May 11, 2014

The singular and mysterious events surrounding the apparitions at Fatima in 1917, which (were) celebrated on May 13, were deemed by the Church to be, while not essential doctrine since all revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, certainly “worthy of belief.” In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said that they have a “permanent and ongoing significance” which “could even be extended to include the suffering the Church is going through today.” Last year on October 13—the anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun”—Pope Francis consecrated the world to Mary, standing before a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

The Church suffers in many ways, most conspicuously (even if neglected by much of the secular media) by physical persecution in many countries. Indeed, this oppression is on the increase. On May 2, the Holy Father said in an apparent reference to Syria, “I cried when I saw reports on the news of Christians crucified in a certain country, that is not Christian.”

A more subtle form of suffering is by heresy. The word means choosing a wrong understanding of the truth, and this can be more dangerous than physical wounds, as it damages souls and not just bodies. Martyrdom glorifies and enriches the Church, while the spread of error weakens the Body of Christ on earth.

While frequently lauding the inestimable gift of women religious to the Church through their work of prayer, education and manifold charities (one quarter of all the world’s humanitarian institutions are sponsored by the Catholic Church, many of them through women religious), Pope Francis has called attention to heresy among some communities of consecrated religious. His Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, said in an official letter on April 30, that they have succumbed “to fundamental errors regarding the omnipotence of God, the Incarnation of Christ, the reality of Original Sin, the necessity of salvation and the definitive nature of the salvific action of Christ in the Paschal Mystery.” The Prefect expressed concern that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, in particular, has endorsed certain kinds of teaching that offer “a vision of God, the cosmos, and the human person divergent from or opposed to Revelation {and that endorsement of such a vision} evidences that a de facto movement beyond the Church and sound Christian faith has already occurred.”

Demographically, misguided communities are fading away in their embrace of ephemeral heresies, while many new Orders are growing by the strength of “powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). These declines caused by error and the simultaneous growth nurtured by truth have a parallel in the life of local churches, too. “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18). As May is the month of Mary by virtue of its loveliness, it is prime time to ask her intercession for the whole Church, our archdiocese, our parishes and ourselves.

Fatima Devotion Leads to Gospel Witness by Bishop Lee Piché - Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis


The force that can change the world is the Gospel. Every one of us has been called by God to live as disciples of Jesus, and to be a disciple of Jesus is also to be a witness. 

Gospel is a word that means “good news.” It is good news that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death. At the Last Supper Jesus told His disciples, “You will grieve and mourn while the world rejoices, but do not be afraid, do not lose heart, I have overcome the world.” This gets to the heart of what the Good News is; it’s not the good news of prosperity or health, but the salvation of our souls and ultimately the defeat of death. The forgiveness of our sins, the healing of our souls and the raising up of our bodies—this is Good News.

The Fatima devotion truly engages us in this Good News. One of the central parts of the devotion is prayer for conversions, for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters. The powerful prayer of the Rosary, which has been the cause of so many conversions, is at the heart of the Fatima devotions.

What is the Rosary? The Rosary is a meditation on the Gospel, the mysteries of Christ, the story of His life, death and resurrection. In his beautiful letter on the Rosary, Rosarium Evangelium, John Paul II says the Rosary is Christo-centric, because Christ is at the heart of the mysteries that we reflect on. He also points out the word which is at the center of the Hail Mary—Jesus. Jesus is at the center even of that prayer. Everything about Mary points us to Christ. When we pray this prayer, we strive to pray it well with a serene mind to allow the mysteries to go deeper into us, and with those scenes in mind, to meditate prayerfully saying the Hail Mary.  

Preaching with our actions

Mother Teresa’s sisters and priests say a prayer after Communion from Blessed John Cardinal Newman, called Radiating Christ. One line of that prayer jumps out when I think about gospel witness: Let me preach to You without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do, by the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.

It’s a beautiful thought, and one which if we were to enact would have the power to change people’s lives—that I would preach the Lord by my actions, my words my presence. And what is the nature of that presence?  It’s sympathetic. I’m thinking about the other. I’m not just thinking about myself. That has a beauty which attracts hearts.

One of the signs of authentic devotion to Mary and the Fatima devotion is that there is increasingly in those who practice it more and more evident love. That love becomes the central characteristic of those engaged in this devotion—love for God which is expressed primarily in our love for our neighbor, a genuine concern and care. It is the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what we do…the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You. When people are in love, they don’t go around moping and sad; they go around with a sense of joy. Joy is the net with which we catch souls. 

Fatima devotion should transform us

In the Fatima devotion we pray the Rosary, we do penance, and we go to Mass on First Saturdays. That may seem like an austere routine, but the essence of it must be our desire to help others through our prayer and our outstretched hands.

At the end of the Rosary we pray, Grant we beseech Thee that by meditating on these mysteries, we may imitate what they contain and contain what they promise… Regular devout recitation of the Rosary should have a transforming effect on our minds, hearts, and actions. We become more like Christ, more like His mother, more patient, more eager to please the Father, more concerned about others, about their true wellbeing, which is expressed in our prayer for them. We’re more hopeful, not so much anxious and worried, more detached from things, especially from our own will, more completely surrendered to the Lord. All of these beautiful life lessons cause our hearts to be joyful in the end. Because when we live to please God, it pleases God to let us live—really live, and to fill our hearts with even greater life and joy. When that is the center of our lives, then even when the storm is raging we can be at peace and experience joy.

If our hearts are in the right place, then our faithful devotion to Blessed Mary through the Fatima devotion leads surely and relatively quickly to our becoming true Gospel witnesses. Let us imitate the mysteries of the Rosary so that more and more people will be drawn into her maternal embrace and into the full embrace of her divine Son, Jesus.

(Excerpt from a talk given at the 2014 Marian Congress in St. Paul, MN)

“Pray the Rosary every day in order to obtain peace in the world…”

— Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 1917 —



The sun has set on the Old Town square.  Krakow’s favorite son has been declared a saint. The Patron of Families, as Pope Francis called St. John Paul II during his homily today, will now have his work cut out for him. No institution has suffered more during this era than this most basic unit of civilization. The church elevates humans to the title of saint so that they can stand as an example for all of us.

St. Pope John XXIII took the bold step of convening the Second Vatican Council. He has been maligned by some and praised by others for doing so. Even his staunchest critics however cannot question his personal holiness.

We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church,” Pope Francis said.

In his homily, he described Saints John XXIII and John Paul II as “priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them God was more powerful, faith was more powerful”.

“Be not afraid,” St. John Paul II told his fellow Poles when he first returned as Pontiff. He reminded us of what Our Lord had told us when He said, “Be happy if they persecute you for My sake.” The communists could not stand up to this and eventually moved aside.

St. Mary’s Basilica stands in the place of honor in the Krakow town square. Each hour throughout the day a trumpeteer comes to the bell tower and plays a most haunting melody, the Hejnal, four times, once in each direction, and each time he stops exactly forty three seconds in to the tune. This is to reenact the day in 1240 when, early in the morning, a sentry ran up and began to play the tune to alert the town of a Mongol invasion of the city. Forty three seconds later an arrow from the bow of an invader penetrated his throat and the tune stopped. The warning succeeded, however, and the invaders were turned away. The Hejnal tune is bittersweet, very much like the history of Poland. St. John Paul II lived a bittersweet life as did St. John XXIII. Their lives were woven together from the time that the young Polish priest caught the eye of Vatican officials in the early 1960s. In the town of Wadowice, the boyhood home of Carol Wojtyla, is now a museum. On display there are many artifacts of the new saint’s life. Among them is a rosary given to Fr. Wojtyla by Pope John XXIII. Next door there is a café which serves the best Kremowka, a Polish pastry. It is said that it was his favorite dessert. I can see why.

The twentieth century was a time of incredible turmoil. As the Fatima apostolate chosen by St. John Paul II to bring the message to the world, we must follow his call to be not afraid. I often heard it said that Our Lord chose him so that he could be a source of strength and an example to those who carried the heavy burden in the Eastern bloc during the trying times of his tenure. This might be the case, but I truly believe that it was to be more of an example of dedication and strength to those of us who were living softer lives in the West. Adversity builds character, and there is no doubt that these two men knew it well. Leading the Church during this period brought challenges which could hardly be imagined. These great but imperfect men were chosen to lead us toward perfection. We must do everything in our power not to disappoint them.

