Some recent musings...
I recently picked up a small book about Our Lady of Fatima. It's a pretty basic overview of the story of Fatima (when Mary appeared a number of times to three Portuguese children in 1917, giving them important messages for the world), but still the most in-depth account of the apparitions I've personally read.
They took this message very seriously, and for the rest of their lives (very short ones, in the case of Jacinta and Francisco), found many ways to offer sufferings for this purpose. The book shares a few examples of some of the simple ways they found to do this: giving their lunch to poor children (and thus being hungry themselves for most of the day), not taking a drink of water even when they were very thirsty, and wearing a length of rope tied around their waists (under the clothes, almost like a hair shirt).
One line in the book mentioned that the children "acquired a very lively understanding of the admirable dogma of the Communion of the Saints." This refers to the teaching that the Catholic Church is made up of three parts: those souls who are in heaven (the "Church Triumphant"), those in Purgatory who are being purified for Heaven ("The Church Suffering") and those faithful on Earth ("The Church Militant"). I began reflecting on this, particularly on the duties of us members of the Church Militant.
Of recent years, I've come to see the purpose of life here on earth as basically a battle (hence the term "militant") to save one's own soul and - depending on his Vocation - the souls entrusted to him. So in my case, I have the duty to help my husband and children get to Heaven as well.
But thinking of it now in the context of Our Lady's teachings at Fatima, I think I'm understanding for the first time that I also have a real responsibility to all those other souls on earth who are in danger of rejecting God and going to Hell.
It's so easy to forget about this. I had come to imagine that the only way I could have a positive impact on other's souls was by being a good apologist for the Church - being able to convince people through logic of the truths of the Faith. Deciding that wasn't a skill I possessed, I had thought this removed my obligations to all those other sinners on Earth (of which, of course, I am certainly one). "As long as I'm striving to live a holy life, and teach my children to love God," I thought, "I'm doing what I'm supposed to. I don't have the time to volunteer for this or that charitable organization...I don't have much money to donate to the missionaries I might like to", etc. etc. All this time, I wasn't remembering Our Lady's message to us. I spend so much time lamenting the distressing state of the world and the pervasiveness of sin and corruption as if it's everyone else's fault. But what have I been doing to offer reparation for these sins? What graces have I been trying to win for those souls at risk?
Even if I never left my house for the rest of my life, and never spoke to anyone in the world besides my own husband and children, I could still be helping sinners. It only takes my prayers and sacrifices, offered for their sake.
Although I've been praying it for years, Ihad also forgotten the origin of the prayer [called, appropriately, "The Fatima Prayer"] Mary asked us to include after each decade of the Rosary:"O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy"