Miracle of the Sun – Fatima 100 years!
As we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady’s appearance in Fatima, I ask every Catholic of every age in the Church of Rockville Centre to pray the rosary daily during the month of May 2017 in honor of Our Lady of Fatima and for the promotion of dramatic missionary growth on Long Island.
As we rediscover or discover the 1917 Miracle of Our Lady’s Apparitions in Fatima, it is an historical moment and opportunity to rekindle our devotion to Mary in 2017.
Here are some of the key themes of Our Lady of Fatima for us to reflect on together:
1. The Story of Our Lady of Fatima is an inspirational story of faith and trust in God that needs to be told and retold to every generation.
From May 13 to October 13 of 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in Fatima (Portugal) to three poor shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. The apparitions were preceded by three apparitions of an angel in the spring of 1916. On each occasion, Our Lady asked them to say the rosary and to offer reparation for the offenses made to her Immaculate Heart. On October 13, 1917, an event that was foretold by Our Lady to the shepherd children occurred before thousands of people so that the world would believe the message of the apparitions. For about ten minutes, the sun spun in the sky like a wheel of fire. This moment witnessed by thousands is often referred to as "the Miracle of the Sun." Our Lady of Fatima asked for the world to be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. At the request of the Portuguese hierarchy, this consecration was solemnly performed by Pope Pius XII on October 31, 1942. At the end of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed Paul VI renewed the consecration of Pius XII to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and on May 13, 1967, the 50th anniversary of the first apparition, he prayed at Fatima with Sister Lucia. The consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was renewed by St. John Paul II on May 13, 1982, a year to the day after the assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Sister Lucia was a Carmelite nun and died at the age of 97 in 2005. On May 12-13, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima and offered her a Golden Rose when he prayed at the Chapel of Apparitions. Pope Francis will canonize Jacinta and Francisco at Fatima on May 13, 2017. (Cf. In Conversation with God, V. 6, 221 and Our Lady of Fatima – Wikipedia)
2. Our Lady of Fatima asks us to pray the rosary daily.
The rosary is a contemplative and biblical prayer. Praying the rosary deeply has a profound impact on every dimension of our prayer life and every effort we make to share the gift of our Catholic faith. The 100th Anniversary of Fatima is an opportunity for every Catholic of every age and vocation to rediscover the power of the rosary and to pray it with deeper fervor, strength and concentration. I recommend that we read St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter The Rosary of the Virgin Mary (Rosarium Virginis Mariae 2002 available on the Vatican website), which shows how the daily rhythm of the rosary impacts the daily rhythm of our lives. We are all called to be champions of the daily rosary, champions of the joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous mysteries streaming through our lives and animating the mission of the Church.
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3. Our Lady of Fatima calls us to repentance and holiness. She calls us to face our own individual judgment and the reality of Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.
Our Lady of Fatima confronts each of us with the Truth that our lives on earth are short and fragile and that every one of us will meet Jesus at our death for our individual judgment. She puts before us the crucial necessity of having a burning desire for heaven and eternal life. She speaks to us of the reality of death, judgment, heaven, hell and purgatory. She calls us to repentance, to conversion of heart, to do penance and to trust in Divine Mercy. She asks us to make frequent use of the sacrament of penance. There is an urgency to Our Lady of Fatima expressed in this prayer: "Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy." She is asking us to repent from sin and follow the path of holiness and eternal life right now, without delay, in the present moment. She wants us to care about and pray for the souls around us and for the salvation of the whole world.
4. Our Lady of Fatima asks us to pray for Peace in the World and Peace in our Families.
In this fallen world, violence, war and persecution often dominate the global stage and our hope can easily erode. But Our Lady of Fatima asks us to understand and believe that the world can be better and that her intercession and our prayers, and the power of the rosary can help turn historical tides of turmoil to peace. She asks us to pray for peace in the world and for those who are persecuted for their faith. She asks us to pray for peace in our hearts and peace in our families knowing that peace within families is critical to the architecture of global peace.
