Our Lady of the Rosary, keep praying for us ... that many people will come to know and love you! (And special thanks to Teresa Tomeo at "Catholic Connection", who ran our interview again today on the national hour in honor of Our Lady of Fatima. Thanks, Teresa!
On this date in 1917 that the first apparition of the Blessed Mother appeared to the seers of Fatima. Thirty years later, an apostolate called the "Ambassadors of Mary" was established in Chicago. Two replicas of "The Pilgrim Virgin" were commissioned and sent into circulation, to benefit those who are unable to make a pilgrimage to the original shrine.
The site that includes the history of this movement has this to say about its origins: "The Ambassadors of Mary, an organization which was founded in 1946, decided to take on this beneficent practice of the 'Pilgrim Virgin' as a Marian Year project. Accordingly, at our First-Saturday Retreat in May 1954, the first Pilgrim Virgin was blessed and sent on its way to Chicago homes. Within a few weeks, however, there were more requests for the Virgin than could be fulfilled in three years. On the first Saturday of October, therefore, three more Pilgrim Virgins were blessed and sent on their pilgrimage of love, and many more have been added since then. As of 1987 there were a total of 190 statues on pilgrimage in our country and in foreign lands."
The apparitions of Fatima have not yet been approved by the Church, and (as is in the case of all private revelation), faithful Catholics are not obliged to believe that Mary appeared to the three children (see photo right). I had a friend visit the shrine in Portugal this past February, and she was deeply touched by the experience. To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of it.
However, in an article recorded on EWTN website, Father John de Marchi records a moving account of his own experience:
There are not many striking or ornamental sights to see. At Fatima the edifice of greatest interest is perhaps the least of the structures there. This is the Chapel of the Apparitions—simple, surely inexpensive, and likely enough no larger than your living room at home. Its glory exists in nothing but the events it commemorates. The lone touch of grandeur at the Cova da Iria will be found in the great basilica that has risen above the humble land. This is a crowning structure in the manner of the Italian Renaissance, stately and reverent in its setting, and built of the stone, the labor, and the love these hills have returned to their Lady for the visits she paid them less than 40 years ago.
In the classic pattern of great Catholic shrines, remarkable and documented cures have been effected at Fatima. People seem either unduly devoted to miracles or else made furious by stories concerning them, but a great shrine without miracles would be to many like a song that lacked a lyric.
There is clinical certainty that at Fatima the blind have had sight restored, while men and women stretcher-borne have risen from their litters to cry hosannas to the Power that can in one moment banish cancer, loosen the fist of the tightest paralysis, or render whole and clean the shrunken lungs of abandoned tuberculars. More than a hundred contradictions of the natural physical law have been registered at Fatima, and held to be valid only after the most exhaustive and scrupulous examination of all available evidence. The author has himself been present at many miraculous cures, but to those who do not require the spangles of visible prodigy to know that God is in His heaven, the spiritual message of Fatima remains of infinitely greater importance.
The true meaning of Fatima is that God has spoken to us through Mary, the Blessed Mother of His Son. We should pause long enough to reflect that it is not strange for God to speak to us, since He loves us far more than the best of us loves Him. Through all human history He has given His counsel to the conduct of our lives, His light to our doubts, and finally, through Calvary, the blood of His only-begotten Son as a ransom for our sins. Angels and prophets and saints have spoken for Him, but the most glorious of His messengers has been Mary.
This week's Catholic Carnival is up at "Organ-ic Chemist." Be sure to check it out!