The 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima

(CNS photo/Rafael Marchante, Reuters)

(CNS photo/Rafael Marchante, Reuters)

On Saturday, the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, the devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary that fills the hearts of the faithful and the Church Universal will become even more intense with the 100th anniversary celebration of those events in the meadow of Cova da Iria that are as remarkable today as they are mysterious. It was one hundred years ago, May 13, 1917, that the poor shepherd children Lucia Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto experienced what Juan Diego and Bernadette Soubirous did before them. As they would later report, on that day and again each month until October 13, a radiant Lady in white appeared and spoke to them.

From the beginning, it has been understood that the Lady was our Blessed Mother Mary and as part of the festivities marking this historic day, Pope Francis is making a pilgrimage to Fatima, just as many popes and millions of faithful have before him. While there, he will celebrate a Mass for the Canonization of Francisco and Jacinta, who were only 10 and 9 when then died in 1919 and 1920, respectively.

During her appearances, the children said, the Lady asked with a mother’s heart for penance, conversion, and prayer, particularly the Rosary, for the salvation for souls and for peace. She also shared visions with them and warned that there would be much suffering in the world – horrors even greater than those of World War I, which was then raging – and that the Church would suffer a time of violence, persecution, and martyrdom. Yet, she also offered the blessed hope of her Immaculate Heart that these evils would be overcome with persevering faith, self-sacrifice and prayer.

During his own pilgrimage to Fatima, Pope Benedict XVI offered this observation: “At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations, races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the Love of God burning in her own heart.”

The Immaculate Heart of Mary is at the center of the meaning of Fatima and as previous popes have, Pope Francis re-consecrated the world to her Immaculate Heart on October 13, 2013. This heart, a “Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God,” said then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his earlier Theological Commentary on Fatima, “is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind.”

The message of Fatima thus invites us to open our hearts like Mary to the Lord and his triumphant love, and trust in the promise of Jesus: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).