To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons
From the writings of Don Stefano Gobbi
There is nothing contrary to faith or morals in this manuscript.
+ Donald W. Montrose, D.D.
Bishop of Stockton February 2, 1998
Presentation of the Child Jesus
+ Francesco Cuccarese
Archbishop Emeritus of Pescara-Penne
December 8, 2007
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
(granted for 26th Italian Edition)
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We are very happy to know that the Marian Movement of Priests founded by Reverend Father Stefano Gobbi, who continues to direct it, has reached the Middle East, and that many priests of our Oriental Churches form part of its membership.
The cenacles of prayer that the priests hold among themselves and with the faithful, in churches and shrines, call down many graces upon them, and increase their faithfulness to their vocation and their zeal for the salvation of souls.
On the occasion of the publication of the third Arabic edition of the “Blue Book”, which contains the inspired messages of the Blessed Mother to Fr. Gobbi, we encourage the oriental priests and faithful to possess [the book], to follow the directives and counsels of the Blessed Virgin, and to listen to her constant call: “Do whatever He tells you.”
These are the children of Mary who will be clothed in the grace of God in the moments of difficulties and trials, trusting in the sure promise of the Blessed Mother, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
We therefore invite all the members of the Marian Movement of Priests to this filial obedience to the Son Savior, as we bestow upon you our apostolic blessing.
+ Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud
Patriarch emeritus of Antioch for Syrians
Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
Vatican City, January 21, 2002
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After reading and deeply meditating the messages given by Our Lady to Don Stefano Gobbi, I consider it a privilege not only to be able to give the Imprimatur to this edition of the book, “To The Priests Our Lady’s Beloved Sons”, but also to take this opportunity to recommend the reading of these messages. They will contribute to the spread of devotion to Our Lady.
+ Bernardino Cardinal Escheverria Ruiz, O.F.M.
Archbishop Emeritus of Guayaquil
Apostolic Administrator of Ibarra
February 2, 1998
Feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus
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THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES
(From the 26th Edition of the original Italian text)
The twenty-fifth [Italian] edition of the book is exhausted. Although the messages ended on December 31, 1997, many requests are still coming in from everywhere. This fact calls for reflection. As I have already pointed out in previous editions, this book responds to a deeply felt need on the part of souls and to a real necessity in the ecclesial life of today.
But there is something more.
From the reading of the last messages, which develop a line of thought common to the whole book, one comes to comprehend that in them are described the signs of the times in which we are living and a way in which one can achieve an authentic interpretation of them in the light of the Holy Spirit.
- First of all, the profound crisis of faith already foretold by Our Lady at Fatima, and which today has become more critical and widespread, is clearly described. The continual spreading of errors in every segment of the Catholic Church brings one to the conviction that we are living the time of the great apostasy of which Saint Paul writes in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians, chapter two, verse three. Hence from here comes the constant, concerned and even anguished admonition of the messages to walk along the way of the true faith, following Mary, the faithful Virgin to whom we entrust ourselves in a special way by the consecration to her Immaculate Heart.
- Then comes an ample description of the situation of the interior disunity of the Church, caused by the contestation against the Pope and the rejection of his Magisterium. The painful wound caused by the schism of Archbishop Lefebvre is nothing more than a sign of much deeper division, even if not as yet open and proclaimed. Hence comes the continuous invitation of the messages to a courageous, humble and strong unity with the Pope who has been given by Jesus Christ the task of feeding the flock, of presiding over it in love, of being the foundation of the whole Church, and of keeping it in the security of the faith and of the truth, following Mary who is the Mother of unity.
- Moreover, there is brought out in bold relief the fact that today theoretical and practical atheism, diffused on a world-wide scale, has constructed a new atheistic and materialistic civilization, bringing about a general justification of sin, which is no longer looked upon as a moral evil, but extolled through the media of social communication as a positive value and a good. Thus there is spread about the general practice of living in sin, of no longer confessing it and of reducing the demands of Christian life to the communitarian and social plane, forgetting one's personal duty to live in the grace of God and to walk along the road of sanctity. From here comes the constant summons of the messages to the obligation of conversion, in an ascetical effort to fight against sin and to walk along the way of prayer, of penance and of the daily exercise of the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and all the moral virtues, especially those of humility, of purity and of obedience, following Mary who is for all an example and model of holiness.
- Finally, there is the continual and clear reference to the apocalyptic nature of the times we are living in, and this, in truth, is the aspect of the messages which most disconcerts and even scandalizes many. But why should this surprise us? Are there not many signs which perhaps indicate that we are indeed living in such times?
I submit for the reflection of all some significant words which Pope Paul VI spoke in 1977, one year before his death, and which are recorded in the book, "The Secret Paul VI," by Jean Guitton (pp. 152-153):
"There is a great uneasiness, at this time, in the world and in the Church, and that which is in question is the faith. It so happens now that I repeat to myself the obscure phrase of Jesus in the Gospel of St. Luke: 'When the Son of Man returns, will He still find faith on the earth?' It so happens that there are books coming out in which the faith is in retreat on some important points, that the episcopates are remaining silent and these books are not looked upon as strange. This, to me, is strange. I sometimes read the Gospel passage of the end times and I attest that, at this time, some signs of this end are emerging.
"Are we close to the end? This we will never know.
"We must always hold ourselves in readiness, but everything could last a very long time yet. What strikes me, when I think of the Catholic world, is that within Catholicism, there seems sometimes to predominate a non-Catholic way of thinking, and it can happen that this non-Catholic thought within Catholicism, will tomorrow become the stronger. But it will never represent the thought of the Church. It is necessary that a small flock subsist, no matter how small it might be." (Pope Paul VI)
So why be scandalized if Mary, Mother of the Church, is intervening today in a very strong way, to form for herself a little flock which will remain faithful to Christ and to his Church?
It is my wish that whoever takes this book in hand may be assisted to become a part of this faithful little flock which Our Lady is forming each day and guarding in the secure refuge of her Immaculate Heart.
The Spiritual Director
December 8, 2007
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
90th Anniversary of the Apparitions at Fatima
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PRESENTATION OF THE 26TH [ITALIAN] EDITION
After the publication of the 25th [Italian] edition of the book, "To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons", there occurred three events which are of particular relevance to the Marian Movement of Priests:
1) The death of Sister Lucia of Fatima.
She was very spiritually united to our Movement and personally took part in a cenacle which I held for the Community of the Carmelite Sisters of Coimbra.
2) The death of Pope John Paul II.
On April 26, 1979, six months after his election as Supreme Pontiff, he invited me to concelebrate [Mass] with him in his private Chapel at the Vatican.
For some ten years, in the month of December, I concelebrated [Mass] with the Holy Father and kept him informed of the growth of the Marian Movement of Priests and of the cenacles that I was conducting in every part of the world. [Each time] I received from him comfort, encouragement and his apostolic blessing.
During one of these encounters, a priest who had accompanied me told him [Pope John Paul II] that he was the associate pastor of a parish in Rome; then Pope John Paul II, pointing to me, said, "And your parish is the whole world."
I am convinced that the plan the Blessed Mother had in bringing forth this Movement of hers for the Church of our times had been made known to the Holy Father, and that he had always loved, defended and protected it with his apostolic authority.
For this reason, as an expression of gratitude, I propose to consider the Servant of God, John Paul II, as the Patron of the Marian Movement of Priests.
3) The election of Benedict XVI as Supreme Pontiff.
As Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he followed the Marian Movement of Priests, in order that it be in complete conformity with Catholic orthodoxy and always in humble adherence to the hierarchical Magisterium of the Church.
The Marian Movement of Priests was not able to receive a juridical and official approbation because it does not have its own proper statutes which are necessary to obtain it.
It [the Marian Movement of Priests] proposes only three commitments of life:
a) consecration of the priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary;
b) unity with the Pope and with the Bishops united to him;
c) leading the faithful to live the spiritual experience of consecration to Our Lady.
In the first part of the preface, these commitments are explained as the basic elements of its spirituality.
The Marian Movement of Priests has spread to every part of the world, in a silent and discreet way, as a beneficial medicine for healing the many grave evils from which our beloved and holy Mother Church is suffering in these so painful and difficult times.
