THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT FATIMA, VOLUME II
THE SECRET AND THE CHURCH
1.6 The Great Promise
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at Pontevedra
(1925 – 1926)
« To whomever embraces this devotion I promise salvation. » An admirable, stupefying promise made on June 13, 1917 ! The promise, however, still leaves us in a state of doubt. Jacinta, by a special grace, felt her heart consumed by an ardent love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But we ? We are cold, or our fervour is so short-lived ! Could we ever know if we had sufficient devotion so that Our Lady would be bound to keep Her promise to us ?
It is here that we are wonderstruck by the limitless Divine Mercy, and the profoundly Catholic character of the revelations of Fatima. In the whole message, there is not an ounce of Protestant subjectivism ! Here, Heaven goes to the limits of condescension, and the most sublime oracles (« God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart ») are exchanged, translated into very small requests, clear and precise requests, easy requests which leave no room for doubt. Everyone can know if he has accomplished them or not. A “ little devotion ” practiced with a good heart is enough to procure infallibly for us the grace – ex opere operato, so to speak – as with the sacraments ; and what a grace – the grace of eternal salvation ! Giving careful study to such a magnificent promise is worth the effort. It is the fulfilment, the perfect expression of this first part of the great Secret, which is entirely concerned with the salvation of souls.
FROM FATIMA TO PONTEVEDRA : THE FULFILMENT OF THE SECRET. In describing the apparitions and explaining the message of Pontevedra, we will therefore do no more than comment on the words pronounced by Our Lady on July 13, 1917. They are concise, but so rich in meaning :
« … If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved… I will come to ask for… the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays of the month. »
Here then is the first “ Secret of Mary ” which we must discover and understand : it is a sure and easy way of tearing souls away from the danger of Hell : first our own, then those of our neighbours, and even the souls of the greatest sinners, for the mercy and power of the Immaculate Heart of Mary are without limits.
1. PONTEVEDRA : THE APPARITIONS AND THE MESSAGE 1
DECEMBER 10, 1925 : THE APPARITION OF THE CHILD JESUS AND OUR LADY
On the evening of Thursday, December 10, after supper, the young postulant Lucy – who was only eighteen years old – returned to her cell. There she was visited by Our Lady and the Child Jesus. Let us listen to her account (written in the third person) : 2
« On December 10, 1925, the Most Holy Virgin appeared to her, and by Her side, elevated on a luminous cloud, was the Child Jesus. The Most Holy Virgin rested Her hand on her shoulder, and as She did so, She showed her a heart encircled by thorns, which She was holding in Her other hand.
« At the same time, the Child said : “ Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce It at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them. ”
« Then the Most Holy Virgin said : “ Look My daughter, at My Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console Me and announce in My name that
I promise to assist at the moment of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation,
all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months,
receive Holy Communion,
recite five decades of the Rosary,
and keep Me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary,
with the intention of making reparation to Me. ” » 3
What a touching scene, and yet so simple, described with the sobriety of the Gospel itself ! What a charming dialogue, in which the Child Jesus and His Mother take turns speaking – He to plead Her cause, while She makes Her requests to lead us back to Him.
As usual, the seer totally effaces herself here, not telling us a word about her own feelings. Is this not the surest mark of authenticity, which gives her account all its freshness ? She is there to see, to listen, and to relate what happened, and nothing more.
Yet, what intimacy between the Blessed Virgin and Her messenger ! Like St. Catherine Labouré, she received that day the privilege of being touched by Our Lady in a solemn and affectionate gesture, just as when a mother wants to give a child a confidential mission. The Blessed Virgin placed Her hand on Lucy’s shoulder, giving her to contemplate Our Lady’s most sorrowful Heart, and make It known to others.
Finally, the tone is the same as in the apparitions of 1917 : what conciseness in the words of the great promise ! It is the same conciseness that is found in the Secret of July 13, where a single word could not be suppressed without seriously damaging the sequence of thought. This too is a solid mark of authenticity.
THE TRANSMISSION OF THE MESSAGE
How did Lucy go about making Heaven’s requests known ? We know that immediately she told everything to her superior, Mother Magalhaes, who had been completely won over to the cause of Fatima and now had a sincere respect for the seer. She herself was ready to obey the requests of Heaven. Lucy also informed the confessor of the house, Don Lino Garcia : « The latter (she recalls) ordered me to write down everything concerning [this revelation] and to keep these writings, which might be needed. » 4 But he continued to wait.
Lucy wrote a detailed account of the event for her confessor from Asilo de Vilar, Msgr. Pereira Lopes. Unfortunately this letter was lost, and we only know of its existence because it is referred to in a later letter. On December 29, Mother Magalhaes informed Bishop da Silva of what had happened, but without being very precise. 5
At this point Lucy finally received the response of Msgr. Pereira Lopes. He expressed reservations, asked questions, and advised her to wait. A few days later, on February 15, Lucy answered him, giving him a detailed account of events. Fortunately, this extremely important letter has been preserved for us. 6 This precious text we will follow step by step, adding our own subtitles and comments.
A PAINFUL WAIT
« Most Reverend Father,
« I would like to thank you very respectfully for the kind letter you were so good as to write to me.
« When I received it and realised that I still could not fulfil the desires of the Blessed Virgin, I felt a little sad. But I realised right away that the Blessed Virgin desired that I obey you.
