Look around, at the state of the world, at the multiple crises erupting every day in every corner of the globe, and it’s easy to say, “How could it get worse?”
Those were probably the same words used by people exactly one hundred years ago. In 1917, the western world was still engulfed in what would hopefully—and erroneously—be called the “war to end all wars,” warfare on a scale that no one had known before, a war that refined the use of poison, that claimed millions of civilian lives, and that for many called into question the existence of a good and benevolent God.
How, indeed, could it get worse? It would, of course; the last year of the war would also see the rise of a worldwide pandemic that wiped out between five and 10 percent of the world’s population. And the war itself did as much to divide as did the events that had led up to it. When we try to visualize 1917, we’re seeing it through the haze of mustard gas, through the darkness of trenches and the sure knowledge for many that a way of life was coming to an end.
And then…then, penetrating that haze and that hatred came a ray of light. From someplace totally unexpected. Through messengers who couldn’t be more unusual.
Through that darkness came light. Three poor shepherd children in a small city in Portugal received a visitation from a woman who was clothed in light. The children were confused by her presence, but over the course of several encounters, they understood that the heavenly woman was the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ.
By 1917, the world had given up hope. People had become cynical. Faith had lost its meaning. It was entirely possible, people told each other, that the end of the world was at hand; who could dispute the signs?
Through that darkness came light. The Lady, radiating light, was there to give the children a message: despair was not inevitable. She was there to point to another option for the human race: a different way of life. Her message was consoling, yes; but it was also a call. A call to prayer and spiritual awareness, a call to rejection of and freedom from sin, a call to pursuing worldwide peace. She gave the world another option besides darkness: she offered a remedy to the human family’s undiagnosed spiritual illness. She invited us to choose faith, goodness, and beauty as the path for humanity’s future.
She offered some hope for peace to a world at war. She offered the opportunity to heal to a world that was spiritually ill.
Read more about Our Lady of Fatima's message and the three shepherd children
Through that darkness came light. Not everyone who heard, believed. Many people are loathe to think that the Lady could speak to anyone, much less to uneducated children in the last country to enter the war. Others feel that her message doesn’t apply to the new world and the new century.
And yet, one hundred years on, the message of Fátima still echoes and the Lady in light’s invitation still stands.
What is she calling us to today? How can we work for peace in a world that grows more dangerous every day? How can we take the call of Fátima and make it our own, for our day and in our time? How can we help her light pierce our darkness?
Just as it was in 1917, once again, the choice is ours.
by Jeannette de Beauvoir