On May 13, 1917 Mary appeared to three young children at the Cova da Iria just outside Fatima, Portugal. One hundred years later we are still filled with awe not only because Mary appeared with messages at that time, but because they remain relevant today as well as for our future. Whether one puts credence into apparitions or not, the messages deserve attention because while they seem dire, we must not forget that the ultimate origin and intent borne by Our Lady of Fatima is that of love and mercy. The events at Fatima reveal a work of love that originated with the desire of God not to lose even one of His children to the effects of sin, the very reason Jesus died and rose. The Easter season is about the triumph of Jesus over the powers of sin and death and so it seems appropriate to revisit the messages of Fatima at this time. It is also important because we must continue to impart the message to our children and to those unaware of what Mary came to tell us. The appearance of Our Lady of Fatima serves as a reminder that we have a responsibility to pray for our world and to share what we have learned by becoming witnesses to mercy, forgiveness, and love. In short, we must become what we pray.
The story of what took place in Fatima is complex, but it began with the preparation of three children who were chosen to receive the warnings of Mary on behalf of her Son, Jesus. In the spring of 1916 nine year old Lucia Abóbora, her cousin Francisco Marto and his sister Jacinta, aged 8 and 6 respectively, were taking care of a small flock of sheep on their family property. An angel appeared to them quite suddenly and said, “Fear not. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.” He then recited a prayer, which he told them to repeat: “O my God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love You.” He instructed them to pray this prayer often, and then he disappeared. He appeared to them three times in the course of that year, teaching other prayers as well. (1)
Then on May 13, 1917, Mary appeared for the first time near the spot where they had previously seen the angel. Being that they were from a tiny town totally removed from news of the world, it was unknown to them that World War I was raging, communism had overtaken Russia, and the events that would cause World War II were forming. Therefore the children could not have been influenced by any outside news, a fact that helped the Church in ascertaining the authenticity of what they recounted. Mary said she would appear on the 13th of every month for a short time and that she would give them many messages of great importance, some of which were to be shared, some that were for them alone, and three that were to remain secret. Though the messages were urgent, Mary’s warnings were meant to help avert war and disaster, and not to wreak despair. (2)
Mary did indeed return as promised, always on the 13th day of the month. She especially asked the children to pray the Rosary and to encourage the faithful to pray it daily so as to diminish the growing effects of sin on the world; she warned that people needed to beg for pardon and mercy because God had become terribly offended by the evil done by so many. Finally, in her last appearance on October 13, 1917, Mary announced herself as Our Lady of the Rosary and gave a promised sign so that the world would know that the children were telling the truth about seeing her and also to give credence to the message that she had asked them to deliver. The miracle that took place that day was the famous miracle of the sun in which thousands of people saw the sun seem to pulsate and then move all over the sky as if in a sort of dance.
Psalm 78 says that “The things we have heard and understood, the things our fathers [and mothers] have told us, these we will not hide from their children but will tell them to the next generation: the glories of the Lord and His might and the marvelous deeds He has done, the witness He gave to Jacob, the law He established in Israel.” (Psalm 78:3-5) The appearances of Our Lady of Fatima underscore this important truth: we have a responsibility to pass down our faith to the next generation. All of the glorious things God has done, all the works of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love must be taught by our words and especially by our deeds. If Easter is to be more than just a one day celebration and if its mysteries are to truly become the core of our faith, then we must share the message of God’s immense love for us. God has done marvelous deeds, but the reality is that like our ancestors in the Old Testament we are prone to forget and we are prone to sin. But God never forgets, nor does His love ever diminish. Therefore He continues to reach out to us, most notably in modern times through the appearances of Our Lady. It falls to us, then, to impart these messages to others, and particularly to the next generation. The biggest sign of the preponderance of evil in our world today is indifference to God and to that which He has taught us. If as a people we are ignorant of and indifferent to God, then we fall prey to sin with greater frequency, act as if we do not need Him, or worse still, begin to believe that He does not exist, therefore turning a blind eye to the ravages of evil, which in turn helps it to continue to grow. The more that happens in the world, the greater danger we are in.
Conversely, if we live our faith and are witnesses to the goodness of God, there are also consequences, albeit good ones. Our prayer, for ourselves and for the good of the world, does have effect. And if we become what we pray, that is, if we grow in holiness through the effect of our prayer, we naturally share its effects with others, too. It means we live our discipleship by sharing the love of God we have experienced. Truly, if we claim to be a Christian, we need to live it visibly. As Jesus said, “What good is it to put a lit candle under a bushel basket?” If we do so, the light will go out. (Paraphrase of Matthew 5:15-16) The light of our faith must be obvious so that we might teach others of the great love and mercy of God.
