For children, many things come easily. Put a pair of ice skates on a three year old and it doesn’t take long before they’re effortlessly zooming around the ice. Give a four year old a smartphone and after a week they’ll know its functions better than most adults. For a six year old, learning a new language is fairly easy. At these early ages, learning the concepts and practices of our faith is simple: children are told something, and they believe it, no matter how crazy it might sound to an adult who is being told it for the first time. Eating the flesh of someone to get to Heaven? Drinking His blood? Bread becoming flesh and wine becoming blood? Rising from the dead? What sane adult, having never heard these things before, would believe such madness?
And what person in their right mind would believe someone who says they were visited by someone from Heaven, and this person taught them how to pray? Yet this is exactly what happened to three young shepherd children who were living in a land where faith in Christ had been systematically stomped out. You’ll probably recognize the names of these children: Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco. But today we’re not going to be talking about the apparitions of Mary. We’re talking about what happened a year before those apparitions took place.
In Sister Lucia’s 4th memoir, she wrote about her and the other two children being visited sometime in the summer of 1916 by an angel who taught them how to pray. They were tending their flocks and the angel appeared to them and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.” He bowed down until his forehead touched the earth and prayed, “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.” As he repeated his prayer two more times, the children repeated it with him. Over the next year, the angel appeared to them a few more times, teaching them and preparing them for what was to come.
That prayer, known as the Fatima Angel’s Prayer, is so simple, yet so powerful. Ask yourself:
Do you believe? Sure, believing in the big concepts like Christ’s incarnation, His virgin birth and miracles, and His crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension might be easy for us if we’ve been taught them from a young age. But do you believe what He said? Every word? Do you really believe that His body is true food and His blood is true drink? Do you believe that the bread is His body, and the wine His blood? Do you believe in the authority given by Him to the apostles to forgive sin, and the succession of that authority from generation to generation? Do you believe?
Do you adore? Are you devoted to our Lord? Do you serve Him? Would you spend a year’s wages on perfumed oil for Him without a thought? Would you wipe His feet with your hair? Is He your “rabbi” or is He your “lord”? Do you weep at the thought of His sacrifice for you? How fast would you run to His tomb? Do you adore?
Do you hope? Do you have the hope of salvation, that what He said is true? Do you rest secure in the promise of salvation through the grace of God? Have you given up your despair and your worry and your doubt? Have you surrendered yourself to the will of God, with the fervent belief that He knows what’s best for you? Do you persevere through every trouble, strengthened by the hope that everything God said is true? Do you hope?
Do you love God? Or do you just fear Him? Do you love Him for who He is and what He is, or do you just love Him for the good things He gives you? Do you love His justice as much as His mercy? Do you love the sufferings He gives along with the sweets? Do you love how He made you, every weakness as well as every strength? Do you love His commandments and His law, and do you follow them out of love or out of obligation? Do you love?
But there’s one more thing that we should consider in the Fatima Angel’s Prayer: Do you pray for those who do not believe, those who do not adore, those who do not hope, and those who do not love? Do you pray for those people to have a change of heart, that they find their way home to Him, that their hearts grow in their belief, their adoration, their hope, and their love? And most of all, do you pray for these things for yourself? Do you pray that God opens your heart to receive an increase of your ability to more perfectly believe, more perfectly adore, more perfectly hope, and more perfectly love Him? Do you pray, and when you do, do you pray with the steadfast belief of a child?
Holy Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us.