The secret of Fatima

Fatima. It's one of those unforgettable stories of Catholic faith. A glowing Lady from heaven appears to three shepherd children in a village no one would ever have heard about otherwise. She has a message that amounts to practical guidance for spiritual growth: pray the rosary, offer small sacrifices to God, go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation monthly, honor Mary's Immaculate Heart. She also tells the three children a "secret," one which involves war, the spread of Communism, eternal damnation, and the persecution of the Church.

Even one hundred years later, the events of Fatima challenge believers and skeptics alike. While intriguing, the prophetic aspects of the apparitions have continued to distract many who might otherwise receive Our Lady's message. What Mary came to Fatima to say wasn't anything new. That is why the message of Fatima still applies to us today: Live your faith!

Living our faith in Christ is simple, but much more difficult that we might imagine. That is because all of us find it difficult to stick with anything, even something we truly want to do. Distraction is one of the greatest enemies of discipleship. The world distracts us with a hundred thousand shiny things every day. Possessions, pleasure, popularity, pride --anything that captivates us can keep us captive. Like every other act of love, following Jesus is always an act of freedom. When our free will is compromised in any way, so is our capacity for discipleship.

Then, there are the twin foes of sin and selfishness. The voices of the world surround us with temptation, ridicule, and condemnation that seem to get louder every year. But the real struggle is the voice inside us -- the one that tells us we aren't good enough and never will be, that God doesn't really love us, that all this religious mumbo jumbo about heaven and hell and eternity isn't true, or that we can somehow manage to live Christian faith on our own. All of that internal conflict damages even our most sincere attempts to live according to our faith. When our hearts aren't whole, we can't be wholehearted about anything. That is why the Mother of God came to Fatima one hundred years ago.

Not much about us has changed over the past century. We still tend to focus more on the secrets than on the message. We are momentarily dazzled by miracles, but then go right back to living as if they'd never happened. We still flounder in the most basic practices of our faith. And three little shepherds still manage to put the rest of us to shame.

Perhaps it's because children know how dependent they are. Kids don't argue with the fact that they need a mother. They know they do. As a former Protestant, I can tell you that even after Catholic devotion to the Virgin Mary was no longer an obstacle for me, I still thought I could live my faith without the help of the Mother of God. I was wrong. I can't live faith in Jesus Christ without someone there to lead me by the hand, show me how it's done, nurture me, and yes, give me the old "I told you so" from time to time. I can't even pray a novena without missing one of the nine days. Who am I kidding? Like every child, I need a Mother. Most especially, I need the woman in whom Jesus was formed, to form Jesus in me.

Over the rest of this year there will be plenty of talk about Fatima's secrets and the miracle of the sun. But the deepest secret of Fatima is one we've known all along. Because the Mother of Jesus is our Mother too, Mary is there for us. She wants to do for each one of us the same thing she did for Jacinta and Francisco Marto and Lucia dos Santos. She wants to walk with us in faith and mother the miracle of her son in our hearts.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.