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‘What greater gift can we offer our God?’

Nov. 1, 2017

One hundred years ago, as a good mother who worries about her children’s salvation, Mary reminded us of the existence of hell, and gave us the means by which to avoid it, and to experience peace in the world.  How?  Bishop LaValleythrough: conversion, penance, praying the Rosary, and consecration to her Immaculate Heart.

The message of Fatima is the call of the Gospel itself: “Repent, and believe.”  These are the first words that the Messiah addressed to humanity in Mark’s Gospel (1:15). 

The message of Fatima is, in its most basic reality, a call to conversion and repentance.

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.  Her message was to three shepherd children from the mountain town of Fatima in Portugal. 

So, what was the message that Mary entrusted back in 1917 to Lucia and her two cousins Francisco and Jacinta?  It was a strong appeal to prayer; a truly prophetic message, considering that the twentieth century was scourged by unheard-of destruction caused by war and totalitarian regimes, as well as widespread persecution of the Church.

Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us. In Lucia’s account, the three chosen children found themselves surrounded by God’s light as it radiated from our Lady.  She enveloped them in the mantle of Light that God had given her.  We need but take refuge under the protection of the Virgin Mary and to ask her, as the Salve Regina teaches: “show unto us…Jesus.”

So, today I consecrate the Diocese of Ogdensburg to the Immaculate Heart of Mary because, we remember that the “Lady in White” promised the shepherd children that, “in the end, her Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
It is so fitting that on this day in which we honor Our Lady of Fatima, we recall the solemn dedication of St. Mary’s Cathedral 65 years ago today. In his homily at the Mass of Dedication, Cardinal Cushing referred to ours as the “fairest of cathedrals, a proud temple to the glory of God and to the honor of the Blessed Mother.” He spoke of the “living temples of God in the souls of those who planned, built, and made this beautiful cathedral possible.”

Through the last 65 years, this Mother Church of the Diocese of Ogdensburg links us with the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Our communion with Rome is signified in this splenOct. 22did edifice that is built on Christ, the foundation and cornerstone of our Church.

Today, we celebrate the presence of God in our midst—not just within these walls at the corner of Green and Hamilton Street, but in the Body of Christ.  As members of this local Church, the anniversary of the dedication of our cathedral to God’s praise and glory reminds us of our call to work together in faith and charity for its growth and upbuilding. We, as members of the Body of Christ, living stones, form a spiritual temple not built by human hands.

Together with Christ, St. Peter tells us, we are one building (1Ptr.2:4). So, our Feast today celebrates the invisible richness of God’s holy people that eclipses even the most beautiful art and architecture of our awe-inspiring cathedral. 

This cathedral is a refuge for sinners and a place where people come closer to God.  Again, Cardinal Cushing: “Our cathedrals, gemlike and splendid, are merely tools and instruments for the work of the Church; that work is the adornment of more enduring temples of the living God: the souls of Christians.  The measure of the beauty of a cathedral is not in the skill of the architect nor the lavish gifts of its patrons; it is in the glory which it gives to God and the beautiful temples of the living God which are the hearts of converted and convinced Christians…”

Ah–there’s the true measure of the beauty of St. Mary’s Cathedral—the hearts converted and convinced!  The work of building the Church continues!  Our mission is clear, challenging and convincing:  Follow Jesus!  Pope Benedict XVI cautions us: “We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Humankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end.”
Remember, it is the Blessed Virgin Mary who faithfully and lovingly leads us to her divine Son with those Maternal words to the host when the wedding wine was running low in Cana: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn.2:5). The evangelical call to repentance and conversion, uttered in the Mother’s message, remains even more relevant than it was in 1917.

Let us turn our hearts to Mary and act upon her call to conversion and change of life: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.”

In our troubled world and within our fractured families, what greater gift can we offer our God, place before Mary and benefit ourselves that, as we consecrate our diocesan Church to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, each of us might resolve to increase our devotion to the Holy Eucharist, spend time in Eucharistic adoration, be especially alert at Mass to the words of Scripture, the prayers, the gestures, lyrics of the hymns, the homilies.  Make a special resolution in honor of Our Lady of Fatima to celebrate Penance more often in preparation for Eucharist.  Invite someone to Mass with you.  Reflect on what you can do to encourage Church vocations, particularly priests, so that people might not be deprived of the ability to celebrate Mass in their parish. Welcome and greet people you see in Church, especially an unfamiliar face. 

Pray for our children and our young adults that our joyful witness will encourage them to participate in the life of their faith family.  Pray the Rosary daily.  Meditate on the Mysteries of our Faith, like the Fifth Luminous Mystery, the Institution of the Eucharist. Our world, our local church urgently needs your prayers, your faithfulness.  In other words, by Creating a Culture of Vocations, by strengthening Faith Formation in Family Life and Building Parishes with Living Stones, we are essentially saying we want to be a people of the Eucharist.
As I consecrate this beautiful Diocese of Ogdensburg to the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Lady, may our devotion to this Mother of the Eucharist be strengthened as we all seek to follow Her Son who is the only Way, the Truth and the Life.  Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for us.

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