« That put me at rest, and the following day, when I received Jesus in Communion, I read Him your letter and I said to Him : “ O my Jesus ! With Your grace, with prayer, mortification and confidence, I will do everything obedience permits me and You inspire me ; the rest You must do Yourself. ”
« I remained like that until February 15. Those days were a continued inner mortification for me. I wondered if it had been a dream ; but I knew it was not : I was certain that it was real ! But still I asked myself how Our Lord could have deigned to appear again to me, who had responded so badly to the graces I had received !
« The day I was supposed to go to confession was approaching, and I didn’t have permission to say anything ! 7 I wanted to tell my Mother Superior. But during the day my occupations would not permit me, and in the evening I suffered from headaches. Then, fearing to commit a fault against charity I thought : “ This will be for tomorrow ; I offer You this sacrifice, my dear Mother. ” One day after another went by this way, until today.
« On the 15th, I was very busy with my work, and I was hardly thinking of that [the apparition of last December 10] at all. I was going to empty a garbage can outside the garden. »
THE ACCOUNT OF A CHARMING PRELUDE (NOVEMBER OR DECEMBER, 1925)
« At the same place, a few months before, I had encountered a child, whom I asked if he knew the Hail Mary. He had answered “ Yes ”, and I had asked him to say it to me, to hear him say it. At the end of three Hail Marys, I asked him to say it alone. Since he kept silence and seemed unable to say it alone, I asked him if he knew the church of Saint Mary. He said yes. Then I told him to go there every day and say this prayer : “ O my Heavenly Mother, give me Your Child Jesus ! ” I taught him this prayer, and I went away. »
Here, by force of events, Lucy is obliged to speak about herself a little, and her rare confidences reveal to us something of her marvellous soul. 8 Near the portal of the garden, she encounters a child. Immediately it occurs to her to talk to him about the Virgin Mary, to teach him to pray. Then she asks him to recite a Hail Mary, for the joy of hearing it. Since he would not say it alone, she recites it with him three times, according to the ancient practice of the three Hail Marys in honour of Our Lady.
Since the child never seemed willing to recite the Hail Mary alone, our catechist, who did not want to lose this opportunity of fulfilling her mission of making Our Lady known and loved, suggested another idea : she invited him to visit St. Mary’s Church every day. In fact, the basilica of “ St. Mary Major’s ” is quite near the house of the Dorothean Sisters. Was it shortly before or after the apparition of the Child Jesus, on December 10 ? We do not know. In any case, the little postulant taught the child this beautiful and short prayer which was surely her own as well, her most frequent and fervent prayer of this Advent of 1925 : “ O my Mother in Heaven, give me Your Child Jesus. ” And she went away.
FEBRUARY 15, 1926 : A NEW APPARITION OF THE CHILD JESUS
Lucy’s moving account, which we are quoting at length, continues :
« So, on February 15, coming back as usual (to empty a garbage can outside the garden), I found a child there who seemed to be the same one as before, and I asked him : “ Did you ask our Heavenly Mother for the Child Jesus ? ” The child turned to me and said : “ And you, have you revealed to the world what the Heavenly Mother asked you ? ” And, having said that, he turned into a resplendent child.
« Then recognising that it was Jesus, I said to Him :
– “ My Jesus ! You know what my confessor said to me in the letter I read You. He said that this vision had to be repeated, there had to be facts permitting us to believe it, and that the Mother Superior alone could not spread this devotion. ”
– “ It is true that the Mother Superior alone can do nothing, but with My grace, she can do anything. It is enough that your confessor gives you permission, and that your superior announce this for it to be believed by the people, even if they do not know who it was revealed to. ”
– “ But my confessor said in his letter that this devotion already exists in the world, because many souls receive You every first Saturday of the month, in honour of Our Lady and the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. ”
– “ It is true, My daughter, that many souls begin, but few persevere to the very end, and those who persevere do it to receive the graces promised. The souls who make the five First Saturdays with fervour and to make reparation to the Heart of your Heavenly Mother, please Me more than those who make fifteen, but are lukewarm and indifferent. ”
– “ My Jesus ! Many souls find it difficult to confess on Saturday. Will You allow a confession within eight days to be valid ? ”
– “ Yes. It can even be made later on, provided that the souls are in the state of grace when they receive Me on the first Saturday, and that they had the intention of making reparation to the Sacred Heart of Mary. ”
– “ My Jesus ! And those who forget to form this intention ? ”
– “ They can form it at the next confession, taking advantage of their first opportunity to go to confession. ”
« Right after that He disappeared, without me finding out anything more about Heaven’s desires, up to the present. » 9
Here again, the internal criticism of this text excludes all reductionist explanations based on autosuggestion or the inventions of a disturbed mind. The facts reported – so charmingly ! – are too clear, simple and supernatural to be the invention of a diseased soul. At the same time, they are too bewildering, surprising even at first glance, to be the work of any theologian. Who could have invented such an account from scratch ?
In the first place, our seer is emptying the garbage cans of the monastery every day, for months. And she is happy. She does not seem disturbed by the humiliating circumstances of the apparition. To remind her of its great designs over the world and the salvation of souls, Heaven chose precisely the moment when its messenger was occupied in a very humble and abject little chore. Note well : a proud person, a mythomaniac deceived by illusory apparitions would have imagined extraordinary or at least uncommon circumstances, but never these. She would have been afraid of appearing ridiculous and not being believed. As for herself, Lucy relates the facts in all simplicity just as they took place, without being astonished that the Divine Child, born in a stable, chose this humble circumstance to manifest Himself.
It now remains for us to explain the meaning and significance of the message of Pontevedra, which although it remains only the complement – or rather the fulfilment of the message of Fatima – takes on the most singular importance.
