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The Angel of Fatima

The Angel of Fatima

“Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High! .. the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications”

– the Angel of Fatima, 1916

The events of Fatima did not begin in May 1917, but in the Spring of 1916, more than a year before the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During that year, an Angel appeared to the children on three successive occasions. The Angelic appearances were designed to prepare the children for the great mission which the Lady of the Rosary would later give them; these appearances would serve to develop within Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, a sense of the divine and a great love of prayer and sacrifice – all of which would be required later on. And so, from the earliest days of the events at Fatima, the themes of prayer and penance were already forming a core element of what would eventually become the Message of Fatima, developed by the Blessed Virgin.

The Angel of Peace appeared to the children in the Spring of 1916, teaching them how to pray with great reverence; the prayer he taught them had as it’s foundation the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, so-called because these particular virtues relate directly to God Himself;

“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.”

As well as these virtues, the prayer had as it’s focus both the adoration of God and supplication for those who do not adore Him; in other words, the prayer had a distinct reparative focus.

Appearing again to the children during the summer, the Angel told them –

“Pray! Pray very much! The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High! Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.”

What is clear from these first two appearances is that the Angel focussed on our primary duty – to love and adore God; and then on our secondary duty – to love our neighbour as ourself. And, as pointed out by the Angel, we can do this by offering prayers and sacrifices on behalf of our neighbour. This is an echo of the words of the Lord in the Gospel when asked what is the greatest commandment.

The third appearance of the Angel, in the autumn of 1916, reminds us very explicitly to Whom we are offering our prayers and sacrifices, and the reasons for doing so. The Angel taught the children this prayer –

“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly and I offer You the most precious Blody, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the Tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners”.

Now we have come to the crux of the matter. God, Who is entirely deserving and desirous of our love and adoration, is not always loved and adored; and He is particularly mistreated in the Holy Eucharist – sometimes through direct actions, and at other times through sheer indifference. And because of this, the Lord seeks reparation from us – not only for our own sins, but for the sins of others. He desires that we atone and ask Him for the grace of conversion for sinners – mindful always that we, too, are sinners who are in need of on-going conversion.

In case there was any uncertainty about what was being sought, the Angel then gave the children Holy Communion, telling them as he did so –

“Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men and women. Repair their crimes and console your God”.

 Writing about all of this many years later, Sister Lucia offered her reflections on this part of the Message of Fatima, and especially the theme of offering sacrifices on behalf of sinful humanity –

“Sacrifice is the bulwark of our prayer, it is the power that sustains it. First, the sacrifice of ourselves, of our illegitimate pleasures, the renunciation of our sinful appetites derived from our sensuality, egoism, self-indulgence, ambition. Then, the sacrifices voluntarily accepted and sought in order to offer them to the Lord as a humble offering of our love and gratitude. It is to this prayer and these sacrifices that the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive, in order to carry them to the Father, as the on-going fruit of His redeeming work, for the salvation of the whole of humanity”.

When we think about it carefully, these words provide something of a masterclass on what the Second Vatican Council would later refer to as ‘the universal call to holiness’ – a theme echoed by all of our recent Popes. It also gives us very clear directives on how best to repsond to the overall Message of Fatima given by the Blessed Virgin. During Her appearances in 1917, She would tell us about the results of doing as She requested – and She would also warn us about the effects of not heeding Her requests.

‘Sacrifice’ is a word that often scares us – how on earth can we make sacrifices? Of what should they consist? For all of us, the most fundamental form of sacrifice is our acceptance of our daily duty. This will be different for each of us, depending upon our state in life; but the lives of so very many Saints show us that our daily duty is the simplest path to true sanctity, for it contains all we need to become holy.

One great example of this is Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who lived a perfectly ordinary life within an enclosed convent doing ‘nothing very much’ (as some of her fellow sisters described it) – and yet, doing all things, even the least, with great love of God and of souls. By doing so, she developed her ‘Little Way’ and became a great Saint. So can we.

Our acceptance of our daily duty, carried out with great love in even the smallest and seemingly most insignificant of acts, is the way of holiness. Some of us will be called to do great things, certainly – but most will be called to do very little things, but we must do them with great love. Remember those three theological virtues of faith, hope and love; and the greatest of them is love. At the end of our lives, love is what we will be judged on, as the Saints remind us. God desires that we show our love for Him and for our neighbour, as the Lord tells us in the Gospel.

