THE CHILDREN OF FATIMA
The story of Fatima really begins in the year 1916 when three children -- Lucia, a girl of nine, Francisco, a boy of eight, and Jacinta, a little girl of six years old -- went out into the valley of the Cova da Iria near the village of Fatima in Portugal. This was a day like so many others in which the children had taken their parents' sheep out to graze. On this particular day early in the spring of 1916, rain began to fall, and the children hurried up the side of the hill to the south of the valley to a little natural cave, called the Cabeço. There they finished playing their games, ate their lunches, and, as was the custom all over Portugal, knelt down to say the Rosary together.
THE ANGEL OF PEACE
But before they had finished the Rosary they felt a strong wind and, looking about, noticed a strange light far out over the valley. As they watched, that light came closer and closer to the place where they were kneeling, until finally, it came to the very entrance of the little cave. There the light took the form of a young man about fifteen years of age. "Fear not!" said this creature of light; "I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me." Then, prostrating himself with forehead touching the ground, he gave the children the prayer that tells us what is wrong with today's world, for this is the prayer the Angel of Peace gave to the Children of Fatima: "My God, I believe; I adore; I trust, and I love Thee. I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee." Three times the Angel repeated that prayer, a prayer in which Heaven itself asks that from this earth it may receive the prayers of Faith, Hope, and Love -- treasures which we have received in Baptism. "Pray thus," said the departing Angel. "The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplication."
Twice more in that summer of 1916 the Angel visited the children. The second time he came as they were playing near the old well behind Lucia's home. All of a sudden, without any warning, he appeared, asking: "What are you doing? Pray, pray incessantly. Offer prayers and sacrifices to the Almighty." Lucia, puzzled by these words, made bold to ask: "But how -- how shall we sacrifice ourselves?" To which the Angel answered: "In everything you do, offer a sacrifice to God to make up for the sins by which God is offended... Above all, accept and endure with submission the suffering which God will send you."
Later on that day out in the valley, the girls explained this to Francisco, who had seen the Angel but could not hear his voice. "But how can we suffer?" said Francisco, "We're not sick. We have enough to eat, and a place to live." But he soon knew its meaning when his oldest brother went to join the armies fighting World War I. Even little Jacinta, depressed by the worry at home and the stories of death on the battlefield, as well as the trouble that had come to Lucia's family when her father began to spend all his money in the wine shops, would stretch out her little arms and cry out: "Lord, we offer Thee all these sufferings for the conversion of poor sinners." They began to understand the meaning of suffering and the great mystery of sin.
Toward the end of the Summer the Angel came to them while they were praying in that spot at the Cabeço made sacred by his first visit. In his hand he held a chalice, and over it, a bleeding Host. Kneeling, he offered the heart-stirring prayer: "O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore Thee profoundly, and I offer Thee the most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners." Then giving the Host to Lucia, and the contents of the Chalice to Francisco and Jacinta, he said: "Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God." It was the last time the children saw the Angel of Peace.
Nothing more happened in the "routine" days that followed. Summer passed, Winter came, Spring with its new life, and all the time the children harbored the hope that the Creature of Light might return to them.
OUR LADY ANSWERS
On May 13, 1917, when they went out to the Serra, they did not know the confused condition of the world. They had not heard the voice of Pope Benedict XV, Who had addressed Himself to the Mother of Mankind, asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to look upon the world in tears, to sympathize with the wailing of innocent children, the anguished cries of mothers and wives. Yet this was the day on which the Queen of Heaven had decided to answer the Holy Father's plea.