What is the relationship between the Marian Movement of Priests and the book, "To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons"? The book is a precious help for the Movement, because it has made possible its diffusion and a more profound understanding of its spirituality. From the innumerable beneficial fruits that it has produced, one can conclude that the reason is to be found only in the spiritual light that descends, from the Holy Spirit and by means of the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, into the minds and hearts of those who take this book into their hands.
It also seems to me necessary to make it clear that what is contained therein must be understood as "interior locutions." For a complete comprehension of this important aspect, I recommend a thorough reading of the second part of the preface, in which the theological criteria for understanding the book are set forth.
Naturally I am prepared to assume the full theological, spiritual and pastoral responsibility for what is written in this book, and I intend to make it clear that the spirit and the commitment of the Movement are to adhere in total fidelity to the Magisterium of the Pope and to the Bishops united with him.
I entrust this twenty-sixth edition of the book to Our Lady, that it may contribute to the triumph of her Immaculate Heart, [which She] foretold at Fatima and which She brings about every day according to her mysterious and motherly plan.
With my best wishes to all for a serene, peaceful and spiritually fruitful reading,
Don Stefano Gobbi
Milan, December 8, 2007
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
90" Anniversary of the Apparitions at Fatima
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THE MARIAN MOVEMENT OF PRIESTS
On the 8th of May, 1972, Don Stefano Gobbi was taking part in a pilgrimage to Fatima and was praying in the little Chapel of the Apparitions for some priests who, besides having personally given up their own vocations, were attempting to form themselves into associations in rebellion against the Church's authority.
An interior force urged him to have confidence in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady, making use of him as a poor and humble instrument, would gather all those priests who would accept her invitation to consecrate themselves to her Immaculate Heart, to be strongly united to the Pope and to the Church united with him, and to bring the faithful into the secure refuge of her motherly Heart.
Thus a powerful cohort would be formed, spread throughout every part of the world and gathered together, not with human means of propaganda but with the supernatural power which springs from silence, from prayer, from suffering and from constant faithfulness to one's duties.
Don Stefano asked Our Lady interiorly for a little sign of confirmation. She gave it to him promptly, before the end of that same month, at the Shrine of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
The origin of the Marian Movement of Priests stems from this simple and interior inspiration which Don Stefano received in prayer at Fatima.
Concretely. what was he to do? In October of the same 'year, a timid attempt was made, by way of a gathering of three priests, for prayer and fraternal sharing, in the Parish of Gera Lario (Como); a notice of the Movement was given in some papers and Catholic reviews.
By March 1973, the number of priests inscribed was about forty. In September of the same year, at San Vittorino, near Rome, the first national gathering took place, with twenty-five priests taking part, out of the eighty already enrolled.
Beginning in 1974, the first cenacles of prayer and fraternal sharing among priests and faithful took place. These gradually spread throughout Europe and every part of the world.
By the end of 1985, Don Stefano Gobbi had already many times visited the five continents to preside at the Regional Cenacles, involving a good 350 air flights and numerous journeys by car and train. He has conducted 890 cenacles, of which 482 took place in Europe, 180 in America, 97 in Africa, 51 in Asia and 80 in Oceania.
This gives evidence of how the Movement has, throughout these years, spread everywhere in an astounding way.
The Marian Movement of Priests has succeeded in expanding in a silent and extraordinary way. In practically all the countries of Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Oceania, national directors have at this time been appointed and entrusted with the task of gathering the membership and assisting in the formation of cenacles.
To them has been entrusted the task of appointing the various regional and diocesan directors, taking every care that all be carried out with greatest fidelity to the spirit of the Movement.
In view of the autonomy which is given to each of the national centers, it is difficult to give a precise numerical picture of the M.M.P. But this is not of great importance, as there is question of a "spirit" which escapes external controls and which becomes a reality in the measure in which each priest, who belongs to it, seeks to live daily his consecration to Mary.
If one were to judge from the letters of inscription, members would now number about three hundred bishops and more than sixty thousand priests, coming both from the diocesan clergy and from all the orders and religious congregations. As to the laity, since there is no formal inscription we cannot give even an approximate figure, although they certainly number in the millions.
Moreover, it is consoling to note the existence of a large segment of priests who are sympathetic; although they have not yet been inscribed in the Movement, they demonstrate their solidarity with it in various ways and on various occasions. I believe they are more numerous than those who have been actually inscribed. If they live the spirit of the Movement, though they are not registered, they are already doing what is essential.
Although, almost imperceptively, we have become a numerous company, it still happens that many priests do not know their confreres who live quite close to them and are also members of the Movement. This happens in areas where the M.M.P. is just beginning, but it also happens in some other places. The reasons for this are the scanty organization we make use of - and this will remain one of our traits - and secondly, a certain reserve (given that we are concerned with a spiritual choice and a commitment that is mainly interior) which makes us unwilling to hand over lists and addresses to just anyone who asks for them.
And yet, we are everywhere witnessing the following astounding phenomenon: Our Lady is seeing to it that, through cenacles of prayer and brotherhood, her priests get to know one another, help one another, love one another as brothers and become a cohesive force throughout the entire clergy.
Through the consoling reality of the communion of saints, those priests who have already preceded us into eternal life seem still active members and closer to us than ever. Among them are some cardinals (the first of whom to enroll was Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro, then Archbishop of Bologna), many bishops (we recall, among others, Bishop Joao Venancio Pereira, formerly Bishop of Leiria and Fatima, who enrolled in 1973 and died in 1985) and now more than five thousand priests who enriched their last years of intense apostolate or of sickness by accepting Our Lady's invitation and by living it in the M.M.P. Of these, it is good to recall a Servant of God, Father Gabriele Allegra, a well-known biblical scholar and translator of the Holy Scriptures into Chinese, whose last work was a translation into Chinese of "To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons."
In its wide and rapid spread, the M.M.P. has encountered fewer difficulties than one would have feared. As its characteristic is fidelity to the Church and obedience to legitimate superiors, where these (especially at the episcopal level) have shown themselves sympathetic and encouraging, things have proceeded with greater facility. On the other hand, it has been a question of exercising patience in knowing how to wait, in those situations where Authority has been undecided or indifferent.
We are constantly aware of the watchful and enlightening presence of Our Lady, above all as she guides "her" Movement: she comforts in difficulties and keeps enthusiasms on course; she teaches how to assume with courage the liberty of the children of God, while at the same time preventing from taking positions not in accordance with, or in outright rebellion to, superiors-a thing which is obviously in flat contradiction to the second fundamental principle of the Marian Movement of Priests: love for the Pope and the hierarchy united with him.
(a) What the Marian Movement of Priests Is
The M.M.P. is a little seed planted by Our Lady in the garden of the Church. Very quickly it has become a great tree which has spread its branches into every part of the world. It is a work of love which the Immaculate Heart of Mary is stirring up in the Church today, to help all her children to live, with trust and filial hope, the painful moments of the purification.
In these times of grave danger, the Mother of God and of the Church is taking action, without hesitation or uncertainty, to assist first and foremost the priests, who are the sons of her maternal predilection.
Quite naturally, this work makes use of certain instruments; and in a particular way Don Stefano Gobbi has been chosen. Why? In one passage of the book, the following explanation is given: "I have chosen you because you are the least apt instrument; thus no one will say that this is your work. The Marian Movement of Priests must be my work alone. Through your weakness I will manifest my strength; through your nothingness I will manifest my power." (July 16, 1973)
The M.M.P. is not therefore just a laudable association with a lot of statutes and directors, set in motion by some fervent priest or soul, but a "spirit," as our Holy Father John Paul II happily and intuitively perceived. It is something impalpable, but very strong and very much alive, as are the gifts of God, and it has as its main purpose the living out of the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. For priests, to entrust themselves to Mary is to become more aware of their own consecration, made to God, on the day of their baptism and their priestly ordination.
The M.M.P. becomes a reality not by numbers, or the resonance of names, or the efficiency of organization, but in the measure that one listens to Our Lady and cooperates with the work of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.
He belongs to the spirit of the Movement who, whether inscribed or not, consecrates himself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, seeking to live accordingly and to carry on his work in obedience to, and for the good of, the Church and who helps the faithful in living their entrustment to Our Lady.
