The Mission of the Fatima Family Apostolate
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
We address ourselves to the questions: “Why and how are Members of the Fatima Family Apostolate called to Holiness?”
Needless to say, this subject covers an ocean of ideas. That is why I wish to limit myself to just four questions and answer them as briefly and intelligently as I can:
- What is holiness?
- What is the Apostolate of Holiness?
- Why is the message of Fatima a call to the Apostolate of Holiness?
- How should this Apostolate be put into practice?
1. What is Holiness?
In one sense, everyone who is baptized and is in the state of grace is holy. And there are many passages, especially in St. Paul, that testify to this meaning of the term. But properly speaking, holiness is not only being in God’s friendship; it is being Christ like.
What do we mean when we say that we are as holy as we are like Christ? We mean that Jesus Christ is the pattern for us to follow. The more we become like Him, the more holy we are. This stands to reason since Christ is God, and of course a person is only as holy as he is similar to God.
What we are saying is not as obvious as may at first sight appear. No doubt expressions like “the imitation of Christ,” or “the following of Christ,” or “walking in the footsteps of Christ” are familiar enough. But what do they say? They affirm the astounding fact that when God became man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, that man was literally God walking on our earth, eating our food, breathing our air, and living in every way—except sin—the human life that we live. He did so not only to redeem us from Satan and hell, but to show us how we can with His grace become like Him in virtue.
This is the key to a correct understanding of that strange invitation of the Savior to the rich young man, “If you will be perfect.” It is also the key to His injunction that we should be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect.
Key to Holiness
The key is to know what Jesus meant by the word perfect. He could only have meant that since He is one with the Father, and God is perfectly holy, the closer we approximate His goodness the more perfect we shall become. It is like producing a masterpiece of art, which is only as perfect as it perfectly imitates nature, or like a good reproduction if it closely duplicates the original.
That is what striving after perfection is all about. After the learned books on the subject have been read, it means trying with the help of His grace to become more and more like the man, Jesus, who was perfect in every human virtue because, though man, He was also God.
Time and again He bade us become like Him, “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart. If I, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you. I give you a new commandment: Love one another just as I have loved you.” This is the formula of sanctity: Study the conduct of Christ and strive to do the same. If you do, and insofar as you do, you will become holy.
2. What is the Apostolate to Holiness?
The Apostolate to holiness is the vocation we all have as followers of Christ to bring His grace to other people and serving others. This Apostolate is an extending of the Mystical Body of the Church. The Apostolate has been a channel of grace to other people. None of us shall reach heaven alone. No one without others shall reach heaven.
We could define the apostolate as:
- Communicating grace to others.
- Being a conduit of grace to others.
- Being a means of sharing God’s grace with everyone whose life we touch.
- Serving as a conduit of God blessings to everyone whom God puts into our lives in order that we might bring His supernatural life, His divine light, and His divine strength into the lives of others.
Not one of us would have the true faith or the life of grace, unless someone outside of us had brought these graces into our lives.
The moment we say this, we must explain what divine grace is.
Grace is what we need, beyond what we naturally have, to reach heaven. Every single one of us will die in body. We should have only one hope, when our body dies that our souls will be alive with the grace of God. Otherwise the Apostle John tells us we shall die the second death. It will be the loss of the vision of God’s face for all eternity. We need grace to reach heaven.
Once more, what is the Apostolate of Holiness? It is our vocation and our responsibility to bring grace to others. Either we are channels of grace here on earth or none of us will reach our heavenly destiny.
3. Why is Fatima a Call?
Why is the message of Fatima a call to the Apostolate of holiness? Whatever else the message of Our Lady is, it is a call to conversion. How this world of ours needs conversion. Our Holy Father says, and I spoke to him in Rome just this past month, and I’ve worked for the Holy See for 29 years, “I share from the depths of my soul, our present century has been the most sin-laden century in human history.” We see this in:
- Deadly wars
- Breakdown of Family Life
- Virus of sodomy
- Secularization of the Priesthood and Religious Life
- Drop of Vocations
- Widespread loss of the true faith
- Destruction of churches
There are more abortions in one year now—and this is statistically provable—than in all the centuries from the dawn of human history until the year 1900. We have had more martyrs since the year 1900 dying for the true faith than in all the centuries from Calvary until 1900 AD inclusive. More priests have left the active priesthood in our century than ever before, since Christ first ordained the Apostles on Holy Thursday night, including the 16th century. Our Catholic seminaries in the United States have lost 90% of their seminarians. There is one seminarian in 1997 compared to ten in 1965. More religious communities have secularized than ever before in the Church’s history.
