— F A T I M A —
A Call to Faith in Love Beyond Doubt
Presence is the most important aspect for me when watching any Christian movie. Is there an Inspired quality despite the human filters? Can I feel Christ’s love? While it is truly my choice what I experience—whether I recommend a movie as “helpful” or not, these are my considerations. Love Sarah
This story of three little shepherds from the rural town of Fatima in Portugal is blessed with a visionary writer/director who is also a cinematographer. Marco Pontecorvo gently leads us through this historical account of a miracle that inspired millions of Catholic pilgrimages to venerate a Marion shrine. His telling focuses on the joy and subsequent conflict felt by the children as they faced the doubt and shame of their parents. While composer Paolo Buonvino’s intimate score draws us deep into the mystical simplicity of receiving your Calling.
All circumstances are truly perfect for those who desire to Listen. The backdrop of World War I, and the rise of communism in mainland Europe heightens one of the movies main themes; the disparity between the practical application of experience versus blindly adhering to any theology or ideology. As education and social empowerment swept Portugal in 1917, ignorance and religious devotion had became synonymous. Learning to read and write became the leaders call to avoid manipulation by institutions and yet this rapid change was leaving the poor marginalized and estranged from their faith at the time they needed it the most. A whole generation of men were being slain—fighting on a front for an ideal rather than in direct defense of their homeland. They wanted to “come home” but shame and growing governmental secularism had become rampant, and attempts at “peaceful coexistence” were dividing the people.
Suddenly everyday activities were being policed in an attempt to maintain order and the appearance of co-operation. Into this cauldron of confusion and control comes Christ’s Messenger, ten-year-old Lucia; a good daughter to her educated mother and hard-working father, loyal sister to her brother Manuel at the front, and devoted shepherdess to her small flock of sheep.
Obedient and willing to do what would save her brother, Lucia joins her Mother in a proactive atonement campaign of solemnity to convince God to save him. Simultaneously this sincere little girl is receiving prophetic visions and visitations from Heaven calling her to be Christ’s witness for Peace through devotion to Our Blessed Lady.
The conflict is quickly revealed not as a division between church and state, but between rote learning of any system versus inspiration and direct experience. No one believes Lucia except the two small companions by her side when Mary, Jesus’ Mother first appears. Visible to one but deaf to the other (due to lack of prayer) this trio of little saints in the making out-pictures our common response to supernatural experience; the joy of release combined with the fear of specialness.
When the Children are merely relaying what they have been told they are unselfconscious and glowing. As the doubt creeps in about what they have shared, the fear of displeasing their parents, church authorities and even local government weighs heavy on their exuberance. Lucia attempts a self-imposed penance and mortification of the flesh. The belief that we could hurt those we love by speaking the truth is deeply ingrained in our belief in sacrifice. The visitor from heaven asks her not to hurt herself, and her father attempts to protect her in her confusion.
We are all shepherds to our little flocks, constant teachers in demonstrating what it is we believe. Yet all Lucia needs is to recall how she felt about the visitation, often reminded by her little cousin Jacinta who is the natural mystic, vibrant in the Holy Instant and too young to be coerced by people-pleasing to change her story.
Cousin Francisco (Jacinta’s older brother) steadfast in trust despite his lack of direct hearing, stands by the girls and shares their devotion to attending the site of the first visitation on the same day at noon, once a month for 6-months.
The real Miracle of this story is the absolute transcendence of Love over fear, and it is this consistent devotion that transforms Lucia and restores integrity not just to her family, but to a nation conflicted by a vastly changing world.
As the children rest in certainty we see how gentle this state is; non-compromise is clarity without agenda to convince or convert another.
The purity of the message was for the mothers of a lost generation to join with the Holy Mother of Heaven to pray for peace. The simplicity of the invitation had pilgrims come from all over Portugal with wholly empty arms, to embrace the rosary and pray with One whom they already believed understood first-hand their suffering. We could read this as the belief in sacrifice or see it as a compassionate symbol of understanding for those feeling powerless with no control over the world, who were faced with the loss and desolation of false responsibility.
This is a beautiful film of humility, a masterful exposition of the temptation of specialness and a witness to the simplicity of Salvation being in the Acceptance of Love as offered, without self regard.
If “the devil” is at play in co-opting or corrupting testimony then it is in the belief in “other.” Do not become preoccupied with the idea of an “audience”—the entire passion play is solely for ourselves! Be relieved now, content with the Peace of God as your one goal all concern vanishes.
WRITER: Why did it have to happen to you of all people?
LUCIA: Because it was necessary!
I graciously saw it in a movie theater
Fatima (2020) is available now on NETFLIX