May 13th will the 100th anniversary of the first Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima to the three seers, Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco and Sister Lucia dos Santos*.
Of all the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, those of Our Lady of Fatima are among the most famous. On 13 May 1917, the seers took their sheep to graze near the Portuguese farming town of Fatima when they saw a figure of a woman dressed in white, holding a rosary. After this first appearance, the Blessed Virgin returned on the 13th of every month from May until October, with a message calling the faithful to repentance, reparation and prayer, and a warning of dire consequences should the requests of Heaven not be heeded.
In 1930, Holy Mother Church proclaimed the supernatural character of the Apparitions and a shrine was erected at Fatima. It was visited by Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and millions of lesser personages including Walt and a number of his agents.
Many years ago, Ven. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen devoted one of his famous TV talks to the Fatima Apparitions. (The program includes clips from the 1952 Warner Bros. movie, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima. Click here to see the trailer for the movie.) He pointed out that everything God does, including the Apparitions, is done for a reason. So we may ask ourselves, why Fatima, and whether the Message of Fatima has any relevance for us, nearly a century later.
Readers with some knowledge of Islam will recognize "Fatima" as the name of the youngest daughter of the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam. She is the object of the veneration, love, and respect of all Muslims. During the Islamic occupation of the Iberian peninsula (711-1492 AD), a Muslim chieftain who ruled the region named an obscure village in what is today northern Portugal after his daughter, who in turned was named after Mohammed's daughter.
Why would the Blessed Virgin choose to appear in such a place, "the middle of nowhere"? Why not Lisbon, or Madrid, or Rome? The answer may well be that She chose to appear at Fatima as a sign that Islam will one day be converted. That's what Ven. Bishop Sheen believed, and since the Message of Fatima is about the conversion and salvation of souls, that's what we should believe and pray for. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
* Footnote: The cause for the beatification of Sister Lucia dos Santos is nearing success. The Catholic News Agency reported last month that 15,000 pages of evidence have been collected, over the course of eight years, and will soon be sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints for approval.