(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis concluded his pilgrimage to Fatima on Saturday, with a Mass marking the centenary of the Marian apparitions there, which made the place a famous ad beloved place of pilgrimage to millions of faithful from all around the world and across generations.
During the Mass, the Holy Father canonised two of the seers of Fatima, declaring Francisco and Jacinta Marto to be saints in heaven.
At the end of Mass, the Holy Father led the faithful in a moment of Eucharistic adoration and offered Eucharistic benediction. He also met briefly with a group of sick people, before heading to lunch with the Bishops of Portugal, after which he headed to the papal plane for his flight back to Rome.
Our special envoy, Chris Altieri, was in Fatima from start to finish, and sent this overview of this Apostolic pilgrimage.
Pope Francis presided over Mass for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at the Marian shrine in Fatima on Saturday, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the apparitions of Our Lady there to three small shepherd children.
The children were a brother and sister, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and their cousin, Lucia.
Starting on May 13th, 1917, and running until October 13th of that same year – the story goes – Our Lady would appear and entrust the three children with several messages and three “secrets”.
Those secrets have since been generally understood to regard the conduct of human affairs in the years and decades that followed the bloody middle of 1917, at the beginning of the bloodiest century in world history to date.
During the Mass, Pope Francis canonized two of the children, Francisco and Jacinta, declaring them saints in heaven and ordering that they be honoured throughout the whole Church.
The canonisation ceremony itself was powerfully moving: before a sea of humanity gathered together for the purpose from every corner of the globe, it was conducted in the local language, Portuguese – a departure from the standard procedure, which uses Latin.
About the day, there are a thousand details in which one could get lost: from the glorious and almost constant sunshine that gave the forecasts for the morning the lie – at least for as long as the ceremonies lasted, to the practiced efficiency and cheerfulness of the local people – every May 13th is a big day here – to the patience and even cheerful orderliness of the pilgrims – even and especially the young ones – many of whom had kept their vigil all through the night and into the morning.
One thing in the way of local colour was particularly impressive: the votive candles – thousands of them – lining the short walls enclosing the plaza between the basilicas, and left at the feet of the several statues in the plaza itself, which had pierced the night with their gentle, pertinacious glow, and were gone by morning.
I mean to ask: details apart, what is the story here?
Not to put too fine a point on it: why should we care?
Francisco and Jacinta would die within three years of the apparitions, while their cousin, Lucia, went on to join the Discalced Carmelite order and lived a long life of prayerful seclusion, dying in 2005 at the age of 97.
So, they never really did anything, at least not as far as the world measures achievement.
Still, people have been coming to this place for a century now, to participate in the witness of those shepherd children – and now we know that two of those children are saints in heaven: Francisco and Jacinta, and Sr. Lucia’s cause is open.
I’ll tell you one thing they did: they told the truth.
Those, who disbelieved the shepherd children in 1917, or sought to protect them from themselves, or simply opposed them, have gone to their reward, and while some of Our Lady’s promises seem arguably to have been kept, and the worst of the consequences against which she warned us seem perhaps to have been averted at least for now, the spectre of war has not ceased, and many nations that once made the Cross of Christ their glory, seem now to have forgotten him and to scoff at His commands.
There have always been scoffers, and there always will be, and there’s nothing any of us can do about that.
Today’s scoffers are not all yesterday’s scoffers though: and many of those who scoffed at the children while they lived, were converted to repentance and belief by the working of more spectacular wonders.
Many more scoffers through the years and decades since, have been converted by the quiet witness of those, who continue to come here.
Even the Church was not quick to accept that Francisco and Lucia could be saints: not that they might not be in heaven, but that they had not the psychological maturity to make an act of faith worthy of imitation – or so the argument ran.
In this day – our own – in which many people scoff at truth itself, and do not really expect anyone to believe anything – the word of a child or the word of a king – the story of three shepherd children, who witnessed a most extraordinary thing, and told of what they saw and heard as best they could according to the lights God gave them, and despite significant consequences and threats of worse things still, stuck to their story: that is a story worth telling, and one the world needs to hear.
It is an appalling choice, and it is one we must make every hour of every day: either we decide that we shall tell the truth, come what may, and expect our fellows to do the same, or there can be no fellowship to speak of.
That is the story to which Pope Francis’s pilgrimage has called our attention, before which is the story of the Queen of Heaven who calls us to prayer for the conversion of hearts and for peace on Earth, and beyond which is a future, the details of which are uncertain, but the outcome of which is foretold: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
What happens in the space between is up to us.
That’s what we call “a story with legs” in the trade.
In Fatima, I’m Chris Altieri.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of the Mass in Fatima, after a period of Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament, Pope Francis gave a special blessing to the sick, who had come to the Shrine to pray to Our Lady.
Following the blessing, the Holy Father greeted the sick, reminding them that “whenever we experience a cross,” Jesus “has already been there ahead of us.” He continued, “In His passion, He took upon Himself all our suffering. Jesus knows the meaning of sorrow and pain. He understands us, He comforts us and He gives us strength, as He did to Saint Francisco Marto and Saint Jacinta, and to the saints of every time and place.”
Pope Francis called on those suffering from illnesses to live their lives as a gift: “Like the shepherd children, tell Our Lady that you want to offer yourselves to God with all your heart.”
Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ remarks:
Greeting of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Sick
Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima
13 May 2017
Dear brothers and sisters who are sick,
As I said in the homily, the Lord always goes before us. Whenever we experience a cross, he has already been there ahead of us. In his passion, he took upon himself all our suffering. Jesus knows the meaning of sorrow and pain. He understands us, he comforts us and he gives us strength, as he did to Saint Francisco Marto and Saint Jacinta, and to the saints of every time and place. I think of the Apostle Peter, in chains in the prison of Jerusalem, as the whole Church prayed for him. The Lord comforted Peter. That is the Church’s ministry: the Church asks the Lord to comfort the afflicted like yourselves, and he comforts you, even in ways you cannot see. He comforts you in the depths of your hearts and he comforts you with the gift of strength.
Dear pilgrims, we have before us Jesus hidden yet present in the Eucharist, just as we have Jesus hidden yet present in the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are sick and suffering. On the altar, we worship the flesh of Jesus; in these our brothers and sisters, we encounter the wounds of Jesus. The Christian adores Jesus, the Christian seeks Jesus, the Christian can recognize the wounds of Jesus. Today the Virgin Mary asks all of us the same question that, a hundred years ago, she asked the shepherd children: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God?” Their answer – “Yes, we do!” – makes us able to understand and imitate their lives. They lived life, with its share of joy and suffering, as an offering to the Lord.
I invite those of you who are sick to live your lives as a gift. Like the shepherd children, tell Our Lady that you want to offer yourselves to God with all your heart. Don’t think of yourselves simply as the recipients of charitable solidarity, but feel that you share fully in the Church’s life and mission. Your silent presence, which is more eloquent than a flood of words, your prayers, the daily offering of your sufferings in union with those of Jesus crucified for the salvation of the world, the patient and even joyful acceptance of your condition – all these are a spiritual resource, an asset to every Christian community. Do not be ashamed of being a precious treasure of the Church.
Jesus will pass close to you in the Blessed Sacrament as a sign of his closeness and love for you. Entrust to him your sorrows, your sufferings, all your weariness. Count on the prayer of the Church, which from every corner of the world rises up to heaven for you and with you. God is our Father, and he will never forget you.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) The highlight of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Fatima is the canonization Mass this Saturday morning, during which the two shepherd children, Blessed Francisco and Blessed Giacinta are being to the sainthood.
During his homily the Pope said, “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.”
Below find the English translation of the Pope’s Homily
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Holy Mass, Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima
13 May 2017
“[There] appeared in heaven a woman clothed with the sun”. So the seer of Patmos tells us in the Book of Revelation (12:1), adding that she was about to give birth to a son. Then, in the Gospel, we hear Jesus say to his disciple, “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:27). We have a Mother! “So beautiful a Lady”, as the seers of Fatima said to one another as they returned home on that blessed day of 13 March a hundred years ago. That evening, Jacinta could not restrain herself and told the secret to her mother: “Today I saw Our Lady”. They had seen the Mother of Heaven. Many others sought to share that vision, but… they did not see her. The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her. We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven.
Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures. Such a life – frequently proposed and imposed – risks leading to hell. Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us, for, as we heard in the first reading, “the child [of the woman] was snatched away and taken to God” (Rev 12:5). In Lucia’s account, the three chosen children found themselves surrounded by God’s light as it radiated from Our Lady. She enveloped them in the mantle of Light that God had given her. According to the belief and experience of many pilgrims, if not of all, Fatima is more than anything this mantle of Light that protects us, here as in almost no other place on earth. We need but take refuge under the protection of the Virgin Mary and to ask her, as the Salve Regina teaches: “show unto us… Jesus”.
Dear pilgrims, we have a Mother. Clinging to her like children, we live in the hope that rests on Jesus. As we heard in the second reading, “those who receive the abundance of the grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17). When Jesus ascended to heaven, he brought to the Heavenly Father our humanity, which he assumed in the womb of the Virgin Mary and will never forsake. Like an anchor, let us fix our hope on that humanity, seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father (cf. Eph 2:6). May this hope guide our lives! It is a hope that sustains us always, to our dying breath.
Confirmed in this hope, we have gathered here to give thanks for the countless graces bestowed over these past hundred years. All of them passed beneath the mantle of light that Our Lady has spread over the four corners of the earth, beginning with this land of Portugal, so rich in hope. 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.
In her Memoirs (III, 6), Sister Lucia quotes Jacinta who had just been granted a vision: “Do you not see all those streets, all those paths and fields full of people crying out for food, yet have nothing to eat? And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary? And all those people praying with him?” Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me! I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to her all her sons and daughters. Under her mantle they are not lost; from her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family, especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned. Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us.
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. In “asking” and “demanding” of each of us the fulfillment of the duties of our proper state (Letters of Sister Lucia, 28 February 1943), God effects a general mobilization against the indifference that chills the heart and worsens our myopia. We do not want to be a stillborn hope! Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). The Lord, who always goes before us, said this and did this. Whenever we experience the cross, he has already experienced it before us. We do not mount the cross to find Jesus. Instead it was he who, in his self-abasement, descended even to the cross, in order to find us, to dispel the darkness of evil within us, and to bring us back to the light.
With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Saviour, resplendent at Easter. Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love.
(from Vatican Radio)…