Fatima June 1917, by Donal Anthony Foley
The previous article, on the first apparition at Fatima on 13 May 1917, looked at how although Our Lady didn’t say a great deal to the children, what she did say was very important, particularly her question: “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?” The seers had agreed to this, and from this point on they certainly suffered. But at the same time she had communicated to them a mysterious light from her hands which penetrated their hearts and souls, and made them see themselves in God. Thus they were being called to suffer, but were also given the strength and grace for this vocation.
In the weeks leading up to the second apparition, on 13 June 1917, the children got together to think of ways they could make sacrifices as the Lady had asked, including going without lunch, and praying the rosary more carefully. Lucia’s mother in particular was quite hostile to the idea that the Blessed Virgin could have appeared to her daughter, and while Francisco and Jacinta received more support from their parents, the attitude of the local villagers was somewhat derisory. Thus, as the Lady had said, the children did have much to suffer.
13 June was the feast of St Anthony of Padua, a very popular local saint, and Lucia’s mother hoped that the excitement of this would distract her. Meanwhile, Jacinta and Francisco’s parents went off to a fair, leaving them to make up their own minds as to what they should do. All three, though, were determined to go to the Cova da Iria. News of what had happened the previous month meant that about fifty people turned up. They said prayers and the rosary while waiting with the three children near the holmoak tree where the Blessed Mother had appeared the previous month.
Lucia then suddenly cried out to Jacinta that Our Lady was coming, and one of those present, a lady called Maria dos Santos Carreira, heard Lucia ask what the apparition wanted. She later reported that in reply she heard a sound like a tiny voice, like the buzzing of a bee.
The children themselves had seen a flash of light, and then saw Our Lady on the little holmoak tree, as Lucia asked her what she required: “I want you to come on the 13th of next month, to pray the Rosary every day, and to learn to read. Later, I will tell you what I want.”
Perhaps the first thing to notice here, is how the Blessed Virgin repeated her request for them to “pray the Rosary every day,” so as to emphasize how important this practise is both on a personal and social level.
Lucia then asked for the cure of a sick person, to be told: “If he is converted, he will be cured during the year.” Clearly this indicates the necessity of being genuinely converted to God, and of faith, if we, or people we know, are to be cured of sicknesses, and of course that is just how Jesus spoke to those who asked for cures, focusing on the faith of the sick person before him.
Having had a month to think things over, and realizing that the beautiful Lady was from heaven, and that going to heaven was greatly to be desired, Lucia returned to this topic, asking Our Lady to take them there. In response she was told: “I will take Jacinta and Francisco shortly; but you will stay here for some time to come. Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne.” (This last sentence is found in a letter written in 1927 by Lucia, when she was a religious sister, to her confessor. It can be seen in the book by Martins & Fox, Documents on Fatima, p. 241).
The “some time” that Lucia would have to remain behind turned out to be over 80 years, but the important point to note is the focus on God’s desire that devotion to the Blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Heart should be established throughout the world. Clearly, although the situation was better in the past, this isn’t happening now to any great extent in the Church in the developed world, with the possible exception of one or two countries, such as Poland, and so a lot of work is needed to fulfill this request nearly a hundred years after the Fatima apparitions. Until this happens it’s hard to see the situation in the Church improving to any great extent, and it will continue to struggle to fight off the inroads of secularism.
Lucia, thinking about the first part of this reply, was sad, and said: “Am I to stay here alone?” Our Lady replied: “No, my daughter. Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”
These words obviously don’t just apply to Lucia, but to everyone who turns to the Blessed Virgin as a secure refuge in these troubled times for the Church and the world.
After this Our Lady opened her hands and again engulfed the children in the same mysterious light from her hands. As a sign of that they were destined to die young, Jacinta and Francisco were in that part of the light which rose towards heaven, while Lucia was in that part being poured out on the earth. They also saw a heart encircled by thorns which pierced it in front of Our Lady’s right hand, and understood that it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, “outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation.”
Then, as Lucia pointed and cried out that Our Lady was going, Maria Carreira relates that she heard a noise like, “a rocket, a long way off,” and could see a small cloud a few inches over the tree rise and move slowly towards the east until it disappeared. She then said that as they glanced back at the holmoak tree, the onlookers could see that “the shoots at the top, which had been standing upright before, were now all bent towards the east, as if someone had stood upon them.”
The witnesses then returned to Fatima, and told everyone what they had seen, thus ensuring a crowd in the thousands for the next apparition.
It’s significant to note, then, that there were miraculous signs associated with Fatima right from the beginning, which undoubtedly helped many people to take the whole phenomenon seriously. But the main point coming from this apparition is the need for the Church to take the idea of devotion to Mary much more seriously, especially since God wants it, and it is the way, ultimately, that peace will come about in the world.
This article appeared initially in the Wanderer.