My wife and I have visited Krakow many times during our marriage. It is where she came from as a young girl, and we have had many great experiences here. Although we ate at our favorite restaurants, as we always do, and visited places which are always on our list, things were special this time. During this weekend the Royal City and the Divine Mercy shrine were the two most perfect places to be.


We stopped off at the Divine Mercy Shrine yesterday in Krakow and prayed the last day of the novena in front of the relics of St. Faustina. Today is the feast of Divine Mercy. It has been 14 years since St. Faustina was canonized by the man who has joined her in that elite class. I was there in Rome in 2000 with about half of the country of Poland. We have noticed a large number of Italian tourists here this weekend. We are wondering if there is some kind of exchange program going on as most of the Poles are now in Rome!


The window over the main entrance of the Archbishop’s residence here has a picture of the former cardinal who became pope in front of it.  It is from this window that he often greeted the people of this royal city gathered in the park across the street. A light of hope during the dark times under communism, Cardinal Wojtyla stood against the evil of the day and gave hope to those under his care. On Friday night after dinner, my wife Dorothy and I walked over there. The park across the street was filled with media equipment, covered to protect it from the drizzle. On Sunday, it turned electric as this son of Poland was elevated to the ranks of the saints in Rome. His story is well known and his accomplishments are well documented, but for those who lack knowledge of the culture of Poland, the story is incomplete.

From 1795 until 1919 Poland ceased to exist geographically. The culture, however, refused to succumb to the political partitioning of the land. It was the preservation of the essence of a nation, held in the hearts of the people that formed this future leader. It was this which taught him how to cope with the difficulties which he would deal with during the Nazi and communist occupations to come. I had the honor to meet him on four occasions between the 1990s and 2004. On the first meeting I received a firm handshake and a look which said “you know who I am, now tell me who you are.” I then had about fifteen seconds to give my life story, fifteen seconds when I had the undivided attention of the Vicar of Christ. In 2004, he sat in a motorized wheelchair, weak and dying but still brave and willing to be with his flock. Even the powerful cannot escape the consequences of the original sin. Today, he joins the ranks of St. Adalbert, St. John Cantius, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Faustina and a long list of other saints who came from Poland.

Sotto il Monte east of Milan, Italy is the home town of Angelo Giuseppe Roncali. I visited this little village about 20 years ago. It is nothing like Krakow, but it too produced a future leader. Pope John XXIII led the Church when I received my First Communion and was confirmed. He was the grandfatherly man with the benevolent smile. As a child I always felt a sense of holiness when I saw a picture of him. In 1960, it is said, that he read the third part of the secret of Fatima and wept. In 2000, John Paul II revealed this document to the world, and we can understand what caused him such anguish. I imagine that the town of Sotto il Monte is also alive in light of today’s events.

These two men were both formed by the turmoil of the 20th century. In some ways they are as different as night and day. In other ways they are very similar. They are part of a long line of successors of St. Peter, chosen and guided by the Holy Spirit, and entrusted with the care of His Church.  Both played a role in the Fatima history. Pope Francis canonized these men today. He has proclaimed that they have fought the good fight and have been found worthy. Let us implore these two new advocates to help and guide us as we continue to promote the message of Fatima.

St. John Paul II, pray for us.

St. John XXIII, pray for us.

St. Faustina, pray for us.



Blessed Francisco Marto might be considered a “wimp” by today’s standard, perhaps even a loser. The Fatima seer, who would not reach his 10th birthday, would easily shrug off losing at his favorite games and likely let others decide what to do with his day. His compliant nature and “never mind” attitude toward slights and injustices against him might have kept him in the shadow of his peers, an easy target for teasing or simply to be ignored. Instead, Blessed Francisco, who died on the morning of April 4, 1919, is celebrated the world over for his spirit of detachment and humility, and his unfathomable depth of spiritualty that few will ever achieve.

Francisco’s docile disposition was the empty vessel by which God could cultivate a rich and profound holiness. He was not a simple-minded boy, but a single-minded disciple of Christ, focused solely on doing His will. Indeed, Francisco personified Mary’s words at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.”

