While it may seem a long way off, 2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Apparitions in Fatima.
Preparations for this event have already begun and we are encouraging any group leaders interested in organizing a pilgrimage during this anniversary year to reach out to us early to begin the planning process. Heavy crowds are expected throughout the traditional pilgrimage season from May-October, 2017 and contacting us early will help ensure your group is able to get hotel accommodations at the best possible price.
For further information on the significance of this special event we would encourage you to read the following statement by the Bishop of Leira-Fatima:
Presentation of the centennial by the Bishop of Leiria-Fatim
Most Rev. António Marto
Bishop of Leiria-Fatima
The memorable date of the Centennial of the Apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima is fast approaching on the horizon of time. 2017 will, without a doubt, be a Jubilee Year, as required by the importance of the event. And a first question comes right away to our mind: what does it mean to celebrate the Centennial of the Apparitions?
One Hundred years later: memory and prophecy
Above all, it is a historical occasion in which we will express our praise and gratitude to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for this particular sign of benevolence from His love, through Mary, towards a humanity longing to get up from the abyss. In fact, in the words of John Paul II, from amongst the signs of the times in the XX century “Fatima stands out, helping us see the hand of God, provident guide and patient and compassionate Father of this XX century”.
One hundred years represent already a long pilgrimage through time, which invites us to “recall”, as Moses used to urge his people to do: “Remember how for forty years the Lord, your God, has led all you’re journeying in the desert…So, you must realize that the Lord, your God, disciplines you even as a man disciplines his son” (Deut 8, 2.5). It is an invitation for the people of Israel to reread its past and discover in it God’s providence and the love with which the Lord led it through difficult ways.
These words are for us today: Remember the way the Lord made you travel throughout these one hundred years, how He was close to you through the message of the Lady from Heaven and Her maternal protection.
The celebration of the Centennial is not only a historical recollection. It is, above all, an occasion to be conscious that the appeal of Our Lady at Fatima didn’t echo in vain; that Her message continues to exercise a beneficial influence today, and will continue in the future, in the journey of the Church and in the history of mankind.
“He who thought that the prophetic mission of Fatima was finished would be mistaken. Here is alive that design of God questioning mankind since the beginning: «Where is your brother Abel? … Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the soil” (Gen 4, 9-10).
This whole variety of motivations shows that the commemoration of the Centennial of the Apparitions is not only a set of events and celebrations held in 2017. Like all great events, this one also requires a worthy preparation. It is for that purpose that we received a strong incentive from the words of Pope Benedict XVI during his homily in Fatima: “Another seven years and you will return here to celebrate the Centennial of the first visit of the Lady “from Heaven”, Who came as a Teacher Who leads the little seers to the intimate knowledge of the Trinitarian Love and to savor God Himself as the most beautiful thing in the existence of man. (…) May the seven years separating us from the Centennial of the Apparitions hurry up the announced triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the greater glory of the Most Holy Trinity”.
Seven lights for our way
In these words of the Holy Father we find traced the horizon of time and even the perspective regarding the preparation the celebration of the Centennial. To that end, the Shrine has elaborated a program lasting seven years, inspired in the biblical symbology of number seven.
In the Bible, this number means totality and plenitude. In the context of the Centennial, it suggests to us that the program ought to embrace the totality of the message.
Besides that, it recalls to us, more concretely, a very meaningful icon of the Ancient Testament: the famous sacred candelabrum, with seven arms and seven lamps burning, placed in the “Holy of Holies” in the Temple of Jerusalem. According to some scholars, it symbolizes the burning bush in which the holiness and the voice of God manifested themselves to Moses, in Mount Horeb; according to others, it represents the seven days of creation and of history, having at the center the Sabbath as the sign of the Covenant.
In any case, the candelabrum (menorah, in Hebrew) is the symbol of the presence of God, Light constantly illuminating His people, the way He illuminated it throughout the forty years through the desert. It becomes a permanent invitation to walk in God’s light, in the presence of God Who conducts history and protects His people, and to live in hope, born of faith, which provides the energy needed to overcome all probations. It invites us also to burn before the “Holy of Holies” by means of constant prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
God’s light irradiates in order to keep burning in us the light of the heart and the light of the face. A heart full of light shines, above all, by the splendor of one’s look, capable of lighting the whole face.
Having in mind the entire richness and beauty of the symbolism of the candelabrum, we can take it as an icon of the seven years of preparation for the Centennial of the Apparitions.
