Beautiful day of prayer celebrates centennial of the Miracle of the Sun

Bishop James Johnston Jr. delivers his homily during the Mass commemorating the 100th anniversary of the “Day the Sun Danced,” Oct. 13, 1917, Fatima, Portugal. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — It began in the morning. The 100th anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady of Fatima was celebrated with special events at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Oct. 13. The Rosary was prayed every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., led by women religious of the Diocese. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was held from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., celebrated the 12:15 p.m. Mass. About 150 people attended.

In 1917, the world was at war. Fatima, Portugal, a small village named for a well-loved 12th century Muslim princess who had converted to Catholicism, though not a battleground, was suffering from the Great War and from poverty. In April 1916, three children, Lucia Santos, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, cousins, were watching a small herd of sheep near the village, when an angel appeared to them, saying, “Do not be afraid.” He taught the children how to pray to the Trinity and urged them to continue saying the Rosary. He appeared to them several more times, again urging, “Pray!”

On May 13, 1917, a beautiful woman who said she came from heaven appeared to them, asked them to come there on the 13th of each of the next 5 months, as she had messages she wanted them to spread. Over the next months, she appeared on the 13th day, except in Aug., as the children were jailed for refusing to deny the apparitions, then she appeared on the 19th.

The lady promised to identify herself in October. On Oct. 13, 1917, she told the children she was the Lady of the Rosary. Then as about 70,000 people watched, the Miracle of the Sun occurred.

Jacinta and Francisco died in the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, and Lucia entered the convent. She died a Discalced Carmelite in 2005 at the age of 97. Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000, and Pope Francis canonized them in 2016. Earlier this year, the pope declared Lucia a Servant of God, the first step toward sainthood.

In his homily for the Mass commemorating the centennial of the Fatima apparitions, Bishop Johnston expressed gratitude to the women religious for making it “such a beautiful day of prayer.” The Sisters led the recitation of the Rosary each hour, “leading us in the prayer Mary calls us to,” he said.

He reminded the congregation that almost 6 months earlier, on May 15, he had solemnly consecrated the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, also in the Cathedral.

One hundred years earlier, Mary appeared again to the shepherd children of Fatima and “the supernatural transformation of the sun occurred, witnessed by tens of thousands of people.”

On that day, she urged the children to spread her message, to take up the spiritual weapons of prayer, penance and devotion to her Immaculate Heart. “She said if humanity turned back to God, there would be peace” the bishop said. “If humanity did not turn back to God … the past century has been full of wars and genocides, some still going on.”

The Cathedral’s statue of Our Lady of the Rosary, one of the titles of Mary, and the one she identified herself by to the shepherd children of Fatima. (Megan Marley/Key Photo)

Her message had an urgency to it, he said. Even a century later, “things are not right. Parents worry about sending their children off to college, not knowing what they’ll fall into. There’s a despair reflected in drug use, pornography use. But like a good mother, Mary has given us simple things that we can all do together to bring us to herself. She made it concrete and simple.

“Pray the Rosary, that’s what Mary our mother told us to do. The Rosary — ordinary, unsophisticated —something everyone in the church can do. From the little child to the Deans of Schools of Theology, from a grandfather to the Holy Father, everyone can pray it. It’s simple, that’s the point. It uses basic family prayers we all know. She urges us to pray it daily. When you do, you open the door to heaven in your life. And I urge everyone to pray it together at least once a week. It will change things. It’s a power. When you pray the Rosary, you open the door into heaven, into the light.

“One of the beautiful titles given to Mary is the Gate of Heaven. Mary is the Gate. When we pray the Rosary,” Bishop Johnston continued, “the gate swings open and we are met by her Son, our Savior, which is exactly what she desires.”

Penance is another powerful spiritual weapon, he said. “Mary wants us to take up spiritual arms, uniting our own crosses with the Cross of Jesus. When we do penance, we renounce the world of the flesh and the devil. We enter in on the work of salvation with our flesh and blood. In response to Our Lady’s call to arms, take an obligation to do Penance, especially on Fridays, more seriously.”

He said that penance and praying the Rosary in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary allow us to help the world.

“Mary leads us to life with her Son,” Bishop Johnston concluded, “always on the lookout for those in need. Prayer, penance and worship: a world at peace and eternal salvation of many depends on them.”

Following Mass, the Rosaries at the top of the hour and Adoration continued until 5 p.m., and many stayed to meditate and pray.

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Saturday
November 18, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph