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5th International Day of Prayer, Amsterdam 2003

Homily by
His Excellency Paul Maria Hnilica SJ
Titular bishop from Rome

His Excellency Paul Maria Hnilica S.J., whom Pope John Paul II called “the one who knows the message of Fatima best”, promised Our Lady when he was imprisoned for his faith—still as a seminarian—under the Communist regime in his homeland Slovakia, “When I am released from this camp I will work for you, the Coredemptrix.” Therefore he participated with special joy for the fifth time at the International Day of Prayer in Amsterdam.

Dear Brothers in the Office of Bishop,
Dear Priests, Dear Pilgrims from around the world,

What a grace it is to be gathered here anew together in Amsterdam around this graceful image of the Lady of All Nations in such an international setting. We have traveled here from every continent to unite with Mary, like the Apostles in the Upper Room, and implore the Holy Spirit to descend on the whole Church and world. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now your Spirit over the earth. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations!”

The Holy Father said in the Angelus two weeks ago, “Mary’s motherly presence in the Upper Room reminded the apostles of Christ. Her eyes made the same impression as the Savior’s face, her immaculate heart preserved the mysteries from the annunciation … up to His suffering and death. In this sense, one could say that the Rosary was born in the Upper Room because it was here that the first Christians began to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary in that she called back to mind the different moments of His earthly story.”

Before the pilgrims of all the present nations, we would like to thank His Excellency Jozef Marianus Punt, the Bishop of HaarlemAmsterdam, for the courage with which he goes about things for the Lady of All Nations. On May 31 last year he officially expressed his conviction that the apparitions in Amsterdam are of a supernatural origin.

Since the First International Day of Prayer, I have always considered the messages of the Coredemptrix together with the messages of Fatima. Exactly because of the theme of this year’s Day of Prayer, “The Lady of All Nations and the Year of the Rosary”, we cannot allow the messages of Fatima to go unnoticed. In each of Our Lady’s apparitions there she called for daily prayer of the Rosary. “Pray the Rosary daily for peace in the world and to obtain an end to the war.” Therefore she came with the title Queen of the Rosary, to make us newly aware of the power of this prayer.

When we take an honest look at the situation today in the Church and in the world, it is clear to everybody what a dangerous situation we are in. Satan is claiming his right and he is stronger now than ever in the history of mankind. Yet God, immediately after the fall from grace, promised the victory over Satan to the Lady and her followers. The Rosary is a crucial weapon in this spiritual battle. In the first apparition in Amsterdam on March 25, 1945, Mary also spoke about the Rosary, “It is thanks to this, but persevere!”

Perseverance—Yes, it is not always easy! To encourage us, Pope John Paul II wanted to place the 25th year of his pontificate under the sign of the Rosary. He is a radiant example for us of a person who prays the Rosary. “How many grace I have … received from the Blessed Virgin through praying the Rosary,” he was convinced in his Apostolic Letter. Mary is the great model of contemplation from whom we can best learn to fix our gaze on the divine Son. The Holy Father promises that we receive this Marian perspective full of faith and love when we pray the Rosary.

The Rosary leads us to the mysteries of redemption. In the hand of Mary we learn to base our lives on the Gospel and to work, like she, for the salvation of souls.

The first thing that the Queen of the Rosary asked the children in Fatima on May 13, 1917, was, “Do you want to offer yourselves to God and to accept all the suffering He will send you in expiation for all sins and for the conversion of sinners?” This question leads us directly into the mystery of coredemption, suffering and praying in the place of others. Without a full theological comprehension of this mystery, the visionaries agreed to this imploring request from heaven. Despite the fact that they were children, they became “masters” in the arena of coredemption, which Francesco and Jacinta brought to completion as radiant saints in their short life here on earth.
At the beatification on May 31, 2000 Pope John Paul II compared little Jacinta to the great Apostle Paul. The Holy Father said, “Jacinta could rightly call out with Paul, ‘Now I rejoice in the suffering that I carry for your sake. For the Body of Christ, the Church, I make up in my earthly life what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ’” (1 Col 1:24f).

Jacinta, the shepherdess child from Fatima, did not want to let any opportunity pass her by to pray and sacrifice for the Holy Father whom she saw suffering so much. Pope John Paul II knows; he also thanked these children after the assassination attempt was made against him.

I was also able to deeply experience the mystery of coredemption as a young seminarian. I come from Slovakia. You know that a heavy persecution of the Christians prevailed in the East for 70 years. When the atheistic, Communist regime came into power, as it was prophesized in Fatima, all bishops, the best diocesan priests and consecrated people were arrested: Franciscans, Salesians, Dominicans, and also us Jesuits. We were all taken to concentration camps or thrown into prisons. Later on, all the sisters, more than 10,000, were carried off to different work camps. Soon after that, thousands of lay people were taken as well, especially those who were employed in some way for the Church.

I was a theology student at that time. At midnight, the police paid a visit to our convent. Three policemen came into my room, because three of us slept in each room. They commanded us, “Get up and follow us!” Outside busses were waiting to take us away. Next to each religious person sat an armed policeman. That is how they brought us away.

I was afraid at this moment, not so much of the hard work that would await us in the camp because I was used to heavy labor. I was afraid that my highest ideal, the single greatest desire in my life—to become a priest—seemed like it would no longer be realized. How often with my life in danger during the bombing alarms did I fight with the Lord, “Let me live, let me live. Allow me, at least one time to celebrate the Holy Mass. Then I will be ready to die.”

