Monday, May 15, 2017
Rogelio Zelada - Office of Lay Ministry
A multicolor wind made them turn their faces toward the intense greenery of the oak tree, where a small cloud had settled gently. Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta had begun to gather the sheep they tended on the hill of the Cova de Iria when a soft voice spoke to them from the top of the tree. A beautiful, young, radiant woman looked at them sweetly and serenely: "Do not be afraid."
It was May 13, 1917, and the Mother of God had come down to Portugal because she had an important conversation pending with three small, simple and innocent, shepherd children.
In the dialogue of God's love for humanity, his constant predilection for the weak and the little ones is astonishing. When it comes to choosing those He needs for an important mission, He chooses the ones who have been discarded by human criteria. He began with Abraham and Sarah, a very old couple marked by sterility; then He chose Moses, a fugitive stutterer; then David, at the time almost a child. He personally chose Peter and the other 11, including Judas, all of whom responded shamefully at the time of his Passion and Death. And he called Paul of Tarsus to mission in the name of the one whom he had previously persecuted to death.
In the extraordinary mystical phenomenon we call "apparitions," the human being crosses in some mysterious way the enormous boundaries between the limitation of human nature and the extraordinary generosity of God, to perceive with the senses that which belongs to another, very different reality. An unquantifiable experience, verifiable only from faith and validated by the effects and the fruits of renewal and inner growth that arise from the experience.
The three children who looked after the family sheep that afternoon had been encounteroing unique experiences since the year before. Lucia was nine years old, while her cousins Francisco and Jacinta were eight and six, respectively, when an intensely white and clear light came near them. In it, a young man, bright as crystal, presented himself as the "Angel of Peace" and asked them for prayer and penance, a visit repeated on two other occasions. This messenger from heaven taught them how to pray and prepared them for their first Communion, and readied them for the encounter with the Mother of Heaven.
The woman, from above the oak, wraps them in a calming light and announces that she comes from heaven. She has not told them her name; she will do so later. Every 13th day of the month, for six consecutive months, she will visit them at the same place, where there will be a seventh and final meeting. They must pray the rosary every day for peace in the world and the end of the war. She does not promise them joy on earth but in heaven, and reiterates the urgent need for prayer and penance to change hearts.
Francisco and Jacinta would die soon, two and three years after the apparition. Lucia would live a long life and after 46 years of contemplative life, die in the cloister of the Carmel of St. Teresa, in Coimbra, as Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart.
The meetings with the Lady became a real Calvary for the three children. The family objected; they were told that it was not the Lady but the devil in person. Through a ruse, they were taken to prison, locked up with the worst criminals and threatened to be burned alive. However, they continued going to meet the Lady of Heaven: "I am the Lady of the Rosary... to save so many who are lost, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart... In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph."
Lucia could speak with the Lady, but Jacinta and Francisco only saw her; they could not hear her. During the second apparition, the family of the smaller children joined them. At the next, a multitude from the town attended. The following time, 4,000 people, and for the last apparition, more than 70,000 endured a terrible storm that muddied all the roads and drenched everyone to the bone. As soon as Lucia saw the Lady, she introduced herself: "I am the Lady of the Rosary. May you continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to endů"
Then the Lady raised her arms and the rain ceased. Thousands of people watched in amazement as the sun whirled three times on itself, bursting with lights of every color, as if torn from its place in the sky and preparing to fall over all of them. Many screamed in terror, thinking that the world would end there. For 10 minutes, the sun danced in front of the pilgrims and of the unbelievers who had come with the intention of mocking the believers. The sun shone without disturbing or damaging anyone’s vision, transparent, devoid of clouds or haze, with all its light and heat. Then it serenely returned to its place in the sky and everyone’s clothes were completely dry, in what is considered the most extraordinary supernatural marvel of the 20th century.
The religious experience at Fatima, Portugal, on the fields of the Cova de Iria, brings us the repeated clamor of all Marian apparitions: prayer, conversion, simplicity of life, penance, appreciation for the spiritual life and love of God, of His Son Jesus Christ and the Heavenly Mother. The Lady has wanted to reach us through and from the heart of the poor, the small, the unlearned and the weak.
All too often we become entangled in the mysterious secrets of Fatima, but the great value of what happened there on October 13, 1917 is still as real, challenging and relevant as it was that afternoon when the sun danced with joy before the Queen of Heaven.