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 Fatima’s mission and message.

I invite you to think about three things from this first apparition: the light, the vocation of the children, and the request of the rosary.

First, the light. The radiant light of Our Lady’s appearance is not an insignificant detail. God is light. Jesus called Himself the light of the world. Mary is the woman clothed with the light of the sun. Jesus calls us to be children of the light. He says in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world… your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father:

A beautiful light penetrated the souls of Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta after they said yes to the question from Our Lady asking if they were willing to offer themselves to God and to bear sufferings in reparation for sins and as supplication for the conversion of sinners. A light from Our Lady enveloped them and gave them great consolation. They had received the light of Christ’s truth and love through the Blessed Mother and they would spread that light. They would live as children of the light within the darkness of the world. Blessed Francisco, not long before his final illness and death two years later, told Lucia and Jacinta how much he loved seeing the angel and even more seeing Our Lady. He also said: “but what I liked best of all was seeing Our Lord in that light which Our Lady put into our hearts.” Absorbed in God’s light, this little boy was so filled with God’s love. Francisco said: “I love God so much, but He is so sad because of all the sins. We mustn’t commit even the tiniest sin.” He was filled with God’s light and was thus motivated by one desire: to console Jesus and make him happy. This little boy was transformed by God’s light. And so were Jacinta and Lucia.

Second, I invite you to think about the vocation and mission of the three children and their “yes” to that vocation and mission. They were willing to offer themselves to God, to bear sufferings in reparation for the sins by which God is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners. And this is what they did, amazingly. Francisco and Jacinta put into practice in their very short lives all that Our Lady taught them about prayer, sacrifice, suffering, and reparation. Lucia would too for the next 87 years of her life.

Little Francisco lived an intense spiritual life that I believe was totally amazing for such a young child. He had the Holy Spirit’s gift of piety and was so fervent in his prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He rose through the three levels of prayer, through purification, illumination, and mystical union with the Lord. He endured the suffering of his final illness at the age of 11 with courage and in a truly heroic way, even joyfully. He offered his suffering for the conversion of sinners and in reparation to the hearts of Jesus and Mary for all the offenses committed against Him. Right before he died, this child of the light again received God’s light through Our Lady. Francisco said to his mother: “Mother, look at that lovely light by the door.” It was the sign of Our Lady who was coming to take her little son to heaven.

Little Jacinta shared the mission and the sentiments of her older brother. She also offered her life heroically as a victim for sinners. Though Jacinta was the youngest of the three children, Lucia said that she was the one most impacted by Our Lady’s message. Jacinta was deeply moved by how sin offends and separates us from God. The vision of hell in the third apparition affected her so much that she didn’t want anyone to go there. She offered herself completely for the salvation of souls. For Jacinta, no mortification or penance seemed too great to save sinners.

Jacinta suffered greatly when she saw her brother dying. She herself was also very sick. When our Lady asked her if she wanted to stay on earth longer to suffer for the conversion of sinners, she said yes. And she did. Little Jacinta felt deeply the anguish of Our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Sorrows. This little girl, who died at the age of 9, reached the heights of sanctity. She could well have exclaimed with Saint Paul something that can be so difficult for us adults. Saint Paul wrote: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24).

How much all of us, children and adults, can learn from these two children who are now saints of the Church, Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta! They teach us to live in the light of Christ’s truth and love, the light of the Gospel, and to learn from Our Lady, the woman clothed with the sun. They teach us to be devoted to prayer, to offer sacrifices for sinners, including ourselves, and to unite our sufferings with Jesus for the salvation of the world. We can learn so much from our two new saints, little children to whom God revealed what is hidden from the wise and the learned.

A third and final point: Our Lady’s request at the end of the first apparition to pray the rosary daily for peace in the world. In all of her apparitions, the request made most frequently by Our Lady was to pray the rosary every day. I invite everyone, if you don’t already do so, to pray the holy rosary daily. Today, 100 years later, there is still war and violence and also terrorism in the world. We see a culture of death, even here in our own country, where so many innocent unborn children are legally killed. It is good to think about the victory of the woman over the dragon portrayed in the book of Revelation. Let us turn to Our Lady of Victory, Our Lady of the Rosary, in the battle we face today, the perennial spiritual battle against Satan and the powers of evil. Let’s ask Our Lady, through the rosary, to pray for us as we strive to live as children of the light in the dramatic struggle between light and darkness, between good and evil. Two little children, now saints, show us the way: prayer and sacrifice and penance. As the Catechism teaches: “The way of perfection passes by the way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle” (CCC 2015). The rosary is a beautiful gift and prayer from Our Lady to help us as it helped the children of Fatima.

My brothers and sisters, at this Mass, with Jesus, let us offer praise to our Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for revealing to children what is hidden from the wise and the learned. Let us praise God for our two new saints. May Our Lady, Saint Francisco, and Saint Jacinta pray for us! Amen.