From a column by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
Exactly 100 years ago this Saturday, May 13, three young children in Fatima, Portugal, had the first of six apparitions of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Church is very wary of claimed apparitions for good reason. Many turn out to be natural phenomena, or innocent imaginings, or even outright frauds. The Church thus investigates and reflects carefully on claimed apparitions for years before acknowledging the authenticity of events like Lourdes or Fatima.
But there’s no doubt today that Mary’s presence at Fatima, and her predictions about the crises and sufferings of the 20th century, were real. St. John Paul II, who had a lifelong devotion to Mary, survived a brutal assassination attempt on May 13, 1981, and he always attributed his recovery to the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima.
What links Lourdes and Fatima is this: In both places, Mary appeared not to Church leaders, or intellectuals, or celebrities, or the wealthy, or the socially connected, or the politically skilled, but to the lowly; children who were poor and humble. Their simplicity made them sane enough to see and believe the miracle before them and hear the messages that Mary brought – messages ultimately about our need for conversion and trust in God, even in the face of crushing trials.
If we now live in an era of towering ironies, this is the greatest and most beautiful irony of them all: the love that the Creator of all things, God himself, bears for the very least among us.
Earlier this month, in honor of the Fatima centenary, the bishops of Pennsylvania voted to dedicate every diocese and eparchy in the Commonwealth to the protection of the Blessed Mother. The official dedication to Mary will take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Harrisburg at noon on Wednesday, September 27, in a Mass concelebrated by all Pennsylvania bishops. Our own diocesan dedication will take place the weekend of October 14-15. Local details will be coming soon.
On May 13, and in the months ahead, please turn your prayers to Mary. Ask her intercession for the protection of the Church, the Holy Father, and our Catholic people across the state. As the mother of all of us, she will never refuse the requests of a faithful heart.