Hundreds of local Catholics gathered at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on Wednesday evening to pay tribute to the official traveling statue of Our Lady of Fátima.
At 6 p.m., a procession accompanied the religious icon around the church as the Rosary, interspersed with songs, was prayed by more than 100 devout followers in both English and Spanish.
Hispanics ranging from toddlers to seniors made up the majority of the procession that followed the statue, which had been carefully placed on a carrying stand and hoisted up onto the shoulders of six male worshippers.
Dressed in white robes with gold accents, the representation of the Virgin Mary weighs about 40 pounds and stands almost four feet tall. The face of the statue, seemingly pristine despite years of travel, displays a slightly solemn expression.
The 7 p.m. Mass honoring the traveling statue was intended for a Spanish-speaking audience, and led by Father Ramon Pons. Though the church was not as full as it was for the Virgin of Guadalupe celebration on Dec. 12, the Pilgrim Virgin statue drew a sizable crowd.
Believers say that in 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared before 10-year-old Lúcia dos Santos and her two cousins in Fátima, Portugal. For six consecutive months, the apparition of the Blessed Mother, calling herself the “Lady of the Rosary,” continued to visit the children, asking them to do penance and make personal sacrifices to save other sinners.
Through her appearances, the figure revealed her “Three Secrets of Fátima” to the children, which Catholics have interpreted as prophecies dealing with hell, World War I and World War II, and the shooting of Pope John Paul II. Believers also credit the statue with performing several miraculous feats, such as shedding human tears and causing celestial spectacles.
As a way of sharing Our Lady of Fátima with those unable to make the pilgrimage to Portugal, a second statue was completed and blessed on Oct. 13, 1947. The traveling statue has been on the move ever since.
“I wanted to have it close to our solemnity, which was yesterday,” said Father Gordon Kalil, the pastor at St. John’s. “So Jan. 1 we had Mary Mother of God, and Jan. 2 we have Our Lady of Fátima.”
A solemnity is a feast day that celebrates a significant event in the life of Jesus, his mother Mary, or an important saint. Solemnities are classified as the highest ranking feast day.
The Knights of Columbus volunteered to guard the statue during its two-day stay at St. John’s. Four knights took turns guarding Our Lady of Fátima after Mass, and they remained at their post until the church closed at 10 p.m.
“It’s great that we have the opportunity to see Our Lady of Fátima in person,” said Monica Huerta of Napa, in Spanish. “We are very lucky that the statue came to us. I don’t think too many people get this chance.”
After Mass, worshippers congregated around the decorated table holding the statue in the center of the church. At its base was a sign that read “Do Not Touch Her, She Will Touch You.” Many filled out petitions asking Our Lady of Fátima for her blessing, photographed the icon and continued to pray.
“There are many graces that are associated with prayers and intercessions. That’s why you see lots of people taking those forms to write prayers,” said Father Kalil.
Arturo Guzman, a 43-year-old field worker from Guanajuato, Mexico, believes that this religious statue is unique in the way it connects with so many Catholics, without forcing them to travel long distances.
“She is very special because of the number of people that have personally been able to see her. It’s not like visiting the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or going to Rome. You don’t need to go far if she comes to your town,” Guzman said in Spanish.
Mass was held twice for English speakers on Thursday before the statue left for Sonoma on Thursday.