A century ago, in the spring of 1916, the Angel of Peace appeared for the first time to three small children in Fatima, Portugal. The angel appeared two more times, preparing the children for six visits of the Blessed Mother in 1917. In the years following, the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima would not only be approved by the local bishop, but would be embraced and promoted by numerous popes. Among the greatest champions was Pope St. John Paul II, who attributed his surviving a 1981 assassination attempt to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima.
Many apostolates have arisen to share the story of Fatima, and they will be using the centennial to introduce a new generation of Catholics to the Blessed Mother’s plea for prayer, penance and reparation.
The World Apostolate of Fatima (WAFUSA.org, WAF) will be launching a campaign to tour the “National Pilgrim Virgin Statue” — a hand-carved image of Our Lady of Fatima blessed by Pope Paul VI in 1967 — in 100 dioceses in 100 weeks, said David Carollo, the apostolate’s executive director.
Pointing to a Pew research poll indicating that only 24% of American Catholics attended Mass regularly, he said, “It shows us that three-quarters of Catholics are not living up to the most basic duty of Catholic life, Sunday Mass attendance. This is fertile ground in which we can introduce the message of Fatima, which is about amending your life and living in accord with the Gospels.”
WAF was co-founded by John Haffert (1915-2001) in 1947, Carollo said, “as a ‘Blue Army’ of prayer to counter the Red Army of atheistic communism.” It is headquartered on a 150-acre shrine site in New Jersey, which offers daily Mass and retreats and publishes its quarterly Soul Magazine. WAF also maintains a hotel retreat center in Fatima.
Carollo himself estimates he has been to Fatima as many as 70 times. For him personally, living the message of Fatima includes obeying the Ten Commandments, daily Mass attendance, regular confession, daily Rosary, wearing the brown scapular and maintaining a “zeal for promoting the message of Fatima.”
As he said, “We live in a post-Christian era, and it’s a scary time. The 20th century, for example, was the bloodiest in the history of the world and produced more Christian martyrs than the previous 19 centuries combined. We believe the answer [to the world’s problems] lies in the message of Fatima, if people will truly embrace it.”
John Preiss, president of the Alabama-based Fatima Family Apostolate (FatimaFamily.org) founded by Father Robert Fox (1928-2009), said his apostolate is preparing for centennial Marian congresses in Alabama and South Dakota, where Father Fox once served as a priest.
Preiss met Father Fox in 2003, and the priest picked him to be his successor at the apostolate, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Father Fox authored many books on Fatima and annually took groups of young people to Fatima to introduce them to the message. The apostolate’s mission, Preiss said, includes promoting the sanctification of families. Preiss and his large family live the message of Fatima through a daily family Rosary, consecration of the family to the Blessed Mother and regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
The spirituality encouraged at Fatima can offer families the protection they need, he noted, as popular culture increasingly attacks the family. He said, “Sister Lucia warned that the final battle with Satan would be over the family. We’ve certainly seen that in the past few years.”
In addition to Marian congresses, the apostolate maintains a Father Fox/Our Lady of Fatima museum and publishes a quarterly magazine, The Immaculate Heart Messenger. Preiss has also authored a children’s book, The Miracle of the Dancing Sun at Fatima.
While the challenges to the family are many, Preiss said, “Fatima is a message of hope for all of us. If we have a life of devotion, it can make a big difference in our lives.”
Father Andrew Apostoli of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, has made promotion of the message of Fatima a key focus of his priesthood. He is the author of the 2010 book Fatima for Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope. To mark the centennial, he has penned four articles for Soul Magazine on the appearances of the angel and will accept as many public-speaking opportunities as he can to share the message. He said, “Along with the message of Divine Mercy, I see the Fatima message as the only thing that can reverse the decline of our culture.”
Father Apostoli believes that the 1950s was an era of “intense appreciation” of the message of Fatima, as America confronted the geopolitical challenges of Soviet communism, but by the 1970s and ’80s, interest had “fallen off” considerably, as it was “eclipsed by different things and was forgotten.” In the past 15 years, however, he believes interest has been renewed, as the United States and Western Europe have been enveloped by a different kind of communism, “atheistic secularism.”
He said, “In my lifetime, we’ve seen the whole secularization of society. We’ve become a post-Christian nation. We’re not going to turn it around through politics or economics or the military — we have to respond to the requests of Our Lady of Fatima.”
He urges Catholic families to pray the daily Rosary. He also recommends the First Saturdays’ devotion — which includes confession, a holy Communion of reparation, the Rosary and a 15-minute meditation — one of the most neglected components of the Fatima message, he said.
He added that Mary asked that many sacrifices be made to save sinners, and “we should live a good Christian life and practice the virtues, especially purity. Mary said that more souls would be lost to hell because of sins of impurity than any other sin.”
Jim Graves writes from
Newport Beach, California.
COMING TO A TV NEAR YOU EWTN is developing special programming in Fatima to coincide with the centennial celebrations.
World Apostolate of Fatima image