Saturday, May 06, 2017

Sister Lucia on Keeping the Lord's Day Holy

"Do you keep the third commandment of the Law of God which requires us to observe Sundays and the Holydays of Obligation?  Do you do so by abstaining from servile work and going to Mass? Remember that God says in Holy Scripture:  Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. (Ex: 31, 15)  Note the expression God uses here:  a day consecrated to the Lord.  Hence, the Lord's Day is not to be passed in idleness, still less in unlawful pleasures, in vice or any kind of sin.  Sundays and Holydays are to be used to bring us close to God by taking part in the Eucharistic Liturgy and other devotions, reading good books which give us a better knowledge of God and of His laws so that we can fulfill them better, and engaging in wholesome entertainment which will enable us to recuperate our physical and moral energies.  Only thus can we have an easy conscience and be certain of fulfilling the Law of the Lord."

Friday, May 05, 2017


by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          May 13, 2017, marked the one hundredth anniversary of Our Lady's first apparition at Fatima.  She appeared  there each month from May to October in 1917 on the thirteenth of each month.

Like the apparitions of Our Lady at Guadalupe and at Lourdes, her apparitions at Fatima are known far and wide across the world in both religious and secular circles.  To appreciate more clearly the impact of Mary’s appearances at Fatima, it is important for us to know something about the conditions in Portugal at the time of the appearances in 1917.  The events need to be placed in historical context. 

The historical, political, social circumstances

For centuries Portugal had distinguished itself by its zeal for the spread of the Christian faith. But in the eighteenth century the government was influenced by anti-religious ideas and, from that time, Freemasonry set about de-Christianizing the country. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the moral and religious situation in Portugal was abysmal. In 1911, the separation of Church and State became official. The years from 1910 to 1913 were years of terror: priests and bishops were imprisoned or exiled; religious orders were suppressed; almost all the seminaries were closed and confiscated; missions languished or were abandoned. Freemasonry was in control. From 1910 to 1926 Portugal experienced 16 revolutions with 40 changes of government officials. 

The apparitions and their message

Then, on May 13, 1917, a shining Lady appeared to three little shepherds near Fatima, a Portuguese village. They were Jacinta, seven years old; Francisco, her brother, nine years old; their cousin, Lucia, ten years old.

The brilliant Lady encouraged them to pray the rosary, a summary of the Gospel, and to offer acts of penance. Then she asked them to return on the 13th of the next five months. The children were faithful in coming, except for August 13, for the mayor, a Mason, had them imprisoned at that time. He had threatened to cast them into a caldron of boiling oil if they did not reveal the secret confided to them by the Lady.

At each meeting, the Lady revealed to them a little more of God’s designs. She foretold future misfortunes which they were to keep secret for the time being, and which were recently revealed by the sole survivor, Lucia. These had to do with an even more terrible war than the current one of 1914-1918. The Lady asked for the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for only through her could the aid of God come to the world. On the last apparition, that of October 13, she promised a great miracle which everyone would be able to see.

Curiosity drew ever larger numbers that accompanied the little visionaries to each meeting: there were some 25,000 to 30,000 on September 13; about 70,000 on October 13.

That day, on which the great miracle promised by the Virgin Mary was to take place, rain poured all morning. The crowd was soaked.  But at noon the skies cleared. Mary appeared to the three shepherds and revealed her name: Lady of the Rosary. She asked that people be converted and pray. Then, in the sight of the 70,000 spectators, the sun, which had just appeared through the clouds, began to rotate or spin three times.  Each rotation lasted three or four minutes, illuminating the trees, the crowd, the earth, with all the colors of a rainbow. Then it zigzagged in the sky and descended as though to fall into the crowd. People fell to the ground crying for mercy. Then the sun returned to its proper place. The spectators noticed that their clothes were completely dry.

News of this miracle, witnessed by 70,000 people, including a number hostile to religion, spread like wildfire throughout Portugal and made a tremendous impression. The material miracle was but a sign of another miracle, the enlightenment of souls and the conversion of the country. 

