We celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13th. On this day in 1917, Our Lady made her first appearance to three shepherd children, Jacinta (age 7), Francisco (age 9) and Lucia (age 10), at Fatima in Portugal. She appeared to them once a month from May through October. The lives of the three children of Fatima were entirely transformed by the heavenly apparitions. While fulfilling the duties of their state with the greatest fidelity, those children seemed now to live only for prayer and sacrifice, which they offered in a spirit of reparation to obtain peace and the conversion of sinners. They deprived themselves of water during the periods of great heat; they gave their lunch to poor children; they wore around their waists thick cords that even drew blood; they abstained from innocent pleasures and urged one another to the practice of prayer and penance with an ardor comparable to that of the great saints.
A Sure Means of Salvation
Our Lady communicated with Lucia, the oldest of the three children, in her six monthly appearances. She asked the Blessed Virgin Mary to take them to Heaven. "Yes," Our Lady answered, "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 myself to adorn His throne".
There are three principal practices of devotion which Our Lady has requested in honor of her Immaculate Heart: the First Saturday of the month, the Five First Saturdays, and the Consecration of Russia. They bear a marked similarity to the devotions in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The Consecration has not been done as Our Lady requested. After a lecture at St. Peter's Church in New York City on January 27, 1988, the following request was made of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI: "Your Eminence, I would like you to ask the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, immediately and in union with all the bishops in the world." He replied: "I know it has to be done!"... clearly indicating that the Consecration has not been done yet, and that it needs to be done*. Cardinals Stickler, Gagnon, and Mayer have also conceded that Our Lady of Fatima's requested consecration of Russia has never been fulfilled. So we must appeal to the Immaculate Heart of Mary to obtain for Our Holy Father the Pope and the bishops of the world the graces to make this consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart, just as she has requested, so that Russia will be converted, so that we will have true peace in the world, and we will have the Reign of Mary and the triumph of her Immaculate Heart. [*View the online video "Heaven's Key to Peace" for more on the Consecration of Russia]
Lucia relates that on June 13th, 1917, after speaking at length about her Immaculate Heart, Our Lady of Fatima again stretched forth her hands, throwing on the children the rays of that immense light in which they saw themselves as if immersed in God . . . The Blessed Virgin held in her right hand a Heart surrounded by thorns, which pierced it from all sides. The seers understood that it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, afflicted by all the sins of the world, which demanded penance and reparation. "It seems to me," said Lucia, "that on that day, the purpose of the light was to pour into us a special knowledge and love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as on other occasions it infused into us the knowledge and love of God, and the mystery of the Blessed Trinity."
Jacinta seems to have received "a special light to understand intimately and in detail the meanings of these heavenly revelations." Before leaving for the hospital in 1919, she said to Lucia: "I am going soon to heaven. You will remain still on earth to make known to men that the Lord wishes to spread in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When you have to speak about it, you will no longer have to hide yourself! Proclaim openly to the whole world that: It is through the Immaculate Heart of Mary that God wishes to grant us His graces! It is from this Immaculate Heart that we must ask for them! The Heart of Jesus wishes the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated with His own! It is through the Immaculate Heart of Mary that peace must be asked, because it is to that Heart that the Lord has confided it. How I love the Immaculate Heart of Mary! It is the Heart of Our Heavenly Mother! Oh! If only I could put into all hearts the fire I feel in my own, which makes me love the Hearts of Jesus and Mary so much!"
To remind the three children of their special vocation and to inspire them to greater fervor and courage for the future, Our Lady said: "Sacrifice yourself for sinners and say often, especially when you make some sacrifice, 'My Jesus, it is for the love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.' "
In each of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, she insisted on praying the Rosary. "Pray the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world." Lucia often repeated and emphasized what Our Lady had first recommended to her: "Yes, she wishes people to recite the Rosary; people must recite the Rosary." Our Lady asked them to add after each decade the short prayer: "Oh my Jesus forgive us our sins; save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to heaven especially those most in need of Thy mercy." In the final apparition on October 13, 1917, Our Lady silently held out the scapular (the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel). Lucia had said that the Blessed Mother wants everyone to wear it: "The Scapular and the Rosary are inseparable."
