100 years later, Fatima message rings true

Archbishop Aquila

On May 13, 1917, three children named Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta were grazing their family’s flock of sheep when the Virgin Mary appeared to them atop a small oak tree. She came to them with a message: their prayers and sacrifices could help stop World War I and rescue people who were suffering because of their own sins. What a beautiful and hopeful message!

The apparitions of the Blessed Mother continued for six months, always occurring on the 13th of the month. When Lucia, the oldest of the children, asked Our Lady what she wanted of them, her reply was simple – pray the Rosary every day for peace and an end to the war.

From the very first encounter, Our Lady of Fatima’s words also had an eternal dimension to them. Lucia, speaking for the other children, asked if each of them would go to Heaven. Mary replied that both Jacinta and Lucia would, and that after many saying Rosaries, Francisco would too. When Lucia asked about two of her friends who had died, she learned that one had gone to Heaven but the other was in Purgatory.

It was at this point that the Virgin Mary asked, “Will you offer yourselves to God, and bear all the sufferings He sends you? In atonement for all the sins that offend Him? And for the conversion of sinners?” The three shepherd children responded, “Oh, we will, we will!”

Taking up this mission is something every believer should do, especially in the month of November, when the Church dedicates itself with a special intensity to praying for the dead and those in need of conversion. This is one of the spiritual works of mercy every Christian can do.

We should not naively think that this will be easy, however. When Our Lady heard the children’s reply she said, “Then you will have a great deal to suffer, but the grace of God will be with you and will strengthen you.” At that point, she extended her hands and lights bathed them, flooding the small shepherds with an awareness of God’s presence and calling forth their love for him.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s appearances at Fatima, there is a final related aspect of her message that I would like to underscore: the revelation that God wants to save people from going to Hell by establishing devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart throughout the world. In her July 13 apparition, Mary showed the three children a vision of Hell and then appeared to them holding “a heart encircled with thorns which appeared to pierce it.” The children understood from that encounter that “it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary offended by the sins of mankind, craving reparation.”

The message is this: that Mary wishes to assist us, through her Immaculate Heart, in bringing the world back to God. Mary’s deepest desire is that the world come to know the mercy and love of her Son. That every human being may encounter him and put their faith in him.

With the attention-grabbing imagery and distractions that can fill our lives, it’s easy to forget this reality. It’s easy to lose track of eternity and the ability we have to make an impact upon it, both for ourselves, for others and the world. One needs to look no further for proof of this than Our Lady of Fatima’s promise that the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart and the offering of Communions received every first Saturday would save the world from Russia spreading her errors and the Church from the ensuing persecution. In 1991, the officially atheistic Soviet Union dissolved.

With the state of our world and the suffering that we see around us, it might be tempting to think our own small sacrifices and prayers won’t make a difference. But we should remember the words that the Angel who visited the shepherd children before Mary appeared. “The hearts of Jesus and Mary have merciful designs for you. You must offer your prayers and sacrifices to God, the Most High.”

We have been blessed in our Archdiocese to have Our Lady of Fatima parish designated by Pope Francis as a pilgrimage site during this 100th Anniversary of Fatima. Between October 23, 2016 and October 24, 2017, the faithful may visit the parish and receive a plenary indulgence under the conditions explained in this edition of the Denver Catholic. I encourage you, too, sometime during the year to pray with the book, 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Father Michael Gaitley. Through praying with the book you will come to a deeper relationship with our Blessed Mother.

Let us seek to grow in love and in our relationship with the Trinity and with Mary, and moved by that love offer sacrifices and prayers for our families, friends and enemies, both in this month and throughout the coming anniversary year.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

COMING UP: Fatima Parish entrusted with ‘great responsibility’

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Fatima Parish entrusted with ‘great responsibility’

Holy Door opened on 100th anniversary of Marian apparition

Aaron Lambert

As this Jubilee Year of Mercy comes to an end, the graces will continue to flow into the Archdiocese of Denver as another Jubilee Year opens at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Lakewood.

On Oct. 23, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila celebrated a special Mass opening the Our Lady of Fatima pilgrimage year and designating the parish as a pilgrimage site until Oct. 24, 2017. The designation comes as one of several celebratory events the parish is hosting over the next year as part of the Fatima centennial celebration. Oct.13, 2017, will mark the 100th year since Our Lady appeared to the three young shepherds in Fatima, Portugal.

In being declared a pilgrimage site, a Holy Door was also opened at Our Lady of Fatima. The Holy Door will have a plenary indulgence attached to it for the faithful to receive upon the fulfillment of certain conditions.

“In the midst of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, it is a great joy to open another Jubilee Year for Our Lady of Fatima Parish and for the Archdiocese of Denver,” Archbishop Aquila told the congregation during his homily. “My dear sisters and brothers, you are entrusted with a great responsibility in this year of pilgrimage. The parish is to be one that invites people to prayer.”

Our Lady’s apparition to the three young shepherds at Fatima has become one of the Catholic Church’s most popular devotions. Archbishop Aquila explained that the message of Our Lady of Fatima had two parts.

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A parishioner prays in front of a newly-donated statue of Our Lady of Fatima at Our Lady of Fatima Parish. The parish was designated a pilgrimage site Oct. 23 in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparition in Fatima, Portugal. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

“That two-fold message was first to honor her, to honor her Immaculate Heart, to honor her as the Mother of God,” he said. “And then secondly, to pray the rosary for the conversion of sinners.”

He emphasized Mary’s importance in the tradition of the Church, saying that “the reason we honor Mary is because the Father himself honors Mary. He has chosen her from all eternity to be the Mother of God. She is highly favored by God himself”

In addition to Fatima, Our Lady has appeared in several apparitions throughout history, including Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and Our Lady of Lourdes in France. Archbishop Aquila pointed out that these apparitions are meant to point the faithful toward Jesus.

“Look at her motherly love in all of the apparitions. It is as if the Father is saying, ‘If my son is not enough to convince your heart, let the mother of my son convince your heart,’” Archbishop Aquila said. “Look at the constant gifts she has bestowed upon the world in her apparitions.”

As part of the Fatima Centennial celebration, Our Lady of Fatima hopes to facilitate 1,000,000 rosaries prayed by the close of the pilgrimage year Oct. 24. The parish has a counter on a website dedicated to the centennial celebration, fatimacentennial.com. As of this writing, the counter reads over 678,000 rosaries prayed.

Plenary indulgence

To receive the plenary indulgence, one must visit OurLady of Fatima Parish in the form of a pilgrimage, and engage in some pious practice in honor of Mary. One must end with praying the Our Father, the Creed, and an invocation to Our Lady of Fatima.

Those unable to visit the Parish may, in the presence of an image of Our Lady of Fatima, unite themselves spiritually to a Jubilee activity.

For both, the following conditions must be met:

  1. Go to confession
  2. Receive the Eucharist
  3. Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father