Hundreds are expected at a once-in-a-lifetime event, when a world-famous religious statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be on display at St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles Aug. 3-4 as part of a national tour of peace.
The statue has toured the world since being made in 1947, and reports of miracles have followed wherever it has gone, according to fatimatourforpeace.com.
The two-year tour it is making of the United States is to mark the 100th anniversary of the appearance of an apparition of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.
At the time, World War I was raging, and the apparition asked the three children to pray the rosary every day to obtain peace in the world and to end the war.
The apparition appeared six times to the children over six months. On the final appearance, in October 1917, 70,000 people — both sceptics and believers — had gathered to witness it.
A secular news report from the day said the sun visibly “danced” in the sky, and the drenched crowd was suddenly dry.
Ft. Joseph Levine, pastor of St. Peter’s, said, “One thing that’s really remarkable about the apparitions of Fatima is that it was an intervention of God in the full light of day in the 20th Century, in the news era.”
At the time, a revolution had installed a very anti-Catholic government in Portugal, a majority-Catholic country. The government and others considered the apparitions a Catholic conspiracy and many people anticipated having “a good laugh when the fraud was exposed,” Levine said.
When the formerly wet crowd became dry, Levine said, “There was a physical effect that couldn’t be attributed to mass hallucination.”
Thirty years after the apparitions, and with World War II recently ended, two statues of Our Lady of Fatima were commissioned, and began touring the world.
One of those statues was retired and put on display at the Basilica of our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. The other still tours the world, and will be at eight Catholic churches in Oregon Aug. 2-8.
Virginia Kelly grew up in the Catholic Church in The Dalles, and said, “When you’re a child and you’re brought up in the Catholic faith and you learn about the appearances of Our Lady of Fatima and you realize that she appeared to children, it really amazed me.”
The children, ages 10, 9, and 7, were shepherds in a tiny, poor village. But as a child, Kelly imagined that apparitions of the Virgin Mary would happen in large cities to important people.
God chose three poor children in a poor town to receive his message, Levine said.
Two of the children died of Spanish Flu during the war. The apparition had predicted that two of them would go to heaven soon.
The third, Lucia, died in 2005. After seeing the apparitions, she moved to a convent, but published works to spread the message of Our Lady of Fatima.
Often, when people see the Lady of Fatima, they want to go to confession, and priests will be at the church to take confession, Kelly said.
“It just kind of touches their heart and its available and if people want to take advantage it’s there for them,” she said.
According to the fatimaforourpeace.com website, “The purpose of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue tours was and still is to bring the graces of Fatima and Our Lady’s message of hope, peace and salvation to those many millions of people who may never have an opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Fatima itself.”
The statues were blessed by Pope Pius XII in 1952 and have visited more than 100 countries.
“It only happens once in a lifetime that you have the statue visit you in a centenary year,” said Levine. He is expecting hundreds of people to visit the statue.
A group will be selling t-shirts in anticipation of the visit of the statue, and while the statue is on exhibit, there will be a prayer of the rosary and quiet time to visit and spend time in the presence of the nearly four-foot-tall statue.
The official custodian of the statue is a layman and he will give a talk about the importance of the statue, Levine said.
There is an opening ceremony and procession of the statue into the church at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 3. The church will be open to the public and the rosary will be said at various times during the afternoon. At 3 p.m. there will be a prayer called a Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and priests will be available to take confession.
The schedule is interspersed with quiet time from just after 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., so people can pray or come up and touch the statue if they wish, Kelly said.
At 5:30 p.m., the custodian of the statue will give a talk about Our Lady of Fatima.
At 6 p.m. will be a short prayer service called vespers, a time to ease the day into evening. An organist and a violinist will play Ave Maria.
Another period of quiet reflection follows, until 8:30 p.m., when a candlelight procession will take place, with Our Lady of Fatima at the forefront. It will go to St. Mary’s Academy, across the street from the church, for a short prayer service to pray for students and teachers and a blessing of the school.
Then the procession will come back to the church and Levine will place a crown on the statue. At that point, flowers are brought “to honor the mother of God,” she said.
After that, the custodian of the statue will speak, and then evening mass starts. Following that will be the exposition of the blessed sacrament, where a consecrated host is placed in a container.
From about 10:30 p.m. through the night there will be a prayer vigil. “It’s just a very meditative peaceful sort of quiet time,” Kelly said.
At 5:45 a.m., is a Benediction. From 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. is another bilingual mass, with English and Spanish choirs performing, Kelly said.
The custodian of the statue will speak again at 8 a.m., the priest will do a blessing, and the English and Spanish choirs will perform a song called “Farewell Fatima” for the farewell procession.
The 42-inch statue will be in front of the altar to the right side. Levine began displaying a small statue of Fatima around May 13, which was the date in 1917 of the first appearance of the apparition. He will keep it on display through Oct. 13, when the last apparition appeared to the children.
Our Lady of Fatima is one of three most famous apparitions, with the other two being Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Levine said.
The town of Fatima has become a center of pilgrimage for millions. Levine actually lived in Fatima for a time because the religious order he entered had its formation program in Portugal.