He dwells among us: The sharpest sword

Blessed Mother recommends the rosary most to instill the peace of Christ in our hearts, homes, world

By Bishop Richard F. Stika

World crises in 1917 may not be all that different from ours today—wars, genocide, revolutions, divisions.

But yet the best means for obtaining the peace so desperately needed in 2017 is the same revealed to three poor shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, 100 years ago.

In 1917, the world was in its third year of what was initially called “The Great War.” On Good Friday of that year, April 6, America officially entered World War I.

From its beginning until its end in 1918, the richest and most industrialized nations of the world inflicted millions of casualties upon each other with weapons of lethality and horror never before seen up until that time. Pope Benedict XV, whose pontificate coincided with the start of World War I, called it the “suicide of Europe.”

Forgotten by many at this same tragic time in history is the genocide of 1.5 million Armenian Christians by the Ottoman Turks. Revolutions and militant atheism would topple governments and empires, most tragically in Russia. Persecution of the Church increased worldwide.

In Mexico, the Church was officially outlawed, beginning a long and bloody persecution of Catholics that claimed the lives of over 40,000 Catholics faithful, including 90 priests, and the displacement of a quarter million people, many who attempted to find refuge in the United States.

With so much upheaval, death, and persecution occurring in the world in 1917, Pope Benedict XV asked for the Blessed Mother’s intercession under the title, “Queen of Peace.” Days later, an army, different from any other military in the world, began to form, armed with a very unique weapon: the rosary. On May 13, 1917, the Blessed Mother appeared to three poor shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, with the maternal request, “Say the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.”

What makes recitation of the rosary so powerful are the sacred mysteries of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that we reflect on. And it is Mary who helps us to reflect on these mysteries just as she did — “Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). These mysteries are not in the “past,” but are “living” mysteries. Just as Jesus came to the world through Mary, so she continues to bring Him to each of us.

This is precisely why devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is so important to our faith. Having stood beneath the cross of Jesus, and knowing how much our sins cost Him, she leads us to conversion — to an “internal” revolution of heart — and to a peace the world cannot give. And she teaches us, as she did the children at Fatima, to pray for the salvation of all souls, “especially those in most need of His mercy.”

Fatima teaches us that peace comes, not from politics, military might, or economic success, but through prayer, penance, and sacrifice. Peace comes by working for God’s kingdom and not for a kingdom of our own design and making. That is why those who think social justice is a product of politics and economics will always be disappointed.

As St. John Paul II said on a visit to America in 1987, “The world doesn’t need more social reformers. It needs saints.” The Church is a school for making saints, and Mary, our Mother, knows best how to make them.

Ponder this: the great saint of the rosary, St. Louis de Montfort, reminds us that the one Satan fears most, in a sense more than God himself, is Mary. How can this be? Because Satan is so full of pride, “he suffers infinitely more by being beaten and punished by a little and humble handmaid of the Lord.” Mary is the woman who crushes the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). This is why the rosary is so effective against defeating the scourge of the worst sins.

Our year of 2017, like that year of 100 years ago, is filled with bloodshed and upheaval. Pope Francis even described our current turmoil as a third world war of sorts. Wars rage around the world and Christians and various minority communities suffer a horrible genocide at the hands of ISIS, particularly in the Middle East.

Sadly, another genocide today is often overlooked that claims over 40 million lives worldwide each year — abortion — with over a million lives lost a year in the United States. If we consider the worldwide total over the past 50 years, the number is staggering.

While revolutions continue to rock various nations, revolutions of a different nature attack marriage, the family, and even the sacredness of the complementarity of the sexes. When I think of the growing divisions in our own country, I truly worry about our nation’s future.

Indeed, the message of Fatima needs to be heard more than ever. How I wish every Catholic in our diocese would pray the rosary daily for peace in our world, in our families and marriages, and for an end to abortion and wars. If I could recommend but one book in addition to sacred Scripture, it would be Father Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory. For the small investment of two pages of daily reading, I dare say your life will be transformed over the course of a month. I know of no other book so spiritually enriching on consecrating oneself to the Blessed Mother.

Given this centennial celebration of the Fatima apparitions, I am excited that the international pilgrimage statue of Our Lady of Fatima that has toured the world will be coming to our diocese between April 27 and May 1. It will stop for one day at each location, beginning at St. Dominic Church in Kingsport, followed by the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of Fatima Church in Alcoa, St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge and the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga.

My prayer is that by turning to “Our Lady of the Rosary,” as Mary referred to herself at Fatima, we will become a true army of Christ’s peace and love.

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