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Offering It Up

Offering It Up

“I cannot promise you happiness in this world – only in the next.”

– Our Lady of Lourdes to Saint Bernadette

One of the common features we see in the lives of the Saints is the presence of suffering – often physical in nature, but also taking the form of opposition or of moral suffering of one kind or another. But while the world proposes to us that all suffering is evil – indeed, sometimes using the very presence of suffering to question the existence of God or of His love for us – still our Faith shows suffering in a quite different light.

For the Saints, suffering was not an end in itself, something that is ultimately dead and worthless; rather, suffering was a means to an end, an opportunity of sorts. It was a means of uniting to the Crucified, so that this personal suffering could become redemptive in and with Him.

St Bernadette realised clearly that she was asked to embrace the Cross of her Lord.

At Lourdes, the Immaculate Virgin told Her little protégè, Bernadette – “I cannot promise you happiness in this world, only in the next”. And later, St Bernadette, in the convent at Nevers, offered her physical sufferings, particularly from a tubercular tumour on her knee. She also suffered the disbelief of many, together with being sought out constantly as something of a curiosity. St John Macias slept only three hours each night, wore a hair shirt and an iron chain bound tightly around his waist. Venerable Matt Talbot wore a similar chain around his waist, discovered only on the day of his death, although it had been there for many years. The lives of so many other Saints reveals a similar attitude toward mortification and the embrace of suffering.

For these great Saints, there was no doubt a particular grace given to them to approach suffering in this way, and to bear it heroically and without it presenting any danger to their spiritual advancement. For most of us, that is a grace we might not be given and we may not be called to suffer in quite the same way or to the same degree.

Be that as it may, every single one of us will encounter suffering in one way or another. And so, when suffering comes our way, what are we to do with it?

The answer is that we are asked to do precisely what the Saints did with it – to bear it well, with patience and fortitude, for as long as it lasts. Not so many years ago, there was an expression which encapsulated the thinking perfectly – we are to “offer it up”.

Looking at the message of Fatima, this sense of ‘offering it up’ is clearly present throughout – from the appearances of the Angel in 1916, to the deaths of Saint Francisco and then Saint Jacinta. When the Angel visited the children the year before the appearances of the Mother of God, he told them –

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

Responding to this appeal, the children began to pray for long hours and to practice charity towards others – they would give away their food to poor children, leaving themselves hungry and without water for the whole day, despite the burning heat of the Portugese sun.

The following year, the Blessed Virgin would echo this call of the Angel, telling the children in July 1917 –

“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners and say many times, especially whenever 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’”.

A month later, She added detail to the reason why they were being asked to suffer so –

“Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to Hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them.”

The children – aged 7, 9 and 10 – were already wearing a piece of knotted rope bound tightly around their waists, both day and night; this rope caused them to suffer so much that they were unable to sleep. And so in September, the beautiful Lady from Heaven told them –

“God is pleased with your sacrifices. He does not want you to sleep with the rope on, but only to wear it during the daytime.”

Clearly, then, this suffering was acceptable to God and had some meritorious value in His eyes and it achieved something worthwhile – grace for the conversion of sinners.

We tend to focus on the present moment, as though it were all that mattered and as if nothing existed  beyond or outwith this moment. We often go out of our way to avoid suffering in any form – a human and very understandable response, certainly. But the lives of these children suggest there is another way.

For us who walk the common path of humanity, we are perhaps not called to undertake freely-chosen mortifications of the sort described here – but we are very clearly called to embrace suffering patiently and to offer it in union with Christ Crucified, so that in our own personal way (whether small or large), we can join Him in the work of Redemption. We do something of the sort each Lent – our little personal mortifications (avoiding chocolate or biscuits, for example) have the very same intention as that of the Saints mentioned here.

Items belonging to Venerable Matt Talbot, including the iron chain he wore (left).

If you find the idea of embracing suffering to be repugnant – that is good. Mortification should always be contrary to our will, or else it becomes like salt that has lost its flavour – and worse, it risks leading us into spiritual pride, which is deadly. Rather, our mortifications should increase our humility and our love of God, never our love of self.

For this reason, it is generally best to avoid actively choosing the greater mortifications, those involving chains and ropes and so forth, unless the Lord has made His divine will in this matter very clear – and even then, we should always be guided by prudence, by obedience and by a holy spiritual director.

