HOW TO CELEBRATE THE CENTENARY OF FATIMA APPARITIONS
Prof. Michael Ogunu
In my previous article titled “The Centenary of Fatima Apparitions, 1917 to 2017”, I described how an angel appeared to three shepherd children: Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta at Fatima (Portugal) in 1916 and prepared them for the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the children in 1917. The apparitions began on May 13, 1917 and ended with the miracle of the sun on October 13, 1917. Our Lady’s messages to the world in each of her six apparitions to the children are so important that all the Popes since then have commented on the need for all Christians to heed the messages for their personal salvation and for peace in the world. To Pope John XXIII, “Fatima is the centre of all Christian hopes”. When we consider our human frailties, and when all hope seems to vanish, the message from Fatima shines through like the light of a lighthouse in the densest fog. This is so because, as Pope Paul VI said, the message from Fatima brings up to date the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ for all to know.
Our Lady asked for prayers (daily recitation of the Rosary), penance, sacrifice and reparation as well as the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart. Our Popes – Pius XII, John Paul II and Benedict XVI have complied with the last request (Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary). Pope Francis consecrated the world to Our Lady of Fatima October 13, 2013. But mankind has continued to sin and not done sufficient penance to appease the wrath of God. Consequently, the world is in danger of a just punishment from God for not heeding the message of His Son communicated by Our Lady of Fatima through the three shepherd children.
The Centenary of the Fatima Apparitions will take place from May 13 to October 13, 2017. His Holiness, Pope Francis, will be going to Fatima to lead in the celebration of the Centenary and expects all Catholic Bishops to lead their flock in the celebration. While the details of the diocesan celebration have to be worked out by the Committees which every Bishop will set up for the purpose, it is hereby humbly suggested that the celebration should include the following:
1. Eucharistic celebration in honour of Our Lady of Fatima in the Cathedral or other appropriate location in the diocese at which the Bishop is the Chief Celebrant in union with all the priests of the diocese as Co-Celebrants.
2. Eucharistic Adoration with Benediction/Holy Hour of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
3. Rosary procession with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima (preferably the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue if available) in which at least 20 decades of the Rosary are devoutly recited round the town, accompanied with Marian hymns.
4. Talks on the Message of Fatima and its relevance to today’s world. Topics for such Talks may include, but not limited to, any of the following:
· The Message of Fatima and its Relevance in the 21st Century.
· Prayer, Penance and Sacrifice as Essential Elements of a Eucharistic Life.
· Mary as Model of Eucharistic Life.
· Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
· Consecration to God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
· The Rosary as an Essential Weapon against the Evils of our Society.
· Living the Message of Fatima in the context of the New Evangelization.
· Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.
· The Practice of First Saturday Devotion as Required by Our Lady of Fatima.
· The Signs of the Times and the Urgency of Our Lady of Fatima’s Call for Communions of Reparation.
· How to Offer our Bodies as “Living Sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom. 12:1).
5. Consecration of the diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (or its renewal if the consecration had already been done) either on May 13 or on the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary which is on Saturday June 24, 2017 or Friday October 13, 2017 (Centenary of the last Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima in 2017) with an Act of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The consecration can be done at any other time considered appropriate by the Bishop.
At the national level, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the country should consecrate the nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary or renew the consecration if it had already been done. October 13 is strongly recommended for the national celebration as many bishops, priests and lay faithful may be making a pilgrimage to Fatima for the May 13 celebration. Care should be taken to ensure that the date chosen for the national celebration is one of the dates of the Fatima apparitions to honour Our Lady’s Apparition on that day.