I had the same fear and the same fight now in the bus that was leading us to the unknown. Maybe I would never meet a bishop who could ordain me a priest. I pleaded to God anew, “Let me live. Allow me to celebrate the Holy Mass at least once in my life.”
To liberate myself from this fear, I took my book of the Gospels, the last thing I stuck in my bag before leaving my room. I opened it and read to free me from being afraid. But what I read took my breath away. The first words my eyes fell on were, “Did not Christ have to suffer all this so as to enter into His glory?” (Lk 24:26)

When I understood this, my soul was filled with an inner peace and light like never before. This light gave us hope then in the camp too. So many priests could no longer practice their priestly service and they asked themselves, “What is our first responsibility as priests?” That we meditate the life of Jesus. Why did Jesus come upon the earth? To preach? No, the prophets also preached. To proclaim the kingdom of God? The Apostles could also do this. To work miracles? Yet Jesus said, “You will do still greater things.” So then, what was the deepest reason that he came to earth? The deepest reason for His coming to earth was our redemption through His sacrifice on the cross. This was His highest, priestly mission—His suffering and agony on the cross. We priests understood now that Christ does not expect us to celebrate his sacrifice in an unbloody way on the altar, but he wants us to unite ourselves with Him bleeding on the cross.

In this painful time at the camp, we often turned to Our Lady, “You became our mother on Calvary at the foot of the cross. You cannot leave us now alone.” And we united our suffering with her, the Coredemptrix.
The words of St. Paul gave us strength in this situation to better understand the meaning of suffering. He, who today would certainly have chosen the fastest and most modern means of transportation to bring the Gospel to all people, was in prison, condemned to passivity. And yet he wrote from prison, “It is for your good that I am imprisoned for Jesus Christ… Therefore I ask you not to loose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” (Eph. 3:1,13) Much more, Paul rejoices over the suffering he can carry for others because he knew, “For the body of Christ, the Church, I make up in my earthly body what is still lacking in the suffering of Christ!” (Col 1:24f)
We experienced in the prison the same situation as St. Paul where God let him know about the greatest mystery—Coredemption. We are all called to be coredeemers. As members of the mystical body we have the same mission as the head, Christ. We should also understand that when we accept our suffering as coredemptive suffering, then it goes with it that Mary will be recognized and honored in her vocation as Coredemptrix par excellence. For this reason, I wanted to dedicate my whole life to this if God would give me again my freedom.

Our Holy Father, John Paul II, also has a great love for Mary, who became our mother at the foot of the cross. In the first part of his pontificate, he gave her the title “Coredemptrix” six times because this title expresses so well Mary’s unique cooperation in her son Jesus’ plan of salvation.

How deeply the Holy Father spoke about the Coredemptrix a short time ago on his August 19, 2002 trip to Poland at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Calvary: “She who was linked to the Son of God by bonds of blood and by maternal love, there, at the foot of the Cross, experienced this union in suffering. She alone, despite the pain of her mother’s heart, knew that this suffering had meaning. She had trust – trust in spite of everything – that the ancient promise was being fulfilled: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel’ (Gn 3:15). And her trust was vindicated when her dying Son addressed her: ‘Woman’.”

Since the theology behind the title Coredemptrix is discussed very often, we should all know about the testimony Papal Theologian Georges Cottier gave in a worldwide videoconference on May 29, 2002. It was about the coredemptive vocation of Mary, this outstanding theologian reinforced how important it is to honor Mary with the title Coredemptrix. Only when we understand her coredemptive vocation in the right light do we recognize “how, likewise, the Church is proportionately coredemptrix” and “how every baptized person is called to participate in the mystery of redemption.”

Without devaluing the great theologians, I must admit that I do not know anybody who has written so deeply about the coredemptive vocation of Mary as Sr. Lucia in her book The Appeal to the Message of Fatima. She speaks in nine different contexts about Mary as Coredemptrix and clarifies the uniqueness and meaning of her coredemptive vocation. By the way, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has approved this book.

“From the beginning, the whole work of redemption went through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. … From that moment, when Mary with her freely spoken yes fully gave herself over to the will of God, namely when she answered the angel, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ from this moment on she became, in a certain way, the Coredemptrix for all of humanity.”
This calls to mind the October 5, 1952 message from Amsterdam, where the Lady of All Nations said that at the annunciation “she was the Coredemptrix by election … by the departure … of the Lord Jesus Christ she became Coredemptrix for the first time, … Jesus did say the words, ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ Through this gesture, Mary received this new title.”

Sr. Lucia further explains in her book, “God began the work of redemption in the heart of Mary, specifically in the moment she spoke her FIAT. … In this deepest unity for us humans, a child in the womb of its mother, Christ began the work of Redemption with Mary. From Mary, Christ received His body and blood, the body which would be offered up and the blood with would be spilt for the salvation of the world. Therefore, because Mary became fully one with Christ, she is the Coredemptrix of mankind. More than any other—even more than St. Paul—she cooperated in the redemption of Christ.

And Mary remained here on earth with the Apostles after the death of her Son to teach us all that coredemption is our first and most important task, explained Sr. Lucia.
Therefore, she encourages us to turn to our mother with full trust, “that she may pray for us, because her intercession is very pleasing to the Lord, the strength of her sending as Coredemptrix with Christ, and based on her exalted holiness.”

May the Lady of All Nations, who once was Mary, be our Advocate. Amen.