This Saturday, May 13, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima. A few years ago, I had the chance to visit this most famous of Marian shrines while in Portugal. In the morning I visited the home of the three children and in the evening we participated in the traditional candlelight Mass and procession.
From May 13 to October of 1917 the Blessed Mother appeared to the three shepherd children Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia. It was the request of Our Lady of Fatima that the children offer the rosary daily for the reparation of sins. The children encouraged all to participate in this daily recitation of the rosary for repentance and deeper holiness. The Lady at the apparitions asked us especially to remember our own individual judgment and that one day we shall stand before God to give an account for our lives. As Bishop Barres reminds us in his Pastoral Letter on this 100th anniversary “Our Lady of Fatima confronts each of us with the Truth that our lives on earth are short and fragile and that every one of us will meet Jesus at our death for our individual judgment.”
On May 13, 1981 Pope John Paul was shot four times while entering St. Peter’s Square outside of the Vatican by the Turkish Mehmet Ali Agca. It was the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. John Paul was soon to forgive the assassin for his attempt on the Pope’s life. When the Pope’s doctor later presented him with the bullet extracted from his body the doctor was at odds to explain how the bullet could have taken such an odd trajectory. It seems that the bullet should have struck the Pope’s heart, but took “some other path” and came to rest just next to John Paul’s heart. There was no explanation for this anomaly, and so John Paul’s famous statement: “One finger fired the bulletin, but another finger directed the path.”
If you visit the famous statue of Fatima you will notice something of great interest. One year to the day after the assassination attempt upon his life Pope John Paul visited the shrine of Fatima to give thanks that his life was saved through her intercession. At that visit, John Paul presented to the Blessed Mother the very bullet that had struck him and had rested next to his heart. If you look very closely you will see that bullet prominently displayed in her crown.
And so, this Saturday Pope Francis will canonize the three children of Fatima: Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia. After a century they give us new vigor and inspiration to persevere in prayer, in particular the rosary itself. Let us not allow this centenary anniversary to pass without heeding the renewed call to pray the rosary daily, especially during this month of May. May Mary bestow upon us the gift of “dramatic missionary growth” here in the Church of Rockville Centre and across the world.
– Fr. Gerard Gordon