Following is the homily Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., preached during the Mass celebrated May 13, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The Mass, which was offered for the intentions of health care and essential workers, was livestreamed without a congregation in St. Joseph Church, part of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Keyport. The Mass can be viewed on the Diocese’s YouTube channel.

From the cross, the Lord Jesus gave John the beloved disciple to his Mother Mary – “Woman, there is your son” – and his Mother Mary to John – “There is Your Mother.”  In this marvelous exchange and dialogue, in Jesus’ last words and dying gift, a relationship was established between the Mother of God and the Church represented by John. From those precious moments to the present day, the Church has always turned to Mary in times of need.

The current pandemic offers yet another critical time in human experience to turn to the Mother of God in our desperation and need. And in this experience of recent months – the public health crisis that continues to engulf the world – we offer to the Lord Jesus through his Mother, the souls of those who have died from the coronavirus and those who still suffer, as well as their families. The Church, on this Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, is moved to lift up to her loving intercession those who have cared for the victims of COVID-19: those on the front lines of health care, their staff and volunteers; those who provide so many services in our institutions for healthcare; those who provide food; those who provide essential services; those who are on the front lines, our first responders and emergency personnel, in this pandemic. Today is dedicated to them and for them through Our Lady of Fatima.

Between May 13 and October 13, 1917, three Portuguese shepherd children received apparitions of Our Lady near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon. Mary asked the children then to encourage the Church to pray for a world engulfed in war. The world today is engaged in another kind of war, against an invisible yet hostile, deadly enemy. Another kind of army has responded to the call to arms, taking up the weapons of modern medicine and compassionate care to stop this enemy in its tracks, to lead it quickly to defeat. Today, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima inspires us to pray for those who are spending their every day, their every hour caring for the sick, working to bring the coronavirus to an end. At Our Lady’s invitation, pray the rosary.

As we celebrate the Eucharist together today – a word which literally means “thanksgiving,” let us join in grateful prayer for all our sisters and brothers who give such amazing service to those suffering in this pandemic, keeping us healthy and safe. God bless and protect them. God bless and protect us all.