The pope lauded the three young visionaries of Fatima, saying they had “an experience of grace.” At the same time, the pontiff insisted that Christian faith does not depend upon such dramatic confirmation.
God, the pope said, “has the power to reach us through the interior senses, so that the soul receives the gentle touch of a reality that lies beyond sensible things.” To perceive that invisible presence of God, Benedict said, requires “an internal vigilance of the heart.”
That disposition to seek God’s “gentle touch,” the pope said, is precisely what’s often missing in the modern world.
“Who has the time to listen to God’s word and to be carried away his love?” the pope asked. “Who stays vigilant, in the night of doubt and uncertainty, with a heart extended in prayer? Who awaits the dawn of a new day, keeping the flame of the faith alive?”
The perennial need to rekindle those qualities, the pope said, means that the “prophetic mission” of Fatima is never extinguished.
What does it mean to have "an internal vigilance of the heart?" What does it mean to be vigilant?
The Latin word "vigil" means "awake, watchful." To be vigilant is to practice those qualities of watchfulness implied by the root word; thus, to cultivate "an internal vigilance of the heart" is to attune the heart to God's presence, to remain interiorly awake despite the dulling of the spiritual sense by the cares and needs of daily life, to be capable of a spiritual watchfulness which understands God's hidden workings in the everyday world.
It is to seek to become more and more like Mary, who, as Scripture puts it, "...treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19) To her concrete and physical vigilance over the well-being of the Child she bore, the Blessed Mother added the spiritual vigilance that stored up God's work and reflected upon it. Her example is ours to follow.
When we seek God's presence, spend time with Him in Adoration, have frequent recourse to the sacraments, and otherwise turn our hearts toward Him, we are learning the habits of vigilance. When we take time to pray, setting aside our earthly tasks to present to God, like trusting children, our needs and cares, we are learning how to be vigilant. When we ponder and reflect on our days, seeing signs of God's actions in our lives which, perhaps, we were not aware of at the time, we are better equipping ourselves to keep the vigil of expectation.
If we do these things with love and devotion, we are drawing ever closer to being able to perceive the invisible presence of God--not in some emotional or tangible way, necessarily, but through the eyes of faith, which has been strengthened and nourished by our vigil-keeping.
Because we do not know the day or the hour when we will see Him, we must be vigilant. The noise and clamor of the world is all too ready to crowd out the faithful promptings of the heart in love with God; we must withdraw to that place of interior peace and stillness, and be ready to listen to His voice, whether it comes to us as a clap of thunder or the smallest and most subdued of whispers.