Similar scenario evidently happened as far back in 1917 at Fatima Portugal and 2017 in Samoa; when the 100-year gap did not change anything when the two events of faith coincide. Here is what I can report for I was present in the two-day celebration in faithful prayers of hope.
At Fatima 100 years ago during the night of 12th and 13th October in 1917, it had rained throughout, soaking the ground and the pilgrims who make their way to Fatima from all directions by the thousands.
They came in by foot, by cart and even by car they rushed to see the promised miracle rumored in the whole country Portugal, entering the bowl of the Cova from the Fátima-Leiria road. From there they made their way down the gently slope to the place where a trestle had been erected over the little holm-oak of the apparitions.
As for the three shepherd children, they made their way to the Cova amid the adulation and skepticism which had followed them since May 13th apparition.
When the children arrived they found critics who questioned their veracity and the punctuality of the Lady, who had promised to arrive at noon. It was well passed noon by the official time of the country. About 50 to 60 meters away, members of the anti-clerical administration who tried their best to stop the children from telling the truth about their conversation with Mary, kept surveillance on the children and at the same time making a mockery of the children and the Church and deepened their mocking when the noon hour passed. However, when the sun arrived at its zenith the Lady appeared as she had said she would.
Under the similar weather conditions, that was exactly what happened at the Tofamamao Catholic complex on the same dates. Thursday night 12th October 2017 at Leauva’a when the candle-light procession from St Michael Archangel Church reached the St Therese of the Child Jesus ground, a Rosary prayer led by His Grace Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga followed by the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament; the weather was perfect but at the strike of midnight scattered showers began to fall and was so intense until early Friday morning. An in-house early Friday morning schedule was opened with the morning Rosary and other devotional prayers with other allocated programs.
Including in the program were ‘‘testimonies’’ and ‘‘power point presentations’’ led by Fr Mikaele Tuimavave [Director of Catholic Education] who was a pilgrim himself and from some prominent and renown business people and selected members of the 40-member Pilgrimage and Delegation to Rome, Fatima and Lourdes in September 2017 led by the Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga. This was part of the Archdiocese of Samoa activity for the commemoration plans of the 100-year Fatima Anniversary.
‘’It was so amazing and I was mistaken that the Catholic Church is fading away and is slowly disappearing from this planet earth but no man, No… its growing at that part of the world and Samoa is just a drop in the ocean if compared with that part of the world as far as the Catholicism is concerned – You see people praying the Rosary and Mass is celebrated in many different languages and about 30,000 people in every ten minutes -24 hours a day’’ said Jackie Fepulea’i a pilgrim.
On Friday 13th at 5.00pm on the west coast of Upolu, a black cloud was seen slowly moving from the east and covered the sky and the northerly to easterly breeze began to softly felt at the ground while the faithful poured in from all sides of Upolu to be part of the final Mass. They came in buses, cars and on foot from the surrounding areas.
At 6.00pm which was 30 minutes away from the Mass which was led by His Grace Bishop Peter Brown from the Diocese of Samoa Pagopago; a downpour began to slowly fall; very gentle and as anyone could have imagined – a heavenly touch to prepare one’s ‘’inner person and soul’’ for the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass which was due to start.
As faithful as we are; the gentle touch of the rain drops on crowd did not bother anyone; the Catholic school students, the religious sisters, the priests, the deacons and wives, the Catechists and wives, the elderly; the disabled; some Members of Parliament and members of the laity from all walks of life.
About 5,000 faithful were present at the open ground and under pouring rain with only a handful who could be able to bring over umbrellas and have access to chairs. Two third of people stood in exposed rain without cover.
The downpours started to fall a little stronger soaking the ground and the faithful towards the end of the Liturgy of the Word. At some intervals, you could hardly hear the beautiful Homily of Bishop Peter Brown as the rain drops fell on the nearby roofs but not a single person attempted to make a runaway move.
Nobody! Everybody stood up with faith so attentively listening to the Mass prayers; that any discomfort which was caused by the rain failed to take impact over people’s devotion to the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord.
Usual gesticulation the Catholic Church has initially experienced right from the beginning; like standing, kneeling, genuflecting was not disturbed by rain and mud on the ground. The Liturgy of the Mass or Eucharist as is also known in the New Testament in the early youth of the Church as the ‘‘Breaking of the Bread’’ at hideaway places and underground catacomb out of fear of the Romans.
Worship at the time was so hard to execute in such harsh conditions similar to the Friday situation but the faithful never gave up faith. Faith is Sweet one woman told me.
And it was evident at the most holy part of Mass - the ‘’Consecration’’ where the main celebrant with all co-celebrants priests present in a specific gesture of raising hands calling upon the ‘‘Power of the Holy Spirit’’, to consecrate and make holy the bread and wine to become the real ‘‘Body and Blood’’ of our Lord Jesus Christ; the showers of blessings continued to fall but at this moment very gently and slowly faded.
When communion was distributed the rain suddenly stopped. It’s a miracle that our Lord gave time as He always does to the faithful to receive his ‘’Body and Blood’’ under such bad weather conditions. Gentle down pours as was in the beginning of Mass slowly died out completely towards the Concluding Rite and end of the Mass.
The returning pilgrimage 40 members referred to earlier in this write up under the leadership of the Archbishop has established a new fraternity called ‘‘Fraternity of the Missionary Disciples of Our Lady of Fatima of the Archdiocese of Samoa – Apia.
The new group is a body devoted to Our Lady of Fatima and her Rosary among other discipleship tasks already addressed will be blessed on December 8th 2017 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Mulivai by the Archbishop.
That is the Birthday of Mary to be in line with the 10th Anniversary and the Renewal of the Consecration of Samoa and the Archdiocese of Samoa to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. According to Mrs Jackie Fepulea’i who is one of the members; more than 100 members have been registered so far and people are still calling - it’s still open for the interested faithful.