Thursday 10/12/2017 Fatima: A Call to Prayer


How would it affect your faith if you saw the sun dance in the sky?  What difference would it make in your trust in God if you were soaked by standing in a heavy downpour one minute, but a few minutes later you were dry and the ground was not muddy?  Such were the events that happened in Fatima, Portugal on October 13, 1917 in the presence of 75,000 people. What if you had been one of those people?

Fatima, 1917

Between May and October, 1917, Mary appeared to three shepherd children in a field near the unknown village of Fatima.  While no one but the children saw the Blessed Virgin, many others saw a small cloud on which she was standing and were caught in a sense of Presence.  Over time the Church substantiated this really was communication from God through Mary that could and would give guidance to our world.  The Church (and world) celebrates this appearance and communication this week, one hundred years later.

There were messages and predictions given at Fatima—not just to three children, but to the Church, to all of us.  Those messages and predictions included a vision of hell, calls to do penance, a vision of a man in white killed (interpreted to have been the attempted assassination of Pope Saint John Paul II), visions of great trials and evils to come into the world, pleas to pray the rosary, to pray for mercy, to especially pray for Russia, and to turn to and emulate the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Considering Fatima gives a rich meaning to today’s readings.

The reading from Malachi is literally the last of the Old Testament.  The setting is Jerusalem around 455 BCE.  The people have returned from Babylon and begun to rebuild, but they are not working hard or rebuilding for God.  Priests are careless with the sacrifices and with their lives.  People are discouraged by living in rubble and without even minimal conveniences.  This is the time before Nehemiah and Ezra came to inspire and guide their rebuilding of Jewish culture and faith.

Malachi is Hebrew for “messenger.”  Perhaps because this unknown prophet was sharply criticizing the small Jewish community in Jerusalem he did not identify himself.  He both critiques and promises in today’s reading:

You have said, “It is vain to serve God,
and what do we profit by keeping his command,
And going about in penitential dress
in awe of the LORD of hosts?
Rather must we call the proud blessed;
for indeed evildoers prosper,
and even tempt God with impunity.”

For lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
And the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the LORD of hosts.
But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays.

Much like the words of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima for our modern age.

The Perfect Storm of Europe in the 20th Century

When the Blessed Virgin came to Fatima in 1917 Europe was toward the end of the “the Great War,” World War I.  While the children in Fatima were well removed from that war, it killed millions and set up the unjust and horrific conditions that led to the spread of fascism, communism, and World War II.

After World War II came the spread of communism, the capacity for nuclear war, technology, and growths in capitalism, nationalism, individualism, and atheism that have over time eroded cultural foundations for a life of faith.

Not unlike what happened in Babylon.

Very much like what was described to the children at Fatima.

The Fatima Call to Prayer and Penance

It seems to me that part of the message of Fatima with its thousands of observers and predictions for this past hundred years, is the message of Malachi—trust that eventually God triumphs, God reigns.  This is the kind of apocryphal message that can bring hope and foster perseverance when literally the world comes down around you.  It was a message to instill courage and dependency on God as Christian Europe fell apart.

But another very important part of Fatima is the call to prayer.  “Pray the rosary,” Mary said.  “Pray for the conversion of Russia.”  “Pray for the Church and for families.”  “Pray.”

It was at Fatima that Mary asked us to add to each decade of the rosary after the Glory Be, “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy.”

Jesus’ Call to Prayer

Jesus calls us to prayer today in the Gospel reading.  This passage follows immediately after Jesus’ giving us the Our Father in Tuesday’s reading.  He describes how a neighbor will get up and give a neighbor some bread in the middle of the night, even though he doesn’t want to, to get the neighbor to go away.  Then he says,

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

What Do Fatima and Jesus’ Words Here Mean to Me Today?

I am very much influenced by what Steven said in his A Catholic Moment reflection yesterday.  He noted that Jesus’ disciples asked him HOW to pray.  He commented on the difference it would make in our prayer if, instead of asking God to give peace or justice or help, we asked, “Lord, HOW I can make peace?”  “HOW can I handle this situation fairly?”  “HOW can I help?”

I had not thought about “HOW” in just the way Steven described it, but reflection tells me that yes, my experience of intercessory prayer says that it is very true.  When I bring a client or friend or situation to God and seek to know what to do, I am inadvertently asking God, “Show me HOW to help.”

