a prayer written by Lucia to Blessed Jacinta, which I found in the book Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s
Memoirs, edited by Fr. Louis Kondor, SVD.
this prayer. The first part makes me think of Psalm 55: “If only I had wings
like a dove that I might fly away and find rest.”
decided to make this prayer my own.
The monk is supposed to keep death at the forefront of his
mind. After all, death is our ultimate end on this earth, and the gateway to
Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell. Heaven is our goal, and death to our earthly
existence is the only way to get there.
In her memoirs, Fatima seer Lucia recalls her little cousins’
attitude toward death. In the apparitions, Our Lady had said that Jacinta and
Francisco would go to Heaven soon, but that Francisco would need to pray “many
rosaries”. In the simplicity of their childhood, they believed her, and both
children fell to serious illnesses that brought them much suffering, just as
Our Lady had told them would happen.
Francisco so faithfully believed that he would die soon that
often he did not bother to go to school. Lucia recounts that he would say, “Our
Lady is taking me to Heaven soon, so there’s no need for me to go. I would
rather stay in the church with the Hidden Jesus. Remember, Our Lady said I
needed to pray many rosaries.” And so he would remain in the church before the
Blessed Sacrament, praying the rosary, until Lucia and Jacinta stopped by for
him on their way home from school.
When Francisco was ill, and Lucia asked him if he was suffering
much, he would reply in the affirmative and note that he did not speak of it
because he wanted to offer his suffering to console Our Lord. That was his
focus: to console Our Lord who suffers because of our sins.
Jacinta suffered in her illness for a longer period of time
than Lucia, and Our Lady told her that she would die all alone. This was a
cause of grief for Jacinta, who was very much attached to Lucia. When Lucia
told her to remember that she would soon be with Our Lady, Jacinta would agree,
but comment that sometimes it was hard for her to remember that. Still, when Our Lady came to Jacinta and
asked if she was willing to suffer a bit longer for the conversion of poor
souls, Jacinta agreed. That was her
focus: the conversion of poor souls.
I am so inspired by the stories of these children! Their
attitude toward death seems so far removed from the way we tend to look at it.
I think of those programs that seek to grant dying children their fondest wish –
like a trip to Disneyland or whatever; I have nothing against that, really. But
I don’t think Jacinta and Francisco would have had any wish other than to
please Our Lord and Our Lady, and they knew without a doubt that there was no
better place than Heaven. In these times, we so need to keep that in mind.
Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
From the Sayings of
the Desert Fathers:
Abba Poemen said that a brother
asked Abba Simon, “If I come out of my cell and find my brother amusing
himself, I amuse myself with him and if I find him in the act of laughing, I
laugh with him. Then when I return to my cell, I am no longer at peace.”
The old man said to him, “So,
when you come out of your cell and find people laughing or talking, you want to
laugh and talk with them, and when you return to your cell, you expect to find
yourself as you were before?”
The brother said, “What should
The old man replied, “Be
watchful inwardly; be watchful outwardly.”
It is so easy to be carried off to a place one has struggled
to escape, just by engaging in a casual conversation with friends!
The Fatima children, after the apparitions, seemed to have
recognized that they had to be watchful inwardly and outwardly. In her memoirs,
Lucia describes little Jacinta as a child who loved “frivolity” and dancing;
but after the apparitions, she was much more serious and no longer engaged in
the playful pastimes of a child. Jacinta also, says Lucia, had no problem
telling people to “stop doing that; you are offending the Lord Our God, and He
is already so much offended!” And if they did not stop, she would turn and walk
away from them.
Lucia describes Francisco as a quiet boy who preferred to be
alone. After the apparitions, he became more so. Sometimes he would play with
other children, but often he would either decline or leave them after a time.
When asked why, he might say, “Because you are not good” or “I want to be alone”.
He too had been given the grace to understand that he must be watchful inwardly
What lessons there are for us in the lives of the Fatima
children, as well as in Lucia’s adult life. Perhaps I will write more on that in the future.
Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
From The Sayings of
the Desert Fathers:
brother said to Abba Poemen, “Give me a word,” and he said to him, “As long as
the pot is on the fire, no fly nor any other animal can get near it, but as
soon as it is cold, these creatures get inside. So it is for the monk; as long
as he lives in spiritual activities, the enemy cannot find a means of
This again reminds me of my
recent trip to California to visit friends (see “Failing, Getting Up and Starting Over”,
February 25). My pot was no longer directly on the fire. I tried to keep it
warm by praying the Divine Office when I could, but those times were few and
far between for four days. There were definitely flies and other “animals” in
my pot by then!
Of course, the “saying” isn’t
really true. Flies can and do get into a pot even if it is over a fire; I’ve
been camping enough times to have observed that! And flies and moths have flown
into the flames of my little votive oil lamps; sometimes they put out the flame
but die in the oil.
