May 12, 2016

May 13th: Optional Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima
The Blessed Virgin Mary is venerated under this title following apparitions to three shepherd children, Lúcia, Jacinta and Francisco, in Portugal in 1917. The message of Fatima includes a call to conversion of heart, repentance from sin and a dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially through her immaculate heart. This optional memorial is new to the United States' liturgical calendar and occurs on May 13.

The appearance of our Lady to the children at Fatima is an event of great consequence. Our Lady's warnings are those of a mother spoken out of love for her children. In these visitations, Mary urges humanity to reject sin and to pray unceasingly. Our Lady extolled the power of the daily Rosary for conversion and repentance. She told Lúcia, Jacinta and Francisco that many people go to Hell because they have no one to pray or make sacrifices on their behalf. She then showed the children a glimpse of Hell which Sr. Lúcia describes in her book, Memoirs:
[Mary] opened Her hands once more, as She had done the two previous months. The rays [of light] appeared to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a vast sea of fire. Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of the damned]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke. Now they fell back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fright (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, Who at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear.
The accounts of the three seers are private revelations, not the infallible Word of God. Nonetheless, their testimony and the Church's ecclesiastical approbation of the apparitions as "worthy of belief" cannot be dismissed. Nearly a century later, the message of Fatima is just as urgent today. Let us heed Mary and avail ourselves of God's mercy.

Our Lady of Fatima

The famous apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the children of Fatima took place during the First World War, in the summer of 1917. The inhabitants of this tiny village in the diocese of Leiria (Portugal) were mostly poor people, many of them small farmers who went out by day to tend their fields and animals. Children traditionally were assigned the task of herding the sheep.

The three children who received the apparitions had been brought up in an atmosphere of genuine piety: Lucia dos Santos (ten years old) and her two younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta. Together they tended the sheep and, with Lucy in charge, would often pray the Rosary kneeling in the open. In the summer of 1916 an Angel appeared to them several times and taught them a prayer to the Blessed Trinity.

On Sunday, May 13, 1917, toward noon, a flash of lightning drew the attention of the children, and they saw a brilliant figure appearing over the trees of the Cova da Iria. The "Lady" asked them to pray for the conversion of sinners and an end to the war, and to come back every month, on the 13th.

Further apparitions took place on June 13 and July 13. On August 13 the children were prevented by local authorities from going to the Cova da Iria, but they saw the apparition on the 19th. On September 13 the Lady requested recitation of the Rosary for an end to the war. Finally, on October 13, the "Lady" identified herself as "Our Lady of the Rosary" and again called for prayer and penitence.

On that day a celestial phenomenon also took place: the sun seemed to tumble from the sky and crash toward earth. The children had been forewarned of it as early as May 13, the first apparition. The large crowd (estimated at 30,000 by reporters) that had gathered around the children saw the phenomenon and came away astounded.

Official recognition of the "visions" which the children had at the Cova da Iria came on October 13, 1930, when the bishop of Leiria - after long inquiry - authorized the cult of Our Lady of the Rosary at the site. The two younger children had died: Francisco (who saw the apparition but did not hear the words) on April 4, 1919, and his sister Jacinta on February 20, 1920. Sister Lucia died on February 13, 2005, at her Carmelite convent in Coimbra, Portugal, after a long illness.

Excerpted from Dictionary of Mary, Catholic Book Publishing Company.

Collect Prayer

O God, who chose the Mother of your Son to be our Mother also, grant us that, persevering in penance and prayer for the salvation of the world, we may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer to Our Lady of Fatima

O Most Holy Virgin Mary, Queen of the most holy Rosary, you were pleased to appear to the children of Fatima and reveal a glorious message. We implore you, inspire in our hearts a fervent love for the recitation of the Rosary. By meditating on the mysteries of the redemption that are recalled therein may we obtain the graces and virtues that we ask, through the merits of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. Amen.


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