By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer
The Diocese of Allentown was placed under the protection of and consecrated to the Blessed Mother Oct. 15 at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown.
The consecration commemorated the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima’s final appearance in Fatima, Portugal to three shepherd children and the famous “The Miracle of the Sun.”
Bishop of Allentown Alfred Schlert was the main celebrant at the Mass, which began with the Rite of Sprinkling with Holy Water, with water from Fatima. Then he blessed the cathedral and the faithful.
“We seek protection on this day. Defend us from all ills of spirit and body,” prayed Bishop Schlert.
The special celebration was the result of a vote by the Bishops of Pennsylvania earlier this year directing the eight Catholic dioceses and four eparchies in the commonwealth to be consecrated to the Blessed Mother, and to follow the three requests she disclosed to the shepherd children.
“Today we thank the Blessed Mother for those tools that please her son,” said Bishop Schlert.
In his homily he repeated the three requests of the Blessed Mother and urged the faithful to more deeply engage in “prayer, penance and adoration.”
As patroness of the Diocese of Allentown, Bishop Schlert said the Blessed Mother “holds a very special place in the heart” of the Diocese, and maintained her intercession to her son has evoked “unending patience” in God.
“Over the last 100 years, we have seen a tremendous disrespect for human life at all levels. We have seen a lack of dignity for our fellow humans and the redefinition of marriage,” he said.
“Perhaps we haven’t done so well since tribulations continue.”
Throughout the past century, Bishop Schlert pointed out terrible wars, atrocities of men against men, the war on terrorism, and the holocaust and genocides around the world.
“These are symptoms of a lack of prayer, penance and adoration,” he said.
He told the faithful that the most powerful method of prayer is the rosary and that the Church teaches every Friday of the year is a day to engage in some form of penance.
“There is greater usage of adoration happening. More and more people are going to be with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That is hopeful,” said Bishop Schlert.
In addition, he said the day reflected the whole Diocese as a family with “one mind and one heart,” and to show the Blessed Virgin Mother love.
The Marian apparitions were reported in 1917 by three shepherd children at the Cova da Iria in Fatima. The three children were Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto.
As World War I was being fought, Our Lady appeared to the three children as they shepherded their parents’ sheep. She did so six times in all, beginning on May 13 and concluding on Oct. 13.
During the apparitions, the children reported that the Blessed Mother disclosed three secrets, revealed a brief image of hell, and asked the children to tell the world to pray and perform penance and adoration.
Thousands of people began streaming to Cova da Iria, the site of the apparitions. On Sept. 13 Santos said the Virgin Mary told her, “In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.”
On that day, Oct. 13, 1917 at 2 p.m., more than 70,000 people began to see what later became known in the Catholic Church as “the Miracle of the Sun.” The rains halted and the sun emerged from behind clouds to spin and tremble for 10 minutes.
Our Lady had told Francisco and Jacinta that their lives would be short, and within two years they both died from the Spanish flu. Lucia lived until age 97. Both Francisco and Jacinta were declared saints by Pope Francis on May 13, 2017, making them the first child saints who are not martyrs in the history of the Church.