Another way of describing our embrace of daily duty is encapsulated in some other words of the Lord which we read in the Gospel –

“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mt.16:24).

Is this not the embrace of our daily duty? Is this not what made the little Thérèse so great? Is it not precisely the secret of how Jacinta and Francisco advanced so greatly in sanctity in such a very short time, and were raised to the honours of the Altar despite their very tender ages? Is it not the very example lived out by Sister Lucia from the days in the Cova to her death in Carmel in 2005? Is it, then, not exactly what is asked of us, too? Like these holy ones, we should continually and faithfully take up the little crosses which form our daily duty, as this provides us with a means to great sanctity.

Pope Francis comments on this idea at some length in his beautiful document ‘Gaudete Et Exsultate’ (‘On The Call To Holiness In Today’s World’). In this, he speaks not only about ‘the Saints who encourage and accompany us’ but also about ‘the saints next door’. We are all called to be those ‘saints next door’. The Holy Father gives us excellent examples of ways of achieving this even in the midst of the most ordinary and mundane of lives – the same lives that many of us lead day after day.

The Message of Fatima, begun by the Angel in 1916, then developed and refined by the Mother of God in 1917, and lived out heroically by the children of Fatima as an example for all of us, is addressed to each and every one of us.

How, then, will we respond to this Message?


Our Friends in Purgatory

Our Friends in Purgatory

All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.1030

The Church teaches us that at the moment of death, we immediately undergo our particular Judgement. After this, there are two options – Heaven or Hell. For those souls going to Heaven, there will be either immediate entry or else a period or purification prior to entry. The Catechism tells us –

“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire.. This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead..” (Catechism. para.1031-1032)

Purgatory, then, is not a punishment; rather, it is an act of great mercy by the Lord, Who cleanses these souls before they enter Heaven. And the Church specially dedicates the month of November each year to the memory of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, reminding us of our duty toward them in charity, that we might offer prayers and sacrifices on their behalf, so assisting them to Heaven.

The Holy Souls cannot help themselves – but we can help them, especially by having Masses offered for them, and by applying to them any Induglences we can gain. Whilst they are not able to help themselves, they are able to help us – and those souls we assist to Heaven will not forget us.

At the first appearance of Our Blessed Lady at Fatima, Lucia asked about two young girls who had died shortly beforehand. The first was about sixteen years old when she died, and Our Lady told Lucia this girl was already in Heaven. The second died when she was about twenty; Our Lady said this girl would “be in Purgatory until the end of the world”, according to Lucia. At first glance, this might seem harsh, but there are a couple of things we should remember, just to put this comment into context. First of all, this soul is already saved – she will enter Heaven at some point, for her salvation is assured. And that is a great blessing. Secondly, the Holy Souls are outwith time – time does not apply there in the way it does here, so it is difficult for us to comment with any certainty on the period of purgation which a particular soul will undergo.

What is most important, perhaps, is for us simply to realise that the Holy Souls need our assistance – that we can help them to reach Heaven sooner, by the ways already mentioned.

It is also important to remember that we should never ever presume that a particular soul is already in Heaven – if we do, the danger is that we will not pray for them. If they are in Purgatory, our prayers will assist them; if they are already in Heaven, our prayers will help other souls.

One final point to remember is that, God willing, we will one day undergo our own purgation – for we should never presume to be so pure in soul that we will enter Heaven immediately. And when that day comes for us, how we will thank God for those souls praying for us.

It is a good practice to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist the Holy Souls in Purgatory; She is greatly concerned for them, as these words from the Diary of Saint Faustina attest –

“I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call Her ‘the Star of the Sea’. She brings them refreshment.” (Diary, para.20)

May Our Blessed Lady, the Star of the Sea, pray for and assist the Holy Souls.

Our Friends The Saints

Our Friends The Saints

“The memory of the Saints leads us to raise our eyes to Heaven: not to forget the realities of the earth, but to face them with more courage and hope.”

