ColumnsFamily Matters

Fatima and family life

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, an event that took place from May 13 through Oct. 13 in 1917 in Portugal to three children: Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and Lucia Santos. The third visionary, Lucia, was the only one to live to adulthood, becoming a Carmelite nun, and passing away on Feb. 13, 2005, at the age of 97.

In 1981, Italian Cardinal Carlo Caffarra wrote a brief letter to Sister Lucia as he began leadership of the new Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, established by Pope Saint John Paul II. Cardinal Caffarra’s letter simply requested Lucia’s prayers for the initiative, as the institute was placed under the patronage of Our Lady of Fatima. Surprisingly, he received a long, hand-written letter in reply. At the end of the letter Sister Lucia wrote, “A time will come when the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family. And those who will work for the good of the family will experience persecution and tribulation. But do not be afraid, because Our Lady has already crushed his head.” At a talk in May of this year, Cardinal Caffarra indicated his belief that, “What Sr. Lucia wrote to me is being fulfilled today.”

If we look around in our society today, there is no doubt that we see an attack on God’s design for marriage, sexuality and family life. As the new director of the Family Life Office, it is my goal to promote the truth, goodness and beauty of God’s design for marriage and family life in the Archdiocese of Dubuque. I invite you to join me. Although no family is perfect, through God’s grace we can all grow in holiness in whatever state of family life we are in. And as we grow, we can invite others through our own witness to a more authentic expression of family life. That is what I am striving to do, not only in my position as director of the Family Life Office, but in my own family — in my marriage to Anna and in my fatherhood to our three boys: David (4), Luke (2) and Thomas (3 months).

As Pope Saint John Paul II once said, “The future of the world and of the Church … passes through the family.” And, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Let us, therefore, pray for the transformation of our families in order to see a positive transformation of our society and world. May Our Lady of Fatima guide us as our spiritual mother to treasure the gift of marriage and family life, and to draw each of our families ever closer to her son, Jesus. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

I invite you to subscribe to the Family Matters e-newsletter, a monthly publication of the Archdiocese of Dubuque Family Life Office. This e-newsletter is sent via email around the 15th of each month and includes information and inspiration to help you live your faith in your family. You may subscribe by visiting www. or by emailing Lynne Chapman, secretary for the Family Life Office, at dbqcflsec@ (you may unsubscribe at any time).

Please feel free to reach out to me as a resource for marriage and family life at or (563) 556-2580, ext. 233. And look for the new Family Matters column in the first issue of The Witness each month, where I will address various topics relating to marriage and family life.