It is a Movement open to all priests, diocesan or religious, without distinction of age or office. There are priests inscribed in it who are happy in their work and filled with zeal, and there are some who are embittered because of negative experiences either in their personal lives or in the apostolate.
The heart of Our Lady is open to all her sons; her arms gather and bring together her priests without distinction or partiality. The choice of predilection is not one made on the part of Our Lady, who addresses herself resolutely to everyone: "Whatever I communicate to you, my son, does not belong to you alone, but it is for all my priest-sons, whom I love with predilection." (August 29, 1973) The choice is made on the part of those who voluntarily accept the motherly invitation.
Whoever wishes to join the Movement and be kept informed of its activities, may send in writing his declaration of membership to the proper national or regional center or, if these do not yet exist, he may send his request to Italy to the:
Movimento Sacerdotale Mariano
Via Terruggia, 14
20.162 Milano. Italy
Via Terruggia, 14
20.162 Milano. Italy
However, this enrollment means nothing if interior adherence is lacking. And this is all the more true of a willingness to live, and to bring others to live, the consecration to Our Lady.
It is well to remember that Our Lady is speaking not only to those who are enrolled in the Marian Movement of Priests, when she speaks to her beloved sons, but to all those bishops and priests who have entrusted themselves to her and who strive to live as her consecrated ones.
This pledge of total consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary gives priests a profound sense of trust and serenity. To believe, in each and every concrete situation, that Our Lady is always near, anxious to help us as much and even more than any mother, gives a feeling of security, even amid the personal sufferings and uncertainties of the days in which we live.
And so, we arrive at the very core of the evangelical message, that is, trust in the providence of God, which brings us to accept every circumstance of life with the filial confidence of little children who abandon themselves completely to his fatherly love.
Thus, the past is left to the infinite mercy of the Heart of Jesus; the future is awaited as a gift from Providence, coming to us through the hands of the Mediatrix of all Graces; and the present is lived with joyous zeal, like children playing or working under the eyes of their mother.
(b) The Characteristic Commitments of Its Spirituality
There are three commitments which characterize the spirituality of the Marian Movement of Priests: consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, unity with the Pope and with the Church united to him, and the leading of the faithful to a life of entrustment to Our Lady.
The pages which illustrate the spirituality of the Movement are taken from Circulars 21, 23, and 24 of Don Stefano Gobbi.
-1- Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
We are living in difficult, insecure and painful times. Today the Red Dragon is ruling in the world and has succeeded in building up an atheistic civilization. Man, puffed up by technical and scientific progress, has put himself in the place of God and has built up a new secular civilization. This radical rejection of God is the real chastisement of modern-day society.
As God is the Savior and Jesus Christ alone the Redeemer of man, humanity of today can only be saved on the condition that it returns to the Lord. Otherwise it runs the danger of destroying itself by its own hands.
But how can it be saved if it obstinately continues to reject God who alone can lead it to salvation? It is here that Mary's role, in view of her motherhood, enters in. Mary is the Mother of Jesus and has been constituted by Jesus as the true Mother of all men. And therefore Mary is also Mother of the men of today, of this rebellious humanity, so far away from God.
Her motherly task is that of saving it. And Our Lady, in order to be able to save it, wishes to become the way of its return to the Lord. She acts in all manner of ways and gives herself much to do in order to bring about this return. This is the reason for her many extraordinary manifestations, which have become so numerous today: she wants to make us understand that our heavenly Mother is present and is at work in the midst of her children.
She wishes to act in person, but not directly. She is able to act through those children who consecrate themselves to her Immaculate Heart, who entrust themselves to her completely, in such a way that she can live and manifest herself in them. She wants above all to work through the priests, because they are her sons of predilection.
It is typical of the spirituality of the M.M.P. not to formulate a doctrine of the consecration which is, in any case, already known in the Church, but to suggest that one learn it by the experience of everyday life. For this purpose, it sets out an itinerary which leads to the perfection of entrustment to Our Lady and which develops through four successive stages: that of accustoming oneself to living with Mary, of allowing oneself to be interiorly transformed by her, of entering with her into a communion of hearts, and lastly of reliving Mary.
The consecration to Our Lady (which is demanded as the first commitment for belonging to the M.M.P.) is therefore the path which leads to a specific goal, that of allowing Mary to live and work in us."I want to love with your heart, to gaze with your eyes, to console and encourage with your lips, to assist with your hands, to walk with your feet, to follow your bloodied footprints and to suffer with your crucified body." (July 1, 1981)
Now we can understand why Our Lady asks for consecration to the Immaculate Heart for anyone who wishes to belong to her cohort. She herself wants to live and act in her consecrated children, in such a way that they become an expression of her sorrow and of her motherly love, and work untiringly to lead all men back to God.
Thus present-day humanity will be able to reach salvation along the road of the motherly love of Mary, who becomes the channel through which the merciful love of Jesus can reach all people. The consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is directed solely to the consecration of the world, that is to say to the complete return of the world to the perfect glorification of the Lord.
From this we can also understand why Pope John Paul II sees, in the act of consecration or entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the most efficacious means of obtaining the gift of divine mercy upon the Church and upon all humanity. (Dives in Misericordia, 15)
Thus light is also shed upon the profound significance of that act, often criticized by some, which he frequently repeats with fervor and intimate joy of soul; the act, that is, of his personal consecration to Mary. We understand, then, what he is doing in every part of the world when, during his frequent apostolic pilgrimages, he goes to the most famous shrines in order to consecrate to the Immaculate Heart of Mary the local Church in which he finds himself.
The profound reason is that the Pope sees, in the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the most powerful means of obtaining the precious gift of the merciful love of Jesus upon the world of today!
" ... Oh, how deeply we feel the need of consecration for humanity and for the world: for the contemporary world! ... Oh, how painful therefore is everything which, in the Church and in each one of us, is opposed to holiness and consecration! . . . Blessed be all those souls who obey the call of eternal Love. Blessed be those who, day by day, with unexhausted generosity, welcome your invitation, O Mother, to do what your Jesus says, and give to the Church and the world a serene witness of a life inspired by the Gospel." (Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by John Paul II, made on March 25, 1984)
-2- Unity with the Pope and with the Church United to Him
The Church is both divine and human, and in its human dimension, it is fragile and sinful and thus has great need to do penance. The Church is the light of the world, "Lumen Gentium," but often the evils of the world in which it lives become the maladies which attack the human dimension of the Church. This has been proven by nearly two thousand years of its history.
Today the Church is living in a world which has built up a new secular civilization. The spirit of this world, or secularism, which has entered into its interior, has caused the state of great suffering and of crisis in which the Church finds itself. This is the famous "smoke of Satan" spoken of by Pope Paul VI of venerable memory.
Secularism, at the intellectual level, becomes "rationalism" and, at the level of life, it becomes "naturalism."
Because of rationalism, there is today the tendency to interpret the whole mystery of God and the deposit of revealed truth in a purely human way, and thus often the fundamental dogmas of the faith are denied and most serious errors are spread about in a hidden and ambiguous way. Sometimes these errors become taught even in Catholic schools and little or nothing survives of Divine Scripture or even the Gospel of Jesus.
"You have made a gospel of your own with your own words." (September 25, 1976)
Because of naturalism, there is the practice today of giving great value to one's own personal actions, to efficiency and to the setting up of programs in the apostolic sector, forgetting the primary value of divine grace and that the interior life of union with Christ, that is of prayer, must be the soul of every apostolate.
From this originates the gradual loss of the awareness of sin as an evil and the neglect of the sacrament of Reconciliation, which has now spread throughout the whole Church.
Against these errors, which are ensnaring the integrity of the faith in a subtle and dangerous way, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has spoken out clearly with his famous interview, published in the book, "The Ratzinger Report."
But the Magisterium of the Pope has also frequently spoken out powerfully and insistently.
So then, one spontaneously asks oneself how is it that the Church has not yet emerged from this profound crisis of its faith? The persistence of the crisis within the Church up to the present time comes only from its interior disunity. Because of this, not everyone today is listening to and following what the Pope, together with his Magisterium, is pointing out.
