On this 13th May, when we honour Our Lady of Fatima, more wisdom from Fulton |Sheen.
The following is a homily given by Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen during a Mass at the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia in 1976.
Fifty-seven years ago when I was ordained a priest, I took two resolutions: one, that I would say Mass every Saturday in honour of our Blessed Lady, for her protection during my priesthood. The second resolution was that every day of my life I would make a Holy Hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. These two are now conjoined, as I address you on the subject of Mary, the Tabernacle of the Lord. I shall speak of Mary and the Host, Mary and the Sword, Mary and the Holy Hour.
Not one of us has the power to make our own mother. If we did, we would have made her the most beautiful woman in the world. Our Lord pre-existed His own mother. Therefore He could make her the perfect mother. He thought of her from all eternity. As a matter of fact, the first Immaculate Conception was in the mind of God. When the first Paradise was lost, God said that He would make another Paradise; this Paradise, flesh-girt, to be gardened by a new Adam, would be our Blessed Mother.
God had told Moses, “Make a tabernacle that I may dwell with my people.” Tabernacles were of stone and gold until an angel came to the Blessed Mother and asked her if she would become the mother of our Lord. She said, “I am a virgin. I do not know man.”
And God said: “In the older tabernacles there was the Shekinah, ‘the cloud of my presence,’ that overshadowed the temple. Now my Holy Spirit will overshadow you, and he that will be born of you will be called the Son of the Most High God.”
Notice Mary did not give birth to a foetus.
The Word was made flesh and tabernacled within her. In a certain sense, it was Mary’s first Holy Communion, for she had within herself the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. Now Communion is not only oneness with Christ, it is oneness with everyone in the Church and oneness with humanity. That is the reason why this Eucharistic Congress spoke of the hunger of the spirit and the hunger of the body.
So when the Blessed Mother possessed within herself Christ, the first thing she did was to do a social act. She went to visit her old cousin, Elizabeth, who was aleady six months with child. When she came to Elizabeth, Elizabeth said, “The child leaped with joy in my womb.” Christ had met John the Baptist in Elizabeth, and John the Baptist adored the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Mary. That was the moment when the Blessed Mother became what Pius X called her on the 13th of December, 1905, the “Mother of the Blessed Sacrament.” And she radiated the presence of Christ to John. So Elizabeth, now, after adoring the Christ within Mary, venerates her. “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth was here acknowledging that somehow or other Mary is related to the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ Himself.
Mary was not a priest. If her divine Son wanted women to be priests He would have made His own mother a priest. A woman is the symbol of the Church; and though Mary was not a priest, she was able to say the words of consecration as we priests can never say those words, because her body was giving life to the humanity of Christ. So she could say, as she bore Christ within her, “This is my Body, this is my Blood.” Mother of the Blessed Sacrament, pray for us.
When the divine Child was forty days old, she presented Him to the temple. All gifts come from God, and therefore should be given back again to God. She was doing with our Blessed Lord what will be happening here in this Mass. During the offertory procession, representatives of the Church will bring sacrificial gifts to be offered to the heavenly Father. Mary brought Christ to be offered to the heavenly Father—Simeon, the old man, being a symbol of the heavenly Father. Simeon said to her, as he became prophetic, “Your Son is going to have a cross, a sign to be contradicted; and you, too, will be pierced by a sword.”
Can any of you mothers imagine bringing your child to the baptismal font and having the priest at the font say to you, “Your son will die on the gallows, and you will have to have your heart broken”? That is what Simeon told our Blessed Mother.
Now let us see what this sword meant. “Your heart, too, will be pierced with a sword.” When our first parents lost the Garden of Paradise, God stationed an angel with a flaming sword to guard the tree of life. By that God meant Paradise Lost is not Paradise Destroyed; but you’ll never get back into this Paradise except by the sword. Sacrifice, shedding of blood, the inspiration of it will be a flame, love itself. So there seemed to be written across the Old Testament—as we read in the epistle to the Hebrews—that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.
