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The Lord qualifies even the sinner

Chrisma Bangaoil in Fatima in 2012, Portugal (Photo provided)

(Today (May 13) is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. This day recalls the first apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three shepherd children—Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco—in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. On the occasion, Chrisma Bangaoil from the Philippines shares her experience of the visit to Fatima. – Ed) 
Ten years ago, I was in Fatima for the first time. I had only a small digital camera then so to get a good picture of Our Lady of Fatima at the Apparition Chapel, I went inside just below the sanctuary. I saw someone enter and bring flowers, so I followed. I was scolded and escorted out.
In 2017, I went back to Fatima for the third time. This time, I was with Karen (daughter). We were to attend Mass at 3:30 in the afternoon. Since Karen and I were very hungry, we decided to eat first. When we got to the Apparition Chapel, the Mass has not started yet but all the seats were taken except for a few benches at the side. I thought I won't be able to get a good picture of the altar.
As soon as we were seated, a priest (I think he's in charge of the Apparition Chapel, something to that effect) asked if someone was willing to read the Prayers of the Faithful. The woman beside me looked in my direction. I blurted 'me' even before I realized what was being asked.
The priest said 'perfect'. Then, I realized that I was not properly dressed (based on how lectors are dressed in the Philippines). I was wearing a short dress and slippers. I asked the priest if it was alright and he said yes. Then, I figured that I had a shawl whose color did not even match my dress. I wrapped it around my waist and entered the sanctuary. 

Mother Mary in Fatima (Photo by Chrisma Bangaoil)

I was teary-eyed with joy while waiting for the Mass to start. I looked far shabby by the standards of how we serve at the Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel. But I was there seated by the sanctuary.
I was not ready but the Lord chose me to serve at that very moment. I realized that it's not my readiness that qualifies me. The Lord calls and when He does, He makes us ready.
I may have served in hundreds of Masses as a lector and trained hundreds to be lectors as well. But at that very moment, my knees trembled in joyful gratitude.
Indeed, the Lord qualifies even the sinner.
My last trip to Fatima was in 2019. But that experience of serving as a lector in my shabby attire will always be one of my fondest memories.
Happy Feast day!
(Chrisma Bangaoil is a mother, lay missionary, and professor at the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas, Manila, the Philippines) 


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