Our Lady has obtained for the Church a great Pope, consecrated to her Immaculate Heart and whom she herself is leading along all the roads of the world, in order to spread the light of Christ and of his Gospel of salvation and to strengthen everyone in the faith, both pastors and the flocks entrusted to them. But, about the Pope, there is often a great void: his Magisterium is not supported by the whole Church and often his word falls upon a desert.
And yet the renewal of the Church takes place only through its interior unity. The road to be followed is still that of full union of all the bishops, priests, and faithful with the Pope.
Here we find explained the profound reason for the second commitment of the Marian Movement of Priests. Our Lady is asking of us today to be an example to everyone in this unity. An example in loving the Pope, in praying and suffering for him, in heeding and spreading the teachings of his Magisterium, and especially in always obeying him in everything.
Our Lady desires that there be a return among the clergy to the humble and powerful exercise of the virtue of obedience!
Naturally obedience to the Pope, who is the point of reference and of unity with the bishops, implies the unity of obedience with the pastor of one's own diocese and with one's own superiors.
-3- Leading the Faithful to Entrustment to Our Lady
From the very beginning of this Movement there was an awareness that the religious and faithful were being called to take part in it. In fact, the third commitment on the part of a priest of the M.M.P. is that of leading the faithful, entrusted to his pastoral care, to consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
"But these priests must now begin to act; through them I want to return to the midst of my faithful, because it is with them, gathered about my priests, that I want to form my invincible cohort." (November 1, 1973)
This explains why the M.M.P., which sprang up in the first place for priests, opens out also upon the vast world of the laity, thus giving rise to the Marian Movement.
(c) The Marian Movement
The Marian Movement is made up of all those non-clerical religious and of the faithful who have committed themselves to live a life of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in serene union with their priests and their bishops. They are not bound together by any kind of juridical bond and can freely carry on their work within those ecclesiastical associations to which they belong.
As members of the Marian Movement, they commit themselves to the experience of a life totally entrusted to Our Lady, that they may be assisted by her to remain faithful to their own baptismal consecration and to become witnesses of communion and unity, constantly striving for conversion through prayer and penance.
-1- Living Their Baptism
In the act of consecration for the members of the Marian Movement, set out at the end of the book, we read: "By this act of consecration we intend to live, with you and through you, all the obligations assumed by our baptismal consecration." These words bring out clearly how a member of the faithful, who makes the consecration to the Immaculate Heart, is assisted by Our Lady especially in living out today the obligations assumed at the time of baptism. It is natural that, in these times, the Christian, immersed in a world which is so secularized, finds it very difficult to live out his baptismal consecration.
Baptism brings about a radical transformation: it communicates grace and divine life itself and makes us into the image of Jesus Christ, whose brothers we become and whose life we must relive in our own.
At the present time, through all the means of social communication, the Christian is easily made use of and even manipulated by the world in which he lives in such a way that often, almost without noticing it, he absorbs and shares the values which are opposed to those taught by Christ.
Thus today how many baptized persons there are who, in their everyday life, come to betray their baptismal consecration! And so Our Lady asks that the faithful consecrate themselves to her Immaculate Heart, as a specific commitment of the Marian Movement and then, as a mother, gently leads them to live out their baptism, in complete fidelity to Jesus and to his Church.
-2- Witnesses of Communion and of Unity
Again, it is said in the act of consecration of the laity: "We promise you to be united with the Holy Father, with the hierarchy and with our priests, in order thus to set up a barrier to the growing confrontation directed against the Magisterium, that threatens the very foundation of the Church." This is a characteristic commitment, which marks every member of the faithful who belongs to the Movement, and urges him to become ever an instrument of communion, of peace and of unity.
In this period of its purification, the Church is living through times of great suffering. The M.M.P. desires above all to share fully in the sufferings of the Church, drinking together with her the chalice of much bitterness. For this reason it is never called to act by way of criticism or judgment and, much less, by way of condemnation. And therefore, it has nothing to do with, and in fact totally rejects, those means taken by many today who publicly, even through the press, criticize Holy Mother Church in a bitter and mischievous way.
We must never pour vinegar on open and bleeding wounds. The only help the Movement wants to give to the Church is that of love, a filial and merciful love.
"I will bring you to love the Church very much. Today the Church is going through times of great suffering because it is loved less and less by its own children. Many would like to renovate it and purify it solely by criticism and by violent attacks on its institution. Nothing is ever renewed or purified without love!" (November 9, 1975)
The specific commitment of the Marian Movement consists in leading the faithful to be witnesses of love for the Church today: a love which must become concrete in a faithful and passionate presence, to share in its sorrow and bear with it its great cross; a love which above all brings us to be, in every circumstance, instruments of coherence and of unity, and thus to contribute to healing the Church of its many deep and painful lacerations.
3- Commitment to Conversion
In the act of consecration for the laity, it is further affirmed: "We pledge to bring about in ourselves that interior conversion so urgently demanded by the Gospel." Our Lady asks of the faithful also, who belong to the Movement, a daily commitment to conversion along the road of prayer and penance.
For this, as an attentive and concerned mother, she helps them flee from sin, to live in the grace of God, invites them to frequent confession, to an intense Eucharistic life, to always observe the Law of God, with a particular commitment to live the virtue of purity especially on the part of young people and those who are engaged to marry, and conjugal chastity within the sacrament of Matrimony, according to the doctrine of Christ, recently reaffirmed by the Magisterium of the Church. And this becomes so necessary in our day in order to counteract a shameless impurity which has spread everywhere and in order to help make the world cleaner and more beautiful.
Let the faithful be a good example "...by an austere manner of life by repudiating styles which are ever increasingly provocative and indecent, by opposing in every way possible the spread of immoral literature and entertainment and this continual flooding from a sea of filth that is submerging everything. Let them be an example to all by their purity, their sobriety and their modesty. Let them flee all those place where the sacred character of their person is defiled. Let them form about the priests my faithful cohort, my great `White Army.' " (November 1, 1973)
There are now tens of millions of lay people from every part of the world who have joined the Marian Movement, and often it is from them that the priests receive good example, concrete assistance and precious encouragement.
d) The Cenacles
It can be said that the M.M.P. is at work in all the areas of ecclesial life in which its members find themselves personally engaged: from religious houses to parishes, from the theological sector to the pastoral, and from the field of spirituality to the apostolate of the missions. The more a priest lives the spirit of the Movement, the more he commits himself enthusiastically to the initiatives of the Church and makes them his own. But at times the Movement develops within the life of the Church, with an activity proper to itself, which is that of bringing the priests and the faithful together in gatherings of prayer and fraternal sharing, called "cenacles."
-1- Regional, Diocesan and Family Cenacles
Regional and diocesan cenacles always develop in union with the bishop of the place who either takes part personally or, at times, gives his assent and blessing. These cenacles offer an enviable opportunity of experiencing, in a concrete way, prayer offered together and genuine fraternity, and are a great help to all in overcoming doubts and difficulties in order to continue with courage along the arduous road of consecration.
From among those priests who have taken on the task of bringing their confreres together, directors of the Movement have been selected at the national, regional, and diocesan level. From the directors of each country, very comforting accounts have been received. In these we find assurance that the cenacles have continued to develop increasingly.
Family cenacles are today particularly providential, in view of the serious break-up of family life. In these, one or more families of the Movement gather together in the same house. The rosary is recited. There is a meditation on the life of consecration. Also there is fraternal sharing during which mutual problems and difficulties are discussed. There is always, made as a group, the renewal of the act of entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It has already become evident that Christian families have been helped by these family cenacles to live today as true communities of faith, prayer and love.
-2- The Structure of the Cenacles
The structure of the cenacles is quite simple. In imitation of the disciples who were gathered together with Mary in the Cenacle of Jerusalem, we come together:
- To Pray with Mary
The cenacles must, above all, be gatherings of prayer. But this prayer must be made together with Mary.
It is for this reason that one of the characteristics that is common to all the cenacles is the recitation of the holy rosary. Through it we invite Our Lady to join us in our prayer; we pray together with her, while she herself unveils to our souls the mystery of the life of Jesus.