II. THE GREAT PROMISE AND ITS CONDITIONS
The most astonishing thing about Pontevedra, of course, is the incomparable promise made by Our Lady : « To all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months… » fulfil all the conditions requested, « I promise to assist them at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their soul. » With boundless generosity, the Blessed Virgin promises here the grace of graces, the most sublime of all graces, that of final perseverance. This grace cannot be merited even by an entire life of sanctity spent in prayer and sacrifice, for it is always a purely gratuitous gift of the divine mercy. And the promise is without any exclusion, limitation, or restriction : « To all those who…, I promise. »
The disproportion between « the little devotion » requested, and the immense grace attached to it, reveals to us first of all and especially the quasi-infinite power of intercession granted to the Blessed Virgin Mary for the salvation of all souls. « The great promise (Father Alonso writes) is nothing less than a new manifestation of this love of complacency which the Holy Trinity has for the Blessed Virgin. For those who understand such a thing, it is easy to admit that such wonderful promises can be attached to such humble practices. Such souls accept the promise with filial love, and a simple heart full of confidence in the Blessed Virgin Mary. » 10
In short, we can therefore say in all truth that the first fruit of the Communion of Reparation is the salvation of the one practicing it. Let us place no limits on the divine mercy, but keep to the letter of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s promise : whoever fulfils all the conditions set down can be sure of obtaining at the moment of death at least – and this even after miserable lapses back into a state of grave sin – the graces necessary to obtain the pardon of God, and to be preserved from eternal chastisement.
As we shall see, however, there is much more in this promise, for the missionary spirit is everywhere present in the spirituality of Fatima. The devotion of reparation is also recommended to us as a means of converting sinners in the greatest danger of being lost, and as a most efficacious means of intercession for obtaining the peace of the world from the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 11
If Our Lady wished to attach such abundant fruits to the practice of this « little devotion », is it not to gain our attention more surely and move our heart so that we can practice it, and get others around us to practice it wherever we can ? For this purpose it is important to be familiar with the conditions laid down, and have a precise knowledge of them.
Since 1925, Sister Lucy has never ceased repeating them, and always in the same terms. There are five conditions, to which is added a sixth, which concerns the general intention in which the other acts requested must be done.
1. THE FIRST SATURDAY OF FIVE CONSECUTIVE MONTHS
« All those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months… » This first requirement of Heaven contains nothing arbitrary nor even anything absolutely new. It fits into the immemorial tradition of Catholic piety, which having devoted Fridays to the remembrance of the Passion of Jesus Christ and honouring of His Sacred Heart, finds it very natural to devote Saturdays to His Most Holy Mother. Such is the venerable tradition which motivated the choice of Saturday.
But this is not saying enough : if we look closely, the great request of Pontevedra appears as the happy culmination of a whole movement of devotion. It began spontaneously, then it was encouraged and codified by Rome, and it seems to be nothing less than the providential preparation for what was to come later.
THE FIFTEEN SATURDAYS IN HONOUR OF OUR LADY OF THE MOST HOLY ROSARY. « For a long time, members of the various Rosary confraternities had the custom of devoting fifteen consecutive Saturdays to the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, before this feast or some other time of the year. On each of these Saturdays, they approached the sacraments and performed pious exercises in honour of the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. » In 1889, Leo XIII granted to all the faithful a plenary indulgence for one of these fifteen consecutive Saturdays. In 1892, « he also granted those who were legitimately impeded on Saturday the faculty of performing this pious exercise on Sundays, without losing the indulgences. » 12
THE TWELVE FIRST SATURDAYS OF THE MONTH. With Saint Pius X, the devotion of the first Saturdays of the month is officially approved : « All the faithful who, on the first Saturday or first Sunday of twelve consecutive months, devote some time to vocal or mental prayer in honour of the Immaculate Virgin in Her conception gain, on each of these days, a plenary indulgence. Conditions : confession, communion, and prayers for the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff. » 13
THE DEVOTION OF REPARATION ON THE FIRST SATURDAYS OF THE MONTH. Finally, on June 13, 1912, Saint Pius X granted new indulgences to practices which almost exactly foreshadow the requests of Pontevedra : « To promote the piety of the faithful towards Immaculate Mary, Mother of God, and to make reparation for the outrages done to Her holy Name and Her privileges by impious men, Pius X granted, for the first Saturday of each month, a plenary indulgence, applicable to the souls in purgatory. Conditions : confession, communion, prayers for the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff and pious practices in the spirit of reparation in honour of the Immaculate Virgin. » 14 Five years later, to the day, after this thirteenth of June, 1912, there took place at Fatima the great manifestation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, « surrounded with thorns which seemed to pierce It ». Sister Lucy was to say later on : « We understood that it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, which demanded reparation. » 15
On November 13, 1920, Pope Benedict XV granted new indulgences to this same practice when accomplished on the first Saturday of eight consecutive months. 16
A TRADITIONAL DEVOTION. How wonderful it is to see Heaven content itself with crowning a great movement of Catholic piety, doing nothing more than giving precision to the decisions of a Pope, and what a Pope, Saint Pius X ! In the same way, the Blessed Virgin had come to Lourdes to confirm the infallible declarations of Pope Pius IX.
Let us also say this right now : in requesting the Pope to solemnly approve the devotion of reparation revealed at Pontevedra, Our Lady was not really asking for anything impossible. Providence had prepared everything so well that in 1925-1926, this devotion was right in line with a series of papal decisions giving the forerunners and “ pre-figures ” of the First Saturday devotion.
