and we were plunged into the universal darkness of the First World War, Our Lady came again -- at Fatima.
"God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart," she said, before revealing her identity. "If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace." In effect, she was saying: "The reign of Christ will be established on earth, if you will come to me!"
How, dearest Mother? How? How can we be consecrated to thy Heart? What must we do?
"Say the Rosary and amend your lives," she said. And then the drama began.
Having told those present to say the Rosary, Our Lady disappeared only to come back again in a tableau of the Joyful Mysteries: with St. Joseph holding in his arms the Divine Infant; this tableau was immediately replaced with another depicting the other Mysteries: she appeared as the Mother of Sorrows, and Our Lord appeared at her side raising His arm in a blessing -- as He must have done at the Ascension. After this vanished, Our Lady came again. This time she was standing in the middle of the sun which all the while had been whirling in the sky (seen by over 70,000 people). She was dressed in brown and white, reaching down towards the crowd her centuries-old sign of affiliation: the Brown Scapular.
As she faded from view, the sun loosed itself from the sky and began to hurtle towards the earth. That was the end of the six-month span of apparitions.
She had come to say that she would save the world. And we remember the prophecy of St. Dominic: "One day, by the Rosary and the Scapular, she will save the world."
When will that day be?!
Our Lady's Approach
We are wrong if we presume that most Catholics understand the Rosary and the Scapular. We are probably wrong if we presume that we understand them, adequately. Can we presume that we understand Our Lady adequately? or that we believe in her and live by, for, and with her adequately? It is these things that are the Scapular and Rosary devotions -- fathomless, almost infinite possibilities of self-purification and mysticism.
If we would see the peak to which these devotions can be carried, we must seek the depths of perfection in St. Therese of Lisieux. These devotions were her secret, her little way. They are a way for little souls, and not the souls who think themselves so big that they think they practice them fully. We cannot fully say the Rosary until we have exhausted all its mysteries; and that will not be in this life. And we cannot fully understand what it means to be so closely united to Mary as to be predestined; and that will not be in this life.
The first approach to this highway which Our Lady has built to the throne of Christ, from the very sinew and flesh of her Immaculate Heart, is humility. We must not think that because the devotions are simple that we can take them for granted and practice them negligently. Simple though they are, they can command our every waking thought. Our speed along this road will depend entirely on just how much they do command our thoughts. Can we think enough of the fact that, by the Scapular, we belong to the Immaculate Conception, that she is morally present with us? that at every moment she is protecting us and seeking every opportunity in our wills to keep her promise to make us saints? And we know only too well that we can never think too much, in Rosary manner, of Nazareth and Calvary and the Resurrection.
Our Lady's Little Souls
Unfortunately, there are too few "little souls." There are too few who are willing to believe that Our Lady would save the world by such "little things." They look to the big things -- to organization, meetings, schemings, politics. And even in the spiritual realm, why would Our Lady promise to save us by a string of beads and a pair of tabs, when we have the Mass? Indeed, why should we be saved by Our Lady at all when we have Christ with us forever? Why should we have to go to Him through Our Lady at all -- however wonderful she is -- when He has already come to us?
For this reason, every little soul counts. There are too many "big" souls who are too preoccupied with the Wonder of the Incarnation in a manger to notice the significance of The Woman through whom God wrought the Incarnation. There are too many "big" souls looking (whether they know it or not) for Christ to come on a cloud to see that Our Lady is bringing Him forth in every heart on the earth that has reached out to her through her Rosary and Scapular. There are far, far too many "big" souls.
Our Lady asked us at Fatima, therefore, to take 15 minutes on the first Saturday of the month -- and think about the mysteries of the Rosary. She asked that we go to Holy Communion, say the Rosary, and spend those 15 minutes in meditation -- without saying any special prayers -- that we might be shaken from the habit of taking the Rosary for granted.
This, of course, was very little to ask. We would do far better, and progress far more quickly, if we spent these 15 minutes every day. The Mysteries of the Rosary, says Pope Leo XIII, contain all the essential mysteries of our Faith; and Saint Teresa of Avila said, "Give me a person who makes 15 minutes of mental prayer every day, and I'll give you a saint." We can always meditate while we say the Rosary. And we can re-fortify our minds freshly on the First Saturday of the month! Little things...
Next, in wearing the Scapular Our Lady asks us to amend our lives -- to do a little better every day. It is not enough merely to wear the Scapular -- merely to be consecrated to Our Lady. We must live our consecration, we must act our place. The Scapular is a symbol of Mary -- of her love, her simplicity, her emphasis on the little things. We should return that love, we should imitate that simplicity, we should always do the little things well because we want to please God, through her.
Our Lady's Reward
Our Lady asked this, with regard to the Scapular, when she granted the Sabbatine Privilege. Indeed, when she gave that privilege hundreds of years ago, she made almost the same conditions made at Fatima. First, we must wear her Scapular -- be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. Second, we must pray every day in her honor, either by her Little Office, or, with special permission, the Rosary or some other prayers. Third, we must observe chastity according to our state of life (which results in amendment and bettering our lives every day). If we do these three things, Our Lady has promised that we shall be saints, and that she will free us from Purgatory by the first Saturday after death.
Such is the reward for Our Lady's little souls, children, who alone can know what she means when she said: "My soul doth magnify the Lord... because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid."
It is up to all little souls, who hold in their hands the Kingdom of Christ on earth, to fulfill Our Lady of Fatima's simple requests to the very best of their ability, and to persuade as many other little souls to fulfill them as soon as possible. Then will the Reign of Christ be established on the earth. Then will the powers of Hell be dispersed by the Immaculate. Then, and only then, will the King of kings be enthroned in all human hearts -- and there will be peace.
This is what Our Lady has promised. Join the Fatima Crusade!
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