– Pope Francis, Feast of All Saints – 1st November 2019

It is probable that most Catholics have at least one ‘favourite’ Saint. For whatever reason, a particular Saint appeals to us – possibly because of something they did, how they lived, what they are remembered for, or some other similar reason.

Personally, I have a small collection of favourites who have been there with me for a long time now – each one is dear to me for a particular reason, but the reasons are different for each of them.

First of all, there is Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who saw Our Lady at Lourdes. She was the first Saint I ever knew anything about, as I had an aunt who visited Lourdes on several occasions. There was a little picture of Bernadette in our home ever since my childhood and so it was inevitable she and I would become friends. Much later on, I had the pleasure of visiting Bernadette at her convent in Nevers, France, where I had the privilege to stay for several days with the Sisters on a couple of occasions. This allowed me the opportunity to spend time alone with Bernadette’s relics in the Chapel, and this is a memory I cherish. Bernadette appeals to me because of her simplicity and her devotion to the message of the Gospel, echoed in her experiences at the Grotto and later in her religious life at Nevers. She has also been a very good and trusted friend as the years have passed.

After Bernadette, come three children – brother and sister, Saint Jacinta Marto and Saint Francisco Marto, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, who would go on to become a Carmelite nun, before her death in 2005. These three children saw Our Lady at Fatima. I came to learn of them – and of the appearances of Our Lady of Fatima – thanks to a bookstall at school many years ago, when I was about fifteen. I had never heard of Fatima until that point. I bought a copy of Lucia’s memoirs and was absolutely fascinated; not only by her account of the appearances, but by the lives of deep holiness which the children lived out, day after day. These children were greatly devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whom they had the privilege to see. Their lives are proof that not only is the call to holiness truly universal, but it is also universally attainable – if only we will work at it day after day.

Next, there is Saint Faustina Kowalska, through whom we were given the Divine Mercy devotion. Out of the blue, Faustina made it her business to make her presence felt quite forcefully in my life, and she has remained in it ever since. She appeals to me because of her tenacity and her faithfulness to the mission entrusted to her, despite every obstacle that came in her path – and every one of which she overcame.

A Pope makes it onto my list – Saint John Paul II. He is the only Saint I have had the privilege to actually see whilst he was alive. He was deeply devoted to the Mother of God, and he was a Pope who placed a great emphasis on Fatima and it’s message, mentioning it often. He is also the Pope who brought the Divine Mercy devotion out of the shadows, placing it firmly in the light of the Church; he would later canonise St Faustina and give the Church the Feast of Divine Mercy. He was a truly good and holy man and I remember how sad I was that Saurday night when we lost him, as he had been with us for so very long. I did not doubt that he was a living Saint.

John Paul took his motto – ‘Totus Tuus’ (‘All Yours’) – from the writings of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, who wrote the ‘Treatise On The True Devotion’, and ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’. Saint Louis is on my list also, needless to say. He is the great Marian scholar-Saint, living out the very thing he gives to us in his writings. I read his Treatise when I was about sixteen and it changed my life entirely, and continues to do so. Interestingly, Saint John Paul said much the same about the effect of this book on his own life – which is why he chose that particular motto.

A great favourite for many, many people is next on my list – Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. This ‘little’ Saint achieved a huge amount of good for souls – not because of what she did, but because of how she did it; that is, with great love. Obedience and love achieve great things in the order of grace as well as in the order of nature, and Thérèse is proof of this. A sign of her universal popularity is the ubiquity of statues in her likeness, found in almost every Catholic Church. And that popularity persists, if the vast numbers of people who thronged to honour her Relics here in Scotland recently, is anything to go by.

Nearing the end of this brief list is another personal favourite, although he is much less well-known (in this part of the world, at least) compared to all the others – Saint John Macias. John was a Dominican lay brother in Peru, where he died in 1645. Greatly devoted to the Lord and to the Mother of God, this love was reflected in his gentleness and in his intense love for the poor. He spared no efforts in making sure those near his monastery were fed every single day and he treated them with deep, deep kindness and reverence, as though each one was the Lord. Not surprisingly, the miracle that led to his canonisation was not unlike a certain other miracle, mentioned in the Gospel, concerning the miraculous feeding of a great many people. I admire John’s simple and deep faith and his intense life of prayer, this being the foundation of all else that he did.

