A Woman Clothed With The Sun
It has been an extraordinary Centenary year celebrating the appearances of Our Blessed Lady at Fatima in 1917.
Beginning on 13th May that year, She appeared each month through till 13th October. She was the ‘great sign in the Heavens, a Woman clothed with the sun’ (cf. Rev.12:1), reflecting the light of Christ, Her Son, and pointing us to Him, as She always does; the same Woman who, in the Gospel, tells us – ‘Do whatever He tells you’ (cf. Jn.2:5).
Today was the centenary of the final appearance of the Blessed Virgin at the Cova da Iria, Fatima, and the 100th anniversary of the day the sun danced – that great miracle which had been promised to the three children months beforehand to confirm the authenticity of Her appearances “so that all may see and believe”. It has come to be known as ‘The Miracle Of The Sun’.
It is said that around 70,000 people gathered there that day – many, to honour the Mother of God, but others to see the Church humiliated. Of course, that was not what happened; instead, the Lady identified Herself as “the Lady of the Rosary” and then the miracle took place.
The Lady reflected Her own light upon the sun and it then began to change colour – the landscape and people were illuminated in blue, red, yellow and other colours. The sun then ‘danced’ across the sky, zig-zagging from one side to the other, before seeming to fall from it’s orbit as though it would obliterate the earth. This was witnessed as far away as 25 miles, seen even by people who had no interest in the events at Fatima, and by others who knew nothing about the events taking place there.
And as the people witnessed all of this – many believing it was the end of the world, and confessing their sins publicly – the three children saw something entirely different.
They saw the appearance of the Holy Family in the sky – the Lord, His Mother and St Joseph; and then, Jesus and St Joseph blessed the world; Our Lady then appeared dressed as Our Lady of Sorrows; and finally She appeared in the robes of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It has been noted that these three distinct apparitions seem to correspond to the Mysteries of the Rosary – Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious.
There is one part of the great miracle that tends to be mentioned less often; it had rained very heavily at Fatima for two full days before the final appearance, and the ground at the Cova da Iria was sodden, as were all the people gathered there; believers and non-believers alike, they were soaked to the skin. And yet, by the time the miracle had ended some twelve minutes later, everything and everyone was perfectly dry.
In the course of Her appearances, She spoke about sin as a great offence against God, showed the children a brief vision of Hell and said how so many souls are lost because there are none to pray and make sacrifices for them; and then She gave the refuge for souls – devotion to Her Immaculate Heart, particularly through the prayer of the Rosary and by means of the devotion of the Saturdays of Reparation (the ‘Five First Saturdays’).
The jewel amongst the events of this past year was the canonisation of St Jacinta and St Francisco, two of the three children who saw Our Lady, who were raised to the honours of the altar by the Holy Father at Fatima on 13th May this year.
The Consecration of Nations and Dioceses
Across the world, there have been events of all sorts throughout this special year, most notably, the various Consecrations of Nations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary – including our own national Consecration of Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 3rd September. This was performed by the Bishops of Scotland, with many Priests, Deacons and Religious gathered amongst the huge crowd of lay faithful, all of whom read together the solemn Act of Consecration.
There were also Consecrations at the local level, particularly the Consecration of various Dioceses; here, in my own area, we had the consecration of the Diocese of Motherwell to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, by Bishop Toal on 20th May this year.
And today in America, Archbishop Samuel Aquila consecrated the Archdiocese of Denver to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This took place at the end of a Marian prayer service at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and Archbishop Aquila had invited parishes across the Archdiocese to participate, either by attending the service at the Cathedral or via the internet, where the event was being streamed live. He said –
“Mary wishes to assist us, through Her Immaculate Heart, in bringing the world back to God. This is why I am encouraging people to join me in consecrating themselves, their families, parishes, and the archdiocese, to Her Immaculate Heart”.
All of these individual Acts of Consecration will have a particular effect in the places where they have been made and will draw down great graces from Heaven as a result, for these nations and dioceses are now under the special patronage of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
As well as this, however, there will also be a cumulative effect as a result – the true nature of which will only become apparent in time. At Fatima in 1917, the Blessed Virgin offered us the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart as a refuge for souls, the way that will lead them to God; She also sought for us to heed and respond to Her message, given through the three little children – and all these various Acts of Consecration are a very clear and explicit response to that motherly request. None of this is lost on the Blessed Virgin, and She always keeps Her word.
One needs only look at the history of Portugal to gain some idea of what will follow. This nation was consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin several centuries ago by King John, who laid his crown at Her feet – and it is for this reason that all subsequent monarchs of Portugal wore no crown, for it belonged exclusively to the Virgin (this is the reason why the image of Our Lady of Fatima is always crowned).
‘Adeus’ at Carfin
Here in Scotland, this nation which now belongs to the Blessed Virgin in a very explicit way, at the National Marian Shrine at Carfin Grotto, a final ceremony took place this evening – a farewell (‘adeus’) to the Lady of the Rosary of Fatima.
In a Church that was filled to capacity, Priests were available for Confessions, then there was a candle-lit Rosary procession; the myriad points of light seeming to echo the grace touching a thousand hearts, and reflecting a little of the light emanating from this ‘Woman clothed with the sun’, as the Ave was sung between decades of the Rosary.
This was followed by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, celebrated by Fr McGachey, who is Guardian of the Shrine at Carfin, and concelebrated by some of the Priests of the Diocese. Finally, there was Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament and then a last procession of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
As the statue was processed around the Church one last time at the end of the evening, it was both charming and beautiful to see everyone waving at the statue with their white handkerchiefs, copying the tradition which has taken place at the Cova da Iria since the earliest days, called the ‘adeus’ or ‘farewell’, a simple and deeply touching mark of homage to the Lady who came from Heaven. A sea of white handkerchiefs resembled the crests of a thousand waves upon the sea, and towering aloft above it all, the image of the Mother of God, She whom the Church rightly calls ‘the Star of the Sea’.
Words of the Holy Father
Speaking today via a video-message to the pilgrims gathered at Fatima, our Holy Father gave this advice –
“Never be afraid, God is infinitely greater than all of our problems. He loves us very much. Go forward in your journey without losing sight of the Mother; like a child who feels safe when close to his mother, we too are safe when close to Our Lady.. Never put the Rosary aside, but continue to recite it as She asked”.
This is salutary advice from the Vicar of Christ on earth, and from a man who is deeply devoted to the Mother of God.
I am certain that the Blessed Virgin has obtained a multitude of graces for souls throughout this special Centenary year, many of which will bear good fruit in the days and years to come; for all of these, we should give many thanks to Her for Her motherly kindness; I certainly do so, for I know She has been so kind to me this past year, and I am deeply indebted to Her. I have no doubt this is the experience of many.
May all of us take time some time to reflect on Her motherly kindness towards each of us personally, to clearly see the graces She has obtained for us, to thank Her and ask Her continued kindness on our behalf.
It is perhaps worth ending here with a reminder of how Our Blessed Lady identified Herself on that final appearance at Fatima, and then with Her final words to the children.
She called Herself “the Lady of the Rosary”, having consistently asked each month for the Rosary to be prayed “every day to obtain peace for the world”.
And Her last words there to the children were –
“Do not offend the Lord our God any more, for He is already too much offended”
As this Centenary year comes to a close, may all of us heed Her words, pray Her Rosary daily, make reparation to Her Immaculate Heart by means of the Saturdays of Reparation and by the offering of our daily duty, and ask the continued maternal intercession of this most motherly and Immaculate Heart; and may we make every effort to amend our lives and stop offending the Lord, our God.
Our Lady of Fatima, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us. And we thank You ..
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