About noon, the children were startled by a sudden flash of lightning. Looking up they saw no sign of a storm; the sky had never been so beautiful, nor the valley more peaceful. Again, came the flash. Fearing now that a sudden storm would overtake them, they ran in the direction of the little cave. As they turned, they were startled to see a Beautiful Lady standing in one of the little oak trees nearby. "Fear not," said the Beautiful Lady. Unafraid, Lucia questioned: "Where do you come from?" "I come from Heaven." "From Heaven!" said Lucia: "Will I go to Heaven?" "Yes." Then, thinking of her companions: "And Jacinta, will she go?" "Yes," came the answer. "And Francisco, will he go to Heaven?" Francisco, hearing his name, turned, saw the girls looking up into a little tree, and not seeing anything himself, shouted: "Throw a stone; see if it will go away!" ''Why is it that Francisco does not see you?" Lucia said to the Lady. Then Our Lady answered with those words which all of us must take to heart: "Tell Francisco to say the Rosary, and he shall see me." Immediately Francisco took his beads and began to pray. Before he had finished, his eyes were opened and he saw the Vision that changed him into one of the great modern apostles of prayer. Rough little Francisco, the lad who, like many of us, thought prayer was not too important, never forgot Our Lady's words. Indeed, he suddenly became an inspiration to the others. One day the girls were so busy playing that they did not think of Francisco until lunch time. "Francisco" they called, "are you ready to eat lunch with us?" "No, I don't want any lunch." Later they asked what he was doing: "I was thinking of Our Lord, Who is sad because of so many sins. How I wish I could make Him happy!" Another time they called him to play and he simply held up his Rosary. "Oh, say that later." "Now, and later too," answered the boy. "Don't you remember that Our Lady said I would have to say many Rosaries?"
MARY'S IMMACULATE HEART
In June, Our Lady came again, this time after repeating the message of prayer, asking them to add between the decades the invocation: ''O my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of Thy Mercy." Again she asked for daily sacrifice. Then, opening the hands which had always been folded in prayer, she revealed her Immaculate Heart, a Heart surrounded with thorns, pierced and bleeding. Although Our Lady said nothing about her Heart on this occasion, the children understood that her Heart was pierced and bleeding because of sin, and that Our Lady wanted reparation for sin.
Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is clearly brought out in the prayer that Our Lady gave to the children, a prayer which she asked them to say before making a sacrifice: "O my Jesus, it is for love of Thee, in reparation for the offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for the conversion of poor sinners." In today's world God wants us to make reparation directly to the Heart of His Immaculate Mother. It sounds like an entirely new devotion in the Church, yet history gives us innumerable examples of theologians and saints who have preached and taught that the Blessed Virgin Mary has a part in every single step, the whole plan of our salvation. As St. Bernard tells us so beautifully: "Such is the immutable Will of Him Who has willed that we should have everything through Mary." We are children of Mary, Christ has so willed, knowing that "virtue passes easily from the heart of a mother to the hearts of her children." (Cur of Ars).
On the 13th of July, the children saw Our Lady again. This time, after repeating the message of prayer and sacrifice, she suddenly opened her hands, and great shafts of light seemed to pour out of them and pierce the earth. The earth opened, revealing to the eyes of these innocent children, the terrible pit of Hell. There, Lucia tells us later, they could see the souls of the damned, cast about like sparks in a great fire, could hear the cries of pain and eternal remorse, could distinguish the devils by the nauseous forms they had taken of unknown animals. "You have seen Hell," Our Lady explained, "where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wants to establish throughout the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart." Then, in a frightening summary, Our Lady foretold what would happen to the world if men did not stop offending God, told how God was going to punish the whole world by means of war, hunger, persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father. "I shall come to ask the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communions of Reparation on the First Saturdays." She told how punishment would not come if her requests were granted, but threatened further if men refused to listen: "If my requests are granted, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace. If not, Russia shall spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecution of the Church; the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated." Then the Lady added: "In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph."
Again in August Our Lady mentioned Hell, telling the children: "Pray a great deal, and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to Hell because they have no one to pray and sacrifice for them." (articles on Hell)
HELL AND WAR
In the weeks that followed, the children could not stop thinking about the terrible vision of Hell. Little Jacinta would sit and think for hours at a time. "How sorry I am for the souls that go to Hell... the people there, alive, burning as wood in the fire... Lucia, why do people go to Hell?" And Lucia would explain. "Lucia, you must tell Our Lady to show everybody Hell; then no one will sin anymore."
It seems that God gave to this little girl a special power of vision, opening her eyes to many a picture of the future woes of the world. On one occasion, as the three sat near the entrance to the cave of the Cabeço, looking out over the valley below, Jacinta suddenly cried: "Don't you see all those roads and lanes and fields, covered with people crying from hunger?" In the last months of her sickness, she told Lucia one day: "I was thinking of sinners, and the war that is to come... So many lives will be lost, and almost all will go to Hell. So many houses will be destroyed, and so many priests will be killed. If men ceased offending God, the war would not come, and such great numbers would not go to Hell."
