This Friday, the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. It was on May 13, 1917, that the Blessed Mother appeared for the first time to three Portuguese children: Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia. She would appear to them five more times, on the 13th of each successive month except for August when she came to them on the nineteenth (they were in jail on the thirteenth so as to prevent them meeting with Our Lady). On October 13,1917, Mary revealed herself as Our Lady of the Rosary, asking for both the rosary to be prayed daily and for sacrifices to be made in reparation for sin.
To those who look to a divine purpose behind when things occur, the fact that the first apparition came in May is significant.
In the centuries before the birth of Jesus, both the Greeks and the Romans, seeing new life sprouting around them, dedicated the month of May to Artemis the Greek goddess of fecundity and to Flora the Roman goddess of all that blooms, respectively. From the dead of winter comes the blossoming of spring and a renewed sense of the beauty of new life. Mothers Day, celebrated last Sunday, also reminds us of the new life that is protected and nurtured by our mothers beginning with the moment of conception.
The message of Our Lady of Fatima has always had an apocalyptic tone to it, bringing to mind the epic conclusion to history in the confrontation between the Dragon and the Woman as described in the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 12 a Woman “clothed with the sun” gives birth to a Child “destined to rule all the nations”. The children at Fatima described Mary as “a lady more brilliant than the sun” and those familiar with the last book of the Bible have logically associated Our Lady of Fatima with the Woman whose Child was the intended victim of the Dragon who “stood before the Woman about to give birth [so as to] devour her Child”.
These images of fecundity and new life, Mothers Day, Our Lady of Fatima, the rosary, and the Book of Revelation find a strange coalescence in the American landscape of May 2022.
On Sunday the most prominent Catholic in the House of Representatives appeared on Face the Nation and brought together two ideas that one would have thought unimaginable - Mothers Day and abortion. Not only that, but she asked that we “be prayerful about this.”
To that end the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has proposed that this Friday, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, be a day of prayer and fasting. All Catholics in our country - and I assume that includes elected officials - are being called to pray the rosary and to fast as a way of petitioning Our Lady and her Son for several specific requests, including the common good of our nation, the overturning of previous abortion decisions, for the conversion of the hearts and minds of those who advocate for abortion, and for the flurishing of a culture of life where all in need - especially mothers and their children - may be cared for.
In the Book of Revelation the Dragon’s tail swept away a third of the stars from the sky, but Michael and the other angels defeated the forces of evil and cast them out of heaven “conquered by the blood of the Lamb”. The Dragon’s tail has been active in America since January 1973, sweeping away over 63 million stars from our land. Our bishops have issued a call to all Americans who claim the name Catholic. The bishops might have said, but did not, that “to those who have been given much, much will be expected” and implore those who have attained high office to lead by example in their prayer and fasting on Friday.
Psalm 146 implores us to “put no trust in princes”, and so I will not. Whether any Catholic politician joins in the fasting and prayer is between them and God. The power of this world is in the Dragon’s tail and not in the womb of the Woman, and the weapons of the Dragon are all too visible in the anger and violence of those who are the soldiers in his army. Catholics are called instead to bind themselves to the Woman and the Child, armed only with the non-violent weapons of fasting and prayer, but carrying in their hearts the promise of Our Lady of Fatima that this is the only path to victory.