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What I learned from Our Lady’s hide and seek game


It is in the littlest of things that I find the Holy.

We’ve just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the day the sun danced in Fatima, and with it came the end of our six months of opportunity to gain a plenary indulgence on each of the anniversaries of Our Lady’s appearances — the 13th of each month from May through October.

Churches and shrines with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima on display have been attracting visitors since May 13, the anniversary of her first apparition and the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima.

Though the 100th-anniversary Jubilee is still on till November 26, I decided early in the year to seek out the “13th of the month” indulgence. The challenge was to find a statue of Our Lady of Fatima that was not behind locked church doors. I discovered that at a retreat center an hour north of where I live, the director had decided to set up an outdoor shrine. The groundskeeper brought in the necessities: statues, container gardens, and benches and kneelers suitable for the outdoor setting. The garden society there kept the space groomed during the months of veneration.

Some months in to the indulgence prayers, though, I discovered a local church with a 4-ft Our Lady of Fatima statue tucked in the corner. The shorter, 15-minute drive to morning Mass, with Fatima prayers following afterwards, was simpler and appealing, and I assumed this opportunity would continue through October. 

But in the lead-up to this month’s anniversary, I realized at Mass one day that the church would be locked on the 13th!

I had already arranged that day for all appointments to be scheduled around my visit to pray the Our Lady of Fatima prayers. So after Mass on the 12th I connected with the maintenance man of the parish. He agreed to meet me on the 13th and unlock the church. He was happy to help, and I tossed up a little prayer of gratitude for him.

On the morning of the 13th, the day moved along according to plan — until at the appointed time, the man-with-the-keys was no where to be found. I knocked on office doors trying to locate him, with a sense of urgency unmet by those whose offices I had entered. Finally, someone gave me his phone number and sent me to the hall to use an old rotary phone—I’m sure every parish built pre-1970 has one still—since I don’t have a cell.

But the-man-with-the-keys didn’t answer.

By then I realized I had but 10 minutes to get to my scheduled hour at Adoration. I realized that after six months of devotion, and on the last opportunity, I would not complete the prayers. With several appointments immediately after the Adoration there would not be time to drive the hour to the retreat center and back before dark, and no one was available to take me.

As I walked across the parking lot to the Adoration chapel, I apologized to Our Holy Mother, sorry my efforts had failed. I had done all I could. Resigned, I picked up the pen to sign in for Adoration. As I did so, it dawned on my subconscious that the shelves above the desk were different. Things had been rearranged from where I typically see them week after week. 

There, well above eye level—I’m only 5 feet tall—on the top shelf, someone had placed a 10-inch statue of Our Lady of Fatima! I was surprised and beyond delighted at the gift waiting to be found.

Standing on my tippy-toes I was able to reach her, and joyously carried the statue with me into Adoration. Kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, with Our Lady of Fatima there, I thanked Jesus for his attentiveness to the desire of my soul. And I completed the prayers for the indulgence for the sixth and final time.

It is in the littlest of things that I find the Holy. Our Lady probably taught the Child Jesus to see the holy in little things as well.

She did the same with me that day, reminding me, as she said to little Juan Diego, that she’s always by my side, she who is my mother.


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