Immaculate virgin, pray for us - Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, ACYF 2017

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Immaculate virgin, pray for us - Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, ACYF 2017

This year we have commemorated the centenary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three young children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, in Fatima in Portugal.

In 1917 the world was engulfed by the First World War and its untold suffering, while at the same time a revolution was about to occur in Russia which would change the twentieth century as Communism came to birth.

In the remoteness of rural Portugal, a spiritual event was occurring which was directly related to these world events. Our Lady spoke of both events and urged prayer for world peace.

When she identified herself she used the title ‘Immaculate’. In particular, she referred to her immaculate heart.

Have you noticed statues and images of our Lady of Fatima? Some elements are worth noting. Firstly, according to the testimony of the children, Mary is dressed in white. Many images have her carrying rosary beads because she promoted the saying of the rosary. Some images have her crowned which reflects a practice in the Church not directly associated with Fatima. And some images will present her with her heart exposed. These latter images are connected to her references to her heart. For example, she said, “I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart.”

Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has become one of the key legacies of these apparitions. And the title is linked to the feast that we celebrate today of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary’s heart is immaculate, in other words, pure and holy. It is the heart not just of a virgin but also of a mother. Mary, as our spiritual mother, has a pure and holy love for each of us. She, like any mother, is burdened with concern and care for her children, for each of us.

This is why we can turn with confidence to Mary as our mother – Mother Mary – and place before her our needs, our fears and our anxieties. At the very first apparition the Virgin Mary said, "Please don't be afraid of me, I'm not going to harm you." Lucia asked, “Where are you from?” She replied, “I come from heaven.” Mary came to the children with motherly concern. So too we can approach Mary without fear, indeed with trust and love. In a special way we can seek Mary’s help in living a good and holy life.

On May 13, 1982, Pope St John Paul II, in a visit to Fatima after he had recovered from the attempt on his life, prayed, “O Immaculate Heart! Help us to conquer the menace of evil, which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today, and whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our modern world and seem to block the paths towards the future.” We can pray to our Lady particularly to help us overcome temptation and sin in our lives.

There are many beautiful prayers in our tradition that reflect this: the Hail Mary of course, the Hail Holy Queen and the Memorare. They all ask for our Lady’s intercession with her Son.

The Virgin Mary urged the children to pray, pray, pray. She calls on us to make prayer a strong feature of our lives. The prayer our Lady encouraged was prayer of intercession for the world. There is a spiritual struggle for the salvation of humanity. There are powerful spiritual forces at work in the world and they cannot be defeated but by prayer. St Paul reminds us: “For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world.” (Eph 6:12) Let us never doubt the importance and the effectiveness of prayers. Let us resolve to make prayer a feature of our lives. Prayer can stem the advance of the powers of darkness.

The Virgin Mary is a powerful intercessor, capable of turning the tide of history, as was witnessed in the messages at Fatima. Sacred Scripture testifies that from the very beginning the ‘woman’ will be at enmity with the serpent (Gen 3:15). We need to seek her intercession in the spiritual struggle for the souls of men and women.

On the cross Jesus said, “Woman, behold your son!” With these words, He asked his mother to take humanity into her heart, her Immaculate heart, her maternal heart. The centenary of the apparitions of the Immaculate Virgin Mary at Fatima are a reminder of these important spiritual truths.

Let us all firstly embrace the offer of Jesus from the Cross and accept the Virgin Mary as our mother and mother of the Church. Then, let us constantly seek her motherly intercession for our needs and the needs of the whole world.

Immaculate virgin, pray for us.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Friday, 8 December 2017