By Fr Chris de Sousa CRS
From May to October in 1917, Our Lady appeared a total of six times, to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.
Lúcia dos Santos, Francisco and Jacinta Marto were asked by Our Lady to pray the rosary, make sacrifices for the salvation of sinners and to encourage others to do the same for peace.
On 13 October, some 70,000 people witnessed a supernatural phenomenon, popularly known as the “miracle of the Sun,” that validated the children’s visions.
So after over a century, why are these events still relevant and why should we continue to live out the messages of Fatima?
In her July apparition, Our Lady warned the three children about the evils of communism that would begin in Russia and spread throughout the world.
She foretold of the horrors of the 20th century and the wars and persecutions that would result in the greatest destruction of human life that the world has ever seen.
Though the Soviet Union collapsed and Pope Saint John Paul II publicly consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we are still afflicted by many of the same evils three decades later.
An atheistic Russia under communism did not recognise any God-given dignity to human life and it is clear today, as countries continue to make the gravest of sins against life legal, that the rest of the world don’t either.
Under this culture of death, the evils of abortion and euthanasia eliminates the most vulnerable as precious lives are seen as an inconvenience and a drain on the state’s resources.
The sexual revolution in the late 1960s set the course for the legalisation of divorce, cohabitation and same-sex unions.
It has promoted a society of sexual immorality that weakened marriages, fractured the family and has ultimately turned Christ-centred communities into self-centred relativists with no regard for the dignity of the human person.
But if we are to build a culture of life, we must put into practice Our Lady’s messages and turn back to her son.
In her July message, Our Lady asked the children of Fatima, and us today, to make penances in reparation for offences against God, the conversion of sinners and for the salvation of souls.
Penance simply means a turning away from sin, and a turning back to God, and in order to do this, we must seek to undo the vices in our spiritual lives.
Whether it be fasting from a meal to combat gluttony, taking on acts of mercy to combat sloth or donating a little extra money to combat our greed, these penances help save the soul you offer them for, as well as your own.
In all six of her apparitions at Fatima, Our Lady emphasised the daily recitation of the rosary for peace in the world.
The rosary is our prayer to God through the intercession of the Virgin Mary and her immaculate heart.
When we meditate on the mysteries of the rosary and enter into the key moments of the life of Jesus Christ, our hearts are transformed and our faith in God increased.
Prayed together at home and in public, the recitation of the rosary has the power to unite families, foster Christ-centric communities and change lives.
With this in mind, I invite you all to join the bishops, clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese of Sydney in the recitation of the rosary and public candlelit procession at St Mary’s Cathedral on 13 May, commencing with a Mass at 6pm.
Fr Chris de Sousa CRS is assistant priest at St Joseph’s Moorebank and St Christopher’s Holsworthy.