By Michael Ogunu
Introduction: In this article, I shall define the concept of “Living Water” and show how Catholic men and women can be carriers of living water to a world thirsting for peace.
“Living water” is a biblical term which appears in both the Old and New Testaments.
In Jeremiah 2:13 and 17:13, the prophet describes God as “the spring of living water”, who has been forsaken by his chosen people Israel. Later, the prophet Zechariah describes Jerusalem as a source of “living water”, “half [flowing] east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter” (Zechariah 14:8).
In John's Gospel, the phrase is attributed to Jesus speaking with the Samaritan woman whom he meets at Jacob's Well in Sychar:
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
Living water was strongly associated with the presence of God. Many times in the scriptures, God is called the source of living water.
The Saviour's promise to that woman extends to all of our Heavenly Father's children. By living the gospel of Jesus Christ, we develop within ourselves a living spring that will quench eternally our thirst for happiness, peace, and everlasting life. The Lord explains clearly in the Holy Scripture that only faithful obedience to God can tap the well of living water that refreshes and enlivens our souls: “But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life”.
Our contemporary world is a world that is suffering from great spiritual thirst. Many in the world are searching, often intensely, for a source of refreshment that will quench their yearning for meaning and direction in their lives. They crave for a cool, satisfying drink of insight and knowledge that will soothe their parched souls. Their spirits cry out for life-sustaining experiences of peace and calm to nourish and enliven their withering hearts.
The Lord provides the living water that can quench the burning thirst of those whose lives are parched by a drought of truth and peace. He expects us to supply to them the fullness of the gospel by giving them the scriptures and the words of the prophets and to bear personal testimony as to the truth of the gospel to alleviate their thirst. When they drink from the cup of gospel knowledge, their thirst is satisfied as they come to understand our Heavenly Father's great plan of happiness.
As at Jacob's well, so today the Lord Jesus Christ is the only source of living water. It will quench the thirst of those suffering from the drought of divine truth that so afflicts the world. The words of the Lord to ancient Israel spoken by the prophet Jeremiah describe the condition of many of God's children in our own day: “My people … have forsaken me the spring of living waters, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer.2:13). Too many of our Heavenly Father's children spend their precious lives carving out broken cisterns of worldly gain that cannot hold the living water that satisfies fully their natural thirst for everlasting truth.
The Message of Fatima and the Present Crisis in the World
On May 13, 1917, our Blessed Mother appeared to three shepherd children (Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta) in Fatima. She appeared to them again on June 13, July 13, August 19, September 13 and October 13.
After twelve years of investigation, the Bishop of Fatima, on October 13, 1930 declared the Apparitions to be “supernatural”.
During the course of her apparitions, Our Lady delivered very important messages to the children to announce to the world. One of the messages was her request for daily recitation of the Rosary. It was in the July 13 Apparition that She made her most prominent request: She requested for the Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays of the month. She indicated that if Her requests were carried out, Russia would be converted and there would be peace. But should Her requests be ignored, Russia would spread her errors throughout the world promoting wars and persecuting the Church. The good people will be martyred, the Holy Father would have much to suffer and various nations would be annihilated, but in the end Her Immaculate Heart would triumph because the Holy Father would eventually consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart; the country would be converted and a time of peace would be conceded to the world…”
In reality, what Our Lady was telling us through the three shepherd children is that the peace of the world has been conceded to Her and enumerated the conditions for world peace. Let us look at each of the messages which together constitute her peace plan from heaven:
Stop offending God
Our Lady told the children that people must stop offending God, “because He is already so much offended”. Looking at the world today, can we say that mankind has stopped offending God which is an essential condition for peace? Definitely not. On the contrary, we are having the greatest upsurge in the following abominable and pernicious sins against the Divine Majesty: abortion, homosexuality, pornography, rape, adultery, sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, terrorism, kidnapping, euthanasia and other horrible crimes. All these sins crying to heaven for vengeance are thorns piercing the Immaculate Heart of Mary and provoke God to punish the world with a terrible chastisement.
Pray the Rosary every day
Our Lady repeated the command “Pray the Rosary” in each and every one of her apparitions at Fatima and promised that praying the Rosary (devoutly) everyday would bring peace to the world…
The Rosary is the most powerful weapon in the spiritual battle that is raging today between the forces of God led by the Powerful Valiant Woman of the Revelation, and the forces of Satan.
