Faith Matters

An important date is approaching for Our Lady of Fatima devotees

14 September, 2017 01:00

A century after the Marian apparitions at Fatima were first reported, their messages still attract powerful devotion.

Thousands of people, for example, were drawn to make pilgrimage to a statue of Our Lady of Fatima as it visited parishes across Ireland this year.

The statue was one of those blessed by Pope Francis to be brought around the world to appeal for prayer and peace and to promote the sanctity of family life.

Each October 13 is an important date for Our Lady of Fatima devotees, but in this centenary year it has added resonance 

Parishes and groups also held their own commemorations to mark the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three shepherd children on six occasions between May 13 and October 13 1917.

The children - Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto - described various prophecies and 'secrets' given by Our Lady, including instructions to say the Holy Rosary daily.

The final apparition on October 13 became known as the Miracle of the Sun on account of how the heavy rain and dark sky was replaced by sunshine, with the sun appearing as "an immense silver disc" according to contemporary newspaper reports.

By then, the fame of the apparitions reported by the children had spread far and wide, with around 70,000 people gathering in Fatima in expectation.

The Catholic Church declared the Fatima miracle 'worthy of belief' on October 13 1930.

Each October 13 is an important date for Our Lady of Fatima devotees, but in this centenary year it has added resonance.

Galbally and Donaghmore in Tyrone is typical of many Irish Catholic parishes with a particular devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

The Our Lady of Fatima statue being carried into St John the Baptist Chapel in Galbally. Picture by Jim Hamill

An open-air prayer evening arranged for August 22 at Gortindarragh Mass Glen had to be moved because of that day's torrential rain - the same downpours that wreaked particular havoc in Derry and Donegal - to the drier surrounds of St John the Baptist Chapel.

August 22 is the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, and that evening's gathering in Galbally was full of symbolism for those casting their mind back 100 years to Fatima - the weather conditions were similar, for one, but so too was the attitude of reflection and contemplation as the Holy Rosary was prayed.

A new crown, purchased in Fatima, was blessed by Fr Gerard McAleer and placed on the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, while Fr Patrick McGuckin adorned it with a Rosary and Brown Scapular.

The children of St Joseph's Primary School in Galbally who had received their first Holy Communion in 2017 were presented with Rosary beads and a Fatima prayer card, to symbolise the handing on of the faith.

Children from St Joseph's Primary School in Galbally were presented with Rosary beads and a Fatima prayer card. Picture by Jim Hamill.

In the final apparition at Fatima, Our Lady was joined by Joseph and the child Jesus; the significance of the appearance of the Holy Family is thought to reflect the belief that the battleground between God and Satan is the family itself.

"It is clear that life in general and specifically family life is becoming more and more difficult," said Lucia Santos - by then Sister Lucia - speaking in 1957.

"As was stated at Fatima, Satan the adversary is out to destroy the family because it is the heart of the Church and society."

A century after Fatima first became known around the world, those who remain devoted to its mysteries believe that the family is not only the battleground but also the solution to society's ills.

  • A retreat in Armagh next month will focus on the Fatima apparitions, their message and relevance for today's world.

It will be led by Fr Edgardo Arellano - better known as Fr Bing - from the Alliance of the Two Hearts, which brought the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to Ireland.

The retreat is open to all and takes place in the Armagh City Hotel on Saturday October 7 and Sunday October 8. Telephone 079 1705 6350 for more information.

14 September, 2017 01:00 Faith Matters

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