by Fr Brennan Sia, CYM Chaplain
Last year, 2016 was the Jubilee Year of Mercy and, next year, 2018 will be the Year of Youth in Australia but what about this year: 2017? Is there anything special? Yes, it’s a special year too: it’s the 100th anniversary of the Apparitions at Fatima and Pope Francis wants to mark it in a big way: he’s going to be there for the actual anniversary date, expected to canonize two of the visionaries while he’s there and has also granted a special plenary indulgence for the centenary year of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.
But, first, a bit of background information about Fatima if you didn’t know much about it…
Fatima was a small, quiet Portuguese village where most of the villagers made their living by keeping herds of sheep. On the 13th of May 1917, three of the children (Lucia Santos, aged nine, and her cousins (Francisco Marto, aged 8, and Jacinta Marto, aged 7) were herding sheep when they saw a woman “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light”. She asked the children to devote themselves to God, pray the Rosary daily and come back to the same spot on the 13th of the next month.
After the vision, Lucia said to the others that they should keep quiet about the vision but Jacinta slipped to her family about it. Word eventually spread and the children would continue to have the visions on the 13th of each month until October 13th which culminated in what is called the Miracle of the Sun where the sun appeared to dance, change colours and rotate. What was remarkable was that the tens of thousands of people gathered there on that day all witnessed the same miracle.
The apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima took place at a time when the world was suffering greatly from the effects of the first two to three years of constant fighting of the First World War: millions had died from fighting, many cities and towns were destroyed and there was widespread starvation and civil unrest which also led to revolutions, most notably the Russian Revolution. Mary’s message was simple but important and that was for more prayer and penance for the conversion of hearts to end wars and for the salvation of souls.
In practice, this meant praying the Rosary every day, having a devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary especially on the First Saturday of each month and to offer sacrifices, sufferings and penances for the conversion of hardened hearts. Our Lady promised that the war would come to an end but warned that another war would begin (which happened twenty years later with World War II) but her ultimate promise is that, in the end, there will be peace.
Miracles of Fatima
Of the many reports of healings, both physical and spiritual, conversions and prayers answered in connection with Our Lady of Fatima, of note are the two miracles documented for the beatification and canonization of Jacinta and Francisco Marto:
In celebration of the 100th anniversary apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis has granted a plenary indulgence for those who visit the shrine and participate in a celebration or prayer dedicated to Mary.
For those who are not able to visit the shrine during the centenary year, Pope Francis has also granted a plenary indulgence on the 13th of the months between May and October for anyone who does visit a church, chapel of shrine where there is a statue of Our Lady of Fatima solemnly exposed for public veneration, participate in some celebration or prayer in honour of Mary, prays the Our Father, Creed and asks Our Lady of Fatima for her prayers.
The Plenary Indulgence needs to be done still (within 20 days before or after) with Confession, receiving Holy Communion, praying for the Pope’s Intentions (one Our Father and one Hail Mary will suffice) and having an inner disposition for detachment from all sin.
In a time when there is still great international tension and suffering around the world and need for peace, it’s worthwhile to ask Mary under the title of Our Lady of Fatima to pray for her prayers for peace in our world and for us to offer prayers, sufferings and penances for peace, conversion and salvation for all.