In the same way, it seems to
me, the demons can and do get into our spiritual activities even when we are
maintaining discipline in reciting the Office or the Rosary, etc. I am not a
perfect temple for the Holy Spirit, and those evil creature find a way into my “pot”
by way of my own weaknesses and shortcomings.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that,
as Abba Poemen says, we maintain our Rule , we are safer than we would be
without our “spiritual activities”; even if the demons find a way to crawl in
through the cracks and crevices, it is easier to stomp on them or drive them
away if the structure and discipline of our Rule is in force. The enemy cannot
overthrow us if we are staying close to God.
Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
I’ve been reading a book called Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s Memoirs. In it, Lucia
describes her early years and her friendship with her cousins, Jacinta and
Francisco. She paints a sweet picture of their daily treks to the pastures with
their families’ sheep.
One thing that strikes me is the willingness of these little
children to obey Our Lady by offering praying the Rosary and offering sacrifices
for the conversion of sinners. Lucia describes Jacinta’s devotion in particular
(since the “First Memoir” is primarily a description of Jacinta writing at the
request of Lucia’s bishop).
Jacinta took very seriously Our Lady’s commands, and
informed Lucia and Francisco that they must now pray the Rosary in its entirety
(instead of “cheating” by just saying “Hail Mary” for each bead, and simply “Our
Father” instead of the whole prayer). She also insisted on making a sacrifice,
and Francisco suggested that they could give their lunch to the sheep every day
as a sacrifice for the conversion of sinners. And so they did. Later, they became
aware of some very poor children, and gave their lunch to them instead.
I suspect that Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta themselves also
did not have a lot to eat – not like we do in these modern self-indulgent
times, anyway – and to give up their lunch would have been a very significant
sacrifice. After all, they had to walk some distance to take their sheep to the
pastures, and they were young children. I’m having a difficult time imagining
any 6- or 7-year-old child I’ve ever known who would willingly go hungry for
the sake of the conversion of sinners. Even some adults I know wouldn’t be able
to handle that sacrifice!
I suppose they were given the grace to accomplish these
works of mercy, but still, they had to respond appropriately. Sadly, we don’t talk much about sacrifice in our current
culture…not even in the Church. It’s not really part of our “mindset” because
it’s just not talked about. Everyone I’ve heard talk about their Lenten
discipline is giving up something like chocolate or coffee, or maybe some
internet time. Those things seem trivial when compared to the three children of
Fatima giving up their lunch every day!
It seems so necessary to me that we re-establish our
Catholic identity! We seem to have lost sight of what it means to do penance.
We seem to have lost sight of the fact that our true home is Heaven.
Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
This is from a homily on
prayer, written by Theophan the Recluse in 1864. The entire homily is at this website (scroll
down a bit and you will see links to “Four Homilies on Prayer”. The excerpt
here is from the first homily.
me recall a wise custom of the ancient Holy Fathers: when greeting each other,
they did not ask about health or anything else, but rather about prayer, saying
"How is your prayer?" The activity of prayer was considered by them
to be a sign of the spiritual life, and they called it the breath of the
spirit. If the body has breath, it lives; if breathing stops, life comes to an
end. So it is with the spirit. If there is prayer, the soul lives; without
prayer, there is no spiritual life.
not every act of prayer is prayer. Standing at home before your icons, or here
in church, and venerating them is not yet prayer, but the "equipment"
of prayer. Reading prayers either by heart or from a book, or hearing someone
else read them is not yet prayer, but only a tool or method for obtaining and
awakening prayer. Prayer itself is the piercing of our hearts by pious feelings
towards God, one after another – feelings of humility, submission, gratitude,
doxology, forgiveness, heart-felt prostration, brokenness, conformity to the
will of God, etc. All of our effort should be directed so that during our
prayers, these feelings and feelings like them should fill our souls, so that
the heart would not be empty when the lips are reading the prayers, or when the
ears hear and the body bows in prostrations, but that there would be some
qualitative feeling, some striving toward God. When these feelings are present,
our praying is prayer, and when they are absent, it is not yet prayer.
seems that nothing should be simpler and more natural for us than prayer and
our hearts' striving for God. But in fact it is not always like this for
everyone. One must awaken and strengthen a prayerful spirit in oneself, that is
one must bring up a prayerful spirit. The first means to this is to read or to
hear prayers said. Pray as you should, and you will certainly awaken and
strengthen the ascent of your heart to God and you will come into a spirit of
I have one of the books by Theophan the Reculse shown at that website – Kindling the Divine Spark. It’s been
quite a while since I read it, but I recall that I found Theophan’s homilies to
be very kind and gentle, but at the same time capable of inspiring me to a
fervent determination to live my Rule to the very best of my ability for the
love of God.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.