Fatima awaits centenary

West Wyalong parish priest Father Emil Milat and Bolo Farm Shrine hermit Brother Dominic Levak OFM, are among many Australian Catholics counting down the days to the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima in May.

The pair will journey to Fatima for the anniversary, going alongside Helen and Ian Brown, Norma O’Connor and Barry Hoban, from Moruya.

They will join Pope Francis and hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world at the world-renowned place of pilgrimage in Portugal on May 12 and 13.

The Pope will celebrate Sunday Mass as the high point of the commemoration.

From May 13, 1917, Our Lady visited three children, Lucia dos Santos, 11, Francesco Marto, 9 and Jacinta Marto, 7, while they were looking after sheep in a field.

The six apparitions that year took place on the 13th of the month.

Francesco and Jacinta died aged 10 and 9 respectively, and their feast is celebrated every year on February 20.

Lucia died on February 13, 2005, and the cause for her canonisation was opened on February 13, 2008.

Initially the children struggled to convince their families and those in positions of authority in the Church of what they had seen.

They were questioned at length on the authenticity of the visions.

On May 3, 1922, the Bishop of Leria (Fatima), Jose Carreia da Silva, opened the official investigation into the apparitions, which were declared worthy of belief on May 13, 1930.

Fatima has drawn much attention over its 100 years, mainly because of its devotional nature and the prophetic messages concerned with it.

The messages given by Our Lady which St Pope John Paul II called “the greatest of modern times”, are centred on consecration and conversion, prayer and repentance, fasting, reparation and peace.

Mystery surrounded the “Third Secret” which is explained in detail on the Vatican website at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html

Fatima is where Our Lady became known as the Immaculate Heart of Mary – a “triumphant” title which adorns many Catholic churches worldwide.

In the third apparition on July 13, 1917, she said that God wishes to establish in the world devotion to her Immaculate Heart and that she would come to ask for the communion of reparation on First Saturdays.

Our Lady then said: “My daughter, look at my heart surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, try to console me, and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death with all the graces necessary of salvation, all those who, on the First Saturday of five consecutive months go to confession and receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of The Rosary and keep me company while meditating on mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.”

In the sixth apparition on October 13, Our Lady performed the “miracle of the sun” in front of 70,000 onlookers, who had become curious about the chain of events.

Along with Lourdes in France, Jasna Gora in Poland and several other apparition sites, Fatima continues to be regarded as one of the better known pilgrimage and tourism sites for Catholics and non-Catholics.

It has had a profound impact on the Church, with many people claiming to have had a conversion experience through Our Lady’s messages at Fatima.

Bega parish priest Fr Michael Lim will lead a pilgrimage from his country of origin Singapore in April.

“The devotional message of Our Lady at Fatima has deeper significance to us believers and a remedy for the malaise of the ills of this modern world,” he said.

“It calls us to the core of the Gospel, repent and believe in the Good News, ie, the conversion of human hearts through repentance of our sins.”

A large statue of Our Lady of Fatima stands in North Goulburn parish, which has the only church in the Archdiocese that bears the patronage of Our Lady of Fatima.

An indulgence can be gained by visiting a statue of Our Lady of Fatima solemnly exposed for public veneration in any church, oratory or proper place during the days of the anniversary of the apparitions, between May 13 and October 13 this year.

Those seeking an indulgence must also pray an Our Father, recite the Creed and invoke Our Lady of Fatima.

Catholic Voice is looking to hear from parishioners intending to travel to Fatima for the centenary celebrations, as well as those who would like to recount significant personal experiences they have had there.

Contact John at Catholic Voice, telephone 0400356177 or email john.mclaurin@cg.org.au

Harvest Pilgrimages have a number pilgrimage options to Fatima. To learn more call 1800 819 156 or go to www.harvestpilgrims.com

Catholic television station Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) is showing a live broadcast with commentary of events at Fatima over the centenary weekend. To learn more about getting EWTN installed go to www.ewtn.com.au

There are many books and DVDs on the topic, while you can also learn more at http://www.fatima.org/