By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness
Pray for the conversion of hearts – as the Blessed Mother instructed at Fatima – and the world will change.
That’s the message that author and award-winning journalist Susan Brinkmann told some 900 attendees at the diocese’s third annual Women’s Conference.
Ms. Brinkmann’s message was not only one of hopefulness, but also one of experience. Once a self-described “birth control pill-popping pro-choice feminist,” her heart was converted to the Church and to the Eucharist.
Taking the stage at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg Oct. 14 – one day after the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s final appearance to the shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal – Ms. Brinkmann presented her keynote: “The Message of Fatima for Today’s Woman.”
Pointing to Mary’s messages of sacrifice, reparation, conversion and the acceptance of suffering, Ms. Brinkmann reiterated the words of St. John Paul II, who said that the message of Fatima is more urgent today than it was in 1917.
“That isn’t hard to believe, when you look around at the battlefield of our world right now. The institution of marriage and the family, and the national morality in general is in shambles,” she said, [and] “if there was ever a time that we needed Mary, it’s now.”
“Fatima gives us direction. It tells us where to go to get help and have hope, and that is to Mary and the Blessed Sacrament,” said Ms. Brinkmann, staff journalist for Women of Grace and a frequent guest on EWTN.
We are given the help we need to offer ourselves to God and bear all our sufferings as an act of reparation and of supplication for the conversion of sinners, as the Blessed Mother challenged in her message, so to enjoy the fruits of peace.
That help is found in grace, Ms. Brinkmann said.
“The Bible tells us that, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. I am the perfect example of that,” said Ms. Brinkmann, who, in 1991, was a pro-abortion feminist, career girl and divorcee who despised the Church.
A struggling author for 14 years, she turned to New Age practices and the so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” which portends that financial and physical wellbeing are always God’s will for people, and that they can receive it through increasing faithfulness.
Increasingly frustrated by the lack of prosperity, Ms. Brinkmann soon wondered where that teaching could be found in the Bible. As she turned the pages, she came across one of the Psalms of David: “You are my defender. You are my strength. You are my helper. You are my hiding place.”
“I remember thinking, ‘I could use somebody like that,’” Ms. Brinkmann said. “Despite who I was at that time, I felt inexplicably drawn to that God, who I called ‘David’s God.’”
She began to read the Bible every night, and soon started attending Mass every Sunday.
She read Mulieris Dignitatem, St. John Paul II’s 1988 Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women. It celebrated the feminine genius, the complementarity of men and women, and Mary as the prototype of the human race.
“Never had I heard women spoken about in such exulted terms,” Ms. Brinkmann remarked.
“I finished that document, and I sobbed,” she said. “Deep down inside, I was ashamed from the promiscuity I was engaging in, under the guise of liberation and empowerment. Until that moment, I was carrying the burden of that shame all alone, [but] for the first time, someone was telling me that this deeply hidden shame wasn’t all my fault. That was when I really started to love David’s God.”
She read Humane Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1968 Encyclical on Human Life. “I discovered I deserved something more in life. My beloved feminism crumbled,” Ms. Brinkmann said. She found God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
“If God’s grace could get me that far in life, it can certainly help us live the message of Fatima,” Ms. Brinkmann said.
The first sacrifice Mary asked of the three shepherd children was to pray the Rosary every day for peace in the world.
“In a world where terrorist attacks are occurring every other month, abortion providers are killing millions of unborn babies and selling their baby parts, Christians are being murdered and being driven out of their homelands,” Ms. Brinkmann asked, “can the Rosary still be the answer? Yes!”
The Blessed Mother also asked for reparation for the sins which offend God.
“We take it upon ourselves to make up for the offenses that are made to our God,” Ms. Brinkmann explained. “Reparation is very powerful, especially when it’s combined with prayer. And it can be little things. For example, whenever you hear someone taking the Lord’s name in vain, say in your heart, ‘I’m sorry, Jesus.’”
The message of Fatima also calls us to pray for the conversion of sinners.
“I was finally able to receive the Eucharist when I returned to the Church, and I believe it’s because someone out there was praying for me,” Ms. Brinkmann said. “I believe it was Our Lady and all the people who follow the message of Fatima and the call to pray for the conversion of sinners.
“Praying for the conversion of hearts is the most efficient way to pray. It will get rid of all the ills of mankind,” she told the crowd.
“A converted heart doesn’t commit abortion. It doesn’t engage in promiscuity. It doesn’t lie or cheat or steal. A converted heart isn’t dishonest, greedy, selfish, lustful, angry. It doesn’t seek revenge. It doesn’t hold grudges. It doesn’t brag,” Ms. Brinkmann said. “If you pray for the conversion of hearts, there goes abortion, violence, drug addiction, adultery, domestic abuse.
“Say one Hail Mary a day for the conversion of hearts, and watch how this world changes,” she challenged.
Reprinted with the kind permission of The Catholic Witness
Do the young women in your family think the Church is a “dinosaur”? So did Susan! Her conversion story, written with candor and a lot of humor, just might give them second thoughts. Click here for more information.