The place: Europe. The year: 1917. War has plagued the continent for over three years at this point. The ravages of trench warfare, poison gas, machine guns, and tanks never seems to end. But another war is brewing in Russia, where revolution will explode in October, killing the tsar and his family and leading to the rise of godless Communism. Everywhere it seems as if chaos and disorder rule the day. It is in the midst of this most depressing time that something incredible occurs in a small town in Portugal.
Three shepherd children are caring for their families’ flocks in the fields when they see a bright light. When their eyes adjust, they see a lady clothed in white. She asks them to join her in praying the Rosary. After the Rosary, she promises to visit them for four more months. Thus ended the first apparition of our Lady at Fatima in Portugal, which occurred one hundred years ago yesterday. In fact, Pope Francis has been in Fatima to celebrate the centenary of the apparitions, to honor everything that Mary did at Fatima, in particular her message. But what is her message?
Our Lady revealed to the children a few secrets. First, she showed them what hell is really like. The tortures and pain were so tremendous that one of the children remarked later on that the children were so scared by what they saw that only the assurance of Our Lady that she would take them to heaven calmed them down. The Virgin reminded them that this is what awaits sinners who do not repent and turn to Jesus. It is the ultimate fate for those who reject what Jesus declares in the Gospel today: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” There is no other way to follow to get to heaven except the way of Jesus; there is no other truth to believe except the truth that Jesus is Lord and King, victorious in His resurrection from the dead; and there is no life possible except life in Christ, animated by His grace and mercy to be the saints we were meant to be.
Not only did she reveal the truth about hell, but the Virgin Mary also predicted that another war would break out after the current war ended if men did not abandon their wicked ways. She also gave a prophecy of the Church in calamity, destruction seeming to occur everywhere. Yet, despite all of these terrifying visions and prophecies, the Lady ended all of this with a simple but hopeful promise: “In the end, my immaculate heart will triumph.” In truth, how can she not obtain the triumph? That heart has most completely and most willingly obeyed God from the very first moment she could act until now and until the end of time. How can Satan overcome a heart most united to God through her divine Son?
Indeed, the victory of Jesus Christ is shared by the Virgin Mary because she is the greatest of all disciples. She shows us how to follow Jesus the way; she shows how to adhere to Jesus the truth; and she is the best witness of how to live in Jesus our life. All of the saints put together cannot match her fidelity, her virtue, her purity, her sanctity. This is why we crown her as Queen - because God has already crowned her Queen of heaven and earth by her faithfulness to everything He commanded her to do.
Let us indeed crown our Lady today, but not only with a crown of flowers, but in our hearts and minds as our mother and our queen. Let us heed the warning that she gave at Fatima and still gives today: repent and believe in her Son. Convert, and be no longer the slaves of Satan, the pawns of a sinful world, but become the children of Mary, the brethren of Jesus. Let us do what she asks of us, so that we may join her and all the angels and saints in the Father’s house, where a place is prepared for all who adhere to Him who is the one way, the one truth, the one life.