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Through the shepherd children of Fatima, our Lady spoke to us who are living today.

Her words are just as pertinent today as they were in 1917. In fact, many parts of her message seem to be meant specifically for us. “If my requests are granted, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace” means infinitely more to us than it did to the world of 1917. At that time, Russia had just undergone a revolution and was so weak that she had been forced out of World War I. Who at the time, when the Allies were deeply embroiled in a war with Germany, could foresee that Russia would ever be a threat to the peace of the world? Now the fact is pounded home by each new day’s headlines.

That the message of Fatima is directed to us is also emphasised by the fact that much of the message did not become known until 1942.


This latter fact has puzzled a great many people. It puzzled the Rev. Thomas McGlynn, O. P., and, in 1947, he had the opportunity to ask Lucia about it. Lucia is the one living survivor of the children of Fatima. When Father McGlynn had the privilege of interviewing her, she was a Dorothean Sister. Since then, she has joined the Carmelites.

“It seems,” Father McGlynn said to Lucia, “from the words of our Lady in 1917, that the war of 1939-1945 was threatened as a punishment for sin. But the warning was not generally known until 1942, after the punishment had begun. How is this explained?”


Lucia replied that, in 1917, the people knew the important part of our Lady’s message, that is, that men must amend their lives, that they must not offend God, that He was already much offended.

In other words, our Lady let the people of 1917 know what she wished them to know at the time. They should have carried out her requests even though they did not know the punishment that awaited them if they failed.

Today, we not only know her requests, but we see that World War II was inflicted on the world as punishment for its sins. And we know that if we do not heed Mary’s requests, there will probably be a World War III.


The three children were watching their flocks as usual. They were ten-year-old Lucia dos Santos and her two cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, nine and seven respectively. They were in a natural depression among the hills which was called the Cova da Iria. They had said their Rosary, as was their custom, and they had begun building a stone playhouse.

Suddenly, a brilliant shaft of light pierced the air. Frightened, they looked about them. The sun shone brightly, and there was not a cloud in the sky. How could there have been lightning? Just the same, they decided that they had better go home. They gathered the sheep and started down the hill.

When they were halfway down, another shaft of light filled the air. Panicky, they turned toward the right, and there, standing above a small holm oak they saw a beautiful Lady.

“It was a Lady dressed all in white,” Lucia says, “more brilliant than the sun; shedding rays of light, clearer and stronger than a crystal glass filled with the most sparkling water, pierced by the burning rays of the sun.”


Her hands were joined in an attitude of prayer. From her right arm hung a string of pearly white beads ending in a cross of burnished silver. Her feet were bare and rested on a cloud that just touched the little evergreen.

“Do not be afraid,” the Lady said in a sweet voice, “I will not harm you.” (How similar to the first words spoken to the children of La Salette!)

The words and the voice were both reassuring, and Lucia summoned enough courage to ask, “Where are you from, Madam?”

“I am from heaven.”

“What do you wish of me?”

“I come to ask you to meet me here six months in succession at this same hour, on the thirteenth of each month. In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want.”


Francisco could see the Lady but he could not hear her, nor could he hear any of the subsequent apparitions. Jacinta could both see and hear the Lady, but Jacinta did not talk to her. All conversation during the series of apparitions were between the Lady and Lucia.

“And I, am I, too, going to heaven?” Lucia asked.

“Yes, you shall.”

“And Jacinta?”

“She, too.”

“And Francisco?”

“He, too, but first he must say many Rosaries.”

Father John De Marchi in  The Immaculate Heart says that here the Lady’s beautiful and compassionate glance rested for a little while on Francisco. “For reasons we are not qualified to fathom, it held a shade of sadness and disapproval. Somewhere in his little heart the Lady must have read a fault that others could not see.

Lucia thought of two girls who used to come to her house to learn sewing from her sisters. Both girls had died only recently.

“Is Maria Nevers in heaven?”

“Yes, she is.”

“And Amelia?”

The document gives three different versions of our Lady’s answer to this question: “She is in purgatory”; “She is still in purgatory”; and “She will be in purgatory till the end of the world.”

Many people have objected to the third version, but Lucia has insisted that it is the correct one. She says there is nothing strange about it; a person can go to hell for all eternity for missing Mass on Sunday.

The Lady then said to the children: “Do you wish to offer yourselves to God and endure all the suffering that He may chose to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and to ask for the conversion of sinners?”

“Yes, we do!” Lucia answered eagerly.

“Then you will have much to suffer, but the grace of God will assist you and always bear you up.”

She opened her hands. From each palm came a stream of light which shone on the children and seemed to penetrate to the depths of their souls. Moved by an inward impulse the children fell to their knees and prayed: “Most holy Trinity, I adore You! My God, my God, I love You in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

The Lady spoke again. “Say the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.”

“She began to elevate herself serenely,” Lucia says, “going in the direction of the east until she disappeared in the immensity of space.”


This was not the children’s first experience with the supernatural. An angel, “the Guardian Angel of Portugal,” had appeared to them three times. On one occasion, as was mentioned in the preceding chapter, he had brought them Holy Communion. After each visit of the angel, they had felt heavy and tired. The Lady, however, left them with a feeling of lightness, of peace and of joy. After the Lady had disappeared, they knelt for a while having no desire to move or to speak or to do anything but meditate on the beautiful vision they had seen.


