In the necessary things, unity. In the other things, liberty. In all things, charity. (Source)
Today’s first reading takes us to the heart of the key question for any disciple of Jesus – what does God expect me to do?
Some of the early Christians thought that all new followers of the Way must be circumcised – well, the men, specifically. But Paul disagreed strongly, and I can see his point – if that’s not actually required, it’s probably going to discourage quite a few men from becoming Christians!
Each alleged vision of Mary also poses a challenge for disciples. Is God truly using the Mother of Jesus to send a message from heaven? And if He is, is this message binding on all believers?
The Church is quite clear that everything we NEED to know to get to heaven had already been revealed by the time the last apostle died. Anything that God chooses to reveal after that time is an optional extra. But as disciples who love the Lord and his Blessed Mother, we would naturally take a strong interest in any request heaven might make of us!
The appearance of Our Lady at Fatima is recognised by the Church as credible and worthy of belief – but a Catholic can, in good conscience, say, “I don’t believe it was a genuine message.”
What did Our Lady ask for at Fatima? She asked that everyone should pray the rosary every day for peace in the world. She asked for the “O My Jesus” prayer to be added to each decade of the rosary. She invited anyone who wished to console her wounded Immaculate Heart to make a special devotion on the first Saturday of five consecutive months – Confession, Mass, 5 decades of the rosary and 15 minutes of meditation. And she asked that the Pope and the Bishops should consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart.
This last request has proven as controversial as the question of circumcision for St Paul. Several acts of consecration, of ‘the world’ (which implicitly includes Russia) or without all the bishops taking part, have taken place over the last few decades. Has something pleasing to God already taken place? Yes. Was the first consecration made as publicly or wholeheartedly as possible? No. Did the Fatima visionary Sr Lucia die believing an adequate act of consecration had been made? Yes. Does heaven require more? I don’t know!
One thing Our Lady made abundantly clear at Fatima was that we should pray for the conversion of souls who were in danger of going to Hell. During the 20th century, lots of theologians speculated that God was so loving, so generous, that somehow he finds a way to save every soul. I don’t think we can make that assumption based on the Gospels, where Jesus warned many people of the danger of their sins leading them to Hell. One thing I am sure of – if all souls are going to be saved from Hell, it will be because God has used us as intercessors to pray for their conversion: O My Jesus, save us from the fires of Hell; lead all souls to heaven, especially those who have most need of thy mercy.
The Message of Fatima is as controversial today as the question of circumcision was in St Paul’s day. Following the messages of Fatima is not essential for our own salvation. Heeding the call to pray for others might well assist their salvation. We are free to pray and work for the salvation of others in many different ways – and we should invite, not insist, that others should heed the requests of Our Lady of Fatima.
In the necessary things, unity. In the other things, liberty. In all things, charity. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!