This year the May procession of Our Lady of Willesden took place a day after the official celebration of the centenary of the first Apparition of Our Lady in Fatima, marked by the canonisation by the Holy Father of two of the young seers, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Although one was a global event and the other the annual celebration at our diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden, both are important for Newman Catholic College’s young students.
What happened a century ago in Fatima can still intrigue young people today. The story and Our Lady’s message have a meaning which resonates for those who seek to encounter Our Lord and his plan for their lives.
The May procession this year therefore represented for the young people of Newman a real opportunity of witnessing to the Gospel, bringing to the streets of Harlesden the call for conversion, penance, prayer, and increase in love, faith and charity.
What Our Lady of Willesden can represent for the boys is exactly what the shepherd children in Fatima saw in the Mother of God: goodness and kindness, and the hope that good will eventually prevail.
This realisation fills people with joy and gratitude, which were evident in the smiles and warmth of the atmosphere on the day.
The procession is also an encouragement for the local Catholic community, who are reminded what Our Lady asks of us: to receive the sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist worthily and often; to recite the Rosary daily; to wear the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; to pray for sinners and to make sacrifices in reparation for the sins that offend the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary; and to perform our daily duty, which is our personal vocation and all that it entails.
To encourage and inspire young people to enter into this requires effort and courage. And yet never before has the message of Fatima sounded so contemporary. We tire easily; children seem to have short attention spans; our mood can change quickly; boys can have a lot of anger in them; and we all become distracted. Despite these real challenges, it is of a primary importance to apply our will and to teach students to do so too, and pray that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we may overcome obstacles and respond openheartedly to Mary’s call.
The response begins at home with families and expands through schools and parishes in many different ways: by taking part in a procession like the one honouring Our Lady of Willesden; by reciting the Rosary at home with our family and at school; by practising and encouraging others to practise the First Saturday Devotion; and by visiting shrines like Fatima, Lourdes, or our national Shrine in Walsingham.
The message of our Lady of Fatima which echoed on the streets of Harlesden on Sunday 14th May through the witness of the young people of Newman both reminds and urges us to embrace the Gospel and to help others to do so.