God has answered that prayer for me again and again and again.  I am stuck with a client or a relationship or a problem.  I give it to God.  Maybe an hour later, maybe a week, a thought comes in my head that softens my heart or gives me an idea of something I can do to reach out, speak truth in a way it can be heard, or show love in a way that softens, gentles, opens a door to resolution.

Or God does the same in other people involved.

And again and again and again, the power of evil shifts, diminishes, or becomes glaringly apparent so it can be recognized.


I am part of a prayer effort in our parish to pray a rosary specifically for our country—that God would return us to the foundational faith of the US’s founders.  I’ve spent substantial time in front of abortion facilities or Planned Parenthood praying the rosary to save unborn children and their parents.  Each Tuesday I pray a rosary with a group at a local assisted living facility.

But in between—well, rosaries challenge me.  They are not my “go to” form of prayer.  Yet at Fatima Mary asked us to pray the rosary for our world and church—and those prayers are needed.  I keep asking God for help to fully embrace the rosary.  Maybe the “HOW” thought is God’s answer to me.

We have seen how the prayers of people have diminished the power of communism (though its atheism is rampant), saved Pope Saint John Paul’s life when he was struck by a would-be assassin, and recently how the power of hurricanes radically diminished or people were protected in their midst.

We are perhaps also witnessing the evil which still seeks to destroy the Church and Christian faith.  That leads me to think that maybe we (I) need to pray the rosary more, pray better.  Maybe do penance, too.

What if we join the thought of today’s first reading (God will hear the cries of his faithful and come with justice) with Jesus and Mary’s requests of us to pray with perseverance and Steven’s thought of asking God how?  What if we (I) pray the rosary faithfully asking, “Show me HOW to change the culture of death.”  “Show me HOW to combat atheism, secularism, and the insults to God in our culture.”  “Show me HOW to offer us who I am and what I have TODAY to make Thy Kingdom come.”

What if.


Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

And show me HOW to pray for our world, to pray for our church, especially the little corner of the world and church where I live, so that the Kingdom of God comes in me TODAY.  Amen.

About the Author

Mary Ortwein lives in Frankfort, Kentucky in the US. At different times in her life she has been an elementary and college teacher, a full-time wife and mother, founder of pro-life service agencies, a marriage and family therapist, a non-profit agency administrator, and a writer of relationship and mental health curriculum. A convert to Catholicism in 1969, Mary had a deeper conversion in 2010. She earned a theology degree from St. Meinrad School of Theology in 2015. Recently retired, Mary takes as her model Anna, who met the Holy Family in the temple at the time of the Presentation. She is a widow who finds joy in prayer, in being a part of parish life, and in offering hospitality to those who are journeying toward God--especially those who have previously wandered away from God, those who are journeying home to Eternal Life, and those who are seeking a deep relationship with God and other Christians.

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  1. Mary thank you. You hit my head and my heart. Your reflections sooth in my inner soul.
    May the Lord teach me “how” I can do more of my prayers in action, that the Blessed Virgin will always pray WITH and for us!

    Tomorrow, October 13, 2017 we will have our Grand procession in our diocese here in honor of Mary on the 100 years of Fatima apparition, may all faithful meditate more on the rosary to be said as we walk in faith together and pray for our country, the world and the sinners.

    God bless you!

  2. I really wonder if there is hope for Christianity in these challenging times. It has become obvious that the knowledge and fear of God is rapidly declining. This is evident in the cruel things going on around the world today.
    The readings today offer a bit of hope.

  3. Thanks Mary for your very insightful reflection.As Emmanuel says it seems people today do not care about Christianity, Or what would you say about people who do not care about the future of a country where they are born and live in. I am talking about our country Kenya where people keep on protesting on the streets without a care of the damage they are doing to the economy of country and even dare to say that they will be doing it daily from next week. What would you say of such leaders. Would such leaders claim to be lovers of of their country.

    May the Lord God forgive them as they do not know what they are doing.

    Thank you Mary for giving us a platform to bring our grievances. Kindly remember to pray for our country as you pray for the US.

  4. We as Christians today and particularly Catholic Christians must hold on to the hope given us each Sunday and available everyday at Mass. We experience a miracle every time we attend Mass and witness the bread and the wine being transformed into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, then we are invited to participate in His table of life and hope. Through this we are given strength and courage to go forth in power and might to make a difference in our world. And please pray the Rosary as often as you can. There is great power in this to change our world also..

  5. You lumped too many ism’s in your collection of evils. Some have been desirable contributors to mankind…likely heaven sent.

