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The daily toil has a way of turning all the interesting details of life into routine. Thus, after a while, it doesn’t occur to those immersed in it, that aspects of that same work may be of interest to others. But talking to a friend about our life as custodians of the Blessed Mother, I noticed he was impressed. He said, “Why don’t you write an article describing the day-to-day life of a custodian of the Blessed Mother? I’m sure people would love to read about it.”

He left me thinking. And I must confess that what we, the custodians, experience in this apostolate is truly impressive. So, to satisfy my friend’s request and, hopefully the curiosity of our readers, I will try to briefly describe the day-to-day of a Fatima custodian.

 

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It All Starts at Our Kansas Office

The visit of the Blessed Mother to a home begins a month before at our Kansas office which is fully staffed with dedicated coordinators.

The coordinators first choose the area where Our Lady will be visiting, and set the time she will be touring the region. Then the preparations for the actual visits begin. Our coordinators choose the names who will receive invitations, and these names range from the oldest and most active to brand new names of people who have never had a Fatima visit at their homes. Then, beautiful postcards of the International Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima are mailed announcing that the Blessed Mother will be in their area.

A few days after the postcards are sent, our office begins receiving calls from families who want a Fatima visit. Those calling first get to choose the dates most convenient to them.

The second phase of the operation, involves calling those persons who received the invitation but did not reply and filling time slots still open.

Once an appointment is made, the office sends the family a packet with all the information necessary for the visit. As the actual date of the visit approaches, the family receives a reminder postcard, followed by a last confirming phone call a couple days before. From then on, the visit is left to the custodians.

 

A Custodian’s Daily Routine

Custodians travel either alone or with another. Every night, we download the calendar of appointments for the next day to verify addresses and print street maps with exact directions. If there is no time to do it at night, we do this first thing in the morning.

Besides downloading addresses and maps, we also have a few office duties. The custodians prepare the prayer intentions collected that day to be sent to Fatima. They organize new names of people who have been inscribed as Children of Mary, and print out certificates for the next day’s visits. They also reload the van with materials, and sometimes send emails to headquarters requesting more pamphlets, prayer cards, books and religious items as their stock dwindles.

When the area is new to the custodians, they must do a little more work than usual. In more familiar areas, families often offer to put them up for the night. But when this does not happen, they must look for suitable lodging, and hunting for a discount coupon or two can really help.

Always on the road going from appointment to appointment, the life of a custodian is tightly scheduled. Yet, at times, we must prioritize and just make sure everything is ready. Several times we have arrived at our first visit without having had a meal. But then, didn’t Our Lady of Fatima ask for sacrifice for the conversion of sinners?

The custodians also try to contact the person to be visited either the day before or a few hours prior to the visit to confirm their arrival once more or, whenever necessary, to ask for additional directions to the home.

 

What Happens at a Fatima Visit

As we approach the house, the first thing we do is to say a prayer asking Our Lady to bless the upcoming visit. We say a “Memorare” and an ejaculation to Our Lady Help of Christians, who is the patroness of each particular team.

We first enter the house carrying the small box containing the crown of Our Lady. At times, people are disappointed thinking that all we have is a tiny statue in that 10 inch box. This is not a problem. It only makes the upcoming surprise better.

As we enter the house, we greet the owners and ask them to show us the table or console where the statue of Our Lady will be placed. Then, returning to the van, we bring in the 30 inch statue in her covering. Before the admiring eyes of all, we uncover her and set her in her appointed place.

Next, we begin to bring in all the necessaries for the presentation from the van: projector, projection screen, tripod, CD player, and the boxes containing our own line of books and religious statues and items for sale. Sometimes we make up to five trips back and forth.

We then set up the projector and projection screen and the table with items that people may wish to purchase after the presentation.

After everything is in place, we begin the ceremony of coronation of Our Lady. Everyone stands, and the owners of the house are invited to crown Our Lady and place the Rosary in her hands as all present sing Immaculate Mary or another hymn in honor of Our Lady.

After this, we say the Rosary led by the owner of the house. If a priest is present, we ask him to lead. The custodian is also an option.

The next step in the program is to introduce the America Needs Fatima campaign to the audience along with a small history of the origin of the statue, and a summary of the organization’s most recent activities. If there are no questions, we proceed to the presentation of the audiovisual, a slide presentation of the story of Fatima with the message, prophecies and revelations of Our Lady to the three little shepherds, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. The slide presentation also shows how the message was fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled in our days.

