This year the Church fittingly celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost on the last day of May, the Month of Mary. The feast of Pentecost reminds us that as Catholics we are blessed and sent by the Spirit to fulfill the mission of the Church which is a continuation of Christ’s own mission: the salvation of souls unto the glory of God. All the baptized are called to participate in Christ’s salvation and are commissioned to unite in fulfilling God’s will both personally in one’s particular vocations and communally as the Church. With the closing of May, I feel impelled to share Our Lady’s message of Fatima, because it is necessary for our lives as Catholics to fulfill the Church’s mission and to establish peace in our hearts, our homes, our Church, and our world. Thus, this post will be a catechesis on the background to the message of Fatima; the message and requests of Our Lady of Fatima; and the importance of living out these requests for our own sake and the sake of the whole world.
Many people may not know this, but Mary, our Blessed Mother and the Mother of God, appeared to three young shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal six separate times from May to October 1917. The three children were Lúcia dos Santos, aged nine, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who were eight and seven years old, respectively. They were poor, illiterate shepherds who tended the family sheep in the hills surrounding the village of Fatima, and before Our Lady first visited them on May 13th, 1917, they experienced three, preliminary visits by an angel in 1916. First, in the spring of 1916, the angel taught and exhorted the children to pray the following to God: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee. I ask pardon for all those who do not believe in thee, do not adore thee, do not hope in Thee, do not love Thee.” Then, in the summer, the angel reappeared and told the children that Jesus and Mary had plans for them, and the angel urged them to offer up sacrifices in reparation for sins and the conversion of sinners. Finally, in the Fall of 1916, the angel appeared with a Host and a chalice, suspended them in mid-air, prostrated itself, and repeated the following prayer three times:
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore thee profoundly, and I offer Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the same son Jesus Christ, present in the Tabernacles of the world, in reparation for all the sacrileges, outrages and indifferences by which He Himself is offended. And by the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.
The angel then repeated the command to make reparation for sins and sinners and encouraged the children to receive the Eucharist as an act of atonement and consolation to Jesus.
On May 13th, 1917, Mary herself appeared to Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta, and spoke to the children about many things, even answering their questions about friends who had died. Our Lady told them she would continue to visit them on the 13th of each month until October, and she instructed the children to, “say the Rosary every day to bring peace to the world and the end of the war [WWI].” In June, Mary taught the children what we now call “the Fatima Prayer” and told them to add it to the end of each decade of the Rosary: “Oh, my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.” Each month, Mary continued to appear to the children and repeated the same requests of the Angel, asking them to pray and make reparation for sin. She revealed many other things to them, including a vision of Hell and the people there, her request for people to devote themselves to her Immaculate Heart, and three main secrets which prophesied persecutions for the Church and suffering throughout the world as a consequence of peoples’ sin and selfishness if people did not amend their lives and heed her requests at Fatima for prayer, penance, and devotion.
On October 13th, 1917, Mary appeared a final time and declared herself the Lady of the Rosary, asking again that all people repent of their sins, seek God’s forgiveness, and do penance to atone for those who refuse to repent. That day Our Lady gave the great sign she had promised to Lucia, “The Miracle of the Sun”, which over 70,000 people gathered in and around Fatima witnessed. The sun grew pale and began to dance around, swooping towards the earth and casting multi-colored rays across the land. Though it had been raining profusely October 12th-13th and all the pilgrims’ clothes were soaking wet, after the miracle of the sun, the saturated ground was instantly dried from wet muck to dry ground, everyones’ sopping clothes were totally dry, and the rain had stopped. Secular and religious newspapers, believers and non-believers alike all reported more or less the same phenomenal event and many came to trust in Mary’s message. In 1930, after formal, canonical investigations the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima gave Church approval for the visions and events of Fatima, declaring them to be worthy of belief for all Catholics and thus vindicating Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta.
