CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 March 2019

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Our Lady of Fatima

In 1917, the apparitions of Our Lady occurred at Fatima. On the 13th of this month, Pope Francis will visit the small Portuguese town to preside over the celebration of their centenary.

In 1910, following the Portuguese Revolution, Portugal came under a Marxist government and in the traditionally Catholic country religion suffered from unprecedented persecution. Clergy were expelled and seminaries, convents and Church properties were confiscated. The government wanted to exterminate religion.

In 1914, the First World War broke out. The battles were like a raging fire spreading across and ravaging much of the world. No one knew when this human catastrophe would come to an end.

At this critical moment, God sent the Blessed Virgin Mary to Fatima, a small village on the outskirts of Lisbon, to appear to three children watching over their sheep. All three were less than 10-years-old.

On the 13 May 1917, while the three were praying the rosary together, they suddenly saw a woman, shining brightly as she stood atop an oak tree on a hill then drifted towards them.

That was the first apparition of Mary.

She appeared to the three on the same date for six consecutive months. They were nine-year-old Lucy dos Santos and her two cousins, eight-year-old Francisco Marto and six-year-old Jacinta Marto. They were the purest and most devoted of children.

During the six apparitions, family and social pressure, as well as persecution, threats and imprisonment failed to deter bigger and bigger crowds of people from gathering at Fatima.

Two of the three children died several years later. Only Lucy lived to old age, She joined a convent, keeping the three secrets, which Mary had entrusted to her.

She only told her superior what they were, but with the passage of time they were to be proven accurate: the disintegration of Communist Russia; the end of the two World Wars; and the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.

But the most memorable was Portugal finally breaking away from Communist control and the restoration of freedom to the Church, allowing people from all over the world to visit Fatima.

But the world has not changed and is still full of ills and troubles. Despite the demise of the Soviet Union, all kinds of deformed ideologies have emerged.

Societies are oppressed by terrorism and human life has become cheap. Religion is still persecuted and human rights ignored. In some places governments strive to control religion and transform it into a political tool of their regimes.

Our Lady of Fatima is still urging humankind to seek refuge in her immaculate heart and to pray the rosary. She requested us to devote the first Saturday of each month to her Immaculate Heart, attend Mass, receive communion frequently and do penance.

Penance matters, as it enables God’s mercy to reform our lives, thoughts, attitudes and mentalities: only repentance and penance can change the fate of human beings.

Hong Kong’s own scripture scholar, Blessed Gabriele Allegra, wrote, “In order to save human souls in the world, Jesus has willed us to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” SE