Hi friends and welcome to the Arise, Beloved blog. We have an amazing team of writers behind this blog and our desire is to speak truth into the lies that cripple us and shine light into the darkness that isolates us because we believe that now, more than ever, the Church desperately needs women to be restored so that the world can be set ablaze. Our hope is that you find comfort, solace, and peace in knowing that you are not alone, you are not too far gone and there is ALWAYS hope to be found.
// Kathleen Merriman //
It was 7:00am and I’d just spent all night on a train to Portugal. My eyes were red and my contacts blurry. My hair was in desperate need of a wash and poking out of my massive backpack was the extra baguette I’d purchased the night before from a Spanish corner store. My friend and I had been elated when we discovered we could feast on a thirty-three cent baguette, a hunk of cheese, and a slab of meat. In retrospect, that meal sounds worthy of a medieval peasant, but to us, it was incredible.
Traveling internationally when you’re a broke college kid has this magical ability to heighten your appreciation for the small things. The street food you can afford becomes decadent. The trains you hop on rumble with the promise of adventure. The extra Euro you find in the cobblestone gutter elevates your status to royalty (or buys you gelato, which makes you feel like royalty).
The tiny Portuguese town was barely awake at 7:00am, but from our view of the train station, we hailed a taxi driver. An older gentleman with a respectable cap, he was standing near his car, yawning. We crossed the street and told him where we wanted to go. We must have looked rough because he led us to a coffee shop and immediately bought both of us strong cappuccinos. Being a good Southern girl, I remember trying to make conversation with him, but the only Portuguese I’d learned was “good morning,” which was a one-and-done kind of phrase. Thankfully, his English made up for it, and we chatted as he drove us. When we arrived, we thanked him and agreed to meet at 11:00am in the same spot.
As his taxi rolled away, I was struck first by how quiet it was. 7:15am and barely another soul in sight. A huge smile lit up my friend’s face and I know I was mirroring her joy. We’d made it to Fatima. I’d waited to come here since I was a little girl and I was finally walking into the white massive stone courtyard towards the beautiful church. Rosy dawn was just parting to reveal azure skies and the clouds were perfect wispy tendrils of stretched cotton. I’d heard stories about Fatima since I was a little girl and a life-long dream was coming true.
This was a place of pilgrimage, where thousands flock each year to see the spot where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in 1917 to three poor Portuguese children between the ages of seven and ten. In fact, she appeared multiple times and a solar miracle was witnessed by 70,000 people. As I walked around, the sacredness of the place became palpable. Those few pilgrims awake at dawn spoke in hushed tones. A side chapel was decked with fragrant flowers. The white cobblestone streets and marble edifices proclaimed the unblemished purity of the lady whose shrine they honored.
Being who I am, despite the peace surrounding me, I started to feel stressed that I had not researched enough about Fatima. I didn’t know every minuscule detail of the miraculous apparition. I didn’t know the exact spot where it happened, nor had I read the writings of Sister Lucia, the eldest of the three children who later became a religious sister. I felt utterly inadequate and unworthy to be in such a place. Despite my best efforts to research places before I visited them, the old world of Europe had this habit of leaving me gasping and awe-struck. In Fatima, I was completely unprepared once again.
But I felt, suddenly and keenly, that I had been invited. When Christ was on the cross, He gave His mother to St. John’s care. With this same gesture, Christ offered Mary as a mother to the whole world. I’ve heard it said that Mary is much more mother than queen. I know this to be true because in Fatima, I felt the gentle tugging of a mother. My mother. It was home because she was there.
As more and more pilgrims trickled in throughout the day, I knelt before a now famous statue of Our Lady and prayed the Rosary with a large group. Languages mingled and changed with every decade, but there was a deep unity in the sound that drifted upwards through the roof of the open-air chapel. It was there that I encountered my mother for the first time in a tangible way. She spoke into my heart a word of clarity with the simplicity of a mother answering her child’s most basic question. A good mother always wants to guide her children rightly. So, too, with our heavenly Mother. Through Our Lady’s guidance at Fatima, I started down a path that has irrevocably shaped the trajectory of my life. Mary knew that I needed to continue to grow and she pushed me to do so. Without her intervention, I could quite possibly be in a different place in my life.
That’s the beauty of Mary’s role as our mother. As in her life on earth, Mary’s life in heaven is spent in leading souls to her Son. She does not lead pilgrims to shrines throughout the world for her own sake. Rather, she invites weary souls to come and take refuge in the love of her son. She recognizes wanderers thirsting for truth and peace and aches to pour the balm of Christ’s grace into the festering wounds of our hearts.
Let this courageous and fierce woman lead you to Christ. St. Louis de Montfort spoke of devotion to Mary as being the “shortest” ladder to Jesus, to Heaven. If you do not already know this good mother, ask her to make herself known to you. You will never love her too much. You will never love her more than Jesus loves her. She is by your side, just as she is with Christ. She is fighting in your corner. She crushes the head of the serpent. She bore Christ to the world.
Today marks the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the 103rd anniversary of the day that Mary first appeared to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco. What better day to start cultivating or re-cultivating a relationship with the woman that is both our mother and our queen.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!