Today is the 100th anniversary of the last apparition of Mary to three children of Fatima, Portugal.
If you’re Roman Catholic or of the Anglo-Catholic tradition, I don’t need to tell you why today is special or what role St. Mary plays in guiding those in need to the love of Christ.
Roughly 1.6 billion Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Orthodox Christians venerate (but do not worship) St. Mary, who alternately is known by a host of titles including Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Madonna and, of course, Our Lady of Fatima.
Marian veneration is, admittedly, most common among Roman Catholics, and it is the Catholic Church which today is celebrating the centennial of Our Lady of Fatima.
While this day doesn’t normally raise the attention of Protestants, I would suggest there is much about the message of Our Lady of Fatima that is cause for universal celebration in the Body of Christ. It is a day worthy of both Catholic praise and catholic — as in universal — contemplation.
Mary appeared to the children at the darkest hour of the First World War largely to lead them in prayer, and to inspire millions of others to prayer, for an end to that horrible war. Veneration surrounding Our Lady of Fatima accelerated after the Second World War, as Christians again tried to come to grips with the insane inhumanity of humans.
Today, as we wonder at the inexplicable violence in Las Vegas, the suffering of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico, war in Afghanistan and Syria and the threat of war in Korea, to name but a few examples, it is appropriate and necessary that we meditate and pray on how we may usher more peace, more of Christ, into a world that bears little resemblance to the Kingdom of God.
Today also is a day to remember the redeeming grace of God, the power of honest penitence and forgiveness, and the ability for all of us to make a positive impact on our lives and the world around us through open-hearted, passionate prayer. These all are major themes remembered in veneration of Our Lady of Fatima, and they are universal messages that transcend all denominational, cultural and social boundaries.
Our Lady of Fatima and the celebration of her appearances bear obvious and strong denominational ties that cannot be denied. But, beyond the liturgical trappings of this traditionally Catholic celebration, we all can join together in celebrating the central theme of this day: that we all are saved by God’s grace; and in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we all are made living members of the one Body of Christ.
So, regardless of denomination, I’d urge you today to pause in prayer for peace, for the healing grace of God’s love for all God’s children, and remember Mary’s words to us in Luke 1:48: “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”