World Apostolate of Fatima Breakfast

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Thank you all for being here today. I am grateful to the Board of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Division of the World Apostolate of Fatima for the invitation to speak to you today. Thank you also to Father Glenn for the beautiful homily at our Mass this morning.

I am happy to speak to you today as we prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. On May 13th, we will begin the celebrations. It was on May 13, 1917, that Our Lady first appeared to the shepherd children of Fatima. We will celebrate a special Mass that day as our diocesan celebration of the 100th anniversary. Please mark your calendars and invite your families and friends to the Mass I will celebrate at 10:00 AM in our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. As you know, May 13th is the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. It will also be the 35th anniversary of the shooting of Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter’s Square. I can hardly believe it is 35 years already. I was in Saint Peter’s Square that evening. When I heard of the assassination attempt, I hurried from my room at the North American College to join the thousands of people in Saint Peter’s Square to pray for our beloved Pope and for his survival. Thanks be to God, those prayers were answered. As you know, Saint John Paul II attributed his survival to the hand of our Blessed Mother. He said the following: “it was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path and in his throes the pope halted at the threshold of death” May 13, 1994).

You may recall the third part of the secret of Fatima that Pope John Paul revealed in the Jubilee Year 2000. Sister Lucia described a bishop dressed in white whom, she said, she and the other children believed was the Holy Father. This bishop was followed by other bishops, priests, men and women religious, and men and women of different ranks and social positions. They were walking up a mountain through a city that lay in ruins. On the top of the mountain stood the cross. This all symbolized human history and so much destruction, yet the Church and human history moving toward salvation, moving toward the cross, the goal and guide of history. Amid all the horrors around them, the bishop dressed in white and the others made their way through the ruins of the city, among the corpses of the dead. This is the path of the Church as it journeys through a time of violence, destruction, and persecution. This especially reminds us of the 20th century, the destructive world wars, and the persecutions of the Church. Sadly, these things continue in the 21st century.

Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still a Cardinal and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a profound commentary on the third secret. He describes this vision in the third secret as the Via Crucis (the way of the cross) of an entire century. He wrote: “In the Via Crucis of an entire century, the figure of the pope has a special role. In his arduous ascent of the mountain we can undoubtedly see a convergence of different popes. Beginning from Pius X up to the present pope (JP II), they all shared the sufferings of the century and strove to go forward through all the anguish along the path that leads to the cross. In the vision, the pope too is killed with the martyrs. When, after the attempted assassination on May 13, 1981, the Holy Father had the text of the third part of the ‘secret’ brought to him, was it not inevitable that he should see in it his own fate? He had been very close to death, and he himself explained his survival in the following words: ‘it was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path and in his throes the pope halted at the threshold of death’ (May 13, 1994). That here ‘a mother’s hand’ had deflected the fateful bullet only shows once more that there is no immutable destiny, that faith and prayer are forces that can influence history and that in the end prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies.”

For decades, people wondered about what the content of the third part of the secret might be. When it was finally revealed, some were disappointed and some remaine