Before closing the program, the custodian offers to all present the opportunity of sending their petitions to Fatima through a member of America Needs Fatima. At this time, those who are not as yet active members of the America Needs Fatima Campaign are invited to join. We then pass around the envelopes for the petitions along with a beautiful picture of Our Lady as a remembrance of her visit.

Lastly, before the presentation draws to a close, a beautiful certificate is presented to the owners of the house. When 13 persons or more attend a Fatima visit, the host receives a large poster of Our Lady of Fatima as a gift. (The number 13 was chosen to honor the date in which Our Lady appeared—the 13th of each month from May to October 1917).

Finally, the program is closed, and people have time to write their intentions, offer their own personal prayers before the statue, or take pictures.

At this time people also have the chance to look at our table of sellable items and purchase a book, a beautiful crucifix, or a religious statue. Generally, the lady of the house offers some refreshments, which occasions a lively conversation among neighbors, newfound friends and  custodians.

The custodians then load everything up again and invite all present to take a group photo as a souvenir. A last prayer is said, along with goodbyes, and the custodians head for the next visit.

 

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A Warm Reception for the Message of Our Lady

Since the America Needs Fatima Home Visit Program started in 1997, custodians have made over 17,000 visits to homes, churches, schools and hospitals, and personally reached 200,000 people.

At the visits, we marvel at the diversity of God’s creation. No two visits are ever the same even if they are made in the same city, on the same street, in the same block or fifty miles apart. They are all different.

We are also impressed at how seriously people receive Our Lady in their homes. One gentleman said, “This is the fifth time that she has visited our home. Once you receive her the first time, it is impossible not to want her back every year.”

 

Christian Charity Extended to Custodians

I would like to give one example of the charity extended to us by those who open their homes to the visits. Once the owner of a home asked me, “How many miles a year do you put on the van?” “About, 30,000,” I answered. He was impressed—and disappeared. We remained talking with his wife and the guests. After a while he came out of the garage saying, “I gave the van a full tune-up, and looked over the door and lock mechanism. It should all work well for you now. I’m also donating a special type of oil for all your vans. It’s the same oil used for army helicopters and should last 30,000 miles.”

 

The Most Important: By The Fruits You Shall Know the Tree

Wherever Christian charity is, Our Lord and Our Lady are also found. This article would not only be incomplete but short of reality if I were to omit saying something about the graces that the Blessed Mother grants daily, at each visit.

As custodians, we see it clearly. And for us, there is no greater reward than to witness souls open their hearts and minds to Our Lady’s invitation to heed and follow her message. Our Lady touches each person in a unique way. This touch is silent, profound and transforming. And when she really wants a soul, she will not let go until she has it.

A lady told us that she was once at her daughter’s house and saw one of our pamphlets with the beautiful face of Our Lady of Fatima on the cover. She asked her daughter if she could have it. “Oh no Mom,” said the daughter, “I will order another one but I’m not giving you mine!”

It was a rainy day and her daughter took her home. As she stepped out of the car, she saw the same beautiful face of her daughter’s pamphlet looking at her from the wet, muddy curb. She picked it up, cleaned it, and it is now framed in her home.

There was the case of two sisters, eighty-five and eighty-seven respectively, who received the statue in their home. Before we started the Rosary, one of them approached me and said, “You know, today is the first time that my sister and I are saying a Rosary. I have cancer, but I am not worthy of asking Our Lady to cure me. What I will ask is that she grant me the strength to continue and to do what she wishes of me.”

One Jewish lady who had just moved, received a Fatima postcard in the name of the previous owner announcing that the statue would be visiting the area. She thought, “This must be a sign for me. I will call them.” She called, and made an appointment for a Fatima visit. She invited her friends, many of whom were also Jewish. On the day of the visit they were all very respectful, asking several questions about the message, and even tried their best to follow the rosary.

As already seen on this issue in the interview with Mr. José Ferraz, the favors granted by Our Lady at the Fatima visits are innumerable and many times miraculous. I will therefore limit myself to describing the day-to-day routine of the Fatima visits. But, the stories and graces could go on and on.

All Custodians have the honor to witness the fruits that grace produces through these visits of the Blessed Mother to homes across America. If these fruits of grace are so perceptible, we should have no doubt that Our Lady will not abandon those who have Faith on their journey.