It is not easy to get back into Paradise. The Jewish priests for centuries, on the Feast of the Atonement, would use this sword to slay a lamb. On the Day of Atonement they would take the blood of the lamb and they would go before the great hyacinth and purple and crimson curtain, the veil, and sprinkle it with blood. That gave them the right to enter the Holy of Holies, the symbol of Paradise. But on Good Friday, when that priest took the blood of a lamb and began to sprinkle that veil, it was rent from top to bottom. Man could rend it from bottom to top. And amid the shrieks and cries of the people, the Holy of Holies, which had never been seen, was now open. But that was nothing compared to what was happening on Calvary. A soldier took a sword and ran it into the heart of Christ. Blood and water came forth; blood, the symbol of our redemption; and water, the symbol of our regeneration. And the heart—or the veil of His flesh, as the epistle to the Hebrews puts it—the new Holy of Holies, was revealed; Paradise was opened; Eden’s gates were now thrown wide. Cherubim, sheathe your swords; the Sacred Heart has revealed heaven.
But when that sword pierced the heart of Christ physically, it pierced the heart of the Mother mystically.
I remember once being in a clinic and seeing a doctor touch an infant that was held by the mother. And the infant would cry with pain. And every time the infant cried, the mother shook with pain, out of sympathy.
Here were two hearts impaled on a single sword, the heart of Christ and the heart of Mary, these two hearts, which were then united in sorrow. And I believe that this is the basis for the Assumption. Christ’s passion as the Son of God merited redemption; Mary as a creature shared that passion as much as she could, and therefore as a creature she should be assumed into heaven.
But these pierced hearts in our times have become related to the Eucharist. One of the last things we give to anyone is a heart. We give them our time, we give them our talents, we give them gifts, but the last thing is the heart. And as the world grows old, we have had a revelation of the heart of Christ and the heart of Mary; and both of them were related to the Eucharist. On the 10th of June, 1675, our Blessed Lord, holding his heart with a cross on top of it, said to St. Margaret Mary, “Behold this heart, which has loved men so much; and all that I have received is blasphemy, ingratitude, coldness and contempt in the Sacrament of my love.”
In the revelation of Fatima, the Immaculate Heart revealed to the children a chalice and a host; and the Immaculate Heart, pierced with a sword, said to the children: “Pray to the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to make up for all the outrages and sins that are committed by man in the world.” Joining in love and sympathy with those two hearts, one of the great beauties of this Eucharistic Congress will be, I hope, to stop the de-Eucharistization that is going on in the world today.
How often, for example, I have gone into small churches and I have had to look around to find the good Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. He has been shoved off in a corner, and some priest stands there like a tin god. One almost feels like Mary Magdalene, going into many churches today. “They have taken my Lord and I know not where they have laid him.”
Then, too, the number of our people that will go to Communion in the state of mortal sin, in the language of St. Paul, “eating, drinking judgment unto themselves.” They would not go to a dress ball the way they go to Mass. What has happened to courtesy, respect, when they go before the Infant Savior as if they were going to a beach? And then immediately after receiving Holy Communion, leaving the Lord without appropriate thanksgiving—something they would not do if they had even had dessert in a neighbor’s house, leave immediately after they had eaten.
You know, I believe that we are living in a world of broken hearts. Our heart is broken; the Heart of Christ is broken; the Immaculate Heart of Mary is pierced. A small piece is missing out of the side of every human heart. God kept that in heaven, so that we can never love anyone in this world with a whole heart. The Sacred Heart is broken, because it has been pierced by our sins; the Immaculate Heart, because of her love for her divine Son.
How are we going to heal these broken hearts? I think what we have to do is to bring our broken hearts to the Blessed Mother and ask her to take them into her own and into the heart of Christ; because St. Paul says that we are working toward a day when Christ will be complete, when He will be the Totus Christus. Then let Mary deliver over our hearts to Christ, and we will have the Totus Christus, the Whole Christ, the only Love in the world.
