Lately I have been taking off writing reviews on the weekends, just to give these tired hands a break. As this Monday is Labor Day, maybe I will take that day off to compensate for this one. You see, I just got back from seeing Fatima. In my experience with my Faith, I have come to be obedient to promptings of the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? Call it whatever you like: tingling on the back of the neck, intuition, a feeling, etc. All I know is that I was struck by the movie and my heart (the place where God reigns) told me to come home and write about what I saw.
To describe Fatima is to describe history. You have Lúcia de Jesus Rosa dos Santos (Stephanie Gil), a ten year old girl living in the village of Fatima in Portugal. She is what the villagers call a “seer,” but what the Bible would call a prophet, if I may be so bold. This is how she is introduced because the first scene of the movie is her seeing an angel and a vision of her brother. The story is told as a flashback, and this is driven home by what follows: Professor Nichols (Harvey Keitel) visiting Sister Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart (Sônia Braga), the now elderly Lúcia. Professor Nichols is not a believer, and he is there to interview her for a book he is writing on miracles (I suppose, this part is never explicit). Naturally, he turns to one of the more famous miracles outside of the Bible, one that was witnessed by thousands of people. Before we get to that point, though, we see the series of apparitions of Our Lady (Joana Ribeiro) to Lucia and her two younger cousins, Jacinta (Alejandra Howard) and Francisco Marto (Jorge Lamelas). The first time, they are by themselves and they meet Lúcia in the field where she is tending the Santos’ sheep. Initially, they do not know who she is, and they vow not to tell anyone. Despite this, word begins to get out when Jacinta tells her parents about what happened. Their families are incredulous, and the town mayor, Arturo (Goran Visnjic) looks at the whole thing as superstition and possibly insurrection. The idea is that Portugal as a country, then embroiled in World War I, was trying to leave the old ways behind and modernize. Others, mainly the clergy, do not want to believe because they do not understand why Mary would appear to such people as these children. Still others, because they want their miracle on their terms and nothing else, doubt when things do not happen the way they want. All this adds up to a great deal of trouble for the children and their parents. At one point, the mayor locks up the children and brings in a psychiatrist, hoping to discredit them as being crazy and thus ending what he sees as growing hysteria. Through all their tribulations, the children remain obedient to Our Lady’s command to visit her in the field once a month, and to pray the Rosary every day. This all culminates in the final apparition on October 13, 1917. Over 70,000 people gather in the field where the visions took place, and with cameras rolling, the famous miracle of the sun takes place. At times it appears to grow larger, then radiate, and then to move in retrograde fashion. As attested to in the closing moments of the film, though some saw it in different ways, everyone reported seeing some form of these aspects.
Through all the trials the children, especially Lucia, go through in Fatima, it reminded me of what the Bible says about the prophets. Seeing Heavenly visions is never a good thing for those who receive them, at least not how the average person would look upon fortune. They are mocked, they are ridiculed, they are doubted, and in some cases they are killed for their messages. And indeed, shortly after the apparitions ended, Jacinta and Francisco died during the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918. In the midst of all this, Our Lady told the children that they were to suffer. Can you imagine? Jacinta and Francisco are even told that they would soon be in Heaven, a prophecy of their imminent passing. Jesus says in the Bible that the Kingdom of God belongs to ones such as these, meaning children. The commandment is that we must accept teaching as a child, and in that lies the path to Salvation. That they could handle such messages from the Mother of God is a true testament to the truth of Jesus’ words. And to find meaning in suffering is one of the messages of Fatima. Lúcia and her cousins bore these difficulties because they were meant to bring forth a message of peace and conversion of sinners. Their work continues to this day.
There are some technical things to mention about Fatima. For starters, Stephanie Gil’s performance as Lúcia was incredible. One of the difficulties about children acting is their innocence (and one of the reasons why Jesus reserves the Kingdom of God for such as these). As such, they have difficulty getting into a role because most kids cannot help but be themselves and nothing more. Yet Gil’s performance rang true. One might think that seeing visions of the Virgin Mary would transport one to a blissful plane, leaving worldly troubles far behind. That may be the case for when they see Mary before them, but that is not how life works. Lúcia was tested in so many ways, and Gil’s portrayal of those pains was moving. The other aspect is Mary herself. This is the part that got me the most, and caused me to weep every time I saw her on the screen. Cognitively, I realize it is just a movie and thus Hollywood’s portrayal of the Divine. But she was just so beautiful. And her words, inspired by what we know of what she told the children in 1917, made her doubly so. I thank God for this movie. It helped me a great deal, as did the Rekindle praise and worship and Mass that I went to last night.
One of the goals in starting The Legionnaire was to try and wade into the muck and mire that Hollywood typically fills this world with and try to shed some light upon it. In other words, if a film has any redeeming qualities to it, I will discuss them. Often that is a difficult job as there is so little good to find. In a sense, I suffer in order to try and help you all to suffer less. We cannot all live behind the walls of a monastery as Lúcia did for the rest of her life after the visions, even if such a life is looking better and better in the crazy society we live in today. With Fatima, though, I can unequivocally recommend it wholly. There is an interesting thing said by Our Lady at one point, a phrase that is too true, sadly. She said that no matter how hard we try, not everyone will believe. Know that, dear reader, if that describes you, I am praying for you. It is what God wants of us, it is a commandment of all Christians. In the meantime, watch Fatima.