Lucia spoke to Our Lady of the sick who had been recommended to her. "Yes, I shall cure some of them within the year." But she went on teaching them to pray rather for the health of souls than of bodies. "Pray! Pray a great deal and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to Hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them."
Lucia asked Our Lady about two girls who used to come to her house that had recently died. "Is little Maria Das Neves, who died recently, in Heaven?" "Yes, she is in Heaven." . . . "and Amelia?" "She will be in Purgatory till the end of the world."
Our Lady predicted that God would work a great miracle on October 13, 1917 to prove the authenticity of the apparitions. A tremendous prodigy happened on that day just as Our Lady had promised. For four minutes, the noontime sun spun around giving off various colors, one after the other. If a person at Fatima that day had on a white shirt -- it would turn red, green and blue as the sun spun around. It stopped and started again for four more minutes, this time giving off even more beautiful colors. Then it stopped again. Then it started again. This time it detached itself from its regular position and began to zigzag in the sky. It "danced" for about four minutes, then started to plummet to the earth. It looked like it was the end of the world. Many people fell on their knees to ask for mercy of God. The sun then returned to its original position in the sky. It was witnessed by over 70,000 people who all, both believers and unbelievers, came away acknowledging that a great miracle had occurred. Several learned men present testified: "I have seen it but I cannot explain it."
Blessed Francisco's Death
Francisco was struck down by the well-known Spanish influenza in December, 1918. The little patient suffered for several months always devout, and faithful to his Rosary which he recited eight or nine times a day. When he no longer had the strength to pronounce the words he said them mentally. He was extremely ill and some of the medicines he had to take were not particularly agreeable. "Yet he would take any medicine we gave him," his mother said. "He never fussed. I could never find out what he liked. If I gave him a glass of milk, he took it; and when I gave him an egg, he sucked it. Poor child! He took any bitter medicine without making a face. This gave us hope that he would recover, but he always repeated that it was useless since Our Lady was going to come for him. He knew well what was in store for him." On Thursday, April 3rd 1919, he made his First Communion on his death-bed, all radiant with happiness. On the following day, Friday, April 4th, at 10 o'clock in the evening, he died the death of the elect, with a smile on his lips. He was ten years and nine months old.
Jacinta was attacked by the Spanish plague almost at the same time as her brother Francisco. She too spoke of nothing else than of reciting the Rosary and offering sacrifices for sinners. Towards the end of January, 1920, Jacinta was taken to Lisbon to be operated upon for a persistent lung infection. There she immediately impressed all by her candor, her modesty, her great patience, her perfect submission, her continued prayer and ardent love for Holy Communion which she received every day except when prevented by illness. Many doctors came to examine Jacinta; their only thought was of science and medicine. They discounted the influence God might have on the condition of the patient. The little girl did not hesitate to set them straight on the matter, pointing out the cause of their frequent failures. "Pity doctors. They have no idea what awaits them. Doctors do not know how to treat patients with success because they have no love for God."
The Blessed Virgin continued to encourage this heroic virtue by her apparitions. One day, when Mother Godinho, Superior of the orphanage, came to see her, Jacinta asked her quite naturally: "Could you come back a little later? I am expecting the Blessed Virgin any minute!" The effects of these visits from heaven manifested themselves not only in the supernatural wisdom of the child's words, but also in her predictions. Mother Godinho one day asked Senhora Olimpia, Jacinta's mother, during a visit to the Orphanage: "Would you like your daughters Florinda and Teresa to enter the religious life?" "Heavens no!" that honest and uncomplicated woman exclaimed, and the discussion seemed at an end. A little while later, however, Jacinta, who had heard none of the conversation between the women, confided to Mother Godinho with great seriousness: "Our Lady would like my sisters to be nuns, although my mother would not approve. That is why she will take them both to heaven before very long." If this was an "irresponsible" attempt at prophecy it proved amazingly accurate, since shortly after Jacinta's own death her sisters, Florinda, seventeen, and Teresa, one year younger, followed her to the grave.
