Beginning in the spring of 1917, nine-year-old Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francesco and Jacinta Marto of Aljustrel in the parish of Fatima, Portugal reported apparitions of an Angel, and starting in May 1917, apparitions of the Virgin Mary, whom the children described as “the Lady more brilliant than the Sun”. The children reported a prophecy that prayer would lead to an end to the Great War, and that on 13 October that year the Lady would reveal her identity and perform a miracle “so that all may believe.” Newspapers reported the prophecies, and many pilgrims began visiting the area. The children’s accounts were deeply controversial, drawing intense criticism from both local secular and religious authorities. A provincial administrator briefly took the children into custody, believing the prophecies were politically motivated in opposition to the officially secular First Portuguese Republic established in 1910.
The events of 13 October became known as the Miracle of the Sun. After some newspapers reported that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on 13 October, a huge crowd, possibly between 30,000 and 100,000, including reporters and photographers, gathered at Cova da Iria. According to accounts, after a period of rain, the dark clouds broke and the Sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disk in the sky. It was said to be significantly duller than normal, and to cast multicolored lights across the landscape, the people, and the surrounding clouds. The Sun was then reported to have careened towards the earth before zig-zagging back to its normal position. Witnesses reported that their previously wet clothes became “suddenly and completely dry, as well as the wet and muddy ground that had been previously soaked because of the rain that had been falling”. – Wikipedia
Some saw what was described and some did not. There were scientists who could not explain these witnessed events and others offered some explanation. Yet, despite the accounts of the event, the secrets revealed to the children by Our Lady have all come to pass. But, as Saint Thomas Aquinas said: “For those who have faith, no explanation is necessary. For those who have not faith, no explanation is enough.”
At Fatima Our Lady points to the sun, as she once before interceded at the wedding at Cana, which through God’s grace again provides the needed affirmation for the crowd there gathered to believe the children. Christ, Himself, said to those who did not believe in that which He preached; look to the lame who walk, the deaf who hear, the blind who see. All are made whole including sinners. These are the signs and acts that only God can do. As Mary pointed to the sun at Fatima, so, too, does she point to her Son. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun which penetrates the night to dispel the darkness, so, too, does Mary point to her Son who penetrates the hardest of and most broken hearts to dispel the darkness from sin and sorrow therein. As the moon reflects the light of the sun, in like manner, Mary reflects He who is the light of the world.
Other Christian sects believe that we Catholics worship Mary. Only God and Christ are to be worshiped as the first and second persons of the Holy Trinity, inseparable through the love of the Holy Spirit. Yet we do honor Mary who, on our behalf, intercedes for us with Her Son. Would any visit a friend and ignore his mother? Of course not. That would be an insult to your friend. As it is an insult to our Lord should we so ignore His mother. Yet how can I prove to my Christian brothers and sisters that we do not worship Mary, but, instead, honor Her. The proof is found in two familiar prayers:
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
I highlight two particular words in each prayer that distinguishes worship from honor. The word FORGIVE is used in the Lord’s Prayer. For forgiveness of sins is left to God alone. Therefore by this truth we worship God. The word PRAY is used in the Hail Mary, for prayer is not unique only to Our Lady but to all. We pray to saints and loved ones who have gone before us to God. And in that we ask of Mary and of them their prayers of intercession. Yet, Mary, unique among all women, was chosen and humbly accepted God’s request to bring Him into His world. And as the Mother of God we so honor Her.
To affirm, better than I, the instrumental role of Mary in mirroring her son, Our Lord, is famed late nineteenth and early twentieth century British writer and defender of the Catholic Church, G.K. Chesterton. It is found in his brief poem that follows depicting the child Jesus climbing upon His mother’s lap and seeing His reflection in His her eyes. (Attention paid to the third stanza in particular.)
A Little Litany
When God turned back eternity and was young,
Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth
(As under the low arch the land is bright)
Peered through you, gate of heaven–and saw the earth.
Or shutting out his shining skies awhile
Built you about him for a house of gold
To see in pictured walls his storied world
Return upon him as a tale is told.
Or found his mirror there; the only glass
That would not break with that unbearable light
Till in a corner of the high dark house
God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.
Star of his morning; that unfallen star
In that strange starry overturn of space
When earth and sky changed places for an hour
And heaven looked upwards in a human face.
Or young on your strong knees and lifted up
Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street,
And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim
Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.
Or risen from play at your pale raiment’s hem
God, grown adventurous from all time’s repose,
Or your tall body climbed the ivory tower
And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose.