Tuesday, October 13, marks 103 years since a beautiful lady in the village of Fatima revealed her name as "Our Lady of the Rosary." She also did a miracle that day which astounded 70,000, among them hardened atheists. Until three years ago I knew very little about the actual message of Fatima, but in 2017 the Missionaries of Charity asked me to give them a retreat on it for them. To prepare, I began studying history: the Church in Portugal in 1917, the First World War’s devastation of Europe, and Portuguese village life for the three shepherd children (Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta). Since that retreat, I’ve begun to take Fatima seriously. Her essential message was Prayer and Penance. “If you do not pray” she said, “a worse war will come.” We must add penance to prayer, for prayer without sacrifice is toothless, but penance without prayer is heartless. In the words of the Angel of Portugal, who appeared to the children in 1916, “make of everything we do a sacrifice.” Every Catholic parish must be a sanctuary of prayer and a sacrificial community if the Kingdom of God is to be established in power among us.
Having studied the Fatima message and prayed to God, I’m fairly certain He wants me to build a shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary here in San Francisco. The Archbishop has given his approval to “begin on the parish level and see where it goes.” Our church is beautiful but somewhat dilapidated, and the surrounding campus also needs lots of work. Thanks be to God, we have accomplished much already, and now we begin the half-million dollar interior painting project. Our Sunday Masses will be in the gym for the next 90 days, and our daily Masses in the parking lot. I appreciate your patience and sense of adventure as we move the Masses around. Painting the interior of the church, however, is only one step towards developing the Shrine. Our next step is to build 12 "altars" depicting 12 major Marian apparitions, along with their essential messages. We must also continue developing a rich devotional life in the parish. We’ve already added a third daily Mass, which is surprisingly well-attended, and this week we add a third Mass on Saturdays, at noon, which will be in the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin Mass). Much has been accomplished toward making our parish a center and sanctuary of prayer and penance, but much remains to be done. I write this on October 7, just before offering Mass for Mother Teresa’s sisters on the 70th anniversary of their foundation (October 7, 1950). Mother Teresa founded her order on the Feast of the Holy Rosary. Someone asked her once why she never let go of her rosary, every during meetings with presidents and popes. "I need to keep my hand always in the hand of Our Lady,” she replied. Pray the rosary daily, and make of everything you do a sacrifice! "Once you offer something to God," Mother Teresa also said, "no matter how small, it becomes infinite." We are beggars at the Throne of Grace, but we offer what we have, and God will make of it something very beautiful