Last but not least there is a man on my list who is not yet a canonised Saint – but I hope this will change one day. However, his Cause for canonisation is presently before Rome and he has been declared ‘Venerable’. His name is Matt Talbot. Although often associated with alchololism and recovery from it, this is not what attracts me to Matt; rather, it is his hidden life of deep and intense prayer, which developed and deepened after his recovery. Matt, like the others on my list, proves that all people have the capacity for true sanctity, if only we would comply with the grace of God and exercise the will to work towards becoming holy. Matt did precisely this; and in researching his life story, I am in no doubt that he posessed true and very deep sanctity. I pray for his eventual canonisation.

So this is a brief run-down of some of my favourite Saints, along with my reasons for listing them.

But what about you who read my list – who are your personal favourites, and why?


Those Two Moments

Those Two Moments

If men only knew what eternity is, they would make all possible efforts to amend their lives”

– Saint Jacinta Marto

Human life in the 21st century often tends to focus on the ephemeral, the transitory, and those things which we are entirely powerless to control in any way whatsoever. For example, we often find ourselves focussed on what has already been and gone – the past; and on what is still to be – the future. We are constantly worrying about the past and all it once contained, even though we have no way to bring it back or to change so much as a moment of it. All we can do is try to learn from it – understanding it as far as we are able to, and seeking to learn from what we have already done, so that we don’t repeat any mistakes we may have made in it. And we fret so greatly about the future, even though we have no idea whether or not we will still be alive tomorrow – or even by the end of today.

For Catholics, we mention these two specific moments every day, asking for help in them, but it may be that we don’t actually think about them, nor consider why they are important for us. What are they? In the prayer of the ‘Hail Mary’, we ask the Blessed Virgin –

“Pray for us now and at the hour of our death”

These are the two moments, and they are the only ones that really matter – ‘now’ (this very moment we are living in) and that final one, the ‘hour of our death’.

They are the only two moments in all of time that we can do anything about, which we can alter or change in any way. But to do the very best with these two moments, we need the help of the Mother of God, and so we pray to Her and ask Her to ‘pray for us now, and at the hour of our death’.

It is in this present moment that we can choose to accept or reject God and His divine will for us; we can choose God over ourselves, or ourselves over God (the other word for this latter choice is sin). If we consistently make a choice in either particular direction, it is likely that this will become something of a habit for us, so each and every moment – and all the opportunities for grace which it contains – is really, really important. Once this moment has gone, it will never, ever be repeated. And so as Catholics, we appreciate the great import attached to the right now; and not least of all, because any one of these present moments may be our last.

And that final moment, the ‘hour of our death’, is the most crucial one of all. Everything depends on that last moment, and on the state of our soul at that moment – that is, whether or not we are in the friendship of God. Our eternity depends upon it. In that last moment, we have the final chance to make a choice – for or against God. Also in that final moment, all the powers of darkness will bear down upon us, seeking to influence our choice so that we do not choose God, that we do not ask His mercy and grace, or that we despair of receiving it. And it is for this reason that we confidently entrust our final moment to the Mother of God, whom the Church calls ‘the Star of the Sea’, for She leads us safely home.

When next we pray the Hail Mary, let us take a moment, pause, and deeply consider why it is that we ask Her motherly help ‘now and at the hour of our death’. And then, let us ask for that help with real conviction.


The Daily Rosary

The Daily Rosary

“But the most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery .. it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become ‘genuine schools of prayer’. The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation.”

– St John Paul II, ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’

Saint John Paul was greatly concerned that our communities as Christians should be founded and nourished by prayer, to such an extent that they might become “genuine schools of prayer”.

His reasons for this were fairly straight-forward.

It is easy to become knowledgeable about the Catholic Faith – anyone can pick up a book and learn what it is we believe as Catholics. Equally, it is just as easy to pick up any theological book and learn something about God. But knowledge is not the same as Faith. Knowledge is something we gather – it is information about a particular subject, whether the subject is God or anything else. But Faith is something quite different to this.

First and foremost, Faith is a gift, given freely to us by God. He desires that we know Him and so love Him. It is not something we get but something we receive.

