Growing up, one of our favorite movies was the animated film “The Day the Sun Danced: the True Story of Fatima.” I can’t tell you how many times we watched it. I highly recommend it for families. It tells the story of Our Blessed Mother’s appearance to three young Portuguese children in 1917. For five months, angels and our Blessed Mother appeared to Francisco, Lucia, and Jacinta. In July, Mary told the children, “You continue to come here. In October, I will tell you who I am, that which I want, and I will do a miracle that all can see and believe.” The children shared this news with anyone who would listen.
|Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith
On Oct. 13, 1917, roughly 70,000 people gathered for what would be either the vindication of three young Portuguese children or their utter humiliation. The children had been continuously ridiculed by the townsfolk. That day was a rainy one, and there was mud everywhere. Yet that didn’t keep the people from coming to the prescribed place. At noon, Lucia, moved by an interior impulse, told the people to shut their umbrellas and to pray the rosary. At that, a light appeared, and then Our Lady arrived. Only the children could see her. Lucia then asked her usual question, “What do you want of me?”
Our Lady replied, “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the rosary every day. The war (World War I) is going to end. And the soldiers will soon return to their homes.” She continued, “Do not offend the Lord our God anymore, because he is already so much offended.”
What happened next was visible for all those who were present and people as far away as 25 miles. One eyewitness, Mary Allen, said:
“Suddenly the rain ceased, the clouds separated, and I saw a large sun, brighter than the sun, yet I could look at it without hurting my eyes, as if it were only the moon. This sun began to get larger and larger, brighter and brighter until the whole heavens seemed more brilliantly lighted than I have ever seen it. Then the sun started spinning and shooting streams of light, which changed it to all colors of the rainbow …. At the same time, it started getting bigger and bigger in the sky as though it were headed directly for us as though it were falling on the earth. Everyone was frightened. We all thought it was the end of the world. Everyone threw themselves on their knees praying and screaming the Act of Contrition.”
This lasted for about ten minutes, and afterwards everything was completely dry as if it hadn’t rained in weeks.
This apparition of Mary, the miracle of the sun, and her messages to us through the children have all been affirmed by the Catholic Church. She identified herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary.” She is the patroness of our diocese, and the rosary has been a staple of Catholic life for centuries. And throughout her appearances at Fatima, she stressed over and over again the importance of praying the rosary.
When we speak of liturgy, liturgy is public and official. A Mass offered by a priest by himself is still considered public. And by official, we mean that there are specific rules for the rites. When we actually consider what the church says and teaches in regards to liturgy, it is very precise, and not a whole lot of room for personal taste. On the other hand, when we consider devotions such as the rosary, devotions are private and orthodox. This means that a rosary being prayed by a stadium full of people is still private, in a sense. And by orthodox we mean that there aren't as many rules and guidelines, only that it must be orthodox—it must be consistent with the Catholic faith.
So, there are many ways a person can incorporate the rosary into their life. There is a lot of freedom to praying the rosary. You can pray all five decades every day. You can pray just one decade a day. When you pray the rosary, you can focus on the words you are praying or you can meditate on the mysteries. You can add Scripture passages between the decades or even between each Hail Mary. You can pray it kneeling, sitting at home, or even while you go for a walk.
October is the month of the rosary. Oct. 7 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. This is a great time to begin or to begin again to pray the rosary daily. Our Lady told us that bad things will happen and will continue to happen unless we pray the rosary for peace in the world. Pray it individually. Fathers, gather your family to pray it at night. Eventually when I was in high school, we would pray a decade every night as a family. We would begin with each of us saying something we were thankful for and something we wanted to pray for. Don’t worry if the kids are antsy or restless. It’s OK if it is a little messy. It’s the intention and effort that matters.
Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
Father Nick Nelson is pastor of Queen of Peace and Holy Family parishes in Cloquet. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at [email protected].