After a time, they rose to their feet and began to look for the sheep. They found them grazing quietly on the grass.

They spent the rest of the afternoon in the fields talking about the wonderful visit from our Lady. Francisco, who had not heard anything, wanted to know everything the Lady had said. When told that he would go to heaven, but that he must say many Rosaries, he almost burst with happiness. “O my Lady,” he exclaimed, “I will say all the Rosaries you want.”

The children agreed that our Lady had seemed unhappy about something, and this was the only thing that marred their very great happiness. They were too young to comprehend fully the fact that only one thing can make our Lady unhappy, and that is sin. They were to realise this, however, before the series of apparitions was over. In 1846, Mary had wept because of the sins of the world; in 1917, sins were still making her very sad.


The Lady returned every month as she had promised. The children underwent great suffering and had many occasions to remember her words, “Then you will have much to suffer.”

Lucia’s mother thought the girl was lying. The pastor of their church suggested the apparitions might be the devil. They had trouble with the authorities, just as Bernadette had had. The civil administrator of their district arrested the children and kept them in jail so that they missed the apparition scheduled for August 13. In that month, the Lady appeared to them on the 19th.


But these sufferings were not enough for them. They gave their lunches to poor children, and they ate bitter acorns and unripe olives. Each wore under his clothes a shaggy rope which itched and chafed. Our Lady had asked for sacrifices, and they delighted in thinking up new ones to offer her.

On June 13, the Lady told the children to “say the Rosary always.” To Lucia she said, “I want you to learn to read. Then I will tell you what else I want.

When Lucia asked that the three of them be taken to heaven, our Lady said: “I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you must remain longer here below. Jesus will use you to make me better known and more loved. He wishes to establish throughout the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it and their souls will be loved by God as flowers placed by myself as flowers to adorn His throne.”

“Then I am to stay here alone!” Lucia said, at the thought of being left behind.

“No, my child. You are suffering very much, but do not be discouraged. I will never leave you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”

Once more she parted her hands, and the children were enveloped by the light from her palms. Francisco and Jacinta were in a stream that went toward heaven, and Lucia was in a stream that spread over the ground. A heart surrounded by thorns was in front of the right palm. “We understood,” says Lucia, “that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so offended by the sins of mankind, desiring reparation.”


Four or five thousand people were on hand for the apparition of July 13. When our Lady appeared to the children, the crowd saw that the sun became dimmer and that a little cloud stood over the holm oak. The Lady told the children to continue to say the Rosary. “Say it with the intention of obtaining the end of the war. The intercession of the Blessed Virgin alone can obtain this grace for men.”

Lucia, thinking of her mother and all the people who doubted her story, said, “Will you please tell us who you are and perform a miracle so that everyone will believe that you really appear to us?”

“Continue to come here every month. In October I will tell you who I am and what I desire, and I shall perform a miracle so that everyone will have to believe you.”

Lucia requested the cure of some sick people. She was told that some would be cured and others not.

“Sacrifice yourself for sinners,” the Lady said, “And say many times, especially when you make any sacrifice: ‘O Jesus, it is for Your love, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.'”


As our Lady said these words she parted her hands as she had done the two previous months. The light from her palms seemed to penetrate the earth. The children saw a great sea of fire. “In this sea,” says Lucia, “were immersed burning demons and souls in human forms, resembling live transparent coals. Lifted up into the air by the flames, they fell back on all sides like sparks in a conflagration, with neither weight nor balance, amid loud screams and cries of pain and despair which horrified us and shook us with terror. We could tell the devils by their horrible and nauseous figures of baleful and unknown animals, but transparent as the black coals in a fire.”

Pale with terror the children raised their eyes to our Lady for help.

“You have seen hell,” said the Lady, “where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, our Lord wishes to establish throughout the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people will do what I tell you, many souls will be saved and there will be peace in the world. The war is coming to an end, but if the offences against God do not stop, another and worse one will begin in the reign of Pius XI.


“When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God gives you that He is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, of hunger and of persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.

“To prevent this, I shall come back to ask the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are granted, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will scatter her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.


“But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me; it will be converted, and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world.

“In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will be kept always.”

These grave words, the Lady said, were not yet to be revealed to the world. The girls were to repeat them to no one except Francisco.

She then told them another secret which has not as yet been revealed. Lucia has written it down and delivered it to the bishop of Leiria.


On August 13, the children were in jail at Ourem. The civil administrator threatened to boil them in oil if they did not tell the Lady’s secret. Though badly frightened, they could not think of disobeying our Lady. In disgust, the administrator finally freed them. A large number of people, not knowing that the children had been kidnapped, went to the Cova for the scheduled appearance of the Lady. At noon, there was a loud clap of thunder. Then, according to an eyewitness:

“Right after the thunder came a flash, and immediately we all noticed a little cloud, very white, beautiful and bright, that came and stayed over the holm oak. It stayed a few minutes, then rose toward the heavens where it disappeared. Looking about, we noticed a strange sight that we had already seen and would see again. Everyone’s face glowed, rose, red, blue, all the colours of the rainbow. The trees seemed to have no branches or leaves but were all covered with flowers; every leaf was a flower. The ground was in little squares, each one a different colour. Our clothes seemed to be transformed also into the colours of the rainbow. The two vigil lanterns hanging from the arch over the holy spot appeared to be of gold.

