Sister Angela de Fatima Coelho, postulator for the cause of canonization of Fatima children Jacinta and Francisco Marto, was interviewed by Teresa Tomeo on Facebook Live on May 13, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima, and the 104th anniversary that Mary began appearing to the three children of Fatima. Sr. Angela is a medical doctor and the first woman to be named to the office of postulator.
The role of postulator
Sr. Angela began by noting that she was first asked to assume the role as vice postulator (later postulator) for Jacinta and Francisco in 2009. It was a role she was excited to take on, especially since she recalled that when she was a girl in the 1970s, she’d go to their gravesites to pray. In 2017, she joined Pope Francis for the canonization of Ss. Jacinta and Francisco.
In 2014, she was appointed vice postulator for the Cause of Servant of God Sr. Lucia (1907-2005). Sr. Angela had the opportunity to meet with Sr. Lucia five times before her death.
Ss. Jacinta and Francisco are the youngest non-martyred saints in Church history; should Sr. Lucia be canonized, she would be one of the oldest to be canonized in history.
Sr. Angela described her role as postulator is similar to that of a lawyer, gathering and presenting information or evidence on candidates for canonization to Church authorities so that they may make a determination. Evidence can include testimonies of those who know the candidate, she said, “who can show us that she achieved sanctity.”
The lengthy examination of the life of a candidate such as Sr. Lucia includes extensive review of their writings to determine if they had ever written things contrary to Church teaching or morality. Once all material is collected and reviewed by theologians in Rome, Sr. Angela continued, the Church may have the opportunity to declare, “Yes, she did practice virtue in a heroic way.”
The person is then declared venerable by the Holy Father, and then a miracle must be accepted for the person to be declared blessed, and another to be declared a saint. Sr. Lucia is still a Servant of God, Sister said, and she is in the process of collecting 16,000 documents relating to her. She requested Catholics pray for Lucia’s canonization, as “a saint is a gift of God … we need to pray and ask for it.”
Many may wonder why the process can take many years, but it is the amount of time required, Sister said, so Church authorities can be sure “that person is in heaven, can intercede for us before God and be an example for us to follow. It is one of the most important proclamations a pope can make, and it takes time to study someone deep down inside.”
Such a process can’t be rushed, she insisted, and the Church’s slow, methodical process “is a sign of credibility” of the Church’s determination.
A strong bond
Serving as vice postulator for Sr. Lucia’s cause has given her a strong bond with the Servant of God, Sr. Angela said, and is a great gift, along with that of her Catholic faith and vocation to religious life. Sister is a member of the Congregation of the Alliance of Holy Mary, a religious order whose mission includes spreading the message of Fatima.
Sister believes the basic tenets of the message of Fatima, including the vital nature of prayer, penance and obedience to the laws of God, is one for all ages. Additionally, when a person follows the examples of Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia, he is on a path to sanctity. The trio’s example is one of simplicity, simply obeying the requests of the Lord “which attracts God’s eyes to us.”
Francisco and Jacinta’s path in life was short, as they died in 1919 and 1920, while Lucia’s was long, devoting more than 80 years of her life to the message of Fatima before her death in 2005. Sr. Lucia’s diary reveals that she suffered from temptation, but “her thought was, ‘I said yes to Our Lady, I cannot say no now.’ That is an example for all of us.”
Another element of Fatima, Sr. Angela believes, is fidelity to the Holy Father. Sr. Lucia obeyed whomever sat in the Chair of Peter, Sr. Angela said, “a great example right now, when our love and respect of Francis is being put to the test.”
The faithful throughout the world recognized the sanctity of Sr. Lucia, sending her some 70,000 letters since 1970 (letters prior to 1970 were not saved). People begged for her prayers, which Sr. Lucia was pleased to offer, but would also insist that they pray the rosary for themselves, as “the rosary has a special grace for our times.”
Fatima film re-released in theaters
Both Sr. Angela and Teresa Tomeo urged Catholics to watch the new Picturehouse film Fatima, re-released in AMC theaters and is available on DVD. The film opens in 1980s Portugal, as author and skeptic Professor Nichols (Harvey Keitel, The Irishman, The Piano) visits a convent in the riverside city of Coimbra, where octogenarian Sister Lúcia (Sônia Braga, Aquarius) recounts the Blessed Mother’s visit to her in Fatima 70 years before. Other characters include young Lúcia (Stephanie Gil, Terminator: Dark Fate), her younger cousins Jacinta (Alejandra Howard) and Francisco (Jorge Lamelas), and, of course, the Virgin Mary (Joana Ribeiro).
The film features the original song “Gratia Plena” (“Full of Grace”), performed by Andrea Bocelli and composed by renowned Italian composer Paolo Buonvino. The director is Marco Pontecorvo (Pa-ra-da, “Game of Thrones”) from a script by Pontecorvo, Valerio D’Annunzio and Barbara Nicolosi.
Sr. Angela concedes that the film is not a “word for word” retelling of the story of Fatima, but a “respectful interpretation” of the event. She especially likes the portrayal of Lucia, who as an older woman quizzed by a skeptical Professor Nichols, admits that she doesn’t know all the answers. Sr. Angela said, “It was clever not to have Lucia have answers to all his questions, because we don’t have the answers to every question. What Lucia said was, ‘I am sharing what I experienced.’”
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