Once again, thanks is due to all the people who put in much hard work to make our Divine Mercy celebrations beautiful last Sunday afternoon. The Totus Tuus prayer group was at the center of the planning for confessions, the Mass, veneration of St. Faustina’s relic, and the meal afterwards. Then the Knights of Columbus assisted anybody venerating the relic. Thanks to everybody who put work into the beautiful music and serving for Mass, as well as everybody who helped with decorations in the church and in the basement, and everybody who helped with the food. I heard many great comments from out-of-town guests. Of course, some people said it was the best homily they had heard at this parish in quite a long time! Ha! Ha! For those of you who couldn’t attend, one of the guest priests preached 🙁
For five days after Easter Sunday, I went for a retreat and time of rest. One afternoon during the retreat, I watched a documentary called Discover Fatima. I thought it would be good preparation for our celebration of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal which we begin to celebrate in only a couple weeks. The documentary is very engaging. I hope you will watch it by means of our FORMED internet subscription. (And I hope everybody will spend some time exploring that website to realize how much is available for your own personal formation, and your family’s faith formation. There are even Catholic family and children’s movies, as well as resources in Spanish.) Below are some notes I took about the Fatima phenomenon:
-Fatima has been called the greatest miracle of the 20th century: i.e., Fatima’s miracle of the sun back on October 13th, 1917. More than 70,000 people witnessed the event. More than 4 million people visit the shrine each year in Fatima, Portugal.
-It all begain when three shepherd children made the startling claim that they had been visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary. The children claimed they had been entrusted with a secret, which was later revealed as a prophecy for all mankind. The shepherd children were Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia.
-The phenomenon happened in the context of World War I. On May 15, 1917 Pope Benedict XV had done everything to end the war, but nobody listened. He sent out a letter to all priests and faithful asking that prayers go up from everywhere to the Blessed Virgin Mary for peace. Eight days later the Pope received an answer. He learned about the apparitions, which had been prepared for earlier in the spring of 1916 when the three children saw the apparition of an angel.
-The angel told them not to be afraid, because he was the angel of peace. He taught them prayers, and also the importance of reparation, and making sacrifices. (We will be using these prayers on the 13th of each month, May-October, as we observe the 100th anniversary of Fatima with the whole Church.) He appeared three times, the last time giving them Holy Communion as the center of their lives. This prepared them for the coming of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
-In the Cova de Iria, Fatima, May 13, 1917, the children were looking after the sheep. They saw a storm coming, because there was a flash of lightening. After a second flash of lightening, a vision of a beautiful Lady appeared over a small tree. Lucia wrote in her memoirs that the Lady was more beautiful than the sun. The Lady said not to be afraid, that she was from heaven, and that they were to come there on the 13th of every month for the next five months, at which time the Lady would say who she is and what she wants them to do.
-The lady told them of the need for sacrifice and prayer. Also, they saw the light coming from her hands, and they knew that she said they were going to heaven. Lucia (the oldest) insisted they not tell anybody of the apparition, because she thought people would not believe. But in her excitement, Jacinta could not control herself in the presence of her mother; so she told her everything. When Lucia’s mother heard, she was especially disbelieving and very hard on Lucia. And she took Lucia to the parish priest, who suggested that perhaps the visions were from hell, since the Lady did not send her right to the priest.
-News about the apparitions started spreading, and the crowds became greater.
-On June 13, the Lady showed them her Immaculate Heart, surrounded with the crown of thorns. The thorns represented the sins of humanity. She also promised them that they would go to heaven, Francisco and Jacinta first, and soon. But she said Lucia must stay a little while longer in order to spread the message of her Immaculate Heart. The crowd in June was about 20,000 people.
-It was in the apparition of July when the Lady promised she would do a great miracle in October. This was also the apparition where she gave them the famous secret, divided into three parts. It began with a vision of hell. Then she told them that hell is where the souls of poor sinners go; and to save them they must spread devotion to her Immaculate Heart. The heart of Our Lady is a way to get to God…..Then our Lady said that if people do not stop offending God, there will be a second world war, which will be worse than the first. She said to pray the rosary for peace, and she asked for conversion and penance. (More of the secret is covered later.)
-As the final apparition date approached, October 13th, many reporters visited, hoping to prove the phenomenon false. On October 12, there was a huge rain that turned everything into mud, yet still there were thousands of people coming to Fatima through the mud and stormy weather.
-Eye-witnesses recalled the following: There was a column of bluish smoke which rose from the children and was very visible to the naked eye. The smoke dissipated abruptly (in less than a minute probably), but then came back a second and third time. Then the final apparition of our Lady occurred, and she called herself the Lady of the Rosary, which fit perfectly, after her asking in each of the other apparitions that the rosary be prayed. Then St. Joseph appeared holding the baby Jesus, and the Child blessed the world. At about this time, the crowd began to see the sun spinning around. The chief editor of the biggest newspaper in Portugal said he fell to his knees and asked forgiveness, because he believed he was going to die. Everybody was amazed that they were able to stare at this fiery disk spinning, with its amazing intensity of brightness and heat; and yet their eyes were not burned or damaged. The sun was making strange, abrupt moves, shaking at times in a way that simply is beyond cosmic laws. The sun danced, and it spewed off all colors of the rainbow. Then the sun rushed towards the earth, and many thought it was the end of the world. (The documentary shows actual photographs from the day of the people looking up into the sky.) Then the sun returned into the sky where it belonged, and people realized that the ground around them and their own clothes, which had been so soaked from the rainstorm through the night and into the morning, were now totally dry.
-The miracle of the sun was seen for some 600 square miles around Fatima. Furthermore, some of those who came to scoff at, and deny the phenomenon ended up having to admit it, because they experienced the miracle themselves. Also significant for veracity is the fact that it was predicted, the exact time and place, months ahead of time. The children never could have done this on their own.
-Jacinta and Francisco both died in 1919 during the influenza epidemic. Francisco had said, “I loved to see the Angel. And what I truly loved was to see our Lady. But what I truly loved most was to see Jesus, with that light that our Lady put in the heart.”
-On May 13, 2000 Pope John Paul II visited the shrine of Fatima to beatify Jacinta and Francisco. Over one million people attended the celebration. And there John Paul II announced that he would reveal the third part of the secret of Fatima.
-The third part was a vision of the pope leading bishops, priests and the laity through a city in ruins, and up a mountain to a crucifix. When the pope knelt before the crucifix, he was murdered with bullets and arrows. And after him, many others were killed with bullets and arrows. Under the cross were two angels that were collecting the blood shed by these martyrs in the vision. And that blood would provide help for those who wanted to get to God: the blood of the martyrs.
-John Paul II became convinced that the third secret of Fatima actually referred to him and the attempt on his life which occurred on May 13, 1981. He visited Fatima on three occasions. On two occasions he had the Fatima statue brought to Rome. He consecrated the world to our Lady of Fatima. Finally, he had the bullet which had been taken from his assassination attempt placed into the crown of our Lady of Fatima.
-Lucia died on 13 February 2005, at the age of 97. She had been in a Carmelite monastery in Spain for decades.
-Fulton Sheen wrote: “Fatima is not a warning – it is a hope. While man lifts the little atom which he splits to annihilate a world… Mary swings the sun like a trinket on her wrist to convince the world that God has given her the greater power over nature, not for death, but for light and life and hope.” (Remember, WWII was predicted in the apparition, and involved the atomic bomb.)
There are some facts related in the documentary Discover Fatima. I had to cut out a couple more pages of notes, for lack of space. I hope you can watch the documentary.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,