Centennial of the Apparitions of Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima 1This year the Catholic Church celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the events in Fatima, Portugal, witnessed by three shepherd children who reported that they saw visions of Mary beginning on May 13, 1917, and then again on the 13th day of the next five months.

While tending sheep in a field, Lucia dos Santos and her two younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, reported seeing a woman dressed all in white, “more brilliant than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal glass filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.”

Frightened by her appearance, she calmed them by saying: “Please don’t be afraid of me, I’m not going to harm you.” Calling herself “Our Lady of the Rosary,” Mary asked the children for penitence, conversion, and prayer – particularly the Rosary, for the salvation of souls and for peace. She shared with them visions and warned them that there would be much suffering in the world – horrors even greater than those of World War I, which was taking place at that time, and that the Church would suffer a time of violence, persecution, and martyrdom. She also called for all people to live a life free from fear – believing that these evils would be overcome with preserving faith, self-sacrifice and prayer.

Because of the 1918 influenza epidemic in that area of the world, the two younger children did not live very long after the apparition events. Francisco, who asked if he could receive his first Communion on his deathbed, passed away on the following day – April 4, 1919. Jacinta died on February 20, 1920, at age 9, after an unsuccessful operation for an abscess in her chest.

Lucia became a postulant at the convent of the Institute of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy at Pontevedra, Spain, but later entered the Carmelite convent in Coimbra, Portugal, where remained until her death in 2005 at 97 years of age.

On October 13, 1930, Bishop Jose Alves Correia da Silva of the Diocese of Leiria-Fatima announced the results of an investigative commission and formally approved the apparitions. Every pope since that time has recognized these events and has emphasized the importance of Our Lady of Fatima and the devotion to her Immaculate Heart.

In the approved appearances of Mary, our Blessed Mother invites us to a renewed faith in the Gospels and the authentic teachings of the Church. She asked us to hear the Word of God attentively and witness it in our lives. She urges us to be prayerful people.

The focus of Mary’s life was on doing the Father’s will, giving Christ to the world, praying under the guidance of the Spirit and living in the heart of the Church. She does nothing different in her genuine appearances. Mary asks us to do just what she did. She never contradicts any of the teachings of the Church in the requests that she makes in any of her appearances.

This is the framework that the Church uses for pondering the numerous new alleged appearances of Mary in recent times – including Holy Love in North Ridgeville which is NOT sanctioned by the Catholic Church. In fact, the Catholic Church has admonished the Catholic faithful “to cease gathering for any religious, liturgical, spiritual, or devotional purpose on the site of Holy Love Ministries.”

Saint John Paul II believed that he was saved from the assassination attempt in Saint Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981 by Our Lady of Fatima. The next year, he took a bullet fragment that had entered his body and had it placed in the crown of the famed statue of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. On that day, May 13, 1982, Saint John Paul II beatified Jacinta and Francisco – and when they are canonized as saints this Saturday, May 13, 2017, they will become the youngest non-martyred saints in church history. EWTN will have a variety of specials this week, including the Mass of Canonization on Saturday morning.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the normal five-year waiting period to begin the canonization process of Sister Lucia. She has not yet been beatified.

Fatima has become an important place of pilgrimage with nearly five million people coming to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. I was there on a pilgrimage in 1983, and was touched by the depth of faith of the pilgrims and their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

The message of Fatima invites us to open our hearts like Mary to the Lord and his love for all people, and trust in the promise of Jesus that he will be with us always. The centennial anniversary of these apparitions is a reminder of the central message of the Gospels, calling us to conversion and bringing us closer to Christ.

The Cleveland Division of the World Apostolate of Fatima is sponsoring a “Centennial Conference” on July 28 & 29, 2017 at the Embassy Suites in Independence.

A Diocesan Mass celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the apparitions of Fatima will take place on Saturday, October 7, 2017, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, at 10:00 am at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist. 

May 10th, 2017 |