“When the signs disappeared, the people were sure that our Lady had come, and, not finding the children, had returned to heaven. They felt that our Lady was disappointed…”


The August apparition took place on the 19th, while the children were tending sheep in a hollow called Valinhos. The Lady appeared over a holm oak slightly taller than the one in the Cova. “I want you to continue to come to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth and to continue to say the Rosary every day,” the Lady told them.

“What do you wish us to do with the money and the offerings that the people leave at the Cova da Iria?” Lucia asked.

“Two litters should be made; you and Jacinta are to carry one with two girls dressed in white; Francisco is to carry the other with three boys also dressed in white robes. The money placed on the litters is for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.”

Our Lady repeated her promise of a miracle. “In October, I shall perform a miracle so that all may believe in my apparitions. If they had not taken you to the village, the miracle would have been greater. St Joseph will come with the Baby Jesus to give peace to the world. Our Lord will also come to bless the people. Besides, Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Sorrows will come.”

Lucia asked for the cure of some sick persons and was told that some of them would be cured within the year. Our Lady made it plain, by her next words, however, that her principal concern is for souls.

“Pray, pray a great deal and make sacrifices for sinners,” she said gravely, “for many souls go to hell because they have no one to sacrifice and pray for them.”


Many of the people who were present for the apparitions of September 13 saw a luminous globe cross the sky and stop over the holm oak. Then later it rose and disappeared toward the sun. Monsignor John Quaresma, who was one of the many to behold this phenomenon, said: “The three little shepherds had seen the Mother of God herself; to us had been given the grace to see the chariot that had borne her from heaven to the barren and inhospitable hills of Aire.”

There was another unusual feature of this apparition. Many people saw white flowers which seemed to shower from the sky and disappear before they touched the ground.

While the crowd was seeing these things, our Lady was saying to the children, “Continue to say the Rosary to bring about the end of the war.”

She repeated her promise of a miracle the following month. Then she said, “God is content with your sacrifices, but does not wish you to sleep with the rope. Wear it only during the day.”

Someone had given Lucia a bottle of cologne with the request that it be presented to our Lady. It was probably the nicest gift a Portuguese peasant woman could think of. Our Lady graciously refused the gift, saying: “That is not necessary for heaven.”


In July, August, and September, our Lady had promised a miracle in October. Lucia had told a number of people about this promise, and the word spread rapidly through Portugal. Unbelievers scoffed at the idea and waited confidently for October 13. They were sure that there would be no miracle and that the entire story of Fatima would be exposed as a hoax. Those who believed talked the matter over excitedly. Think of it! A miracle promised in advance and in their own country of Portugal!

Several days ahead of the promised date, the roads became clogged with people making their way toward Fatima. “Nearby communities, towns and villages, emptied of people,” said the Lisbon newspaper O Dia.“… They came on foot, by horse or by carriage. They travelled the highways and the roads, between the hills and pine groves. For two days these came to life with the rolling of the carriages, the trot of the donkeys and the voices of the pilgrims.”

Lucia’s mother tried to get the girl to retract her story. Other people warned her that something very serious would happen if there were no miracle. It was said that there would be bombs in the crowd. The families of the children were very much frightened, but the children themselves were calm and serene.

“There will be a miracle, because our Lady promised it,” Lucia said.

On the night of the twelfth, a cold wind came out of the north bringing with it a chilling rain. This caused the most acute discomfort to the pilgrims who had to sleep in the open, but it did not dampen their ardour.


The next day was cold and rainy, but the pilgrims were not daunted. By 11:30, more than 70,000 of them had gathered at the Cova. They sang hymns, recited prayers and said the Rosary. Seldom has there been a more striking demonstration of faith. Our Lady must have been very much pleased with the Portuguese people that day.

A path had to be cleared through the throng for Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta. “Put down your umbrellas,” Lucia said. The word spread throughout the crowd, and all umbrellas were lowered. Lucia does not know now why she made this request.

At two o’clock wartime, noon sun time, Lucia saw the flash of light that always preceded our Lady’s appearances.

“Silence, silence, our Lady is coming,” Lucia cried.

Our Lady came out of the east and again stopped above the holm oak.

“Who are you, Madam, and what do you want of me?” Lucia asked.

“I am the Lady of the Rosary, and I desire a chapel built in my honour in this place.

“People must continue to say the Rosary every day. The war will end soon, and the soldiers will return to their homes.”

“I have so many things to ask you,” Lucia said.

“I will grant some of them, the others, no.”


Assuming a sadder air, the Lady said, “Men must offend our Lord no more, and they must ask pardon for their sins, for He is already much offended.” It was the same as the message of La Salette but in different words: “If my people will not submit, I shall be forced to let go the hand of my Son. It is so strong, so heavy, that I can no longer withhold it.”

