by Fr Damian Polly
When I was a child I used to be fascinated by ghost stories – the idea that there could be spiritual beings that could appear to people. I used to wonder how I would react if I was to witness such a ghostly appearance. It was this memory that was evoked when I thought about the amazing experiences of the three small children in Fatima – Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. Not only did Our Lady appear to them on six different occasions from May to October in 1917, but to prepare them for this royal visit of the Mother of God, the Angel of Peace and then the Guardian Angel of Portugal, both appeared to them in 1916. Like being reminded of this memory from my childhood, the apparitions at Fatima are a reminder to us about so much of what this world has chosen to forget about what God has lovingly revealed to us.
Tragically many Catholics today do not recognise or realise that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. To help remedy this situation, the message of Fatima begins with the Eucharist, with the Angel of Portugal appearing to the three shepherd children holding a chalice in his left hand, with the Host suspended above it, from which some drops of blood fell into the chalice. The Angel then taught the children how to adore and reverently receive the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.
During the final apparition on the 13th October 1917, Our Lady revealed herself to the children as Our Lady of the Rosary and she asked for the rosary to be prayed daily for peace and the conversion of sinners saying: ‘Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them’. Our Lady is of course not telling us anything new. She is simply reminding us of our need to respond to the call of her Son, who at the beginning of his ministry said: ‘Repent and believe the Good News’ (Mk 1:15).
At a time when more and more people had forgotten or were denying the reality of heaven and hell, Our Lady appeared to remind the world of the reality of both and to call all people to live for Heaven, for the kingdom of God, and to pray for the conversion of sinners so that they would not be lost in Hell forever.
As a refuge for sinners, Our Lady gives us her Immaculate Heart. As she said to the children:
‘My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God’. It is this Immaculate, motherly heart, that yearns for her straying children to turn back to God, their most loving Father. It is this Immaculate Heart, so united with the Sacred Heart of her Son, which was pierced by a sword and suffered so much. Our Lady of Fatima wants to remind us that suffering is not meaningless. She better than anyone else, understands the truly redemptive power of suffering when united with her Son’s suffering for us. As she stood at the foot of the Cross, she united her immense suffering with that of her son for the salvation of the world.
As well as sufferings that are offered up, the many rosaries that are offered up to Our Lady for the conversion of sinners, help to win graces which can help those who are far from God to have a profound conversion. This is often times effected when they go to back to confession again for the first time in years, and encounter the merciful love of their Heavenly Father, who welcomes back his prodigal son or daughter with open arms and great love. They experience divine forgiveness and they can then forgive themselves.
May the message of Our Lady of Fatima remind us of how much our Heavenly Father and Mother love us and that Our Lady is depending on us, who believe in God, to pray and sacrifice for our many brothers and sisters who do not.