Over 200 Priests from all over the world, together with 9 Bishops and a Cardinal, were present at our International Retreat in Fatima this year. Cardinal Scherer Odilio, from Sao Paulo, Brazil gave us 2 talks and a Homily. Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole, from the Diocese around Aquilo in central Italy, who was a close associate and friend of Fr. Gobbi, reflected with us on the Origin of the MMP and gave a helpful presentation on the MMP’s perspective we need concerning Our Holy Father, Pope Francis. There were other talks of various priests of the Movement. Throughout the Retreat we prayed 15 decades daily, recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours and Mass and Adoration. The conclusion of our Cenacle Retreat ended with the offering of Holy Mass in the Chapel of Apparitions in the Cova da Iria.
Some of the highlights of the Retreat for me are listed as follows:
Bishop D’Ercoli met Fr. Gobbi in Africa as a young priest. Fr. Gobbi asked him to come to Fatima with him. From that time on Fr. Gobbi and Fr. D’Ercoli would become good friends. Fr. D’Ercoli would later become a member of the Secretary of State Department in the Vatican. Currently he is a Bishop in a Diocese in central Italy.
Bishop D’Ercoli helped us appreciate the origins of the MMP. He said that after he had a profound appreciation of Fr. Gobbi’s mission from Our Lady, and that Our Lady called Fr. Gobbi “a little instrument”, that he was to call little children to come back to Mary, away from all the evil in the world, that man was making himself as God and was being left helpless inside and outside of the Church.
The Bishop developed this theme of “children in the Church”, particularly as we celebrated these new children Saints of Fatima, Jacinta and Francisco. He said, ‘the devil seeks to destroy the hearts of children and the fantasy of hope, through abortion, pornography, etc… In 1967, Pope Paul VI came to Fatima for one day, 50 years after the apparitions. The Pope said he came for one grace, which was to remain “little”. He prayed to ask Our Lady for a particular grace not to assent to all the theologians with ego and pride, recognizing that Satan comes to water down the doctrines of the Church like water in wine, convincing proclaimers of the Gospel to proclaim It so It is easier to hear. Paul VI kept the Church together despite attacks on all sides.’
Bishop D’Ercoli also reminded us of the “littleness” of the Fatima shepherd children and the need for prayer and sacrifice, something that the adults were not doing. So, the three children, through the invitation of Our Lady, were a witness for the adults of a mission to assist in the needed conversion for the world. The Bishop also reminded us that ‘Fr. Gobbi tells us to be Apostles, not with words but with our lives and give our lives for others. We do this by prayers and acts of reparation (repair) for others, not in judging and condemning.’ He said, “Jesus condemns sin but not the sinner. The devil on the other hand, condemns the sinner and we make excuses for our sins. We are not saying that what the sinner is doing is alright, but with our love we help them, also with our prayers and sacrifices. The World Movement of the Marian Movement of Priests is to judge little and love much. Prayer, penance and reparation, this is Jesus’ way. Mary pushes us toward all our neighbors through the Consecration to Her Immaculate Heart and this is what makes us Apostles”.
Along these lines of personal conversion, Cardinal Scherer Odilio from Sao Paulo said that “when we abandon the 10 Commandments, we follow idols.” He said the Rosary shouldn’t be perceived as being too traditional but rather recognizing that the rosary was the instrument that passed on the faith for several generations in the missions of Brazil for more than a hundred years when there were no priests to offer Sunday Mass. Families and communities would gather to reflect on their faith through the Rosary; the Creed, the mysteries of the Gospel, the prayer of unity with Our Lady in the Salve Regina.” All this, he said helped to pass on the faith to the next generations. We need this same help today! A simple request from Our Lady to pray the rosary daily in the family is what will allow us to pass on the faith to the next generations. It is already late in the game! We are losing generations already! So let us renew this simple but so powerful means of catechises.
Bishop D’Ercoli had other helpful insights regarded our Second Commitment of “unity of prayer and love for the Pope.” In regards to his comments about the Pope, Bishop D’Ercoli reminded us that during the pontificate of Paul VI, many people on the “left” were against his writings on Vatican II and Humanae Vitae. In the pontificate of John Paul II, people on the “right” were against him and a schism developed with Archbishop Levebvre. Bishop D’Ercoli reminds us that we belong to Jesus’ Church and “the gates of hell will not prevail”. So this means that in the current climate of confusion and lack of clarity that we experience with Pope Francis, we must maintain a unity that is required of us as Catholics, to be in union with the Pope. Bishop D’Ercoli said that Fr. Gobbi, while visiting Fatima in 1972, saw a danger for Pope Paul VI. He saw the Pope surrounded by confusion and people in opposition to him but he also saw that the MMP had a special role to always stay with the Pope. Bishop D’Ercoli said that with Pope Francis, some are condemning him with the strongest terms. He reminded us that the Holy Spirit, not the Pope, is the prime mover in the Church. Jesus chooses Peter because he denied Him and shows that it’s the Holy Spirit building the Church. The Bishop commented that we cannot say “I like Pope JPII” or “I like Paul VI”, he said, “no, the Pope is the Pope in any given time and no one will destroy the Church. Is the Church sinful? Yes, because of its humanness but it survives.”
I personally came to understand, as a result of the Bishop’s talk, that we need to Trust in Jesus to care for His Church. We believe the Teachings of the Church have never erred and the Church is protected by the Holy Spirit. The Bishop reminded us that Our Lady said on August 7, 1976, “Those who are not with the Pope will not succeed in remaining in the Truth”. So, he said, “this is the guide. The evil one is very clever. Even priests and Bishops can fall except for those with the Pope”. Bishop D’Ercoli said, “It is better to err with the Pope than to go against him”. These words are difficult to hear! It seems such a contradiction to our understanding of what we are hearing in the media. But it is just that, we need to trust, to have faith that Jesus is in charge and He will take care of His Church. The Bishop said we should not judge the Pope. We can however ask questions. If I may add, then we wait and pray.
The Bishop also reminded us priests that we need to be mindful of the newer ordained priests. He said, “younger seminarians have a greater fragility than the rest of us. We need to become apostles to our brother priests, otherwise they can become victims to companions that can lead them astray. As Don Stefano helped me as a young priest at 27 years old, so should we extend a word of encouragement to our newer ordained. A simple handshake can be enough sometimes. We need to show the love of God to our brother priests. Priestly life is not easy. In Italy, priests find refuge in external things and become rigid. So, become brothers of mercy.
The Bishop also spoke of chastity as a gift. “Chastity is a whole style of life that makes one free. Only a pure person can become a free gift forever. Chastity takes selfishness out of love. It takes possessiveness out of love. Love and chastity are gifts not accomplishments. Knowledge of God is from the heart not the head. Once we recognize this, we become illumined because we are assumed into God, into love. I then can love you without even knowing who you are! Are you tired? I will give you rest, says Jesus.”
Bishop D’Ercoli concluded that ‘since the Canonization of Francisco and Jacinta in May, we see that “children can be saints” by listening and accepting suffering, which is all our vocation.’
Let me conclude by saying that the experience in Fatima of both the Priest Retreat and the Laity Retreat which followed, with about 1200 laity participating from around the world with wonderful testimonies from various countries eg. Bolivia, Argentina, Korea and many from Europe, were moments to remind us of the overall plan that Our Lady has for us individually, for families, the Church and the world. We should be ever grateful to Our Lady for helping us to see clearly and understand these times we are living through, especially with Her Words given to us through Her Marian Movement of Priests!
Sincerely in Our Lady and Our Lord,
Fr. Charles Becker, National Responsible