This October marks the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady’s apparition to the children at Fatima, and last May, I was fortunate to be able to go on pilgrimage to this holy site with my mother and a tour group organized through Syversen Touring, a fabulous family-owned company.
At Fatima, my mom and I shared a small room in a modest hotel run by Dominican nuns. Our window faced the back courtyard, and when we opened it in the morning to keep the room cool for the rest of the day, we would be greeted by the coo-ing of pigeons and doves and the flutter of their wings as they flew from one rooftop to another. Though my mom and I were always together, from the time we landed in Portugal, God would take each of us in our own separate, private journeys of healing.
Every night at Fatima, pilgrims from throughout the world say the Rosary in multiple-languages and parade slowly around the square. During the first evening, like most pilgrims, I was drawn to the statue of Our Lady that stands all day in the small outdoor chapel, at the site of the holm-oak tree, where she first appeared – the image was being carried on a small platform. She wore a crown, her hands folded in prayer, after Our Lady of Victory, for whom the Portuguese owe gratitude for a miraculous wartime victory.
Since it was our first night, nobody in our tour group carried the cupped candles held by most of the pilgrims. A Portuguese child, seeing that a priest in his brown cloak had no candle to raise up when it was time to honor Our Lady, gave her own to Father Robert Barcelos, our spiritual leader for the pilgrimage. I looked at my mother and my heart was content.
On the second night at Fatima, Our Lady made herself known to me. The air was cool and when the crowd rounded a bend, my gaze fell on the stone statue on the Basilica’s façade. It was easy to miss her. When facing the Basilica, Our Lady is hidden behind the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She also stands between the striking grand-sized, imposing images of Saints Jacinta and Francisco. Always present, rarely seen – that is the way Our Lady moves.
But once I saw her, immediately, I understood so much of what I didn’t know before.
Our Lady of Fatima reveals her love to us. I saw her heart and for the first time in my life, I understood clearly that Our Lady was constantly offering her heart to mankind, and that in staying close to her Immaculate Heart, she desired to lead and guide us directly into the Sacred Heart of Christ.
In the Philippines the images of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary are ubiquitous. They hang side by side on window-sills, car mirrors, and especially as part of the front walls of homes. In America, many of my extended family and friends have posters somewhere in their homes of Jesus and Mary, their hearts at the center of their breasts, crowned with thorns and burning with fire.
Unlike the images of the Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus that I had grown up with, the heart on the statue of Our Lady above the entrance of the Fatima Basilica, was on her left, and was a three-dimensional image outside of her body. From this, I understood something else.
As a Mother, Our Lady of Fatima shares in and experiences the pains and joys of the world. I saw the thorns that pierced her heart and I understood that she suffered greatly for her loving concern for mankind and for the offenses against her Son. There have been so many countless moments in my motherhood when I have had to bear the pain in my heart for my children, and at times, it has been excruciating. It is a pain that every mother, often times, suffers hidden and alone.
Our Lady has carried the pain of watching her son suffer on Calvary and the joy of being the first to witness His resurrection – in her Immaculate Heart. And in so doing, she carries all our pains and joys.
As our Mother, Our Lady of Fatima yearns for us to enter her embrace. Most images of Our Lady of Fatima, have her hands folded together in prayer, but the statue above the Basilica is that of Our Lady holding her right hand up with the left-hand slightly bent downward. I have used that same position countless times to support my children as they learned to walk, to lift them up into my arms when they needed comfort, and to embrace them.
Our Lady constantly holds the world in her love and prayers of intercession and desires for us as her children to stay close to her
As a Mother, Our Lady of Fatima teaches us how to love ourselves. She helped me to understand that I didn’t have to be the perfect daughter to be loved by God, and that the world was held together by Him and not my efforts.
With a Mother’s gaze, Our Lady looked down from the façade of the Basilica so that I could understand the unconditional love of her Immaculate Heart, in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was a love that touched me despite of all my imperfections. (to be continued)
Copyright 2017 Teresa Linda, thespeakroom.org. All Rights Reserved
Living the Marian Consecration
In an interview with Catholic San Francisco following the consecration of the archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Archbishop Cordileone invited the faithful to continue to bring the Blessed Virgin into their lives in “very concrete ways,” including the following.
- Individuals praying the rosary daily
- Families praying the rosary weekly
- Frequently making a good confession
- Frequently participating in adoration
- Fasting and abstinence
- Accompaniment of immigrants