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Fatima at St. Anthony of Padua Maronite Catholic Church

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More people than the chapel can hold: St. Anthony of Padua Maronite Catholic Church hosted the National Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima in September. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE

By Gail Finke

Bill Sockey has seen thousands of churches and schools in his nine years as custodian of the National Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, but St. Anthony of Padua Maronite Catholic Church in Walnut Hills might have been his first Maronite parish.

“I’ve been to some Byzantine parishes,” he said, during a break after giving a talk on Our Lady of Fatima in the church’s Chapel of St. Aquilina, leaving the statue under the watchful of St. Anthony’s subdeacon. After almost a decade of traveling around the country for the World Apostolate of Fatima , USA (WAF), sometimes to two parishes in one day, perhaps they run together.

Bill Sockey presented a short talk about Our Lady of Fatima. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE

What he remembers, Sockey said, are the people who pledge to pray what WAF calls “nine seconds of prayer to change the world,” two prayers taught to the Portuguese children by Our Lady and the Angel of Peace in 1917. One asks pardon for all the people who don’t worship God, and the other offers all the small sufferings and frustrations of every day to God.

“More than 65,000 people have made the promise,” he said. “We need millions. Every single Christian should pray these prayers, but the others who are not Catholic don’t have the doctrine to tell them that in baptism we are really changed, and that God has given us the power to do penance.

“Penance, penance, penance,” he said. “That’s the ‘Third secret.’ If our country is offending God, and it is, if only for the killing of millions of unborn babies, we must do penance.”

When Sockey says “penance,” the word doesn’t sound harsh. A genial, soft-spoken man who wears white gloves to touch the statue’s satin mantle, Sockey explains in his talks that while people understand uniting their sufferings to Christ’s if they are large and terrible – chronic disease, living through a disaster, being at war – most people don’t suffer such things often. But everyone, including children like those who saw the Fatima apparitions, suffers small frustrations, betrayals, rudeness, disappointments, and similar discomforts every day.

“What she told us to do was pray for sinners,” he says in his talks, “and offer our daily crosses – without complaining – for those in need of conversion and those who have fallen away. Offer up everything, every day.”

Sometimes the crowds are large, Sockey said, and sometimes small. At St. Anthony of Padua, about 30 people

Father George Hajj censes the statue before beginning prayer. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE

gathered at noon on a Saturday in late September to welcome the statue’s arrival. That’s more people than the chapel could hold, so they spilled out into the hallway. Divine liturgy (Mass), a procession, a concert, baptisms, a “churching” (when parents of a new baby bring the child to the church for the first time), and more were planned for the main church, which holds hundreds, later that evening.

Every parish does something different, Sockey said. Some have processions and Masses, some day-long events, some offer hourly rosary, some simply open time for prayer. “In the southwest,” he said, “they have Indian dances.” Father George Hajj, pastor at St. Anthony, planned as many things as possible for the few hours the statue visited his parish.

“The Maronite Church is a Marian church,” he said. “We have been devoted to the Blessed Mother throughout all our history. All the Maronite Sees in Lebanon are under the protection of our Blessed Mother.”

When a small group affiliated with WAF made plans to bring the statue to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for a month and asked St. Anthony parishioner Linda Sawma to coordinate visits, she knew that Father Hajj would want to participate – not simply because of the parish’s devotion to Mary, but also to participate in a larger, archdiocesan event.

“Since Father Hajj has been our pastor,” she said, “unity has been one of his goals.”

“We want to promote and raise awareness of the message of Our Lady of Fatima to the whole world,” Father Hajj agreed. “We are part of the Archdiocese, part of the Catholic Church, and we want to promote this devotion with them to our community.”

Father Hajj opened prayer with the statue by censing her and the assembly, and then led them in chanting “Ya Um Allah,” a Marian prayer dating back at least 1,200 years. He joked that the chant is “the national anthem of the Maronite Church.”

“O Mother of God,” the prayer says, “we are your people walking on this earth behind you. Even though your body is far from us, your prayers accompany us throughout our life.”

Father George Hajj blesses the assembly before leading them in “Ya Um Allah,” an ancient Maronite chant to the Mother of God. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE

Prayer continued with a litany and then the rosary in English and Arabic. Sockey gave his talk, and asked for pledges to pray the “nine seconds of prayer” every day. One by one, people came forward with rosaries, holy cards, and small devotionals, which Sockey touched to her mantle. A few hours of open prayer allowed the custodian a break before the evening events – and before it was time to pack up WAF’s table of literature and photographs, and the statue, for the next stop.

Sockey drives the statue from stop to stop himself, buckling her in the passenger seat, he said. For plane trips (anywhere longer than a 10-hour drive), she has a special padded case. Each parish is different, but the purpose of each stop is the same: to spread the message of Fatima to every parish in the United States.

Father Hajj had high hopes for the statue’s visit in his parish. “I hope this visit enflames a personal relationship with the Lord through the message of Our Lady to each person and family,” he said. “Through her intercession and guidance, in the same spirit of ‘Ya Um Allah,’ Mary is the leader of all the people of God. We ask that she guides us always to Jesus Christ. We ask that we all carry the Cross together, because the cross us carrying us all together.”

More about Fatima prayers below:

Bill Sockey, the statue’s custodian, touches a young man’s rosary to the statue’s mantle. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE

Nine Seconds of Prayer

The World Apostolate of Fatima (formerly the Blue Army) is a world-wide apostolate that became a permanent Public International Association of the Faithful in 2010. From its headquarters in Washington, DC., the World Apostolate of Fatima, USA operates a number of ministries and projects, including tours of the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue.

The first National Pilgrim Virgin Statues were blessed and sent abroad by Pope Paul VI. Their number grew, and in 1971 cardinals in their respective countries crowned them with the crowns they wear today. Made in Fatima, but not replicas of the “official” statue made in 1947 under the direction of the only surviving seer, Sister Lucia, the statues are meant to spread devotion to Our Lady of Fatima by allowing people in their home countries to make mini-pilgrimages to visit them.

WAF also spreads word of the prayers the children reported begin taught by an angel and by Our Lady. By pledging to pray two simple prayers that take less than 10 seconds, statue custodian Bill Sockey explains at talks around the country, we can achieve lasting peace.

“We prayed billions of rosaries for peace, but we didn’t offer sacrifices,” he said, and the children were told that the small and repeated sacrifices of our daily lives, not just great physical and emotional suffering, are the sacrifices we can and should offer.  “We don’t get peace by praying for peace. We get peace by praying for sinners to convert. Peace is the fruit of people loving God.”

Pardon Prayer (given to the three children by the Angel of Peace)
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love thee! I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love thee.

Offering of Daily Trials and Tribulations (taught to the children by Our Lady of Fatima)
O my Jesus, I accept and bear with submission whatever crosses God permits in my life today, for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

For more Fatima prayers, visit WAFUSA.org.

The National Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima is one of a number of National Pilgrim Statues made in Fatima, Portugal, in 1967. Their crowns were added in 1971. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE
The foot of the statue, showing the satin robe. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE
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