The apparitions of Fatima, which commemorate their centennial this year, are a strong reminder of the conversion Mary asks of modern man.

I have gone to Fatima as a pilgrim many times and it has always provoked two thoughts in me.

On the one hand, a sense of beauty and innocence, which is evoked by many elements: the silence of the capelinha, built in 1917 on the place of the first apparition, the pureness of the rock that today covers the cova da Iria, the large hollow where Mary appeared to the three young pastors, the generosity with which those children responded to the call and the way in which they sacrificed for sinners.

At the same time, a clear perception of the seriousness of the clash between God and the forces of evil. The visions delivered to the three children bear witness to this conflict, as well as the physical and moral violence with which the apparitions were immediately opposed by the civil authority at the time.

Fatima is perhaps the most powerful call to conversion that Our Lady, through the apparitions, has expressed to man in the drama of our epoch.

Immerged in a world marked by evil, today’s man has the temptation to dirty everything, to the point of splattering with mud even what is most sacred. It is the illusion of a shortcut: “If everything is filthy—one may say to himself—I can also be filthy, and remain as I am”. However, one cannot completely eliminate the nostalgia for a place which is luminous and pure. Secretly, he desires that such a place exist and that it show itself to be out of the reach of the clutches of evil. Otherwise nothing but desperation would remain.

Our Lady is that point of light. Those who encounter her recognize it. The wonder that surrounds the splendor of her figure is the sentiment that accompanies the stories of those who have seen her, and it is also the experience of those who, following these witnesses, accept her imploration to walk towards Christ.

For those who suffer because of their distance from God, Mary reminds them of their need to be saved. She intervenes in their life, and calls them to complete an act of humility that may fill their hearts with a new sweetness. Her purity acts on their weary spirits and convinces them to embark on the journey of return. For this reason, millions of people continue to go to this place of apparition, to taste again the sweetness of her maternal and embrace, which, at the same time, demands our conversion.

Looking at Our Lady awakens the desire for a renewed innocence and for the peace that she gives. It is a desire that becomes in turn an availability to live the sacrifice that is asked of us, and to plead for her assistance. Her beauty does not discourage, and it does not indicate an impossible point of arrival, but instead gives the energy necessary to begin again the journey which does not spare our stumbles or our moments of weakness. Mary is the mother of mercy because the most beautiful fruit is that which is generated by mercy.


In the image, the candle-lit procession to Fatima, which finishes in front of the chapel of the apparition.

paolo sottopietra

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