WASHINGTON, N.J. — The World Apostolate of Fatima hopes to have huge numbers of people praying worldwide Sunday, Oct. 2 for one intention — the sanctity of life. In fact, the apostolate hopes that some records might be broken.
“When we send over 100 million prayers to heaven on one day it will be the largest organized day of prayer ever,” Michael La Corte contended. He's the executive director of the World Apostolate of Fatima/Blue Army USA in Washington, N.J.
But numbers alone aren't the aim. The event, called the Worldwide Fatima Sanctity of Life Day, coincides with the U.S. Bishops' Respect Life Sunday.
“We do need prayer,” Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Andrew Apostoli pointed out, “as the first means to stop the culture of death, the destruction of life, and the de-sanctification of life.”
He observed that in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), Pope John Paul II said that a great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer that will rise up throughout the world.
Father Apostoli said this sanctity of life day of prayer may see the greatest number of people joining together for a single intention in the world's history.
“The greater number of people who pray with great trust in God will add to the efficacy of the intention of that day,” Father Apostoli said, “namely, to rekindle in the minds of people the sacredness of all human life and the willingness to do something to safeguard life where it is under attack.”
La Corte said that hopes are already high that this event will far exceed the goal of 100 million prayers.
“Just about everyone who hears about it knows intuitively or spiritually we need to pray and ask for divine intervention if we are to move forward on these issues,” he said. “Jesus said, ‘Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find.’”
According to Americo Lopez-Ortiz, international president of the World Apostolate of Fatima, also known as the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, people from 40 countries are planning to participate in Worldwide Fatima Sanctity of Life Day. Lopez-Ortiz is also executive director of Catholic Charities in Puerto Rico and director of Caritas for the Caribbean.
He said there will be individuals praying on their own as well as organized events in countries like the Philippines, with more than 1 million Blue Army members, Puerto Rico with 50,000, Mexico with 250,000, and India with 400,000.
La Corte emphasized that this isn't a members-only prayer event. Catholics worldwide are being invited to pray — even at home with family and friends — for 20 minutes for the sanctity for life. Especially important prayer is the Rosary that focuses on the life of Jesus and Mary.
When Father Apostoli hosted EWTN's “Father Groeschel Live” show Sept. 18, he invited the millions of viewers to join in the prayers.
Linda Manuel of Chalfont, Pa., who isn't a Blue Army member, will go with her husband and children to the Blue Army shrine Oct. 2 to take part in the event and pray the Rosary. She knows well the need to pray to end abortion and to help promote the sanctity of life.
“Terri Schiavo was from the area and went to the high school I went to,” Manuel said. “That hit us hard. There was a lot of prayer going around in this area for her.”
Lopez-Ortiz saw excellent opportunities to grow in faith from this international effort.
“We have to recapture the essence of our Christian civilization, which is the defense of life,” he said, making clear the new mission of the World Apostolate of Fatima is to evangelize using the message of Fatima.
“In other words,” he said, “we are instruments of the New Evangelization proposed by the Holy Father, and this is our mission now, our charism.”
The idea for the day of prayer was born at the Blue Army's Our Lady of Fatima shrine in Washington, N.J., with a new statue of Mary sculpted by Joe DeVito.
Called “Mary, Mother of the Life Within,” this life-like statue, rich in symbolism, depicts Mary holding the Child Jesus. Bishop Paul Bootkoski of Metuchen, N.J., spiritual director of the Blue Army, will dedicate it on Oct. 2 during the daylong event.
The celebration will feature talks by Father Apostoli and Alan Keyes. Tony Melendez will sing, and Ana Reis, related to Fatima seers Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco Marto, will share family stories about the apparitions.
Father Apostoli noted the important connection between Our Lady of Fatima and the sanctity of life. First, Our Lady of Fatima warned about the possibility of a terrible war.
“War is the worst enemy of life, the greatest form of destruction of human life,” he said. “By warning us against war, she was warning us against any other thing that leads to war such as abortion.”
Second, Our Lady warned that communism would spread errors around the world. “Communism was intent on destroying the foundation of the Christian family and destroying the moral fiber of countries so as to break them down and make them easier to conquer,” Father Apostoli explained.
“Russia was the first civilized country in the world to permit abortion,” he continued. “Many of the facets of the culture of death today are traceable back to the influences that communists may have had on Western society in bringing about a negative view of life and undermining the morality that defended the sacredness of life.”
La Corte is also calling on all non-Catholics to join the 20 minutes of prayer for sanctity of life on Oct. 2.
“This day of prayer crosses all faiths,” he said. “We all suffer the same problems and want the same results. We all believe prayer is important. So it's truly an ecumenical effort to get the world praying for the sanctity of life.”
Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.