How to Prepare for Fatima’s 100 Years
As the Church prepares for the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, Prof Michael Ogunu suggests ways in which the local Church can celebrate the centenary.
In 1916 an angel appeared to three shepherd children near the village of Aljustrel in northern Portugal.
The angel’s purpose was to prepare Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta for the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to them at Fatima in 1917.
These apparitions began on May 13, 1917 and ended with what is known as the “miracle of the sun” on October 13, 1917.
Our Lady’s messages to the world in each of her six apparitions are so important that all the popes since then have commented on the need for all Christians to heed these for their personal salvation and for peace in the world. To St John XXIII, for example, “Fatima is the centre of all Christian hopes”.
When we consider our human frailties, and when all hope seems to vanish, the message from Fatima shines through like the light of a lighthouse in the densest fog. This is so because, as Bl Paul VI said, the message from Fatima brings up to date the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ for all to know.
Our Lady asked for prayers (daily recitation of the rosary ), penance, sacrifice and reparation, as well as the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart.
Our popes—Pius XII, St John Paul II and Benedict XVI—have complied with the last request, the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And Pope Francis consecrated the world to Our Lady of Fatima on October 13, 2013.
But mankind has continued to sin and not done sufficient penance to appease the wrath of God. Consequently, the world is in danger of a just punishment from God for not heeding the message of his Son communicated by Our Lady of Fatima through the three children.
The centenary of the Fatima apparitions will be celebrated from May 13 to October 13, 2017.
Pope Francis will be going to Fatima to lead in the celebration of the centenary and expects all Catholic bishops to lead their flocks in the celebration in their dioceses. With humility, I suggested that the celebration should include:
– Eucharistic celebration in honour of Our Lady of Fatima in the diocesan cathedrals or other appropriate location in the diocese at which the bishop is the chief celebrant in union with all the priests of the diocese as co-celebrants.
– Eucharistic adoration with benediction/holy hour of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
– Rosary procession with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima (preferably the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue, if available) in which at least 20 decades of the rosary are devoutly recited round the town, accompanied with Marian hymns.
– Talks on the message of Fatima and its relevance to today’s world. Topics for such talks might include:
- The message of Fatima and its relevance in the 21st century. • Prayer, penance and sacrifice as essential elements of a Eucharistic life. • Mary as model of Eucharistic life. • Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. • Consecration to God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. • The rosary as an essential weapon against the evils of our society. • Living the message of Fatima in the context of the New Evangelisation. • Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. • The practice of First Saturday Devotion as required by Our Lady of Fatima. • The signs of the times and the urgency of Our Lady of Fatima’s call for communions of reparation. • How to offer our bodies as “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom 12:1).
– Consecration of the diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (or its renewal if already consecrated) either on May 13; or on the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary which in 2017 is on Saturday June 24; or on Friday October 13, the centenary of the last apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, with an act of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The consecration can be done at any other time considered appropriate by the bishop.
At the national level, the Catholic bishops’ conference could consecrate the nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Care should be taken to ensure that the date chosen for the national celebration is one of the dates of the Fatima apparitions.
When on October 31, 1942, Pope Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, he concluded: “Forever we consecrate ourselves to you and to your Immaculate Heart, Oh Mother and Queen of the world. May your love and patronage hasten the victory of the kingdom of God. May all nations, at peace with each other and with God, proclaim you blessed”.
The wish of the Holy Father that this consecration would also take place in other countries became a reality in West Germany on September 4, 1954, during the Catholic Day, before 100000 people in front of the cathedral of Fulda.
Since then, other nations have been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. On May 13 this year, the dioceses of Portugal were consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima.
A novena in honour of Our Lady of Fatima, starting from May 5, 2017—in which all the faithful of the diocese are encouraged to participate—can precede the May 13 celebration. Prayer in honour of Our Lady of Fatima and the rosary with the Litany of Our Lady can be the main prayers for the Novena.
There should be opportunities for confessions—similar to what Pope Francis calls “24 Hours for the Lord” for the Year of Mercy—in all the churches on Friday, May 12.
The centenary celebrations should be adequately publicised in all parish Sunday bulletins and in the diocesan and national Catholic newspapers.
Throughout history, Mary has always intervened to save Christians from defeat at the hands of an often far militarily superior enemy. Her special weapon in these cases has always been the rosary.
In all the six apparitions at Fatima, Our Lady requested the praying of the rosary to end the world war that was raging at the time, and for peace in the world. The examples of the victories won in the past through the rosary should encourage and spur us into action.
Today many countries have nuclear weapons. We are always in danger of a nuclear holocaust. We need to pray about that!
The rosary has worked military miracles before. In 1683, Austria was saved from the Muslim Turks of the Ottoman empire. It was not generals, nor battalions, nor arms that brought victory, but Our Lady of the Rosary, as thousands of Austrians said the rosary for deliverance.
Over 270 years later, on May 13, 1955, the anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, the four superpowers at the time—the US, Russia, France and Britain—signed an agreement in Vienna to restore freedom and sovereignty to Austria, which was in danger of being drawn into the Eastern Bloc.
Other communist countries, like Hungary, revolted and failed, but Austria succeeded in evading Soviet control without such efforts. Why? Because 700000 people, or 10% of the population, had pledged themselves ten years earlier to say the rosary daily. This is a modern example of how God can spare many for the prayers of the few.
In addition to the elements of the centenary celebration stated above, bishops should encourage First Saturday Devotion as requested by Our Lord and Our Lady of Fatima in 1925 (this is already taking place in the archdiocese of Johannesburg), as well as other programmes of devotion to Our Lady of Fatima such as visitation of the pilgrim virgin statue to churches in the dioceses that will be organised by the World Apostolate of Fatima (the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima) as part of the general preparations for the celebration of the centenary.
Prof Americo Lopez Ortiz, president of the World Apostolate of Fatima, has said the goal Our Lady strives for are clear: world peace, the repentance of sinners, and the establishment of the “Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary”, with everything that it implies.
The goals of Our Lady should become the guiding goals of our own lives. Our collective national and international projects should be based on the prophetic vision of Our Lady of Fatima, striving for a new era for humanity, which will be the product of the triumph of her Immaculate Heart over the enemies of Christ.
In his 1948 book Vision of Fatima, Fr Thomas Matthew McGlynn pointed out that Fatima is, first of all, a dreadful warning to the world to stop sinning. The enormity of mankind’s rebellion against God, and God’s infinite aversion to sin, form the foundation of the Fatima message.
It is a warning that the time of God’s justice will come to pass if men do not take advantage of this time of his mercy, this special opportunity of making reparation through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Prof Michael Ogunu is the president of the executive board of the World Apostolate of Fatima for English-speaking Africa and coordinator of the Fatima Apostolate in the African sub-region.