A better option is to joyfully and willingly embrace those sufferings which life presents to us without our having to actively choose them. We can freely choose the lesser mortifications which are available to us on a daily basis and which can go entirely unnoticed by the world. There will be plenty of these, regardless of our state in life.

The most obvious is the willing acceptance of our place in life and our daily duty with all it entails. Another is obedience to those in lawful authority over us. Yet another are the little choices we are able to make, each one an opportunity to thwart our passions, our ego and our self-love. For someone with a sweet tooth, this might take the form of avoiding sugar in coffee; or it might consist of washing the dishes for a spouse when we really would prefer to watch television. Perhaps this sort of common and very ordinary mortification is what the Angel of Fatima was referring to when he said “make of everything you can a sacrifice”.

But remember – for it to have value before the Lord, it needs to be hidden from the eyes of the world and undertaken purely out of love for the Lord and for souls. Jacinta and Francisco told not a soul about that rope belt – indeed, little Francisco was desperate to keep it hidden, to the extent that the day before his death, he gave it to his cousin Lucia and asked her to burn it before anyone saw it.

These little acts of mortification of the will and the senses, done consistently every day in a humble and hidden manner, can become like little stepping stones along the path of true sanctity.

Perhaps our parents and grandparents had an inkling of some of this on those occasions when suffering came our way and they suggested to us that we ‘offer it up’.


Centenary – St Jacinta of Fatima

Centenary – St Jacinta of Fatima

“Tell everybody that Gods grants us graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that people are to ask Her for them; and that the Heart of Jesus wants the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated at His side. Tell them also to pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for peace, since God has entrusted it to Her. If I could only put into the hearts of all, the fire that is burning within my own heart, and that makes me love the Hearts of Jesus and Mary so very much!”

Over the last few centuries there have been several great Saints who can be accurately called ‘Apostles of the Immaculate Heart of Mary’  – such as the great Saint John Eudes. One in particular, however, stands out for a number of reasons – she was very young in years (though greatly advanced in wisdom); she lived in a deep spirit of reparative suffering, and her sanctity was profound in it’s depth. One hundred years ago today, that child died; her name was Jacinta Marto.

Jacinta was born on 11 March 1910. She was one of the three children who saw the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima; the other two were her brother, Francisco Marto, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos. Each of the three had a particular role following the appearances of Our Blessed Lady. Lucia was to be the emissary or messenger – she would faithfully transmit the message given by the Lady from Heaven. Francisco would spend long hours before the Tabernacle, adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and making reparation for those who leave Him abandoned there. Jacinta’s function was to make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on behalf of sinners, by means of prayer and deep suffering.

Writing in her first Memoir, Sister Lucia described the character of her little cousin. She wrote that from the first appearance of Our Lady, Jacinta was particularly impressed by the thought of making reparation for sinners; she would reflect at length on the reality of Hell and it’s eternal nature. Even in the middle of a game, Jacinta would stop and reflect on the eternal fate of sinners – “Poor sinners, we have to pray and make many sacrifices for them!”. Lucia explained that Jacinta never let any opportunity be lost in offering sacrifices for sinners – from giving away lunch to poor children, to taking no water all day long, despite the intense heat of the Portuguese summer sun.

Another intention very dear to the heart of Jacinta was that of the Holy Father, the Pope.  Her love for him was such that at the end of every sacrifice for sinners, she would add – “and for the Holy Father”.

Jacinta always prayed for the intentions given to her by others. One such person touched her deeply – a soldier who had received order to go to the war front, leaving behind a sick wife and three young children. Meeting Jacinta, he cried piteously and asked her prayers that ether his order would be changed or his wife would be healed. Jacinta told him – “Don’t cry. Our Lady is so good! She will certainly grant you the grace you are asking”. Some months later, the soldier came to see Jacinta again – he told her that the day before his departure, he had been struck down with a fever and his orders were cancelled. Also, his wife was cured as he had prayed. Jacinta never forgot her soldier and at the end of every Rosary thereafter, she always added one extra Hail Mary for his intentions.

From the beginning of the Appearances of the Blessed Virgin, Jacinta and Francisco had stated quite openly that the Lady had promised She would take them to Heaven ‘soon’. They were delighted at this, needless to say. Perhaps, then, it was of little surprise that the health of the two younger children quickly began to fail – first, Francisco, and then Jacinta. Both would soon be dead, as the Lady had predicted.

