By Father MieczysЕ‚aw Piotrowski TChr,
Love One Another! 2/2003 → Eternal life
What the three little shepherds of Fatima saw and heard during the third apparition of July 13, 1917 is known as the “Fatima secret”. The children did not wish to disclose its contents. Only under the urging of her Bishop, did Sister Lucia finally agree to set down the entire vision and the contents of the message.
Before doing this, however, she expressed her inner doubts and apprehensions about the task: “How could I have described hell? I would not have found the words to describe the reality, since my words are nothing. My description is but a pale image of it. In seeking the right words, I might have said it this way, and then a moment later in quite another. I would have brought about so much confusion that God’s work would have been undone”.
This is how Lucia described the third apparition and the vision of hell. “On July 13, 1917, we had just arrived at the Cova da Iria, at the holm-oak, and as we were praying the rosary with all the others gathered with us, we saw the now familiar flash of light, and then Our Lady standing over the holm-oak. ‘What do you want of us?’ we asked her. ‘I want you to pray the rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, begging her for peace in the world and for an end to the war, for only she can win you those favors’”.
Sister Lucia tells us that during this apparition Our Lady conveyed a secret consisting of three distinct parts. “Of these — writes Lucia — I am going to reveal two. The first was a vision of hell. Our Lady said to us: ‘Offer yourselves up for sinners, and say this often, especially when you make your sacrifices: O Jesus, I do this out of love for You, for the conversion of sinners and in atonement for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary’. After saying this, she extended her arms as she had done on the two preceding occasions. A ray of light seemed to pierce the earth and we saw what looked like a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised in the air by the flames that issued from within them together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to strange and frightful beasts, at once black and transparent like glowing coals… We then looked up at Our Lady, who said to us so kindly and so sadly: ‘You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish a devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart [this is the second part of the Fatima Secret – ed.]. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace in the world. The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI [the German annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia during the pontificate of Pius XI was the prologue to WWII, which formally began on September 1, 1939 with the German invasion of Poland during the pontificate of Pius XII – ed.]. When you see a night illumined by a strange light [an extraordinary aurora borealis was seen throughout all of Europe on the nights of January 25 and 26, 1938 – ed.], know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world’”.
At this point Lucia breaks off her account and goes on to discuss the third part of the Secret, which John Paul II decided to make public at Fatima, on May 13, 2000, after the beatification mass of Lucia’s fellow-seers, Francisco and Jacinta.
Lucia recalls that the vision of hell filled the seven-year-old Jacinta with such horror “that every penance and mortification was as nothing in her eyes, if only it could prevent souls from going there… How is it that Jacinta, little as she was, let herself be possessed by such a spirit of mortification and penance, and understood it so well? I think the reason is this: firstly, God willed to bestow on her a special grace, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; and secondly, it was because she had looked upon hell and seen the ruin of souls who fall therein. Some people, even the most devout, refuse to speak to children about hell, in case it would frighten them. Yet God did not hesitate to show hell to three children, one of whom was barely eight years old… Jacinta often sat thoughtfully on the ground or on a rock, and exclaimed: ‘Oh, hell! Hell! How sorry I am for the souls who go to hell! And the people down there, burning alive, like wood in the fire! Then, shuddering, she knelt down with her hands joined, and recited the prayer that Our Lady had taught us: ‘O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in greatest need of Thy mercy’. Now Your Excellency will understand how my own impression was that the final words of this prayer refer to souls in greatest danger of damnation, or those who are nearest it”.
Just before her death, while in hospital in Lisbon, Jacinta spent long hours in prayer. From her room she could see inside a church and its tabernacle. She adored Jesus hidden in the Blessed Sacrament. The Blessed Mother visited her a number of times. After each visitation, Jacinta confided what Our Lady had told her to Sister Godinho.
Among other things, Mary said that “most souls end up in hell because of sins of impurity”. She also said that “if people knew what eternity is, they would surely do everything in their power to change their lives. Fashions offensive to Our Lord will appear in the world. People who serve God cannot be slaves to fashion. There is no place for fashion in the Church. God is always the same”.
According to Sister Lucia, Francisco was less preoccupied by the vision of hell than his sister Jacinta “even though it left a great impression upon him. He focused all his attention on God, the Blessed Trinity, whose great light illuminates the depths of our souls. Later he would say: ‘We burned in that light which is God, yet we were not consumed. What God is like I cannot say. That is beyond anyone’s power’ ”.