Our Lady stretched forth her hands, and the light again shone from her palms. She pointed toward the sun which seemed dim in comparison with the light from her hands. Then she seemed to disappear in her own radiance.

High up in the sky appeared a representation of the Holy Family. St Joseph held the Child Jesus on his left arm. To the right was the Blessed Virgin dressed in the blue and white robes of Our Lady of the Rosary. St Joseph and the Child Jesus made the Sign of the Cross over the world three times.

The vision faded, and then Lucia alone beheld our Lord dressed in red as the divine Redeemer. He blessed the world. Beside him stood Mary dressed in the purple robes of Our Lady of Sorrows.

In the third and last of those visions, Lucia saw the Blessed Virgin clothed in the brown robes of Our Lady of Carmelite.

The 70,000 pilgrims did not see any of this, but they were seeing something very spectacular. Our Lady did not forget that she had promised them a miracle.


The crowd heard Lucia shout, “Look at the sun!” (She does not remember saying this.) At that moment, the clouds parted suddenly and revealed the sun which looked like a phosphorescent disk. Everyone could look at it without blinking, although there was no fog and the clouds no longer obscured it.

The testimony as to what happened after that differs greatly. Most persons saw the sun spin about in the sky, throwing off rays of light in all directions like a gigantic pinwheel. This light, they say, was yellow, red, green, blue and violet successively. The people stood spellbound as they beheld this manifestation of God’s power.

Then the sun suddenly detached itself from the sky and plunged toward the earth. The terrified people thought they would be crushed by it. Most of them fell to their knees in the churning sea of mud.

“Save us, Jesus!” went up the cry from hundreds of throats. “Our Lady, save us!”

Many fervently said the Act of Contrition.

Just when it seemed certain that the world would be destroyed, the sun stopped its downward plunge and climbed back to its accustomed place in the sky. It again became the brilliant sun of every day.

Some witnesses declare that the sun spun in the sky, stopped for an instant, then spun in the other direction and that this process was repeated. Others say its spinning was one continuous motion with no stopping. Many are sure that the sun plunged toward them in a straight line; many are equally sure that it came toward the earth in a zigzag path. Estimates of the length of time the display lasted vary from a few seconds to twelve minutes.

When a number of people have seen a very important event, it is only natural to expect some variations in their stories. Carlos de Azevedo Mendez, however, has an account that is at complete variance with most of the others. Here is his version as told to Father McGlynn: “The rain stopped; the clouds split open into tatters – thin transparent strips. The sun was seen as a crown of fire, empty in the middle. It went round on itself and moved across the sky. It could be seen behind the clouds and in between them, rolling around and moving horizontally. Some cried, ‘I believe’; others ‘Forgive!’ The crowd prayed in terror.”

Senhor Mendez saw clouds, while practically all the others declare the sun spun around in a cloudless sky. For him the sun moved horizontally across the sky; for others it came rushing toward the earth. To him the sun was a crown of fire, empty in the middle, to others it was a disk. He did not see the coloured lights mentioned by others.

One woman to whom Father McGlynn talked did not see the sun at all. She saw nothing unusual except the sudden stopping of the rain. She was a rare exception. Practically everyone else in that crowd of 70,000 persons agree that something wonderful and awe inspiring happened to the sun although they do not agree as to the details of what happened. It seems that each person saw what God deemed best suited to his particular needs. The fact that impressions were so different ferestalls any interpretation if the miracle as a natural phenomenon. So does the fact that it was not registered on any scientific instruments anywhere.

Was it mass hypnosis? Did the people just think they saw the sun behave in such peculiar manner? This is rendered extremely unlikely by the fact that the rain had been pouring down until the minute the miracle occurred. In that cold drenching rain, a solar display is the last thing the people would have imagined.

If the mass hypnosis idea is rendered unlikely by the rain, it is rendered impossible by the fact that people as far as twenty miles away from the Cova da Iria saw the phenomena.

One of the best proofs of the reality of the miracle is the space given to it by the Portuguese newspapers. The intellectuals of Portugal were infected by the same materialism as their counterparts in other countries. They had declared that miracles were impossible. But there was no denying what they had seen with their own eyes. Page after page in the daily newspapers was devoted to the wondrous occurrence.


Lucia dose Santos, a poorly educated ten-year-old girl, had announced three months in advance that a miracle would take place at noon on October 13, 1917, and that miracle had taken place. This was God’s sign that the message of Fatima was genuine, a message that should be studied and carried out by everyone.

“I shall perform a miracle so that all will believe,” our Lady had said to Lucia, and she had carried out her promise.

From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954





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The repentance and confession of David after his sin. The fourth penitential psalm.

Unto the end, a psalm of David. When Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had sinned with Bethsabee [2 Kings ( = 2 Samuel) 12]

Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy.

And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity.

Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me.

To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee: that thou mayst be justified in thy words, and mayst overcome when thou art judged.

For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.

For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast manifested to me.

Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.

To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness: and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice.

Turn away thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels.

Cast me not away from thy face; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit.

I will teach the unjust thy ways: and the wicked shall be converted to thee.

Deliver me from blood, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol thy justice.

