The message of Fatima

The following is a brief consideration of Our Lady's three requests: penance, prayer and devotion to her Immaculate Heart.

    In the Gospels the word penance means a conversion of one's life, a turning away from sin, and a turning back to God. As Our Lady insisted at Fatima: "Men must amend their lives, and ask pardon for their sins. . . . They must no longer offend Our Lord, Who is already so much offended." The Fatima message is a call for men to give up sinful practices which grieve God and draw down His chastisements on the world, and to make reparation for them. Commenting on Our Lady's request for penance, Sr. Lucia wrote: "The part of the last apparition which has remained most deeply imprinted on my heart is the prayer of our heavenly Mother begging us not to offend any more Almighty God, Who is already so much offended."

    Jacinta, too, shortly before her death remarked: "If men only knew what eternity is, how they would make all possible efforts to amend their lives . . . mortification and sacrifice give great pleasure to Our Divine Lord."

    In August of 1917 Our Lady told the children, "pray much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because there is no one to make sacrifices for them." As to the kinds of sacrifices Our Lady was asking, she revealed to Sr. Lucia on one occasion: "The good Lord is allowing Himself to be appeased . . . but He Himself complains most bitterly and sorrowfully about the small number of souls in His grace who are willing to renounce whatever the observance of His laws requires of them."

    "Many persons," Sr. Lucia explained, "feeling that the word penance implies great austerities, and not feeling that they have the strength for great sacrifices, become discouraged and continue a life of lukewarmness and sin." Then she said Our Lord explained to her: "The sacrifice required of every person is the fulfillment of his duties in life and the observance of My law. This is the penance that I now seek and require."

    In this materialistic culture in which we live, almost heroic virtue is required to be faithful to the duties of the Christian life. Yet, over and above those sacrifices "required of every person," the children of Fatima practiced many little acts of mortification and renunciation on their own initiative. It is hoped that many devotees of Our Lady will not be content with the minimum required and will not pass up opportunities of voluntary mortification, placing in the hands of Our Lady the fruits of the little trials, frustrations and irritations of each day accepted with patience and resignation.

    It was in this same spirit that the Angel spoke to the children in 1916: "Offer up everything in your power as a sacrifice to the Lord in reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners . . . More than all else, accept and bear with resignation the sufferings that God may send you."


    Besides a call to penance Fatima is in a special way a call for the Rosary. So central is the Rosary to the Fatima message that Our Lady chose to identify herself as "The Lady of the Rosary." In each of the six apparitions she asked for the daily Rosary, and especially as an instrument of world peace. As she revealed in the third apparition: "You must recite the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war for only she can obtain this." In this Our Lady renewed her request for the prayer she gave to the Church centuries before, a prayer that has proven a powerful weapon against the enemies of Christianity as history testifies.

    When asked about the importance of the Rosary, Sr. Lucia responded: "My impression is that the Rosary is of greatest value not only according to the words of Our Lady at Fatima, but according to the effects of the Rosary one sees throughout history. My impression is that Our Lady wanted to give ordinary people, who might not know how to pray, this simple method of getting closer to God."

    The Rosary is basically a gospel prayer, and for those who pray it properly, it is, as Sr. Lucia said, "a simple method of getting closer to God." But to pray it properly requires that each decade be a reflection on some aspect of the joyful, sorrowful or glorious mysteries of our redemption. Without that meditation, the Rosary would become monotonous repetition. As Pope Paul VI wrote in MARIALIS CULTUS: "Without this (contemplation) the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas." In praying the Rosary we can well take Our Lady as a model, for as the Scriptures tell us, "Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her Heart."

    The Rosary is a simple form of prayer that can be prayed by the young or old, the learned or the uneducated, the saint or the sinner. Each can adapt it to his or her own capacity. It is so pleasing to Our Lady, because it brings us to review again and again the life of Christ, the mysteries of our redemption. As Pope Paul VI pointed out, it not only recalls to mind these mysteries, but stimulates the will to draw from them the norms of living. That is, it not only points out the way, but helps us to obtain the graces needed to follow in that way.

    After repeatedly asking for the daily Rosary, and identifying herself as "The Lady of the Rosary," the Blessed Mother terminated the final apparition by showing the children three separate tableaux symbolizing the entire message of the Rosary. The first was a vision of the Holy family - representing the joyful mysteries; the second a vision of Our Lady of Sorrows - representing the sorrowful mysteries; and the third a vision of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel - representing the glorious mysteries.

