Our Lady of Fatima

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By Luci Lizares

www.winners

Thursday, May 15, 2014


IT WAS on May 13, 1917 when then 10-year-old Lucia Santos, and her two cousins, nine-year-old Francisco and seven-year-old Jacinta Marto were pasturing their little flock in the Cova da Iria, the parish of Fatima.

About noon, the kids, after praying the rosary as was their custom, were playing when suddenly they saw a brilliant light. At first they thought it was lightning and decided to go home but as they were going down, another flash came on top of holmoak tree. They saw a Lady more brilliant than the sun with a rosary in her hands. Very near that tree today is the Chapel of Apparitions in the Fatima Shrine in Portugal.

The Lady told them that they should pray much and invited them to return to the Cova da Iria for the next five consecutive months every 13th at that same hour. The Cova da Iria is now where the Basilica of Our Lady stands.

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The children did as requested. June, July, September and October, the Lady came as promised. In August, the Lady appeared to them in Valinhos on the 19th because on the 13th the children were being interrogated by the authorities about these apparitions.

In the last apparition on October 13, news spread about Our Lady’s monthly apparition and more than 70,000 people gathered. Here the Blessed Mother declared that she is the Lady of the Rosary and that a chapel is to be built in her honor. On this day all witnessed the miracle of the sun as promised by the Blessed Mother. The sun resembling a silver disc could be gazed without difficulty and whirling like a wheel of fire seeming to fall upon the Earth.

With this miracle more pilgrims came. In 1997 Fatima was declared as a center of Marian worship.

My cousin, Mae, and I were truly blessed to be there on the eve of the last apparition on October 12 last year. Our first instinct was to enter the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary or also known as the Sanctuary of Fatima. We were able to catch a Mass that was ongoing. The basilica was very full and there were many delegates from Africa wearing colorful native costume.

After the Mass, we went with the flow of the pilgrims. Everyone was walking to the front right of the altar. The tomb of Francisco, who died in 1919, is found here. Francisco was a sensitive boy who would wander off for hours in contemplation. Although he was gifted with seeing the Blessed Mother, he could not hear what she was saying. Only Lucia and Jacinta were conversing with our Lady. Jacinta died the year after Francisco passed away. Jacinta was a joyful little girl who had a long and painful illness but even in suffering she would happily offer her pain for the conversion of sinners, for peace in the world and she was very attached to her prayers for the Holy Father. When her body was exhumed in 1935, it was found to be incorrupt.

Both Francisco and Jacinto Marto were beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 30, 2000. Lucia, the principal seer, lived a long life. Lucia was destined for the nunnery. Lucia died at the age of 97 in 2005. On the day of her funeral, Pope John Paul II and the future Pope Benedict XVI said that she would go to Heaven. Pope John Paul II believed that it was the Lady of Fatima who saved him from an assassin’s bullet on May 13, 1981, the feast of the first apparition of Our Lady in Fatima, at the St. Peter’s Square. They must be now in heaven together.

As we exited the Church, there were pilgrims setting up for the evening vigil. They brought pillows, blankets and sleeping bags and provisions for the night. The vigil is most important especially for the local devotess.

Apres, we decided to go to Aljustrel to see the homes of the little shepherds. The tram ride cost 4 euros. Our first stop was the house of Lucia. It has not undergone any renovations since the 1917 apparitions.

By 9:30 in the evening we had to inch our way into the square of the Sanctuary. The plaza is huge—almost twice the size of St. Peter’s but it was shoulder to shoulder capacity. It was a hair-raising experience to be engulfed in a sea of flickering lights with everyone holding a candle. I wanted to pinch myself if I am really here and witnessing all these.

The Mass was celebrated by an archbishop, 12 bishops and a multitude of priests. The evening was chilly and the Mass took about two hours with the majority of us just standing but we didn’t mind. The Archbishop announced that there was a special Papal blessing of the absolution of sins. What a grace!

After the Mass, the rosary was recited in different languages. We were so blown away when a decade was prayed in Tagalog. Personally, I felt like it was the Blessed Mother herself acknowledging our presence in Fatima.
Thank you, Mama Mary!

Then the image of Our Lady of Fatima was paraded all over the square on the shoulders of some men. She looked like she was floating on a cloud of fireflies. My heart skipped many beats with this awe-inspiring moment.

Before the procession was done, Mae and I inched our way to the Apparition Chapel. There we saw a lady in red. She turned out to be the lady who said the Hail Mary’s in Filipino. She was with a delegation of Filipinos from San Francisco who were on a pilgrimage. She was formerly a Flores and now a Foster. You can see the joy in her face when she was telling us of this privilege. To prepare, she called her mother many times in the Philippines for the exact words of the Hail Mary in Tagalog and practiced and practiced.

When she got up in the altar, she couldn’t contain the joy of seeing the large multitude of people with all the lighted candles. If it was impressive to us who were in the sidelines, I could just imagine the scene from up there on the altar. After the Mass and the procession, all religious articles were blessed.

We went back to our hotel feeling totally consumed with blessings with glittering halos. That was truly a moment!

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 15, 2014.

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