Last month Pope Francis canonized Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the three children visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal, exactly 100 years ago.
With renewed attention on Fatima, Alaskans won’t need to travel far to learn more about the renowned Marian apparitions.
The world-famous international Pilgrim Virgin Statue is coming to the Archdiocese of Anchorage, July 26-30, as part of a two-year U.S. tour for peace. The goal is to bring the graces of Fatima to the American people.
The traveling statue was blessed by the Bishop of Liera, Fatima, to serve as a means of carrying the blessings of Fatima throughout the world.
The statue will be at the following parishes.
Tuesday, July 25 (Anchorage) – Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament Holy Hour & Consecration, 4 p.m., Mass at 5:30 p.m. followed by all-night adoration until 2 p.m. Wednesday.
- Wednesday, July 26 (Anchorage) – St. Benedict Church for a youth event, 7-9 p.m. (Holy Hour at 6 p.m.)
- Thursday, July 27 (Palmer) – St. Michael Church, Special Event 5:30-8 p.m., followed by all-night eucharistic adoration. Statue departs at 8 a.m. Friday.
- Friday, July 28 (Anchorage) – Holy Family Cathedral. Statue arrives with procession at 11:30 a.m. Special Event 7-9 p.m. followed by all-night eucharistic adoration. Statue departs at 7 a.m. Saturday.
- Saturday, July 29 (Anchorage) – St Patrick Church, Special Event 9 a.m.–noon
LADY OF FATIMA TAKES U.S. BY MOTORHOME
Throughout the summer, motorists traveling highways in the Lower-48 may encounter the Blessed Virgin Mary — or, at least, her larger-than-life image painted on an RV.
Due to time constraints the statue will be flown to Anchorage, but the RV is the image’s main mode of transportation across most of the country.
“The RV is a running billboard for the World Apostolate of Fatima,” said Patrick Sabat, custodian of the pilgrim virgin statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Sabat told the Catholic Anchor that the RV attracts attention wherever it goes — at any time of day or night.
“I get knocks on the door everywhere, even when I’m sleeping,” he said. “And lots of people on the highway honk or give peace signs. Sometimes I worry about their safety, because they linger in the lane.”
The World Apostolate of Fatima, formerly known as the “Blue Army” and now known as “WAF,” was founded in 1947. In 2010, WAF was officially recognized by the Catholic Church as a public association of the faithful, and it operates with the Vatican’s approval.
WAF’s mission is to spread the message of Fatima: Pray the rosary daily, wear the brown scapular, and make the communion of reparation or “Five First Saturdays” devotion. They also help form “prayer cells,” or groups of people committed to living the Fatima message of prayer and penance. To spread the message, WAF publishes “Soul” magazine and other books, as well as sends representatives to make various appearances in Catholic media and travel around the world with the pilgrim virgin statue.
In honor of the centennial of Mary’s apparitions at Fatima, Sabat said that WAF’s goal is to carry the pilgrim statue to all 50 states on its current tour, which began on Easter Monday April 2016 and will run through December 2017.
Along with two other men, Sabat is in charge of driving a dark blue 33-foot RV that has an image of Our Lady of Fatima printed on the side. The trio work two-man shifts of five to seven days at a time, with the idle member back at home. During his interview, Sabat was sitting in the back of the motorhome on a cell phone while his co-worker drove the six hours from Memphis, Tennessee to Kansas.
Sabat is from the Philippines, where he ran a small video production company and taught philosophy at a state university. Beginning in 2003, he toured the Philippines with the pilgrim statue on a part-time basis, but moved to the United States in 2008 to work full-time as the statue’s custodian.
Despite nearly 15 years of this work, Sabat has yet to hear a negative reaction to the pilgrim statue.
“Even when I’m flying, and we buy her a ticket to sit next to me. A lot of people ask questions, and I take it as an opportunity to evangelize,” he said. But he confesses to disarming curious passengers with a little humor. “I tell them, ‘She prefers the window seat.’”
Sabat has lots of favorite stories from his travels, one of which involved a man in Chicago who was in a bar, intending to drink himself to death in despair.