AND YET A VERY NEW DEVOTION. What new elements, however, in this message of Pontevedra ! And first of all, in the concession of excessive faculties which only Heaven can take the liberty of granting : on December 10, the Virgin Mary no longer requires fifteen, twelve, or even eight Saturdays to be devoted to Her. She knows our inconstancy, and asks for only five Saturdays – as many as the decades on our Rosary.
Then, above all, the promise joined with it has increased so dramatically : no longer is it a question of indulgences (that is, the remission of punishment for sins already pardoned), but a much more signal grace, the assurance of receiving at the moment of death « all the graces necessary for salvation ». A more wonderful promise could hardly be conceived, for it concerns success or failure in « the most important business, our only business : the great affair of our eternal salvation ». 17
We have seen that it is not required that the confession be made on the first Saturday itself. If, due to any necessity, it must be anticipated even beyond eight days, there must at least be a monthly confession. However, it is certain that, as far as possible, it is preferable that the confession be made on a day close to the first Saturday.
The thought of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary must equally be present. In this way, notes Father Alonso, « the soul adds to the principal motive of sorrow for our sins – which will always be that sin is an offence against God, Who has redeemed us in Christ – another motive for sorrow, which will undoubtedly exercise a beneficial influence : sorrow for the offence given to the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of the Virgin Mary. » 18
3. THE COMMUNION OF REPARATION ON THE FIRST SATURDAYS
The Communion of reparation, of course, is the most important act of the devotion of reparation. All the other acts centre around it. To understand its meaning and significance, it must be considered in relation with the miraculous Communion of autumn 1916; already this communion was completely oriented to the idea of reparation, 19 thanks to the words of the Angel. The Communion of reparation must also be considered in relation to the Communion on the nine First Fridays of the month, requested by the Sacred Heart at Paray-le-Monial.
Someone might object : to receive Communion on the first Saturday of five consecutive months is almost impossible for many of the faithful, who have no Mass in their parish on that day. Such is the question Father Gonçalves, Lucy’s confessor, put to her in a letter of May 29, 1930 :
« If one cannot fulfil all the conditions on a Saturday, can it be done on Sunday ? People in the country, for example, will not be able very often, because they live quite far away… » 20
Our Lord gave the answer to Sister Lucy during the night of May 29-30, 1930 : « The practice of this devotion will be equally acceptable on the Sunday following the first Saturday when My priests, for a just cause, allow it to souls. » 21 Thus not only the Communion, but also the recitation of the Rosary and meditation on the mysteries can be transferred to Sunday, for just motives of which priests are left the judges. It is easy to ask for this permission in confession. Note once again the Catholic, ecclesial character of the message of Fatima. It is to His priests, and not to the individual conscience, that Jesus gives the responsibility of granting this additional concession.
After so many concessions, who could still claim that he was unable to fulfil the requests of the Virgin Mary ?
4. RECITATION OF THE ROSARY
In each of the six apparitions of 1917, Our Lady requested people to recite the Rosary every day. Since it is a question of repairing for offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, what other vocal prayer could be more pleasing to Her ? 22
5. THE FIFTEEN MINUTE MEDITATION ON THE FIFTEEN MYSTERIES OF THE ROSARY
In addition to the recitation of the Rosary, Our Lady requests fifteen minutes of meditation on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. This does not mean, of course, that a quarter of an hour is required for each mystery ! Just one quarter of an hour is required for all ! Neither is it indispensable to meditate each month on the fifteen mysteries. Lucy writes to Father Gonçalves : « To keep Our Lady company for fifteen minutes, while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary. » To her mother, Maria Rosa, Lucy wrote essentially the same thing on July 24, 1927, suggesting only a meditation on some of the mysteries, left to free choice :
« Mother, I would also like you to give me the consolation of adopting a devotion which I know to be very agreeable to God, and which our dear Mother in Heaven has requested. As soon as I learned of it, I desired to adopt it, and see the whole world practice it.
« I hope therefore, Mother, that you will answer me by saying that you will practice it, and also try to get everyone else over there to practice it. You could not give me a greater consolation.
« It consists simply in doing what is written on this little image. The confession can be done another day, other than Saturday. The fifteen minutes (of meditation) might, I think, give you some trouble, but it is quite easy. Who would have difficulty thinking about the mysteries of the Rosary ? To think about the Annunciation of the Angel to Mary and the humility of our dear Mother, who seeing Herself so exalted, calls Herself the Handmaid (of the Lord); about the Passion of Jesus, Who suffered so much for our love ; and about our Most Holy Mother near to Jesus on Calvary ? Who could not spend fifteen minutes in these holy thoughts, before the most tender of mothers ?
« Goodbye, dear mother. Console in this way our Mother in Heaven, and try to get many others to console Her in the same manner. In this way you will give myself also an unimaginable joy !
« Your most devoted daughter, who kisses your hand. » 23
In this beautiful letter, Sister Lucy insists on the sixth condition, which is the principal one : each of these devotions must be accomplished « in the spirit of reparation », towards the Immaculate Heart of Mary : « console in this way our Mother in Heaven, » she wrote.
6. THE INTENTION OF MAKING REPARATION : « YOU, AT LEAST, TRY TO CONSOLE ME. »
Without this general intention, without this will of love which desires to make reparation to Our Lady to console Her, all these external practices are nothing, and are worth nothing. This is clear.
The practice of the Communion of reparation must be attentive and fervent. Our Lord explained this to Sister Lucy in His apparition of February 15, 1926 : « It is true, My daughter, that many souls begin (the practice of the fifteen Saturdays), but few persevere to the end, and those who persevere do it to receive the graces promised for it. Souls that make the five first Saturdays with fervour and to make reparation to the Heart of your Mother in Heaven please Me more than the tepid and indifferent who make the fifteen… » 24 Our Lady asks so little, but precisely so that we might apply ourselves to it from the heart. This does not mean that it will always be with much sensible fervour, according to the great maxim of spirituality : “ To will to love is to love.’’
