The centennial of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima, which began in May 1917, brings to light a little realized, but most vital, bond: Fatima and Divine Mercy are closely connected. Less than 15 years after our Blessed Mother appeared at Fatima, and a mere two years after Mary and Jesus appeared to Servant of God Lucia Santos in her convent at Tuy, Spain, Our Lord began his revelations on Divine Mercy to St. Faustina.
Father Michael Gaitley of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, the official promotors of the Divine Mercy devotion, points out one way they are related — by what we might call the “bookends” of Fatima.
He told the Register that, “in 1916, before the apparitions of Our Lady the next year, God sent the ‘Angel of Peace’ to the three children of Fatima, telling them, ‘The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you.’ Thirteen years later, in what’s often called ‘the last apparition of Fatima,’ Sister Lucia received a vision that included the words grace and mercy.”
“That the apparitions of Fatima would begin and end with mercy is fitting,” added Father Gaitley. “After all, Our Lady of Fatima’s merciful purpose was to prevent her children from having to go through terrible suffering.”
In his writings, Americo Pablo Lopez-Ortiz, the international president of the World Apostolate of Fatima, similarly sees the integral harmony of Fatima and Divine Mercy. After all, the slogan of Fatima is “Grace and Mercy.”
The vital connection between Our Lady’s message and call to us at Fatima and Our Lord’s mercy message becomes even clearer when we see other providential connections. Lopez-Ortiz calls St. John Paul II the protagonist of both devotions. The Pope was shot May 13, 1981, an anniversary of Mary’s first appearance at Fatima.
He visited Fatima on the next anniversary to thank her for sparing his life through a miraculous intervention. He then championed the Fatima message and the Rosary.
On Sept. 4, 1993, John Paul II visited the Shrine of the Gate of the Dawn (Ostrabrama) in Vilnius, Lithuania, praying the Rosary with people before the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Mercy. There, in 1935, on the Sunday after Easter — now Divine Mercy Sunday — the image of Jesus, the Divine Mercy, that St. Faustina had painted according to his direction was shown and venerated publicly for the first time.
Both Son and Mother of Mercy were together in that one shrine: Thus, 18 years after Fatima, Jesus made the connection clear.
The visionaries themselves bear this connection out.
In her diary (330), St. Faustina records a vision in which Mary says, “I am not only Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy and your Mother.”
And at Fatima, as Lopez-Ortiz reveals, the Fatima seers discovered “the infinite ocean of love and mercy that God is,” and through Mary’s heart, they discovered “the infinite mercy of God with poor sinners and the terrible threat they are facing, the existence of hell, created for those who proudly do not accept God’s mercy.”
Mary told St. Faustina the necessity of making God’s mercy known. “You have to speak to the world about his great mercy. … Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for (granting) mercy” (635).
Jesus also told Faustina: “Before the Day of Justice I am sending the Day of Mercy (1588). … I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of sinners. But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of my visitation (1160).” Faustina later understood that Jesus was prolonging the time of his mercy because of Mary’s intercession.
Make Both Fruitful
Father Gaitley understands “the time of mercy to be a time when God is calling us once again to intensely work for peace” and advises the faithful to “pay attention to the heart of what the Holy Spirit is repeatedly telling us through Pope Francis: ‘Be merciful.’ … Echoing the words of Christ in the Gospel, the Pope is not only calling us to prayer, but to deeds of mercy,” he told the Register.
Father Gaitley observed that it’s “not just about praying the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It’s not just about making the Five First Saturdays devotion.
It’s not just about making a personal consecration to the Immaculate Heart. Of course, all of that is important! But such prayer should also bear fruit in deeds of mercy.”
We should directly and effectively help the poor, weak and suffering in our midst.
“Maybe those hurting people are in our homes, our neighborhoods or our workplaces,” he said. “Wherever they are, if we find them and reach out to them with mercy, then we’ll experience the fruits of the present ‘time of mercy.’ That is, like Pope Francis, we’ll be filled with ‘The Joy of the Gospel.’ Like Sister Lucia, we’ll see ‘grace and mercy.’ Like the Angel of Peace, we’ll bring peace.”
As Jesus told us through St. Faustina, “I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for me” (742).
The Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy, which Father Gaitley directs, are young men and women who perform charitable deeds by visiting the poor and forgotten in local western Massachusetts communities and the homeless in Northeastern cities. He observed that their “simple acts of love bring joy, mercy and peace to those whom they serve.”
But everyone can do deeds of mercy, he explained: “Each one of us can be a ‘missionary of Divine Mercy’ wherever we are with the people we live with and meet.”
Mary and Mercy at Home
In Minneapolis, Maria Hornquist puts the Fatima and Divine Mercy messages into practice with husband Mike and their four daughters, who range in age from third to ninth grade, as well as with friends and fellow parishioners.
Maria — who feels blessed and “very connected to Our Lady” because her birthday is in May and her mother named her after Our Lady — enjoys praying the Rosary regularly at home during this Fatima anniversary year.
“On Jan. 1, we started with one decade, then build up another decade each month to May, when it’s all five decades,” she explained.
And, since one of Mary’s major requests was the Five First Saturdays, mom and daughters also began that devotion at the start of the year.
Fatima is what sparked and rekindled a fire of the faith for her, the Minnesota mom related. It began last year, thanks to a retreat given by Father Gaitley at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
“He spoke about how important [it was] to get people consecrated to Our Lady as quickly as possible,” she explained, “and he was bringing up the Divine Mercy message, how it was the 100th year of Fatima, and how they are all related.”
Now active with both the devotions of Fatima and Divine Mercy, she is spearheading, at her parish of St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony, Minnesota, the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian consecration and 33 Days to Merciful Love Divine Mercy consecration programs for a good-sized group. Both are self-directed retreats for individuals or groups written by Father Gaitley.
Hornquist timed the first to end last Oct. 13, Fatima’s anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun,” and the second will finish just before Holy Week for Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday. This was her second Marian consecration. “Each time I became closer to Our Lady,” she said. “And there’s so much grace given as a group.”
As deeds go, such consecration is a spiritual work of mercy. Works of mercy can abound with a family at home, too: comforting a sick child or spouse or being patient with those in error.
Children might need correction, as well.
Hornquist shared how, as a mother, “simply being calm, saying things in a loving tone, and disciplining in a loving way” puts deeds of mercy “into normal daily life. I do what I can in my own home.”
Call to Repentance
One final point — both devotions are prime calls to repentance.
“If there is one thing Our Lady stressed at Fatima, it was the imperative repent,” wrote Servant of God and Jesuit Father John Hardon. “That is what the sacrament of penance is all about.” It is one of the conditions of Divine Mercy Sunday devotion, too.
This anniversary reminds the faithful what Pope St. John Paul II, the “Marian-Divine Mercy Pope,” said when he visited Fatima in May 1982. “[T]he evangelical call to repentance and conversion, uttered in the words of the Mother, is always present.” As is Jesus’ message of Divine Mercy.
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.