Reston parish celebrates Fatima centenary with 35-foot mural

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When Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the shepherd children Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto 100 years ago, she told them to recite the rosary daily for peace.

At St. Thomas à Becket Church in Reston, a large mural details exactly how to do that on a long wall outside the religious education classrooms.

A 2-foot statue of Our Lady is the centerpiece, perched high on a white platform jutting out from the middle of the mural. Behind it is a scene of clouds and blue sky, with a banner that reads, “100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima’s Apparitions 1917-2017.” Surrounding the statue are summaries of Our Lady’s messages during the apparitions.

At the far left are signs about the apparitions of the angel and, on the opposite end, are articles about the miracle of the sun and an article in Marian Helper magazine that answers why Our Lady appeared to the children by  quoting Sister Marta Marques Mendes of Fatima-based Alianca de Santa Maria. "God chooses three humble children from a humble home exactly to emphasize that (this powerful message) doesn't come from man, but from God," she said.

The lower half of the wall is dedicated to the rosary, with instructions on how to recite it and the words to the prayers. The joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries are depicted within imitation stained-glass window panels. A large purple bead indicating the Our Father, 10 blue beads for the Hail Mary and spaces marked to show where to say the Glory Be and Fatima prayer are strung along the bottom.  

"It is a great teaching tool," said Sue Reilly, director of religious education for pre-k through fifth grade, and adult initiation and faith formation. “We wanted to make sure there was information there. It is too large to be passed by and it reminds people of what is going on."

The students will learn more at this year’s vacation Bible camp in July honoring the anniversary with the theme, “Tracking Mary: Her Mysteries and Messages,” which will explore her messages in Portugal, France, Mexico, Ireland and England.

While it helps the students learn, Reilly said one parent reminisced about reciting the rosary as a child with her grandmother.

The mural was Reilly’s idea. “It was Our Lady of Fatima who turned me into a very serious Catholic.” She placed an ad for help in the church bulletin and Paula Weidmann, a former catechist and parishioner with a tremendous devotion to the Blessed Mother, volunteered.

The mural took six months to complete and will be on display through October.

Reilly said the mural makes a bold statement.

“We’re trying to say let’s revisit Our Lady’s message,” she said. “With wars going on, instead of feeling helpless, we can pray the rosary. It’s a way of helping and supporting our troops and hopefully put an end to the wars.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

@eelliottACH