The aftermath

Less than two weeks after the last apparition, a first sign of a new attitude manifested itself in the protest by an influential antichristian newspaper against a sacrilegious attack by a group of sectarians at Fatima. In 1918, the bishops were recalled from exile and were able to hold a meeting at Lisbon. The military chaplaincy was reinstated and relations with the Holy See reestablished. At that point, the Masonic lodges had the president of the Republic of Portugal assassinated. They sought to reinstate the control of the anticlericals, but their efforts failed.

Come 1936, a new great danger menaced the land. The Russian Bolshevists decided to establish atheistic communism in Spain and Portugal in order to spread it more successfully in the east and in the west, throughout all Christian Europe. We know what success they had in Spain. Portugal seemed unable to resist their activity, organized with satanic cleverness. To dispel the danger, the bishops saw salvation only in the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1936, they promised, by what was termed an anticommunist oath, to make a pilgrimage of the entire nation to Fatima if Portugal were preserved from the peril which was threatening it.

 While, on the other side of the frontier in Spain, the “Reds” were massacring, profaning, pillaging, burning priests and men and women religious and churches and convents, trying to extirpate the last vestiges of Christianity, Portugal enjoyed peace. And so, in 1938, an enormous pilgrimage of a half-million faithful was on route to Fatima to thank the Virgin for her miraculous protection.

In 1940, Portugal signed with the Holy See the most perfect concordat, from the Christian point of view, ever signed in recent times. The faith is proclaimed throughout the entire country with pride, the sacraments are frequented, Catholic Action flourished, ecclesiastical vocations multiplied.  In eight years the number of religious had quadrupled. In keeping with the prediction of the Virgin at Fatima, the Second World War was much more horrible than the first. Yet, though most of the nations of the world were involved in the indescribable calamities and anguish, Portugal continued with its tranquil life under the protection of Mary. 

The Church’s action

The ecclesiastical inquiry into the facts of Fatima was opened in November of 1917.  However, because of circumstances, a verdict was rendered only thirteen years later, on October 13, 1930. Meanwhile, pilgrimages continued to arrive, always more numerous, and usually on the 13th of each month. Cures were taking place. In 1926, a board of review was established similar to the one at Lourdes. More than a thousand cures, scientifically unexplainable had been registered by 1955.

On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, the ecclesiastical authority judged the moment suitable for revealing in part what Our Lady of the Rosary had asked Lucia to keep secret for the time being.

In his radio message of October 31, 1942, to the pilgrims gathered at Fatima, Pope Pius XII consecrated the Church and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He renewed this consecration the following December 8 in Rome. The bishops of the whole world also made this consecration for their individual dioceses on March 28, 1943. We know that the Pope Pius XII confided to Cardinal Tedeschini that he himself had seen the solar phenomenon on October 30 and 31, and on November 1 and 8, 1954, on the occasion of the definition of the dogma of the Assumption.

          The impact of Fatima

The message of Fatima has been heard in Portugal, and Mary’s goodness has marvelously repaid it. Has it been heard in the rest of the world?  Certainly not enough.  Otherwise wars among nations by armies, and “cold wars,” and fratricides within countries would have ended long ago.

However, not all have turned a deaf ear. The message of Fatima has been received in part, at least, by a great number of Christians.  Devotion to the rosary continues to gain favor and reaches into many countries. As has been said, all the dioceses of the world have been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the bishops.   The visits of the Pilgrim Virgin statues have been received with tremendous enthusiasm not only by Catholic populations, but by some Protestants and Muslims as well.

 The message of Fatima has moved many and has contributed to making our era an Age of Mary. It has not spoken its final word. What that word will be depends on the cooperation which Our Lady of Fatima receives from us.  She extends this call and invitation to each of us.

