Catholic churches and schools were seized by the government, and the wearing of clerics in public, the ringing of church bells, and the celebration of popular religious festivals were banned. From 1911-1916, nearly 2,000 priests, monks and nuns were killed by anti-Christian groups.
In one way, Mary's appearance in 1917, Fr. Haffner noted, was "a remedy for these terrible evils."
"So in that sense, Our Lady remains, as it says in the Book of Revelation or the Apocolypse, the woman who is fighting against the powers of evil, against the dragon, against Satan."
And we get to be a part of that fight, he said. "She gives her sons and daughters a chance, also, to win that battle through Christ her Son. But they have to be dedicated to her, to the Church, and to Christ. And the way of dedication is the way of prayer and sacrifice."
Throughout salvation history, Mary's role is often "unfolded" in the history of mankind, Fr. Haffner pointed out.
"In the history of mankind her role is unfolded in the various quiet little miracles and in the big revelations, like Lourdes, Fatima and La Salette, Our Lady of Walsingham," he said, naming several other Marian apparitions affirmed as worthy of belief by the Church.
"All these different revelations and apparitions teach us of her maternal presence. Mary is a mother to us, she cares for us very tenderly, especially when things seem to go wrong."
"Now things seem often to not go very well for humanity, so Mary is there to pick us up. As Pope Francis often says, 'you know when you fall, try to get up immediately,' but sometimes you can't get up! You have to have a motherly hand, a motherly arm, to help you up."
"And so often in history that hand is found in Mary, he explained. "And that is the link between the apparitions of Our Lady: Mary's motherly hand helping us along the way – a pilgrim way."