MARY’S request 100 years ago for three young children from Fatima to pray the Rosary every day has now been taken up by a parish in Brisbane archdiocese.
Fr Terence Nueva has introduced the Fatima Covenant in his parish, Our Lady of Fatima in Acacia Ridge, to encourage individuals, families and groups to help pray the Rosary every day in 2017.
Since starting the covenant in January, not a day has gone by without someone praying the same Marian devotion taken up by young Lucia Santos, and Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the three children of Fatima.
While the young sheep-herders were asked by Our Lady to pray for the conversion of souls and for an end to the war, Fr Nueva has asked his parishioners to pray specifically for their parish.
“This makes people conscious that they are co-responsible for the life and mission of the parish, and therefore the life and mission of the Church,” he said.
“They have to pray for their own parishes so they can engage and participate in the life of the Church.”
Fr Nueva’s idea to encourage the daily Rosary in his parish was inspired by the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.
He has visited Fatima himself.
“There are people every night in a procession with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima – people waving their hankies like they do in a sports stadium,” Fr Nueva said.
“It’s quite impressive.”
As well as praying the Rosary every day in 2017, the Acacia Ridge church community will organise special Masses to remember the six times the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the children.
Her first apparition was on May 13, 1917, and continued every 13th day of the month for the next six months.
During his weekly general audience in Rome, Pope Francis spoke lovingly about Our Lady of Fatima and her request to “never offend God again”.
“She forewarns all humanity about the necessity of abandoning oneself to God, the source of love and mercy,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis will visit Fatima on May 12 and 13 for the official 100th anniversary celebrations.
There are reports that the Holy Father will canonise the two youngest Fatima visionaries Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who along with their cousin Lucia Santos received visions from the Blessed Virgin Mary for six months.
The apparitions ended with the famous and miraculous “dance of the sun” on October 13, 1917, seen by more than 70,000 people.
Both Francisco and Jacinta contracted the deadly influenza in 1918, leading to their inevitable deaths.
Francisco, who was promised a seat in heaven if he devoted himself daily to the Rosary, died on April 14, 1919, aged 10 with a glow on his face.
The Blessed Virgin Mary also foretold that his youngest sister Jacinta would not be cured of her illnesses and would suffer greatly for Our Lord. She died of tuberculosis in 1920, aged nine.
Lucia remained the sole living visionary, entering the Carmelite order, and was devoted to a cloistered life until her death in 2005, aged 98.
In March, Pope Francis approved the canonisation of Francisco and Jacinta, with reports from Italy suggesting it would happen during the Holy Father’s visit to Fatima.
Many Catholics are praying that Sr Lucia, who is declared a servant of God, will join her cousins in the rank of sainthood.
The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which governs the use of Mass in the extraordinary form, has permitted priests to celebrate a votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 13 to commerorate the first Fatima apparition.
In the extraordinary form, May 13 is normally a third-class feast day for St Robert Bellarmine, meaning Our Lady of Fatima cannot normally be celebrated.