“As he was looking out the window, he saw the blinking lights of police cars and lots of people, and thought it was a violent uprising. Then he saw rosaries, candles, and 4,000 people marching with the pilgrim statue. He got up from his seat and was moved. The next morning, he went to confession for the first time in many years.”
“I only know this because the priest from Chicago chased me down later that day, and told me the whole story, although he could not elaborate because of the seal of the confessional. He did say that, ‘when you guys are here, we catch a lot of big fish!’”
HISTORY OF FATIMA
On May 13, 1917, in the midst of World War I, three poor shepherd children were tending their flocks at a secluded spot near the village of Fatima, Portugal. The children — 9-year-old Lucia Santos, and her cousins, 8-year-old Francisco Marto and 7-year-old Jacinta Marto — saw the Blessed Virgin Mary, who asked the children to pray the rosary for peace and to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. Mary visited the children on a monthly basis, granting them spiritual revelations concerning the world, the church and individual souls.
Mary’s visits and messages to the shepherd children culminated on a rainy day, Oct. 13, 1917. Tens of thousands of people — many of them non-believers — came to Fatima for the expected miracle. What ensued was a supernatural event known as the Miracle of the Sun. The sun appeared to dance and change color, and fall toward the earth. As suddenly and inexplicably as it began, the sun returned to its place in the sky, whereupon the tens of thousands of witnesses found that their rain-soaked clothes were dry and clean.
As foretold by Mary to the children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto both became ill and died young, Francisco in 1919 and Jacinta in 1920. And, as promised by Mary, Lucia learned to read and write in order to spread devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Lucia later joined the Carmelite religious order, and died in February 2005.
After due investigation, the local bishop proclaimed the children’s visions and Mary’s messages as worthy of belief in 1930.
PRIVATE REVELATION AND THE POPES
Although the church has sanctioned the messages of Fatima, this does not mean such belief is necessary for the salvation of one’s soul. Rather, the Catechism describes such phenomena as “private revelations,” and, as such, distinct and separate from the deposit of faith:
“It is not [the role of private revelation] to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history,” the Catechism states.
Nevertheless, recent Popes have paid singular attention to Fatima.
When Pope Benedict XVI visited Fatima in 2010, he prayed that the years leading to the centenary in 2017 would “hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.”
Too, recent popes have followed Mary’s lead in setting aside May 13 as a singular day to honor her. Pope St. John Paul II was nearly killed by an assassin’s bullet on May 13, 1981. When he recovered, he credited Our Lady of Fatima’s intercession, and made a pilgrimage to Fatima on the first anniversary, May 13, 1982. The same pope beatified Francisco and Jacinta Marto on May 13, 2000, and Pope Francis canonized both children on May 13, 2017, the centennial of the first apparition.
CONSECRATION TO MARY
One of the messages given by Mary at Fatima was her desire that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II, following this injunction, performed these consecrations.
Consecration to Jesus through Mary was popularized by Saint Louis de Montfort, an 18th century priest who spent his life spreading devotion to Mary in western France.
Today, individual Marian consecrations can be performed by the laity on their own initiative or through church-approved groups like the Legion of Mary. “33 Days to Morning Glory,” a do-it-yourself Marian consecration book by Father Michael Gaitley was recently ranked #10 on Amazon’s Catholic bestsellers.
Some bishops, such as Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Ore., and Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., have taken the extraordinary step of consecrating their dioceses to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In this same vein, Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne reinforced the importance of Mary’s message at Fatima and her call to conversion in his blog postdated May 14.
“Our Blessed Mother during these apparitions asked that people repent of their sins, strive to grow in holiness and pray the Rosary daily,” he wrote. “Though her appearances to the young children at Fatima did reveal scenes of the consequences of sin, her primary message was one of conversion, penance, and prayer.”
Archbishop Etienne added: “Because Mary is the Mother of God, she holds great power, but she desires our own efforts to live holy lives and to advance God’s Kingdom upon the earth. Her message reminds us that she loves us, and that she invites us not only to pray, but to draw near to her and find shelter in her maternal care. As we know and experience the love of our own mothers and grandmothers, we are loved even more powerfully and perfectly by our Mother Mary.”