Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
In 1917 three peasant children claimed to have seen a vision of Our Lady appear to them at Fatima in Portugal. These apparitions happened during World War I. Mary foretold World War II, the rise of communism and the spread of atheism. There was also the foretelling of the assassination attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II in 1981.
The core of the message was about repentance and prayer. It also called for a faithfulness to God and for all to open their minds and hearts to God. The Church’s position on the apparitions of Fatima is that they are ‘worthy of belief’.
Private revelations have been part of Catholic life from the beginning of the Church. Christian women and men have had religious and mystical experiences, sometimes including visions, over the ages.
Of course these private revelations and religious experiences do not share the same status as the scriptures, or the official teachings of the Church. Many are culturally conditioned by the events, time and place of those who experience them.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, a great teacher of spirituality, believed that a person may have a genuine religious experience and then have what he called the ‘afterglow’ of the experience which was not necessarily part of the original experience from God to the person. Some people then mistake the ‘afterglow’ coming from the psyche and subjective thinking with the original experience.
Certainly, in regard to the visions of Our Lady of Fatima, the Church community has treated them with respect and a high level of credibility. Its basic message of prayer and commitment and obedience to God is core to our beliefs.
The three young people involved were certainly very credible. There are many claims about private revelations of Jesus, Mary and the Saints, as well as angels. They are not all recognised as being ‘authentic’ by the Church. Some are bizarre and certainly contradict the experience of the faith community and the teaching authority of the Church.
Fatima is certainly not one of those. It is venerable and much respected. Some of its message was for a time and a place. Some if it has universal and perennial value. Certainly, prayer, repentance, conversion, obedience to God are values that are core to our Christian living today, and always will be.
The place of Mary in the Church is certainly a gift given to us by God.
Mary, Mother of the Church, our Mother, Pray for us.
God Bless you today.
Bishop of Darwin