Secondly, Faith is not about knowledge – it is about relationship. It is about a real person – Jesus Christ. It is about getting to know Him on a deep, personal and intimate level.

In other words, Faith is a living thing. It is like a little plant, which we need to cultivate carefully, tending the soil, adding nutrients, watering the plant, so that it might gradually grow and develop and bear good fruit for us.

This Faith is nourished by the Word and by the Sacraments and by prayer; these are the primary means by which we come to know the Lord, Who reveals Himself to us by these means. In the Word, we begin to learn Who the Lord is, what He tells us about Himself, and about the Father. The Catechism tells us –

“Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In Him He has said everything; there will be no other word than this one.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.65)

And in the Sacraments, the same Lord comes to us – through the particular graces of several of the Sacraments of the Church, and uniting Himself directly to us in the greatest Sacrament of all, Holy Communion, which the Church tells us is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (‘Lumen Gentium’, quoted in the Catechism, para.1324).

Prayer is the bridge that connects God and man, the human and the divine. Prayer is the opening of our hearts to God and to the action of His divine grace, and to His divine mercy. Prayer, which may seem like our approach to God, is actually our response to His approach to us.

Pope John Paul tells us that –

“Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51). The memories of Jesus, impressed upon Her Heart, were always with Her, leading Her to reflect on the various moments of Her life at Her Son’s side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which She recited uninterruptedly throughout Her earthly life.” (Rosarium, para.11)

The Holy Father then encourages us to imitate this contemplative quality of the Immaculate Heart of Mary –

“The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary’s own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer.” (Rosarium, para.12)

Explaining what he means by this, Pope John Paul goes on to say that –

“Mary’s contemplation is above all a remembering. We need to understand this word in the biblical sense of remembrance (zakar) as a making present of the works brought about by God in the history of salvation.”

Our own contemplation, then, is also this same type of remembering – we are making present in our hearts all the works and actions and revelations of God, and in remembering them in this way, we are giving thanks to God for them. Applying this sense to the prayer of the Rosary, the Holy Father goes on to add this –

“Contemplating the scenes of the Rosary in union with Mary is a means of learning from Her to ‘read’ Christ, to discover His secrets and to understand His message. This school of Mary is all the more effective if we consider that She teaches by obtaining for us in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even as She offers us the incomparable example of Her own ‘pilgrimage of faith’.” (Rosarium, para.14)

If Faith is about knowing God, about developing a deep and meaningful relationship with Him, then the Holy Father has proposed to us a most excellent means of doing so – the prayer of the Rosary; there, with Mary, we remember the works of the Lord in our contemplation; we make them present in our hearts and learn from them, following Our Lady’s own example.

All of this, we do in union with Mary –

“If Jesus, the one Mediator, is the Way of our prayer, then Mary, His purest and most transparent reflection, shows us the Way. ‘Beginning with Mary’s unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the Holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ manifested in His mysteries’. At the wedding of Cana the Gospel clearly shows the power of Mary’s intercession as She makes known to Jesus the needs of others: ‘They have no wine’ (Jn 2:3).” (Rosarium, para.16)

And so, remembering Christ with Mary, we are then led a step further –

“The Rosary is also a path of proclamation and increasing knowledge, in which the mystery of Christ is presented again and again at different levels of the Christian experience. Its form is that of a prayerful and contemplative presentation, capable of forming Christians according to the heart of Christ.. Our Lady of the Rosary continues Her work of proclaiming Christ.” (Rosarium, para.17)

If the prayerful recitation of the holy Rosary can achieve all these things, then truly it is capable of forming us into those ‘genuine schools of prayer’ to which Pope John Paul referred.

Imagine, then, how powerful that prayer might be if prayed every single daily and if prayed in our local communities – our families and our Churches.

Throughout this month of October, the Church can consistently asked us to pray the holy Rosary – and many will have responded to this noble call. It is not a new call – for centuries, the Church has asked us to take up our beads and to pray, particularly for special intentions in the Church and in the world as they have arisen and as they have threatened the peace of the world.

At Lourdes, the appearances of the Blessed Virgin began with the recitation of the Rosary and continued with it, and even now, so many years later, there are constant Rosary processions through the Grotto.