Many times she was given a vision of the Holy Father. For example, one day as she rested near the old well, she said to the others: "He was kneeling before a table, holding His face in His hands, and He was crying. Outside, there were many people; some were throwing stones at Him, others were swearing at Him and saying many ugly words to Him. How pitiful it was! We must pray for Him."
A SIGN SO GREAT
We can well imagine that as the word of happenings at Fatima gradually leaked out to the other towns and villages of Portugal, and were even reported in other parts of Europe, there were many who refused to believe that Our Lady was appearing to the world in such a forgotten place as Fatima. So it was that in September of 1917, Our Lady said to the children: "Tell them that in October I will give a sign so great that all will be forced to believe in me."
In spite of the rain and the mud, all the roads to Fatima were crowded on the days before the 13th of October. Everyone wanted to see Our Lady. Shortly before noon Our Lady came for the last time. Hearts overflowing with love, the children listened to her last Message: "Tell the people they must amend their lives, and ask forgiveness for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord anymore, for He is already too much offended."
Then was seen the great miracle of the sun, during which the sun turned blood red and began to dance in the heavens; it even began to leave the sky and throw itself into the crowd of over seventy thousand people who watched in terrified wonder. All thought that the end of the world had come. Everyone was crying and weeping: "Holy Virgin, take us not in our sins!" When the sun finally returned to its place, all knew that Heaven had indeed come to earth; all turned to the children of Fatima with the one question: "What does Our Lady want us to do?"
CONSECRATION AND THE SCAPULAR
We might well ask that question today. Our Lady wants us to consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart, a consecration in which we make a complete surrender of self to our Mother, promising her that we will: 1. Say her Rosary every day. 2. Offer the little daily sacrifices that come our way for the conversion of sinners. 3. Make the five Communions of Reparation on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months. In the last apparition at Fatima Our Lady appeared as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, holding the Scapular in her outstretched hand. The Scapular is the sign of our consecration to Mary's Immaculate Heart. Daily it should remind us of the promise we have made to Mary.
MY VISIT WITH LUCIA OF FATIMA
On the Feast of Our Lady's Assumption, August 15, 1950, I had the great privilege of seeing and talking with Lucia, the only living seer of Fatima. Lucia is a Carmelite Sister, Sister Mary Lucia of the Immaculate Heart. I had the happiness of talking with her for about an hour and a half, during which time she answered many important questions. When I asked her if Our Lady of Mt. Carmel had appeared at Fatima, she answered: "Yes, certainly!" Then I asked her about the Scapular and the Message of Fatima: "In many of the books written about Fatima the authors do not give the Brown Scapular as a necessary part of the Message." Lucia said immediately: "Oh, they are wrong; Our Lady wants all to wear the Scapular." Thinking that this was, perhaps, not too clear, I said: "But Our Lady did not say anything when she appeared as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Can we be sure she meant by her appearance dressed as Our Lady of Carmel and holding the Scapular, that she wanted the Scapular as part of the Message?" Lucia answered: "Yes." And she added, "Now the Holy Father has already told this to the whole world, saying that the Brown Scapular is a sign of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart. Nobody can disagree now." To make the point even clearer, I asked: "In giving the conditions of the Fatima Message, is it correct to say that the Brown Scapular is one of the conditions?" Lucia answered: "Yes, certainly." Then I asked: "Is the wearing of the Scapular as important as the saying of the daily Rosary?" Lucia answered: "Yes, the Rosary and the Scapular are inseparable!"
LET US RESPOND TO THE URGENT PLEAS OF OUR MOTHER!
We who know the meaning of Our Lady's Fatima Message must become other apostles, loyal children of Mary, who will not be satisfied to keep this Message to ourselves, but will, with the zeal of apostles, work day and night to make Mary known. Let us burn into our hearts the words spoken to Lucia by little Jacinta before she died:
"Lucia, tell everybody that God gives graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to plead for peace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for God has entrusted the peace of the world to her."
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