"Your entire rosary, which you recite in the Cenacle in accordance with the urgent request of your Mother, is like an immense chain of love and salvation with which you are able to encircle persons and situations, and even to influence all the events of your time. Continue to recite it, and multiply your cenacles of prayer..." (October 7, 1979)
- To Live the Consecration
During the cenacles, we should help each other to live the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is the way we should do it: by accustoming ourselves to Our Lady's way of seeing, feeling, loving, praying and working. The pause for meditation which is made during the cenacles must serve this purpose. There are other times and places for reflections concerning aggiornamento which are likewise indispensable for all.
Usually this space of time is given over to a communal meditation from the book of the Movement. It is not therefore within the spirit of the Cenacle to spend this time listening to learned conferences or cultural updatings. Otherwise we would run the risk of getting away from that atmosphere of simplicity and of familiarity, which makes our gatherings so fruitful.
- To Create Fraternity
Lastly, in the cenacles we are all called to take part in the experience of a true fraternity. Is this not perhaps one of the most beautiful experiences, which always occurs in every Cenacle? The more we pray and allow time for the action of Our Lady, the more we experience as well an increase of mutual love among ourselves.
"Why do I want them to come together in cenacles with me? ... To love each other and to live in true brotherhood in the company of their Mother. It is necessary today that my priests know each other, that they help each other, that they truly love one another, that they be as brothers brought together by their Mother. There is today too much loneliness, too much abandonment for my priests!... I do not want them to be alone: they must help each other, love each other, they must feel as-and really be-brothers." (January 17, 1974)
To the danger of loneliness, today particularly felt and dangerous for priests, here is the remedy offered by Our Lady: the Cenacle, where we gather together with her to get to know, love and help each other as brothers.
(e) A Help for the Church
At the end of this first part of the preface in which we have sought above all to explain the origin, spread, and spirituality of the Marian Movement of Priests, we ask ourselves naturally this question: But what significance has this Movement in the Church today? Among the very many associations which are at work at every level, what is its function in the life of the Church? To this question it seems to me that I should give this simple response: the M.M.P. is a help which our heavenly Mother is offering to the Church today, that it may become aware of her motherly presence, be consoled in the midst of great sufferings, and feel itself ever surrounded by the love and prayer of so many of its children.
By means of the M.M.P., Our Lady wishes to offer to the Church a strong help in overcoming the painful crisis of the purification through which it is living at this time. Because of this crisis, it can be seen that religious orders and congregations, once flourishing, are now going through times of particular difficulty.
Through her work, Our Lady wishes to assist everyone to overcome with her the present moments of suffering and, therefore, invites first the priests and then the religious and faithful to consecrate themselves to her Immaculate Heart and to be most faithful to the Pope and to the Church. The reason why the Movement does not have any juridical existence is that the aforementioned assistance can more easily be accepted by everyone. In this there lies its weakness because, not having any juridical form, it finds itself unable to seek any official approbation which could help it on its way. But this is also its strength because, as it does not impose any associative bond, it makes it easy for priests and religious to belong to it.
If we compare the Church to a great tree, I would say that the role of the M.M.P is not to add another branch to the many which it already has, but that of infusing it with a secret strength which, coming from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, spreads through all its branches. And thus each one is assisted to develop according to its proper function and particular form, imparting to all a greater strength and beauty.
If then one wishes to know which is the most striking quality of the Marian Movement of Priests, it seems to me that I would have to say: its essential poverty. The Movement is so poor that it does not even have an official existence. And, not having any existence, quite naturally it cannot in any way be catalogued. Sometimes we smilingly say among ourselves: we are now more than sixty thousand priests and tens of millions of faithful, who belong to the Marian Movement of Priests, but nowhere can one find the proof that we exist.
The Movement is so poor that it cannot even own its own material resources, nor is it able to accept legacies or goods. It lives only from offerings sent to it by Divine Providence to meet the heavy expenses of printing and distributing the books. But even in this matter, each national center manages its affairs autonomously in regard to the life of the Movement, according to the means which Divine Providence places at its disposal.
The Movement is poor in terms of human support, even in those things which could bring it comfort and joy in the midst of the inevitable difficulties which it encounters. Such could be particular recommendations on the part of superiors, praise and encouragement from ecclesiastical authority, and various other such marks of approval.
The sure support which Our Lady wishes to give us is her Immaculate Heart, and the only letter of recommendation is that which is to be found written in the life of each priest who has been consecrated to her, that he may thus be assisted in attaining holiness.
This radical poverty of the Marian Movement of Priests must be loved, blessed and lived by each one of us, because it is the poverty of Mary herself which is reflected in her work. It is the poverty of the Queen of Heaven who hides herself beneath the clothing of a simple housewife. It is the poverty of our Mother, immaculate and completely full of grace, which is revealed in her so simple and normal way of living in the perfect service of her spouse, Joseph, and her divine Son, Jesus.
The poverty of Mary should always be reflected in this work of hers, because the Marian Movement of Priests must also exist, spread and work only at the service of-and as a perfect service of love for-the Church. This is why the Movement must not even have an existence of its own: it can only live within the life of the Church and at the service of the Church.
In this way, the Church can be truly helped to carry its great cross in these bloody moments of its purification. And it is supported in its journey toward its greatest splendor, by the light which the Immaculate Heart gives to it by means of so many of her beloved children.
"Through you who have responded, my light spreads ever more in the Church. And thus the Church takes on vigor, confidence and a new impetus in the evangelization and salvation of all nations." (November 14, 1980)
FOR AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE BOOK
Some people are under the impression that the Marian Movement of Priests is identified with the book, "To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons." That is to say, the Movement and the book are one and the same thing. This is erroneous. The fact is, the M.M.P. is distinct from the book.
The Movement is a work of Our Lady, and it consists essentially in calling priests to a consecration to her Immaculate Heart, to a great unity with the Pope and with the Church and to directing the faithful to a renewed Marian devotion.
As can easily be seen, it is a simple matter to set out the points which characterize the Movement, and so when one lives according to them he actually belongs to the Movement even though, hypothetically, he may never have heard of the little book. In this sense, the Marian Movement of Priests is distinct from the book.
But when one begins seriously to live out these commitments, one naturally feels the necessity to ask the question: How must I live them? Who will give me the assurance that I am living them? What is the road that I must travel? The book gives the answers to these questions, because it traces out the itinerary which one must follow in order to live out in a concrete way the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Can then the M.M.P. do without the book? In theory, yes, but in practice, absolutely no. The Movement is the work of Our Lady, and she herself has chosen the book as an indispensable instrument for its diffusion and for a genuine understanding of its spirit.
"Even the little book is only a means for the spread of my Movement. It is an important means which I have chosen because it is small. It will serve to make known to many this work of my love among the priests." (June 24, 1974)
At this point it seems useful to me to pause a bit in order to explain the origin and the literary form of the book, its merits and limitations and, above all, to trace out some criteria of sound theology which are necessary for its exact understanding. In this inquiry we have made use of the considerable help provided by Circulars 16 and 18 of Don Stefano Gobbi and in particular by the introduction to the previous edition.
(a) Origin and Form of the Book
Starting in July 1973, Don Stefano began to note down some limpid and strong thoughts which sprang up in his soul. In obedience to his spiritual director, he undertook to gather them together in a little book, which numbered but a few pages, and thus he managed to prepare the first edition which was presented at a gathering of priests of the Movement, which took place at the end of September of that same year. Its reception on that occasion was rather negative. Why such a rejection, despite the fact that its contents could be deemed to be in perfect conformity with what was perceived, in prayer and in discussions, to be the way of the Marian Movement of Priests? For the same reasons many find it difficult to accept the book today.
-First of all, because it lacked ecclesiastical approval. Such an approval had not been requested, as there was question then of a small publication in non-commercial manuscript form, and because writings of this nature are exempt in virtue of the "motu proprio" of Pope Paul VI, dated October 10, 1966.
- And then, because of the literary form in which it was presented. In fact, it provided the Movement with spiritual guidance as traced out by Our Lady herself, through the mystical phenomenon called "interior locutions," and it is with this aspect that priests are usually uncomfortable.
- And especially because, with so many messages circulating about today (of which it is permissible to think that some are pathological in origin and others of doubtful authenticity), it was feared that, by presenting a book of this nature, one would find it exposed to insurmountable obstacles and grave difficulties along the way, especially on the part of ecclesiastical authorities.