And at Fatima, the Mother of God asked over and over again that we “pray the Rosary every day”.

Let us take up our beads and respond wholeheartedly to Her heavenly call.


At Her Request

At Her Request

“Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and to bear with submission the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners?”

– Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 1917

It is a curious thing that on coming to Fatima in 1917, the Blessed Virgin did not make any demands of the three children to whom She appeared. Rather, She made certain requests of them – and, by extension, these requests are addressed to all of us, since Her message was for the entire world.

The three Angelic apprearances the year before had prepared the children for the visits of Our Lady – these visits were something like a farmer tilling the unfurrowed earth, preparing it before the seed is laid, that the harvest might be bountiful. The visits of the Angel opened the hearts of the children to the grace of God, making them understand the need, the nature and the value of prayer and of suffering; and in this way, he began to prepare them for the message the Mother of God would bring. In the course of these Angelic visits, the children progressed rapidly along the path of holiness – that same path to which each and every one of us is called. They began to practice the love of God and submission to His will – expressed through prayer, sacrifice and charity – to an heroic degree.

At the first apparition, in May 1917, the Blessed Virgin told the children She was ‘from Heaven’ and then asked if they were willing to offer themselves to God, to willingly accept whatever sufferings He chose to send them, as an act of reparation and in supplication for sinners. Having received the initial consent of Her chosen ones, the Blessed Virgin promised that the grace of God would be their comfort amid all that would follow. She then opened Her hands and communicated to them an intense light, allowing them to see themselves in God, Who was that light.

As the next few months progressed, the Lady from Heaven would explain more about the reasons for coming to earth – She showed them the reality of Hell, asking the children to pray for the conversion of sinners so that they might avoid the punishments of Hell; She gave the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart, promising that by this means, many souls would be saved and there would be peace; and She promised to return later on, in order to say more about the two forms which devotion to Her Immaculate Heart would take. These two forms were the Collegial Consecration of Russia by the Holy Father in union with the Bishops; and the Communions of Reparation, commonly known as the devotion of the Five First Saturdays. She also promised that “in the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph”. And throughout every single appearance, She requested the prayerful recitation of the Rosary.

As Queen of Heaven, sent on behalf of Almighty God to Fatima, why does She request our co-operation rather than demanding it? The short answer is this – She does so for precisely the same reason that in the Gospel, the Lord – Her Son – requests us to “repent and believe the Good News” rather than demanding that we do so.

God gives us free will and He absolutely respects our use of it. This is why the Blessed Virgin, speaking to the children at Fatima about Hell, and showing them a vision of it, said that “many souls” go to Hell. God has not condemned these souls to Hell; rather, they have condemned themselves by means of the choices they have made in life and by being outwith the friendship of God in their last moments. God desires the damnation of no-one – He made us “to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this life, and to be with Him forever in the next”, as the Simple Catechism once put it. And it is precisely because God desires the damnation of no soul that He sent the Blessed Virgin to Fatima, with Her message of prayer, sacrifice and reparation. And in the same way that people were free to accept or reject the words of the Lord during His earthly life, so we, today, are similarly free to accept or reject the message of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima.

People ask why the world continues merrily on it’s way of sin, and the answer is very simple, whilst also very sad – it is because not enough people have taken to heart the message of Fatima; not enough souls are living that message given to us by the Mother of God.  The Church was asked by the Mother of God to make the Act of Consecration, and this was finally done by the Holy Father  in union with the Bishops, in March 1984, and it was accepted by Heaven, as Sister Lucia attested firmly and clearly on a number of occasions. And so the Church has done her part.

But the Blessed Virgin also asked us – each and every one of us – to do our part, too. Knowing this, why are so few people making the Communions of Reparation each first Saturday? Why are so few praying the Rosary every day? Why are so few people visiting the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament and making acts of reparation to Him? Remember, She promised that the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart would be a means of salvation for many souls and would bring peace. And so now, it is up to all of us.

Still, God respects the free will He gave us; as noted already, we are free to accept or to reject the message brought by the Mother of God, who requests us to pray, to make sacrifices, to amend our lives and to cease offending God.

The choice is ours. But we need to be clear – there are consequences to whatever choice we make.