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Fatima Today

Rue du Bac and the gift of the Miraculous Medal, Lourdes and the gift of the healing spring, La Salette, Fatima — all Marian revelations forming a chain of miraculous divine interventions in our time. Now that a full ninety years separates us from the last of these, the apparitions at Fatima, it might be worthwhile to take stock of the events and their results. Have Our Blessed Mother’s appeals been heeded? Have her instructions been carried out? Have her requests been fulfilled?

In the divine plan, each Marian revelation represents a stage in salvation history, a sign pointing not only to the time of the apparitions, but also to our whole future. It is a reminder of the Gospel, a fingerpost, a call to change what is evil, an occasion of grace, and — a warning. We should therefore read it not as something that was, and has passed, but as something that endures, that is still current and alive. To understand the messages properly, we must know their historical context and discern how they still apply to the whole world and, even more so, to ourselves — here and now. In calling us to penance, prayer, and a devotion to her Immaculate Heart, the Mother of God addresses me personally.

The Church recognizes in the revelations of Fatima an especially rich message addressed to all people. “If the Church,” observed Pope John Paul II in his 1982 homily at Fatima,” has accepted the message of Fatima, it is primarily because this message embraces the truth and the call of the Gospel. ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’ (Mark 1:15). These are the very first words that the Messiah speaks to mankind. Like the Gospel, the message of Fatima is essentially a call to conversion and repentance. This appeal went out at the beginning of the twentieth century and its burden applies especially to the present century.”

The twenty-first century has barely begun, but the appeal from Fatima has lost none of its relevance. The world still stands in need of conversion and repentance. The Holy Father continues: “The call to repentance is a maternal call, and yet it is strong and unequivocal. Love, which rejoices in the right (1 Corinthians 13:6), can be demanding and resolute.” Let us not forget this “maternal call.” 

The Fatima events

On May 13, 1917, three shepherd children, Lucia (aged 10), Francisco (aged nine), and Jasinta (aged 7), were grazing their flock in the grassy valley of Cova da Iria, at the foot of a rocky hill. Two lightning bolts preceded the appearance of “the most beautiful Lady we had ever seen.” “I have come from heaven,” the stranger told them. A conversation followed, after which the “beautiful Lady” asked the children if they wished to offer themselves and their sufferings to God in reparation for sins and the conversion of sinners. On receiving an affirmative reply, the Lady instructed them to pray the rosary. She also told them that she would return to the same place on the thirteenth day of every month until October. The children anxiously awaited the Lady’s next visit, all the while performing numerous acts of mortification “for the conversion of sinners.”

During their next meeting in June, Our Lady asked the children to pray the rosary with the addition, at the end of each decade, of a short prayer beginning with the words: “Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell….” To Lucia, Mary said: “Through you, God wishes to make me better known and loved and to establish a devotion to my Immaculate Heart throughout the whole world. To all those who accept it, I promise my help. God will love their souls, and I shall set them down like flowers before His throne.”    

During the third visitation, in July, Mary told them: “Continue to pray the rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, that the war may end [World War One was then in progress — ed.] and that peace may reign in the world.” Next, she showed the children a vision of hell: “We saw what looked like an ocean of fire, and plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form….They seethed round and round in the flames and uttered shrieks of terror.” The children were stricken by the vision. Mary told them: “You have seen hell, where the souls of sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish a devotion to my Immaculate Heart throughout the world. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace in the world. But if people do not cease offending God…” And here Our Lady spoke of another, much worse, war to come [World War Two] along with famines and persecutions of the Church. “To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and a Holy Communion of Reparation on the first Saturday of every month. 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 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.” Here ended this part of the message that Mary wished to be made known to the world. The rest of her message remained a secret until January 2, 1944, when she instructed Lucia, then a nun in a convent in Tuy, to record the words and vision she had received and convey them to her bishop.   

News of the events occurring in Cova da Iria began to spread like wildfire. More and more people began to converge on the site on the thirteenth day of the month. Local authorities and groups ill-disposed toward the Church began to mount a campaign against the apparitions and harass the little visionaries. Even the parish priest was skeptical and suspected the children of lying. On August 13, the mayor held the children in detention, thus preventing their meeting with Our Lady. But on August 19, when the children were grazing their sheep at the usual time, Our Blessed Mother appeared again.

On the thirteenth of September, 30,000 people awaited the apparition at Cova da Iria. They saw a white cloud envelop the children and the holm oak, on which the Lady made her appearances. That day Mary again reminded her little charges to pray the rosary for an end to the war. She also told them that in October, during her last apparition, she would work a miracle, that all might believe that it was indeed she who had appeared.

On October 13, an enormous crowd, over 70,000 strong, gathered at the apparition site. The sky was dark and overcast, and a heavy rain was falling. All were soaked to the skin, up to their ankles in mud. Suddenly the rain stopped and sun broke through the clouds. In the words of eyewitness Dominic Reiss: “The sun began to dance from one place to another, all the while changing color, blue, yellow — every color you could izine! Then the sun hurtled down toward the children, toward the tree. Everyone cried out in terror….My mother drew me to herself and began to cry, saying, ‘It’s the end of the world!’ But then the children got up and began to walk among the people, saying, “Pray, pray hard. Everything is all right now.’”

The Bishop of Fatima, in relating this miraculous event, wrote: “Thousands of people witnessed the dancing of the sun. The phenomenon went unrecorded by the astronomical observatory, which indicates that this was not a natural occurrence. [Yet] people of diverse groups and every social class saw it: believers, non believers, journalists of Portugal’s leading dailies, and even people who had been part of the crowd.”  