The brief words of the Child Jesus and Our Lady on December 10, 1925, say it all. They suffice to make us understand the true spirit of this devotion of reparation :
« Look, My daughter, at My Heart surrounded by thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude, without there being anyone to make an act of reparation to remove them. You, at least, try to console Me. »
This image, which is so expressive, says it all : the blasphemies and ingratitude of sinners are like so many cruel thorns, which only we can remove by our acts of love and reparation. For love, or « compassion », is the soul of all these practices. It is a question of consoling the Immaculate Heart of « the tenderest of mothers », which is so outraged.
Lucy had understood this perfectly at that very moment. The end of her letter to Msgr. Pereira Lopes, where she describes the apparition of the Child Jesus on February 15, 1926, is eloquent witness to this fact :
« Immediately after, He disappeared without my learning anything more of the desires of Heaven until now.
« And as for my own desires (she continues) may a flame of divine love be lighted in souls so that, being sustained in this love, they might really console the Sacred Heart of Mary. I have at least the desire to console a great deal my dear Mother in Heaven, in suffering much for Her love. » 25
The originality of this message must be stressed. 26 For here there is no question, at least essentially, of consoling the Blessed Virgin by having compassion on Her Heart pierced by the sufferings of Her Son. To be sure, the message of Fatima presupposes this aspect of Catholic piety, which is already traditional. On October 13, 1917, Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows appeared in the sky to the three shepherds. 27 However, the most precise meaning of the reparatory devotion requested at Pontevedra consists not so much in meditation on the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary as in considering the offences which the Immaculate Heart of Mary now receives from ungrateful men and blasphemers who reject Her maternal mediation and scorn Her divine prerogatives. All these are so many thorns which must be taken from Her Heart by loving practices of reparation to console Her, and also to obtain pardon for the souls who have had the audacity to offend Her so gravely.
Nothing could better help us understand the true spirit of the reparation requested by Our Lady of Fatima than the account of an important revelation Sister Lucy was favoured with on May 29, 1930.
III. THE SPIRIT OF THE DEVOTION OF REPARATION :
THE REVELATION OF MAY 29, 1930
Sister Lucy at the time was at Tuy. Her confessor, Father Gonçalves, had given her a series of questions in writing. Here, let us retain only the fourth one : « Why five Saturdays (he asked) and not nine, or seven, in honour of the sorrows of Our Lady ? » 28 That same evening, the seer implored Our Lord to inspire her with an answer to these questions. A few days later, she passed the following to her confessor. 29
« While I was in the chapel with Our Lord part of the night of May 29-30, 1930 [we know that it was her habit to make a holy hour from eleven in the evening to midnight, especially on Thursday evenings, according to the requests of the Sacred Heart at Paray-le-Monial] and speaking to Our Lord about questions four and five, I suddenly felt myself more intimately possessed by the Divine Presence and, if I am not mistaken 29a, this is what was revealed to me :
« My daughter, the reason is simple. There are five types of offences and blasphemies committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary :
1. Blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception.
2. Blasphemies against Her Virginity.
3. Blasphemies against Her Divine Maternity, in refusing at the same time to recognise Her as the Mother of men.
4. The blasphemies of those who publicly seek to sow in the hearts of children indifference or scorn, or even hatred of this Immaculate Mother.
5. The offences of those who outrage Her directly in Her holy images.
« Here, My daughter, is the reason why the Immaculate Heart of Mary inspired Me to ask for this little act of reparation... » 30
THE THORNS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY
Here let us follow Father Alonso, for in his study on the message of Pontevedra, he makes a long and useful commentary on the five offences against the Immaculate Heart of Mary enumerated by Our Lord.
THE BLASPHEMIES OF HERETICS, SCHISMATICS AND IMPIOUS MEN. Blinded by a deceitful ecumenism, we have had a tendency since 1962 to forget that there is an obvious truth recalled here by the Message of Fatima : those who obstinately and with full knowledge openly deny the prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commit the most odious blasphemies in Her regard.
First blasphemy : against the Immaculate Conception. Father Alonso asks : who are those who might commit this offence against the Immaculate Heart of Mary ? The answer leaves no doubt : « In the first place and in general the Protestant sects who refuse to receive the dogma defined by Pius IX and who have continued to maintain that the Blessed Virgin was conceived with the stain of original sin and even personal sins. The same can be said of the (dissident) Eastern Christians, since, in spite of their great Marian devotion, they too refuse this dogma. » 31
Although the Orthodox admit it, the majority of Protestants also reject the perfect and perpetual virginity of Mary « before, during and after giving birth ».
Although they theoretically accept the Divine Maternity of Mary defined at the Council of Ephesus, they refuse to recognise Her as the Mother of men in the Catholic sense, which implies Her co-redemption and Her role as Mediatrix of grace.
The fourth blasphemy concerns the perversion of children in whom enemies of Our Lady strive to inculcate indifference, scorn or even hatred for the Immaculate Virgin, and the fifth one, by which they outrage Her in Her holy images, are only the logical consequence of the first three, and often go together with them. Iconoclasm, or at least the obstinate rejection of Catholic theology on the holy images, is a long way from having disappeared.
