Friday, 12 May 2017 12:30

Our Lady of Fatima

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Book reviews most often highlight a recently published work to excite interest.  However, every once in a while it is worth revisiting works that have been filed away or forgotten on the bookshelf, giving them a chance perhaps to find a new audience. 

This year, we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the apparitions of our Lady at Fatima, especially on her feast day, May 13th.  So I thought it appropriate to highlight William Thomas Walsh’s definitive history of these apparitions, Our Lady of Fatima

Written during the final months of World War II, Walsh’s book was the first real exposure of this supernatural occurrence to the American public.  At the time of the apparitions and the widely witnessed miracle on October 13th, 1917, the news scarcely made it to the papers.  It was only decades later, when Walsh heard of Our Lady’s prophesies of a greater and more serious war, that had unfortunately come true with the advent of WWII, that he travelled to Portugal to research and write this book, which was first published in 1947.  

This book is a jewel that should be included in every Catholic’s library.  Not only is it an accurate historical account, but it reads like a novel, with most of the dialogue coming directly from Lucia’s testimony, as well as her family members. At the time Walsh wrote this book, many of the eye-witnesses were still alive and still living in Fatima, and were eager to share their memories of the fantastic events of 1917.  The Miracle of the Sun, which accompanied the final apparition in October 1917, was witnessed by approximately 70,000 people.

During the six months when the children were receiving the apparitions, on the 13th of each month, they were questioned and interviewed (and at times, intimidated) by authorities, doctors, tourists, and pilgrims. Many of these interviews were documented and reproduced here in Walsh’s book. 

The children were at one point imprisoned and threatened with death if they did not disclose the secrets told to them by the Lady. The children themselves gained nothing but notoriety; they did not ask for attention and they did not desire it. Their own parents did not believe them and Lucia’s mother ridiculed and abused her because of it. And yet their story remained unchanged, and they kept the secret.

But not only is Our Lady of Fatima the definitive historical account of these apparitions, it also serves as a moving spiritual reflection on the role of prayer and sacrifice that should mark the life of every Christian.  The message of Fatima is one of peace — the peace that will only come with prayer, repentance, and turning back to God. During the Lady’s third appearance, the children were given a brief vision of hell and of the poor souls being tortured there - a sight which none of them ever forgot.  Afterwards there was a noticeable change in each of them and they were constantly given to praying and making sacrifices to save souls from that fate.  In this way, Our Lady of Fatima offers a sobering perspective and moves one toward a more earnest spiritual life.  

As we near May 13th and look back on the century that has passed since she first brought her message to the three little shepherd children, Walsh’s Our Lady of Fatima inspires us to reflect anew on God’s message of peace, one which has only become more relevant with the passage of a hundred years.

jillstoreyJill Storey lives in Virginia with her husband Patrick and their five sons, who never fail to keep life exciting. Their youngest son, John Paul, was born in 2013 with a rare genetic disorder called TAR Syndrome. He is a constant reminder of God's love and the ability to accomplish great things through Him. Jill graduated with a BA in history from Christendom College.  When she's not doing mom duty, she likes to read books and paint.  You can find her at dulcedomum.wordpress.com and georgiepie.etsy.com.