When on October 31, 1942, Pope Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at the end, he said: “Forever we consecrate ourselves to you and to your Immaculate Heart, Oh Mother and Queen of the world. May your love and patronage hasten the victory of the kingdom of God. May all nations, at peace with each other and with God, proclaim you blessed”. The wish of the Holy Father that this consecration would also take place in other countries became a reality in Germany (Western Part) on the 4th of September of 1954, during the Catholic Day, in front of the Cathedral of Fulda (in which the tomb of Saint Boniface is located), in the presence of over 100,000 people. Since then, other nations have been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. More recently, as reported by Nuno Prazeres and Ana Reis, Directors of the International Secretariat of the World Apostolate of Fatima, the Dioceses of Portugal were consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima on May 13th, 2016.
A novena in honour of Our Lady of Fatima, starting from 5th of May, 2017 (in which all the faithful of the diocese are encouraged to participate) can precede the May 13 celebration. Prayer in honour of Our Lady of Fatima and the Rosary with the Litany of Our Lady can be the main prayers for the Novena. There should be opportunities for Confessions similar to what Pope Francis calls “24 Hours for the Lord” for the Year of Mercy in all the Churches on Friday May 12.
The Centenary celebration should be adequately publicized in all parish Sunday bulletins and in the diocesan and national Catholic newspapers.
Throughout history, Mary has always intervened to save Christians from defeat at the hands of an often far militarily superior enemy. Her special weapon in these cases has always been the Rosary. In all the six apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, she always requested for the praying of the Rosary to end the war (world war) and for peace in the world. The examples of the victories won in the past through the Rosary should encourage and spur us into action.
In one of his talks years ago, late Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that the United States and the former Soviet Union with their nuclear arsenals had enough explosive power to destroy every person on earth. Today many more countries have nuclear weapons. Imagine how many more explosive powers exist in the world now. We are therefore always in danger of nuclear holocaust.
In 1683, Austria was saved from the Muslim Turks of the Ottoman Empire. It was not generals, nor battalions, nor arms that brought victory, but Our Lady of the Rosary as thousands of Austrians said the Rosary for deliverance. Over 270 years later, on 13th May 1955, the anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, the Four powers – U.S., U.K., France and Russia, signed an agreement in Vienna to restore freedom and sovereignty to Austria. Other enslaved Communist countries, like Hungary, revolted and failed. Austria succeeded without effort. WHY? 700,000 people or 10% of the seven million population had pledged themselves ten years earlier to say the Rosary daily. A modern example of how God can spare many for the prayers of the few.
The highlight of the Spanish Civil War in 1938 was the Battle of Alcazar when the Communists laid siege to this ancient fortress. The 1700 defenders including 500 women and 52 children, under constant bombardment from several thousand Communists, gathered to say the Rosary twice daily. They held out for 71 days till General Franco finally arrived to rout the Communists.
In addition to the elements of the Centenary celebration stated above, Bishops should encourage First Saturday Devotion as requested by Our Lord and Our Lady of Fatima in 1925 in their dioceses as well as other programmes of devotion to Our Lady of Fatima such as visitation of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue to Churches in the dioceses that will be organised by the World Apostolate of Fatima (the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima) as part of the general preparations for the celebration of the Centenary.
As explained by Prof. Americo Lopez Ortiz, International President of the World Apostolate of Fatima,
The goal Our Lady strives for are clear: world peace, the repentance of sinners, and the establishment of the “Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary”, with everything that it implies. The goals of Our Lady should become the guiding goals of our own lives. Our collective national and international projects should be based on the prophetic vision of Our Lady of Fatima, striving for a new era for humanity, which will be the product of the Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart over the enemies of Christ.
Fr. McGlynn pointed out in his book VISION OF FATIMA, that Fatima is, first of all, a dreadful warning to the world to stop sinning. The enormity of mankind's rebellion against God, and God's infinite aversion to sin, form the foundation of the Fatima message. It is a warning that the time of God's justice will come to pass, if men do not take advantage of this time of His mercy, this special opportunity of making reparation through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Prof. Michael Ogunu is the President of the Executive Board of the World Apostolate of Fatima for English-speaking Africa & Coordinator of the Fatima Apostolate in the African Sub-Region
Copyright © Professor Michael Ogunu 2016
Version: 15th May 2016