O Lord, thou wilt open my lips: and my mouth shall declare thy praise.

For if thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted.

A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Deal favourably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up.

Then shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt offerings: then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.


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Prayer to the Holy Ghost

Come, O Holy Ghost, thou Spirit of truth and love, enlighten my understanding that I may truly know my sins. Let me see all my offences as clearly as they will appear before me one day when I go before my Divine Judge.

Place before me the greatness of my disloyalty and unfaithfulness. Let me clearly behold how often and to what extent I have sinned against God, against my neighbour, and against myself, the good which I have omitted, and the duties of my state which I have neglected; help me that I may clearly recognise my predominant passion, and the sins which, alas, have become habitual.

Move my heart that I may sincerely repent of my sins and truly and unreservedly confess them, and that with an efficacious purpose of amendment I may be found worthy of forgiveness, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy Mary, Mother of grace and refuge of sinners, pray for me now that I may make a good confession.

– St Anthony’s Treasury, Laverty & Sons, Leeds, 1916


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On Luke 7:36-50. For the text of this Gospel passage, please click here.

The importance of the Sacrament of Penance! The importance of true repentance! The importance of a real amendment of one’s ways in future, in word and deed!

What does this Pharisee, exulting in his self-righteousness, typify but the Jewish people? And the woman, the sinner who came and wept at the feet of the Lord, symbolise the Gentile world. She came with her alabaster box. She poured out her ointment. She knelt at his feet, in back, washing them with her tears, wiping them with her hair. Nor did she cease to kiss those feet she had so anointed and so wiped. That woman typifies us also, if when we have sinned we return to the Lord with a whole heart and imitate the example of her penitent grief. Of what is the ointment a type but of the sweet savour of a good reputation? Of this Paul says: “For we are the good fragrance of Christ for God in every place.”

If, therefore, we do good works which gain for the whole Church the savour of good repute, we pour out our ointment upon the body of our Lord. The woman at the feet of Jesus remained behind him but we – do we not stand opposed to him when we continue obdurate in sin and dispute his path. But when we are turned yet again and truly, earnestly repent of our sin, we stand behind him. We follow in the footsteps of one against we contended [by every single sin we commit; however small the sin may appear to us. One with a mature and trained conscience realises that there is no such thing as a “little sin”]. The woman washed his feet with her tears. We, too, do that very thing when we are moved to show compassion to the very least members of the Lord – when we comfort his holy ones in tribulation, when we make their sorrows our own.

Hence, we wipe the feet of the Lord with hair when we give as charity to his holy ones, even things for which we have no need. When our hearts sympathise, the bounty of our hand shows the truth of our compassion. The hand shows itself more generous when the mind is more deeply moved by compassion. The man who sympathises with the sufferings of his neighbour, yet gives nothing to alleviate them, even from the things he does not need, may wash the feet of the Saviour, but he does not wipe them with hair. Nor does he who gives words of pity to the sufferings of his brother but fails to remove the source of suffering. He weeps but he does not wipe the Lord’s feet. The woman kissed the feet she wiped. We do that, too, if we love warmly those we support out of our bounty – when the need of our neighbour is not irksome to us, nor the poverty we relieve a weariness to us, nor while our hand ministers to his wants our heart is untouched by compassion.

– From: St Gregory, Pope, Homily 33 on the Gospels [titles added afterwards], from: An Approved Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

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Posted by on November 17, 2016 in Words of Wisdom


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We may safely extol the merits of the blessed Father [St Edmund of Abingdon], for he is now secure; he who, manfully handling the rudder of faith, has now cast the anchor of hope in a snug harbour, has brought his ship, laden with heavenly riches and eternal rewards, to the shore for which he longed. For a long time he opposed the shield of the fear of God unflinchingly against all enemies until the victory was won. For what was the course of his life, but one long conflict with a watchful foe?

How often did he not open the eyes of blind souls, who were wandering from the way of truth, and already hanging from the edge of a precipice over the abyss, and restore to them their sight, that they might see Christ? How often did he give the precious gift of hearing to ears that were deaf, afflicted by being stopped up by unbelief, that they might perceive the voice of the heavenly commandments; that they might hear God calling them to forgiveness, and might answer by obedience? How often did he not heal the wounds of the spirit by the skill of his prayers and angelic words?

How many, enfeebled by long neglect of the stain of sin and, as it were, full of infection of leprosy, have been cleansed by the grace of God working in him, and expiated through his teaching and discipline? How many, living in body, but already dead in soul and overwhelmed and buried beneath the weight of their sins, has he not raised to life in God, by calling them to amendment, as it were, to light? For, marvellous imitator of his Lord, he brought souls to a life-giving death, by which they die indeed to sin, but live unto God.

– From: Sermon of St Maximus, Bishop, ‘on the feast day of a Confessor Bishop’, from: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964



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Tender and compassionate, immense and truly incomprehensible is the pity of the Heart of Jesus for our miseries.

It was pity which made Him descend from heaven to earth, to work so many prodigies of mercy and compassion on our behalf. Like a good shepherd, He gives His life to snatch us, His chosen sheep, from the death of sin and of hell. Lamb of God, He exposes Himself to the rigours of divine justice, that we may be spared. Mediator between God and man, He consents to be abandoned, that we may be received into the friendship of His Heavenly Father.