After the public appearances at the Cova da Iria had concluded, Jacinta and Francisco were privileged to be visited by the Blessed Virgin on a number of occasions. After one of these, Jacinta told Lucia –

“Our Lady came to see us. She told us She would come to take Francisco to Heaven very soon, and She asked me if I still wanted to convert more sinners. I said I did. She told me I would be going to a hospital where I would suffer a great deal; and that I am to suffer for the conversion of sinners, in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for love of Jesus.”

In the company of her aunt, Lucia was able to visit her cousin in the hospital at Ourém. Alone in the hospital room, Lucia asked Jacinta if she was suffering a great deal. The little one replied – “Yes, I am. But I offer everything for sinners and in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. Speaking of the Lord and His Mother, Jacinta went on –

“Oh, how much I love to suffer for love of Them, just to give Them pleasure! They greatly love those who suffer for the conversion of sinners”.

Lucia was able to visit Jacinta once more in the hospital and this is what she said to describe that visit –

“I found Jacinta as joyful as ever, glad to suffer for the love of our Good God and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for sinners and for the Holy Father. That was her ideal, and she could speak of nothing else.”

Jacinta was able to return home from the hospital for a while, with a large open wound in her chest which had to be dressed every day. There, the Blessed Virgin visited her again. She told Lucia what Our Lady had said –

“She told me that I am going to Lisbon, to another hospital; that I will not see you again, nor my parents either; and after suffering a great deal, I shall die alone. But She said I must not be afraid, since She Herself is coming to take me to Heaven.”

Before leaving for the hospital in Lisbon, Jacinta continued to suffer greatly – and especially at the thought of never seeing her cousin and her family again, and of dying alone. Lucia told her not to think about all this but Jacinta replied –

“Let me think about it, for the more I think, the more I suffer, and I want to suffer for love of Our Lord and for sinners. Anyway, I don’t mind. Our Lady will come to me there and take me to Heaven.”

Kissing a Crucifix, Jacinta would exclaim –

“O my Jesus! I love You and I want to suffer very much for love of You.. now, You can convert many sinners, for this is a very big sacrifice.”

As he had became more ill, Jacinta’s brother, Francisco, would spend all his time not at school – he said there was no point – but in the Chapel, close to the Tabernacle, praying in order to console Jesus, so often left there alone and abandoned. Francisco died in April 1919, of the Spanish influenza which was sweeping the world at that time. Jacinta missed her brother terribly after his death and Lucia would often find her weeping and, when asked what was she was thinking about, the child would reply – “Of Francisco. I would give anything to see him again.”

Dying alone was the greatest fear of the child but still she accepted this as another means of offering sacrifices on behalf of poor sinners. She had endured an operation to remove two ribs and drain the pleural cavity, which was badly infected – this being done with only local anaesthesia because her little heart would not have withstood general anaesthesia. She accepted the operations even though she told the doctors it would make no difference as she would die regardless. She never complained once. The day before her death, Jacinta asked the hospital Chaplain to bring her Holy Communion in Viaticum, stating she would be dead ‘the next day’. The Priest told her she was not that ill. He was wrong.

Jacinta died of the same influenza which had taken her brother. She died on 20 February 1920, at the tender age of 9 years – she died in hospital and alone, as the Lady had foretold. The Lady had been right – She had promised to take these two to Heaven ‘soon’. At the start of the Appearances, the light of God shown to the children depicted the two little ones ascending to Heaven, while Lucia was in the light being poured out upon the earth – she would remain ‘some time longer’, as the Lady of the Rosary had said. And in those years that followed, Lucia would write much about her little cousin, Jacinta.

The body of little Jacinta was exhumed in 1935, at which time her face was incorrupt; at a second exhumation in 1951 in preparation for the transfer of her remains to the Basilica at Fatima, she had begun to decompose.

In 1937, Pope Pius XI had determined that the causes for the canonisations of children should not proceed – except in the case of martyrs – as he thought they were not able to understand or practice virtue to an heroic degree. Naturally, this impeded the causes of canonisation of both Jacinta and Francisco. However, in the late 1970s, the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima wrote to all the Bishops of the world, asking them to petition the Holy Father to make an exception to this rule in favour of Jacinta and Francisco; around three hundred Bishops did just that, noting the clear example of their lives and also the favours received through their intercession. In 1979 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints met in a general assembly, to determine if it was possible for young children to live lives of heroic virtue. They determined it was indeed possible. Ten years later, Pope John Paul II declared the two siblings ‘Venerable’. On 13 May 2000, at Mass in the Cova da Iria, Jacinta and Francisco were declared ‘Blessed’ – also on that day, the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fatima was revealed by the Holy See, at the express instruction of the Pope.

