|November 20, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 20 • Oakland, CA|
Message of Fatima still relevant for the world today
The experience of the world is hard right now.
The Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima occurred between May 13 and Oct. 17, 1917 to three shepherd children (St. Francisco, St. Jacinta and Blessed Lucia). The apparitions occurred when the experience of the world was also hard: in the midst of a very bloody World War I. Mary brought the children a message of prayer and penitence, telling them to have hope, and that peace would come. The message of Fatima is still relevant for the world today.
Being present in Fatima, Portugal, for the Centennial celebrations on Oct. 13 was the first stop on the Catholic Voice-sponsored Marian pilgrimage. The pilgrimage began in Portugal at Fatima, moved east across Spain (with visits to sites of Marian apparitions in Guadalupe and Zaragoza, as well as a few days to explore Madrid) and ended in Lourdes, France.
As with any opportunity for travel, new friendships were made, new cultures and food experienced, and many exciting and interesting sights seen. However, as a pilgrimage we also celebrated Mass at the sites visited, prayed together, sought to grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus through his beautiful mother Mary and had many early mornings and late nights as we traveled the length of Spain to reach the places of Marian apparitions.
Each day of the pilgrimage had memorable moments and pleasant surprises of its own. But truly one of the highlights of the trip was being present in Fatima for the Centenary celebrations.
On that day, with tens of thousands of pilgrims, we celebrated Mass with 36 bishops and 1,070 priests.
During the course of the 3½-hour celebration (which began with a procession of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, and concluded with Exposition and Benediction) you couldn't help but notice that different pilgrim groups had brought with them their national flag. Hundreds of countries were represented from around the world; notably flying were the flags of the United States of America, China and Russia.
As beautiful as the Mass was, the candlelight procession that evening was the moment most of the pilgrims talked about. That evening some 80,000 pilgrims gathered on the esplanade between the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima and the Church of the Holy Trinity.
Once again flying national flags, and now each carrying a lit candle, we processed in the darkness of the Portugal night. As we did so, we prayed the Rosary. Approximately every two "Hail Mary's" the person leading the rosary, and the language they spoke, changed. Yet no matter what language was being spoken, after the leader prayed the first half of the prayer, 80,000 voices, each in their native tongue, completed the prayer. We may not have understood each other's languages, but we understood what we were praying together.
Between Decades of the Rosary, a verse and refrain of the "Ave Maria" was sung, and 80,000 candles were lifted high as 80,000 sang strong.
It reminded me of what St. John records in the Book of Revelation when he writes "I had a vision of a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation, race and tongue." Despite flags of various nations at odds being waved, Catholicism and faith overrode all differences and held us as one. For just a moment there was the briefest glimpse of what the Kingdom of God will be like. For just a moment the experience of the world was not hard. It was beautiful. It was inspiring. The experience of the world was hopeful.
(Father Mark Wiesner is pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Livermore.)
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