May 10, 2017

Centenary of the Fatima Message

May 13, 1917

Centenary of the Fatima Message

"Unless you become like little children..."

“Throughout history there have been supernatural apparitions and signs which go to the heart of human events and which, to the surprise of believers and non-believers alike, play their part in the unfolding of history. These manifestations can never contradict the content of faith, and must therefore have their focus in the core of Christ's proclamation: the Father's love which leads men and women to conversion and bestows the grace required to abandon oneself to him with the devotion of a son or daughter. This too is the message of Fatima which, with its urgent call to conversion and penance, draws us to the heart of the Gospel.” (Tarcisio Bertone, SDB. Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)

The apparitions of Mary at Fatima in 1917 rest, not so much in the many miracles associated with the events. Instead it offers the specific Christian response necessary to save humanity from a downward spin into self-destruction.

In 1916, God sent an angel to prepare the three children to whom Our Lady would soon appear. The children’s names were Lucia and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta. The angel identified itself as the Angel of Peace and spoke to the children about the loving hearts of Jesus and Mary. The angel also told them to pray and make sacrifices to make up for the sins of others and for the conversion of sinners. The angel appeared on one occasion with the image of a chalice and the Holy Communion host, and bowing before these outward signs paid homage to the Heavenly Body and Blood of Jesus Christ presented before the children in these sacramental forms.

When, in the following year, beginning on May 13, 1917 our Blessed Mother appeared to the three children, she did so at a time in history when socialist governments where persecuting and mocking the Church, both locally in the town and villages and through out the world. Our Lady promised that the whole world would be in peace, and that many souls would go to Heaven if her requests were listened to and acted upon. She reminded the children that war is the consequence of sin. Failure to turn to God, to do penance for sins and pray for the conversion of sinners would ultimately lead to wars, hunger, persecution of the Church and persecution of the Holy Father, the Pope.

To convince the world that Our Blessed Mother’s message was from God, she told the children she would affect a miracle that everyone would see and therefore believe. News of this spread like wildfire throughout Portugal, unbelievers sneering at the prediction and those hostile to the Church calling it a hoax in the making. Before 70,000 witnesses who came from all over the country, including secular newspaper reporters and atheistic government officials, on October 13, 1917, believers and non-believers alike witnessed the sun dance, it rotated, got large and small, it spun down towards the 70,000 people, then shot back up into the sky. In the sight of this miracle of the sun, thousands on that day dropped to their knees begging God to forgive their sins.

Of the three children Our Blessed Mother appeared to, little Francisco and Jacinta were both victims of the Great Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918-20. They died at the tender ages of nine and ten years old. Pope Francis has traveled to Portugal, not only to commemorate the centenary of the Fatimas apparitions, but also to declare as saints, the little children Francisco and Jacinta.  Lucia, when she later became of age, entered a convent becoming a nun and later became a close confident of the late Pope, St. John Paul II who attributes Our Lady of Fatima with the saving of his life from the assassin’s bullet on that fateful day in St. Peter’s Square, also on this date May 13th, in 1981.

There are countless reports, stories and books written about the apparitions and events of Fatima in 1917. In the dialogue between Our Lady and the children during the apparitions, the constant theme is the need to foster a life of prayer, to do penance in reparation for the sins against God, to pray in particular for the conversion of sinners and to recite the Rosary very day, drawing from it the great resources of God’s grace as we meditate and contemplate on the mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of our Blessed Lord, Son God and Son of Mary.

The message of our Lady of Fatima is very relevant today as it was 100 years ago.  The apparitions took place when anti-catholic and socialist governments were set on destroying the Church and eroding her influence in public life. Of course, the laws of any country might proclaim freedom of religion, but through an entanglement of lawyers and constitutional amendments and court room challenges, we can see how a hostile legalistic environment that prevents religious faith expressing itself in public, might be used to prevent it influencing the minds and hearts of ordinary men and women who might, in turn, be convinced of the truth of the Gospel message.

In many respects, the hostility of many to the Catholic faith comes from a fear of hearing the call to conversion, repentance and to live a life faithful to the Commandments of God.  Our loving Creator's desire is always to protect our freedom, while securing our human dignity. This, we should never be afraid of.

When our Blessed Mother appeared to the children, and entrusted them with visions and heavenly secrets, she told them not to be afraid. Because Jesus, from the cross, asked us to take Mary as our Mother into our homes, we too, now as her children, must listen to her voice which points us to prayer, penance for our sins and those of the whole world. 

If this message could be entrusted to three little children who braved every obstacle to live in their own lives the call to conversion and who were not afraid to do so, let us hope that we too can be courageous in living our own faith in every circumstance and through every challenge. 

Let us hope that we will do so in such a way that our own example, our thoughtfulness and devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be reflected, not only in our lives, but through our public witness to gently transform the culture we live in, into a place where , regardless if there be a separation of church and state, there can never be a separation between heaven and earth (through Jesus Christ our Lord).

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