The article of the month

The Fatima Centennial by Father James M. Sullivan, o.p.

Living Free of All Fears

One hundred years ago, on May 13, 1917, our Lady ap­peared to three children in Fatima, Portugal. Frightened by her appearance, she calmed them by saying: “Please don’t be afraid of me, I’m not going to harm you.” In addition to her call for conversion, penitence, and prayer, Our Lady of Fatima calls us to live a life free from all fear.

We might think that the children at Fatima were natu­rally skittish and so were afraid when they saw the vision of the Blessed Mother, but even adults show fear when con­fronted with God. It does seem strange perhaps that the deepest desire of our heart, that is, to be united with God for ever in heaven, would cause us fear, but yet we know this to be the case when we avoid sacramental confession, the sacrifices necessary for an intense prayer life, or even the abandonment of our sins. We are afraid to change, we are afraid to lose ourselves, and we are even afraid to lose any pleasure in our life.

Saint John in his First Letter reminds us: There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love (1 Jn 4:18).

The children at Fatima were comforted by Mary saying, “I come from heaven.” Hopefully, we are comforted as well, since that, after all, is where we hope to live in love for ever, free from all fear.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!


(Father James M. Sullivan, o.p., serves as director of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.