Holiness is usually cloaked in ordinary things.
Water. Wine. Words. Wood. Wind.
God uses the material stuff of Earth to infuse with His divine life and communicate His love for us. He chose an ordinary young woman to be His Mother. And while the circumstances of the Incarnation were most certainly extraordinary, Mary’s daily activities were spent on the ordinary things of family life.
When the great Mother of God wants to communicate with us, her children on Earth, she too chooses from the ordinary. Lucia dos Santos, Francisco and Jacinta Marto were children, cousins, out tending sheep in a field near Fatima, Portugal, when they first witnessed Mary’s appearance on May 13, 1917. Her three-fold message to the children could have been expected – pray, sacrifice, and honor the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Miracle of the Sun however, like the Incarnation of God in the womb of a Virgin, was entirely unexpected. Promised to the children and predicted by date and time, it was witnessed by over 70,000 people. The Miracle of the Sun was extraordinary. It was widely reported by news outlets of the day. The sun changed colors, it danced in the sky and looked as though it was being hurled to the Earth. Doubts about the Virgin’s appearances to the children vanished and repentance and conversion was the wide result.
Ordinary things can become extraordinary under the action of divine grace. Grace – God’s own life shared with us – transforms ordinary into extraordinary, natural to supernatural. Things that cannot be done by human power happen under God’s power.
So it is in our lives. The stuff of my holiness – ordinary things like keeping a routine, an early morning exercise and daily rosary, preparing meals, or folding laundry, when offered to God with intention, can become the means of miracles. Thankfully, cloaked in the ordinary, holiness is often overlooked. If it weren’t, we’d be plagued by pride, and tempted to claim as our own success that which is truly achieved by God’s grace. It’s worth remembering that the world took little stock of the first disciples. Continue doing good. “He went about doing good.”(Acts 10:38) Do things well. “He did all things well.” (Mark 7:37) Simple-but not easy.
One of the hardest, but most transformative jobs I ever held involved a daily goal of securing three “yeses.” Three appointments scheduled on my calendar to meet with prospective clients. Three yeses set daily, and business would be good. It was foundational. Simple-but not easy. The idea of three yeses became so ingrained in me that even after I left the job, I felt compelled to set my own three daily yeses. Three things that, even if I did nothing else, it would be a day in which my personal business-my vocation-was moving forward and bearing fruit. Simple, yes. No, not always easy.
I love to think-what were the things in Mary’s life upon which everything depended? Prayer, certainly. Acts of service – which always entail sacrifice – yes. Love. Love was the key ingredient upon which her life was built. These three things sound exactly like what Mary is asking us – no, telling us – to do in her message at Fatima: to pray a daily rosary, to sacrifice by fulfilling the daily duties of your life, and practicing devotion to her Immaculate Heart – so easily accomplished by a Morning Offering through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Can I not make these things foundational in my life?
When Mary consented to be the Mother of the Redeemer at the Annunciation, it was not the first time she had said yes to God. Her ‘yes’ at the Annunciation was pivotal, but her habit of saying yes had started well before then, in her childhood, and it continued well after. Her daily yeses to God continued – even at the foot of the Cross, participating in that excruciating sacrifice as the Mother of God – and beyond, as she took on the maternal care for each and every human being on Earth and now holds us under her mantle.
Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI called Fatima the most important message of our time. The shepherd children of Fatima were given a vision of Hell and messages from our Lady that are intriguing and even overwhelming, but she also gave the world an astounding miracle. Today, let us embrace the ordinary things in life that God can and will use to effect an extraordinary finale.