The meditation on the Message of Fatima illuminates several aspects of faith, several experiences of Christian living and several vicissitudes of history. Taking into account these aspects, a theological committee tried to articulate an itinerary around seven great themes, thus constructing a kind of spiritual candelabrum in order to help us illuminate the scenarios of the world and those of the human heart with the light of the Message.
The seven themes are seven lights for our spiritual way in order to advance with Mary and with the Little Shepherds towards the Beauty of God and the triumph of His merciful love that saves the world, symbolized in the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The first light of this spiritual candelabrum is the Beauty of the Face of God, of His Trinitarian Love, to which the Little Shepherds were introduced by the Angel and the hands of Our Lady, thus stirring up in them the enchantment, the taste and the joy of the presence of God, which were translated into adoration. “We were burning in that light that is God and weren’t consumed by it. How wonderful is God!!!”; “I like God so much!” – Francisco exclaimed. In the biblical symbolism of the candelabrum, the light of adoration feeds all the other lights. It is the central flame from which all the others get light.
The second light to light up is that of God the Savior Who calls us to collaborate with the history of salvation and with the mystery of redemption of the world in Christ. This flame gets fed by means of our faith commitment, as Mary did. “Example and incentive are the Little Shepherds, who made of their lives an offering to God and a share with the others for the love of God” (Benedict XVI).
The third light is that in which we can contemplate the faithful God of the Promise and of Hope, Who throughout history comforts His people, giving it courage and confidence, as He did to Mary: “Be not afraid!” It is precisely of hope that the message Our Lady left us in Fatima is full of”, inviting men to trust God. “Faith in God opens to man the horizon of a sure hope that doesn’t disappoints us; points to a solid fundament on which to support, without fear, life itself; asks for abandonment, full of trust, in the hands of the Love Who supports the world” (Benedict XVI).
Along this line of thought surges the fourth light which makes shine the compassionate God Who leans over the sufferings of mankind, the power of His mercy, greater than our own hearts and stronger than the power of sin and evil. “Mary, in appearing to the three Little Shepherds, opened, in the world, a privileged space for us to find the divine mercy that heals and saves” (Benedict XVI). She “helped the Little Shepherds to open their hearts to the universality of love” (Benedict XVI), to compassion and reparation, as forces of resistance to the banalization of evil and as collaboration in the renovation of the world.
The fifth light is the splendor of the holiness of God which irradiates towards us from the face of Christ and of which Mary is mirror and teacher. This holiness is offered to us as experience of communion with Christ, in solidarity with the members of the Body of Christ and in the Communion of Saints, which the Church is. It invites us to give “the high measure bof holiness” to the Christian life, fed specially by prayer. “The Message of Fatima is not, substantially, a private devotion, but rather a fundamental response, that is, permanent conversion, penance, prayer and the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity” (Benedict XVI).
The sixth light leads us to open up to God, plenitude of life, offered up, from now on, in Christ: “I came so that they may have life”. This flame is fed, in a special way, by the celebration of the gifts and blessings granted to us by God, in true Christian joy, in the conscience of the eternal value of our lives and our walk through this Earth. “At Fatima, the Holy Virgin invites everyone to consider the Earth as the place of our pilgrimage towards the definitive homeland, Heaven” (Benedict XVI).
Finally, our spiritual candelabrum gets completed with the seventh light: a contemplative and inspiring look at the beauty of Her Who was chosen by the God of the Covenant to fulfill a unique mission in the history of salvation: to be the Mother of the Redeemer, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Mother of the Church. Mary lends us eyes and heart to contemplate the love of God and His mercy, as forces and divine limits against the power of evil in the world. Thus happened at Fatima, when She presented Herself as Lady of the Rosary, as a Mother Who, through Her Immaculate Heart, speaks heart to heart to Her children and brings to them a demanding but comforting message of peace and leaves them with a promise: “At the end, My Immaculate Heart shall triumph”. Holy Father Benedict XVI says: “After all, the Lord is stronger than evil and Our Lady is, for us, the visible guarantee of the goodness of God, Who has always the last world in history”.
I thank the members of the theological committee for the elaboration of this thematic itinerary (program) and conclude this introduction with the same wish of Benedict XVI in Fatima: “May the seven years separating us from the Centennial of the Apparitions hurry up the announced triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the greater glory of the Most Holy Trinity”.