There are churches in Detroit now where the people on Sunday morning come to Mass and are given a carton of Eucharistic bread for “Mass” and told by the priests: “Recite the Eucharistic Prayer with me, including the words of consecration because you are as much a priest as I.” I have one observation. MY GOD, MY GOD, MY GOD. Let us wake up.
Someone must restore the graces which people have lost, including and beginning with the grace of faith for a spiritually starving America. Who can do this?
- Only holy people,
- Only believing Catholics,
- Only chaste, celibate bishops and priests,
- Only faithful husbands and wives.
Only honest to God Catholics can restore life to a world that is becoming a cadaver, smelling with a stench, of cruelty and self-adoration. You Catholics must wake up to what is going on. My Vatican superiors tell me: “Unless you Catholics wake up to what’s going on more than one, many of your American dioceses will cease to exist.
In the early centuries of our age, the age of martyrs, Christians were called the Anima Mundi, (The Soul of the World).
4. How to put into Practice?
How should this Fatima Family Apostolate be put into practice? I repeat, it is an article of the Catholic faith, we cannot be channels of grace to others unless we ourselves possess the grace we hope to communicate to others. Ordinary grace is not enough, not today.
I’m sure that more than one of you parents have children who have given up their Catholic faith. Christ uses only believing people to give the grace of faith to other people. Christ uses only chaste people, you parents. Your children will be only as chaste as you, their fathers and mothers are. Christ used obedient people, prudent, humble people.
Christ uses humble people to give the grace of humility to others. I’ve taught many intellectual people over the years and the hardest thing in the world is for an intellectual to be humble. I know. I was called in by my novice master after a few months of the novitiate and he said, “You know what is wrong with you? You are an intellectual bully. I give you 30 days to show some slight sign of humility, otherwise after 30 days I’ll pay your transportation back home.”
Over 5,000,000 Americans are on our campuses every year, stuffed with knowledge, bursting with pride. Oh! How well I know, it takes humility to be a channel of grace for humility to others. Christ is only using humble, loving people, charitable people, bringing the virtue of charity to others and courageous people. Oh! How we need courageous bishops, courageous priests, courageous fathers and mothers today.
I know from personal experience the State is demanding total control of the family. A mother spanks a disobedient child, not cruelly but justly. She was arrested for cruelty.
Christ uses only peaceful people, those with peace of heart, to bring peace to others. There are two kinds of peace, peace of mind and peace of heart. The only people who have peace of mind are those who live and experience the truth. Seventy million Americans are living on prescribed tranquilizers. Their minds are starving for the truth and we have it.
I have been a priest for 50 years. I was dying when I was born so they rushed to baptize me. Today is the anniversary of my baptism. 50 years in the priesthood —I’ve given retreats to multi-millionaires. I’ve given retreats to Mother Teresa’s sisters who serve the poorest of the poor. There is only one peace of heart in this world. That is to submit ones will to the will of God.
And the world tells people they ought to do their own will. Choose your own will. That is madness.
I never tire of telling one audience after another, “We are living in the age of martyrs.” How, how are we to practice these humanly impossible virtues in today’s paganized America? Only by using supernatural means to live super-human lives.
Especially needed for this are three practices: 1. Prayer. 2. The sacraments. 3. Daily examination of Conscience.
Say the daily rosary, either alone or with your family, or with others. I ask your Guardian Angels to keep you from failing asleep unless you’ve said your rosary for the day.
Make at least a 15 minute meditation on the Gospel for the day. Keep Holy Water in your home. Say short spiritual aspirations frequently during the day. Recite the Memorare daily. I beg you to say the Angelus three times a day.
Make every reasonable effort to participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass daily and receive Holy Communion. Make a daily visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament. Receive monthly, or better, a bi-monthly the Sacrament of Confession. Frequent confession means every two weeks.
You should examine your conscience at least once daily. That examine should have three parts:
- Gratitude for graces received—both graces that are pleasant and those that are painful. You may think of some other person, “You are the most painful grace in my life.” Thank God for the painful graces.
- Sorrow for sins. Where have I failed in generosity? Anticipate the next day; plan what you are to do the next day. What are the things I’ve been putting off, not doing? Promise our Lord you will do it. Keep an agenda. Ask God for the grace to put it into practice.
- Do not hesitate to put your resolution into writing.
Our Lady of Fatima, Mother of Mercy and Mother of love obtain for me from Jesus, the light to know what He wants me to do to be a channel of His grace to my family, and to all those whom He places into my life.
Dear Mother, ask Him to give me the strength to follow what you told the servants at the marriage feast of Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.”
Help me dear Mother, to see Jesus in every person who enters into my life, so that I will bring many souls with me to heaven, where I shall live with them in the company of your Divine Son, for all eternity. Amen.