Using Mary to understand Jesus
The Fatima devotion holds a special place in the heart of West Wyalong Parish Priest Fr Emil Milat. Leaving this year on May 9, he will embark on a month-long pilgrimage, the high-point being the 100th anniversary celebrations at the site of the apparitions, where Pope Francis will celebrate Mass on May 13. Joining Fr Milat on the pilgrimage is Br Dominic Levak OFM (Hermit at the Bolo Farm Shrine) and Moruya parishioners, Helen and Ian Brown, Norma O’Connor and Barry Hoban.
BY FR EMIL MILAT
THE Immaculate Heart of Mary has been a special gift on my priestly journey. In the first years of the seminary I was in a lot of turmoil; I knew I wanted to become a priest, but I did not know how to make all the sacrifices necessary.
This definitively changed for me when, through grace, I came across books such as Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary and Fr Stefan Gobbi’s Marian Movement of Priests and met people who explained the graces that flow from consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
As I grew in my understanding of the role the Blessed Virgin Mary played in the life of her Son Jesus, I saw her importance in my life too. I came to understand that if I wanted to become a child of God like Jesus, and with him as an older brother (Romans 8:29-30) I needed Mary as my mother too – just like she was to Jesus.
So I chose the date of February 2, 1997 (The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, which is the fourth Joyful mystery of the Rosary) for my formal consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. After the Mass I made my consecration and ever since then great peace has filled my heart.
Moreover, I saw more clearly the deeper calling of Baptism to become a child of God. I could see time and again Mary actively bringing all the right people and graces into my life. With her help and guidance, I could continue to grow spiritually.
In April 1997, I made an eight day retreat over Easter at the Benedictine Abbey in Jamberoo. On entering the chapel I looked at the plaque on the threshold of the door and noticed it was called ‘ABBEY of the Presentation’ – the Feast Day of my consecration! As you go through the door of the chapel, there is a lovely stained glass window of the Presentation; it has been a source of deep contemplation for me. The Abbey has been a very special and graced place during my journey; I have organised about 20 parish retreats there and completed many personal retreats.
My devotion to Mary continued to grow all through my seminary formation. It was like a reference point for all insights that came from the retreats, conferences and lectures I was blessed to participate in.
Like the early Church councils, I used Mary to understand Jesus more fully. I could sense the pure and perfect light of God that came through the devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Writings like those of St John Paul II (with his motto Totus Tuus- indicating a profound surrender to Mary as a Spiritual Mother), those of Archbishop Fulton Sheen and many others helped me to understand the Church’s dogmas on Mary such as The Immaculate Conception and Mary Mother of God.
Devotion to Mary provided me with a Marian “heart” where all the teachings and talks I came across could be put into a complete understanding of the Christian faith. Even more, it provided spiritual warmth where I could accept these truths.
When I went to see Archbishop Emeritus Francis Carroll regarding a date for my ordination, I was delighted when he suggested June 30, 2000 (The Feast of the Sacred Heart). The next day I celebrated my Mass of Thanksgiving on the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary!
Over the next 17 years of my priestly journey, I grew in understanding of the revelations of Fatima. I could identify with what Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that the Apostle John had a personal “Pentecost” experience at the foot of the cross when Jesus said, “Behold your mother” (John 19:27). I could also identify how, from that moment, John saw Mary as his mother and took her not just into his home but into his interior life.
A current book called Fatima for Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope by Andrew Apostoli has helped to deepen my inspiration. Reading it prayerfully, I could see the importance of Fatima in my life more than ever and was deeply drawn to ponder anew the words Our Lady said in Fatima, “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph”. I pondered on how all Popes since Fatima in 1917 have had a deep devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
So many details could be shared, like the profound influence Fatima had on John Paul II when he realised the significance of being shot on 13 May 1981 – how he saw Mary saved his life. The revealing of the third secret of Fatima in 2000 and the Beatification of the two Fatima children Jacinta and Francesco was accompanied by a deep and balanced reflection by the then Cardinal Ratzinger that gave considerable contextual clarity for the many years of speculation on the secrets.
