Thirteen is a blessed number in our family. Both my husband and my son Jacob were born on the 13th of May, which is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima’s first appearance in Fatima, Portugal in 1917 to three shepherd children.
It is a day overflowing with blessings and promises but not just for those born on that day or during that era. The messages Our Lady of Fatima brought on the 13th day for six consecutive months beginning May 13, 1917 and ending with the miracle of the sun witnessed by over 80,000 people, are perhaps more important today than ever. It is thus, especially relevant that a new major movie on these apparition–The 13th Day–has just been released this month by Ignatius Productions, the North American distributor.
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For a generation of moviegoers conditioned to Stephen Spielburg and George Lucas this might be a change. The 13th Day is thoughtful, artistic and rich in divine effects rather than mere special effects. It is the first movie on the Fatima apparitions in over 50 years. Filmed on location in Fatima, this portrayal of the drama visited upon three young children in Portugal is more than just a movie, it is a message.
The story, told from the perspective of Sister Lucia dos Santos’s memoirs written in 1932 from her Spanish convent, portrays the three unlikely recipients of heaven’s messages–shepherd children ages 10, 9 and 7. Despite their youth, they show an intense faith and courage in the face of public mockery and government terror. It’s the stuff that movies are made of, but in this case, it’s all true.
During a press conference on the movie, Father Andrew Apostoli, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal and a Fatima expert, pointed out that one of the things that struck him most during the film was the courage shown by the children. “This comes out very powerfully, when they were asked to accept the request of Our Lady. She asked them: ‘Will you suffer?”" Fr. Apostoli
Bridge Between Muslims and Christians
Perhaps this is why the film is so important for our times; it renews the messages of Fatima for a new generation–a generation sorely in need of a peace plan.
For Fatima is not just a place or an event in history, it is our hope for peace for all of humanity for all time. Consider our world today, beset by immorality and the growing threat of radical Islamic terrorism throughout the world. When our Blessed Mother appeared at Fatima, she spoke of prayer as being the solution to turmoil and sin. And what many do not realize, Our Lady of Fatima is a powerful intermediary of hope for peace between Muslims and Christians. She is a sign for our times. While other Christian religions either totally ignore or minimize Mary’s role in salvation, Catholics and Muslims share a great love and reverence for the mother of Jesus Christ. Mary’s name actually appears more times in the Koran than it appears in the New Testament. Of the Koran’s 114 chapters, Mary is among only eight other people who have a chapter named after them. The nineteenth chapter in the Koran is entitled “Miriam,” which in Arabic means Mary.
It is told that the village of Fatima was given the Islamic name of the well-loved Muslim Princess who converted to Catholicism. She was named Fatima, like many other Muslim girls in honor of Mohammad’s daughter. She was baptized in 1158 with the Christian name of Ouereana but died at an early age after marrying the Count of Ourem.
Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote of Our Lady of Fatima as the bridge between Christians and Muslims. In his 1952 book, The World’s First Love, Archbishop (then Bishop) Sheen included a chapter on “Our Lady and the Muslims”. He wrote:
“It is our belief that this [conversion] will happen not through the direct teachings of Christianity, but through a summoning of the Moslems to a veneration of the Mother of God.
“The Significance of Our Blessed Mother Mary, then, is for the Moslems the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Mohammed wrote: Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary. In a variant of the text, Fatima is made to say, ‘I surpass all the women, except Mary.’
“This brings us to our second point: namely, why the Blessed Mother, in the 20th century, should have revealed herself in the significant little village of Fatima, so that to all future generations she would be known as Our Lady of Fatima. Since nothing ever happens out of Heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as Our Lady of Fatima as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her divine Son too.”
But for peace to reign in our world, we must follow the message of Fatima. According to Anthony Ryan marketing director of Ignatius Productions, ‘We’ve licensed many films but we are going all out on this one because it’s a message driven film for us. The promises are still as relevant today as then. There were dire prophecies if people did not respond. There is also hope as told in this movie; a message of peace. If we respond, we can change the world.”
Devotion of Popes
Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming visit to Portugal this May reflects the ongoing importance of Our Lady of Fatima for all people. Through this visit, he is continuing the connection that John Paul II had with Our Lady of Fatima. John Paul II was known as the Pope of Fatima.
He beatified as “blessed” the two visionaries, Jacinta and Francisco in 2000 at Fatima in the presence of Lucia before a crowd of over a million. Pope John Paul II surprised the world at that time, by announcing what the third secret contained. It is believed to have been a prophecy on the assassination attempt on his own life on May 13, 1981-the same day and at the same hour of the first apparition at Fatima. Before a crowd of 20,000 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, a Turkish citizen, Mehmet Ali Agca, fired four bullets at the pope from about 15 feet away. The one that hit him narrowly missed his vital organs.
John Paul II attributed Our Lady of Fatima with guiding the bullet away from his organs and saving his life. The event in St. Peter’s Square took place on the day and at the hour when the first appearance of the Mother of Christ at Fatima. Four days later, from his hospital room, the pope asked all the faithful: “Pray for the brother who shot me, whom I have sincerely forgiven.”
On December 27, 1983 JP II went to the prison and forgave his would-be assassin. The pope held the hand of the gunman who shot to kill him and said, “Brother I forgive you.” They talked quietly for 21 minutes. It was reported that the gunman who, revealed he was a hired professional, could not understand how he failed in his attempt. The Pope credited the Blessed Mother with guiding the bullet’s path allowing him to escape death on the very feast of Fatima.
The 13th Day is breathing new life in the Fatima apparitions. The movie does not include all the details, yet hopefully it whets the appetites of our generation to learn more and to live the messages. For those that want to know more about Fatima, on the DVD there is a message from Andrew Apostoli and a booklet is enclosed on the making of the movie and on Fatima, a Fatima prayer card and an actual rosary. The DVD is a tool for entertainment and evangelization.