May 13, 2022

Christ the Cornerstone

Our Lady of Fatima asks us to pray for conversion, peace

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“On 13 May 1917, the shepherd children reported seeing a woman ‘brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.’ ” (Catholic News Agency, Our Lady of Fatima)

The publication date for this column is Friday, May 13, the Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. A memorial is not a solemn feast day like the Assumption, Aug. 15, or the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, but it is still an occasion for serious prayer and reflection. In times like these, it is especially important for us to remember the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three young children in Portugal in the early years of the 20th century.

The story of Our Lady’s appearances to Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, at the Cova da Iria in Fátima, Portugal, in 1917, has been declared “worthy of belief” by the Church.

Millions of pilgrims have visited the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, many experiencing miraculous cures and the healing of troubled minds and souls. We Catholics believe that Mary remains close to us, involving herself in our daily lives as well as interceding in the larger affairs of the world. We turn to Mary in times of crisis because we know that she cares for us as her children, and because we believe that her intercession is powerful and efficacious.

Just this year, on another Marian feast, the Annunciation of the Lord, March 25, our archdiocese joined with Pope Francis in publicly consecrating the suffering peoples of Ukraine and Russia and all humanity to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This act of consecration was first requested by the Virgin Mary when she appeared to the three Portuguese children 105 years ago. The original apparitions took place during the six months preceding the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, when the world was at war, and the children related that the Lady talked to them about the need to pray, especially for Russia.

Now, more than 100 years later, amid the turmoil of Russia’s 2022 “special military operation” in Ukraine, sanctions against Russia, and fears of nuclear war, the Latin Rite Catholic bishops of the Episcopate of Ukraine requested that Pope Francis “... publicly perform the act of consecration to the Sacred Immaculate Heart of Mary of Ukraine and Russia, as requested by the Blessed Virgin in Fatima.” Our archdiocese and dioceses throughout the world joined in this solemn act of consecration.

As Pope Francis has observed, “When Mary said ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord’ [Lk 1:38] in response to the news that she would become the Mother of God, she didn’t say: ‘this time I will do the will of God, I am available, then I’ll see.’ Hers was a full yes, without conditions.”

Instead of imitating this attitude of Mary, the Holy Father says, “We are experts in the ‘half-yes:’ we are good at pretending not to understand what God wants and consciousness suggests.” That’s why we turn to Mary, Queen of Peace—to help us overcome our fear, hesitation and reluctance and to show us the way to her Son, Jesus, the source of true justice and peace. Mary emboldens us with her courage at the same time that she comforts us with her tenderness.

Each full and unreserved “yes” we say to God is the beginning of a new story, Pope Francis tells us. Saying yes to God is the witness given to us by the saints, especially Mary our mother and our guiding star. We venerate Mary as the children of Fatima saw her—“a Lady more brilliant than the Sun” because she points us toward Jesus and illumines the way he wants us to live.

We are blessed with many ways to express our love for Mary. The rosary, which Mary urged the children at Fatima—and all of us—to pray, is the most popular form of Marian devotion.

When we pray the rosary, we have a special opportunity to meditate on the incidents in the life of Christ, the sacred mysteries of our redemption, even as we ask Our Lady to intercede for us as we struggle to follow her Son as missionary disciples who are called to give witness to his peace.

When we consecrate our sisters and brothers in Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we acknowledge that they are fellow members of God’s family who need the protection and tender care of our Blessed Mother.

May Mary, the Mother of God, accept our prayer: Regina pacis, ora pro nobis! (Queen of Peace, pray for us!). †

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