The statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried during the closing procession of a Mass at the Marian shrine in Fatima, Portugal.
Jose Manuel Ribeiro/Reuters, cns
Father Sullivan's spiritual experience
with Our Lady of Fatima
Rev. Jim Sullivan
The deepest spiritual experience I ever had in my life occurred at Fatima. It was June, 1999, and I was a seminarian leading a pilgrimage to Fatima, Lourdes and Paris. Fatima was our first stop.
And I felt something else. I felt the presence of Our Lady. This was my first visit to a Marian shrine, and I guess I was susceptible to the graces that flow anyplace Our Lady has been. I felt her presence unmistakably. Like nothing I had ever experienced before. It was almost as if I could see her, talk with her, touch her. I lay there awake, just resting in her presence for some time.
We got in toward evening, and we were tired, because of the long flights from California, and many of my pilgrims went to bed after dinner at our hotel. I wanted to see the evening candle-lit rosary procession, however, and I went out to the main plaza in front of the great church and made myself stay awake for it. I got back to the hotel exhausted and fell asleep within minutes of hitting the pillow.
The next morning I woke early. The bright summer morning sun was streaming through the French doors off my room's balcony. I had left the doors open overnight and the white filmy curtains lifted in the breeze.
Beyond the balcony I heard birds singing. The sunlight poured into the room, along with the fresh morning air and I felt the deepest sense of peace, of serenity, of safety. It is hard to describe the tranquility I experienced.
And then I began to pray. I prayed for my pilgrims and our pilgrimage. I prayed for my family and friends in California. I prayed for "poor sinners, who have no one to pray for them" — Our Lady's urgent request of the three shepherd children at Fatima.
I prayed for my future priesthood, and I felt that Our Lady told me it was under her direction. I spent more than two hours that morning — never getting out of bed — in prayer with Our Lady.
Fifteen years later I remember it as if it were yesterday. I love Fatima. I love Our Lady of Fatima!
(Father Jim Sullivan is parochial vicar at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood.)
back to top