In 1917 when the world was reeling from the First World War, Our Blessed Mother chose three little children in Portugal to bring a message of peace to the world, a promise of peace, if we changed our ways and turned to God. She came to ask us to pray the Rosary, to make sacrifices for sinners, to do the Five First Saturdays. Jacinta (6yrs), Francesco (8yrs) Lucia (9yrs) to whom Our Blessed Mother appeared, understood this message and embraced it with all their little hearts, although still so young.
I recently visited Fatima where these events took place and was deeply touched by the lives of these children. No sacrifice was too great for them, even to giving their lunch away and fasting from food and drink all day to do penance for poor sinners. They refused to be forced to tell a lie about the apparitions even when threatened to be put in boiling oil. Their love of the rosary was immense and they never wasted a moment when they could pray the rosary for the needs of Our Blessed Mother and those of the world. They are truly an example that can be held up for children of their age and indeed for us.
In our very troubled world today where violence and war are escalating and suffering for so many is extreme, Our Lady is again inviting children to pray the Rosary. Many small children’s prayer groups are springing up all over the world, part of a movement called The Children’s Rosary, where it is the children themselves who lead and say the rosary and pray for peace in our world. These Rosary groups are like pure incandescent lights in the darkness of the world. There are many beautiful testimonies from the children who love to pray the rosary and get great solace from the presence of Our Lady. One little girl said that she loves to continue saying the rosary throughout the day at home such is the great comfort she receives from reciting it! In thinking about children’s prayers I’m reminded of what Our Lord said about the children “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 18:10) That is truly a beautiful thought. In another instance Jesus says to the Pharisees who judged the children’s cries of Hosanna inappropriate “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’” (Matthew 21:16) Their purity, their direct contact with God, their innate ability to see the world with untarnished eyes and approach it with boundless compassion makes their prayers powerful over the Heart of God.
How important it is for our children today to learn to have a relationship with Jesus and Our Blessed Mother if they are to steer their way through all the venomous elements the world is going to propose to them, at school, and among peers. A faith that is purely based on ritual no longer holds firm with the winds of secularism. This is one of the reasons we started a Sunday School in the Claddagh this year. Not only to teach children about their faith, but also to encourage them to get to know and have a relationship with God, Our Blessed Mother, their guardian angel etc. The sessions are based on the Word of God and the children discover how God’s Word is “alive and active” and can tell them something for their own lives.
The other day in the Sunday School we decided to start our sessions with a decade of the rosary led by the children themselves. This brings a whole other dimension into our session, the Presence of Our Blessed Mother who can help them to understand and integrate the teachings and who, in doing so, brings them to Jesus her Son.
I’d just like to end with the story of Rosa, a little girl in Colombia who was born deaf and dumb in the 18th Century. She was healed miraculously by Our Lady and as though to prove her miraculous visit to the doubting villagers a wonderful image of Mary carrying Jesus and giving the rosary to St Dominic appeared on the wall of a cave nearby. The colours could not be explained by scientists especially as they run deep into the cave’s wall for several meters. It was as though then and as she does today Mary is inviting us to take up the rosary like the little children, to pray for our world, to penetrate the hardest of hearts to bring them back to God.