On the occasion of the one-hundred-year anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady, the Home of the Mother organized this year’s summer encounter in Fatima. It was the perfect opportunity for the whole family to get together, gathered around Our Lady, and renew our faith. There would be Mass, time to pray the Rosary, prayer time, candle-lit processions, and visits to the most important sites in the area, including the Sanctuary of the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem. There would also be several formation talks whose topics this year were directly related to our pilgrimage: “The history of the apparitions” by Pedro Leal, “Fatima and Catholic Doctrine” by Clara Martínez and “Fatima and the Home of the Mother”, by Sr. Estela.
But the pilgrimage really began quite some time ago…One afternoon I found an email from the Sisters inviting me to go to Fatima. The first thing I felt was joy and a certain sensation that this had to be. It always impresses me how all the obstacles start to disappear when we have a firm resolution to do something and we place everything in God’s hands, well, in this case in Our Lady’s hands. And she started to prepare the way for us so that we would soon be by her side, visiting her and entrusting all of our family members to her care.
I meditated upon the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on how she sought the simple and the humble, the children, in order to make manifest to all of her children that she is here with us. I thought about how the little shepherds, with such generosity, made their way through all the doubts, even those of their closest relatives, the tribunals, the demands of the multitude of persons who looked for them, and they lost no occasion to offer their suffering for the salvation of others. They had things very clear. If only I had it so clear that the most important thing is getting to Heaven, rejoicing eternally in God’s presence, saving souls! Just like the young rich man, I lack that last definitive step to throw off all attachments, not being afraid and entrusting myself fully to God, following the example of the little Shepherd of Fatima, because “unless you become like children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. Truly living in the world, but being only to God. It is difficult, no, impossible without listening to the Lord, without letting Him do the work. There are so many plans, so many worries and worldly illusions…and God is waiting the whole time! It has always impressed me how God respects the freedom of each person, because behind it gleams the craziness of His love for us, and each one of the barriers that I place hits me so hard. It is a path of faith. The need to approach God destroying all the obstacles, even when we don’t see or understand anything, but always holding on to Him who lowers Himself in order to pour out His love and raise me up.
And Our Lady is always there, insisting in an urgent and tender way in every moment throughout the history of Christianity, that it is possible to change and that what is at risk is eternal life. Precisely because she is such a Mother, she does not want to lose any of her children and she does not hesitate to return over and over again to teach us the way. In Fatima, through the devotion to her Immaculate Heart, through the Rosary, Confession and Communion, striving after a permanent conversion and nourishing a sense of shared responsibility and the practice of reparation. The salvation of each and every person is at stake, because we are a living Church.
Here are what some other members of the Home have to say about the pilgrimage to Fatima:
-By Mª Jesús Jiménez, LHM.
“The pilgrimage to Fatima on the hundred-year anniversary of the apparitions has allowed me to celebrate the anniversary, giving thanks to Our Lady for having come to earth to pour out the grace of salvation upon us, offering us her Immaculate Heart as a means through which to better love her Son. I really enjoyed renewing my commitments in the very same place where Father Rafael once composed the prayer of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that we pray every morning, being able to participate in the torchlight processions in the Shrine, delving deeper into the Fatima doctrine through the talks we have received, and getting to know the other members of the Home of the Mother from the United States.”
-By Clara Martínez, LHM.
"The first afternoon we went to the rosary procession. The Lord poured out His abundant graces on us and I went to bed that night very happy and grateful for the opportunity to once again be in Fatima for the 100th anniversary. When we went to the Church of the Eucharistic miracle in Santarem, although I had already read the explanation of the miracle, I listened to it once again. When I drew closer to the monstrance, I perceived an overwhelming fragrance of both blood and roses, and I strongly felt the presence of the Lord and His love for me. I cried because I realized that His love for man receives so little attention and so many offenses."
-By Dolores Hambleton, LHM.
"It’s the first time that my wife Marta and I have participated in the summer family encounter of the Home of the Mother. And to top it all off, it was in Fatima, Portugal! It has been a beautiful experience, a special grace for us. We have learned many things about Our Blessed Mother, and, consequently, we have drawn closer to her. It was a joy to be able to meet many new members of the Home, and the environment was very special. We went home with the strong conviction of her love for us, the love of the Virgin Mary, our Mother and Teacher. We are happy that we have been able to participate in this event, and I hope to be able to do so in the future. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us always!"
-By José Pezo, LHM.
““It has been an unexpected gift for me after being out of Spain for the last year. I can only say that Our Lady has behaved like always: she has united us in her Heart so as to be able to love Jesus more and in a better way. It has also been a great gift to be able to see how the Home if present in so many countries, in an environment so full of peace, friendship, joy, prayer, laughter and conversion. As a priest, I have been able to see how the Lord gives extraordinary graces of conversion during the Home Encounters and you really notice that in Confession and in the effort everyone is making to pray. Thank you, Mother”.”
-By P. Matthew Nobrega, SHM
“11 years ago I providencially found myself on pilgrimage in Fatima. I was 18. I knew that the Lord was calling me, but I didn’t know where to consecrate my life. In the chapel of the apparitions I felt Our Lady’s presence and her maternal love for me so strongly that I abandoned myself in her hands and I asked her to show me the path that the Lord has thought of for me. This was July of 2006. In August of the same year I started university in Jacksonville, Florida. In September or October the Servant Sisters founded a community in that same city, and I met them straight away. I had not been back to Fatima until now, two weeks prior to my perpetual vows profession in the Servant Sisters. For me, this pilgrimage has been a continuous act of thanksgiving to Our Mother because she did not only do what I asked of her- show me my vocation- but has gone further than that, she has gone beyond anything I could have imagined. Now I have returned with the Home, my spiritual family, that gathers around Her to say: “Look, dear Mother. I have arrived. Thank you!” She has done it all and I can only thank her by giving her my life.”
-By Hna. Annemarie Naiman, SHM
“ I give thanks to Our Mother for this Family Encounter in Fatima. I has helped me go deeper into the message that she wished to give us through the shepherd children, thanks to the very well prepared talks that were given. In a special way, what touched my heart was the need to do penance and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and to repair the offenses committed against Our Lord and Our Lady. There was a great environment: we were a big family that mutually enriched one another. There was time for reflection, moments of peace, sharing, prayer, and moments of laughter… receiving many graces that we ought to be thankful for, and have to put into practice. Thanks, dear Mother, for taking us in and showing us your love”.
-By Mª Jesús Gómez