In the spring of 2017, I instituted the St. Francis de Sales Writing Contest at my alma mater, Saratoga Central Catholic (SCC) . The contest focuses on the intersection of faith and writing through the chosen topic; for this, its second year (2018), the topic was: “Which of the following Marian apparitions is your favorite, and why: Our Lady of Fatima (1917), Our Lady of Lourdes (1858), Our Lady of Guadalupe (1531)?”
The contest was open to eleventh- and twelfth-grade students, and these articles were provided as trustworthy sources: Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Guadalupe. (You can read last year’s first-place and second-place essays.)
The contest was judged by Ms. Kate Blain, editor of the Albany, NY diocesan newspaper The Evangelist; Mr. Giovanni Virgiglio, Superintendent of Schools for the Albany Diocese; and Fr. Larry Anderson, OFM, chaplain at Siena College. The judges conveyed what a hard decision it was, and how thoughtful the students were in their essays.
The first-place winner received $100 and publication of his essay at CatholicMom.com, presented last month; the second-place winner’s essay is presented here.
Second-Place Winner: Anne McKenna
The First World War is considered by many to be the first modern war. Many new technologies were applied to the war that would forever change the world. Poison gas, trench warfare, machine guns, and tanks all became hallmarks of a new cataclysmic type of conflict. The “war to end all wars” wiped out an entire generation and shook the faith of many to the core. In the midst of this catastrophe in 1917 in Portugal, Mary appeared to three shepherd children. Mary asked these children to “say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.”
These three children, Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco, were warned that if the world would not make reparation for sin there would be great suffering in the form of war, starvation and persecution. Our Lady of Fatima also revealed three secrets. The first secret refers to souls in hell. The second secret is interpreted to refer to the violence of the Second World War and the tragic oppression of the people of the Soviet union. The third and final secret was not disclosed until 2000 and involves the persecution of humanity in the twentieth century. Many believe the third secret is related to the assassination attempt on Pope Saint John Paul II.
Mary promised to prove the truth of the apparitions. On the day of October 13, 1917, the sun appeared to dance in the sky, moving in impossible circles and zigzags. Seventy thousand people who had come to witness the apparition witnessed the miracle, also known as the miracle of the sun, that cemented the faith of the people in the messages and events at Fatima.
While the message of the Fatima apparition may seem rather grim, Our Lady of Fatima still declared that “My Immaculate Heart will triumph.” The Fatima apparitions are my favorite because they remind us that this world is not the end. It is full of suffering and trial, but it is all for a purpose. What is done on earth does have consequences. We cannot become complacent. The Fatima apparitions are a wake-up call for the world that is desperately needed. The message of the apparitions motivate me to keep fighting.
The timing of these events is significant. World War I was a terrible tragedy that caused the suffering of millions upon millions. The “great war” or World War I caused many to question everything they knew and believed. The roots of many issues today can be traced back to “the great war.” The apparitions are a call to persevere through hardships, a reminder that “God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). The apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima cannot be brushed aside. They are still pertinent today over a hundred years later.
Essay copyright 2018 Anne McKenna; printed here with the kind permission of the author and her parents.
About the author: Anne McKenna is a rising senior at Saratoga Central Catholic High School where she plays soccer and basketball. Anne is interested in studying English and history in college.
Copyright 2018 Katherine Morna Towne