FORT WAYNE — Following First Saturday devotions, recitation of the rosary and Confessions, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass on Oct. 3 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, as part of the annual breakfast and celebration for the Worldwide Apostolate of Fatima in the diocese.
A Marian procession to nearby Grand Wayne Center followed the Mass where more than 400 guests enjoyed breakfast and an address by Sister Angela de Fatima Coelho of Portugal, a religious sister from the Congregation of Aliança de Santa Maria and a medical doctor. She is the postulator for the Cause of Canonization of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and the vice postulator for their cousin Sister Lúcia Santos. The Blessed Mother appeared six times to all three Portuguese shepherd children at Fatima in 1917 when they were ages 9, 7 and 10, respectively.
“I chose to celebrate today the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title ‘causa nostrae laetitiae,’ (‘Cause of Our Joy,’)” said Bishop Rhoades in his homily. “This is a beautiful and very meaningful title of Our Lady. The sorrow brought into the world by Eve’s disobedience has been changed into joy by the obedience of the New Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary,” he continued.
“My brothers and sisters, we are called to imitate the life of (the) first Christians who, together with Mary, were disciples filled with joy and the Holy Spirit,” he said. “The Acts of the Apostles tells us they were devoted to the teaching of the Apostles, shared in common prayer, in the Eucharist (the breaking of the bread) and in sharing their goods with those in need. These are the basics of our Christian life. Living this way brings true joy, not only to our hearts, but to others with whom we are called to share the joy of the Gospel.”
“Pope Francis has lamented the fact that too often Christians look like they’re coming back from a funeral. … Too often we can turn people away from the faith by not showing them the joy of following Jesus, the joy of His Gospel, the joy of salvation.”
In conclusion he said, “We can learn this joy from the saints, especially the Queen of All Saints, our mother Mary. … She teaches us the surpassing joy of knowing, loving and serving her Son.”
Following the annual breakfast, Sister Coelho spoke on how much Fatima is about passion and love toward the Blessed Mother and the Lord Jesus. She stressed by stories and example that “sometimes we have this attitude toward our stage of life, like I am Catholic but it is too painful or I am a nun but it is too hard. This is what our beautiful (Pope) Francis is telling us about when he is asking us not to have a funeral face, not to have a face like vinegar. … Little Jacinta, right before she died, said something like this: ‘If only I could fill the hearts of all (with) the fire that is burning within my own heart and makes me love the hearts of Jesus and Mary so very much.’”
Sister Coelho continued, “I wish I could help to put this fire in your hearts that could help us so much to love Our Lady … as little Jacinta did. This is the aim of my talk: to try to encourage each one of us to grow in this fire of love towards Our Lady.”
We have to look to the message of Fatima knowing it has two dimensions: mystical and prophetic, she related. “The mystical dimension means the aim of the message of Fatima is our intimacy with God. … We believe in Christ because someone spoke of Him to us. Does this make us people of faith? No, it makes us believers, until the moment when we personally experience Jesus as our Savior; then (we) become people of faith.”
“And what is Fatima about?” she asked. “Is it making of people who believe in Jesus just because we heard … or because we experienced it? It’s about the men and women of the 21st century who experience God through the hands of Our Lady. … Fatima is a school of faith,” she stressed, “… to teach the young visionaries and then us the eternal truth, and the art of praying, believing and loving.”
“The prophetic dimension is not guessing the future,” she continued. “Because of our intimacy with God we are able to read the circumstances of Easter with the eyes of God. … It is to see what is happening in the world through the eyes of God. Because of our mystical dimension we are able to fulfill the prophetic dimension,” she said. “Our Lady is telling us, please, be aware you are responsible for your brothers and sisters … for the history of salvation … for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend … for the history of your country and the history of the world.”
“So why do we pray the rosary?” she continued. “It increases our union with Christ and proves to Our Lady we are connected with the history of salvation. So this is how we are to focus on the message of Fatima. Everything we do increases our intimacy with God and is an answer to God with me saying, ‘Yes, my Lord, I am responsible for my brothers and sisters.’ So, I pray the rosary. I keep the First Saturdays. I keep the Commandments. I try to be chaste and pure.”
In her conclusion, Sister Coelho emphasized: “In the Fatima apparitions the Blessed Mother said, ‘God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart.’ How do we know we have devotion to Mary? We trust her, we try to imitate her and we fulfill her requests. Is it simpler than this?” she asked. “No, it’s not!”