By Sr. Sara Lozano, SHM
2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady in Fatima (Portugal). Amidst the tumultuous time of World War II and the Russian Revolution, God sent Our Blessed Mother to the world so she could remind her children to return to God before it would be too late. In Him alone would they find peace and hope. God would reign in the world through the triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. The “Lady dressed in white” entrusts this important message to the three humble shepherd children: Lucia, age 10, and her cousins Francisco, age 9, and Jacinta, age 7. These children will prove to be faithful to their mission. “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God to bear all the sufferings which He wants to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and for the conversion of sinners?” the Lady asked them in the first apparition. “Yes, we are,” they responded with confidence.
The three shepherd children had a special affection among themselves. At home, they had all three been raised with a strong sense of piety, love for Our Lord and for His Mother. One day, while they were tending their flocks in the fields, they received the first apparition of the angel. It was Spring of 1916. Lucia tells of how the angel “knelt, bending his forehead to the ground. With a supernatural impulse we did the same, repeating the words we heard him say: ‘My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.’ After repeating this prayer three times the angel rose and said to us: ‘Pray in this way. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to you.’” In a second apparition, the angel invited them to offer constant prayer and sacrifices for sinners and in order to bring peace to their homeland; and in the third, he taught them to adore the Most Blessed Sacrament prostrated before it, reciting a prayer to the Most Holy Trinity. He gave them Holy Communion and asked them to make reparation for the offenses committed against the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ, to console God. The children made every effort to obey what the divine messenger had told them. That was their way of preparing to receive Our Lady’s visit on May 13, 1917.
After she became a nun, Lucia gave a detailed account of the apparitions and the message that Our Blessed Virgin Mary had entrusted to them. While the children were looking after the sheep and playing on the slope of Cova de Iría, property that belonged to Lucia’s family, they suddenly saw a flash of lightning. Lucia told the others that they had best be on their way home, as it seemed a storm was on its way. As they made their way down the slope, they saw another two flashes of lightning. Lucia recalls, “We saw on a holm oak a lady dressed in white, shining brighter than the sun, giving out rays of clear and intense light, just like a crystal goblet full of pure water when the fiery sun passes through it. (…) Our Lady told us, ‘Don’t be afraid of me, I’m not going to harm you.’ ‘Where are you from?’ I asked. ‘I come from heaven.’ ‘And what do you want of me?’ ‘I want you to return here on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months, and at the very same hour.’ ‘Later I shall tell you who I am, and what it is that I most desire.’”
Our Lady kept her promise and confirmed her apparition with a miracle that was witnessed by thousands on October 13, 1917.
The following are the most important parts of Our Lady’s message entrusted to the three shepherd children:
-We must go to Heaven. As soon as Lucia realized that Our Lady had come from Heaven, she asked her if they would go to Heaven. They knew this was important and that this life is meant to lead us there, where we will be together with Our Lord, Our Blessed Mother, the angels, and saints. How often do we think about this?
-We are asked to adore and make reparation for the offenses the Lord receives in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The shepherd children often went to visit Jesus “hidden” in the Eucharist, so as to accompany Him and console Him, given the many times He is offended. They constantly prayed the prayers that the angel had taught them.
-Our Lady comes to ask that we pray and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. This was something the shepherd children understood well, especially after Mary granted them a vision of Hell, where so many souls of poor sinners go. Before such a horrifying vision, every sacrifice seemed small to them, as long as it could stop souls from falling into Hell. Our Lady had told them, “Pray a lot and make sacrifices for sinners. Take note that many souls go to hell because there is no one who prays or makes sacrifices for them.”
-God shows us where we can find our anchor of salvation in these times: devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. “Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it. These souls shall be loved by God, as flowers that I place to adorn His throne.” These were Our Lady’s words to Lucia. Our Lady’s Heart is also offended by men and asks for reparation. That was what the shepherd children witnessed. “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” Years later, Mary would appear once again to Sister Lucia in Tuy (Pontevedra), to reveal the devotion of the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. Our Blessed Mother wants to see all men saved. Her Heart is open to them all. “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”
-Our Lady asks that the Rosary be prayed every day for peace in the world and the end of the war, as well as to obtain any special grace that is needed. She wishes to be called, “Our Lady of the Rosary”. She asked the shepherd children to repeat after each decade, “O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of Hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.”
-The “secrets” of Fatima are certainly meant to lead to the conversion of mankind. The angel in the vision of the third “secret” shouted: “Penance! Penance! Penance!”
Our merciful God continues to call us, His children, to stop offending Him and return to Him through the Heart of Mary. May we follow the example of the shepherd children of Fatima, embracing the message of Our Heavenly Mother who continues to accompany us, in an effort to save as many of her children as she can.
©HM Revista; nº196 May-June 2017