He eagerly and lovingly submitted to Our Lady’s remark that he “must say many rosaries” before she would take him to Heaven. This was not a negative declaration of his sinfulness, as some would believe, but was seen as a great privilege by Francisco who embraced this small request for so great a reward. His ability to forsake the world was the foundation for his close alignment with the Savior, Whom he constantly sought to console, especially in the Blessed Sacrament.

Author Leo Madigan writes in The Children of Fatima, “It was this passivity of total commitment that brings Francisco to life for us – and, at the same time, hides him. He is like a firefly among the trees, a glowworm in a cave. He doesn’t ask us to seek him out. We want to. His very elusiveness intrigues and draws us. When we catch the occasional glimpse of him, it is not because he wishes to show himself, but because he knows the way deeper into the forest of prayer, further along the unlit path into the cave of contemplation. If we promise to ignore him, he will be our guide.”

Francisco’s role as the consoler of Christ

Francisco’s inability to hear the angel and Our Lady during the apparitions is telling of his particular spiritual charisms. Francisco heard God with his heart, experiencing constantly the great sorrow of Our Lord. And like a child toward a parent, he desired only to make it better through his obedience to Our Lady’s requests for daily prayers and penances.

It also helped him readily understand Lucia’s central role in the supernatural events unfolding, which he wholeheartedly encouraged. When she was plagued by doubts and internal conflict, he exclaimed, “Never mind! Didn’t Our Lady say that we would have much to suffer?  If we can console them with these sufferings, how happy we shall be.” It was she that Our Lady spoke to, not him. Yes, Francisco was able to discern in his heart that if Lucia did not come to the Cova again and carry out her mission, Jesus and Mary would be sadder still.

The vision of hell that nearly frightened Jacinta to death during the July apparition made little impression on Francisco, so focused was he on the great light of God issuing from Our Lady’s hands that did not burn them. It caused him to wonder aloud, “What is God?” Still, he perceived God’s sadness from sin – even in the wondrous light.

Francisco – fearless and humble winner

Francisco’s humility and kindness invited many earthly sufferings, especially at the schoolhouse where an exasperated teacher subjected him repeatedly to charges of being a fraud that was wont to believe in apparitions of a “Lady” from heaven. These humiliations followed him onto the playground where his peers heaped more ill treatment.

Like Jacinta and Lucia, people seeking answers to their questions, wanting to know more about the messages, constantly sought him. Francisco truthfully could not answer questions regarding what Our Lady said, but he could show what she wanted. Once, when a woman knelt before him seeking his prayers and intercession, Francisco also knelt, bringing himself down to her level – a sinner – took out his Rosary beads and invited her to pray. The grace she sought was given. Other times he would slip away from the people, seek solitude with the Hidden Jesus and pray for their intentions. On many occasions, he was able to tell them that a grace would be granted – which indeed would occur just days later. In one case he promised to ask Our Lady for a grace when he got to Heaven. The father and son were reconciled on the day the young seer died.

During his five-month illness, visitors to his bedside would often report how comforting it was to be near him. “I don’t know what it is about Francisco,” they would say, “but it feels so good to be here.”

When his sufferings increased, he confided to Lucia that what was most difficult for him to endure was his inability to visit the Hidden Jesus, and asked her to go instead. Near his death on April 4, 1919, he smiled with happiness: “It won’t be long now til I go to Heaven,” he told her. “When I’m there, I’m going to console Our Lord and Our Lady very much. Jacinta is going to pray a lot for sinners, for the Holy Father and for you. You will stay here because Our Lady wants it that way. Listen, you must do everything that she tells you.”

Francisco, the little shepherd who could not hear a word Our Lady said, shows us how to live the Message of Fatima in the heart. He is clearly a winner.


O my God in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary (here kiss your Brown scapular as a sign of your consecration – this carries a partial indulgence). I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Jesus from all the altars throughout the world, joining with it the offering of my every thought, word and action of this day.

O my Jesus, I desire today to gain every indulgence and merit I can, and I offer them, together with myself, to Mary Immaculate, that She may best apply them to the interests of Thy Most Sacred Heart.

Precious Blood of Jesus, save us!

Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!


Men of the World Apostolate of Fatima (and the women who love them), as we continue our Lenten journey, we look to the model of St. Joseph to inspire us as we strive to fulfill our daily duties.

St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us!