The apparition of the Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal in 1917 has been a source of inspiration, curiosity and intrigue for more than a century. The story of three children meeting a lady emanating glorious light and revealing three secrets has inspired pilgrimages of millions of people. Our Lady of Fatima has left a devotional mark on the history of the world. Popes, religious leaders, artists and politicians have wanted to respond to the requests of the Virgin Mary shared by the children. The devotion of every person to praying the rosary daily is a witness to the influence of Our Lady of Fatima.
Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto were young children herding sheep. Beginning in 1916, they began to tell stories of being approached by an angel who taught them prayers and encouraged them to pray, spend time in adoration and pray the rosary daily. This began a history of devotion and controversy. The prophecies shared by the children would come to pass. The Great War would come to an end, Francisco and Jacinta would die early deaths. The request for prayer that Russia be consecrated would also be satisfied. Lucia would live to the age of 97 continuing to witness to the apparitions and the requests of Our Lady. Throughout her life, she responded to questions about the apparitions and the secrets. When Pope John Paul II consecrated the entire world to the Virgin Mary in 1984, St. Lucia felt that this had fulfilled the request of the Virgin Mary at Fatima that Russia be consecrated.
Earlier this month, on May 1, the bishops of Canada and the United States consecrated their countries to Mary, Mother of the Church in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Pope Francis sent a blessed statue of Our Lady of Fatima to B.C. in 2017 when Canada was first consecrated to Mary. The devotion to prayer for Mary’s intercession for God’s people continues.
When I was in El Salvador, I remember seeing a painting of Our Lady of Fatima on the side of a building. In fact, the people of El Salvador had images of the Virgin Mary displayed everywhere. There were also stories of when villagers carried a statue of Mary up a mountain and stood up to a mining company that came to confiscate land and jeopardize the natural resources of their small community. Peace alludes so many in our world. Mary’s request for prayer at Fatima was partly to bring peace. We need this devotion to peace today, since peace is never fully realized. The Virgin Mary’s image is also a symbol of resistance and humanity. This devotion and witness to Mother Mary’s heart for humanity can be a source of comfort to us now in the spring of 2020.
It is appropriate that the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima falls in the same week as Mother’s Day. Reflecting on the love of the Mother of God in this time of a pandemic crisis reminds us that her prayers are with us always. Like the warmth of a mother’s embrace, her advocacy for and devotion to the well-being of God’s people is always present to us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now…
–Jan Bentham is a Retired Religion Coordinator with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. She is a musician, serving in music ministry at St. Ignatius Parish in Ottawa. She currently works at St. Paul’s University with the Catholic Women’s Leadership Program.