Co-Written by Monika Culjak
Mary is our direct path to Jesus. She brings his message to us so that we can lead a life of holiness and enjoy the presence of Jesus in Heaven. In her messages at Fatima, she calls us to constant conversion: to turn our day into a constant state of prayer and sacrifice.
“More brilliant than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal glass filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.”
This is how 10 year old Lucia, 8 year old Francisco, and 7 year old Jacinta described Mother Mary when she appeared to them in Fatima, Portugal 103 years ago. On the 13th day of every month from May to October of 1917, Our Lady of Fatima would appear to the children, promising peace to the entire world if her requests for prayer, reparation, and consecration were met. The children were met with ridicule and disbelief - even their parents questioned why Our Lady would appear to three peasant shepherds. Despite this doubt, the children continued to return to Our Lady who promised that in her final appearance she would perform a miracle which would lead all to believe that the children were telling the truth. On October 13, 1917 a huge crowd of pilgrims gathered in Fatima. What happened that day is now known as The Miracle of the Sun. Witnesses report that after a period of long rain the dark clouds parted, revealing an opaque, spinning sun. It appeared duller than normal, and cast multicolored rays across the land and the crowds. Suddenly, the sun began to “dance”, zig-zagging across the sky towards the crowds below. Just as suddenly as it began, it stopped and returned to its spot in the sky.
After “The Day the Sun Danced”, the children were asked repeatedly what Our Lady had told them. They revealed that over the course of the 5 months Mary had entrusted them with three secrets.
The Three Secrets
The first was a vision of Hell. From Mary’s hands came rays of light, penetrating the ground in front of the children. What appeared before them seemed like a sea of fire. Immersed in the flames were devils and souls with human forms suffering as though they were burning. The children have described the scene saying that it was as though souls were falling into the fire like snowflakes.
The second secret predicted the end of World War 1, but predicted a worse war if people did not cease offending God. This greater war would be prefaced by a sign, “a great light”, so that we would know the time of chastisement was near. To avoid this, Mary asked that Russia be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart and for the establishment of the First Saturdays Devotion. The church listened to the message from Our Lady, but chose to consecrate the whole world to the Immaculate Heart rather than just Russia. A few years later aurora borealis appeared over the northern hemisphere, reaching cities as far south as California. It was the widest occurence of the aurora since 1709. At the time Lucia indicated that this was the sign foretold to her and her cousins. Just a month later, Hitler seized Austria. Eight months later he invaded Czechoslovakia. World War 2 had begun.
The Third secret was a vision of the death of the Pope and other religious figures. This secret has been the cause of much speculation. Many believe it was fulfilled on May 13, 1981 when Mehmet Ali Ağca made an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II’s life in St. Peter’s Square.
So what can we learn from the occurrences at Fatima? Throughout her apparitions, Our Lady encouraged many sincere actions that would benefit not only our souls, but all the souls around us. She spoke often of offering up our suffering during the day, encouraging us to offer up our trials and tribulations for the conversion of sinners and non-believers. Many of you have probably heard the expression, “offer it up,” but how often do we take the time to pause and ask God to turn our suffering into glory? By “offering it up” we can join with the angels in spiritual warfare for the salvation of souls, growing in holiness and bringing peace to our loved ones, our country, and the Church. As Pope John Paul II preached, there are those who won’t do their penance so we must do it for them. In doing so, we can imitate what Christ meant when he asked us to take up our cross and follow him every day.
Power of the Rosary
“Pray the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world”
In each of her six apparitions in Fatima, Our Lady also encouraged the daily recitation of the Rosary. More than just a structured prayer, the rosary is a devotion to the Blessed Mother. As a biblical form of prayer, it allows us to see the life of Jesus through a unique perspective: the eyes of His Mother. To add to its beauty, Our Lady revealed to us through her apparitions that it has the power to end wars, convert sinners, and bring about worldwide peace. It is no wonder she put such great emphasis on this weapon. It is with those beads that we, as ordinary people, can change the world. As Lucia said, it “is the most pleasing prayer we can offer to God and one which is most advantageous to our own souls. If such were not the case, Our Lady would not have asked for it so insistently.” A prayer that all of us can recite regardless of our circumstances, her call to recite it daily is a strong one - one that will help her Immaculate Heart triumph!
Not only do the apparitions at Fatima reveal to us what Our Lady wants us to do, they also set an example by which all the laity should follow. As the apparitions became more widely known about, the local government imprisoned Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta. With its growing popularity, government officials wanted to have the children recant the apparitions and their statements. Just as their families had a hard time believing them, so did those in charge. They even threatened to boil them in hot oil if they chose not to do as they said. Unfearful, all of them refused and were ready to face the unimaginable and inhumane consequences. They were ready to be martyrs. They encountered the truth and were willing to die for it. What an example for the rest of us! While facing a society that does not always follow the Truth, we are called to stand up for it even in the wake of martyrdom.
Heaven, Hell, & Purgatory
Lastly, the Fatima messages remind us of the afterlife. During the first apparition Lucia asked Our Lady about a few people who had recently died. Mary told the children that one of the women they asked after was already in Heaven, while the other would be in purgatory til the end of time. This is a troubling concept but an important reminder - we need to be purified from our sins before we can enter Heaven. This is also why we must continue to pray for those who have gone before us and for those who do not believe - our penance and prayer can save more than just our own hearts. The apparitions also remind us of the reality of Hell and the consequence of sin. Knowing about Hell should make us desire Heaven all the more.
The messages from Fatima are as relevant today as they were 103 years ago: we are called to conversion, to turn our days into a constant prayer. In the words of Saint Louis de Montfort, “To go to Jesus, we must go to Mary; she is our mediatrix of intercession.” Mary is our direct path to Jesus. She brings his message to us so that we can lead a life of holiness and enjoy the presence of Jesus in Heaven.