Fatima, Portugal - For the fifth year in a row, America Needs Fatima representatives made the pilgrimage to the heart of this Land of Mary to offer to the Virgin of Fatima what is believed to be the largest bouquet of roses ever presented to Our Lady at the exact location where she appeared in 1917.
In a truly international collaborative effort, the massive bouquet of red and white roses was ordered in Madrid, Spain from Dutch and South African growers by Crusade Magazine’s Spanish correspondent, Felipe Barandiaran, then transported on the eve of the 94th anniversary from the Spanish capital to Fatima by our three America Needs Fatima members, and formally set up in the very heart of the sanctuary with the assistance of members of our sister organizations from Austria, Spain, Australia and France.
October 13, 2011 had arrived. As the sun rose over the cloudless horizon, it promised to be a bright and clear day and we set to our task with energetic hope. The long journey from Newark, New Jersey across the Atlantic Ocean to the very heart of Portugal had had its challenges to be sure, but here we were. In this landlocked and remote Portuguese plain, known by the locals as the Cova da Iria, Our Lady had appeared one last time to three little shepherds exactly 94 years ago today. In this great natural amphitheatre, in the presence of a crowd of approximately 70,000 people, “the Lady of the Rosary” had fulfilled her promise to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta to perform a miracle “that all might believe” and amid the fearful and panic cries of those present, the sun had catapulted itself from the sky and “danced” in the great firmament above them. The thought of these events was overwhelming and so was the sight which surrounded us: nearly 13,000 roses – and a growing crowd of curious onlookers.
Literally stopped in their tracks at the scene, they marveled at the huge quantity of roses and were even more vocal in their astonishment on learning that each of the red blooms represented a group of devotees of Our Lady, headed by a Rosary Rally Captain, who would be praying the rosary in a public location in America on the coming Saturday, October 15th at twelve noon. When their attention was drawn to an accompanying banner with the individual names of these captains – 7,502 in all – further exclamations of admiration ensued. The questions flew fast and furious as the full impact of what these roses represented began to sink in. When told of the average attendance at each Public Square Rosary Rally, we could almost see each of them wordlessly doing the math in their heads and knew when their eyes opened wide with surprise or filled with tears that they have arrived at the right answer. For those of us who considered ourselves only the messengers, as it were, of this tremendous endeavor, the experience was beyond words. In awed and hushed tones the questions continued: How about the white roses, what do they mean? How many of them are there? It looks like thousands of them too! Yes, in fact, four thousand, seven hundred and twenty of them we responded. This banner over here, we pointed out, bears the corresponding names of those individuals across our nation who generously supported this monumental effort. The amazement was total, profound and palpable. Some, eager to somehow be connected with all these thousands of Americans whom they instantly adopted into their hearts, offered their help. We willingly accepted.
This multitude of roses being offered to the Queen of Heaven in the sight of today’s crowd, represented a multitude of hearts in the United States of America from whence would rise a collective cry to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in a few days time. Banners emblazoned with the message “As human efforts fail to solve America’s key problems, we turn to God, through His Holy Mother, asking His urgent help” would be inviting anyone walking the streets of America that day to join them and united in public prayers of reparation and filial supplication, the voices of an estimated 170,000 – 200,000 prayer warriors across our entire country and beyond would be rising to Heaven.
From congested traffic intersections, on the steps of state capitols or city halls and near local memorials; at the entrance of busy shopping malls, in the shadow of abortion centers and before movie theatres; from highway overpasses, along town sidewalks and throughout neighborhoods; in processions from churches large and small, in city parks and public squares – a tsunami of prayers would progress from one American coast to the other and be echoed in 22 other countries around the world…
As we set each rose carefully in place, our thoughts turned to the myriad of intentions that would be recited at each rosary rally and all those rising from our elderly and infirm members who in the silence of their homes or from their hospital beds would also be united to America Needs Fatima in spirit on that day, and we marveled interiorly and with hearts full of gratitude at the devotion and dedication which each of these roses represented.
Our thoughts cast themselves back to October, 2007 and our simple desire to present to Our Lady a fitting and prayerful memorial on the 90th anniversary of her last apparition at Fatima and the Miracle of the Sun. That desire had materialized into a nationwide endeavor to hold 2,000 Public Square Rosary Rallies; our humble proposal caught fire in the hearts of our ardent America Needs Fatima friends and supporters and their response was above and beyond our wildest dreams, 2,179 rallies and a resounding challenge to gather together the following year. To our projected goal of increasing the number of rosary rallies to 3,000 in 2008, the overwhelming response was 3,400. In 2009 our invitation to hold 4,000 rallies saw a generous response of 4,337. Last year, we aimed for 5,000 Public Square Rosary Rallies and the answer was almost 20% over with 5,963 rallies held. This year, many hesitated as the goal was jumped to 7,000… Filled with awe, we silently considered this growing crescendo of prayers rising to Heaven in reparation and supplication through the last five years and added our own prayers “for next year” and what it might bring.
The sun was reaching its zenith in the sky as noon approached and the last rose was set in place. This was a golden rose, a special request we could not deny, and one that seemed to add its own note to that glorious day. Solemnly and with hearts filled to the very brim we made our way towards the site where Our Lady stood as she spoke to all of us 94 years ago. With our rosaries in hand, we knelt, and united our voices to all those whom we represented and offering our united intentions to the Queen of Heaven, our Mother – and a multitude of roses! – we began the familiar prayers of her Rosary as three little children did in response to her maternal request almost a century ago in this very same place.
Mother, heed the prayers of your children in this our hour of need and convert us all to your Son.
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