Friday, 4 February 2011

Our Lady of Fatima - Part 1

In 1917, Portugal seemed destined to follow the path of other European countries and turn increasingly hostile toward religion. Anti-clerical forces had taken the reins of power in the country and the Church was represented as an outdated institution, full of superstition. The new thinking, emboldened by the Great War and an increasingly materialistic western outlook on life, was all for destroying the Church's influence; but the godless forces reckoned without the faith of the Portuguese peasantry and the concern of heaven.

As the Great War raged on, Russia was in a state of crisis by 1916 and this gave the communist revolutionaries under Lenin their chance to take power. Pope Benedict XV made repeated pleas for peace, but to no avail. Finally, in May 1917, he made a direct appeal to Mary to intercede for peace. The response was her first appearance at Fatima, Portugal, just over a week later to three illiterate peasant children – Lucia dos Santos, aged ten, and her two cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged eight and seven respectively. The children had been prepared for their meeting with Mary by an angel, who introduced himself as the "Angel of Peace".

13 May 1917

Jacinta, Lucia, FranciscoOn 13 May 1917 the children took their flocks to an area called Cova da Iria (meaning "peaceful hollow" or "valley of peace"). After eating their lunch and saying the rosary, they suddenly saw a bright flash of something like lightning, followed quickly by another flash in the clear blue sky. Then appeared before them, standing on top of the branches of a young holm-oak tree, "a lady all dressed in white. She was more brilliant than the sun and radiated a light clearer and more intense than a crystal glass filled with sparkling water, when the rays of the burning sun shine through it."

Lucia asked, "Where are you from?" The lady pointed to the sky and said, "I am from heaven."

Lucia then asked what she wanted. The lady replied, "I have come to ask you to come here for six months on the 13th day of the month, at this same hour. Later on I will tell you who I am and what I want. Afterwards I will return here yet a seventh time."

Lucia, curious as ever, then asked if they would go to heaven. The lady replied they would, but Francisco would have to say many more rosaries. Did this mean Francisco was a spiritual cut below the girls? Or was this a diplomatic way of stopping Lucia from asking if her relatives and neighbours were going to heaven too? Lucia's next question was on the same lines, though about a sixteen year old who had died recently.

"Is Maria das Neves in heaven?"

"Yes, she is."

"And Amelia?"

"She will be in purgatory until the end of the world."

Our Lady then asked the children, "Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?" The children could have refused her request at this point, but they willingly acquiesced.

"Then you are going to have much to suffer but the grace of God will be your comfort."

As Our Lady said this, she opened her hands and communicated a light on them, which penetrated their souls and allowed them to see themselves in God. This gesture of Our Lady was to be repeated at three subsequent Apparitions.

"Pray the Rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world, and the end of the war."

Then she began to rise serenely, going up towards the east, until she disappeared.

13 June 1917

Between May and June, the children thought of sacrifices to make for the reparation of sinners, as the Lady had requested, and prayed their Rosaries. For Lucia, the greatest sacrifice came at home where her mother insisted she was lying and tried to force her to recant. The reaction of the local people was also sceptical and even derisory. So just as the Lady had told them, the children had much to suffer.

The 13th of June is the feast of St Anthony, Portugal's patron saint, and the day is marked by festivities across the land. On this particular day, however, the children showed no interest in the activities associated with the saint. Instead, they went to the Cova da Iria and waited for their appointment with Our Lady and recited the Rosary. About fifty or so local people joined them.

Our Lady promptly appeared at midday in the same place, just as she had a month ago. Lucia asked, "What do you want of me?"

"I wish you to come here on the 13th of next month, to pray the Rosary every day, and to learn to read. Later I will tell you what I want."

Lucia then asked Our Lady to take them to heaven. She replied, "Yes. I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and those souls will be loved by God like flowers placed by me to adorn his throne."

Lucia, sad at the first part of this reply, said: "Am I to stay here alone?" To which Our Lady replied, "No my daughter. Are you suffering a great deal? Don't lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God."

One of the witnesses to this Apparition, Maria Carreira, described how Lucia cried out and pointed as Mary departed. She herself heard a noise like "a rocket, a long way off," and saw a small cloud a few inches over the tree, rise, and move slowly toward the east until it disappeared.

13 July 1917

Between June and July, the children had to bear more taunts and insults about their alleged Apparitions. Lucia's mother was so opposed to her daughter's claims that she scolded, threatened and, at times, gave Lucia the silent treatment. Even the local parish priest was not convinced, and he suggested the visions, if they were genuine, could be of satanic origin. So distressed was Lucia that she decided not to go to the Cova on 13 July, and she held that stance until the last moment when she felt drawn by inn force.

Despite the disbelief and hostility shown to the children, word of the alleged Apparitions had spread outside the bounds of the Fatima parish and some three to four thousand people gathered at the Cova. As soon as the children arrived, they saw the flashes of light signalling the approach of their heavenly visitor. Then Our Lady appeared, standing on the little tree.
Lucia asked, "What do you want of me?"

