Day-by-Day: The Life of a Fatima Custodian
The daily toil has a way of turning all the interesting details of life into routine. Thus, after a while, it doesn’t occur to those immersed in it, that aspects of that same work may be of interest to others. But talking to a friend about our life as custodians of the Blessed Mother, I noticed he was impressed. He said, “Why don’t you write an article describing the day-to-day life of a custodian of the Blessed Mother? I’m sure people would love to read about it.”
He left me thinking. And I must confess that what we, the custodians, experience in this apostolate is truly impressive. So, to satisfy my friend’s request and, hopefully the curiosity of our readers, I will try to briefly describe the day-to-day of a Fatima custodian.
It All Starts at Our Kansas Office
The visit of the Blessed Mother to a home begins a month before at our Kansas office which is fully staffed with dedicated coordinators.
The coordinators first choose the area where Our Lady will be visiting, and set the time she will be touring the region. Then the preparations for the actual visits begin. Our coordinators choose the names who will receive invitations, and these names range from the oldest and most active to brand new names of people who have never had a Fatima visit at their homes. Then, beautiful postcards of the International Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima are mailed announcing that the Blessed Mother will be in their area.
A few days after the postcards are sent, our office begins receiving calls from families who want a Fatima visit. Those calling first get to choose the dates most convenient to them.
The second phase of the operation, involves calling those persons who received the invitation but did not reply and filling time slots still open.
Once an appointment is made, the office sends the family a packet with all the information necessary for the visit. As the actual date of the visit approaches, the family receives a reminder postcard, followed by a last confirming phone call a couple days before. From then on, the visit is left to the custodians.
A Custodian’s Daily Routine
Custodians travel either alone or with another. Every night, we download the calendar of appointments for the next day to verify addresses and print street maps with exact directions. If there is no time to do it at night, we do this first thing in the morning.
Besides downloading addresses and maps, we also have a few office duties. The custodians prepare the prayer intentions collected that day to be sent to Fatima. They organize new names of people who have been inscribed as Children of Mary, and print out certificates for the next day’s visits. They also reload the van with materials, and sometimes send emails to headquarters requesting more pamphlets, prayer cards, books and religious items as their stock dwindles.
When the area is new to the custodians, they must do a little more work than usual. In more familiar areas, families often offer to put them up for the night. But when this does not happen, they must look for suitable lodging, and hunting for a discount coupon or two can really help.
Always on the road going from appointment to appointment, the life of a custodian is tightly scheduled. Yet, at times, we must prioritize and just make sure everything is ready. Several times we have arrived at our first visit without having had a meal. But then, didn’t Our Lady of Fatima ask for sacrifice for the conversion of sinners?
The custodians also try to contact the person to be visited either the day before or a few hours prior to the visit to confirm their arrival once more or, whenever necessary, to ask for additional directions to the home.
What Happens at a Fatima Visit
As we approach the house, the first thing we do is to say a prayer asking Our Lady to bless the upcoming visit. We say a “Memorare” and an ejaculation to Our Lady Help of Christians, who is the patroness of each particular team.
We first enter the house carrying the small box containing the crown of Our Lady. At times, people are disappointed thinking that all we have is a tiny statue in that 10 inch box. This is not a problem. It only makes the upcoming surprise better.
As we enter the house, we greet the owners and ask them to show us the table or console where the statue of Our Lady will be placed. Then, returning to the van, we bring in the 30 inch statue in her covering. Before the admiring eyes of all, we uncover her and set her in her appointed place.
Next, we begin to bring in all the necessaries for the presentation from the van: projector, projection screen, tripod, CD player, and the boxes containing our own line of books and religious statues and items for sale. Sometimes we make up to five trips back and forth.
We then set up the projector and projection screen and the table with items that people may wish to purchase after the presentation.
After everything is in place, we begin the ceremony of coronation of Our Lady. Everyone stands, and the owners of the house are invited to crown Our Lady and place the Rosary in her hands as all present sing Immaculate Mary or another hymn in honor of Our Lady.
After this, we say the Rosary led by the owner of the house. If a priest is present, we ask him to lead. The custodian is also an option.
The next step in the program is to introduce the America Needs Fatima campaign to the audience along with a small history of the origin of the statue, and a summary of the organization’s most recent activities. If there are no questions, we proceed to the presentation of the audiovisual, a slide presentation of the story of Fatima with the message, prophecies and revelations of Our Lady to the three little shepherds, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. The slide presentation also shows how the message was fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled in our days.
Before closing the program, the custodian offers to all present the opportunity of sending their petitions to Fatima through a member of America Needs Fatima. At this time, those who are not as yet active members of the America Needs Fatima Campaign are invited to join. We then pass around the envelopes for the petitions along with a beautiful picture of Our Lady as a remembrance of her visit.