These words of St. Thomas Aquinas, later used by Franz Werfel about Lourdes, apply also to Fatima: “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary.  For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”


by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          Any expression of Christian spirituality gives prominent place to Mary, Mother of our Redeemer.   Praying is at the heart of living the Gospel, and that normally includes praying her rosary.  The rosary is a means of summarizing the Gospel.  This enables us to live the rosary by entwining its prayers and mysteries into the very fabric of our lives.
In praying the rosary we offer our Spiritual Mother a garland of roses, our heartfelt conversation. 

          In the rosary we find a unique synthesis of the entire Gospel,  both Scripture and Tradition, in a beautifully Marian format that is easily remembered as we implore God's grace.

          Pope St. John Paul II taught that praying the rosary is "a most effective way of fostering among the faithful that commitment to contemplation of the Christian mystery and a genuine training in holiness."  He regarded the rosary as "an exquisitely contemplative prayer" and "a treasure to be rediscovered." 

          More than one hundred official documents of the papal magisterium attest to the efficacy of the rosary as a school of virtue and contemplation and a means of obtaining divine graces.  The rosary succeeds in protecting our gift of faith from all kinds of sin because it is a gift from God, the  weapon chosen for us by Our Lady.  The Servant of God, Frank Duff, reminded us that the rosary is our "prime devotion" because it contains Mary.  Barbara  Kloss, a twentieth century mystic of Poland, was told by Our Lady, "I am wholly in the rosary.  Seek me there...find me there."

          Archbishop Fulton Sheen once compared the rosary to the Eucharist:  "What the Eucharist is in the order of the sacraments, the rosary is in the order of sacramentals."   This means, he continues, "the rosary contains Mary."

          For Maisie Ward, the noted British writer and publisher, the rosary is a guide to reality.  If the rosary contains Mary, then it also contains the Holy Spirit, spouse of Mary and the Spirit of truth (Jn 16:13), the only true guide to reality.

          Taking his cue from the Joyful Mysteries, Pope St. John Paul II tells how the rosary transports us to reality.  "The rosary mystically transports us to Mary's side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Jesus in the home of Nazareth.  This enables her to train us and mold us with the same care until Christ is 'fully formed' in us (Gal 4:19).  By immersing us in the Redeemer's life, the rosary insures that what Jesus has done and what the liturgy makes present is profoundly assimilated and shapes our existence."

          Since our objective is to live the Gospel, we are called to live the rosary, an epitome of the Gospel, all the time.  This requires skillfully entwining its mysteries in our lives.  By doing so we become divinized by incorporating the virtues of Jesus and Mary by praying always with Mary.  Living the rosary continually requires a deep respect and real love for the rosary by recognizing at its core Jesus, love incarnate -- "the way, the truth, and the life."

          "Abide in me and I in you," says Jesus, because "without me you can do nothing."


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Sister Lucia on Modesty of Clothing - Fatima

"Notice, however, that it is not only for these two reasons -- punishment and penance for our sins - that God clothes us {regarding Adam and Eve's awareness of their nakedness caused by their grievous sin]; it served other purposes too.  Besides being a protection against sin, the modest clothing with which we must c\cover ourselves is a distinguishing mark setting us apart in the stream of immorality and enabling us to be, for the world, true witnesses of Christ."

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

ACN News - Priest was ISIS captive – ‘I am journeying towards freedom’

Syrian monk Father Jacques Mourad spent five months in 2015 as a captive of ISIS. He recently spoke about his experience at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, during the “Night of the Witnesses,” an annual initiative of the French office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the international Catholic charity.

How did I—taken hostage by a group of jihadists, imprisoned for almost five months, frequently threatened with beheading, and after witnessing the abduction and imprisonment of 250 of my parishioners—how did I respond to the experience of my liberation? Was there any room for love in this experience?

In Karyatayn (Al-Qaryatayn), I had been ministering to all the people since the year 2000, and I was in charge of the Syriac Catholic parish there, belonging to the Diocese of Homs. And yes, it was from Karyatayn that I was abducted.