Do Penance and Offer Sacrifices for the Salvation of Souls
The Virgin told the three shepherd children that many souls go to Hell because no one offers sacrifices to Jesus for their salvation. In 1943, Sr. Lucia disclosed that on a Thursday midnight, when she was in the Chapel with her Superior's permission, Our Lord said to her: “The sacrifice required of every person is the fulfilment of his duties in life and the observance of My law. This is the penance I now seek and require”. Sacrifice not only saves souls from eternal damnation but shows Jesus how much we love Him. By it, we remove the thorns that pierce the Heart of Mary.
Practice Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
In the second apparition of Our Lady to the three shepherd children on July 13, 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary said, “Jesus wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to all those who embrace it and these souls will be loved by God like flowers placed to adorn His throne”. We should practice devotion to the Immaculate Heart and try to get others to do so. (How this should be done is described in detail in the writer's new book titled Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary – Practices and Prayers)
Practice the Five First Saturdays Devotion of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Our Lady told Sr. Lucia, “I promise to help at the hour of death with the graces needed for salvation those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the Rosary and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the mysteries, with the intention of making reparation to my Immaculate Heart”. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is pierced with thorns because of the five major blasphemies and offences committed against it.
The blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception;
Blasphemies against Her Virginity;
Blasphemies against Her Divine Maternity and for the offences of those who refuse to recognise Her as the Mother of all mankind;
Blasphemies of those who try publicly to implant in the children's hearts indifference, contempt and even hate against this Immaculate Mother;
The offences of those who insult Her directly in Her sacred statues.
By practising the First Saturday Devotion, we are removing the thorns.
Practice Purity and Modesty in Dress and let Marriages be in accordance with the will of God
Our Lady communicated this message to Jacinta before her death, in the following words:
“The sins that lead most souls to hell are the sins of the flesh” (that is, sins of impurity).
“Certain fashions will be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much”.
“Priests must be pure, very pure. They should not busy themselves with anything except what concerns the Church and souls. The disobedience of priests to their Superiors and the Holy Father is very displeasing to Our Lord”.
“Many Marriages are not good; they do not please Our Lord and are not of God”.
“Tell everybody that God gives His graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask graces from her, and that the heart of Jesus wishes to be venerated together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the Lord has confided the peace of the world to her...”
Evidence of Increase in Violence, Terrorist Attacks, Wars and Persecution of the Church
Our Lady came to Fatima to warn us that great evils would come upon the world if we do not lead good lives and offer reparation for the sins of mankind by prayer and sacrifice. These evils would include war, famine and persecution of the Church, as well as of the Holy Father. She exhorted Her children to become fervent in working for the salvation of souls, for whom Christ Her Son died so painfully and yet so lovingly upon the Cross. Our penances and prayers for others are central to Our Lady's message because She identified the salvation of souls as the key to peace in the world. Today do we have peace? No, sadly, not in the world, not in our cities and towns, not even in our individual lives.
Terrorist attacks are reported all over the world on daily basis. Some terrorist groups are fighting in the name of religion. These include AL QUEDA, ISIS, BOKO HARAM, TALIBAN, TAMIL TIGERS, ISIL, AL SHABA, etc. Several countries in the world today have become theatres of blazing furnaces of intractable wars and terrorist bombings. These include Syria and Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, Central African Republic, Latin America etc.
Our Lady warned at Fatima that there would be wars and persecution of the Church and that the Holy Father would have much to suffer. Pope Francis stated recently that the 21st Century has seen more Christians under siege for their faith than during the time of the early Church. “There are many martyrs today, in the church, many persecuted Christians”, said the Pope during a Mass in honour of Christian martyrs who were killed under Roman Emperor Nero. “Think of the Middle East where Christians must flee persecution, where Christians are killed. There are more witnesses, more martyrs in the church today than there were in the first centuries”.
A few examples of staggering statistics of Christian persecution corroborates the Pope's assertion.