In short, for three and a half centuries the Counter-Church has been waging an unceasing and furious struggle against the Immaculate Virgin, against Her cult, against Her reign in hearts and over all societies. Following in the footsteps of Protestantism, and coming after Jansenism and its cold disdain for true devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, the rationalism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as the Modernism of the twentieth, continue to attack Marian doctrine and devotion, and just as scornfully and perfidiously. Finally, it is common knowledge how Bolshevik communism attempted in every possible way to destroy the profound veneration for the Mother of God, anchored in the soul of the Russian people. The holy icons had to disappear, being either destroyed or hidden, and they still await a happier day.
THE BLASPHEMIES OF REBELLIOUS AND UNGRATEFUL CHILDREN. But there is something graver, more serious by far than all the offences of heretics, schismatics, apostates and ungodly men. It is the blasphemies of the Church’s own children against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. With the passing of time, the message of Pontevedra seems astonishingly prophetic.
Father Richard, leader of the Blue Army in France, and who could hardly be suspected of an abusive pessimism, remarks on this subject : « Who could have imagined fifty years ago that these five great offences against Mary would spread within the clergy of the Catholic Church herself, and that a great number of baptised and catechised children in our parishes would not even know any longer how to say the “ Hail Mary ”. » 32 Father Alonso was forced to make similar remarks.
This situation has become so prevalent today that all commentary is superfluous. There are certain theologians, certain priests, certain bishops who do have the five blasphemies on their conscience. There are not just a few exceptional cases, but hundreds and perhaps even thousands. It is not enough to make an observation of this fact. We must discover the causes of it and explain how we arrived at this point. Father Alonso at least described the event with exactitude : The great « Marian era » inaugurated in 1854 by the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he ventures to write, closed with the Second Vatican Council. 33 But how did this come about ? And why this alarming decline in Marian devotion, which was still in full bloom at the death of Pius XII ? This is what we will have to examine later on, in the context of the Third Secret.
However, let us remark right now that the first element in the message of Fatima is faith – precise, dogmatic faith. True devotion to the Blessed Virgin always and necessarily presupposes faith in Her privileges and prerogatives infallibly defined by the Pope, or taught by the ordinary magisterium and unanimously believed for centuries by the faithful. It is also true that the gravest sins against the Most Holy Virgin are first of all sins against faith. This important lesson must be kept in mind.
THE DEVOTION OF REPARATION : A SECRET OF MERCY FOR SINNERS
After enumerating the five blasphemies which gravely offend His Most Holy Mother, Our Lord gave Sister Lucy the decisive explanation which allows us to penetrate into the secret of Her Immaculate Heart, which overflows with mercy for all sinners, even those who scorn and outrage Her :
« See, My daughter, the motive for which the Immaculate Heart of Mary inspired Me to ask for this little reparation, and in consideration of it, to move My mercy to pardon souls who have had the misfortune of offending Her. As for you, always seek by your prayers and sacrifices to move My mercy to pity for these poor souls. » 34
“ THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT. ” Here we have one of the principal themes of the message of Fatima : since God has decided to manifest more and more His great design of love, which is to grant all graces to men through the mediation of the Immaculate Virgin, it seems that their refusal to submit with docility to what God wills is the fault which most gravely wounds His Heart, and for which He no longer finds in Himself any inclination to pardon them. This sin seems unforgivable, because for Our Saviour there is no crime more unpardonable than to despise His Most Holy Mother and to outrage Her Immaculate Heart, which is the Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit. This is committing « the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will not be forgiven in this world or in the next. ” » 35
Soon, in 1929, in the apparition of Tuy which is the final fulfilment of Fatima, Our Lady will conclude the extraordinary manifestation of the Holy Trinity with these striking words : « So many are the souls which the justice of God condemns for sins committed against Me that I come to ask for reparation. Sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray. » These words are so strong that several translators took the liberty of diluting their meaning. 36
“ A LITTLE ACT OF REPARATION ” TO SAVE THE GREATEST SINNERS. Yes, Our Lady affirms sadly, many souls are lost because of their scorn, their blasphemies against Her. Thus, giving us the example of loving our enemies, She Herself intervenes, because She alone can still save these monsters of pride and ingratitude who have revolted against Her. As « Mother of Mercy and Mother of Pardon », as we sing in the Salve Mater, She intercedes for us before Her Son : may the filial devotion of faithful souls, and the Communions of reparation offered on the five First Saturdays to console Her outraged Heart, be accepted by Him in reparation for the crimes of sinners. Our Lady prays that He deign to accept this « little devotion », and take into account this « little act of reparation » to Her Immaculate Heart, and deign to grant pardon, in spite of everything, to the ingrates and blasphemers, to all the poor souls who have had the audacity to offend Her – She, His Most Holy Mother !
