"Big Four" Highlights


The Fatima Connection

Mother’s Day and Mary’s feast day come back-to-back this year

By Brian Caulfield, FFG Editor

Whenever I give my wife flowers, she places them before a statue of the Blessed Mother in our house. Sometimes, if we feel really festive, we gather our two boys, light candles, and process with the flowers upstairs to the statue in our bedroom. The first time my wife did this, early in our marriage, I must admit that I felt a bit slighted. There I was, being the thoughtful husband, bringing my wife flowers just to say ‘I love you,’ and she immediately gave them away.

“Don’t I at least get a thank you?” I protested, as she arranged the flowers in a vase before Our Lady.

“Thank you, honey!” she insisted. “I do appreciate them. I just feel that they belong to the best mother of all.”

A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried during a candlelight vigil attended by Pope Benedict XVI at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal May 12, 2010. (CNS photo/Hugo Correia, Reuters)

A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried during a candlelight vigil attended by Pope Benedict XVI at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal May 12, 2010. (CNS photo/Hugo Correia, Reuters)

Of course, what husband could fault his wife for offering (“re-purposing,” we might say today) her flowers to Mary? Even if my feelings were initially bruised, I had to admit that she had the correct perspective. And I’ve since wised up and given my wife Godiva chocolates on special occasions, and have yet to see her lay those sweets before the feet of the Virgin.

Still, I know that Mary is the best of all mothers, and everything we have received as a couple and a family has been through her loving hands. My wife and I are both aware of this fact, which is why we pray the family Rosary as often as we can, week after week. Not so much to ask for things, but to simply say thank you through the prayer she has repeatedly asked her children to pray.

I am reminded of her message and maternal care this week as we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday and the feast of Our Lady of Fatima the next day, May 13. Mary appeared to three shepherd children in the area of Fatima, Portugal, for the first time May 13, 1917. She asked for prayers, imploring the children to pray the Rosary and perform penance for sinners. She revealed three “secrets” to the children about the spread of communism, the need to pray for the conversion of Russia, the beginning of another great world war and the persecution of the Catholic Church. She also asked that the entire world be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, which will “conquer” the forces of evil in the end.

Many people have an image of Mary as a passive, plaster figure who has little to say to the modern world. But to meditate on her “fiat” – her yes – to God’s invitation to bear the Savior is to understand that she was truly a bold and believing woman whose active acceptance of her role changed not only the world, but mankind’s relationship with God. She even asked the angel how God would work out his will in her life before she would consent. Certainly not my idea of a passive woman – if an angel appeared to me with a message from God, I don’t think I’d have the nerve or presence of mind to say anything!

We can now enter heaven because she gave birth to the Savior. God could have saved us in another way, but he chose to do it through a woman – this particular woman at that particular time – and she freely said yes, the most definitive and consequential yes of all time.

In all reports of her appearances, Mary is active and informed, full of love and mercy, yet warning us all to repent, pray and come to God before it is too late. Just like a mother who wants to protect her children.

The opening words of the prayer (Catena) of the Legion of Mary sum up this image: “Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?” Mary in this prayer is not that biblical figure crushing the head of the serpent, invoking the power of God, yet ever merciful and forgiving to sinners who come humbly to her.

So this Mother’s Day, I will again offer both chocolates and flowers to my wife (and a card full of heartfelt, loving words), and will be prepared to process upstairs to the statue of Mary. Then watch my wife put the Godiva on the shelf, away from our children’s reach.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!