How to teach the faith through generations? In researching Fatima, "It was all there, waiting."
Writer Tom Hoopes, a regular contributor here at Aleteia, has been helping us to anticipate the centenary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima with a number of pieces on the topic, including this very affecting personal testimony. Here he gives us the low-down on his latest release, the Fatima Family Handbook, which he hopes will be an intergenerational tool for teaching the faith and the important message of mercy we hear at Fatima.
1) What inspired the book?
I don’t want to overstate it, but I really do think this book was inspired by the Holy Spirit through the intercession of Our Lady. Three events came together to bring it about.
First, the school year at Benedictine College has been emphasizing the 100th anniversary of Fatima a lot. We started a daily Rosary at our Grotto, and hosted a Pilgrim Virgin statue of Our Lady of Fatima for a 40-hours prayer event on Election Day. The 100th anniversary of Fatima is our commencement day and we are incorporating a statue, medals, and more into the day.
The night of the election, I visited Our Lady of Fatima in St. Benedict’s Abbey here, and memories came flooding back about Our Lady of Fatima’s role in my own life. As I recount in one recent column, my own falling away from the faith as a child had to do with a misunderstanding about mercy, and Fatima was the final piece that brought me back. I thought mercy was automatic; Fatima taught me that mercy is impossible without conversion. I feared that the beautiful Year of Mercy was being misunderstood by some in the same way.
Simultaneously, the college has been growing closer with an old friend of mine: Father Michael Gaitley. It seemed like everyone I knew was suddenly reading his books, especially 33 Days to Merciful Love, You Did It to Me (a practical guide to the works of mercy) and 33 Days to Morning Glory. I was struck at the powerful channels of contemporary Catholic spirituality Father Mike was tapping into that I had not exactly noticed before: consoling the heart of Jesus, reaching out to sinners and consecrating yourself to the Blessed Mother.
So, all of these things were swirling around in my brain when I started my own personal Fatima project in my columns at Aleteia. I wanted to make the argument that God had placed the 100th anniversary of Fatima after the Year of Mercy on purpose: He wanted us to appreciate Faustina’s ocean of mercy in the light of Fatima’s lake of fire. I wrote about sin and about saying the daily Rosary.
But I started to get truly excited by Fatima when I reviewed the apparitions and what the angel and Our Lady said to the children. Fatima was all about the same three strains of spirituality so many of us are discovering in Father Mike’s books: consoling Jesus, converting sinners and consecrating yourself to Mary (the “three Cs of Fatima”). It was all there, waiting.
I knew I had to get the word out about how to apply these lessons to your life — and what better occasion than the Church canonizing Francisco and Jacinta, and telling all of us to imitate them?
2) If you could give this book another title, what would it be?
We actually played with a lot of different titles. We wanted to stress that this isn’t “just another Fatima booklet.” This is meant to be a practical tool families can use to be inspired by and apply the dramatic message of Fatima to your real, daily life — and not just your daily life, but for the whole world. None of my titles captured everything: “Help Our Lady Change the World” didn’t talk about the personal dimension. “Our Lady’s Plan for My Family” didn’t talk about the larger goal.
Some possible titles became section heads in the book, like my favorite that Raymond Arroyo picked up on in his endorsement of the booklet: “Children Can Change the World.”
3) What person in this book do you most personally identify with?
You may notice that the book mentions Francisco a lot. Usually Jacinta is the star of the show — she is a beautiful soul — or perhaps Lucia. But Ken Davison at Holy Heroes and I really identify a lot with Francisco. He is kind of the underdog of the Fatima story — an average kid who got caught up in this and responded in faith. This is kind of who each of us is. A person of no particular special qualities who happened into the Church’s channels of grace and got an opportunity to do something extraordinary.
4) Did writing this book teach you anything?
Yes! Again, I hate to overstate, but I am really doing a lot of things differently since writing this book. It has forced me to focus on my actions, on my thoughts, and do what I can to help in this great project of consoling Jesus, converting sinners, and living as a son of Mary.
5) If there is one person you want to reach with this book, who would that be?
My wife and I have been impressed with Holy Heroes products for years because they do something we see too little of: Give moms and families profound spiritual opportunities in a professional, attractive, doable form. I love the idea that the effect of these books can be multiplied by the number of total persons — little kids, big kids, mom, dad, grandparents — in a family. If even a dozen take up Our Lady’s challenge, I believe absolutely that the world will change. After all, it only took three Portuguese children last time.
6) What is the ideal beverage to have in hand while reading your book?
Well, fitting with the audience I just spelled out: I would say a juice box, a soda, a cup of tea, a beer and, what, a Metamucil? Or, better yet: Something you can give away, in order to offer an extra sacrifice to console Jesus and sacrifice for sinners like Mary!