As virtually everyone in the Western Hemisphere knows by now, yesterday was Mothers’ Day, a holiday celebrated by mothers, grandmothers, greeting-card vendors, and Hallmark stockholders throughout the land. Why Mom gets only a single day, while Negroes and sexual deviants get a month each and governments get all of us year after year, I cannot say. But then, Dad gets only one day as well, so perhaps someone somewhere – a faceless, nameless figure whose gloved hands rest lightly on the levers of power – made a policy decision long ago and no one alive knows how to repeal it.

     Well, anyway. It struck me with peculiar force this morning that while yesterday was Mothers’ Day, today is Fatima Day:

     In 1917, World War I was raging across the length and breadth of Europe. Millions had already died; millions more would follow. The flower of European manhood would fall to the war and to the influenza pandemic that followed. Russia had fallen to Communism, with consequences that would impoverish and oppress three generations. The faith of the Old World had taken a terrible blow. For many, it seemed an illusion the war had disproved.

     On May 13th, 1917, at noon local time in Fatima, Portugal, Lucia dos Santos, Jacinta Marto, and Francisco Marto, three shepherd children innocent in every sense, were granted a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was the beginning of what is known today as the Miracle of Fatima: a series of Marian apparitions, each of which occurred on the 13th day of the calendar month. It culminated on October 13 with the Miracle of the Sun, a supernatural event witnessed by some 70,000 persons in which the Sun seemed to gyrate, dance across the sky, and as its finale dive menacingly near to the earth.

     It happened. It was not mass hypnosis, nor mass hallucination, nor some kind of enormous hoax. At Fatima, Portugal on October 13, 1917, seventy thousand onlookers witnessed what could only have been a manifestation of divine power: a miracle.

     The Miracle of Fatima brought millions to the Faith, and renewed the Faith in millions who had fallen away. God does this sort of thing when the world slips perilously close to the edge of the Great Abyss. And note: He doesn’t deliver it to kings or premiers, but to the lowest and humblest of our kind.

     There have been other miracles. Many have attracted scoffers certain that they could prove that nothing miraculous – that is, nothing inexplicable by what we think are the laws of nature – had occurred. But many alleged miracles have withstood every test the scoffers have rained on them. Including Fatima.

     The Miracle of Fatima is now more than a century in the past. Yet it continues to inspire men to faith…and to works of art and drama. Including producer-directors Ian and Dominic Higgins, who made of it a movie of exceptional beauty and emotion.

     Catholics call the Virgin Mary by many titles, but the one I have in mind just now is Blessed Mother. Yes, Mary of Nazareth was the Mother of Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of Mankind. But in a sense metaphorical yet vital, she is also our mother. Her courage in accepting the role of the human mother of Christ made it possible for us to be redeemed. Jesus’s ministry, Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection allowed everyone who has ever lived and ever will access to salvation and potential eternal bliss in the nearness of God.

     Courage I said, and courage I meant. You do know that a pregnant but unmarried woman was liable to be stoned to death in First Century Judea, don’t you? There was also that little detail about her divine Son having to endure the cruelest death ever devised as the price of our redemption. A lot of mothers couldn’t face that.

     That degree of courage, that complete acceptance of the will of God, would have been extraordinary in a woman of mature years who already knew herself to be facing death. In a teenaged girl – Mary was somewhere between fourteen and sixteen years old when she experienced the Annunciation and the Incarnation – it’s beyond mortal comprehension. We cannot know what degree of fear and trembling that young girl felt as she pondered whether to assent to the role. We can only know what she said to Archangel Gabriel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.”

     You want an example of true, unwavering dedication to motherhood? Consider Mary. You’ll never find a better one.

     Mary has many titles: the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate Conception, Star of the Sea, Cause of Our Joy, Queen of Heaven, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Loreto, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, and so forth. Today that last one is most appropriate. But she is also, and always, the Blessed Mother: the woman whose courage and dedication set an insuperable standard for human women who contemplate accepting the blessings and burdens of motherhood.

     Pray the Rosary. And may God bless and keep you all.