St. Mary Roman Catholic Church at 210 West Main Street, Manchester, MI 48158 US - Fr. Tim's Pilgrimage and "Our Lady of Fatima"
|Fr. Tim's Pilgrimage and "Our Lady of Fatima"|
The Experience of Fatima
On October 4, 5 and 6th I had the privilege of visiting Fatima, Portugal where Our Lady appeared in 1917 to three shepherd children and identified herself as Our Lady of the Rosary. Each evening the rosary is prayed in the Chapel of the Apparitions, which is a glassed in chapel over the place where Our Lady appeared. Within this chapel on the precise place where the Mother of God appeared is a marble pillar with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Pilgrims gather from all over the world to fulfill the command of our Lady to pray the rosary. The rosary is prayed in many different languages. As the rosary comes to its conclusion a similar statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried on a bier cover with beautiful fresh flowers in solemn procession around the expansive piazza of the basilica built to honor Our Lady of Fatima.
As we were preparing for the rosary to begin on the evening of October 5th, I was asked to help carry the bier with the statue in the procession. There were sixteen men chosen to form four groups of four to carry the statue for a quarter of the procession. The procession was led by a six-foot tall illuminated cross followed by the priests, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and the people. All who were in the great procession carried candles and sang accompanied by the organ the Fatima Hymn to Our Lady of the Rosary. As the refrain "Ave Maria" was sung the pilgrims raised their candles to the heavens. What a powerful experience this was for me. I was convinced that the reason why I was one of the men chosen to carry Our Lady upon my shoulders was so that I would tell my parishioners about Fatima and encourage their devotion to Our Lady and the Most Holy Rosary.
On May 13, 1917, three children were pasturing their little flock in the Cova da Iria. They were called Lucia de Jesus, aged 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged 9 and 7. About midday, after praying the rosary, as was their custom, they were amusing themselves building a little house of stones scattered around the place where the basilica now stands. Suddenly they saw a brilliant light, and thinking it to be lightening, they decided to go home. But as they went down the slope another flash lit up the place, and they saw on the top of a holmoak (where the Chapel of Apparations now stands), "a Lady more brilliant than the sun," from whose hands hung a white rosary.
The Lady told the three little shepherds that it was necessary to pray much, and she invited them to return to the Cova da Iria during five consecutive months, on the 13th day at that hour. The children did so and on the 13th day of June, July, September and October, the Lady appeared to them and spoke to them in the Cova da Iria. On the 19th of August, the apparition took place at Valinhos, about 500 meters from Aljustrel, because on the 13th the children had been carried off by the local Administrator to Vila Nova de Ourem.
At the last apparition, on October 13, with about 70,000 people present, the Lady said to them that she was the "Lady of the Rosary" and that a chapel was to be built in her honor. After the apparition all present witnessed the miracle promised to the three children in July and September: the sun, resembling a silver disc, could be gazed at without difficulty and, whirling on itself like a wheel of fire, it seemed to fall upon the earth.
Afterwards, when Lucia was a Religious Sister of Saint Dorothy, Our Lady appeared to her again in Spain (10 December 1925 and February 15 1926, in the Convent of Pontevedra, and on the night of 13/14 June 1929, in the Convent of Toy), requesting the devotion of the first five Saturdays (to pray the Rosary, meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, confess and receive Holy Communion, in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary), and the Consecration of Russia to the same Immaculate Heart. This request had been announced by the Apparition on 13 July 1917, in what is called the "Secret of Fatima."
Years later, Sr. Lucia related that between April and October of 1916, an Angel had appeared to the three seers on three occasions, twice in the Cabeco and once at the well in the garden behind Lucia’s house, who exhorted them to prayer and penance. Since 1917 pilgrims have not ceased to come to the Cova da Iria in thousands upon thousands from all parts of the world, at first on the thirteenth of each month, later during the summer and winter holidays, and now more and more at weekends and any day all the year round.
Sr. Lucia is the only remaining of the three seers who is still living and is 97 years old. Francisco Marto died a saintly death on 4 April 1919 and Jacinta Marto died a holy death on 20 February 1929. Francisco and Jacinta were proclaimed Blessed by Pope John Paul II, in Fatima, on 13 May 2000.