600,000 plus – Sudanese Christians murdered by Islamic government in 1963
1,200,000 – Catholics and 'underground church' Christians died in Soviet Union in 1925
450,000 plus – Yugoslav and Serbian Orthodox & others by Nazi and Soviets up to 1990s
200,000 – Christians executed during Korean War and by North Korean Communists 1950-2000
To put flesh and blood on those statistics, all one has to do is look around. In Baghdad, Islamic militants stormed the Syriac Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation on 31 October 2010, killing the two priests celebrating Mass and leaving a total of 58 people dead. Though shocking, the assault was far from unprecedented; of the 65 Christian churches in Baghdad, more than 40 were bombed at least once during the 2003 US-led invasion.
India's north-eastern state of Orissa was the scene of the most violent anti-Christian pogrom of the early 21st century. In 2008, a series of riots ended with as many as 500 Christians killed, many hacked to death by machete-wielding Hindu radicals; thousands more were injured and at least 50,000 left homeless. Many Christians fled to hastily prepared displacement camps, where some languished for two years or more.
An estimated 5,000 Christian homes, along with 350 churches and schools, were destroyed. A Catholic nun, Sister Meena Barwa, was raped during the mayhem, then marched naked and beaten. Police sympathetic to the radicals discouraged the nun from filing a report, and declined to arrest her attackers.
In Nigeria, the militant Islamic movement 'Boko Haram' is held responsible for more than 3,000 deaths since 2009, including 800 fatalities in 2012 alone. The movement has made a speciality out of targeting Christians and their churches, and in some cases they seem determined to drive Christians out altogether from parts of the country.
In December 2011, local Boko Haram spokesmen announced that all Christians in the northern Yobe and Borno states had three days to get out, and followed up with a spate of church bombings on 5 and 6 January 2012, which left at least 26 Christians dead, as well as two separate shooting sprees in which eight more Christians died. In the aftermath, hundreds of Christians fled the area, and many are still displaced. Over Christmas 2012, at least 15 Christians are believed to have had their throats cut by Boko Haram assailants.
Catholic Men and Women as Carriers of Living Water to a World that Thirsts for Peace
Catholic men and women can be carriers of living water to a world that thirsts for peace by living the Message of Our Lady of Fatima in the following ways at personal and community/parish levels thus implementing her peace plan from heaven.
They should stop offending God who is already too much offended by the sins of men and women. They should receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Go to Confession) regularly and amend their lives. They should also avoid all types of sin, especially the sins of impurity and immodesty, pride, envy and jealousy, corruption, character assassination and neglect of their daily duties.
They should pray the Rosary everyday (with their families) as requested by Our Lady, meditating on the mysteries in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the conversion of sinners, for their own salvation and the salvation of all mankind and for peace in the world.
They should be faithful in their performance of their daily duties and offer the sacrifices that such fidelity entails as acts of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the sins they (Catholic men and women) have committed and for the sins of the whole world.
They should also practice the First Saturday devotion in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and encourage others to do so. They should encourage their priests to initiate parish/community practice of the devotion in the same way as the First Friday devotion. Our Lady asked for this devotion in order to bring about the complete conversion of Russia, peace in the world and the triumph of her Immaculate Heart. Our Lord asked that we observe Five First Saturdays more than once. Because this devotion requires great commitment, it combines prayer with sacrifice into a powerful means of grace.
Pray daily for peace in our world and for our fellow Christians who are under persecution in non-Christian countries on account of their faith. Like some of the early Christians, many are executed daily for proclaiming Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
They should do whatever they can to make their marriages succeed according to God's plan and also help other marriages to succeed.
They should help those in need who turn to them for help as well as others who do not come to them but whom they know are suffering untold hardships and need their help.
Almighty God tells us in Holy Scripture that the Blessed Virgin will defeat the devil, his followers and plots: “I will put enmity between thee and the Woman, and thy seed and her seed: She shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel”. (Gen. 3:15). In Her appearances at Fatima, the Mother of God solemnly promised us final victory over the forces of evil in our own time. “In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph”.
At the heart of the Fatima Message is the promise of peace which the Blessed Virgin offers to all men and women of faith and good will. In both its simplicity and its universality, Our Lady's Message is a unique Heaven-sent opportunity for all people everywhere to work for a real, lasting peace in our homes, churches and nations. Catholic men and women should live the message of Our Lady of Fatima and propagate her peace plan from heaven to be genuine carriers of living water to a world that thirsts for peace.
Prof. Michael Ogunu is also the Coordinator of the Fatima Apostolate in Africa and a Member of the International Board of Trustees of the World Apostolate of Fatima.