By Donal Anthony Foley
The World Apostolate of Fatima (WAF) in England and Wales will be commemorating the centenary year of the Fatima apparitions by means of a program of visitations to Cathedrals by the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, together with relics of Blessed Jacinta and Francisco. This statue of Our Lady was blessed by Pope Paul VI at Fatima in May 1967, and given to this country by the bishop of Fatima in 1968, and it was also blessed by Pope St. John Paul II during his visit to Britain in 1982.
The Catholic Church in Britain, like the rest of Europe, is struggling with the effects of secularism – and indeed the “errors of Russia,” the reality of which Our Lady spoke about to the Fatima children in July 1917. Over the course of the last century, the errors at the heart of atheistic communism—the denial and rejection of God—have gradually seeped into Western societies, and these errors have particularly affected Western Europe.
The Church in Britain has struggled to have much impact on a society enamored of the culture of death, and the situation in some European countries, such as Belgium and Holland, where euthanasia is now a fact of life, is even worse. But the Church here has been given a shot in the arm by Catholics from countries such as the Philippines, India, and many African nations, coming to live in Britain; they have brought with them a vibrant and faith-filled Catholicism, which has had a positive impact in London and some of the bigger cities.
In the same way, Brexit may also play a part over the long term in bringing the country back to a more God-centered way of living, since it may well mean that we are isolated from some of the worst effects of European secularism and its attendant corruption. If the moment is seized, it is possible for the Catholic Church in Britain to have more of an influence on life – but this will only happen if the Church here renews itself, and this is another reason why the WAF Visitation program is so important, since it is a real chance for the Fatima message to make an impact and thus help with the process of renewal.
So that is the atmosphere in which the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, together with relics of Blessed Jacinta and Francisco, is due to travel around the majority of the cathedrals in England and Wales. And the same is true of Scotland where WAF Scotland has just been set up in that country, and where they, too, are due to have a statue of Our Lady of Fatima go around the Scottish cathedrals this coming year.
The WAF England and Wales program is starting in a big way, with a visitation of the statue and relics to Westminster Cathedral in London on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 from 2:00 pm onwards, where Cardinal Vincent Nichols will say Mass and renew the consecration of England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This will be a renewal of the consecration that was made by Cardinal Griffin, the then Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, at the Marian shrine of Walsingham in Norfolk, on July 16, 1948.
This consecration is not just a ceremonial event since we have the experience of the marvelous consequences of previous consecrations to Our Lady, such as those which took place in Portugal in the 1930s, in Poland in 1948, and particularly for Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe, when they were delivered from Marxist atheism by Pope St John Paul II’s consecration of March 15, 1984. So we can expect it to be a real source of grace.
Regarding Walsingham, it was one of the most famous places of pilgrimage in medieval times, alongside Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The shrine originated in 1061, following a vision of the Blessed Virgin to a local woman named Richeldis de Faverches, asking her to build a replica of the holy house in Nazareth, where the Holy Family had resided, in honor of the Annunciation. The shrine at Walsingham was destroyed at the time of the Reformation, but it was revived in the late 19th century and is now the major Catholic Marian site in England.
Cardinal Nichols will also bless the statue of Our Lady of Fatima at Westminster Cathedral and crown it with a new centenary crown. This is being specially made in Portugal by the same firm that made the famous bejeweled crown for the statue of Our Lady at the Capelinha that is only worn at Fatima on the 13th of May to October. In addition, this new crown is being freely offered to Our Lady by the Portuguese jewelers, Leitao of Lisbon, in return for whatever offerings the faithful wish to make in items of jewelry, gold and silver. That is how the original crown was made, by freewill offerings.
It is hoped that many people from the London area and farther afield will come to the Cathedral, which is right in the heart of the city, less than a mile away from the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, which was built under King Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo-Saxon king before the advent of William the Conqueror in 1066.
The Cathedral Visitation promises to be a joyful and moving occasion, when Our Lady of Fatima will be venerated in a truly fitting way in the premier church in the land, and it will also be an occasion for those present to make heartfelt prayers for the good of the Church in Britain, and also for their families and friends, through the intercession of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart and that of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta.
After Mass people will be able to venerate their relics, and this will be followed at 4:00 pm by a Fatima Symposium in Westminster Cathedral Hall. This will include talks and discussion on the centenary celebrations at Fatima, the famous crown of Our Lady of Fatima, the significance of the Fatima message for the family, and the importance of the Five First Saturdays devotion and the Rosary. The WAF pledge will be also be explained and people will be invited to join our apostolate.
We would ask WAF-USA members—and WAF members around the world—to pray that the Visitation programs in both England and Wales, and Scotland will touch people’s hearts in this centenary year and that the message of Fatima will take root amongst Catholics in Britain.
Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, including Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people – details can be found at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk/
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