And as always, Our Lord grants Her desire. In this way He makes the devotion of reparation a sure and efficacious means of converting souls, many souls, among those who are in the greatest danger of being eternally lost. We must quote here a significant text in which “ the great promise ” itself is a secondary consideration, effacing itself before the primary intention of the Heart of Mary, which is the salvation of all sinners. In May of 1930, Sister Lucy wrote to Father Gonçalves :
« It seems to me that the good Lord, in the depths of my heart, insists that I ask the Holy Father to approve the devotion of reparation, which God Himself and the Most Holy Virgin deigned to request in 1925. In consideration of this little devotion, They wish to give the grace of pardon to souls who have had the misfortune of offending the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Most Holy Virgin promises to souls who will seek to make reparation to Her in this manner, to assist them in the hour of death with all the graces necessary for their salvation. » 37
REPARATION NECESSARY. To save souls, all souls, « especially those who are most in need », to snatch them all from the fire of Hell which threatens them, is then, in the final analysis, the principal intention of the practice of the first Saturdays of the month, just as it was already the same intention Our Lady indicated on August 19, 1917, urgently inviting the three shepherds to pray and make sacrifices : « Pray, pray much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to Hell because they have nobody to pray and make sacrifices for them. »
The Blessed Virgin Mary has been constituted universal Mediatrix and Mother of Divine Grace. Nevertheless, by a design of Providence which wills us to be joined to Her, She cannot act alone. She needs us, our consoling love and our “ little devotions ” of reparation, to save souls from Hell. Exalted and terrible mystery of the communion of saints, which makes the salvation of many souls really dependent on our own generosity ! And what a motive for generosity on our part ! For how could we refuse this missionary action which Our Lady awaits of us, which She has made so easy to fulfil – remember that with the permission of a priest, all the exercises requested can be transferred to Sunday – when these same exercises are so efficacious, so fruitful ? For through this devotion many souls in imminent danger of being eternally lost can obtain, at the last moment and as it were in spite of themselves, the grace of their conversion.
To console the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced with thorns, to make reparation for the outrages It receives from sinners by prayer and sacrifice, such in the end is the most precise requirement of this first part of the Secret, which Our Lady came to recall and clarify at Pontevedra, in 1925 : « You, at least, try to console Me. » Now the most perfect sacrifice, the most efficacious prayer, is of course the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy Communion offered to God in the spirit of reparation. 38
All this helps us understand the pressing insistence of Our Lady, Her ardent desire that this devotion of reparation be practiced everywhere as frequently as possible. This devotion is the dearest to Her, because it is the most perfect and therefore the most efficacious for the salvation of souls. Because She desires our cooperation at any price, She has joined the most wonderful promises to it !
“ WAR AND PEACE DEPEND ON IT. ” In fact, in addition to the conversion of sinners and our own eternal salvation, Our Lady has willed that the Communion of reparation be linked to another magnificent promise : the gift of peace. On March 19, 1939, Sister Lucy could write :
« Whether the world has war or peace depends on the practice of this devotion, along with the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is why I desire its propagation so ardently, especially because this is also the will of our dear Mother in Heaven. » 39
And on June 20 of the same year, she wrote :
« Our Lady promised to delay the scourge of war, if this devotion was propagated and practised. We see that She will obtain remission of this chastisement to the extent that efforts are made to propagate this devotion ; but I fear that we cannot do any more than we are doing and that God, being displeased, will pull back the arm of His mercy and let the world be ravaged by this chastisement which will be unlike any other in the past, horrible, horrible. » 40
Two months later, war had been declared. Still nothing had been done to correspond to the requests of Heaven.
FROM THE FIRST TO THE SECOND SECRET
This prophetic announcement brings us straight into a tragedy. It is the great tragedy at once both religious and political, which in twenty years led our Christian Europe into an atrocious war, the deadliest in all history, and then into another one even bloodier and still more horrible in its deadly consequences. Soon it was to deliver nations and almost entire continents into the slavery of Soviet barbarism. We shall now explain how Our Lady foretold this terrible tragedy, explaining its major phases and secret causes on July 13, 1917. This is the second part of Her great Secret.
THE CAPITAL SECRET : THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY, SALVATION OF SOULS. However, let us make it clear at the very beginning that this “ second secret ” is closely dependent on the first one, which has a primordial importance. For as we shall discover in the second part of our study, the great Divine policy revealed by the Queen of Heaven at the Cova da Iria, with its attractive promises of universal and enduring peace and also its threats of fearsome chastisements – this whole Divine policy is only an instrument used by Divine Mercy to obtain the salvation of souls, the greatest possible number of souls.
In the final analysis, it is to the first part of the Secret that we must always return, for it is undoubtedly the principal and most important one in the eyes of God. To save souls, all souls, from the only real evil because it is the only eternal one – to snatch them at any cost from the fire of Hell – such is also the first concern of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At Fatima, She revealed this Immaculate Heart as a refuge and ultimate recourse of sinners, even the most hateful and miserable, because She is the Mediatrix of Mercy, and Gate of Heaven. This is the first part of Her great Secret, because it is also the first secret of Her Heart :
« Frightened, and as if to ask for help, we lifted our eyes up to Our Lady, who said to us with kindness and sadness :
« “ You have seen Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart.
« “ If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.
« “ I shall come to ask for the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays of the month. ” »
Little Jacinta had understood perfectly this great warning of Our Lady for the salvation of souls. Her soul was completely penetrated by it, as this charming episode shows. « Sometimes (Lucy recalled) she would gather flowers from the field and sing to a melody, which she herself had invented, at the same time :
« Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation !
Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Convert sinners, save souls from Hell ! » 41
In effect, these words sum up the whole essence of the “ first Secret ” : It is through the Immaculate Heart of Mary that the Holy Trinity wishes today to save our souls, all souls, to snatch them away from Hell and open up Heaven to them.
SEE APPENDIX III : « SISTER LUCY EXPLAINS THE REPARATORY DEVOTION OF THE FIRST SATURDAYS » (after Chapter XII).
(1) The message of Pontevedra for quite a long time remained almost completely unknown, or was relegated to a position of secondary importance. The thick book by Canon Barthas, Fatima 1917-1968, which appeared in 1969, devoted barely two pages to it ! (p. 211-212.) It was necessary to wait until 1973 to finally find all the important documents in Father Alonso’s excellent study, Fatima and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (MSC, p. 37-48). But nothing can replace the more complete little work which the same author published in 1974 : La Gran Promesa del Corazon de Maria en Pontevedra (LGP). A little pamphlet gives important excepts from this work in French : Le message de Fatima à Pontevedra (translation by Father Simonin). Finally, to consult all the sources, we must go back to the Portuguese works, Documentos and Uma Vida.