This hesitation was however gradually overcome by a great and ever-increasing acceptance of the book on the part of priests, religious and faithful and by the multiplication of translations everywhere into the principal known languages.
Everyone became aware, at first with a certain amount of surprise and then with a profound joy of soul, that it was a very small and limited means, but one chosen by Our Lady, for the spread of the Movement throughout every part of the world. The book in fact is an instrument, humanly speaking quite limited, of which our heavenly Mother has willed to make use in order to draw to herself priests and the faithful entrusted to their care. Once attracted to her motherly Heart, priests and faithful will be brought by her into the intimacy of the Heart of Jesus, to live in the heart of the Church, his Mystical Body.
If one takes up this book with respect and meditates upon it with simplicity of heart, he will become aware of hearing a living word, sweet as honey and sharp as a sword. In it is set forth a spirituality based on Revelation and the life of the Church, by means of such luminous pillars as Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Francis de Sales, Saint Louis de Montfort, Saint John Bosco, Saint Therese of Lisieux and Saint Maximilian Kolbe. We can verify its validity only if we put it into practice; from its fruits you will know the quality of the tree.
The book is not organized into well-defined and connected chapters. This is because the Marian Movement of Priests itself is understood more clearly in its demands and richness little by little as Our Lady makes it known through the writings of Don Stefano Gobbi. She herself is defining, spreading, and establishing the M.M.P., now in every part of the world, in a manner which is as discreet as it is magnificent.
(b) Merits and Limitations of the Book
The merits and limitations of the book come from the fact that it is a simple but precious instrument for the Marian Movement of Priests.
- I - It Is a Precious Means for Its Spread.
The M.M.P has now spread into every region, and it has always reached there by means of the book. It has been spontaneously translated into the principal languages and has thus been able to offer priests the possibility of knowing the urgent invitation of Our Lady to consecrate themselves to her Immaculate Heart.
From all the continents, priests, drawn by Mary's motherly invitation, have responded by joining the Movement, have entrusted themselves to her, and have begun to gather together in cenacles. In this way, the work of Our Lady has succeeded in spreading everywhere and has reached even the most distant and remote parts of the earth. Whenever Don Stefano goes to even the most unknown parts of the world to take part in cenacles, he has the happy surprise of finding the Movement already spread there and thus cannot but recognize that the means of such a diffusion has always been the book. The book therefore serves, in a marvelous way, the purpose of making the Marian Movement of Priests known everywhere.
-2- It Is a Precious Means of Understanding Its Spirit
Meditation on the contents of the book often brings about a true transformation in souls. It helps one live the spirit of the consecration and sometimes gives priests the impression that it has responded to their particular needs. It encourages them to overcome difficult circumstances and leads them gradually to do everything with Mary, by means of Mary, and in Mary.
Thousands of letters of enrollment, sent in by priests to the various national centers, attest to this fact. I cite by way of confirmation some excerpts from three letters which I have received from priests.
From an Italian priest: "I have your book, which was made known to me by my bishop, now deceased. He read the book regularly and had it always in his hand. When his eyes became weak, I had the duty of reading him a few pages. They delighted him and helped greatly to bolster up his spirit. He found in them a source of joy and fervor."
From a missionary in Brazil: "My fear is that of coming to a halt, and this for a number of reasons. These can be described in brief as those simple temptations which, in one way or another, are my daily food. But then, after meditating on the contents of the book, I renew my act of abandonment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and, little by little, my confidence is reborn. How I would like to live the awareness of being Mary's very own property."
From a country in Central America: "I am a priest who was laicized fourteen years ago. Having been swept away by a grave crisis in faith and in my moral life, I no longer prayed. I am a professor in a large university. Your book came into my hands but for many months I did not read it, thinking it to be an ordinary run-of-the-mill book of Marian devotion.
But I finally felt a desire to open the book, which I had not until then touched. I don't know what happened inside of me. From the first page, there was awakened in me a growing desire to read more and more, an eagerness and a renewed love for Jesus and for his Church. I then remembered something that I had learned in the seminary: to Jesus through Mary. I prepared myself all through the month of November and, on the eighth of December, I made my act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart."
The undeniable merits of the book consist, therefore, in the contributions it succeeds in making to the spread and the understanding of the spirit of the Marian Movement of Priests.
-3- The Limitations of the Book
The limitations of the book are obvious and can be summed up in the fact that it is an undeniably humble and small instrument. Its poverty and littleness can be seen in a number of ways.
First of all in its form: it is presented to us in fact under the form of interior locutions, and this can be for many a stumbling block to its acceptance. But for whom? Generally speaking, for those who tend to reject any form of supernatural intervention, because they accept only that which passes through their own rational judgment. Such moreover can hr persons who are good, well-trained and cultured but who have a mentality which is too adult and thus they stop short, scandalized, before the extreme littleness of this instrument.
It is also in its content that its littleness stands out. Indeed the book is not a treatise in either theology or Mariology, nor does it set itself forth as a complete compendium of Marian devotion. And neither does it develop, in a systematic way, the biblical and theological reasons which favor the spiritual experience of consecration to Mary. And these are, however, of considerable weight and value as is proven in de Montfort's Treatise on True Devotion.
It sets out, in extremely simple language, that which our heavenly Mother desires today of her beloved sons, the priests. It is a matter of pages chosen from a diary, the content of which however is in accord with revealed doctrine and the teaching of the Church. It has the flavor of a colloquy between a mother and her children, in a style which, on first contact with the book, may appear to be too saccharine in some instances and too harsh in others. Some themes come back again and again with the insistence of a hammer, while others are almost ignored.
We do not have before our eyes a work which has been composed at a writing table and which develops according to a prearranged scenario. In order that disappointment may not lead to the rejection of the book, we should keep in mind that everything that each priest should know is necessarily taken for granted. Namely, for his interior life, for his apostolate and for living in communion with the whole Church and the world, the priest must draw upon Revelation and the Magisterium, as well as the sources of sound philosophy, theology, literature, asceticism, and mysticism.
In fact the theological basis of the M.M.P. is constituted by the whole Marian doctrine contained in Sacred Scripture, illustrated by the Fathers of the Church and expounded by the Magisterium of the Church. The book does not seek to be a compendium of this because there already exist within the Church institutions which specialize in this task.
Nothing however is more contrary to the truth than the idea, held by some, that in the Marian Movement of Priests one finds the type of priest who is allergic to sound theological science or is sentimentalist or overly credulous. On the contrary, it can be calmly asserted that among those who have enrolled in the Movement there are priests who are outstanding in the area of culture, others who are in positions of great responsibility, and others who are assigned to more humble posts. Each of these has his own qualities and limitations, but all of them are among the most interiorly balanced of people.
A priest in Ireland has made the observation that one finds in the book a compendium of the doctrine of de Montfort concerning consecration, the way of spiritual childhood of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the implementation of the message of Fatima. It is for each one to verify this for himself.
It seems to me that one does indeed find here such a synthesis because, in order to live the consecration to Mary, it is necessary to offer oneself to her in a slavery of love which is fulfilled in concrete terms by living as a little child entrusted to her Immaculate Heart in such a way as to allow oneself, with utter docility, to be nourished, clothed and led by her at every moment.
At this point, if at no other, one can ask a very interesting question: Why has Our Lady wished to choose so small and limited an instrument? "You have not understood, my son, that I have chosen foolishness to confound wisdom, and weakness to vanquish strength." (September 27, 1973) The whole secret is right here!
But this is the very secret of the Gospel. Jesus did not condemn the learned and the wise, but He thanked his Heavenly Father for having hidden from them the mysteries of his reign and for having revealed them to the little ones.
Certainly every member of the Marian Movement of Priests has the duty of reading and meditating upon what is contained in the little but precious instrument, which is the book, if he wishes to live his act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and thus to contribute to the carrying out of her motherly plan of salvation and of mercy.
(c) Theological Criteria for Its Understanding
The Interior Locution
-1- Leaving to everyone the freedom to hold to his own convictions in this matter, it can be credibly affirmed with considered certainty that what are represented to us in this book are "interior locutions." But alas, mystical theology is too little known so that some phenomena are either under-valued to the point where they are scoffed at, a priori, or else they are over-valued to the extent that they are considered on a par with official Revelation.