Prior to the miracle of the sun, Our Blessed Mother had told the little shepherds: “I am Our Lady of the Rosary. Pray the rosary daily. It is important for people to repent and beg forgiveness for their sins. May they never again offend the Lord God, who is already deeply offended.” After their conversation, Saint Joseph appeared with the Child Jesus in his arms, and later the Lord Jesus appeared Himself.

With the miracle of the sun the revelations given at Cova da Iria came to an end.

The fate of the visionaries

But these were not the last revelations that Jasinta, Francisco, and Lucia received. Lucia set them down later, after the deaths of Francisco and Jasinta, for, as Our Lady had told them, they would both die soon: Francisco in 1919, Jasinta in 1920. Jasinta saw Our Blessed Mother again, when she was already ill. Mary told her “she would soon come to take Francisco to heaven as well. And she asked me [Lucia] if I would still like to convert more sinners. When I said yes, she told me that I would spend time in hospital, where I would suffer considerably; and she asked me to suffer for the intention of converting sinners, as reparation for sins.”

Jasinta also had several apocalyptic visions of wars resulting from man’s rejection of God as well as persecutions of the Church and the Holy Father. The only way of saving the situation was through prayer, saying the rosary, especially together with the family, and by consecrating ourselves to the Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Only this total consecration of ourselves to Jesus through Mary will conquer the power of evil and avert punishment for sins.

In 1925, Lucia joined the convent of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Tuy, Spain. That same year, Our Blessed Mother appeared to her again and showed her her heart. “My daughter, look at my heart and this crown of thorns encircling it. Every minute sinners press the crown into my heart through their blasphemies and acts of ingratitude. At least you console me; and make known my promise that to all those who for five successive first Saturdays of the month make their confession, receive Holy Communion, say a decade of rosary, and meditate with me for fifteen minutes on one of mysteries of the rosary in reparation for sins, I shall, at the hour of their death, come bearing help, along with all the graces necessary for their eternal happiness.”

In 1929, Lucia received a symbolic vision of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ nailed to the cross. Under Christ’s breast was a host and chalice, and dripping over the host were droplets of blood from His face and the wound in His side. At His right stood His Blessed Mother with her heart in her hand, and at His left an inscription (“as if of crystal-clear water flowing onto the altar”), bearing the words, “Grace” and “Mercy.” “I understood that the mystery of the Holy Trinity had been confided to me” — stated Lucia.

Since so many people came to the convent to visit and inquire about the apparitions, Lucia asked the church authorities for permission to join the Carmel, where she could enjoy strict enclosure. On receiving permission, she entered the Carmelite convent in Coimbre, where she took the name Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart. There Sister Maria Lucia lived until the age of ninety-eight. She died in 2005 — the same year as John Paul II.  

The Fatima message for today and tomorrow

Our Lady’s appeals from Fatima are still relevant today. She has told us this during her subsequent apparitions at Montichiari-Fontanelle and Medjugorie. World events have borne out her prophetic words: the fall of Communism without bloodshed, John Paul II miraculously surviving an attempt on his life on May 13, 1981, the return of freedom to many countries, including an end to religious persecution there, and the restoration of the Catholic Church in those countries where it had been banished. But we are still far from enjoying universal peace and, in many countries God’s law is being increasingly squeezed out of public life. The consecration of specific countries to Mary is of little avail if is unaccompanied by a corresponding conversion within the heart of every single human being.

What specifically, then, does Our Lady of Fatima’s expect of us ninety years after her apparitions?

1. That we spread and deepen our devotion to Our Blessed Mother and her Immaculate Heart so intimately bound to the Heart of Jesus: “Jesus wishes that I be better known and loved.”

2. That we pray the rosary as often as possible, preferably every day and with the family. Mary expressed this wish almost every time she spoke with the visionaries. “I am Our Lady of the Rosary.” She also urges us to avail ourselves frequently of the Sacrament of Penance and so remain in a state of sanctifying grace, to receive the Holy Eucharist as often as possible, and to read and meditate on Holy Scripture.

3. That we pray, offer sacrifices, and do penance for the conversion of sinners. The world is ignoring God, trampling His laws, and sinking into the darkness of evil. Both God and Our Blessed Mother require our repentance and acts of reparation. “Offer yourselves up for sinners and repeat many times over, especially when you are making a sacrifice: ‘O Jesus, I do this out of love for you, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart’” (July 13, 1917).

4. That we offer up the first Saturdays of the month to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. All those who for five successive first Saturdays of the month make their confession, receive Holy Communion, say a decade of they rosary, and meditate for fifteen minutes on one of mysteries of the rosary in union with the Blessed Mother, have the following assurance: “these souls shall receive special graces, and I shall set them down them like flowers before the throne of God”; “To those who accept this devotion, I promise salvation”; “and at the hour of their death I shall come bearing help, along with all the graces necessary for their eternal happiness”(December 10 1925).

5. That we consecrate ourselves personally to Our Blessed Mother. Her Immaculate Heart wishes to be a refuge for all, especially repentant souls. “If people do not repent, God will send a punishment such as the world has not yet seen”; but, “in the end, my Immaculate Heart shall triumph.” Both Our Lady’s message at Fatima and Our Lord’s as conveyed to Saint Faustina assure us that the Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary will overcome evil, but our cooperation with them is indispensable. Our fate and the fate of the whole world lies in the Two Hearts, but it also lies in our own hands.

Teresa Tyszkiewicz

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