Dear friends in Christ,
This year marks the 100th year anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima, Portugal to three shepherd children. Actually, the apparitions began in 2016 when an Angel of Peace appeared, praying before God in a particular way. This prepared the children for the visits of Our Lady that were to come. Importantly, the theme of the apparitions at Fatima was peace. It is likely no coincidence that Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who consecrated his pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima, has chosen this particular year to focus in on the theme of peace.
There is no human period that has lacked violence since the fall of man but the time we live in is particularly marked by its own forms of arbitrary, destructive, and dehumanizing violence. Sadly, a lecture that was supposed to be directed against violence in the name of God, the Regensburg address, by Benedict XVI, became a catalyst for violence because it was considered critical of Islam. However, the principle of the Regensburg address was a theme very close to present Pope’s heart: that violence in the name of God is irrational and immoral, and can never be justified. The purpose of that address was to demonstrate a troubling problem of modernity: the separation of faith and reason in such a way as to justify violence in the name of God.
While Christians do believe that there are limited justifications for war and that as a defensive measure war may be necessary we also believe that we don’t do near enough for the cause of peace. And certainly, the Church teaches that arbitrary violence is always opposed to God’s will and could never, ever, be used to carry out His designs. Any justification for arbitrary violence and destruction is ultimately a lie, even if persons view these acts as retaliatory for a historical or social wrong. Two wrongs do not make right. There is simply no justification for violence from a God who is both Logos and Agape. In his World Peace Day address for 2017, Pope Francis chose to emphasize non-violence as a way of life for Christians. He writes,
Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21).
Who hasn’t experienced this? Haven’t we all, perhaps more often than we would like to admit, experienced within our own hearts a type of rage that could only be destructive? Perhaps it is driving, perhaps it is on a long road trip with a family member, or at the dinner table, or at a gathering with people with different religious and political beliefs than us. Is the solution to postpone our peace until everybody agrees with us?
If we take this strategy we will die without peace, because we will never see eye-to-eye with everybody. Though we may like everybody to accept the Gospel and its way of life, and to live by the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, this isn’t likely to happen. And if it did, we would still disagree with people over matters of practical wisdom. Our peace cannot be dependent upon external factors, it must be dependent upon something eternal, something that doesn’t fluctuate, and that is always present to us. How do we access lasting peace?
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
Jesus Christ is our peace. As Christians, we place our faith, hope, and love in Jesus. We trust that Jesus told us who He is so that we may have peace (see John 16:33). But do we truly possess the peace that our Lord intends for us? Not likely. Why? Because we put things that are less important before Him.
The message of Our Lady of Fatima was that in our times we must pray and sacrifice for peace. In particular, she recommended the daily practice of the Rosary to do penance and make reparation for sins against Jesus and Mary. Our Blessed Mother is truly the Queen of Peace, to be near her and to ponder the Mysteries of her Son, is to receive Him as our peace in this life. We can never have peace if we are at war within ourselves.
To this end, I have committed to praying the Holy Rosary every day this year with some additional Fatima prayers every morning. I started praying them a week ago on my Twitter Live because I was hoping that others may want to join. Then I thought it would be good to communicate it especially to those I know who are dedicated to ministry, in Catholic schools and parishes if they would like to join to start their day in prayer. The intention of the Rosary is for peace, but especially interior peace, that exterior peace in families, communities, places of work, may be borne of our union with Jesus and Mary through prayer.
I also have been praying it in reparation for the sins of members of the Church and the ways that vulnerable people have been harmed and scandalized by those who were entrusted with the sacred mission of peace and healing. We are all members of one Body as a Church and we all must make reparation for her sins and seek to evangelize not from a posture of triumphalism or pride, but from a posture of humility and repentance. Christians are a people of repentance and faith (repent and believe… Mk 1:15). We are a Church of sinners, not of the righteous (Luke 5:32).
If you would like to join in prayer you are welcome to join at 9am central Monday – Friday on Twitter Live. You can access it on Twitter at our Office of Evangelization and Catechesis feed (@evangcatbr). You are welcome to join anytime, it is very easy, no microphone or video is necessary, just an Internet connection. It is not necessary to register to join but if you would like to be added to the group of pray-ers fill out the form below. Filling it out doesn’t mean you have to commit to every day, only that you are interested and might join sometimes. It is important to me that we offer a prayerful presence to you, united to Jesus and Mary, through the digital medium that we spend so much of our lives immersed in.
We are called to make the peace of Jesus and Mary present to others in and through this medium. The second Wednesday (tomorrow) of each month we will pray at 7:30am because that is the day we go out to Angola to train peer minister inmates as catechists. Register below so we can know who to pray for and with. Those who register may receive occasional material directly relevant to this devotion. Also, the additional prayers said at the beginning of the Rosary are available here: http://cooperatorsoftruth.com/prayers-for-rosary-for-penance-and-reparation/
You may consider printing them if you will join regularly so that you can view the live feed easily at the same time you are reading/praying the introductory prayers.
Barry Schoedel, Associate Director, Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge