“In the depths of Your being, in Your Immaculate Heart, You keep the sorrows of the human family, as they mourn and weep in this valley of tears”
– Pope Francis prays on the spot where the Blessed Virgin appeared in 1917
“Lead all souls to Heaven especially those in most need“
– prayer taught by Our Lady of Fatima, 1917
It is now one hundred and one years since the Mother of God showed Herself to three little children at Fatima in Portugal. She came with a message of prayer, penance and conversion, requesting that we devote ourselves to Her Immaculate Heart and through Her, return to the Lord “who is already so much offended”.
Reading the story of the appearances at Fatima, it may be tempting to think of it as nothing more than a pious tale from a century ago and to erroneously conclude that it has nothing to say to the people of today, that it offers no on-going relevance to our age. This would be a tragic error, of course; the message of Fatima is as important today as it was then – indeed, more so.
One person who is keenly aware of the importance of the message of Fatima is Pope Francis. His devotion to the Mother of God is already well-known. Visiting Fatima last year to canonise two of the three children who saw Our Blessed Lady, he spoke to the vast crowds on several occasions and greatly encouraged them to listen to the message She brings and to devote themselves to Her in an authentic way and placing Her before our eyes and hearts as a model of evangelisation. As father of the earthly Church, he also places our intentions at Her feet and asks Her motherly prayers for all of us, as well as reminding us of our duty toward Her –
“Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me! I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to Her all Her sons and daughters. Under Her mantle they are not lost; from Her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family.. Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us.”
In the course of Her appearances at Fatima, the Blessed Virgin taught the children a little prayer, asking that it be recited after each decade of the Rosary –
‘O Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and leads all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need.’
These few words seemed to offer a summary of the core message of Fatima – prayer, penance, mercy for sinners.
There is no doubt that the world situation in 1917 was a terrible one – the Russian revolution; the First World War and the deaths of so many soldiers on every side; poverty and great hardship of life, particularly for the poor. But it is difficult to assert that our present world situation is really so much better. Sin continues to prevail on every side and in so many lives, bringing in it’s wake the risk of eternal loss in the fires of Hell; death claims countless victims through war, persecution and the evils of abortion, euthanasia and the call for the ‘right’ to choose to end one’s life; and one of the worst sins of our age – our indifference toward our fellow man or woman who is suffering and in misery. All of this is a great affront to the sanctity and majesty of the Almighty, Who places us as stewards over life and Who asks that we love Him and love one another.
Perhaps, then, the message of Fatima – which is ultimately one of great hope in the mercy and goodness of God – still has something to teach us. And perhaps that little prayer at the end of each decade still has something to say, in the depths of our hearts.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us; may Your Immaculate Heart be our refuge and the way that will lead us to God.