Finally, on 13 May 2017, exactly one hundred years to the day after the first appearance of the Lady of the Rosary to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, the little brother and sister were declared Saints of the Roman Catholic Church by the Holy Father, Pope Francis – and at the very spot where the ‘Lady from Heaven’ had appeared. Jacinta is the youngest child ever to have been canonised without having died a martyr.

Sanctity is not something we earn or achieve; rather, it a is a grace given by God to whom He wills and in the degree He wills. And in the case of Saint Jacinta Marto, it is a grace that was given most abundantly. The charism of the holiness of this little, but very great, Saint is prayer and suffering offered reparatively on behalf of sinners, for love of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary; it is a charism all of us would do well to emulate. If such a life and such grace are possible in the short life of one so very young, then it is possible for every one of us. And in this quest, may we be assisted greatly by the prayers of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and of Her little confidante, Saint Jacinta Marto.

Saint Jacinta Marto, little daughter and great apostle of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

United With the Holy Father

United With the Holy Father

“I saw the Holy Father in a very big house, kneeling by a table, with his head buried in his hands, and he was weeping. Outside the house, there were many people. Some of them were throwing stones, others were cursing him and using bad language. Poor Holy Father, we must pray very much for him.”

– Saint Jacinta Marto


One of the dangers of social media in our day is that we run the risk of believing everything we read. Of course, not everything we read online is actually true, and so we need to exercise a degree of discernment – checking facts and the (apparent) sources of quotations and of claims made, and placing things in context rather than simply accepting them at face value.

We also need to exercise prudence in our online responses; it is all too easy to read something and immediately respond to it. I know from bitter personal experience that this is often the wrong thing to do, and can be regretted at a later moment. If this is a danger for the average person, how much more of a danger can it be if we present ourselves as ‘Christian’ or ‘Catholic’ to the online community.

A particular feature of the present day is the tendency to criticise the Pope; whilst the Holy Fathers have always been sport for the written and spoken barbs of others, those others were generally – in days past, at least – outside of the Catholic Faith.

In the present time, the real danger is coming from some who profess to be Catholic.

No doubt, most of these are well-intentioned  – but that does not lessen the damage they are capable of producing. While most of those who criticise and castigate the Holy Father may be well-intentioned, even if they get things wrong, we should be aware that there are also some whose intentions are decidely dark and nefarious, and others who will be used by those with dark intentions. Remember, our battle is – above all else – a spiritual one.

The damage caused by attacks on the Holy Father takes two forms.

The first form is the damage to the unity of the Church – how can we say we are members of the Catholic Church whilst our words and our hearts are openly in combat with the Shepherd who has been given the task of leading the Church? And when these people are Cardinals, Bishops, Priests or Deacons, or organisations describing themselves as ‘Catholic’ – what message does this send not only to those outside of the Church, but to her own members? Where is the unity? Where is the loyalty? Our Church is ONE, holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

The second form is the damage to ourselves – to our spiritual life and to our soul. Walking the path of criticism of the Pope carries with it the danger that, unchecked, we will eventually find ourselves distancing ourselves from the Church herself. After all, how can we remain in the Church if we believe she is heading in the wrong direction and is being led astray by the one whose very task it is to lead and govern her?

Have we no faith in the Lord, whose promise to Peter means that a Holy Father can never err in matters of faith or morals? Regardless of our thoughts on the person who is Pope at a given moment, still he is the Pope – and this demands our loyalty and the submission of our will and our religious intellect to his teaching magisterium – this includes not only his officially promulgated documents, but also the teaching he gives day after day. We might think a particular Pope has ‘got it wrong’ in some way – and if we do, we need to stop, take stock, check our ‘facts’ and then ask ourselves what is more likely: that the Pope is indeed wrong as we believe, or perhaps that our understanding is at issue. Or simply that what is being reported is either inaccurate or just not true. Stop and think for a moment – do you honestly believe that you know better than the Pope when it comes to the Catholic Faith? It takes docility, humility and charity to do this; but the effort will be well-rewarded.

How do we resolve this situation?

We need to pray and we need to TRUST in the Lord; it is His Church and His Mystical Body – and He has already promised that she will not go astray and will never be overcome by evil. That is our starting point – trust in the Lord. And the Holy Father of any given moment has been placed there by the Lord, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for a very good reason – regardless of whether or not we know (or understand) that reason. Again, we must TRUST the Lord. His divine will shall always prevail.

We also need to be prudent and discerning, as noted already. We should not automatically believe something that is reported as fact, nor should we be too quick to deliver a judgment, especially where this is negative. We ought also to remember the sin of calmuny, which is the damage to the reputation of another. This is a serious sin and one that is not always easily undone.

As Catholics, we are aware that our first aim is to make use of this life in order to reach Heaven, our true home – and to do all in our power to ensure we don’t arrive there alone, but assisting other souls to reach there too. Charity is, as the Lord said in the Gospel, something which covers a multitude of sins – and which may well tip the balance for us, one way or another, depending on how we have exercised it.

Our hope of reaching Heaven lies in our membership of – and communion with – the Church; she is designed precisely to get us to Heaven, her Sacraments assisting us greatly along the way, especially at those times when we fail in one way or another. But in order for this to happen, we need to be part of the Church – united to her in our will, our heart and our mind; and that means remaining united to the Holy Father.

So what do we need to do?

If you ‘like’ (for want of a better word) this particular Holy Father (or the next one, or the one after), then pray for him. Pray for him every single day – he needs our prayers.

And if you do not ‘like’ this (or any future) Holy Father – pray for him every single day. And if you find yourself in this latter category, these prayers will have greater merit because they will require a greater degree of charity, humility, docility and TRUST in the Lord.

May the Lord greatly bless our Holy Father Pope Francis. And may the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Church, smile upon him and keep him always close to Her Immaculate Heart.



Lucia and the First Saturdays

Lucia and the First Saturdays

“What is the Secret? I think I may reveal it, because I have permission from Heaven now.. Well, the Secret is comprised of three different parts, two of which I will go on to reveal. The first is the vision of Hell.. The second part of the Secret refers to the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

– Sr Lucia

Sister Lucia in the Carmel at Coimbra, Portugal

On the second occasion on which she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Lucia asked the Lady to take her and her cousins to Heaven; the Lady replied –

“Yes. I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make Me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart.”

As promised, the Blessed Virgin took the two younger children to Heaven within a short time; Francisco died on 30 April 1918, less than a year after the Appearances in the Cova, and Jacinta died on 20 February 1920. But Lucia had been told she would remain on the earth ‘some time longer’ – and that ‘some time longer’ mentioned by the Lady eventually turned out to be 88 years. Clearly, Lucia had a lot of work to do.

Lucia’s role upon the earth had three broad aims – to deliver the full and authentic Message of Fatima to the Church and to the world; to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart in the twin forms of the consecration of Russia  by the Church, and the establishment of the Five First Saturdays for everyone; and to live the life of a religious, in this way offering her life as one of prayer and sacrifice as her personal response to the Message.

For the purposes of this piece, I will confine myself to looking more closely at one of these points – the establishment of the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, also known as the ‘Communions of Reparation’.

It is well known that Lucia would later write a series of Memoirs, recounting her experiences at the Cova and beyond, and these Memoirs are the primary and principal sources of information of the Appearances of Our Lady and of all that took place afterwards. Each Memoir was written under strict obedience to Lucia’s Bishop.

The first Memoir, written in December 1935, assumed the reader knew the basics of the story of Fatima, and so it did little more than mention the Appearances, focussing instead on the person of Jacinta.

The second Memoir was written two years later, in November 1937; it revealed – for the first time – the appearances of the Angel in 1916, but again said little about the Appearances of Our Lady.

The third Memoir was written in August 1941 – the Bishop had been convinced there was still more which Lucia had not yet revealed. It is in this Memoir that Lucia finally reveals much of the detail of what took place in the Cova, including the first two parts of the ‘Secret’ revealed by Our Lady. At the beginning of the Memoir, Lucia wrote –

“What is the Secret? I think I may reveal it, because I have permission from Heaven now.. Well, the Secret is comprised of three different parts, two of which I will go on to reveal. The first is the vision of Hell.. The second part of the Secret refers to the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

Having witnessed the vision of Hell, Lucia then recounted in her Memoir what happened next –

 Shortly afterwards, we raised our eyes to Our Lady, who said with goodness and sadness: ‘You have seen Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart.. I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays’..”

Reading this third Memoir, Bishop Correia da Silva was even more convinced there was still more to be revealed, and so he commended Lucia to write a fourth Memoir, which she completed on 8 December 1941. It is this Memoir which provided the fullest information regarding the Angelic appearances and those of the Blessed Virgin.

Although the Memoirs are the primary source of material regarding Fatima, Lucia was also a prolific letter-writer and the majority of these letters are preserved. Many of these letters provide little nuggets of gold regarding particular aspects of the Appearances of Our Lady at Fatima and in the years afterward. Within a number of these letters, Lucia makes reference to the devotion of the Five First Saturdays.

The earliest mention of this devotion is in a letter from 1926 – just nine years after the Appearances – in which Lucia, living amongst the Sisters of St Dorothy in Pontevedra, writes to a Priest, Monsignor Lopes. She recounts that on three occasions, she had seen a very young boy, with whom she spoke, and to whom she taught a short prayer. At their third meeting, Lucia asked the boy a question; in response, he replied –

“And have you spread throughout the world, that which the Heavenly Mother asked you to?”

Lucia realised the child was Jesus. They spoke about the Five First Saturdays and Lucia explained about some difficulties, including the limitations experienced by Lucia’s Mother Superior – to this the Lord replied that although alone she could do nothing, “with My grace, everything will be achieved”. Lucia also mentioned that her confessor said many souls already did something similar, receiving Communion on fifteen Saturdays in honour of the Blessed Virgin. Jesus responded –

“It is true, daughter, that many souls begin them, but few finish them. And those that do finish them, do so with the intention of receiving the graces that have been promised. Those who do the five with fervour and for the intention of making reparation to the Heart of their Heavenly Mother are more pleasing to Me, than those who do the fifteen, lukewarm and indifferent.”

Lucia then asked about the difficulties some souls had in being able to go to Confession as part of the devotion, asking the Lord’s permission to extend the time for the Confession, which He very kindly granted, on the proviso that when receiving Him in Holy Communion on the Saturday, they are in the state of grace.

The following year, 24 July 1927, Lucia wrote to her mother and with the letter, she enclosed a holy card on which were written the details of the Five First Saturdays devotion. Referring to this, Lucia wrote –

“I would also love that my mother would give that consolation of embracing a devotion that I know is pleasing to God, and that was asked for by our dear Heavenly Mother.. I hope, moreover, that my mother will reply to me, saying that you have done so, and are going to get all the people who go there (to Fatima) also to embrace it. You could not give me a greater consolation than that.. Console our Heavenly Mother in this way, and try to get many others to console Her also. Then you will be giving me profound happiness.”

It is clear, then, that from very early on, Lucia is focussed on beginning to establish this devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the form of the Five First Saturdays.

In November of the same year, 1927, Lucia wrote to her Godmother, who had recently returned home from Lourdes –

“I don’t know if you are as yet aware of the devotion of reparation of the Five Saturdays to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But since it is as yet something new, I thought of informing you about it, as something asked for by our dear Heavenly Mother, and on account of Jesus having shown a wish that it be embraced. For this reason, I think that my Godmother will be so happy not only to have got knowledge of it, so that she can give Jesus the consolation of practising it; but also to get it known and embraced by many other people. It consists of the following..”

One month later, Lucia wrote a letter at the command of her confessor, Fr José da Silva, giving detail on how she had asked if she had heavenly permission to reveal more about the origin of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart, or if was to remain part of the Secret. Praying before the Tabernacle, Lucia heard these words from the Lord –

“Daughter, write whatever they ask you; and everything that the Most Holy Virgin revealed to you, in the apparition in which She spoke of this devotion. Write about that also. As for the rest of the Secret, continue in silence.”

It is in this letter that Lucia describes the vision  which had been promised at Fatima in July 1917. Lucia describes it in this way, whilst writing about herself in the third person –

“On December 10 1925, there appeared to her the Most Holy Virgin, and by Her side, on a luminous cloud, a Child. The Most Holy Virgin, putting a hand on her shoulder, showed her, at the same time, a Heart ringed with thorns, that She held in Her other hand. At the same time, the Child said: ‘Have pity on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, that is covered in thorns, which ungrateful men at every moment stick in It, without there being anyone t make an act of reparation to take them out’.

Then the Most Holy Virgin said: ‘Look, My daughter, at My Heart surrounded with thorns, which ungrateful men at every moment pierce Me, with blasphemies and ingratitude. Let you, at least, strive to console Me, and tell all those who during five months, on the first Saturday, go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, say a Rosary and keep Me company for fifteen minutes, meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, for the intention of making reparation to Me, I promise to assist them at the hour of death, with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls.”