From these events and from the writings of Sr. Lucia dos Santos [who learned to read and write and eventually joined a Carmelite community], there have been myriad modes of media that have summarized and spread the Message of Fatima, just as Our Lady asked Lucia to do. In short, Our Lady calls us all to prayer, repentance, reparation, and devotion to her Immaculate Heart. What Mary pleads from us at Fatima applies not only to the month of May but to our whole lives. Our Lady is the Queen of Peace and she desires peace on earth for her children, but she needs our cooperation. First, Mary asked the children to tell the world to pray the rosary daily, for peace, for repentance, and for the forgiveness of sins. She begged them: “Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners. For many souls go to Hell because there is no one to pray for them [August 19, 1917].”
Secondly, Mary called the world to repentance: the continual conversion of one’s life to greater conformity with God’s loving commands, through acknowledging one’s sins and failings, grieving for them, and willingly offering reparation for them. Reparation is a good deed, sacrifice, penance, or prayer offered to God to make up for one’s or another’s failure or refusal to love God. Specifically, Mary and the angel of 1916 enjoined the children and the world to make and offer sacrifices in reparation for sins, particularly sins against the Holy Eucharist and her Immaculate Heart. Our Lord is deeply wounded by the indifference, scorn, sacrileges, and disbelief of the Holy Sacrament that result from a lack of reverence for Him in the Eucharist and the Holy Mass. For a moment, just consider the Pew Research results which came out in August 2019 and sadly reported that less than a third of Catholics believe in the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist– and the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life! No wonder our Blessed Mother begged the children to tell the world to make reparations for lukewarm or outright disrespectful treatment of God in the Eucharist, she could see where the world was going. If such sobering statistics do not give one pause and motivate one to take Fatima’s message to heart, I don’t know what will.
Thirdly, Mary asked that all Christians devote themselves to her Immaculate Heart and delineated how to begin with the Five First Saturdays. She told Lucia, “Do at least try to console me and announce in my name that I promise to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary, and keep me company for a quarter of an hour while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary with the intention of making reparation to me.” [You can learn more about the 5 First Saturdays devotion here and elsewhere online.]
One may ask, why listen to Our Lady of Fatima? Why heed the message? As stated above, Christ has commissioned the Church, His Body, to continue His work of the salvation of souls for the glory of God, and so all Christians must take up their part in the mission. At Fatima, Mary gave the Church concrete ways to take up the mission and address the errors and heal the tumult specific to our times. In my last reflection on Mary, I emphasized Our Blessed Mother’s special vocation to bring all souls to Christ Jesus, and the message of Fatima demonstrates her active concern and advocacy for us. She begs us to listen and respond because she loves us and wants what’s best for us, and so she exhorts us to offer our lives to obtain God’s merciful grace for ourselves and all people. By heeding her instructions, living the message, and trusting in her care, we can join in the struggle to bring peace throughout the world. There’s no better time to begin than now, on the eve of Pentecost and it’s accompanying feast day, the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.
As a silly yet relevant point, Yoda once said: “Do or do not, there is no try.” The same goes for Fatima: we must live it wholeheartedly. Join in with the millions of Catholics worldwide who pray the daily Rosary and offer their daily frustrations, sufferings, and sacrifices for the salvation of the world. When you recognize sin in your life, abandon it, go to confession, and do penance to make up for it. Make acts of charity in reparation for sinners who reject Jesus and Mary, especially for irreverence and disbelief in the Eucharist. Actively cultivate reverence for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in your own habits and disposition. Pray for and love those in most need of God’s mercy, gently inviting them to join you in your dedication to Jesus and Mary. Entrust yourself to Mary’s maternal care and console her Immaculate Heart through the first Saturday devotion and other Marian commitments. And finally, take courage, be joyful, and do not be afraid, for Mary tells us she will never forsake us and that “in the end my Immaculate Heart shall triumph [July 13th, 1917].”
Maria M. Miloscia, M.A.T.M. | Campus Minister at Aquinas House