By John Heuertz
Special to The Catholic Key
The story of Our Lady of Fatima is known to some extent by millions upon millions of Catholics and non-Catholics worldwide, including a Muslim in Kazan who recently built a Catholic church there in her honor.
What isn’t as well known is that statues of Our Lady of Fatima are constantly traveled worldwide to promote devotion to her, and ultimately to lead the whole world to love Jesus more.
And now, the Fatima statue known as the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue of the USA is here for stops at 23 different Kansas City-St. Joseph diocesan parish churches and institutions in the month of June.
The Kansas City-St. Joseph diocesan division of the World Apostolate of Fatima asked that the WAF’s national office bring the statue here, and coordinated its appearances locally.
“I think it’s important to hear what Our Lady of Fatima has to say because she’s very close to the top, and she came here in her great love for us to tell us how we can solve the problems we have,” said local WAF chapter president Dee Harkins of Christ the King parish. “Her solutions were very simple, so that anyone could follow them.”
Her message is the Gospel message of prayer, sorrow for sin and reparation for it, said Harkins and E. William Sockey III, the statue’s curator.
“Our Lady asked four things of us at Fatima,” Sockey said. “To cultivate personal devotion to Jesus, especially in the Eucharist. Not to leave the practice of our Faith to Sundays only. To go to Confession at least once a month. And to never be satisfied to live with even the smallest sins.”
Harkins and Sockey also touched on another key part of Our Lady of Fatima’s message.
“The work she gave us at Fatima is to pray for the souls that aren’t in a state of grace and don’t care about God’s will for their lives,” Sockey said, “and to make reparation for them by offering up all the things that don’t go our way every day.”
In his 1984 Apostolic Letter “On The Christian Meaning Of Human Suffering,” Blessed John Paul II taught that if we are in a state of grace ourselves, we can do penance for our brothers and sisters who are not in a state of grace.
“This is what it means to take up our cross and follow after Jesus,” Sockey said. “It’s also part of how we cultivate that personal relationship with Him, since He did it for all of us” – key ideas implicit in Our Lady of Fatima’s messages to the world in 1917.
The idea of a traveling Our Lady of Fatima statue first surfaced in the mind of a German Catholic priest, who in October 1945 already foresaw Eastern Europe’s political fate of the next forty years.
Bearing in mind Our Lady’s 1917 warning that without repentance and reparation Russia would spread her errors across the world, he proposed to the great philosopher Jacques Maritain, at the time the French Ambassador to the Holy See, that the statue tour Eastern Europe in 1947, Fatima’s 30th anniversary year.
“The importance of the statue is to make people aware of the events of 1917 and the message that God is aware and cares about us,” Sockey said. “The message is that in the end, God will bring everything to a happy ending for all those who trust in Him.”
Two statues were made in 1947, and now eight or ten statues travel all over the world with the Fatima message.
To commemorate Fatima’s 50th anniversary in 1967, Bishop João Venancio of the Diocese of Leiria-Fatima had 25 more copies made of the original 1920 statue.
Pope Paul VI blessed them all during the 50th anniversary festivities in Portugal, and the bishop gave one statue each to 25 different countries around the world – including the United States, whose statue is the one here this month.
There are now over 100 national statues. Some have had adventures.
The Cuban statue is currently in Miami until it’s safe to return home. The Russian statue returned there from here in 2005 after a pious Muslim built a Catholic church in Kazan to house it (many Muslims are devoted to Our Lady of Fatima because the Prophet Muhammad had a favorite daughter named Fatimah).
But Our Lady of Fatima’s message is for all of humanity, not just Catholics and Muslims.
“The reason we should pay attention to Our Lady of Fatima is that it’s a reiteration of the Gospel message of repentance and reparation for our sins and the sins of others,” Harkins said.
“God is offended by sin. We should try to make up to Him for the offense that we give Him.”
Contact the local chapter of the World Apostolate of Fatima at (816) 942-0333 or (816) 478-9039 for more information on the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue’s itinerary in this area through the end of June.