The plight of refugee families in the world often results from that war, violence, persecution and injustice, which we strive to overcome by prayer and action. We remember that the Holy Family was a refugee family as they fled from Herod’s slaughter of the newborn and found refuge in Egypt. We ask Our Lady of Fatima to intercede for all refugee families in the world who are suffering and uncertain about their future. We pray for all immigrant families on Long Island and throughout the country who are experiencing so much anxiety and uncertainty. We pray for those families that have lost loved ones to the culture of death expressed in gang violence and the senseless murder of young lives. The Catholic Church of Rockville Centre stands with you and for you as we express our belief together in the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of every human life and every family.
We pray that Our Lady of Fatima strengthen us in our witness to the sanctity of human life and marriage, in our witness in the world to the truths of our Catholic social justice teaching, and in our call to serve the poor and the suffering, and to recognize in them the face of Jesus.
5. Our Lady’s appearances in Fatima came at a time of world crisis. She is ever with the Church and interceding for the world. In times of crisis, she calls us to consecrate our lives and the world to her Immaculate Heart.
When she appeared at Fatima in 1917, World War I and the Russian Revolution were raging. As Our Lady prayed at the foot of the Cross, so she prays for the Church and for the world at moments of crisis and upheaval. She is intimately present to us and prays for our families and for us at the moments of crisis we experience in life. She protected St. John Paul II in his hour of need and she protects us now.
On May 13, 1982, exactly one year after the assassination attempt on his life in St. Peter’s Square, St. John Paul II explained Our Lady of Fatima’s desire that we consecrate ourselves and the world to her Immaculate Heart:
Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means drawing near, through the Mother’s intercession, to the very Fountain of life that sprang from Golgotha. This Fountain pours forth unceasingly redemption and grace. In it reparation is made continually for the sins of the world. It is a ceaseless source of
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new life and holiness. Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother means returning beneath the Cross of the Son. It means consecrating this world to the pierced Heart of the Saviour, bringing it back to the very source of its Redemption. Redemption is always greater than man’s sin and the ‘sin of the world.’ The power of the Redemption is infinitely superior to the whole range of evil in man and the world. The Heart of the Mother is aware of this, more than any other heart in the whole universe, visible and invisible.
6. Our Lady appeared to children in Fatima and calls children to holiness.
Children, teens and young adults of the Church of Rockville Centre, Mary loves you and her smile illumines your lives and your destinies as it illumined the lives and destinies of the three poor shepherd children Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. Pope Francis’ May 13, 2017 canonization of Jacinta and Francisco is a reminder to the entire Church and the world that children, teens and young adults are capable of heroic sanctity and that Christ calls them to this holiness. Our Lady of Fatima loves you and intercedes for you. Each of you is capable at a young age of great holiness and Our Lady wants that for you. Our Lady of Fatima wants you to be "New Evangelization Missionary Disciples" to your peers and to every generation. How often older people are inspired by the faith of the young. How often do children filled with faith bring their parents and grandparents back to the faith?
7. Our Lady of Fatima asks us to pray for Russia.
The soul of Russia has always been deeply Christian. The warped ideologies and genocide involved in the Bolshevik Revolution and Stalinism created terrible upheavals that reverberate to this day. They involved the massacre of much of the Russian Orthodox clergy, along with priests, nuns, ministers and rabbis of many other faiths and denominations. They also resulted in the sustained campaign to eliminate the Eastern rite Ukrainian Catholic Church and the members of its clergy. Our Lady of Fatima has a heart for Russia and asks us to have a heart for Russia as well. We pray for the expansion of the mission of the Catholic Church in Russia. We pray together for the canonization of Father Walter Ciszek, SJ (1904-1984) who was a missionary bridge between Russia and the United States. In He Leadeth Me, Father Ciszek states: "My aim in entering Russia was the same from beginning to end: to help people find God and attain eternal life."
As we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, we ask for the grace to live the message of Our Lady of Fatima. May the memory of the "Miracle of the Sun" lead us in this Easter season to the Heart and Glorified Wounds of Mary’s Risen Son.
As I ask you to pray the rosary daily during May, I will be praying the rosary every day for you, your families and for the entire Church of Rockville Centre. The graces and miracles that have flowed from Mary’s appearances at Fatima rekindle in us a deep desire for holiness and a deep desire for sharing our Catholic faith humbly and compassionately with everyone we meet.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us and intercede for dramatic missionary growth for the Church of Rockville Centre.
Sincerely in Christ,
John O. Barres
Bishop of Rockville