On May 21, 2015, a group of masked and armed men invaded the monastery of Mar Elian, which I was in charge of, taking me hostage together with Boutros, who was then a postulant at the monastery. We were kept prisoner there in the car in the middle of the desert, for four days, then they took us to Raqqa, where we were imprisoned in a bathroom.

On the road to Raqqa, [traveling] into the unknown, a phrase came to me and stayed with me which helped me to accept what was happening and to abandon myself to the Lord: “I am journeying towards freedom...” The presence of the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, and the prayer of the Rosary were my other spiritual weapons.

On the eighth day a man in black, his face masked, came into our “cell.” At the sight of him I was terrified and I thought my last hour had come. But instead, to my great surprise, he asked my name and addressed me with the customary [Arab Muslim] greeting: Assalam aleïkum, which means “Peace be with you.” It is an expression reserved for Muslims and forbidden to non-Muslims (because there can be no possible peace with those who oppose them). And above all because Christians are considered by them to be unbelievers and heretics (kouffar).

He then engaged us in a long conversation, as though he was trying to get to know us better. And when I found the courage to ask him why we were being kept prisoner, I was surprised by his reply: “Look on it as a spiritual retreat.”

We remained imprisoned in that bathroom for 84 days. Almost every day they came into my cell and interrogated me about my faith. I lived each day as though it was my last. But I did not waver. God granted me two things: silence and amiability.

I was harangued, threatened several times with beheading, and was subjected to a mock execution for refusing to renounce my faith. In those moments, our Lord’s words resonated within me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness…”

In the midst of this situation I was also happy to be able to concretely live these words of Christ from Saint Matthew’s Gospel: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who ill-treat and persecute you.”

On Aug. 4 2015, ISIS took control of Karyatayn and then the next morning, at dawn, took a group of Christians hostage, some 250 people, brought from a region close to Palmyra. Obviously, we didn’t know anything about what was going on, since we had been cut off from the world.

On Aug. 11 a Saudi sheik came into our cell. He spoke to me, saying, “You are Baba Jacques? Come with me! They’ve been battering our ears talking about you!” We drove through the desert for about four hours. When we arrived in a compound enclosed by a huge iron gate, the Christians of Karyatayn were around me, astonished to see me.

It was a moment of unspeakable suffering for me, and for them an extraordinary moment of joy and pain. Of joy because they never expected to see me survive, and of pain because of the conditions in which we had met again.

Twenty days later, on Sept. 1, they brought us back to Karyatayn, free again, but forbidden to leave the town. To put it another way, it was a return to life, but not yet to liberty. But already a return to life—what a miracle! I could not help but marvel at it!

We were even allowed to celebrate our religious rites, on condition we did not advertise the fact. A few days later, when one of my parishioners died of cancer, we went to the cemetery, close to the monastery of Mar Elian. It was only then that I discovered it had been destroyed. Strangely, I felt no reaction. On Sept. 9, the feast of Mar Elian (Saint Julian of Edessa), I realized that Mar Elian had sacrificed his monastery and his tomb in order to save us.

On the evening of Oct. 9 I sensed that the time had come to leave. And the next morning, with the help of a young Muslim man, I was able to flee from Karyatayn, despite the dangers it involved. And here again the merciful hand of God and the Virgin Mary protected and accompanied me. Helped by this local Muslim man, I was able to pass through a checkpoint controlled by the jihadists, without them recognizing me or seizing me.

It was on that day, Oct. 10, 2015, on that desert road, that the word “freedom” really came home to me once more.

This thirst for freedom is not mine alone. It is that of all the Syrian people. Many European and American countries have opened their borders to Syrian refugees and welcomed them. Thousands of Syrians who have fled death have taken refuge in these countries because they long for life and yearn for liberty.

Nonetheless, I cannot close my eyes to the contradictions we see in these countries at war. On the way towards freedom we must absolutely ask ourselves this crucial question that Pontius Pilate addressed to Christ: “What is truth?” Having said that, he went out again to speak to the Jews and declared to them, “I find no cause for condemnation in him.”

