By Barb Ernster –
Why did Jesus want devotion to the Immaculate Heart established in the world, starting in 1917 at Fatima?
After all, devotion to the Heart of Mary was widely practiced in the Middle Ages, including by many great saints. Saint John Eudes propagated this devotion in his writings and teachings, and asked for a feast day to honor Mary’s Heart. In 1805, Pope Pius VII allowed greater concessions for this feast in the Church, more than 100 years before the Fatima apparitions. And many people were practicing a form of the First Saturdays devotion to the Blessed Mother. So what was different about 1917?
Perhaps God wanted to prepare His people for the unprecedented evil that was already unfolding in the early 20th century. World War I was raging and no amount of dialog, weaponry or troop strength was bringing about peace. God wanted to prepare His troops for a different kind of battle based on His strength. To do that, He wanted to form them in holiness and obedience, like His Mother, so that they would be a battalion ready to do His bidding no matter what came their way.
Mary came to teach us this pathway to strength and holiness. Her requests at Fatima form us in these ways:
1. It teaches us to be obedient to God’s will every day, to be mindful and accepting of whatever comes our way, bearing our sufferings patiently;
2. to be at peace with life’s hardships and willing to take up our crosses and follow Him;
3. it strips away our pride and sins by asking us to regularly offer up our weaknesses and shortcomings, making us keenly aware of them and desiring to be purified of them;
4. it puts us in daily contact with God through prayer and the Sacraments so that we obtain the graces we need to carry on;
5. it gives us the weapons we need for battle – the Eucharist, the Rosary, the Brown Scapular, daily prayer and regular monthly confession.
Our Lord wanted to prepare His children through Mary, His humble and obedient handmaid, for the great spiritual battle that was about to ensue and is raging all the more today. And He wanted us to be dedicated to Him throughout the battle, because that is where our power comes from.
Gideon’s army – a test of loyalty
The story of Gideon is great example of what God’s troops look like. The Israelites had been delivered into the power of Midian, but the Lord heard their cries and sent an angel to Gideon, the youngest and “most insignificant” in his father’s house (Jg 6:15).
As Gideon assembled his 32,000 soldiers outside Midian’s camp, the Lord told him, “You have too many soldiers with you for me to deliver Midian into their power, lest Israel vaunt itself against me and say, ‘My own power brought me the victory.’ Proclaim to all the soldiers, ‘If anyone is afraid or fearful, let him leave.’”
Twenty-two thousand soldiers fled – two out of three in Gideon’s army – leaving just 10,000 to fight the 50,000 Midianites. But God said, “There are still too many soldiers.”
After Gideon put his soldiers to the test as the Lord commanded, just 300 were found worthy. These 300, armed with the power of God, conquered Midian, along with other nations who had opposed Gideon.
God always works through holiness and obedience. He cannot entrust great missions to people who are duplicitous or half-hearted in following Him. That is why He is allowing Our Lady, His greatest and most faithful disciple, to lead us through the great trials in our world and our Church today. It is to her Immaculate Heart that He entrusted the peace of the world.
This is not a time to be fearful, but to be courageous followers of God with our eyes firmly on Christ, as consecrated “soldiers” of Mother Mary.
St. Louis de Montfort foresaw the coming of an age when the “Most High with His Holy Mother has to form for Himself great saints in sanctity.” These true disciples of Jesus Christ would be “like sharp arrows in the hand of the powerful” Mary to pierce her enemies (Ps 126:4). They will be:
• Full of grace and zeal,
• They shall be chosen to match themselves against the enemies of God, who shall rage on all sides,
• They shall be singularly devout to Our Blessed Lady, led by her spirit, and sheltered under her protection,
• They shall fight with one hand and build with the other,
• They shall overthrow and crush the heretics the schismatics, the idolaters and the impious.
God wanted the devotion to the Immaculate Heart established in the world to prepare us for these times. He wants us tested and ready for battle. Our Lady said at Fatima, “those who accept this devotion will be loved by God like flowers placed by me to adorn His throne.” If we let her train us, imagine what can be accomplished.