If one event had not occurred nearly 100 years ago, I would not be writing this article. I probably wouldn’t even be Catholic. I can trace the person I am now to a small town in Portugal called Fatima, and the miracle that took place there.
In the summer of 2013, my sister Beth and I made a pilgrimage to Fatima. Every evening, pilgrims from all over the world gather to pray the Rosary in the Chapel of Apparitions, where Our Lady appeared in 1917. Though the sky was dark, the flickering lights from our candles illuminated the still air as we prayed Hail Mary’s, each person in his or her mother’s language.
After the Rosary, a procession began around the square, a statue of Mary led the procession. She was carried on a platform and adorned with flowers. We followed, holding our candles, singing the Ave Maria. I suddenly understood the concept of “the universal church.” Though we did not speak the same language, everyone was in Fatima for the same reason: to give glory to God through Our Lady. The only phrase each of us understood was the cry “Ave Maria,” but that cry was the only thing that mattered.
The procession ended at the Chapel of Apparitions. With the last Ave still ringing in my ears, I gazed upon the statue of Mary, marking where She had once stood. An overwhelming peace flooded my heart. Thousands of people have flocked to this site to visit Our Lady, and here I was, in the very same spot, almost a century later. Tears filled my eyes as I recalled the beautiful way I had been brought to Fatima and to Jesus.
My Journey To Jesus
When I was in 5th grade, Beth gave me a packet of Catholic magazines that she had when she was a teenager. I responded oh-so-enthusiastically by shoving them in my closet and forgetting about them. Though I believed in God, I had rarely applied that belief to my daily tasks.
Like most 11 year olds, I had no idea who I was and gave into peer pressure to fit in. I pretended to like trends and popular bands, I was cruel to classmates who were “less cool” than me. I found myself thinking, “I may be doing this, but at least I’m not doing that,” several times a day. These actions led me to bitterness and I was filled with great internal unrest.
I knew I was missing something, but what could it be? I wouldn’t know until I rediscovered the magazines in my closet. I heard a very firm voice in my head say, “Read them. NOW.” The voice struck me so deeply, I desired to respond to that call. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
My Lord, Through Our Lady
The magazines focused on the appearances of Our Lady of Fatima and her plea for conversion through the Rosary. It was not the first time that I had heard this story, but as I read about Our Lady’s request for daily Rosaries, I became more and more drawn to the “long and boring” prayer. I was inspired to at least try praying it.
Though it was difficult at first, I soon developed the habit of saying the Rosary every night before I went to bed. What began as discipline soon became a joy. Not only did I tolerate the Rosary, I grew to love it. I was probably the only 11 year old in the world who wanted to go to bed.
As I reflected on Christ through the eyes of Mary, I began seeing the world differently. I was filled with a peace I didn’t know existed. I started talking about Jesus openly, learned who my true friends were and realized my own humanity. Kindness became a core virtue of mine, I began reading everything I could about the faith and began the journey of striving to know Christ.
Since then I have continued to grow in faith, holding Our Lady’s hand through the Rosary the whole way. Had it not been for Her, the magazines my sister gave me would not have been written, I would not have prayed the Rosary and I would not be seeking God. I would not be the version of myself I am now.
Through Mary, I came to know Jesus. I am eternally grateful that She inspired me through the Rosary to come to Her Son.
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