Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
The Fatima Century – How the Pilgrim Virgin Is Changing Our Generation by Thomas J. McKenna
Catholic Action for Faith and Family, 2017
To order: CatholicAction.org $19.95
Because everyone cannot get to Fatima, Our Lady of Fatima has been traveling the world since 1947. She does is through the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue which has visited most every country in the world.
In The Fatima Century – How the Pilgrim Virgin Is Changing Our Generation, Thomas McKenna brings to light fascinating facets and stories of these travels, sparkling like diamonds in the crown of Our Lady. He also shares many insights into Our Lady of Fatima which enhance for us the meaning and message that Our Lady brought to the world through the children and events at Fatima in 1917, and which she continues to bring as she travels the world in the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue.
McKenna certainly knows. For over 25 years he was one of the custodians accompanying the statue on her international travels. And during this time he worked very closely with John Haffert, the founder of the Blue Army which is now called the World Apostolate of Fatima. Haffert was the originator of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue. For good measure, McKenna also worked with Professor Plinio Correa de Oliveira, an ardent supporter and promoter of Catholic culture. McKenna calls both men the two great apostles of Our Lady.
The real story is the sheer numbers of people who come to see the statue and experience a conversion and return the Church and sacraments because the Fatima message and statue are inseparable. McKenna makes that clear. “What sets the Pilgrim Virgin Statue apart from other images is her unique, inspiring gaze.”
“Something in this statue exerts a special attraction upon souls,” he writes. “It is not something physical or sensible; it is more like Our Lady speaks to each one through the expression on the statue’s features. The statue’s presence is always an occasion for unique graces.”
The book has us marvel at fascinating facts such as when the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue entered the United States on Dec. 8, 1947 (no coincidence because of the solemnity celebrated on that date) coming from Canada through Niagara Falls — which few people knew was consecrated in 1861 to Our Lady Queen of Peace — because she was denied a visit to New York first! Really. The book tells you why. Immediately going to Buffalo, Our Lady was greeted by over 200,000 people who came to see her.
That same day as Our Lady was being carried into the Buffalo Cathedral a man who had run two miles from work arrived to ask her for help for his wife who was in the hospital, dying. He later wrote “It seemed as if it were just the two of us. Our Lady and me. I looked at her and she looked at me… and smiled. I had a feeling at that moment, a feeling of certainty that my dying wife had been healed. A feeling of new life and exaltation came over my body and soul.” He ran to the hospital to find commotion in the room because a bit earlier his wife had been “instantaneously and totally cured.” She was filled with joy, telling everyone, “I just had a miracle!” More was to come because from her injuries and subsequent fatal infections, doctors said she would never bear more children. But she went on to have another two.
That year other healings followed as Our Lady traveled. A priest blind in one eye regained his sight; a nun, like the woman who touched the tassel of Jesus’ cloak, was cured of a 21-year lip infection no doctor could treat successfully.
McKenna also discloses healings of the soul. And what wonderful scenes of people enthralled and moved by the statue of Our Lady during the many airplane flights the author took with her. He has a way of bringing the reader right into the moment and visualizing the reactions of the people, including flight crews who were simply amazed at Our Lady, their most illustrious passenger ever. She traveled on a seat next to the custodian on all travels.
Always, something amazing happened that smoothed out obstacles, high hurdles and hitches like McKenna’s first trip after a woman saw the statue and came back with a friend who turned out to be… well, you’ll have to read the book to find that answer. Or the time officials in Communist-controlled Poland wouldn’t let Our Lady leave the plane, and what happened to turn the tables on them, and then some.
When it comes to some plain but necessary historic details for our better understanding, such as when and how the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was made in 1947, and why by the end of the year there were necessarily four of them, McKenna weaves the facts together in a way that keeps us absorbed and wanted to learn each new detail. Such as how one of the Pilgrim Virgin Statues got into Russia in 1950 and remained there! Impossible if not for the hand of heaven steering the course.
Each incident underlines why the custodians’ motto is, “With Our Lady everything works out in the end.”
A welcome bonus is a multipage photo section of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue on her travels at different times. Most photos are in color, including some with the flight crews who always insisted on being photographed together with her. There’s even one of Jose Ferreira Thedim, called the Michelangelo of Portugal, who sculpted not only the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima but all four of the Pilgrim Virgin ones. This is the first photo I’ve ever come across picturing Thedim.
In some beautifully clear and inspirational sections, the author reminds us of Fatima’s clear message and prompts us to learn, heed and follow to accomplish what Our Lady asks.
“Our Lady’s concern for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference which offend God has not diminished in the least,” McKenna writes. “In fact, now that the errors of Russia have spread throughout the entire world, Her invitation to us to become the antidote to these offences has only become more urgent. Her goal is nothing less than to reverse the revolution of Satan. But is our generation listening to her plea?”
This book will help our generation listen once again.