As war stretches into third week, Our Lady of Fatima devotees turn to her in prayer to stop the violence, change hearts and minds of aggressors
RIVERVIEW — As the war between Ukraine and Russia stretches into its third week, Catholics devoted to Our Lady of Fatima have been imploring the Blessed Mother to bring an end to the violence.
Responding to a request by the rector of the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima in Krisovychi, in western Ukraine, for Fatima shrines around the world to pray in solidarity, an estimated 50 people gathered at the archdiocesan Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Riverview on March 13, praying for an end to the war.
At the chapel, which was designated as an archdiocesan shrine in 2020, Fr. Cyril Whitaker led the group in a Holy Hour, rosary and Eucharistic adoration.
In 1917, Our Lady of Fatima told the three children of Fatima — Lucia Santos, Jacinta Marto and Francisco Marto — to pray for the conversion of Russia, Fr. Whitaker said. The vision occurred during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which resulted in an atheistic, communist state that came to dominate Eastern Europe for 70 years.
With Russia unleashing the full force of its military against its neighbor, including many civilian casualties, the urgency of praying for Our Lady to convert the hearts and minds of the Russian people is greater than ever, Fr. Whitaker said.
“Our Lady wanted Russia to be converted, that is, to be made special for her and her honor, given over to her for its particular conversion,” Fr. Whitaker said. “She wanted Russia to move away from atheism, Bolshevism and communist doctrine, which was among its many errors.”
The conversion of Russia is part of the second "secret" of Fatima, as relayed by Sr. Lucia and repeated in her 1941 memoir, though Fatima devotees today debate whether Russia has been consecrated to Our Lady in a manner in which she asked in 1917. While the current war does have religious connotations attached to it, Fr. Whitaker said those who gathered at the shrine March 13 were there to pray specifically for peace.
“There is so much more to the conflict, and you can’t minimize human agency,” Fr. Whitaker said. "There are all kinds of geopolitical things in this conflict. I’ve met folks who would bring it right down to, ‘Well, Russia hasn’t been consecrated,’ and if it ever were, then everything would be just fine. But Our Lady clearly told us about interior conversion, the changing of hearts and minds and returning to God. So it’s not as simple as doing one thing and solving everything.”
Offering prayers for peace and reconciliation is the job of the faithful; it’s up to God to grant the mercies and grace that will save the world, said Michelle St. Pierre, who along with her husband, Leonard, operates the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine as part of the World Apostolate of Fatima.
“Our Lady is calling for us to pray, and this is an opportunity for our shrines to come together to pray for peace,” St. Pierre said. “With this Holy Hour for peace, we're standing with the faithful around the world to pray for an end to this heartbreaking and sad conflict.”
On March 13, the shrine was decorated with blue and yellow flowers — the national colors of Ukraine — as Dr. Marko Farion, a soloist from the choir of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church in Warren, sang “Lord, Hear Our Prayer,” and “Prayer for Ukraine” in Ukrainian after the congregation prayed the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary.
Fr. Whitaker, who preached a homily during the prayer event, said Our Lady of Fatima asked people to pray in reparation for the sins of the world in imitation of her son, whose death made reparation for the sins of all.
Still, he said, the key is individual conversion.
"Pray for peace, yes. But that means praying for peace to end the conflict and praying for the conversion of the souls who started the war," Fr. Whitaker said. "We are asking Our Lady to bring this war to an end, that it will not escalate into anything larger; that it won’t be the first salvo of World War III. We are begging Our Lord, through the Blessed Mother, to end the war and bring peace in the world.”
Prayer and spirituality