And all this mercy, all this compassion, is living still in the Heart of Jesus. How He grieves to see so many perishing, or exposing themselves to perishing eternally! “O men,” He cries to them, “my poor children, why do you perish thus? Rather return to Me and live.”

“Return to Me and live.”

And when at length, contrite and humbled we return to Jesus, oh! with what tender mercy and compassion He welcomes us, embraces us, and re-establishes us in our rights! And – prodigy truly incomprehensible! – He even forgets our iniquities, so that, banishing from His Heart all resentment and all idea of vengeance, He seems never to have suffered the smallest injury at our hands.

– From: Laverty & Sons (eds), 1905


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A great deal of our spirituality is taken up with our faults and backsliding. We are constantly being reminded that ours is a fallen race and that sin is our heritage. No inconsiderable part of ascetical treatises is composed of the survey of sin and its malice, and we are continually being invited to reflect on what miserable sinners we are and what a hash we have hitherto made of our lives. The sole object of a great number of sermons we hear is to point out to us the sins and faults into which we fall and to persuade us at once to set about the correction of them.

A necessary part of our spiritual training

All this is without doubt a most necessary part of our spiritual training, which we can never overlook or neglect. But there may be at times just too much of it. It may be unmeasured and disproportionate. If we keep our minds exclusively fixed upon such topics the natural result must be one of gloom and despondency.

Anyone who is engaged in the reformation of a sinner will prove his unfitness for the task if he is for ever harping upon the sinner’s depravity.

We need to encourage as well as correct

If we would do any permanent good to such a one we need to encourage as well as correct. We need to remind him that if there is evil in him, so is there good. Souls in whom there is nothing but evil are only to be found in hell. As long as a man is living on this earth, however bad he may be, there always remains in him some little spark of goodness which by co-operation with grace can be fanned into a flame of salvation.

A spark of goodness which by cooperation with grace can be fanned into a flame of salvation

That we need to encourage as well as to correct seems obvious enough to anyone with any knowledge of human nature; and yet, obvious as it is, it is a truth that is sometimes strangely overlooked.

The mistake is the greater when the people with whom you have to deal are not bad characters at all but in reality are substantially good, even though subject to many sins, imperfections and faults. Among such people we may most certainly and unquestionably count those Catholics who never neglect to hear Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and regularly frequent the Sacraments. They may not have attained to any high degree of perfection but by fulfilling their duties they are making sacrifices which prove the genuineness of their faith and their endeavour to please God. A preacher, therefore, whose congregation is made up for the most part of such Catholics will conceive a certain respect for them and will avoid a form of address that may lead some of his hearers to go away with the idea that they are compounded of nothing but sins, with no redeeming virtues as a set-off to their failures.

A skewed picture

To be continually harping upon the faults and shortcomings of a congregation will not only have the effect of depressing or irritating them, but such a habit of speaking will not be conveying the full truth.

It will be as false as the picture entitled The Island in the North that leaves the impression that England is a country where nothing but damp and fogs prevail and where sunshine and beauty are never found. Whistler was fond of painting that kind of picture. It was sometimes described as a nocturne and a certain king of melancholy beauty was claimed for it. But it was really rather depressing, and one felt that on the same wall on which it was exhibited there should be another picture, say, of an English wooded country-side under a June sun, as a set-off to, and a correction of, the other. It is the distinguishing art of the Dutch school of painting that in their quiet scenes of home-life they manage so well the lights and shades; and it is the light of course that reveals the beauty of the picture as a whole.

We live in evil days when God’s laws are openly flouted

There is no doubt that we live in evil days when God’s laws are openly flouted by so many and His very existence denied.

But that is not the whole picture. There are still millions of substantially good Catholics and other Christians who acknowledge God as their Creator and Lord and strive to live by His commandments. Some of them are leading very holy lives in obscurity, unknown to the world at large.

Some live very holy lives in obscurity, unknown to the world at large

They are the really great ones in the eyes of God, who serve to counteract much of the evil surrounding them and by their example inspire us with hope for the regeneration of mankind.

This is a fact we need to dwell on when the outlook on what is undoubtedly a bad world is apt to depress and discourage us.

There have always been dark periods in the history of the Church but even in the worst of these God has always raised up saints who have helped to eradicate the evil and to bring back men to a sense of their duty to Him. What a scandal, for instance, was that of the great Schism of the West, when the faith of many must have been shaken or even wholly destroyed; and yet by the shining example of such saints as St Vincent Ferrer, St Catherine of Siena and others the Church emerged with her divinity unimpaired and entered upon a new life of worthier living.

“Lo, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world”

So does Christ fulfil His promise: “Lo, I am with you always even to the consummation of the world.” It is faith in Him and in His presence in our midst that is the foundation of our confidence and gives us that encouragement, so necessary to preserve, in our service of God. It is the cheerful outlook that helps to advance in perfection; and sadness and melancholy, as we are constantly reminded, are enemies to be combated.

