Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
I was going to tell you to go see the movie “Fatima” or — if you’re still sheltering-in due to COVID-19 — to screen it in your home. The true story of the three shepherd children in Portugal and their encounter with a beautiful lady is steeped in mystery and hope.
It seems, though, that everyone’s already on that story: Here in the Register, Steven Greydanus called it “a compelling, visually lush religious drama.” Joseph Pronechen reported that the film has “brought hope to the world.” Throughout the Catholic and Christian world the film has garnered great reviews, and even secular publications carried reviews of the film.
Sometimes even bad news is good news. Despite the efforts of unbelievers to negate the truth of Fatima, their coverage of this film has brought Our Lady’s dramatic appearance to the attention of the world. Michael Ordoña, writing in the L.A. Times, barely masked an atheist sneer as he wrapped the word “miracle” in quotation marks and accused the filmmakers of proselytizing. In the New York Times, Ben Kenigsburg criticized the film’s makers for allowing viewers to see the apparitions, rather than requiring them to make the leap of faith themselves. But in other secular sources, from the Hollywood Reporter to the Chicago Sun-Times, faith in the supernatural is permitted, even endorsed. Sheila O’Malley, writing on the Roger Ebert website, writes with respect, citing Sister Lucia’s powerful line from the film, “Faith begins at the edge of understanding.” And Rotten Tomatoes writes that “Fatima competently dramatizes an incredible true story.”
So anyway, if you want to be “in the know” or if you want a refresher course on the beloved story, you need to see Fatima. If you’ve seen the 1952 version, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, you’ll see pretty much the same story, although I found the modern version less melodramatic and hence more compelling. Both films are faithful to the reports of the Fatima miracle, explaining how over six months in 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto at the Cova da Iria near Fatima, Portugal. The Blessed Virgin encouraged the children to pray the Rosary daily for world peace, for the end of World War I, for sinners and for the conversion of Russia. She promised that there would be a miracle on Oct. 13 of that year, and that as a result, many people would come to believe.
That miracle — a solar event during which the clouds broke apart and the sun appeared as a spinning disk in the sky, plunging toward Earth — became known as the Miracle of the Sun, and was viewed by as many as 100,000 people. Even at a great distance, the gyrating sun caught the attention of onlookers. Pope Benedict XV, strolling in the Vatican Gardens hundreds of miles away, is reported to have witnessed the sun’s unusual performance.
Fatima opened in theaters nationwide on Aug. 28. For those who aren’t ready to go to the theater during this time of pandemic, and for those who can’t find a local theater in your community that’s showing the film, there are plenty of ways to watch at home via Prime Video, Apple TV, Xfinity, VUDU, Fandango, Google Play and more. You can choose the platform that works best for you at fatimathemovie.com.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two other ways to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Fatima story.
I’m captivated by the details offered in Ignatius Press’ new book, Fatima: 100 Questions and Answers About the Marian Apparitions. Author Paul Senz lays out a solid background: What role did the Catholic Church play in the First World War? Was Catholicism important and influential in 1917 Portugal? He goes on to tell the reader about the visionaries, and about the Angel of Peace. Using a simple Q&A format, Senz provides great detail about each of the six visions, and about the three “secrets” which Mary revealed to the children. And there’s more: What happened after the visions? What was Russia like, and was that nation changed? What has been the role of apparitions in Christian tradition? When Pope John Paul II was struck by an assassin’s bullet in St. Peter’s Square, why did he believe that Our Lady of Fatima had saved his life? And what about that verse in Timothy which says that Jesus is the one mediator between God and man? Doesn’t this mean that praying to Mary, or speaking to her through visions, puts her in Jesus’ rightful place?
And one more suggestion: An older book by popular Catholic writer Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Our Lady of Fatima: 100 Years of Stories, Prayers and Devotions, provides a one-stop guide to the tradition, history and spirituality of Our Lady of Fatima. Donna-Marie’s book is a sort of mini-Fatima retreat — an “armchair pilgrimage” that will bring to life the events of Fatima and help you find ways to apply Mary’s Fatima message to the nitty-gritty details of your daily life.
In our uncertain times, the Blessed Mother’s Fatima message is needed more than ever. Donna-Marie warns us that the uncertainty of global events can seep into our daily worries, creating fear and anxiety that’s difficult to overcome. There’s comfort to be found in the Fatima movie, and in books that explain the events of 1917 in greater detail.