The message of Our Lady of Fatima is consistent with the entire message of Jesus summed up in this passage: “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) We need to realize anew that God does not want any of us to be lost, which is to say, He does not want us to fall so deeply into sin through our indifference that we would end up rejecting Him and subsequently choosing Hell. Mary was sent to warn us as a sign of God’s mercy so that we might accept the gift given to us by Jesus, and through our prayer, save the world. Our call is to teach by word and deed so that the message of Jesus will continue to go out to the entire world. If we pray as both the Angel of Peace and Our Lady instructed, we can become what we pray: a sign of peace, mercy, and justice for all.
Therefore, let us rejoice that God has sent Mary with a message that continues to be one of mercy and of His infinite care for the welfare of His people. God wants to forgive the sinner, (see Luke 15 as one of many examples); He wants to lavish us with His love, and He especially desires that we would reside with Him in Heaven forever. As we continue to celebrate the season of Easter it would be good to read about the appearances of Mary as Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima. It would be even better if, in addition to our personal prayer, we were to add the prayers taught by the Angel of Peace and to pray the Rosary frequently as requested by Mary. Through these prayers we remember those most in need, and by doing so, the words will take root in our hearts, helping us to become what we pray. Let us rejoice that God never ceases trying to communicate His love for us and that He has provided us with a loving mother who cares very deeply about all her children. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
May we become what we pray: signs of God’s love and mercy in the world! May we heed the messages of Our Lady of Fatima so that the world might be converted to the way of the gospel! May we believe that God is indeed in control, trusting that He is with us even in the midst of suffering! May we continue to trust in God’s goodness, and to adore and worship God alone! And may we continue to grow in Easter joy with gratitude that God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son Jesus so that we might not perish, but have eternal life! Let us meet in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary! Alleluia! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
Note: The next entry will be on May 22.
(1) In addition to the prayer for reparation, the angel taught them to also pray: “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly. I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles in the world, in reparation for all the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.”
Also, Mary taught the children an added prayer for the end of every decade of the Rosary: “Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell; lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy. Amen.”
(2) One of the best sources about the many apparitions of Mary, including Our Lady of Fatima, is from a book called A Woman Clothed with the Sun, edited by John J. Delaney. It is an oldie, but goodie. I re-read the chapter on Fatima for this entry. Another truly excellent book is called Fatima for Today, by Fr. Andrew Apostoli. Both books can be found on Amazon.com.
This website also has some good information: http://www.fatima.org/essentials/facts/story1.asp
1. The first photo is one I took in Fatima, Portugal at the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. In the center background is the basilica which was built to honor Our Lady. The tombs of Blessed Jacinta, Blessed Francisco, and Lucia are inside this church. On the far right of the photo is the golden statue which stands in the actual center of the square and fittingly it is the Angel of Peace. And in the foreground is the enclosure which is now an outdoor chapel on the spot where the children knelt in prayer, awe, and rapt attention at the feet of Mary, who was seen to be hovering over a small tree.
2. The second photo is also mine. I took this at the spot where the Angel of Peace appeared to the children for the first time, during which he taught them the prayer for reparation, as above (1).
3. This is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called Blessed Francisco Marto of Fatima. I chose this because it shows Francisco at prayer with the sun behind him symbolizing how it seemed to pulsate and dance in the sky on the day of the miracle in 1917. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this icon for purchase in one of many forms, it can be found at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/blessed-francisco-marto-of-fatima-081-william-hart-mcnichols.html
4. This is another of my photos, taken at Port Aransas, TX. It was taken in the mid-morning on an obviously hazy day. When the sun broke through the fog momentarily, it turned everything gold as you can see in the photo; it was truly breath-taking. I chose it for this spot in the post because it reminded me of what the psalmist said of “the glories of the Lord” and “the marvels He has done.” These marvels happen all around us though they need to be pointed out to eyes that have either never learned to see or which have become dimmed to these glories for whatever reason.
5. I took this photo in Fatima: where the statue sits is the exact spot where Mary appeared to the children. The tree is long gone because evidently people literally tore it to shreds in an effort to get some sort of relic or keepsake of Mary appearing there. Ah, human nature!
6. This last image is an unknown artist’s rendition of the apparition as it was described by the children. I chose it because it seemed to capture the simplicity of the children and also the bucolic setting. It seems to have begun as a typical day, consisting of the children tending the usual sheep in the usual spot. Yet the day became infused with the light of Heaven as Our Lady came to them with messages of warning for the world which emanated from her Immaculate Heart so filled with love and concern.
Heart Speaks to Heart