Ralph Martin recently spoke on the subject of Fatima to a group of junior high students at Spiritus Sanctus Academy (SSA) in Plymouth, MI. Anilu Seromik, a Renewal Ministries’ staff member and teacher at SSA, shares a glimpse of this talk and the unexpected response the students had to the message.
I had the most inspiring week when Ralph came to talk to my students recently. I have been teaching at a small, private Catholic school for many years and I love the junior high students. They are fun, engaging, not too sophisticated yet, and they make me smile and laugh often.
If you have ever seen a group of 71 kids between the ages of 11 and 14 right after lunch and recess, you know they can be quite a squirmy bunch. That afternoon, the students were mesmerized by Ralph’s talk. It was amazing. You could hear a pin drop!
Ralph started his talk by telling the kids that he had prayed the rosary for them that morning. He talked for about 30 to 40 minutes, asking the students along the way if they knew what this or that word meant and making sure they were understanding by asking them questions every so often. Some of us teachers were there and we were just as riveted by his sharing as the kids were.
When Ralph finished, we had time for questions and answers. The kids had some really good questions…
“Why do you think Mary appears to kids?”
“Could we offer a plenary indulgence for Maria, the girl that Mary said would stay in purgatory till the end of times?”
“Why couldn’t Francisco hear Our Lady speak?”
The students could have gone on longer with their questions, but we had to end.
Since it was the Feast of All Dominican Saints and our school is run by Dominican sisters, at the end of the day our principal went from classroom to classroom offering each student a couple of Oreo cookies to celebrate the feast day. One of the boys went to grab a cookie and then pulled his hand away. The principal asked,
“Is there something wrong? Don’t you like Oreos?” He hesitantly responded, “No, I do, I just want to do a little sacrifice in reparation for sins.”
The next day, one of the teachers told me that all of the boys had decided to give up water during basketball practice as a sacrifice, prompted by the same student who had given up his Oreos!
After the talk, I asked the students to write thank you notes to Ralph. The notes started piling up a couple of days later. Here is a sampling of those notes:
“I hope you can tell other kids about Fatima.”
“I realized that, even though I am young, I can start making sacrifices now.”
“I feel inspired to make sacrifices now and to pray more.”
“Your talk helped me realize that sins, even one, can lead into Purgatory or Hell. I will strive to be more like the children of Fatima.”
“Your talk encouraged me to look for ways I can offer up things for reparation of sins and your talk has led me to have a closer relationship with Jesus and the Virgin Mary.”
“I was really struck by the sacrifices the children made…It makes me want to do more sacrifices for the world.”
One of the boys said that the talk inspired him to “make right choices” when temptation comes to his mind and that he tries to think of the children of Fatima and remind himself to “make good choices.”
As Ralph was speaking to the students, he quoted the passage from Matthew 18:3: “Unless you become like little children…” I was struck by the fact that all along I kept thinking about how good this was for my students to hear, yet here God was speaking to me directly: He wants me to have the openness and simplicity of my students, to remain little!
One girl’s letter was particularly moving. She wrote, “When you said that Our Lady looked at Francisco with compassion and sadness and (you) said she might have been suffering, that made me realize that everyone, not just myself, has suffering in their lives and that we need to offer up our suffering to God and pray for others to be healed.”
Ralph’s talk had a profound effect on the kids, judging by their notes and their actions. They were moved immediately to respond to Our Lady’s message with love and generosity.
Ralph mentioned that we often try to shield kids by not telling them about Hell. Nevertheless, here Our Blessed Mother showed these little children a vision of Hell which moved them to sacrifice, prayer and repentance. I am so excited that I got to see first-hand how this message was received by my students and it was no coincidence that I was there, Our Lady wanted me to hear it again and know that it is just as “new and urgent” today as it was a hundred years ago.