Fatima centennial observed with candlelight, canonization celebrations

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

FALL RIVER, Mass. — Faithful throughout the diocese solemnly observed the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal in 1917 with special Marian devotions and events over the past week.

The weeklong centennial celebrations kicked off with “Say Yes to Mary: Fatima’s 100th Anniversary” at Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River on May 6. Presented by the Living the Fatima Message apostolate and co-sponsored by Bishop Connolly High School, the morning program focused on Mary’s message at Fatima and her call for prayer and peace.

Among the many participants and exhibitors were the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light, whose Sister Natalie Sayde praised the event in her online blog.

“The morning was absolutely beautiful, and included Adoration and Confession; the recitation of a Living Rosary in a number of different languages; a Rosary-making workshop; and a one-woman play put on by Elizabeth Montigny on the life of the Blessed Mother as depicted in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary,” Sister Natalie wrote.

The keynote speaker at “Say Yes to Mary” was Father Thaddeus Lancton, M.I.C., of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge, who spoke on the fundamental message of Our Lady of Fatima as being a call to Penance and conversion.

“Mary echoes her Son, Who began His preaching ministry with the call to ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’ (Mt 3:2),” Father Lancton said.

Father Lancton described how in one of the apparitions, Mary showed the three children a vision of hell, and how the children were absolutely horrified by the sight.

“Mary said, ‘Pray much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because there is no one to make sacrifices for them’” (Our Lady, Aug. 19, 1917), Father Lancton quoted.

Following this vision, the children began not only accepting the daily Penances that came to them in the form of ridicule and persecution — often by their own families as a result of these apparitions — but also taking on additional sacrifices. After what they had seen in hell, they said that all they had to endure here on earth seemed light in comparison to the suffering and torment of that dark place.

“This is fundamentally Our Lady’s call, to say ‘yes’ to God in our everyday lives in what He chooses to send us, rather than rebel against His will,” Father Lancton said.

Father Lancton also gave some very tangible examples of what Penances Our Lady had in mind. For example, if we’re stuck in a traffic jam, we need to accept it and offer it as a sacrifice to God, rather than curse and rage. Or if our spouse is doing something to annoy us, we need to respond with patience and love, rather than with our usual anger and sharp retorts.

These are the sacrifices that Mary wants from all of us, and through them all her Immaculate Heart will triumph.

On the eve of the May 13 centennial observance, diocesan faithful gathered in New Bedford at the Madeira Field — the annual site of the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament — for a special outdoor Mass celebration and candlelight procession honoring Our Lady of Fatima.

Hundreds of people — many of them parishioners from Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Mount Carmel parishes in New Bedford — attended the Liturgy and listened to Father José Eduardo Medeiros, a visiting priest from Winnipeg, Canada, preach on the lasting legacy of the Fatima apparitions.

The congregation also sang praises to the Blessed Mother, including the beautiful “Ave Maria” hymn in Portuguese. The group then slowly processed, en masse, holding taper candles and Rosary beads, to the nearby Immaculate Conception Church. As done in the annual diocesan Peace Procession and following a tradition that began at the original Fatima shrine in Portugal, a statue of Our Lady of Fatima was carried in the procession for veneration.

On May 13, the 100th anniversary of the first Fatima apparition was celebrated with a special Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford. The Liturgy included the consecration of parishioners to the Blessed Mother, followed by a procession and the praying of the Rosary.

On the occasion Father Octavio Cortez, pastor, also blessed and dedicated a new grotto built for Our Lady of Grace on Nye Street, adjacent to the historic church.

The parish was also recently blessed to host the United Nations International Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima on the weekend of April 28-30, along with first-class relics of the Church’s newest saints, St. Jacinta Marto and St. Francisco Marto, the little shepherd children of Fatima.

Similar centennial commemorations — many of them organized and sponsored by the Living the Fatima Message apostolate — were held at St. Bernard’s Parish in Assonet on May 13; St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Attleboro on May 13; and St. Anthony’s Parish in Taunton on May 16.

Probably the greatest celebration of all came courtesy of Pope Francis, who officially declared the two youngest seers — Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto — saints of the Catholic Church in front of thousands of pilgrims at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal on May 13.

“For the honor of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for Divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto to be saints,” Pope Francis exclaimed as the crowd roared with applause.

“We enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Francis presided over their canonization Mass during his two-day pilgrimage to Fatima on May 12-13 to take part in celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima.

With contributions from Sister Natalie Sayde, M.S.C.L., and Hannah Brockhaus, CNA/EWTN News.

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