Archbishop Alexander Sample
Archbishop Alexander Sample
I recently had the incredible experience of leading a pilgrimage, made up of people mainly from the Archdiocese of Portland, to Fatima in Portugal. We also visited other pilgrimage sites, including Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I must say that, for me, it was one of those pivotal moments in my own life of faith and in my personal spiritual journey.

I have long had a great devotion to our Blessed Mother, especially under her titles of Our Lady of Czestochowa and Our Lady of Guadalupe. In fact, 31 years ago, I consecrated my priestly vocation to our Lady as I was just beginning my seminary studies. I have often, and at least annually, renewed that consecration.

The story of Our Lady of Fatima has always fascinated me. I have had an awareness of the story since my earliest childhood. I can’t quite remember where that awareness came from, but it has been consistently there. I have long wanted to visit Fatima, and the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady in 1917 made that a reality.

Why should we believe in the authenticity of these apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima? Why has the Church, and especially the popes, given credence to their veracity? Largely, and among other reasons, because of the miracle of the sun.

The dance of the sun

On Oct. 13, 1917, approximately 70,000 people gathered in the Cova de Iria to witness a sign, promised to the shepherd children by our Lady, that would prove that she had appeared and spoken to the children. That sign was given and witnessed by all present.

It had been pouring rain all day, and the people and the ground were soaked as people trudged through the mud. The sun suddenly came out from behind the clouds and began to pulsate and spin in the sky, displaying various colors. Witnesses say the sun “danced” in the sky as it moved about. The sun began to grow larger and appeared to come towards the earth, and people began to panic and exclaim prayers of petition and contrition, thinking this might be the end.

Suddenly, the sun returned to its place in the sky and all was calm. People immediately noticed that their clothes and the ground were completely dry, leaving little evidence of the rain that had previously made for a miserable day. Even atheistic reporters who had come to document that the apparitions were false and simply the imagination of impressionable children had to admit and document what had happened, as just described. Our Lady’s promise to the children for a sign was realized, and the people and Church authorities acknowledged the authenticity of the apparitions.

Our time in Fatima was filled with grace. I had the privilege of leading the rosary and candlelight procession and later celebrated Mass at the very site of the apparitions of Our Lady. We could feel her motherly presence. I would like the faithful of the Archdiocese of Portland to know that I laid there at the feet of Our Lady special petitions and prayers for our local Church. These included prayers for all the faithful, for our priests and for more holy priestly vocations.

Our response

How do we respond to this event and the Church’s recognition of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima? May I suggest, and even urge, two things?

I would urge every man, woman and child, every priest, deacon and religious to pray daily the rosary. We must never underestimate the power of prayer, and especially the rosary. Certainly we must be active and work at evangelization and the works of mercy, but these must be supported by our prayers. If we would do this, and pray for our archdiocese, I firmly believe great and even miraculous things would happen in our local Church.

Secondly, I would urge all to practice the five first Saturday devotions, as Our Lady requested. On five consecutive Saturdays, and even beyond that, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, pray the rosary, and meditate for 15 minutes on the mysteries of the rosary with the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, praying for the conversion of sinners, beginning with ourselves.

I have solemnly consecrated the Archdiocese of Portland to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of Fatima. But this consecration must be lived in the hearts and minds of the faithful to have its full effect. I am firmly convinced that this would have an unbelievable effect in our mission as the Church in western Oregon.

I urge and beg each one of you to take my request to heart. May our Blessed Mother watch over you and protect you, leading you to the fountain of mercy in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, her Son!