    The Rosary may seem like an insignificant thing in the light of the magnitude of the evils of today's world, but it is the weapon given to us by Our Lady. She merely asks our cooperation, and she will do the rest. It is like the slingshot of David that killed the mighty enemy because the power of God was behind it. Thus, as the saying goes, he who prays the Rosary has the power of God in his hand.


    In 1916, a year before the apparitions of Our Lady, the Angel of Peace appeared to the children to prepare them for things to come. "The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy for you," he said. "Offer unceasingly to the Most High prayer and sacrifices."

    In the second apparition the following year (June 13) Our Lady let the children know that "Jesus wishes to establish throughout the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart." Several times in the June and July apparitions Our Lady spoke of this devotion, as we shall see; and soon there began to burn in their hearts (especially Jacinta's) a deep love for the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

    Shortly before Jacinta went to the hospital where she was to die, she said to Lucia: "In a short time now I am going to heaven. You are to stay here and say that God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. . . . Tell everybody that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and that they must ask them from her. Tell them that the Heart of Jesus wishes that by His side should be venerated the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask peace through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; God has placed it in her hands. Oh that I could put into the heart of everybody the flame that I feel burning within my breast and which makes me love so much the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary."

    June 13, 1917

    Lucia asked Our Lady if she would take them to heaven. Our Lady answered: "Yes, I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. You, however, are to stay here a longer time. Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish the devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world. I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and their souls will be loved by God as flowers placed by me before His throne."

    When Lucia asked if she were going to be left alone, Our Lady responded: "No, my daughter. Does this cause you to suffer a great deal? I will never leave you, my Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God."

    As the Blessed Mother uttered these words she extended her hands and in the rays of light that shone from them, the children saw themselves as if submerged in the Divine presence. Jacinta and Francisco were on the side of the light that was ascending to Heaven, while Lucia was in the light that seemed diffused over all the earth. In the palm of her right hand was a Heart pierced with thorns; and the children understood that it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so offended by the sins of mankind and pleading for reparation.

    July 13, 1917

    "Sacrifice yourselves for sinners; and say often when you make some sacrifice, 'My Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.'"

    After showing the children a vision of hell, Our Lady said to them: "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish throughout the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people do as I shall ask many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.... But if people do not cease offending God... another and more terrible war will begin. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign that God gives that the chastisement of the world for its many transgressions is at hand through war, famine, persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father."

    "To prevent this, I shall come to ask the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and Communions of reparation on the first Saturdays. If my requests are heard, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, fomenting wars and persecution of the Church. The good will suffer martyrdom; the Holy Father will suffer much; different nations will be annihilated. But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, which will be converted, and some time of peace will be granted to humanity."

      NOTE: From the above, we must not think of the Five First Saturdays merely in terms of personal salvation, of receiving "at the hour of death the graces necessary for salvation;" but also in terms of world peace, of avoiding the terrible social consequences mentioned above by Our Lady.

    December 10, 1925

    The visits of Our Lady to Lucia did not end with those in 1917. In fact it was only through later apparitions that Lucia received permission to make known some of the messages revealed in 1917.

    While Lucia was in her room at the convent of the Sisters of St. Dorothy, Our Lady and the Child Jesus appeared to her. Resting her right hand on Lucia's shoulder, the Blessed Mother held in her other hand a Heart surrounded by sharp thorns. The Divine Child was the first to speak to Lucia: "Have pity on the Heart of your most Holy Mother. It is covered with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to remove them with an act of reparation."

    Then Our Lady made known her request for Communions of reparation: "My daughter, look at my Heart encircled with the thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Do you 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 and receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary and keep me company for 15 minutes while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary with the intention of making reparation to me."

    Every sin, great and small, is an offense against God for which reparation must be made. Yet, so dear is the Heart of Mary to her Divine Son, and so much is He pained at the offenses and blasphemies against her Immaculate Heart that, as Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P. expresses in his book VISION OF FATIMA:

    "God has told us now, through Fatima, that we can make reparation to Him if we repair the sufferings we have caused her. The Heart that received the fullness of participation in the divine life, that knew the affections of a mother for Jesus Christ during the years at Nazareth, that went through the agony of seeing Him die, that honors Him in heaven more than all the rest of creation, is now gloriously proclaimed by Him through Fatima."

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