By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY
The June 13, 1917 saw the second apparition of Our Lady of Fatima to the young shepherds, Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia. The message given by the Blessed Virgin on that day is a very important one, indeed vital, but it has been somewhat overshadowed by what she said during the first apparition, on May 13, and by what happened during the third apparition, on July 13.
During the May apparition, our Lady told the children that they would go to Heaven, and also asked them if they were willing to offer themselves to God and bear all the sufferings He willed to send them, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners.
When Lucia replied in the affirmative for all three, Mary replied: “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”
So the theme of reparative suffering was emphasized during the first apparition, and likewise the themes of suffering and sacrifice were also present during the third apparition, with our Lady saying to the children, “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Suffering was also a theme of the first part of the Fatima secret, the vision of Hell, which was shown to the seers on this occasion, and there was also mention of the sufferings to come due to war, famine, persecutions of the Church and of the Pope, with particular reference to the spread of the “errors of Russia,” that is Marxist Communism.
By contrast, during the June apparition, the Blessed Virgin reiterated her promise to take the children to Heaven, though Lucia was told she would have to wait some time for this because Jesus wanted to use her to make our Lady known and loved.
Mary continued, saying that God “wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by me to adorn his throne.”
This point about the necessity of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary becoming very widespread, is then the crux of the message given in June, and it was repeated during the July apparition, when, after showing the seers the terrifying vision of Hell, our Lady said, “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.”
In fact, so powerful is this devotion, that the Blessed Virgin can promise salvation to whoever embraces it. And yet, if we look around, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is not really practiced to any great extent in the Church in the West today. Tragically, on this point, we seem to have gone backwards — and yet it is central to the Fatima Message.
Yes, the Blessed Virgin did emphasize the power and importance of the recitation of the rosary during all of her apparitions at Fatima, but as we know, it is all too easy to slip into a routine of saying the prayers in a casual, distracted, or hurried way, to the extent that the real power inherent in the rosary is largely nullified.
This means that if we are to live the Fatima message we need to deepen and develop our devotion to our Lady — the question is, apart from saying the rosary, how do we do that?
The key to answering that question is probably to be found in the last thing the Blessed Virgin said during the June apparition, when she responded to Lucia’s distress about her having to stay on Earth while her cousins would soon be going to Heaven. Mary said to her, “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.”
In other words, we, like Lucia, have to come into communion with our Lady, who is now in Heaven, body and soul. She wants us to regard her Immaculate Heart as our heavenly refuge, and that just as she was the Mother of Christ so is she the mother of all Christians — and thus we are to regard her as our spiritual mother.
And this motherhood goes almost infinitely beyond the mothering of the best of earthly mothers for their children. She was privileged, with St. Joseph, to spend 30 years in the closest intimacy with Jesus. During that time, God molded her heart, her Immaculate Heart, in the most wonderful way such that after her death she would be able to act as the spiritual mother of all humanity from that time down to the end of the world. Just imagine how many billions of people that means — and yet all of them have either received, or will receive, an overwhelming spiritual mothering at the hands of Mary.
The problem is we don’t usually feel anything of this mothering — and since we rely so much on feelings rather than pure faith, we can come to believe that all this talk of Mary’s love for mankind is somewhat exaggerated.
But the teaching of the Church and the example of the saints ought to make us realize that far from Catholicism exaggerating this love, the tendency has been to downplay it, because in reality it is so overwhelming that it is almost beyond our power to understand or conceive its extent.
We need to consider that God created Mary to be the Mother of His only Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, and endowed her heart, soul, and mind with all the necessary qualities to be the most perfect of mothers — and thus with all the compassion and tenderness that can be imagined.
Respond To This Love
After the Heart of Christ, her Immaculate Heart has the most interest in the salvation of all mankind, and indeed in all the details of our everyday lives. Whether we are awake or asleep, Mary never ceases to watch over us, and so we need to make a response to this love; we need to develop a genuine devotion to her Immaculate Heart, her motherly Heart, which we can then pass on to other people. In this way this devotion will become widespread.
So we need to make a return of love, and in essence this means treating our Lady as we would our own mother, that is to say, to speak to her, to think of her, and so develop a genuine relationship with her, one which goes beyond just reciting prayers, as important as that is.
Thus we need to call Mary’s love for us to mind, ponder it, believe in it, and so put our confidence in this almost incomprehensible love. And then we need to repay it with gratitude and genuine devotion.
Jacinta certainly understood this motherly love of our Lady for us, when, as Lucia tells us in her Memoirs, she offered a particular sacrifice for the “love of our Lord and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our dear heavenly Mother.”
Lucia also tells us that, from time to time, Jacinta would say: “The Lady said that her Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God. Don’t you love that? Her Heart is so good! How I love it!”
Thus, we all need to adopt the attitude of little Jacinta and see our Lady’s Immaculate Heart as our spiritual refuge, and by that means, and also by accepting and living the Fatima message in its entirety, practice the devotion which Jesus wants to spread throughout the world.
- + + (Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published next year — details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk.)
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