Refuge in Fatima
They will gather at the Shrine of Our Lady, Queen of Peace on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in Manila, the faithful who have been praying for divine intervention to bring healing to our land. They will gather on the fifth of November, hearkening to the call of the bishops. The heart soars at the thought. Will anything drastic occur after the procession from the shrine to the People Power Monument?
What do they hope to achieve? Father asked me. I had no definite reply. One must simply hold on to faith and hope and love in these uncertain times. More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of, Tennyson once wrote. Some eight hundred kilometers to the south, the faithful will have walked a shorter distance to the basilica of the Holy Child. The date: the thirteenth of October, the time of my writing, the centenary of the miracle of the sun in Fatima, Portugal, during the final appearance of Our Lady there in 1917.
Tonight, over a dozen statues of Our Lady will be carried through the streets amid an ocean of candlelight piercing the darkness. Our Lady of Lourdes will bring to mind healing and the power of the Healer. Our Lady of China, one hopes, will wash away the rift between the giant of the Far East and her neighbors and usher in an era of peace and concord. Our Lady of Fatima’s message will resound anew: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
Man draws hope from this message. She is like him yet she kept her heart immaculate, kept Jesus the Christ in her heart in response to the heavenly gift of her Immaculate Conception. We can keep one another’s feet cleansed in response to the gift of baptism, in forgiving one another’s trespasses, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in helping one another carry our crosses.
There is no dearth of cross-bearers to help. Walk by Escario Street in uptown Cebu City. The homeless sleep on sidewalks close to the business district. Drive by the south district access road to the South Road Properties. There the street children sing on the other side of your car window. Pay attention to the posts of contacts on social networks. They may indicate some anguish that can be wiped away with your word or supplication to heaven. Behold the land in times of flooding. Landscape and seascape cry out for mercy, for lifestyles that nurture rather than murder the eco-sphere.
The cross-bearers are in the news. They are persons whose peace of mind is compromised by lies. They are helpers whose concern for our marginalized is maligned as unwelcome interference in a nation’s affairs. They are young people whose humanity is spat upon by shrill cries consisting of labels: addict, pusher, runner, criminal, animal. They are honest law enforcers who die keeping the peace while their villainous colleagues and superiors go scot-free and have the time of their lives. They are men and women of faith whose patriotism is derided as clerical meddling in the affairs of the State, as if their vocations erase their citizenship.
They are victims of inequality whose cries for justice are muted in the haughtiness of the affluent and in the noise of the drive to prosper. They are simple men and women aghast that public servants have come down to this — this point of institutionalizing the act of cursing though we raise our children to touch our hands to their heads in search of blessing. They are peoples dreading the prospect of nuclear war because those who claim the mantle of authority in lands abroad have lost any sense of stewardship and just see our only planet as their private playground. They are young people wondering if they can ever build homes or families in a world much abused and ransacked by their elders.
When Our Lady of Fatima’s statue was carried in procession for days in February 1986, our prayers were heard. A tyrant and his family fled. Tonight, as candlelights stream down Cebu City’s Osmeña Boulevard, one hopes that prayers on earth and compassion in heaven will bring a new sunrise to this land and to a world pining for peace, to peoples hoping for an Easter to their passion and their thousands of deaths.