Pilate represented the Roman Empire, a symbol of the whole world which has decided to kill Christ. Nothing has changed. How long will we continue to refuse to understand the message of our God? How much longer must our world go on being governed by little groups who seek only their own self-interest?

It is time to react against the fears of a third world war. The time has come for a revolution of peace—against violence, against the manufacture of armaments, against governments who constantly find reasons for war throughout the world, but above all in the Middle East

As for Europe, it is time that the Muslim community took a clear and unambiguous position in regard to the violence which is growing and being propagated. For them, too, fear is a paralyzing factor that is shackling them. Their silence is becoming the sign of a manifest and apparent agreement in the face of the violence that is unfolding.

Despite everything the humanitarian organizations are doing for the Syrian people, there are still families living in terrible conditions, outside the refugee camps, for lack of space. They are not accepted there. They are homeless, they have nothing.

God is not only asking us to be sensitive to the material needs of the poor. We are presented with a people who are suffering, a wounded people who are bearing a very, very heavy burden, who cry out with Jesus on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” People who cry out with David in Psalm 51: misericordias domini.

This war must stop. We want to return to our ruined homes. We have the right to live, like everyone else in the world. We want to live!

With picture of Father Mourad (© ACN)

Editor’s Notes:

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in NeNeed supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.

ACN News - Remains of abducted Syrian Christians are finally laid to rest

By ACN staff

The remains of five Christians abducted by jihadist rebels four years ago from the Christian town of Maaloula have at last been laid to rest in their home town. A solemn ceremony took place April 25, 2017.

Earlier that day, a funeral Mass was said in a Damascus suburb by Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III. Sources in the Melkite Catholic Patriarchate told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the remains of five bodies were discovered three months ago in a cave in the Lebanese region of Irsal, which borders on Syria.

DNA tests confirmed that the five bodies belonged to five of the six Christians who had been abducted on Sept. 7, 2013 by Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the rebel factions involved in the Syrian conflict. The sixth captive is still missing. Four of the five belonged to the Melkite Church and one to the Greek Orthodox Church. Their names are Ghassan Shanis, Dawoud Milaneh, Chadi Taalab, Atef Kalloumeh and Jihad Taalab, The sixth abductee is Moussa Shanis.

In his homily, Patriarch Gregory III Laham said, “There is no greater love than to give oneself for his loved ones! Jesus Christ gave up his life for us; our martyrs gave up their lives for the love of their God and Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross and came back to life for us.”

Father Toufic Eid, the parish priest of Maaloula, described the calm of the funeral cortège from Damascus to Maaloula: “In the Syrian popular tradition the people sing and shout to express their sorrow, but on this occasion the mourners refrained from doing; instead a profound, respectful and painful silence accompanied the coffins as they were carried on the shoulders of family members and friends.”

Maaloula, one of the last communities in the world where Aramaic is still spoken as the main language, is some 40 miles from Damascus. Between September 2013 and April 2014 the town was besieged, attacked and finally captured and occupied by rebel Syrian factions.

Father Toufic reflected: “How to help people to forgive? Forgiveness is an integral part of our faith, yet it is so difficult. It takes time. And I tell them that it is not for the good of others, for the good of the other person. We have to walk the path of forgiveness for our own good, for our relationship with God. We have to forgive, because if we do not, we make a pact with evil, our heart fills with hatred and becomes blinded. Evil seeks to prevail within our hearts, and we have to fight against this.”

For six years now a bitter conflict has been devastating Syria. Some 6.3 million have been displaced and 13.5 million people are now dependent on humanitarian aid. This is roughly two thirds of the country’s population. In addition, close 5 million people are officially registered as refugees in neighbouring countries. Many of the younger children have known nothing but war and exile from their homes.

ACN is helping 1,500 refugee families living in rural areas surrounding Damascus with a monthly food packet and other basic necessities for the next three months, at a cost of approx. $42 per family per month.

With picture of Patriarch Gregorius III leading funeral Mass procession (© ACN)

Editor’s Notes:

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.