It is our faith in God that gives us that confidence

Our duty is not only to encourage ourselves but to encourage as well others with whom we may come in contact and to whom our influence extends.

As it is a means of encouraging, it is good sometimes to give people praise, show recognition of their good points and virtues, to let them see that if in some ways they have failed there are many more ways in which they have succeeded.

Encouraging ourselves and others

Charles Brookfield, a well-known actor of his day and a convert to the Catholic Church, once jokingly remarked: “I think there ought to be in every church not only the confessional where we have to tell our sins but another confessional where we can tell our virtues. In that way we recover our self-respect and the priest would have a truer and more complete knowledge of us.”

Every sincere sacramental confession is not only a confession of sin but an unconscious revelation of virtue

There is, of course, no need for this second confessional. We may assume that the priest has the qualities of a good confessor and will know that every sincere confession is not only a confession of sin but an unconscious revelation of virtue. It is testimony to the penitent’s faith, to his hope, to his humility – and often much else. Remembering this, the good confessor’s inclination is not to upbraid but on the contrary to be sympathetic, encouraging and helpful. If he sees his penitent unduly cast down or even suspects that he is likely to be, it is for the priest to remind him that he is not without some virtue, or at any rate has a substantial foundation of good upon which virtue can be raised.

In all accounts of Our Lord’s risen life, we do not find a word of recrimination to his repentant disciples for deserting Him

It is characteristic of Our Blessed Lord in His dealings with men, and especially with sinners, that He was always striking the note of encouragement and cheer.

When sinners repented, it was not His wont to bring up their past against them but He hastened at once to put them on the footing of friends who had never gone wrong.

In the dark hour of His suffering and death, Peter denied Him, and the rest of His apostles who with Peter had declared they would die with Him had on the contrary ingloriously fled and left Him to His fate.

But in all the accounts of His risen life, where do we find a word of recrimination for their defection, a word of blame to those shame-faced repentant disciples who cane out of their hiding-places to have share with Him in the victory of His Resurrection?

If there was in one instance a gentle chiding of them for their want of faith, there was no lack of warmth of welcome, no diminution of His love and friendship now that they had seen their folly and had hastened to His side again.

Though always aware of the evil in men, Our Blessed Lord seemed ever more intent upon seeing what was good in them.

And so in the Gospels we find Him constantly commending and praising those who had shown faith in Him and had done something to win His favour. Even when they had been guilty of much evil but had turned from the evil with sorrow, it is not on their evil He dwells but on the goodness that led to their sorrow.

Her love was more than her sins

“Many sins are forgiven her,” he said of the Magdalen, “because she has loved much,” to show us her love was more than her sins. He did not reproach the good thief with his multiplied crimes; but because one act of perfect contrition outweighs years of iniquity, He has for him only the consoling words:”Even this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

Our Lord’s mercy for repentant sinners

We might multiply the instances in which Our Lord proves that He makes the utmost allowances for human frailty, and seemingly ignoring what is wrong and defective, eagerly seizes and expatiates upon what is good in men, that He might give them hope and encouragement.

In the spirit of Christ

We must learn the spirit of Christ in our dealings with our fellow men and in the ordering of our own interior life.

Many of us have a long record of sins against us for which by the grace and mercy of God we have repented, and whilst we ever retain an abiding sorrow for those sins let us never forget that the merits of our Redeemer on our behalf are infinite, only to be measured, if any measurement were possible, by the infinite love that He bears for each and every one of us.

The merits of Our Redeemer are infinite

He knows the clay of which we are formed. Most of us are far from being saints even now: we still sometimes sin, but if the habitual set of our wills is on good, the Saviour of men is ever there to assist us at once to rise and with courage renewed to continue the struggle.

The Saviour of men is ever there to assist us

Nor can it escape His notice that we are living in times of unusual trial and strain, brought about directly and indirectly by the terrible wars in which the greater part of the world has been involved. Everything, as we know, has been made more difficult – travelling, food, clothes. We often consider ourselves lucky to find even standing-room in our over-packed trains. We no longer get the abundance and variety of food which we once enjoyed. Poverty for many who once were in possession of riches has become such a real thing that they are now content to wear, if they can get them, the second-hand clothes of a pawn-shop.

Under these conditions of living we may be quite sure that if we humbly and patiently resign ourselves to the dispositions of Divine Providence, our credit balance in heaven will rapidly mount up and we need not fear to find ourselves declared bankrupts when the great day of reckoning comes.

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot S.J., The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949


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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Words of Wisdom


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Quick relief

Let me tell you a story about Bishop Fulton Sheen. It well illustrates how delicately God, through this sacrament of confession , takes away from us the terrible burden of sins. Really it’s like having a tooth out with anaesthetic. Jesus took all the pain in his Passion. We just feel the relief.

Bishop Fulton Sheen was on a plane journey, and after a time the man next to him, seeing he was a priest, said, ‘You know, Father, I’ve got all sorts of troubles.’ Fulton Sheen said, ‘What are they now?’

The man started telling him all his woes, and after a time the Bishop said, ‘You know, from the way you’re talking you might be a lapsed Catholic.’ And the man said, ‘Well Father, I suppose you could call me that.’