(2) The text that we quote from is a second or third version identical to the first one, which has not been preserved. It was written by Sister Lucy at the end of 1927, at the request of her spiritual director, Father Aparicio, S.J. « Out of humility », the latter explains, « Sister Lucy showed some reluctance to writing in the first person, to which I responded that she could write in the third person, which she did. » Letter to Father da Fonseca, January 10, 1938, quoted by Alonso, Eph. Mar., 1973, p. 25.
(3) Doc., p. 401.
(4) Letter of 1927 in which Lucy subsequently explains to Father Aparicio how this precious manuscript was burned by her in 1927 (Eph. Mar., 1973, p. 23-24).
(5) This letter, however, constitutes an extremely important document. We will quote from it in an appendix. See Appendix II to the final chapter.
(6) This document, which continued to be in the possession of its addressee, remained totally unknown until 1973, the date it was published by Father Martins dos Reis in Uma Vida, p. 337-357. Cf. Doc., p. 477-481.
(7) Had Don Garcia asked Lucy not to speak to him about this apparition any more ? It is possible. In this case we can understand why she no longer dares even to confide to him her interior torment on this subject.
(8) Cf. Letter to Father Gonçalves, June 12, 1930, Doc., p. 409.
(9) Uma Vida, p. 337-351. Later on (p. 263-264.) we will quote from the end of this letter, where Lucy explains the state of her soul to her spiritual director.
(10) Alonso, LGP, p. 45.
(11) The great promise of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at Pontevedra does not fail to remind us, in a striking fashion, of the great promise of the Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary. But since this analogy is not the only one, we prefer to include in it the examination of a more complete parallel between the two messages of Paray-le-Monial and Fatima. In effect, the revelation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary mutually clarify and shed light on each other. We shall be able to explain this more clearly when we shall have progressed further in the explanation of the message of Fatima.
(12) Father F. Beringer, Les indulgences, leur nature et leur usage, Vol. I, No. 767, fourth edition, Lethielleux, 1925.
(13) July 1, 1905, ibid., No. 760.
(14) Ibid., No. 762.
(15) Cf. Vol. I, p. 159, 163-164.
(16) Beringer, op. cit., No. 762. The Pope granted, in addition to the plenary indulgence, the right to the apostolic blessing with the indulgence at the point of death.
(17) Cf. St. Alphonsus De Liguori, Preparation For Death, Twelfth Consideration, “ The Importance of Salvation ”.
(18) LGP, p. 75; cf. infra, Part II, Chapter VII, note 21.
(19) Cf. our Vol. I, p. 86-87.
(20) Doc., p. 407; cf. MSC, p. 46.
(21) Sister Lucy’s reply, received by Father Gonçalves on June 12, 1930. Doc., p. 411; cf. MSC, p. 47.
(22) Cf. our Vol. I, p. 296-298.
(23) Doc, p. 403. For this meditation one may follow Sister Lucy’s advice, infra, Final Chapter, Appendix III.
(24) Doc., p. 479-481.
(25) Uma Vida, p. 351-353.
(26) Which distinguishes it very clearly, for example, from the message of Berthe Petit, which Mother Montfalim, the Dorothean Provincial Superior, was helping to spread in Portugal at that time. Cf. Father Duffner, Berthe Petit et la devotion au Coeur Douloureux et Immaculé de Marie, p. 147 : Mother Montfalim had known Berthe Petit in Switzerland, during the World War. (Fourth Edition, Camaldolese Benedictines, La Seyne-sur-Mer, Var.)
(27) Cf. our Vol. I, p. 303.
(28) Doc., p. 407; MSC, p. 45.
(29) On this letter, which has no date, Father Gonçalves had marked : June 12, 1930. Doc., p. 409-410; cf. MSC, p. 46-47.
(29a) As in the writings of Saint Margaret Mary, it would be an error to see the expression of a real uncertainty or doubt in this restrictive formula. It is simply a formula of humility and obedience through which the seer defers in advance to her director’s judgement.
(30) We will quote the conclusion of this revelation further on.
(31) LGP, p. 56-57.
(32) L’Homme nouveau, March 2, 1980, p. 20.
(33) LGP, p. 56.
(34) Doc., p. 409.
(35) Sister Lucy herself suggests this comparison with Mt. 12 :31-32 in her conversation with Father Fuentes.
(36) Dom Jean-Nesmy, for example, gives this inexact translation : « So many are the sins which the justice of God condemns for being sins committed against me… » (Lucie raconte, p. 208; La Vérité de Fatima, p. 221; cf. also Father Alonso’s translation which appeared in MSC, p. 42) No ! The original text in fact says : « Sâo tantas as almas que a Justiça de Deus condena por pecados contra Mim cometidos… » Doc., p. 465. Thus, without any doubt Our Lady refers to the numerous souls who are damned, not the sins which God reproves.
(37) Letter received on May 29, 1930. Doc., p. 405; cf. MSC, p. 44.
(38) See our Vol. I, p. 86-89.
(39) Letter to Father Aparicio, Doc., p. 483.
(40) Letter of June 20, 1939, to Father Aparicio, Doc., p. 485.
(41) III, p. 113. In later chapters we will relate how Lucy was to strive indefatigably to make known the reparatory devotion and get it approved by her bishop and by the Pope, according to Heaven’s desires (infra, passim).