Our Lady of Fatima Centennial Mass

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“Father, I give praise to you, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike.”

These words of Jesus in His prayer to the Father are also in our minds and hearts today. In fact, the whole Church gives praise to the Father today on this 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s appearance to the shepherd children of Fatima. On this day when Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco are canonized saints, the youngest non-martyrs to be canonized in the history of the Church, we offer praise to God who, through our Lady, revealed what is hidden from the wise and the learned, to mere children. On this day, one hundred years ago, May 13th, 1917, a woman clothed with the sun came down from heaven to visit three privileged children of the Father: 10-year old, Lucia dos Santos; 9-year old Francisco Marto; and his sister, 7-year old Jacinta Marto.

On this day 100 years ago, the three children had taken their flocks of sheep to pasture at the Cova da Iria. After lunch, they prayed the holy rosary. Then, while playing, they saw a bright flash of light, followed by another flash in the clear blue sky. They looked up and saw a woman. Here is how little Lucia described her: “A lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun, radiating a light more clear and intense than a crystal cup filled with sparkling water lit by burning sunlight.”

All three children saw Our Lady, but only Lucia and Jacinta could hear her speak. In that amazing and overwhelming experience of the brilliant light of her first appearance, Our Lady’s first words were the same words spoken by Our Lord to the disciples: “Do not be afraid.” Our Lady told them “Do not be afraid. I will do you no harm.” Little Lucia then asked her a very natural question: “where are you from?” Our Lady answered very simply: “I am from heaven.” Our Lady asked them to come to the Cova da Iria for six months on the 13th day at the same hour. Later, she would tell them who she was.

At the heart of this first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima was a very important question that she asked the children: “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” What a question, what a mission God was entrusting to these young children through Mary! He wasn’t forcing them to accept it. God always respects our freedom. Lucia replied for all three and said to Our Lady: “Yes, we are willing.” They were ready for this mission since they had been prepared earlier by the three visits of the Angel of Peace. The children placed their lives at the disposal of God’s plan. After they gave their consent, their “yes,” Our Lady told them: “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.” Then something very beautiful happened. Our Lady opened her hands and a light poured forth from her hands, a light which Lucia said was “so intense that its rays penetrated their hearts and innermost souls, making them see themselves in God.” They fell to their knees and repeated in their hearts these words of prayer: “O most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the most Blessed Sacrament!” Enveloped in that light from our Lady, God had illumined their hearts. And then Our Lady made one more request of them: “Pray the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world, and the end of the war.” World War I was raging at the time. Our Lady then rose serenely in the direction of the east and disappeared.

There is not time in this homily to discuss the subsequent apparitions and messages. I chose to focus on what happened on this very day, May 13th, at the first apparition. There will be more opportunities in the coming months to reflect on the subsequent appearances of Our Lady of Fatima. What happened at the first apparition was not just a prelude to the others, however, since the apparition of May 13th already gets to the heart of Our Lady of Fatim