Our Lady of Fatima
From diocese to diocese, a beautiful statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary travels to visit her people. The statue, breath-taking in its beauty, is a symbol of the more beautiful heart of the Mother of Peace. She brings with her the ageless message that Christ is our Redeemer, that He is Love and Mercy, and the Giver of every Grace. The pilgrim mother visits to remind her children that they offend God by their sin, and to request them to offer reparation for their sins and those of others. If her message is heeded, she promises an era of peace for mankind. Her Immaculate Heart will triumph.
The pilgrim statue serves as a reminder of the message Mary herself brought through three young shepherd children at Fatima Portugal. She began her message on May 13, l917, when she appeared at the Cova da Iria . After promising to take them to Heaven, she asked the children if they were willing to offer themselves to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He was being offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.
The children willingly offered themselves.
The youngsters' story was received by their families and later by ecclesiastical and civil authorities with skeptical disbelief.
According to the children, the vision had been preceded by several visits of an angel who had taught them certain prayers. On May 13, while tending their sheep, a strong wind arose and they were frightened by a flash of lightening. A brilliant white light moved toward them, stopping at last on top of a small oak tree. Within the light, they saw a beautiful Lady, her hands closed in prayer. She had a rosary handing from her fingers. She requested the children to make sacrifices, to say the rosary for peace, and she promised to return on the 13th of each month until the following October. Later requests reiterated her wish for the rosary to be said for peace, for the consecration of Russia to her immaculate heart, and for communion on the first Saturday of each month.
During the summer months, others began to accompany the children. Although only the children could see the vision, it seemed obvious to onlookers that they were seeing something. The anti-clerical authorities arrested the children and threatened them in order to make them recant, but the children steadfastly held to their story of the visions.
The Lady had promised a great miracle for October 13, and it is estimated that there were about seventy thousand people gathered at the Cova da Iria on that date. A heavy rain had fallen all morning and the entire area was a sea of mud. At the appointed time, in the midst of thunder and lightening, a dazzling cloud of light appeared. Our Lady appeared and requested that a chapel be built there to honor her. Then she showed three scenes to the children. She showed them the Holy Family, Our Lord bearing the cross with the Mother of Sorrows beside him, and finally Our Lady was shown crowned as the Queen of Heaven, holding the Divine Child on her knee and extending the Carmelite scapular to the crowd. Suddenly, Lucy cried, "Look at the sun!" The rain abruptly stopped and the sun seemed to spin about on its axis, and then it seemed to descend toward the earth. Clouds, trees, people and other objects appeared to change colors constantly. As the sun appeared to descend, many fell to their knees while others ran in fright. Suddenly, the downward course of the sun stopped and it resumed its normal position. Those present discovered that their clothes were completely dry. Thousands of eyewitnesses have testified to the miraculous events of that day.
True to a prediction of Our Lady, both Francisco and Jacinto died within two years after the apparitions. Lucy attended a boarding school and became a lay sister for the Sisters of St. Dorothy. Nearly thirty years after the apparitions, Lucy visited Fatima again briefly before becoming a cloistered Carmelite.
A wealthy Portuguese man named Gilberto went to Fatima on May 13, l920, but his pilgrimage plans did not include prayers. Filled with bitterness for reasons known only to him, he went with the intention of throwing bombs at the pilgrims he would find there. Heaven intervened, and Gilbert returned home converted.
In Thanksgiving for the peace he now felt, he hired the most widely known sculptor in Portugal, Jose Thedim, to carve a statue resembling the vision of Our Lady the three children had seen. This statue was crowned by a Papal Legate in l946, and given the title of "Queen of the World". The statue is kept in the chapel at the Cova da Iria and is carried in procession on the 13th of each month from May to October.
A copy of the original statue was carved by the same sculptor by request of the first Bishop of Fatima. During a Youth Congress in 1947, a resolution was passed to have a statue carried throughout Europe and into Russia. Lucy suggested that the bishop give his statue for this purpose and that it be known as the "Pilgrim Virgin". In 1947, a second Pilgrim Virgin statue was blessed for the Americas. Another statue, blessed at the same time, was secretly taken into Russia in 1950. In l967, more statues were blessed to be presented to individual countries around the world.
Today, the Pilgrim Virgin statues travel around the world, going from diocese to diocese, to bring the message of Fatima to all God's children.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, help me to realize how much my smallest sin offends and hurts my God. Remind me to do penance for my own sins, and for those of others, that we may speedily see peace in this world and everlasting peace after our days on earth.
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Copyright © 2004 by Ann Ball
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