Personal Reflection: With the help of Mary, Fatima visit brings solace, peace

By Deacon Guadalupe Rodriguez
Guest Columnist

April 29 through May 12, 30 pilgrims, mostly from the Diocese of Austin, journeyed to the Vatican, Rome, Assisi, Florence, Venice, Lourdes and finally to Fatima for the centennial anniversary of the Fatima apparitions. Instead of “all roads lead to Rome,” on this pilgrimage all the roads led to Fatima as the Holy Spirit primed our hearts along the way for a wonderful encounter.
Celebrating the Eucharist at the major shrines or at least a side chapel of the shrine was so special. Each of us took a page of petitions from our parish and family to daily Mass. We laid them at the foot of the altar where Father Hai Nguyen, associate pastor of St. Mary Cathedral, celebrated each Mass. 
Throughout the pilgrimage, the intention closest to my heart was my mother’s health. She had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was on her deathbed. I carried this intention to every major shrine, signing her up for Masses and lighting candles at the shrines. 
At Fatima several of us went on our knees to make a “promesa.” As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “In many circumstances, the Christian is called to make promises to God ... Out of personal devotion, the Christian may also promise to God this action, that prayer, this alms-giving, that pilgrimage, and so forth (2101).” Tears came from the excruciating pain to my knees or maybe from my intention, but I would do anything so that my mother would not suffer. 
When we first planned this pilgrimage more than a year ago, I thought it would be a nice vacation. However, I realized as I wrestled with God throughout our trip, that this pilgrimage had become for me a “sign of penance” (CCC, 1438). 
I spent a lot of time at the tomb of Lucia on my knees. She was one of the three children who saw Our Lady at Fatima. She died in 2005 and has not yet been canonized. I pleaded with Lucia to intercede on my behalf, to bring forth a miracle and save my mother. 
As we toured the many facets of Fatima, with a wooden statue of Lucia in my hand, I beseeched God to heal my mother. I came to realize that God had other plans. In that sacred place, he led me to rediscover the beauty of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which has led me closer to Christ. 
“Every shrine can be seen as a bearer of a specific message, since it vividly makes present today the foundational event of the past which still speaks to the heart of pilgrims,” write the authors of “The Shrine,” a church document released in 1999. 
This is precisely what I discovered at Fatima through Our Lady’s maternal love and messages. In 1917, Our Mother Mary told Lucia, “Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to my Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by me to adorn his throne.”
This message resonated in my heart. Mary told the children at Fatima to not be discouraged, for she would not abandon them. She said, “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and will lead you to God.” 
My mother passed into eternal life shortly after we returned home from the pilgrimage. And though I struggled to let her go, I found great solace and peace in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, just as she promised the children of Fatima. 
I encourage everyone to read the messages Our Lady spoke to the children in 1917 (visit the official website of the shrine at www.fatima.pt/en). There are many treasures to behold in her words, and there is much comfort to be found. Even in this time of great sorrow for me as I have dealt with the loss of my mother, I have found great peace. I pray that all those who are suffering will find refuge in the Immaculate Heart of Our Blessed Mother.
Deacon Guadalupe Rodriguez is the co-director of Diaconal Formation for the Austin Diocese. Contact him at (512) 949-2410 or guadalupe-rodriguez@austindiocese.org.