One of the doctors who attended her in Lisbon asked her to recommend him to the Blessed Virgin when she went to heaven. Jacinta promised to do so; and then looking at the doctor she said to him: "You will follow me soon!" To another doctor, who recommended himself and his daughter to her prayers, she promised to pray for them and added: "You will follow me soon; first your daughter and then yourself!" These predictions, as well as several others, were fulfilled to the letter.
What ardor did not this child of ten preach amendment of life, not only to sinners, but also to faithful souls! How she insisted on flight from sin, the practice of the Christian virtues and penance! "Oh!" she said to the Superioress of the Orphanage in Lisbon, "if men only knew what eternity is, how they would make all possible efforts to amend their lives! Dear Godmother (she addressed the Superioress in this way), mortification and sacrifice give great pleasure to Our Divine Lord! Oh! Fly luxury! Fly riches! Love holy poverty and silence. Be very charitable even towards the wicked! Never speak evil of anyone and avoid those who do. Be very patient because patience leads to heaven. Pray much for sinners! Pray much for priests, for Religious, for Governments! The sins of the world are too great! The sins which lead most souls to Hell are sins of the flesh! Certain fashions are going to be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much. Those who serve God should not follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions; Our Lord is always the same. Many marriages are not good; they do not please Our Lord and are not of God. . . . Oh! Men must do penance! If they amend their lives Our Lord will still pardon the world; but if they do not, the chastisement will come! Priests should occupy themselves only with the affairs of the Church! They must be pure, very pure." Mother Godinho asked her: "Do you know what it means to be pure?" "Yes, Yes. I know to be pure in body means to be chaste, to be pure in mind means not to commit sins; not to look at what one should not see, not to steal or lie, and always to speak the truth, even if it is hard. The disobedience of priests and of religious to their Superiors and to the Holy Father offends Our Lord very much! If the government left the Church in peace and gave liberty to our holy religion, they would be blessed by God. Our Lady said that there are many wars and discords in the world. Wars are only punishments for the sins of the world. She stated that she could not stay the arm of her Beloved Son upon the world anymore. It is necessary to do penance. If people amend themselves, Our Lord shall still come to the aid of the world. If they do not amend themselves, punishment shall come."
When Jacinta was at the orphanage in Lisbon, before she was sent to the hospital, she spent every possible moment in the chapel kneeling with her eyes riveted on the tabernacle. Seeing people in church being irreverent toward the Blessed Sacrament upset her greatly. She stated that Our Lady does not want us to talk in church. One day she heard visitors discussing faults of a certain priest who had been forbidden to say Mass. Jacinta began to weep for sorrow and she said people should not talk about priests but they should rather pray for them.
Blessed Jacinta's Death
February 20th came. Jacinta seemed about the same; she might last a few more days, she might go any moment. About six o'clock in the evening the child said she was not feeling well and she wanted to receive the last rites of the Church. A priest was called, heard her confession and promised to bring her Communion in the morning. Jacinta asked him to bring it immediately but he could see no reason for alarm. She insisted that she was to die shortly. At ten-thirty, she died peacefully without having her wish fulfilled. She had just turned ten years old. The news of the child's death spread fast through the city and crowds flocked to the church to see the body.
The undertaker testified that he never before nor after had a case like Jacinta's. "It seems to me that I can still today see the little angel. Laid in the casket she seemed to be still alive, in her full beauty with rosy cheeks and lips. I have seen many bodies in my business, young and old. Never did a thing of this sort happen to me before nor since." The pleasant aroma that exhaled from her body cannot be explained. The worst unbeliever could not question it . . . Though the child had been dead three days, the aroma was like a bouquet of flowers.
Fifteen years after Jacinta's death, her body was transferred to the cemetery of Fatima. When her casket was opened on this occasion her little body was still whole and incorrupt.
It is hoped that everyone who reads this article will become most serious about their salvation by practicing the prayers, devotions and penitential life as prescribed by Our Lady and Blessed Jacinta.