Lastly, before the presentation draws to a close, a beautiful certificate is presented to the owners of the house. When 13 persons or more attend a Fatima visit, the host receives a large poster of Our Lady of Fatima as a gift. (The number 13 was chosen to honor the date in which Our Lady appeared—the 13th of each month from May to October 1917).
Finally, the program is closed, and people have time to write their intentions, offer their own personal prayers before the statue, or take pictures.
At this time people also have the chance to look at our table of sellable items and purchase a book, a beautiful crucifix, or a religious statue. Generally, the lady of the house offers some refreshments, which occasions a lively conversation among neighbors, newfound friends and custodians.
The custodians then load everything up again and invite all present to take a group photo as a souvenir. A last prayer is said, along with goodbyes, and the custodians head for the next visit.
A Warm Reception for the Message of Our Lady
Since the America Needs Fatima Home Visit Program started in 1997, custodians have made over 17,000 visits to homes, churches, schools and hospitals, and personally reached 200,000 people.
At the visits, we marvel at the diversity of God’s creation. No two visits are ever the same even if they are made in the same city, on the same street, in the same block or fifty miles apart. They are all different.
We are also impressed at how seriously people receive Our Lady in their homes. One gentleman said, “This is the fifth time that she has visited our home. Once you receive her the first time, it is impossible not to want her back every year.”
Christian Charity Extended to Custodians
I would like to give one example of the charity extended to us by those who open their homes to the visits. Once the owner of a home asked me, “How many miles a year do you put on the van?” “About, 30,000,” I answered. He was impressed—and disappeared. We remained talking with his wife and the guests. After a while he came out of the garage saying, “I gave the van a full tune-up, and looked over the door and lock mechanism. It should all work well for you now. I’m also donating a special type of oil for all your vans. It’s the same oil used for army helicopters and should last 30,000 miles.”
The Most Important: By The Fruits You Shall Know the Tree
Wherever Christian charity is, Our Lord and Our Lady are also found. This article would not only be incomplete but short of reality if I were to omit saying something about the graces that the Blessed Mother grants daily, at each visit.
As custodians, we see it clearly. And for us, there is no greater reward than to witness souls open their hearts and minds to Our Lady’s invitation to heed and follow her message. Our Lady touches each person in a unique way. This touch is silent, profound and transforming. And when she really wants a soul, she will not let go until she has it.
A lady told us that she was once at her daughter’s house and saw one of our pamphlets with the beautiful face of Our Lady of Fatima on the cover. She asked her daughter if she could have it. “Oh no Mom,” said the daughter, “I will order another one but I’m not giving you mine!”
It was a rainy day and her daughter took her home. As she stepped out of the car, she saw the same beautiful face of her daughter’s pamphlet looking at her from the wet, muddy curb. She picked it up, cleaned it, and it is now framed in her home.
There was the case of two sisters, eighty-five and eighty-seven respectively, who received the statue in their home. Before we started the Rosary, one of them approached me and said, “You know, today is the first time that my sister and I are saying a Rosary. I have cancer, but I am not worthy of asking Our Lady to cure me. What I will ask is that she grant me the strength to continue and to do what she wishes of me.”
One Jewish lady who had just moved, received a Fatima postcard in the name of the previous owner announcing that the statue would be visiting the area. She thought, “This must be a sign for me. I will call them.” She called, and made an appointment for a Fatima visit. She invited her friends, many of whom were also Jewish. On the day of the visit they were all very respectful, asking several questions about the message, and even tried their best to follow the rosary.
As already seen on this issue in the interview with Mr. José Ferraz, the favors granted by Our Lady at the Fatima visits are innumerable and many times miraculous. I will therefore limit myself to describing the day-to-day routine of the Fatima visits. But, the stories and graces could go on and on.
All Custodians have the honor to witness the fruits that grace produces through these visits of the Blessed Mother to homes across America. If these fruits of grace are so perceptible, we should have no doubt that Our Lady will not abandon those who have Faith on their journey.
As grace never lies, we know that the victory prophesied by Our Lady at Fatima will come. This is the conviction that moves the Custodian forward in their program of thirteen visits, six days a week. We know that in one way or another we are helping Our Lady triumph in souls and thus helping to expand her coming reign.
We know that each visit, whether it is to one or five hundred persons, is one more step toward helping Our Lady triumph in hearts. We know that if we open our hearts and homes to her, she will work marvels in our souls.
We know that as Saint Louis de Montfort says, “if we give her something as small as an egg, she will give us something as big as an ox in return.” She will not fail us.
This is why Fatima Custodians travel over thirty thousand miles every year in the cold, heat, rain or snow, like apostles looking for seven loaves and seven fish with which to present Our Lady at the moment of the fulfillment of her prophecy at Fatima.
DAILY QUOTE for April 8, 2020
SAINT OF THE DAY
St. Julie Billiart
He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.