"I want you to come here on the 13th of next month, to continue to pray the Rosary every day, in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only she can help you."

It is interesting to note here that Our Lady, who still hadn't told the children who she was, referred to herself as if she was someone else. Lucia then asked a question, which seemed carefully prepared: "I would like to ask you to tell us who you are, and to work a miracle so that everybody will believe that you are appearing to us."

"Continue to come here every month. In October I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe."

Various sick people had petitioned Lucia to ask Our Lady for cures. When Lucia asked for these favours, Our Lady replied that these people must pray the Rosary in order to obtain these graces during the year. She added, "Sacrifice yourself for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifices: 'O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.'"

Vision of hell

Our Lady then opened her hands to emit the light of God, but this time the light penetrated the earth to show a terrifying vision of hell. This is Lucia account in her words:

"The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. Terrified and as if to plead for succour, we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and so sadly:

'You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.'

'To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world. In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved…'"

The vision of hell is known as the First Secret of Fatima. The Second Secret is the statement about World War I ending and another future war during the pontificate of Pius XI if men continue to offend God.

Third Secret of Fatima

Our Lady also showed the children a prophetic vision, which came to be known as the Third Secret of Fatima. Lucia wrote the secret down on 3rd January 1944 and, after a period of 83 years, it was announced by Cardinal Sodano that the secret would be released. Here is the text of the secret, which was published on 26 June 2000:

"I write in obedience to you, my God, who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine."

"After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: 'Penance, Penance, Penance!' And we saw in an immense light that is God: 'something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White 'we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God."

Cardinal Sodano explained that the secret was about the persecution of Christians in the 20th century by atheist regimes that culminated in the failed assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II on 13 May 1981. Pope John Paul II himself spoke of "a motherly hand which guided the bullet's path," enabling him to halt "at threshold of death." The assassination attempt took place on the anniversary of Our Lady's first appearance in Fatima.

Our Lady told Lucia not to reveal the secret at that stage to anyone. Then she continued, "When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: 'O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need.'" After assuring Lucia that there was nothing more she needed of her that day, she rose toward the east and disappeared.



Amrita said...

Very interesting post.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Yes, I have seen the movie describing this event and it has always fascinated me with awe. Thanks for the post. God bless you all always.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi JL,

The vision of hell as described by Lucia reminded me of St.John's Book of Revelation.

Mother Mary stresses the need of saying the Rosary and many Christian families have forgotten about this. The need for survival, rat race,competitive spirit have taken hold of Christian families in a vicious grip that they neglect the Rosary.

I am not an exception. I have many Rosaries lying around my house yet I don't find the time to use them.Even now when I went to Vailankanni I bought a rosary and it is in my pocket but somehow I don't find the time to say it. This is very sad.

There are two families staying near my house who say the rosary every day in the night. When I come back home in the night I hear them saying the rosary and I feel a great happiness coming over me. I am reminded of the saying families that pray together stay together.

Your intensive study is very revealing on the powers of Mother Mary.Although Mother Mary played a very insignificant role in spreading Christianity in the early stages of growth,She has played a dominant role in the modern times. So many places She has appeared and all these places are crowd pullers both Christians and non Christians.

Mother Mary has become so important in modern times that in one convention held by a Christian group not approved by the Bishop, a speaker asked the audience who do they believe more - JESUS CHRIST OR MOTHER MARY. I was totally surprised to hear this and I think even the audience was taken by surprise.Then the speaker tried to explain how powerful Mother Mary is and the need for greater devotion to Her. In my spare time I attend all sorts of Christian conventions just to hear what they are talking.

My congratulations to you on this commendable research work.

JI said...

Hi Joseph,

Mother Mary is such an important person. She is like the new Eve through whom the incarnate God came into the world. The first Eve brought sin and death, but Mary brought us redemption and the promise of eternal life. She is the Mediatrix between man and God. Having read about her various apparitions throughout the world and throughout time, I am convinced she has acted out of the compassion of heart and shown her motherly love to all mankind. She has given specific messages in specific places, but the underlying theme is to turn back to God. Prayer is an important aspect of this. The Rosary is a wonderful way of praying but it is not the only way. We can also pray using our own words and be as open and sincere as possible.

I must confess there were some years in my life when I did not pray much. Then the little struggles in life, the unfairness in the world and my search for the meaning of life led to have greater faith in God. I also read books about Jesus. Now I try to pray the Rosary every day with my family. We usually read a bit of the bible too.

As Jesus says in the bible, it’s never too late to turn to Him. Look at St Paul, St Augustine, St Francis and other saints. They were far from great role models to begin with, but through renewed faith they changed their ways to become great men.

Best wishes,

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi JL,

A few days back I bought a CD set from our church which contains the Bible in the audio version. I just put it in my computer and listen to it for a while. Reading the Bible can at times be irksome but this solves the problem.

JI said...

That sounds like a good way of becoming familiar with the bible!