FR. MICHAEL WRITES:-
Yesterday Pope Francis celebrated in Fatima the centenary of the first of the apparitions of Our Blessed Lady to three little children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, on 13th May 1917, by canonising two of them. The younger children, brother and sister Francisco and Jacinta, were eight and seven respectively at the time, but both died of grave illness soon after the apparitions aged just ten and nine. They are now St Francisco and St Jacinta. They are buried in the basilica of the Most Holy Rosary in Fatima and I prayed for parishioners, your intentions and for the parish at their gravesides just over a fortnight ago when the parish was on pilgrimage at the shrine. The cause of the third child, Lucia, who was ten at the time of the apparitions, is going ahead, but having been called by Our Lady to live a long life as a consecrated religious sister promoting devotion across the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, she died as recently as 2005, aged 97. All three, from even before the six unsolicited apparitions which so profoundly shaped their lives, had a burning desire to be with God, to live with Him in heaven. That their prayers were answered so variously, but always with intense suffering which they courageously embraced, is one of the many lessons we can learn from them. On beatifying Francisco and Jacinta in 2000, Pope St John Paul II described them as “two candles whom God had set burning to illuminate humanity”. To understand why the two young children can illuminate humanity is to enter the meaning of Our Lady’s appearances at Fatima. Among her first words to the children, a hundred years ago yesterday, she said “Pray the Rosary every day to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.” Fatima happened just as the Russian Revolution was unfolding during what was already the horrific First World War. In the face of what looked like the overwhelming onslaught of evil unleashed upon the world and manifest in such rapacious sin and unparalleled death, the greater power in fact was faith, hope and love, which is to say, prayer and the offering of ourselves with Our Lord Jesus, our being conformed to His Cross. The last image Our Lady gives us of her Immaculate Heart is that of a heart ablaze with love but entwined in a crown of thorns. St Francisco and St Jacinta lived this vocation. In their simplicity and love, they do illuminate for us not only the path of joyful self-offering but also the path for humanity’s hope: whatever afflictions the world must face from sin, the victory, transforming history, in fact belongs alone to love.