Simple Witnesses: The Newly Canonized Fatima Visionaries

Simple Witnesses: The Newly Canonized Fatima Visionaries

May 13, 1917

Our Lady chooses to reveal herself to three children tending sheep in the Cova da Iria.  Tenderly, she tells them to not be afraid and yet she asks them to sacrifice for the conversion of the world.  They are mere children, the oldest one is ten years old, but they agree to offer up their sufferings and sacrifices for love of Jesus and for the conversion of others.

That may seem abstract to many of us.  However, they are quick to concretize this request.  Whenever poor children ask for food, the three children give them their lunch.  As they tend to the sheep, they see how long they can go without water and offer this thirst to Jesus.  Little Jacinta finds out that she will die alone in a hospital in Lisbon and, although she is scared, she chooses to offer this trial up to Our Lady for the sake of others.

We can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore him.  That was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering.  God’s presence became constant in their lives, as is evident from their insistent prayers for sinners and their desire to remain ever near “the hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.

Canonization Mass Homily of Pope Francis, 5/13/2017

These sacrifices, though small in the course of human history, are monumental.  Children are shown to be capable of leading the way to holiness.  Their tangible witness is felt in particular in the place one would expect it: Fatima, Portugal.

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It has been a tremendous gift of mine that I have been to Fatima three times.  The picture above is from the most recent trip.  The man in the picture happens to be the nephew of St. Francisco and St. Jacinta Marto.  His father was their older brother, John.  Proud of his close relation, he showed us the page in Lucia’s book where she speaks about his father.

Each time I am in Fatima, I experience a great peace that comes from resting in a place that is so dear to my Heavenly Mother.  My birthday aligns with the anniversary of her first appearance in Fatima and so I have a filial devotion to this particular feast.  As I have read more about the children and how they fervently responded to her words, I have grown an even deeper love for Our Lady of Fatima and her little children.

May 13, 2017

In so many ways, their lives were insignificant.  Francisco and Jacinta were two children who fell victim to the influenza epidemic in 1919-1920.  Their lives were spent in poor circumstances in a town in Portugal for which few people cared.  While generally good children, they were not known to be perfect.  Yet on May 13, 2017, they were declared canonized saints in the Catholic Church.

Indeed, God created us to be a source of hope for others, a true and attainable hope, in accordance with each person’s state of life.

Pope Francis 5/13/2017

Continue reading “Simple Witnesses: The Newly Canonized Fatima Visionaries”

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Beloved Fatima

Beloved Fatima

My sister said that the closer we got, the larger my smile became.  I couldn’t help it.  I was returning to a place that I had visited twice before and it had a certain feeling of coming home.  The bus pulled up and let us out, excitedly spilling onto the platform before setting out on our mission.

I had returned again to my beloved Fatima, Portugal.  This was the second “Marian bookend” of my Camino in the summer of 2014.  Prior to walking the Camino, we had visited Lourdes.  Now, we were on a celebratory trip to Fatima.

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A New Reference Point

College seems to be my constant reference point for things.  At times I have to remind myself that I am not going back to my undergraduate years, that this isn’t an extremely long vacation, that this life that I am living right now is, in fact, reality.  My memories of college are so vivid and life seemed to be filled with so much learning, wonder, and beauty.  These days are filled with those things, too, they just happen to filled with a lot more day-in-day-out routine.  Some of the best stories that I tell for classes are ones where I was gallavanting around Europe for a semester or feeling hard-core praying outside an abortion clinic in downtown Pittsburgh.  Now I look up and realize I have been teaching high school for nearly two years.  In some ways, it feels like forever.  Yet it also feels like it has happened so fast.  Was it really two years ago that I was preparing to graduate?  That I was living on a campus teeming with young Catholics?  These days I am invigorated to spot another person below 40 at daily Mass.

This Palm Sunday four years ago, I was soaking up the sun from the steps of the basilica in Fatima.  It was the start of a ten-day break and I would then travel to Madrid to work with the Missionaries of Charity during Holy Week.  I experienced vividly the providence of the Lord on that trip.  While the Lord provides for me everyday, I recognized it and relished it more at that time.  It seemed to be in such magnificent ways.  The Lord provided a train at the appropriate time.  He provided a kind Portuguese family that drove us from the train stop to the town of Fatima.  He was constantly looking out for us and giving us glimpses of beauty along the way.

The same is true for my life today but it seems to be less spectacular.  My students participated in a discussion I tried to lead.  My meeting with my principal went better than expected.  I didn’t feel like dropping into my bed at 3:30.  I managed to stay awake for a whole holy hour.  Little things.  Things that don’t feel extraordinary or all that spectacular.  That is my life.

It is easy to feel a little trapped.  I teach high school students in a not-too-small town but one that seems a bit stifling anyway.  My heart doesn’t long for a metropolis or an accolade laden teaching career.  I simply desire to be fulfilled.  In many ways I feel fulfilled but in many ways I feel a lack. I cannot help but at times looking around me and wondering when it will be my turn…for so many things.  I’m young but I feel so old sometimes.

I need a new reference point.  College continues to fall further into the past with each passing day.  I cannot go back there, as much as I may wish to some days.  The future I imagine may not be at all as I expect when it finally comes around.  All I truly have is the present and even that I do not really possess.  Christ needs to be my new reference point.  Friends will come and go, family members will pass away, gifts will fade, and abilities will be lost.  But Christ is ever-new.