By Genevieve Pollock
FORT COLLINS, Colorado, DEC. 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A new film about the Marian apparitions at Fatima is being released today, combining modern technology with a timeless message, only months before Benedict XVI’s visit to the Portuguese shrine.
“The 13th Day” is the first major movie in over 50 years detailing Our Lady’s apparition to three shepherd children in Fatima in 1917.
Filmed on location in Portugal, as well as in the United Kingdom, the movie weaves a story based on the memoirs of one of the children, who later became Sister Maria Lucia de Jesus, as well as thousands of eyewitness accounts of the events.
The film is a combination of “great entertainment, catechesis and evangelization,” said Anthony Ryan, marketing director for Ignatius Press, the North American distribution company.
It is “a relevant wake-up call” for our culture today, he added at a press conference for the movie’s release.
Ryan explained that The 13th Day is a “message driven film,” about the power of Our Lady’s promises that are still relevant.
Mark Brumley, Ignatius Press CEO, commented that the Pope’s upcoming May visit to Portugal underlines the “ongoing importance of Our Lady of Fatima.”
The Pontiff is “commemorating the true story of Fatima, but not just as something that happened in the past,” Brumley said.
For all faiths
He affirmed that The 13th Day also underlines the “ongoing reality” of Fatima, with a message “everyone should hear,” Catholics, Protestants and Muslims.
“We live in a time where there is a great searching for spirituality,” Brumley affirmed. This movie “challenges people to be open to the message of transformation — what we call repentance.”
Ryan added that in this, Benedict XVI is continuing the work of his predecessor, John Paul II, underscoring the message of Our Lady of Fatima and its relevance for our times.
Its particular relevance, Ryan explained, can be seen in the connection between the story of Fatima and Muslims. He suggested that “one of the most important ways to reach Muslims is through Our Lady of Fatima.”
Father Andrew Apostoli, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal and a Fatima expert, explained that the Muslim people have a great love of Mary, and Our Lady of Fatima in particular. “Fatima” was the name of the daughter of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.
When statues of Our Lady of Fatima are brought into an Islamic country, Father Apostoli said, Catholics sometimes have a hard time finding room in the church where she is being honored, as it tends to be filled with Muslims.
The Franciscan noted that the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen of Rochester, New York, spoke about this connection. The words of the prelate are included in a 24-page bonus book in the film’s package.
“Mary rises above the differences between Christians and Muslims,” Father Apostoli said. “Both sides can go to Mary, and she becomes the link.”
The producer of The 13th Day, Natasha Howes, announced that the movie will be showing in Tehran, Iran, in February, and that they expect a good response in the predominantly Muslim country.
The film has been showing at screening events in some 150 U.S. locations since Oct. 13.
Father Apostoli affirmed that The 13th Day makes a powerful impact. He noted that he was particularly struck by the courage of the children to accept this request of Our Lady, “Would you suffer?” She asked them to sacrifice and pray to save souls, he said.
This is the basic message that the Blessed Virgin calls us all to, the priest explained, to bring the message of Christ’s salvation and its merits to others through the Church.
She calls us all to prayer and to sacrifice, he said. When the children are shown a vision of hell, it “makes its impact,” Father Apostoli stated, and it has a powerful meaning for all of us.
Our Lady asks these children to be a part of God’s plan, he said, and we are also called to this; “the peace of the world depends on this.”
“I think this is going to affect young people,” the priest said. “I was a child when I saw the first film, and Fatima has made an impact on my life.”
The DVD is being sold in a package aimed at making an evangelization impact through a bonus documentary video on Our Lady’s message, a companion booklet, a prayer card and rosary.
The team who worked on the film affirmed that they were the first to be evangelized through Mary’s message. Howes explained that she had been brought up Catholic, but was lapsed until she began working on this project. Now, she said, “my faith has certainly been strengthened.”
Ian and Dominic Higgins, two brothers who worked together to write and direct the film, affirmed that they too were brought up Catholic, but making this film has “made us more spiritual.”
“It speaks to you regardless of your faith or your belief system,” they said. “In Fatima, you may find a way to peace.”
Father Apostoli concluded, “The world is on the brink of catastrophe if we don’t work for peace.”
Shortly after Pope John Paul II was shot on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the priest said, the Pontiff made the statement that the Marian message from those apparitions is more important now than it was back then.
She spoke about the conversion of Russia back then, but we suffer from the residue of communism still today, the Franciscan said, or secularism as it has become in the United States.
He noted that Benedict XVI also emphasizes this message, urging Catholics to honor Our Lady of the Rosary, as the one who can truly help us.
“That’s what makes this message timeless,” Father Apostoli said. “This film is a great gift from God.”
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For more information: http://www.ignatius.com/the-13th-day/