This Saturday is the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of Our Lady to Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia at Fatima. She would appear six times to them that year, on the 13th of May, June, July, August (this apparition occurred on the 19th, due to the arrest of the children on the 13th), September, and October. On the occasion of these anniversaries, Pope Francis has extended a plenary indulgence to the faithful, available on the 13th of these months.
As we thank God for our earthly mothers this weekend, let us also take the opportunity to thank Him for our heavenly one. Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima were a reminder for us that she is our Mother. While there is at times a fixation on the warnings and secrets of Fatima, we should not forget that ultimately, these messages were the words of a Mother who loves us.
Mary came to Fatima to warn us what would happen if we did not turn back to her Son. Her messages and warnings were not intended to frighten us, but to lead us back to the lives for which we were created.
Yes, perhaps the predictions of Fatima can be scary. The vision of hell was terrifying. But our Blessed Mother doesn’t do this so that we will live in constant fear. Like any good mother, she does it to protect us, to keep us from worse harm, and because she loves us. What is worse: being scared of a vision of hell or a threat of war… Or actually experiencing those things?
A good mother doesn’t needlessly threaten her children. That would not be love. But it also wouldn’t be loving if she hid the inevitable consequences of certain actions from them. For example, when a mother tells her child not to cross the street without holding an adult’s hand, the warning of what might happen to them could scare the child, but that fear ultimately protects them from suffering the worse consequences.
In July of 1917, Our Lady told the children:
“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 illumined 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.”
Notice that Our Lady didn’t just show the children hell and predict war and then leave us to our own devices. She predicted these things and then told us how to avoid them. We pray that individuals will avoid hell because they’ll hear and heed the message of Fatima. We know that we did not pray enough to avoid World War II nor the spread of Communism. But these things were not inevitable. The course of history could have been changed.
We saw this in the life of John Paul II. In the vision that later became known as the Third Secret of Fatima, Lucia revealed that they saw the martyrdom of a man in white, whom they believed was the Holy Father. It is evident from John Paul II’s reaction after the attempt on his life on May 13, 1981 that he saw this figure as himself, and that he believed his life was spared because of prayer. He recounted, “It was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path and in his throes the Pope halted at the threshold of death.” He placed the bullet from his would-be assassin in the crown of the statue of Our Lady at Fatima when he visited the site on the first anniversary of the attempt.
If you’re a mother, you know you would do anything to save your children from any suffering and harm. But in the end, all you can do is warn, educate, and guide them to make the right choices. Children have free will, and they can choose to listen to the warnings and advice of their parents, or they can choose to disobey and suffer the consequences.
We can listen to the loving words of our Blessed Mother, or we can ignore her. As Sister Lucia reminded us, “…let us not say that it is God who is punishing us in this way; on the contrary it is people themselves who are preparing their own punishment. In his kindness God warns us and calls us to the right path, while respecting the freedom he has given us; hence people are responsible.”
The message of Fatima is quite simple. In the words of Our Lady, “Say the Rosary every day to bring peace to the world.”
Pray the Rosary and do reparation for your sins and the sins of the world. Like so many lessons we were taught by our earthly mothers, the lesson is easy, but the humble obedience required of us is often difficult. But let us remember that we are not left to our own devices. As Mary reminded Lucia, when she asked if she must remain in the world alone:
“Not alone, my child, and you must not be sad. I will be with you always, and my Immaculate Heart will be your comfort and the way which will lead you to God.”