  6. Insightful reflection, Mary! It has been on my heart to pray the Rosary more and to go to our Adoration Chapel at least once a week. Now I need to just do it and stop procrastinating. Procrastination is something I’ve struggled with for many years that it has become such a bad habit that’s hard to break. At times I tell myself that I do better under pressure, but it’s just a lie from the devil because I often feel so stressed out. Lord, help me to overcome this thorn in my side for it hinders me from being the best version of myself and being used by you to help those around me.

  7. Mary, thank you for such a thought provoking reflection (and Steven for his reflection yesterday ). The rosary is not my “go to” prayer either but I do pray for our Blessed Lady’s intersesions. Other Gospel readings have me preplexed. Jesus says he’s not here to bring peace to the world, yet divide it “mother against daughter, son against father” and so on. Also when Jesus speaks of the end times. “Had the time of the end of the world not been shortened, not even the faithful would survive. God the Father only knows the time this will happen. It is inevitable it will happen! Are we to believe God has a pre determined time? Are we to believe we can prolong the inevitable with petition and prayer?
    God promised Abraham his descendent would be as numerous as stars in the sky. I often wonder if the countless millions of aborted babies are indeed counted in Abrahams descendents and that is part of the reason of the shortened end time?
    Fatima – must we believe and pray the rosary for our eternal salvation? God himself walked among us 2000 years ago and taught us HOW we should pray – yet the majority of people back then did not believe he was (is) the Son of God.
    I’m not writing this to bash you or the other writers, I’m just trying to digest and understand all that I’ve read in the Bible and what I read in these reflections. I throughly enjoy and look forward to reading these reflections every morning for over 2 years now. Thanks again to all the writers here and may God continue to Bless you.

  8. Comments today from readers show that topics raised in this reflection create questions that are important ones. I would respond to comments with these collected thoughts.

    No, I do not believe we must pray the rosary for our salvation. The Church does not say that either. Vatican Council II strongly encourages prayer from Scripture–which is what A Catholic Moment does. That is my “go to” prayer, along with Adoration and mass. In 1917, if Mary had asked people to pray from Scripture, they could not have done it. The shepherd children at Fatima, and probably their parents, had very limited educations. The rosary is, of course, scriptural, but it is also a simple prayer that most anyone can learn. Fifteen or so years later Jesus gave Sr. Faustina the Divine Mercy chaplet. That is another simple prayer we can all say to beg God for mercy. Is the chaplet more or less potent than the rosary? What is most potent is what is said with most sincere attention to God and trust in him. All that being said, the rosary is well known, readily said, and easily said in a group. When said in a group with the other necessary conditions, it is a prayer with a plenary indulgence attached to it. And Mary said to say it. So I pray the rosary and ask God to make it as special to me as it is to some of my friends.

    Malachi is considered eschatological writing–a style of writing that developed during the Babylonian captivity which continues in the book of Revelation and in the writings of many saints. It focuses on travail and the vision of God’s eventual triumph over evil as the world as we know is changed into a new heaven and new earth. In the writings Skip mentions, Jesus is being eschatological. The Church turns in that direction as we head into All Saints, All Souls, and the Feast of Christ the King.

    There are some who see this anniversary of Fatima as a significant point in our journey to “end times.” There were those who thought of the year 2000 as a significant point. But “we do not know”.

    There is plenty of evil in the world–plenty of greed, injustice, anger, fear, -isms, etc. But there has always been plenty of evil. That was why Jesus came–to show us how to live in justice, in beatitude, in virtue–so that we may build the Kingdom of God. There was a great public miracle at Fatima 100 years ago. It fostered “fear of the Lord” which Malachi names as prerequisite for God’s faithfulness to us. It fostered asking, seeking, knocking which Jesus names for us in today’s comments on prayer. But El is also VERY correct–there is no greater miracle than the miracle of the mass, of God coming down to be with his people EVERY DAY, EVERY HOUR, ALL ACROSS THE WORLD–from Kenya to Puerto Rico to Las Vegas to North Korea to Afghanistan to Rome to….all of us.

    Thank you, readers, for your comments and questions. They build among us world community, unity in diversity of faith.
    Mary Ortwein

  9. Mary, thank you for your explanation. Eschatological is a new word/term I have never heard before – more studying for me. I was getting my information from Matthew 24 in regards to the end times.
    Mary, again, thank you. The last 5 or 6 reflections you have written are some of the best writings I’ve read of yours. God Bless you.

  10. Thank you for taking the time to provide such a thoughtful response to questions raised in order to aid us in our understanding.

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