One day three children were watching their family’s sheep in Fatima, Portugal. Francisco Marto was 9 years old; his sister Jacinta was 7, and their cousin Lucia was 10. All at once Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to them.
Pray for Peace
The year was 1917 and the first World War was raging. Mary asked the children to pray the rosary for peace in our world. The children told others what had happened. The authorities threatened them, but the children did not change their story. Their example of faith reminds us that people of all ages are called to be saints.
Our Lady of Fatima
Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the children six times in all. The last time, thousands of people gathered, and everyone witnessed the miracle of the sun. People said that the sun seemed to twirl and dance. The children continued to pray the rosary each day. Francisco and Jacinta died two years later during a flu epidemic, just as Mary had foretold. Lucia became a religious sister, lived a long life, and died a few years ago.
Message of Hope
Mary brought a message of hope in God to all of us through these children. At the canonization of St. Francisco and St. Jacinta in 2017, Pope Francis reminded us, “God created us to be a source of hope for others.” We should pray the rosary for peace in our world today. Millions of people still come to pray at the shrine at Fatima each year.
What We Can Do
■■ We can talk about Fatima’s message. Who saw Mary? What did Mary tell the children to do? Why is praying for peace important? How many times did Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia see Mary? What miracle did the people see? Why is Mary’s message of hope for the world important?
■■ Think of ways to bring hope to others. Make “thinking of you” cards for elderly people at a care center. Invite a new child to join you and your friends at recess. Pray for someone who is having a difficult time. Donate a new toy to a family shelter as a birthday gift for a child living there.
■■ Learn the mysteries of the rosary as we pray. The rosary is a Gospel-based prayer: the Our Father is from Matthew 6:9-13, and the Hail Mary is from Luke 1:28, 42. Most of the mysteries — stories from the lives of Jesus and Mary — are also from the Gospels.
Mary, thank you for sharing hope in God with the children at Fatima and with us today. We ask you to pray for us to your Son, Jesus, that we may share hope with other people. Ask Jesus to guide our hearts that we may pray for peace in our world like St. Francisco and St. Jacinta. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us. Amen.
PATRICIA MATHSON, MRE, has years of experience as a director of religious education. She is the author of many books, including 70 Prayer Starters for Children from Twenty-Third Publications.
PHOTOS: PUBLIC DOMAIN, top photo attributed to Joshua Benoliel
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, February 2018