By Father Timothy Gollob
Special to The Texas Catholic
On May 13, 1917, three shepherd children in the little Portuguese town of Fatima were astonished to be visited by a beautiful woman who spoke to them about a heavenly plan for peace for the world. She explained to them that such a peace would only come about by the conversion of sinners through much prayer and penance. Many revelations were given to the children and miracles were observed in the heavens by more than 100,000 persons.
I recount this because the international statue of Our Lady of Fatima traveled to Oak Cliff the first day of February and graced the sanctuary of Holy Cross for a few hours. Many people were drawn to our church in order to sing hymns and pray the rosary and meditate on the goodness of God in giving us the Mother of Jesus to be our special guest for that short time.
Although it was a cold and rainy day as the statue left us to go to another church in the diocese, the people were enthusiastic in their singing and dancing and praying. More spiritual conversions are in the future.
But my mind has been on the events of the past. Back in 1956, I joined three other seminarians from the North American College in Rome to go on a pilgrimage to Fatima. We had decided to make a tour during the month of June to the shrines of Mary and the saints. First we went to Paris to the shrine of the Miraculous Medal in the Rue du Bac. We prayed at the tombs of St. Catherine Laboure and St. Louise de Marillac and St. Vincent de Paul. We took a train to the village of Lisieux to taste the holy atmosphere of the Little Flower, St. Therese of the Child Jesus.
Next we took a long trip to the Basque country to take in the shrine of Mary at Lourdes. We drank the water that came from the springs in the mountainside. We prayed the rosary at night in the candlelight processions. We basked in the holiness of the shrine. Later we were at the shrine of the Black Madonna at the monastery in Spain overlooking the town of Barcelona.
But our ultimate destination was the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. It took some long train rides and many stops to get there. We arrived early in the morning of the 13th of July. We had planned our trip to arrive that day because it was on the 13th of each month that the Blessed Mother had appeared to the three shepherds. We arrived before dawn and many people from the surrounding villages were streaming into the plaza in front of the basilica.
They had walked miles on their calloused bare feet. Women had baked elaborate offerings to take into the church. Many priests had come with groups of pilgrims and they were hearing confessions in every nook and cranny of the wall which surrounded the plaza. Rosary after rosary were being prayed. Some of the humble people crept on their knees from the far end of the plaza to the high altar in the church.
These people had a great joy that Mary had visited their poor country. They were serious in their prayers for peace. Their rugged feet and knees must have had a great influence on whatever conversion of the world that has taken place.
Mary’s plan for peace is still a valid strategy for the world today.