Day 4/5: Fatima’s Message of Reparation

First, I’d like to apologize for the late blog, and having joined the two days together.  However, prudence made me take the night off yesterday, as I had needed the time for prayer instead.  Here is my blog, combining, without much distinction, some realizations that have helped me during these last two days.

                Most of Day 4 was filled with talks about the occult and the various strategies, the prevalence and impact of it today in both regards to the various forms of snares that allow people to be infested by demons according to an exorcist and the international committee of exorcists.  We also heard a testimony from a woman who was possessed or oppressed.Slavery

I’d prefer not to focus on much these matters for this blog as I do not want to inspire too much curiosity around those matters.  What I would say otherwise is just avoid anything spiritual that is not Catholic.  Don’t try to harmonize your Catholic faith with any other religions, no matter what your intentions might be.  The devil preys on the vulnerable, and will exploit any open crack that welcomes him in.  We open cracks when we seek salvation by another name than Jesus.  Even when we try to reconcile Christ to another faith, we step outside of the very Church Christ constructed, and thereby at the very least, indirectly or passively choose something contrary to God’s desire for us.

I’d prefer to veer from this topic, and focus on a particular experience I had.  I found out from my newly ordained brother priest that there was an exercise of reparation.  There was a route where we could kneel-walk…that is to scuffle on your knees towards the site where Mary appeared to the three children.  I decided to do it, and I brought to mind any sin in my past that had ever tortured me both because of shame and guilt.  I told Christ that I was going to offer the pain and discomfort up in reparation for my own sins, as well as all those who belong to my parish.  The Irish priests call it “the slippery slope.”  They always have the best 1-liners.  Half way through this exercise I realized that the women ahead of me were wearing knee-pads.  Maybe this is why they made it look easier.  They also slid their knees, while I was banging them into the marble floor.  What do I know?Kneeling path1

When I reached the half-way point, some of the skin on my knee had been rubbed off and the pain became a cause for me to pause in weakness.  Others began to pass me, and I felt humiliated, but in a good way.  I changed my prayer at this point and said, “Lord, I am too weak to even offer you, by my own effort, a small sacrifice such as this.  Please give me the grace to complete this task that I may no longer be the agent of this reparation, but rather your Spirit may grant me that grace.” 

The path was very long – and I continued nonetheless.  The pain never got any worse, but it didn’t ease up either.  I took a pause when I needed to, and felt humbled by it.  Three times I was tempted to get up and walk away from it.  This would have taken humility, but it also would have been a failure.  I decided to continue, nonetheless because I received a grace when I reached 3/4ths of the way on this path.

When I approached a point of great temptation, my guardian angel was likely the one who said, “He suffered even more greatly for you.  This pain that you feel, this pain is what he felt and was willing to do for you.”  My eyes began to fill with tears, as the pain I had willingly taken on, of my own accord, now began to become a symbol that transmitted a more integrated and beautiful realization of Christ’s own suffering for me, even if my suffering was on a much smaller and pathetic scale.  But I was not yet finished.  kneeling path2

Little children who do not have to carry much body-weight began to treat the kneeling-path as if it was a game.  They shouted, pushed others over, and laughed.  I rebuked them gently by using the word, “silence” in Italian, hoping that it was somewhat similar to their language, and if not that because they were European, they would know what I meant.  However, my gentle rebuke was heard by their fathers.  Their fathers, quickly said something about a “priest told you to be quiet.”  After two stern warnings from their parents, they were very well behaved.  One of the sons had to start over.

This helped me meditate on my own priestly call to offer the laity discipline in matters that are spiritual, so that grace can be encountered.  We do not merely treat the sacraments like they are hoops to jump through.  Confession requires real “spiritual surgery” as our Spiritual Director on this retreat often taught. We need to divest ourselves of all the non- invasive ways we go about healing ourselves, and enter into the very “gut-wrenching” experience of “Genus, Species, and Number.”   That is, as St. Bosco would claim after his vision of hell, that there are those in hell who have confessed their sins, but did not accurately divulge to the priest the number of the sin (on purpose), or he sugar coated the particular sin itself (on purpose), or was not truly sorry.  But more profoundly than setting people aright to this real expectation that is involved in obtaining God’s generous gift of priceless mercy, I also thought that if I am truly to be “another Christ” to the people, how can I not also be a victim, one who doesn’t know how to suffer, willingly out of love for his people.  Confession

The theme of Fatima is very much associated with making “reparation” for the sins of others.  In our reparation, we communicate to God our love, while an entire group of people in and outside of the Church offend Him.  Others are willing to demonstrate to God that we, as a human race, in part, still love Him and want Him to be part of our life.  Think of Moses interceding perpetually for Israel as they shunned God’s law, forgot his deeds.  Moses was always interceding for them, pleading for them.  Had he not, God would have respected their freedom, and allowed them to be destroyed in the desert by their own folly.  This sacrifice of intercession by reparation, consoles both the immaculate and sacred heart of Jesus, and it closely follows the example of St. Jean Vianney who proved his love for the people he served by doing difficult penances for them, while giving them lighter penances.  He didn’t just give them “light penances” and then get of scott-free.  Sometimes we priests think we are being generous by giving light penances.  The only time this is truly generous, however, is when we are willing to do penances for those whom we’ve given light penances; otherwise no one seems to care about the grievous demand for justice after offending our Lord.  Rather, we are merely indifferent to His sacred heart and think that “He can take care of Himself.”  In regards to Himself, He can, but in relationship to humanity, if we divest ourselves of Him so completely, the entire human-family is in peril, to our own most grievous fault.

St. Jean understood that amends needed to be made, and that to communicate to God, with his spiritual authority as a Father that he was taking on some of this punishment for sin on their behalf, is truly taking seriously the passage of scripture which tells us that we fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.  That Christ purposefully left something lacking in His all sufficient sacrifice, and that is our “cooperation” and willingness to unite ourselves to the same sacrifice in spirit through mortification (as St. Paul promotes).  Likewise, we also read in the Office of Readings a passage from scripture where soldiers had become corrupt by taking upon themselves pagan items that were forbidden.  Judas prayed for them, by gathering the sacrifice of a few thousand silver pieces, in order to offer as a sacrifice of reparation for the souls of the dead, the soldiers who had died with this sin on their soul.

 The laity are invited, likewise, to take part in this work of reparation – but it means that we first need to understand that our life, and our identity is no longer about ourselves.  We live to and die to the Lord, and we are created to Love God and our Neighbour.  IN this sense, if we truly internalize this as our identity and mission, we will not be reluctant to suffer for the sake of others.  We will not merely present what appears to the world to be suffering, but we will actually suffer, according to the wisdom of prudence and a good spiritual director.

 

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