I noted well when Pope Benedict the XVI while in Fatima at the anniversary in 2010 reminded everyone that the message of Our Lady to the little shepherds are more than ever relevant today.
The pontiff said: “We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. […] At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations, races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the Love of God burning in her own heart.”
I saw this lived out by his successor Pope Francis when one of the first things he did was to contact the Archbishop responsible for Fatima asking him to consecrate his Papacy (simultaneously with him in Rome) to Our Lady of Fatima on 13 May 2013.
It was wonderful when it was confirmed Pope Francis would be there with us, with over a million pilgrims on May 13 to offer Mass and celebrate the anniversary of the apparitions.
I will very much be taking the Archdiocese with me in prayer. It was a spiritual joy for me to be at Galong in October last year for the Archdiocesan Annual Marian Mass and Procession when Archbishop Christopher Prowse formally consecrated the Archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Such formal consecrations evolved after Our Lady’s request in Fatima in 1917 that the Pope Consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart together with all the Bishops of the world.
In 1942 Pope Pius XII made a consecration of the Church and of mankind to Mary, the Mother of God. Interestingly the Second World War decisively turned for the Allies at that point.
On May 13, 1967 Pope Paul VI delivered an Apostolic Exhortation entitled ‘signum magnum’ (the great sign) in which he called for national, diocesan, and individual consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In particular exhorting all bishops of the world (since October 1967 would be the 25th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s 1942 consecration) and the sons of the Church to “Renew personally their consecration to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of the Church and to bring alive this most noble act of veneration through a life ever more consonant with the divine will and in a spirit of filial service and of devout imitation of their heavenly queen.”
These consecrations culminated in 1984 when John Paul II consecrated the world and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary with Bishops from around the world. Interestingly, reform started in the Soviet Union after that, leading to the fall of Communism. Also since then, people in Russia have built 1,000 churches each year amounting to 29,000 churches- this is probably unprecedented in world history.
I have been praying this past year, as a means of preparing myself for the pilgrimage, the prayer the Archangel of Portugal gave the three Fatima children a year before Mary appeared to them: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You, for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.” This was to prepare them for the visitation.
I suppose this Marian influence in my life comes very easily to me given Australia and our Archdiocese are consecrated to Our Lady Help of Christians and this feast day is also my birthday – May 24.
Through Fatima, Mary herself is showing us Jesus and is helping us in these challenging times. Above all, she is guiding us through a consecration to her Immaculate Heart.
Celebrating the Fatima centenary in the Archdiocese
- Read Jeff Dutton’s experience of Fatima on the Archdiocesan website at https://cgcatholic.org.au/catholic-voice/blog/jeffrey-dutton-experience-fatima
- Read Noel Braun’s experience of Fatima on the Archdiocesan website at https://cgcatholic.org.au/catholic-voice/blog/noel-braun-guess-ill-keep-walking/
- May 13: Goulburn’s St Vincent De Paul Society is beginning its First Five Saturdays devotion in Our Lady of Fatima church North Goulburn. Read the article at https://cgcatholic.org.au/catholic-voice/blog/north-goulburn-parish-commemorate-100th-anniversary-fatima-apparitions/
- May 13: The Marian Movement of Priests apostolate in the Archdiocese are taking a bus from Canberra to Penrose Park’s Our Lady of Mercy Shrine (near Berrima) for a 100th Anniversary Mass and Rosary of the Fatima apparitions. See ‘Coming Events’ for more details.
- May 13: There is a Mercy Vigil at St Peter Chanel’s Church Yarralumla. See ‘Coming Events’ section for more details.
- May 28: Archbishop Christopher Prowse will celebrate a 100th anniversary commemoration Mass at St Christopher’s Cathedral at 11am on Sunday, May 28.