As grace never lies, we know that the victory prophesied by Our Lady at Fatima will come. This is the conviction that moves the Custodian forward in their program of thirteen visits, six days a week. We know that in one way or another we are helping Our Lady triumph in souls and thus helping to expand her coming reign.

We know that each visit, whether it is to one or five hundred persons, is one more step toward helping Our Lady triumph in hearts. We know that if we open our hearts and homes to her, she will work marvels in our souls.

We know that as Saint Louis de Montfort says, “if we give her something as small as an egg, she will give us something as big as an ox in return.” She will not fail us.

This is why Fatima Custodians travel over thirty thousand miles every year in the cold, heat, rain or snow, like apostles looking for seven loaves and seven fish with which to present Our Lady at the moment of the fulfillment of her prophecy at Fatima.

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 24, 2020

The devotions we practice in honor of the glorious Virgin Ma...

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November 24

 

The devotions we practice in honor of the glorious Virgin Mary,
however trifling they may be,
are very pleasing to Her Divine Son, and
He rewards them with eternal glory.

St. Teresa of Avila


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Andrew Dung-Lac and the Martyrs of Vietnam

Vietnamese Christians were ordered to trample on a crucifix...

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St. Andrew Dung-Lac and the Martyrs of Vietnam

Born in 1795 in the Tonkinese town of Bac-Nihh in North Vietnam, Tran An Dung was the son of pagan parents. In search of work for themselves in 1807, his parents moved to the ancient citadel of Hanoi. Here their twelve-year-old son was taken care of by a catechist and for three years was instructed in the Catholic faith. Baptized in Vinh-Tri, he received the Christian name Andrew (Anrê) in baptism and went on to learn both Chinese and Latin and himself became a catechist. He was selected for further studies in theology and was ordained to the priesthood on March 15, 1823.

An exemplary pastor, Andrew was ardent and indefatigable in his preaching, often fasted, and drew many to the Faith by his simple and moral life. As a testament of the love which his congregation had for him, in 1835, when he was imprisoned during the persecution of the Annamite emperor Minh-Mang, his freedom was purchased exclusively by donations from his parishioners.

The Vietnamese Christians suffered unspeakably during this time. Beginning in 1832 Minh-Mang expelled all foreign missionaries and commanded all Vietnamese Christians to demonstrate their renunciation of the Catholic Faith by trampling on a crucifix. Churches were destroyed; religious instruction was forbidden. Christians were branded on the face with the words ta dao (false religion) and Christian families and villages were obliterated. Many endured extreme privations and hardship; many more were put to death for their fidelity to the Faith.

To avoid further persecution by the authorities, Andrew Dung changed his name to Lac and relocated to a different region. While visiting a fellow priest, in order to confess himself, Dung-Lac was arrested with Father Peter Thi on November 10, 1839. In exchange for a monetary ransom paid to their captors, the two priests were liberated, but their freedom was short-lived. Re-arrested not long afterwards, they were taken to Hanoi and severely tortured. They were beheaded shortly before Christmas Day on December 21, 1839.

The priests, Andrew Dung-Lac and Peter Thi, were beatified on May 27, 1900 by Pope Leo XIII and formed part of a group of Vietnamese martyrs beatified together on that day. Another group, Dominicans all, was beatified on May 20, 1906 and a third on May 2, 1909 both by Pope St. Pius X. A fourth group, which included two Spanish bishops, was beatified on April 29, 1951 by Pope Pius XII. All 117 martyrs were canonized in Rome on June 19, 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

These 117 martyrs met their deaths during several persecutions of Christians that swept through the Vietnamese peninsula between the years 1625 and 1886. Approximately 130,000 gave their lives for the Catholic Faith and further beatifications may be expected from amongst their glorious ranks. Among the 117 that have been canonized were 96 Vietnamese and 21 foreign missionaries. Of the Vietnamese group 37 were priests and 59 were lay people, among whom were catechists and tertiaries. One of them was a woman, mother of six children. Of the missionaries 11 were Spaniards: 6 bishops and 5 priests, all Dominicans; and 10 were French: 2 bishops and 8 priests from the Société des Missions Etrangères in Paris.

The tortures these martyrs endured were among the worst in the history of Christian martyrdom. The means included cutting off limbs joint by joint, ripping living bodies with red hot tongs, and the use of drugs to enslave the minds of the victims. Among the 117 Martyrs of Vietnam, 76 were beheaded, 21 were suffocated, 6 burnt alive, 5 mutilated and 9 died in prison as a result of torture.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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