Fulton Sheen said, ‘How long is it since you went to confession?’

‘About twenty years.’

‘Are you married?’


‘Are you living with your wife?’


‘Are you having an affair with another woman?’


‘Well, fasten your seat belt, and I’ll hear your confession.’

When he had been to confession the man said,

‘You know, Father, I reckon God wanted me to sit here, because I had a seat reserved on a previous plane but I missed my connection, and I had to ring my wife and say I was coming on the next plane. This seat I’m sitting on was the only empty seat left on the plane.’

God’s plans

Fulton Sheen said, ‘Does your wife go to the sacraments?’ and the man said, ‘No.’ ‘Is it long since she went?’ ‘About the same as me.’

So Fulton Sheen said, ‘When we get there you must introduce me.’

At LA Guardia airport, the man introduced Fulton Sheen to his wife and they found a secluded part of the airport and he heard her confession too.

Now that incident shows how confession defuses what could be an explosive emotional situation, the return of the prodigal son.

Confession makes the return of the sinner to God easier, because it concentrates the sinner’s attention and energy on the one essential element in the whole process of reconciliation: the movement of the will away from sin and towards God, in other words, a change of heart. This sacrament cuts out the frills. It keeps emotion in a duly subordinate place and enables the sinner to come straight to the point.

God respects our free will

God respects our free will. He does not force anyone. He does not force the sinner to come back. But confession makes it all relatively easy and unembarrassing.

It took God’s wisdom and love to invent this sacrament, which frees us so gently from our sins. I once knew a nurse who worked in a maternity hospital. She was a very gentle soul, and she once told me that women who’d had surgery would ask for her to take their stitches out. They knew no one could be more gentle. That’s how Jesus is with our souls when he comes to us in this sacrament. No one could be more gentle.

But he does more than just take away our sins. He also strengthens us against further temptation. For there are other graces we receive in this sacrament besides the forgiveness of sins…”

– Fr Hugh S. Thwaites, S.J.


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Challenges posed by opposing ideologies

[…] “The Bishop of Shrewsbury…the Rt. Rev. Mark Davies says that family life is in crisis from challenges posed by opposing ideologies.

Particularly, he says that these oppositions, including the acceptance of [practising] homosexuals into the Church, are hostile to the sanctity of human life and the truth of marriage.

‘Deceptive mercy’

Bishop Davies says: ‘It would be the ultimate failure in pastoral care or charity, to mislead people by encouraging them to remain in sin, or fail to call them to repentance and renewal.

‘Pope Francis describes this approach as ‘deceptive mercy’, a false mercy which bandages wounds but fails to heal them.’ …

Encouraging a ‘pagan world’

Bishop Davies … said acceptance of homosexuality would be encouraging a ‘pagan world’. He continues: ‘I want to dispel any misleading impression that the Church will abandon her witness in the face of hostile trends in public opinion or the destructive ideologies of our time.

The call for unwavering courage

‘The first Christians required courage to overcome and transform a vast, pagan world whose ideas about marriage and sexuality were not unlike those which prevail in our own culture.

‘Today we need this same, supernatural courage to live and give witness to all the Church believes and teaches about marriage, the family and human sexuality.’

Hostile trends in public opinion

He will also highlight that both Pope Francis and Cardinal Vincent Nichols have rejected wrongful assumptions that the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, held at the Vatican between 5th-19th October, could lead to changes in the constant teaching of the Church on marriage.

Bishop Davies quotes Pope Francis in explaining that the ‘pastoral response’ sought by the synod to the crisis of our time is primarily to find answers to the ‘many discouragements that surround and suffocate families’.

Pope St John Paul II and Blessed Paul VI

He will also suggest that the canonisation of Pope St John Paul II and the subsequent beatification of Blessed Paul VI represent fresh invitations to ‘look to the great inheritance of their teaching’ and expressed the hope that their courage and prayer will inspire us to seek a deeper understanding of what Christ and his Church teach about marriage, the family and human sexuality.”

– These are excerpts (headings in bold added afterwards) of an article published in the Catholic Universe on 7th November 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.the catholic [external link]



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Tell us therefore what dost thou think, is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites? She’s me the coin of tribute. And they offered him a penny. And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this? They said to him: Caesar’s. Then he saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.

” On the threefold image of God: ‘Show me the coin of tribute’

Note that the image is threefold: of likeness, of creation (in which man is created, namely reason), and of restoration, by which the created image is restored, namely the grace of God which is infused into the mind to be renewed.

The image of likeness is that according to which man was made in the image and likeness of the whole Trinity.

By memory he is like the Father, by understanding like the Son, by love like the Holy Spirit.

So St Augustine says, ‘Let me remember you, understand you, and love you.’

Man was made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27): his image in the understanding of truth, his likeness in love of virtue.

The light of God’s countenance is the grace of j stification, whereby the created image is imprinted.

The light is the whole and true good of man, whereby he is marked like a penny with the king’s image.

That is why the Lord adds in this Gospel: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, etc. It is as if he said: ‘As you give back to Caesar his image, so give back your soul to God, enlightened and signed with the light of his countenance.'”

– St Anthony of Padua

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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Words of Wisdom


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