Searching for Jesus Through Mary
Marian author speaks about message of Our Lady of Fatima
Janice T. Connell, a celebrated Marian author and speaker, spoke about the history of Our Lady of Fatima and Marian devotion at Sacred Heart Parish Center on April 20. This annual event was organized by Lindsey Forsyth, Class of 2005. She had a chance meeting with Connell six years ago when they were assigned seats next to each other on a plane.
Forsyth told the Rover that she “sat captivated by [Connell’s] stories of miracles, interviews with eyewitnesses and her incredible knowledge of scripture, angels, and Our Lady. She kindly gave me one of her books to keep and offered to speak in South Bend if I could gather a group to listen. That summer was our first talk. Six years later, the group has tripled in size, and her insights continue to touch lives.”
Connell began her talk by turning to three specific Scripture passages to describe the importance of Mary in terms of salvation history. First, she described how Mary is the woman referred to in Genesis 3:15, striking at Satan’s head. Next, she reflected on Christ entrusting the Church to Mary when she and Saint John were standing beside the Cross in John 19:26-27. Finally, she referred to Revelation 12:1, where she is the woman “clothed with the sun.”
Connell then offered a reflection on the events at Fatima in 1916 through 1917 and their relevance today, beginning with the hostility of the political climate in Portugal to religion and the Catholic faith. One of the government leaders had even declared, “within one hundred years, God would be totally dead in Portugal.”
It was in this context that Our Lady appeared to the siblings Francisco and Jacinta and their cousin Lucia as they were tending their families’ sheep. In the spring, summer and fall of 1916, an angel appeared to the children (six, seven, and nine years old respectively ), spoke with them, and taught them several prayers, which are now prayed by many today. Connell saw great significance in the angel teaching the children as they were shepherding as an “invitation for us to pray while we work … We all are called by the messages of Fatima to obey our daily duty; to sanctify our daily duty by prayer.”
Connell discussed the Marian apparitions which began on May 13, 1917. Connell explained how Our Lady asked the children if they were willing to offer themselves to God and bear all sufferings God allowed for the souls of sinners who did not know God. Connell encouraged all to take this message to heart and “answer Our Lady of Fatima’s call: that we too will accept whatever befalls us on this earth, knowing her promise that she will be our consolation through it all.”
As she spoke about the June 13 and July 13 apparitions, she emphasized the need to focus on virtue, saying “We have a mission, a destiny to acquire the virtue we need to be happy in Heaven. Virtue untested is only theory.” Connell noted Christ’s love in the midst of His suffering on the Cross as inspiration for this radical pursuit of virtue.
Prayer, she further emphasized, is also key. Connell reminded the group, “Our Lady said that if you don’t pray, you won’t know the path to Heaven. If you don’t pray you won’t be able to find Jesus to choose Him. If you’re not like Jesus, you won’t be able to follow Him home to Heaven.” She also stressed Mary’s intercession and how she brings our prayers to Jesus.
She used the analogy of us as little children and Our Lady as our mother, who is the greatest violinist in the world. She compared our prayers and works to genuine, but mistake-filled musical pieces we bring to Mary, saying, “She includes our little piece in this great symphonic masterpiece to give to God. She clothes our little nothingness in her virtue.” Sophomore Mati Sarosi told the Rover, “Her analogy was such an important reminder for me that nothing I can give to Mary is too small, and she can make everything I give her beautiful!”
She concluded the presentation by discussing the final apparition on October 13, 1917 and the Great Miracle of the Sun. Besides the 70,000 witnesses who saw the sun dance and had their muddy clothes become clean and dry, many also saw Jesus, Mary, and Joseph blessing the crowd. Connell sees this as a commentary about the importance of family life. She said, “if family life stops for whatever reason, there will be no purpose for human life on Earth.”
Mackenzie Kraker is a sophomore studying biochemistry and theology. She and her roommate live in McGlinn Hall. Her roommate has a plethora of tea pots and also wrote for the Rover this issue. There’s a fun fact about Mackenzie in her roommate’s byline: can you find it? If you can’t find it, contact Mackenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.