And, finally, the Holy Hour. In the Sacred Scripture God has His day, the devil has his hour. In the Gospel of St. John, the word “hour” is used seven times, and in every single instance it refers to evil, the sinfulness of men, the deceit of the devil; so that at the end of the tragic hour of our Blessed Lord, He can say to Judas, “This is your hour. All you can do is just turn out the Light of the world.” So the word “hour” refers always to evil.
The first time our Lord used the word “hour” was at the marriage feast of Cana, when the Blessed Mother asked Him to work a miracle.
Now the reason the wine gave out is because our Lord brought all of His disciples also. It was the first case of gate-crashing in the history of Christianity.
And our Blessed Lord said to His Mother, “My hour has not yet come.” “My hour.” What He is saying to her is, “My dear Mother, are you asking me to proclaim my divinity, to go before men as the Messiah and the Son of God? Do you realize that the moment I do that your relationship with me changes? You will then no longer be my Mother, you will be the Mother of everyone that I will redeem; so I call you the beautiful name of ‘Woman,’ the universal Mother of the world.”
Another time when our Lord used the word “hour” was at the Last Supper, and here He refers to His Mother. He had already said “my hour.” Now He says, “When the woman”—in our English translation it is “a woman.” In the original Greek it is “the woman.” “When the woman is in childbirth she suffers, because her hour has come; but she rejoices when a child is born into the world.” In other words—and this is something I had never thought about until I began preparing this meditation—she has a Holy Hour, and our Lord was then speaking about it. Our Lord spoke about that hour on the cross. “When the woman brings forth a child….” Our Blessed Lord looks down from the cross to His Mother, and He says, “Woman, there is your son”—John. And to John, “There is your mother.” Mary at the foot of the cross was the symbol of the Church. Our Lord on the cross was the new Adam. She was the new Eve.
The night of the Last Supper, our Blessed Lord spoke about the woman bringing forth children when her hour comes. Now the hour had come. And John stood for all of us that were ever born into the Church.
So the Holy Hour, inasmuch as it is related to our Lord, refers to reconciliation, redemption, forgiveness. The Hour in relationship to the Blessed Mother refers to the Church. Accouchement—birth. Labor—a child. Pain—joy. In other words, evangelization, conversion, the growth of the Church.
Because we live in a demonic age, the time has come to take seriously this Holy Hour. It is the only thing our Blessed Lord ever asked us to do, ever asked directly of His disciples: “Can you not stay awake one hour with me?”
Who should make it? Bishops, for an apathetic world, so that during that Holy Hour the Blessed Lord will speak to them, as He spoke to Paul at Corinth. “Be courageous, be not silent, speak out, I am with you.”
I have many in this city who are my friends, priests. Make the Holy Hour. It may be a sacramental sign of our victimhood. Would you have power in the pulpit? Would you be able to console the sick? Would you be able to make converts? Then spend the Hour with our Lord. When you mount the pulpit you will shoot forth sparks, and the people will love you.
Sisters, you wonderful women, who bear a visible sign of your union with Christ, make the Holy Hour—and understand how much the children in schools are yearning for you to come back.
Married couples, make the Holy Hour, to make up for an abortion every thirty seconds. Prove that the Lord is the Lord of life and not of death.
All you who are engaged in social work, treating humanity in any form, make the Holy Hour. Believe me, when you begin to see the invisible Christ behind that visible sign of Bread, you will soon begin to see in the poor and the naked the invisible Christ whom they represent. That is the vision that makes Mother Teresa one of the leaders of the world in the love of the poor.
And you young people, young men and young women, do not believe that the joy of life consists in a titillation of the flesh, but see that love is sacrificial; and when you make a Holy Hour, then you will begin to understand that the real rock is Peter, and the gates of hell shall not prevail.
Everyone, make the Holy Hour, and you will discover as you leave the divine Presence that if you move among people in the world, they will say of you as the maid said of Peter, “You have been with Christ.” And then at the end of a lifetime spent in adoration of the Lord, and in love of the Blessed Mother, of the Blessed Sacrament, when you come before the Lord do you know what He will say to you? He will say, “I heard my Mother speak of you.”