"Big Four" Highlights


Lourdes and Fatima

A personal look at the Marian apparitions, messages and miracles

By Brian Caulfield, FFG Editor

2017 in the year of the Lord (Anno Domini) can also be seen as the year of Our Lady. May 13 marks the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of the Blessed Mother to the shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal. More than a private revelation, the apparitions and messages at Fatima in 1917 were part of a world-historic event that still has implications for the Church, humanity and your family. We cannot in our day ignore Fatima and we need to spread the messages far and wide, for many Catholics know very little about what happened over the course of five months in the Cova da Ira, the site of Mary’s apparitions.

The place to start, however, is in your own family. Tell your children about Fatima. They will certainly be intrigued by the “secrets” and the Miracle of the Sun.

I know personally about miracles within a family. One involving my son occurred at another Marian shrine, in Lourdes, France. As we draw closer to the centennial of Fatima in May, I will write more about what the events there may mean for our families. Here I will explain what Lourdes has meant personally for my family, as we prepare to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on Feb. 11.

My firstborn son was healed of a heart ailment as an infant at Lourdes. I don’t talk about this often because I have a nagging notion that one day I’ll wake up and realize that it didn’t really happen and my son will be scheduled again for surgery. But Stephen is 16 years old now, and the healing is real.

My wife and I may never submit the details to the medical board at Lourdes, but we only have to look at Stephen to know in our hearts that a miracle took place. Our son was born more than seven weeks premature on Sept. 23, the feast day of St. Padre Pio, and spent 10 days in the neonatal ICU, where they detected a heart murmur. Tests revealed coarctation of the aorta, a narrowing of the main artery that restricts blood flow and could lead to hypertension and stroke.

We got a second opinion, with the same diagnosis, and our son was scheduled for surgery at 7 months of age. By God’s grace, we were accepted for a pilgrimage to Lourdes with other children seeking medical miracles.

We got little Stephen a passport, flew to Lourdes and immersed ourselves in the grace of the famous shrine. My wife dipped him in the frigid water on two occasions, splashing extra water on his chest for good measure, and we prayed for healing. My wife had the distinct feeling that something had changed with our son. I was not sure, and thought that her hopeful emotions were natural for a mother who had gone through a high-risk pregnancy and an emergency delivery.

After returning home, we had an appointment with the pediatric cardiologist, who performed the usual tests, this time in preparation for surgery. He spoke little and said he would call us later. We were puzzled, and concerned. Had things gotten worse?

The cardiologist called that evening to say that he was taking Stephen off the surgery list for now. Too stunned to think, I told him not to let our hesitance sway him; we wanted the best for our son’s health. The doctor explained that the tests that day showed a marked improvement. He didn’t say anything after the exam because he wanted to consult with colleagues before breaking the good news.

“Is this the miracle we prayed for at Lourdes?” I asked. He said that as a doctor he didn’t deal in miracles, but he had never seen such a rapid improvement of this condition.

Over the months, the coarctation continued to improve, so that a specialist at one of the nation’s top hospitals said he could not detect any evidence of the condition.

Stephen was healed. The only explanation is Lourdes.

I tell this story to inspire faith and hope in others. Not everybody who goes to Lourdes receives a physical healing. But everyone is healed in some way, spiritually, emotionally, mentally.

Please join me in thanking the Blessed Mother for her intercession before God, for all the graces she bestows on souls and bodies. Let us give glory to God in the highest.