One forgets that grace makes us true sons of God and that Mary is truly our Mother. One fails to keep sufficiently in mind that prayer is not a monologue but a dialogue, the greater part of which should be left to the heavenly participants. We know that God has infinitely possible ways of communicating with his children, selecting for each one the form that is most adapted to him, over and above the official means known to everyone.
-2- What is an interior locution? First of all, it is necessary to make clear that it is not something strange or sensational, but a mystical phenomenon present in the life of the Church and described in manuals of spiritual theology. It is not a sensorial communication with Jesus, Our Lady or the saints such as takes place in authentic apparitions. Here one does not see with the eyes, hear with the ears, nor does one touch anything. Nor is it simply a good inspiration, that light which the Holy Spirit normally causes to pour down into the minds and hearts of those who pray and live by faith.
In the case of an authentic phenomenon, the interior locution is that gift by which God wishes to make something known and to help someone carry something out as well as the outward clothing of this gift, in terms of human thoughts and words, according to the style and the way of writing of the person who receives the message.
The person becomes an instrument of communication, while still maintaining his full freedom, which is expressed in an act of assent to the action of the Holy Spirit. While receiving the word from the Lord, the person's intellect remains, as it were, inactive: that is to say, it does not search for thoughts or for a way to express them as, for example, would be the case when one is writing a letter or preparing a demanding discourse.
-3- Saint John of the Cross calls locutions, or formal supernatural words, those distinct words which the spirit receives not from itself but from another person, sometimes while it is recollected and sometimes when it is not. ("Ascent of Mount Carmel," Book 2, Chapter 28, note 2) Tanquerey defines locutions or supernatural words as manifestations of divine thought heard by the interior or exterior senses. ("The Spiritual Life," Book 3, Chapter 3, No. 1494)
One could therefore give interior locutions this definition: "They are very clear words perceived by the person who receives them as though they were being born from the heart and which, taken together, form a message."
The summons from heaven is almost always unforeseen: it is the Lord, or Our Lady, or the angels, or the saints, who take the initiative as regards the time and the content of the message.
-4- To discern authentic locutions from those that are spurious, or which are the fruit of deliberate deceit, or of morbid autosuggestion, or of downright satanic interference, there are norms which are fairly precise. The literature on this matter is neither rich nor up-to-date. The writings of the great mystics (Saint John of the Cross, Saint Theresa of Avila, Saint Ignatius, Saint Catherine of Genoa, Saint Catherine of Siena) are helpful as are the studies and treatises of spiritual theology of Tanquerey, Royo Marin, A. Poulin, Garrigou-Lagrange, etc.
Less easy to measure is the weight of the human element in which the ineffable Word of God becomes clothed, in order to arrive at a clear understanding of what is essential and universal in the contents of the message, in a word, what is of God.
One hears it said frequently that the messages, such as those contained in the book, are too frequent and wordy. A comparison is made with the style of the Gospel and of the apparitions which have been approved by the Church, while we forget that we are dealing here with manifestations of the Word of God which are very different, not only in the matter of authority but also of modality.
In our respect for each person and his freedom, why should we be obliged to make an exception only for God, as though He must ask permission of us and conform Himself to our tastes in the choice of places, times, modes and instruments for communicating with his children?
There is need to grow in the spirit of wisdom, so as to rejoice with Jesus as He exclaims: "I thank you, O Father, because you have hidden your secrets from the learned and wise, while you have revealed them to little children," and to exult with the spirit of our heavenly Mother as she sings: "The poor He has filled with good things and the rich He has sent away empty-handed."
The Interior Locutions in the Book
In the specific case of the book, "To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons," it is good to keep in mind these theological criteria which can be of help for a deeper understanding of it.
-1- That which comes from God brings with it a profound sense of peace and inspires greater humility and confidence in our relationship with Him; it helps us detach ourselves from what is wrong and to do good in a spirit of simplicity and constancy; it respects our freedom and that of our neighbor. Whoever writes and works in the name of God edifies by his sense of balance, of humanity, of strength of soul, even within the framework of his human limitations and defects.
If some passage in this book should bring uneasiness, it would be better to put off its reading for a better occasion rather than to cause oneself to become distressed.
-2- God can and wants to communicate, at each moment of history, with his children living on earth. It is possible for us Christians to know whether something we meet up with is truly the work of God by measuring its content with Revelation which is faithfully guarded and infallibly given to us by the Magisterium of the Church.
In our case, the message taken as a whole, and likewise each of its parts, is to be read and lived in the context of Christian doctrine. The purpose of these locutions is that of leading priests, more easily and steadily, to holiness of life, keeping in mind that:
a) The motherhood of Mary, with those rights and duties that follow upon it for her and for me, have to do with me personally.
b) Our Lady, who is the most humble and pure of all creatures, is not an end in herself, but she is a mother who begets and raises her adoptive children, bringing to completion the work accomplished in her Son Jesus. The goal then is solely the glorification of the Most Holy Trinity to which a priest who strives to fulfill his vocation is called.
c) As Mary is Mother of the Church, the historical context of her action and of our response is obedience and flawless unity with those who exercise the ministry of authority in the Church, namely the Pope, our respective bishops and our legitimate superiors.
d) Because the priest is a man dedicated to God for the sake of man, he feels himself duty bound to communicate to his faithful the joy, the richness and the obligations of the consecration to Our Lady which he, in the first place, has made and lived.
-3- While there is no question of age, of human gifts, of prestige and still less of past personal experience, be these positive or negative, in order to be received into the M.M.P., anyone who would want to enter it in a spirit of sectarianism would be totally ignorant of its nature. Within the Church there is an element which remains immutable, and there are exterior forms with which the word and the life of the Church are clothed and which, like clothing, can change with time.
Those who are incurably nostalgic for the times that have gone confuse the ancient, which is always valid, with the old, which can be changed. So also those who search hungrily for new experiences seem to know a little more than the Eternal Father. And they have an urge to solicit initiatives from the Holy Spirit, as though the salvation of each soul did not move along the one single track of prayer and penance.
-4- As the components and the expressions of doctrine and of Christian life are varied and complex, there is no intention, in these writings, of undervaluing, much less of condemning, any of them. If some expressions, for example, about contemporary theology seem strong, it must be understood that the point is not being made against theology as such but against the less than prudent way in which it is presented by some dissenting theologians and-which is still worse-against the way in which their teachings are so readily accepted by others.
Another example: some themes, such as those of a social or pastoral nature, are not treated expressly. For one thing, the book, not being an encyclopedia, cannot give answers to each and every question. And for another, those who truly entrust themselves to Our Lady do not just hold discussions in seats of learning but actually live and resolve concrete pastoral and social problems. We have only to call to mind Don Bosco, Don Orione and the present Pope himself.
-5- As regards the phenomenon of interior locutions recorded in the book, Don Stefano, in a completely normal way, neither in a trance nor in ecstasy, writes without interruption and without mental fatigue, without re-thinking or correction, that which he perceives interiorly, without paying any particular attention to it, according to the richness and the poverty of his own style and temperament, even when it is a question of bringing out truths previously unknown to the subject, or even before they were recognized as such by him.
From the writings of Don Stefano Gobbi, a preferential choice has been given to those pages which bring out best the total entrustment to Our Lady, in an atmosphere of evangelical spiritual childhood. As regards the validity of these writings, the classical and traditional criteria have been adhered to:
- correspondence with revealed truth;
- an enduring attitude of humility and obedience;
- some confirmations, humbly asked of God;
- the subject's calm availability and the peace which precedes and follows the divine communication.
What has been considered, however, as a positive sign is the enormous good which the M.M.P. has already achieved in the souls of tens of thousands of priests, many of whom were in situations of crisis, and the good that has been accomplished among very many of the faithful. From the wonderful fruits that have been produced, it can be deduced that the cause is to be found only in the spiritual light which flows from the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, into the minds and hearts of those who take this book into their hands.
-6- Since, in this period of considerable transformation for the Church and for the world, there is a multiplication of cases of persons who are said to be privileged with charismatic gifts such as visions, locutions, the gift of healing, etc., the M.M.P. takes this attitude:
- It does not make any bond of unity with (to the point of identifying itself with) any association, person or fact which takes on supernatural aspects. It recognizes that it has no right either to approve or to condemn because this task falls to the Church. It leaves each priest free to conduct himself, in his own personal life, in the way prudence suggests to him, always however in perfect obedience to ecclesiastical authority.
