By Cian Molloy - 10 July, 2017
The message of Fatima, Knock and Lourdes is a hope-filled and challenging gift to the faithful, said Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh at a Mass celebrated at Knock on Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions in Fatima.
Many of those present at the Mass, concelebrated by the parish priest of Knock Fr Richard Gibbons, were members of the World Apostolate of Fatima, of which Archbishop Martin is Ireland’s national patron.
Among the many bishops and priests in attendance were Cardinal Seán Brady and the President of the World Apostolate of Fatima International Professor Américo Pablo López Ortiz.
The message of Our Lady in Fatima, in Knock and in Lourdes, said the Archbishop in his homily, is that we should “offer up our prayers, works and sufferings to Jesus, through Mary, in a magnanimous and powerful act of charity for the reparation of sin”.
Dr Martin said: “As we celebrate here at Ireland’s national Marian shrine, the centenary of the apparitions at Fatima, let us bring to mind all those who suffer – here in Ireland and across the world – from illness, pain, bereavement, loneliness, rejection, isolation, exploitation, oppression, anxiety or despair.
“We think of the ways in which we too may be faced with difficult burdens or heavy crosses in our own lives. We reflect on the sins of the world, including pride and anger, greed, selfishness, disrespect for life and sins and crimes against nature and the dignity of the human person.
“We remember and make present here in the Sacrifice of the Mass, the suffering and death of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And once again we contemplate His loving invitation: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke, learn from me, and you will find rest for your souls.’”
Reflecting on why tens of thousands of pilgrims travel to those places made holy by Our Lady’s apparitions, the Archbishop said: “Pilgrims to Knock, Fatima and to Lourdes often speak of finding in these special places an inner peace and the courage to face the ongoing trials that come their way – be it sickness, bereavement, worries or troubles, relationship problems, addictions or some other difficulty that’s been weighing them down. Miraculously, some speak of actual cures in body, mind or spirit.
“Others speak of discovering meaning in their suffering, of learning to accept their crosses and burdens, and of becoming much more conscious of the crosses and burdens that others have to carry. At Fatima, Mary invited the children Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, to participate in the redemptive suffering of Christ – ‘Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?’
“This idea that we can all participate in the work of salvation by accepting a share of the yoke of suffering on our shoulders, and by uniting our sacrifices and sufferings with those of Christ, is such an important feature of Mary’s apparitions, but one that is perhaps most neglected.
“The idea of ‘offering up’, especially when we face difficulties or sufferings, is something that is deep down in the Catholic spiritual tradition, but in more recent years, you don’t hear it talked about as much.
“We are gently invited to take up our cross, to ‘offer up’ our pains, our failures and disappointments, all those daily ‘let-downs’ and annoyances that can be so frustrating if you let them ‘get in’ at you and ‘eat you up’, but when you let go of them and unite them with Christ’s suffering – it can be liberating and uplifting.”