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Almost 100 years after Fatima, an unexplained belief in Mary and three shepherd children

Not so long ago, I was settling my bill at a local eatery/watering hole when my server, Kandice, noticed a shiny, oval-shaped piece of jewelry dangling on a thin, silver chain that reached just below my bust line.

patti dawn swansson

“That’s very pretty,” she said. “What is it?”

“It’s Our Lady of Fatima,” I replied as I looked down at the medallion I now held gently in my right hand. “I wear it whenever I leave home. It gives me a nice feeling of comfort and calm. I think of myself more as a spiritual person than a religious person, but I have certain beliefs. I believe Mary appeared before three shepherd children at Fatima and before Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes. It’s hard to explain…I just believe it.”

“I think I understand.”

That’s the rub, though: I’m not sure I understand it myself. I struggle to explain belief. I don’t know how to explain belief.

I think most, if not all, of us look for something to believe in, whether it be god, religion, miracles, an honest politician, UFOs or the Loch Ness Monster. Some of us want to believe, others need to believe. I don’t know if I want or need to believe in Marian apparitions—at Fatima, Lourdes or anywhere else. I just do.

That, of course, is difficult for some to grasp.

I mean, tales of Marian apparitions seem nothing more than the notions of religious zealots, hopeless romantics, or flights of fantasy launched from a child’s fertile imagination. Surely Walt Disney had a hand in all of this. Fatima and Lourdes are really Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty adorned in the frock of religion, no? So let’s just accept them as fairy tales and move on, right?

Oh, if only it were that simple.

I truly wish I could articulate my belief in, and connection with, the Virgin Mary, Bernadette Soubirous and the three shepherd children, Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto who, 100 years ago this May 13, were visited by Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in the first of six Marian apparitions at Fatima.

I have given pause to ponder this matter often during the two weeks since Kandice mentioned the Our Lady of Fatima medallion that I wear. I still cannot explain it in any definitive way, except to say that Mary is a feeling. She is an inner truth. Something within assures me that the events of Fatima and Lourdes were real. They are real. And Mary delivers peace and joy to my soul. And that’s all that truly matters. If I feel it inside, authentically, then it must be so.