FOR 26 days from 28 January to 21 February 2009, we went around the country with the Pilgrim Image of Our Lady of Fatima.
Although we were confined with the “bigger” churches, mostly the Cathedrals of the Arch/dioceses, we were able to see the entire cross-section of the Church in the Philippines.
I will never forget the vast crowds we have seen in all places Our Lady visited, and very notable among these are those of the Archdiocese of Lipa, Diocese of Butuan, Diocese of Digos, and the Archdiocese of Jaro.
We also had a brief stop at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela on the First Saturday of February which turned out to be the last time that I would be seeing and conversing with Msgr. Moises Andrade.
St. John Damascene refers to the statues and images as visual catechisms. Without use of words and sounds, we are able to glimpse and understand aspects of our Faith through these visual representations.
The history of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue begins in 1946. At that time, after the youth of Portugal attended a Congress in Fatima, they took the Statue from display in the Cova on pilgrimage to Lisbon. As they walked the route they stopped at the towns and people gathered to pray. In Lisbon when they entered the cathedral, the miracle of doves occurred. Many other phenomena also occurred inspiring devotion and inspiring the fervor among the people.
The statue was returned to its place in the Cova de Iria but many people wished for a visit in their own communities. The Bishop asked Sr. Lucia in a letter about sending the statue on tour. Sr. Lucia responded with a letter suggesting that the new statue, just then being made, by the famous sculptor Jose Thedim be used as a pilgrim statue. The Bishop agreed and, on May 13, 1947, this new statue was blessed and named the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
Almost before it began its journey, so many places wanted her visit that it was realized a second statue should also be blessed. This second statue, made also by Jose Thedim, was completed and blessed by the Bishop of Fatima on October 13, 1947 (Exactly 30 years to the day after the great miracle of the sun which was to draw the world's attention to Mary's message.) His Excellency remarked that this would be the Western statue and that the two statues would travel about until finally they could enter Russia.
The Bishop of Fatima entrusted the Western statue to Mr. John Haffert, who later became the cofounder of the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima in America. It entered the United States, through Canada at Buffalo, New York, on December 8, 1947. (December 8th, being our patronal Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception.) At Buffalo 200,000 people lined the streets and welcomed Our Lady on that occasion. To fulfill the mandate of the Bishop to travel, teach and inspire, Mr. Haffert assigned the first custodian, Fr. McGrath of Canada. The statue has always had a full time custodian and has never stopped traveling in its entire 54 years. Succeeding Fr. McGrath was Fr. Breault, and others have continued to the present time.
The miracles, favors, and signal graces were so numerous from the very beginning that even the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, reflected on them in his famous radio address to the pilgrims at Fatima, May 13, 1951. He recalled having crowned the Fatima statue in 1946: "In 1946 we crowned Our Lady of Fatima as Queen of the world, and the next year, through her pilgrim image, She set forth as though to claim Her dominion, and the miracles She performs along the way are such that we can scarcely believe our eyes at what we are seeing."
Physical cures attributed to the presence of the Statue have been documented many times. The changes in expression and coloration, and even the pose of the statue have been reported innumerable times. But, the important miracles are the spiritual cures and gifts Our Lady bestows. The sudden conversion of a stubborn heretic is a good example. Another important miracle is the enlightenment of someone who has resisted the idea of statues or the idea of praying to saints. The spiritual miracles are infinitely more valuable than the things we can see, touch, or measure.
The travel of Our Lady’s image has been very limited this year. If you wish to invite Her when she returns to the Philippines sometime from now, you can log on to the website: pilgrimvirginstatue.com
And by the way, March 25 is the Solemnity of the Anunciation and a day of Prayer for the Unborn. Any true devotee of Our Lady will certainly defend Family and Life!
We continue to pray, offer sacrifice, and mobilize against the passage of the Reproductive Health bill and even against the carefully “languaged” Magna Carta on Women.
Ave Maria! Ad Jesum per Mariam.