- When, on the other hand, there is question of revelations which contain doctrine not in conformity with the Magisterium or of persons who clearly depart from what characterizes normal human behavior and Christian balance, it must put its members on guard that they might remain completely faithful to the Church.
- When there is question of persons or events which the Church has been pleased to approve, the M.M.P. respects to the utmost the choices and tastes of each one, even though it cannot prescind from what has taken place at Fatima, which is a fact of universal importance not yet well understood and still less witnessed to, even though it has been officially accepted by the Church. We have only to recall Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, who journeyed as pilgrims to the Cova da Iria.
(d) Useful Advice for the Reader
-1- As is obvious, those who belong to the M.M.P. must accept first of all the entire patrimony of Revelation in the light of the official Magisterium. On the other hand, they are free to accept, or to give no importance to, or to reject writings and happenings which are generically called "private revelations."
Since mystical doctrine and history is little known, it is easy to fall into one of two forms of free and easy fanaticism. One is to preconceivedly deny and ridicule everything from the outset. The other is to accept naively everything without any discernment.
Therefore one must avoid two extremes:
- childish credulity which does not carefully scrutinize the person or the event, in order to verify its credibility on a human plane, let alone on the supernatural. The instruments of God, even in their littleness and poverty, always exhibit a note of dignity and of purity and the signs of the Holy Spirit, which accompany every true apostle are not lacking to them.
- haughty superficiality which rejects or directly opposes that which, on the contrary, might be a work of God. In concrete situations, one loses sight of that which one respects in theory, namely, the absolute freedom of God and of all heaven to communicate with us, pilgrims here on earth.
-2- In reading this diary, which for many priests has already become a book for daily reflection, each sentence must be accepted with discernment, that is, according to the true meaning that is derived from the whole context.
Let us consider, for example, Our Lady's advice to give up newspaper and television. For some, this may be interpreted literally. For many priests, it means, rather, not wasting precious hours, following programs that are frivolous and tendentious and refraining from reading world events as interpreted in a materialistic sense, on the part of much of the present-day means of social communication.
Another example can be found in the frequent expressions, that at first sight can leave us uneasy, in which it is affirmed that the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary coincides with the coming of the glorious reign of Christ. These expressions are of course to be interpreted in the light of what is taught in Sacred Scripture (Revelation 20, 1-7) and the authentic Magisterium of the Church. In this regard, let us keep before our eyes the frequent references which, in his first encyclical, "Redemptor Hominis" and in other important documents, Pope John Paul II makes concerning the Church of the second Advent which awaits the second coming of Jesus.
-3- Another piece of advice lies in the invitation to accept the character of this book for what it is, a humble instrument. Our Lady wants it that way, written in a style chosen by Providence which, as Saint Paul teaches, chooses what is weak and poor in the eyes of the world, to confound earthly wisdom and diabolical strength.
-4- Because of the poisonous air we breathe and the astuteness of the devil who can play nasty tricks on us, we ought not become hung up over the occasional sweetness of the style. Priests who have accustomed themselves to the educative action of Mary testify that she acts with sweetness but with firmness. It is with good reason that the Eternal Father entrusted to her his only-begotten Son that she might generate Him in his human nature and educate Him for Calvary. If Our Lady takes us up with gentleness, it is because she loves us as a mother and that she may then place us, without any rebellion on our part, upon the wood of the Cross, transforming us into the image of Jesus Crucified. This is a far cry from sentimentality!
-5- Even the numerous references to the evil times in which we are living and the painful future which awaits us must always be interpreted in their proper perspective, which is that pointed out by Sacred Scripture. How many times and in how many ways has the Lord threatened to punish his people, precisely in the attempt to urge them along the road of conversion and of return to Him! One thinks, for example, of the preachings of the prophet Jonah, sent by God to announce the destruction of the city of Nineveh.
Many have come to a halt, perplexed with the prophetic character in which some of the messages are clothed. And they have asked themselves the question: Is what is written indeed true? Will what is foretold in fact take place? And if they do not turn out to be true, what credibility can then be given to the words of the message? From an attentive reading of the book a most appropriate answer to all these questions can be found. It is this:
"Don't be delayed, therefore, by the predictions I give you in the effort to make you comprehend the times in which you are living. Like a mother, I am telling you the dangers through which you are going, the imminent threats, the extent of the evils that could happen to you, only because these evils can yet be avoided by you, the dangers can be evaded, the plan of God's justice always can be changed by the force of his merciful love. Also when I predict chastisements to you, remember that everything, at any moment, may be changed by the force of your prayer and your reparative penance. Do not say therefore: `How much of what you predicted to us has not come true!' Instead, give thanks with me to the Heavenly Father because at the response of your prayer and consecration, your suffering, and on account of the immense suffering of so many of my poor children, again He alters the period of justice, to permit that of the great mercy to come to flower..." (January 21, 1984)
-6- One must possess a solid evangelical maturity, preventing us from either disdaining or underestimating, a priori, a book such as this, or from overestimating it. It will give, in other words, a proper sense of respect for the experience which the message transmits to us and of the interior freedom with which it should be received. The perception that no word and no message are the Word itself, and the consciousness that in phenomena such as locutions a good deal of the subjective and human element can be introduced, should not on principle make these phenomena radically suspect. There is need to observe and evaluate, as Saint Paul says, and to retain whatever of good you can gather or extract. We should therefore take up a book of this kind with a reasonable amount of respect.
But this respect should be allied to a sense of freedom, which comes from the ability to put the "messages," which such books intend to transmit, in their proper place. It has been said and repeated: the words of Our Lady which have been made known here are neither a new Gospel nor a new faith. They lead us to discover, according to their typical resonance and outlook, the Gospel and the faith.
Hence, even a book like this can be accepted according to its measure of truth and can thus lead to the Truth which is Christ, and be a most suitable way of living, as authentic evangelical "children," this relationship with the Mother of the Lord and our Mother.
-7- This invitation to a simple and open faith in our relationship with the Mother of Christ and of the Church provides us with a sort of magnetic line of force according to which the compass of our Christian life and personality can orientate itself. This line of force must be found in the Mariological teaching of the Church which, for example, was set out for us in the Second Vatican Council. (Lumen Gentium, Chapter VIII)
No locution, not even such as are gathered together in this book, could take the place of, or be put on a par with, an official public statement of the faith of the Church, from which the complete physiognomy of Mary and her mission will become apparent. Within the Church we must also bring and show forth a childlike manner in our relationship with Her, and hence also in our apostolic life and mission.
Mary is in the Church and leads to Christ in the Church: to that Church which has recently expressed itself in the Second Vatican Council and which has supplied us with pastoral goals which a priest must make his own. It is in this sign of the total docility of faith that Mary leads us to live the mystery of the Church, thereby accepting and disposing ourselves to accept its ministerial and apostolic dimension as well.
Even a priest, and in particular a diocesan priest, will not be able to find in this book everything that is entailed in his priestly life and mission. But sooner or later he will be able to find there a perspective, a point of view, a unifying element and a driving force for his priesthood, and above all for his personality as a Christian. And this will not be to the detriment of the attention he must give to the pastoral care of his Church, nor to the detriment of the proper attention he must give to solid theology.
-8- Finally, one last piece of advice for anyone approaching a reading of this book. One should pay more attention to its substance than to its form, and should take it up without any preconceived ideas but with humility and simplicity of heart. It should be read without presumption or avidity. One should reread it, meditating upon it calmly and lovingly. And then move on to verify it in his daily life, experiencing in a personal way what Our Lady is asking and promising.
The tens of thousands of priests who, throughout these years have done so, have never regretted it. More than that, they are praying to Our Lady that others may follow in the same path.
Don Stefano Gobbi
Milan, December 8, 2007
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
90th Anniversary of the Apparitions at Fatima
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The Bishop of Como, Italy, Msgr. Diego Coletti, according to the Norm of Can. 322 sec. 1 and 2 CIC, approved the Statutes of the Association of the “Marian Movement of Priests” and conferred on this association the Juridical Personality, July 10, 2013.