CHICAGO, (ChurchMilitant.com) - On May 13, thousands of faithful Catholics will process through downtown Chicago asking Our Lady for an end to violence.
This is the first of six processions to mark the 100-year anniversary of the first Fatima apparition. A statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be escorted with hymns and praying of the Rosary on a one-mile procession down Milwaukee Avenue from St. John Cantius Parish, past Holy Trinity Polish Mission to St. Stanislaus Kostka Church.
Church Militant spoke with Fr. Joshua Caswell, associate pastor at St. John Cantius in Chicago, and he says the organizers want "to provide everyone an opportunity to participate in a tradition of Fatima. Most people will not be fortunate enough to be able to travel to Fatima. We want to give them a taste of that here, in their city."
Saint John Cantius is among the few Chicago churches that offers the Traditional Latin Mass, and is home to the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, an order founded in 1998 whose charism includes fostering beautiful and reverent sacred liturgy.
Pope Francis has granted a plenary indulgence for the faithful's participation in public prayers and veneration of Our Lady of Fatima on the 13th of each month from May to October for the Jubilee year of the apparitions. Father Caswell notes, "[T]here is something so special about being part of a procession. Praying in unison in a visible way, that's powerful."
The prayer intentions for this year's events echo those of last year. "[W]e want to ask her to bring the light of her Son to any darkness or violence in this city. We are praying for peace, for forgiveness, for conversions in hearts," explains Fr. Caswell.
Father Caswell describes how people reacted to last year's procession with 4,000 people participating:
Last year we planted seeds of peace. We showed our city what a peaceful, prayerful, procession looks like. We will never know the full reach of what we did. We did hear stories about people watching from local bars and leaving the bar to watch the procession go by. We saw the firefighters standing at attention and saluting Our Lady as we passed the firehouse. We saw tears of joy from bystanders in their cars. We sowed hope along the route. There is still violence in our fair city, but we let people see the antidote to that violence. We gave people a glimpse of the hope that comes from living in faith in Christ and his Mother.
He continued, "Our event hopes to be historical in showing how people of peace, from all walks of life, can come together and unite to give glory and honor to Our Lady. We want to remind the world that prayer and faith is still very much alive and relevant in today's world."
The Blessed Virgin appeared six times to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917 from May to October. Prior to the the visions, an angel appeared to the children three times, asking them to pray and make reparations for sinners. On his last visit, he brought Communion to the children, saying,"Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and console your God."
Father Caswell explained:
Our Lady of Fatima's message was one of penance and reparation. ... She requested that we participate in the First Saturday devotion where we pray the Rosary in reparation for the sacrileges committed against the Sacred Heart of Jesus and her own Immaculate Heart. She is giving us an opportunity to ease the suffering of Her heart and that of her Son.
"We know that prayer changes the course of history," he went on. "The events after Fatima have shown that. ... [It] is now on our shoulders to continue that same spirit of prayer and reparation."
Each time Mary appeared to the shepherd children, she requested that they pray the Rosary daily, asking that they add the prayer, "Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy." She also showed the children a vision of Hell and all the many souls there because there was no one to make sacrifices for them, urging them, "Sacrifice yourselves for sinners and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."
Pope Francis will canonize Francisco and Jacinta Marto in Fatima on the May anniversary this year. Their cause changed the belief that children do not have the ability to practice heroic virtue like adults. According to Cdl. Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the heroic nature of their virtue was shown when the children were arrested and intimidated by their mayor, Artur Oliveira Santos, in August. When threatened with death to admit the visits were false, the children said, "You can do whatever you want, but we cannot tell a lie. Do whatever you want to us, burn us with oil, but we cannot tell a lie."
"This was the virtue of these children," Cdl. Martins said, noting that accepting death rather than telling a lie is "more heroic than many adults."
This first of six events scheduled from May to October, Rev. James Presta, Professor of Mariology for the Archdiocese of Chicago will speak about the May 13 apparition and its relevance for the lives of the faithful. The presentation, "Heaven's Plan for your Happiness," starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, 2017. Afterwards, a statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be escorted by police and the faithful along Milwaukee Avenue passing Holy Trinity Polish Mission and will arrive at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church for a concluding prayer service. More information can be found here.