Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, marking the day when the Blessed Mother first appeared to the three Portuguese children. What makes this particular apparition really stand out from the other times and places at which the Mother of God appeared? There are the three secrets, the call for the consecration of Russia, the mandate to pray the Rosary daily for the staying of divine judgment.
And, yet, I must confess that this feast day doesn’t hold a lot that is special for me. Am I missing something by preferring devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes because of her noticeable motherly healings in my own life, or even by preferring Our Lady of Prompt Succor, who protected my beautiful hometown of New Orleans from both fire and the British scourge?
The answer, I think, is no. Our Lady has appeared many times and in many places throughout Christendom. Each apparition has its own beautiful devotions. They may have slightly different messages, but we do not neglect some key aspect of the faith by not having a particular devotion to this or that apparition.
Although a particular apparition may have a message for a specific time or place, what makes them all beautiful is that Our Blessed Lady brings, fundamentally, the same basic message every time she comes to visit her children: the Gospel message. She does not intend her apparitions to add anything to divine revelation, but merely to echo her own recommendation in the Gospel: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).
This is to say that Our Lady’s messages in her apparitions are messages of conversion and obedience to the commandments of Christ. Any encouragement she brings us—to cling to the folds of her dress by praying the Most Holy Rosary for our salvation and that of others, or whatever it is—all of them are for the purpose of bringing the whole world to Christ.
The Blessed Mother knows that we fail time and time again to follow Christ’s commandments. We’re like little children who fall a lot learning to walk. We need to be coached and corrected over and over again. How does she do this? Whichever of her apparitions we are devoted to or whatever language we speak—she will always tell us the same basic thing: do whatever He tells you.
When my Mother tells me to pray the Rosary, I know that essentially it is because she wants me to entrust myself and all my cares, like a little child, to her motherly care. Who better could help me to understand and to carry out Christ’s commands? Who better can teach me to love my neighbor than she who gave birth to Love Himself?
Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., Our Lady of Fatima