This same letter goes on to note a further heavenly revelation, two months later, on 15 February 1926 –

“The Child Jesus appeared to her again. He asked if she had spread the devotion to His Most Holy Mother.”  

Writing to Fr Gonçalves four years later, on 29 May 1930, Lucia once more explains the requirements for the devotion of the Five First Saturdays and she wonders if “in compliance with this little devotion the graces of forgiveness will be given to the souls who have had the misfortune to offend the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

Responding to her, Father Gonçalves wrote asking her some very specific questions about the devotion of the Five First Saturdays – the occasion and circumstances in which the devotion was requested; the specific requirements of the devotion; the graces attached to the devotion; why it is ‘five’ Saturdays; and any exemptions to the specific requirements. Lucia was asked to reply in writing. She did so on 6 June 1930, noting that –

“I am going to answer, as far as I am able, Your Reverence’s questions, regarding the devotion of the Five Saturdays”.

Lucia then gave the details of the visions she had been granted – these took place on 10 December 1925 in the cell of her convent in Pontevedra, being repeated later in the yard, near the gate. She explained the reasons for the request for five Saturdays –

“Remaining in the Chapel, with Our Lord, part of the night of the 29th-30th of that month of May, 1930, and talking to Our Lord about the fourth and fifth questions” (of those posed by Fr Gonçalves) “I suddenly felt possessed more intimately by the Divine Presence; and if I am not mistaken, the following was revealed to me: ‘Daughter, the motive is simple: there are five kinds of offences and blasphemies spoken against the Immaculate Heart of Mary; blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception; against Her virginity; against the Divine Maternity, refusing, at the same time, to receive Her as the Mother of mankind; those who seek publicly to implant, in the hearts of children, indifference, disrespect, and even hate for this Immaculate Mother; those who revile Her directly in Her sacred images.

Here, dear daughter, is the motive that led the Immaculate Heart of Mary to petition Me to ask for this small act of reparation. And, out of regard for Her, to move My mercy to pardon these souls who have had the misfortune to offend Her. As for you, seek endlessly, with your prayers and sacrifices, to move My mercy in regard to these poor souls’.”

This letter provides not only the earthly origin of the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, but also the heavenly origin of the devotion – it was at the express request of the Blessed Virgin to Her Son; ever mindful of the task given Her at the foot of the Cross, She proves Herself the sweetest and most loving of mothers, even seeking the forgiveness of those who offend Her directly. This motherly concern is a practical reflection of the look of intense sadness upon Her face as She showed the children the vision of Hell, into which the souls of so many poor sinners fall.

Lucia wrote again to Fr Gonçalves on 28 October 1934. In this letter, she noted that the Bishop of Leiria “has promised me to begin, in the coming year, promoting the devotion of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”.

Just to be sure that she was fulfilling the task given to her, Lucia wrote this in a further letter to Fr Gonçalves, on 26 May 1935 –

“..I wrote to His Lordship the Bishop, reminding him of the promise that he had made initiating, this year, the publication of the devotion of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.. If, in order to give some kind of impetus to the devotion of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, you wish to discuss some point with the Rev. Fr. Aparicio, feel completely free to do so.”

Fr Gonçalves later wrote to the Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, in 1937. In his letter, he noted the request of Lucia that he do so and he outlined both the request for the Consecration of Russia and for the approval and recommendation of the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, giving the requirements of the devotion and the reasons for it.

On 2 December 1940, Lucia wrote – under religious obedience – to the Holy Father, Venerable Pope Pius XII. In her letter, Lucia spoke explicitly about both the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and also the Five First Saturdays devotion, noting that –

“..this remained a secret until 1926 according to the express will of Our Lady. Then, in a revelation She asked that the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months be propagated throughout the world..”.

Having considered all of this, a number of facts have become clear to us.

In July 1917, during the ‘public’ appearances at Fatima, the Blessed Virgin spoke of the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart and She promised to return later to request the two acts of which this devotion was essentially comprised – the Consecration of Russia and the reparative devotion of the Five First Saturdays. At that time, however, everything relating to this was to remain part of the Secret.

Appearing again in 1925, the Blessed Virgin announced the time had come for Her to request the devotion of the First Saturdays. The following year, the Lord also called for the devotion.

