…. Pope Francis joins his predecessors in acknowledging the importance of Fatima. When the Blessed Mother appeared to three shepherd children almost 100 years ago, it was shortly after an urgent prayer to the Blessed Virgin as the Queen of Peace by Pope Benedict XV for the end of World War I.
Blessed John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life after an assassination attempt on May 13, 1981. In a 2010 visit to Fatima, Benedict XVI expressed his hope that the (then) seven years until the 100th anniversary of the apparitions would “hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.”
There is also precedent in the Old Testament for what Pope Francis and previous pontiffs ask of us in calling for repentance and for intercession: the Book of Esther. Indeed, many scholars over the years have portrayed Queen Esther as a prefigurement of Mary, and the Book of Esther as a prefigurement of the Book of Revelation.
You will recall that the king of Persia was asked by a scheming administrator to destroy the Jewish people since the administrator had been personally offended by Mordecai, Esther’s uncle who was also a servant of the king. The king, unaware that his young and exceptionally beautiful wife Esther was Jewish, consented to the attack. Before she dared to approach the king to ask that her people be spared, Queen Esther clothed herself in sackcloth and ashes, and asked her people to join her in fasting from food and water for three days.
When Esther entered into the king’s presence, something she was forbidden to do without invitation, he extended his scepter, thus sparing her life. Esther also rather audaciously invited the King and Haman to a banquet, where she revealed that she was a Jew and begged the King to spare the life of her people.
The King was angered by his administrator’s schemes against Mordecai and the Jewish people, and dealt with the administrator accordingly. But since royal orders could not be annulled, the attack was allowed to continue, though the Jewish people were allowed to defend themselves and defeated their enemies in battle. The Jews celebrate this triumph each year as their Feast of Purim.
The date set for destruction of the Jews had been the 13th of the month of Adar, a month that corresponds more or less to February, which is when Purim is now remembered. This date is also significant in Jewish history for another reason: It is the day that the Maccabees liberated Israel after a four-year battle with the Seleucid Empire.
The significance of this for faithful and pro-life Catholics who seek greater understanding in what Scott Hahn calls Catholics’ “away game” of the Old Testament, is this: Just as the Jewish people were saved through the intercession of Queen Esther, so Mary intercedes for the Church throughout history, and now.