Nine years ago, while I was in the Chapel of the Apparitions in Fatima, our priest shared a story about one of our fellow pilgrims. At seventeen, she was one of the younger ones in our group and was on this pilgrimage with her older siblings and parents. We had recently walked five days on the Camino de Santiago before traveling south to Fatima. On the second to last walking day, this particular pilgrim wasn’t feeling well and decided to wait on the bus while the rest of us were walking. Due to a miscommunication at a check point, she went in to use the restroom and came out to find the bus gone. Not seeing anyone else around, and not knowing what else to do, she started walking. In her socks, because her shoes were on the bus. For at least 3 miles. Luckily, she met some pilgrims along the way (not from our group) who walked with her and encouraged her until she met up with those from our group who had already completed that section.
Her brother was part of that group, as were some friends, and people she knew from church, including the priest leading our group. One fellow pilgrim was a nurse and made sure she had everything she physically needed to feel better after her trek alone. Everyone was kind and loving and concerned for her. But the first thing she said once people asked what she needed was, “I just want my mom!”
The focus of the rest of the priest’s homily was just this sentiment – sometimes we all just need our mother.
But what do we do if our relationship with our own mother is strained or otherwise not close, perhaps due to physical distance, illness, just not being close, or even death?
In those instances, we have the gift of our Blessed Mother, given to us by our Lord on the cross and exemplified by a modern-day saint with close ties to Fatima.
When St. John Paul II was just 9 years old, he lost his own mother. After her passing, his father took him to pray in front of a portrait of the Virgin Mary in nearby Kalwaria Zebrzydowska and told him, “From today on, she will be your mother.” This portrait was very similar to the one in his home parish of Wadowice in the side chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where the young future pope also often prayed.
St. John Paul II's devotion to Mary began even before he took her as his mother and continued through to the end of his life. The motto of his papacy was Totus Tuus (totally yours) – from the prayer of consecration to Mary written by St. Louis de Montfort. Numerous times during his pontificate he consecrated various peoples, countries, and even the whole world to her maternal care. And he even credited Mary with saving his life during an assassination attempt.
Twenty-one years ago next week, on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, John Paul was shot at close range by a trained attacker. Doctors were amazed he even survived and noted that the bullet seemed to have been deflected from its natural path and away from any vital organs. His life was spared by millimeters, which he attributed to the divine intervention of the hand of Mary.
Just a year after the assassination attempt, Pope John Paul made his own pilgrimage to Fatima, where he offered the bullet used in the attempt to the local bishop. It is now part of the crown that adorns the statue of Our Lady of Fatima – the same statue used in the nightly Rosary procession in which all pilgrims are invited to participate.
We, too, saw this crown on our pilgrimage, and prayed in the procession with others from around the world. Along with the homily of our priest, it was another reminder of the great love of our mothers, both here and in Heaven. So as we celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday and the feast of Our Lady of Fatima next week, let us all take time to thank the Lord for all of the mothers in our lives.