It is most noteworthy that it was revealed by the Lord that the original request for the devotion came from the Blessed Virgin Herself, concerned for those unfortunate enough to directly offend Her in the ways already mentioned.

It was only after receiving the explicit permission from Heaven that Lucia began to make reference to the devotion, gradually fleshing out the detail regarding the requirements of the devotion and also the reasons behind it. Her references to the devotion became more explicit as time passed and she did all in her power to encourage those with whom she had contact to embrace the devotion and also to encourage others to do likewise. Bearing in mind that she was living a religious life enclosed in a convent, her interactions with others outside the convent were necessarily limited – however, she did have contact (mainly by letter) with her family and with various Priests, and so these become the first recipients of the news about this devotion, and they would become it’s first apostles.

Sister Lucia, shortly after her death in 2005.

Now, the devotion of the Five First Saturdays is very well known, at least by those who known the essentials of the Message of Fatima; however, it needs to be better known, and by far more people.

Even now, this devotion – intended to save souls from the fires of Hell and to lead them on the path of sanctity – is practised only by a few souls and in only a few places, even though the ideal would be for it to be well-established and well-practised in every Catholic parish. Until then, the warnings of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima should remain of great concern to every one of us, for they are of great concern.

Throughout the 88 years of that ‘some time longer’, Lucia did all she could to establish in the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; this was the task given to her by the Blessed Virgin. Sister Lucia completed her earthly life in 2005.

And now, the rest is up to us.









If What I Say Is Done

If What I Say Is Done

“If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

– Our Lady of Fatima, 13th July 1917

The Blessed Virgin, throughout the history of the Church, has always been solicitous for our eternal salvation. The first seeds of this maternal care are seen at the Wedding at Cana, recounted in the second chapter of the Gospel of Saint John. In this account, the Lord and His Mother attend a wedding celebration and Mary notices that the wine had run short. With great economy of words, She says to Her Son, “They have no wine”. These words lead to the first public miracle performed by the Lord. For this to occur, She then says to the servants – “Do whatever He tells you”. She invites their co-operation in order that the miracle might take place.

Similarly, in all Her appearances upon the earth which have been approved by the Church, She does precisely the same thing – She invites our co-operation so that miracles of grace and of nature might take place.

At Her third appearance at Fatima in 1917, the Blessed Virgin told the children –

“If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

What had She said, that She wished done?

Moments before, She had shown the three children a brief vision of Hell, where they witnessed the poor souls of the damned and, alongside them, the demons tormenting them, all wailing in horror and despair. Then, looking very sad, She told the little ones –

“You have seen Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

Note that Her words are conditional – “if”.

God has given humanity the gift of free will and He never oversteps this divine gift. We are free to follow His commandments or not, as we choose – but must acept the consequences of our choices. In the same way, they Mother of God also entirely respects our free will. She invites our co-operation but She does not force it.

Here at Fatima, She outlines what will happen if we follow Her motherly advice and She tells the children what will happen if we do not heed Her warning –

“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.”

‘If’. It is such a little word, and yet so very much depends upon it.

Looking back from the present day to that summer day in 1917, it is patently clear that we – humanity – have responded so poorly to this motherly call. As Our Lady predicted, Russia – representing atheistic communism – did indeed spread so many of her errors throughout the world, and those wars and persecutions occurred; even now, we live with the effects of them, although that regime of atheistic communism has gone, since the requested Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was eventually made by the Holy Father in 1984. But it took 67 years for the Consecration to be made – and how much happened in those intervening years!

People ask why the predicted Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has not yet taken place. The answer is very simple. That Triumph was dependent on two things, which together form the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady spoke explicitly about this –

“To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communions of Reparation on the First Saturdays.”

‘And’. Another very small word, but with much dependent upon it.

So we see there are two distinct aspects to properly undertaking this Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The first was the Consecration made by the Holy Father in union with the Bishops, done in 1984 – this was the response required of the Church, and that response has been given and has been accepted by Heaven.

The second is the Communions of Reparation, more commonly referred to as the ‘Five First Saturdays’ – this is the response required of every single one of us. And when sufficient numbers respond to the request of the Mother of God, then the Triumph will follow.

As at Cana, the Mother of the Lord asks us to do as She requests; She does not demand, for we are free to accept or to reject Her requests. But as we have seen, each particular choice of ours carries with it a consequence.


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 respond 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 not, then, 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?