Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005 and before that a regular correspondent for the paper. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, Catholic Exchange <i>, and <i>Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds a graduate degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
There are so many fascinating details connected with Fatima. All in their own way emphasize the importance of Fatima. Fatima must once again come into our sight. It begs our response especially on this 100th anniversary year.
As St. John Paul II said after he was seriously wounded on May 13th, 1981, the Fatima message is “more important now than it was in 1917.”
More recently, when Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in Fatima in 2010 to mark the 10th anniversary of the beatification of the young seers, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, he said, “We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete.”
With this in mind, here are 12 more fascinating or little-remembered facts about Fatima.
Fact #1: On the fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions, May 13, 1967, Pope Paul VI made a pilgrimage to the place of the apparitions, the first pope to travel to Fatima.
Fact #2: In her Memoirs, Sister Lucia describes Jacinta who, remember, was not quite 10 years old when she died, as “always serious and reserved, but friendly. All her actions seemed to reflect the presence of God in the way proper to people of mature age and great virtue.”
This was after the apparitions. Before them she was “the personification of enthusiasm and caprice.” But afterwards, Jacinta was never afraid then to speak up and would reprimand an adult or child who would do or say inappropriate things, telling them, “Don’t do that, for you are offending the Lord our God, and He is already so much offended!”
Fact #3: On the other hand, we learn from different sources, including A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary written by the Carmelite nuns who lived with Sister Lucia, that she would joke even when she was in her 90s and very ill.
Others like Dr. Branca Paul, the physician who attended her for the last 15 years of her life, also saw, “It was amazing that she was so normal, simple, and humble. Full of joy and laughter, always joking and smiling a lot…Sister Lucia was great to be around. Her infectious joy made everyone more happy." This even though she would suffer for the sake of the conversion of sinners.
In The True Story of Fatima written by Father John de Marchi, who was a friend who knew Sister Lucia well, described her as “an absolutely normal personality and…as real as a plate of cookies…and if I were obliged to point out her outstanding natural characteristic I would say it was her gaiety. No one has been able to detect in her the least sign of morbid temperament or exclusive self-concern.”
Fact #4: While her cousins died before they were 10 years old, Lucia was told by the Blessed Mother she would stay to spread the message of Fatima. She first became a Dorothean sister, then on March 25, 1948, she entered the Carmelites. It was not only the date of the tradition Feast of the Annunciation, but that year it fell on Holy Thursday — the same liturgical day on which she was born.
Fact #5: On her entrance into Carmel, she was officially given the name Sister Mary of the Immaculate Heart, and the cell she received was dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as noted in a frame above the door. It carried the addition sentence: “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge.” The Immaculate Heart was that for her as Lucia lived in Carmel the next 57 years. Although Bishop Serafim de Sousa Ferreira e Silva, Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, referred to her as Sister Lucia, he noted also that her full religious name is Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart.
Fact #6: In her later years Sister Lucia had in her cell a statue of Our Lady of Fatima that she cherished dearly. It was a gift to her from John Paul II in 2003.
Fact #7: Lucia saved two children from drowning. In the early 1930s she was then in the convent. Because she suffered ill health, the doctor ordered her to spend time a month in summers at the seaside to regain her health. Since other sisters also needed the sea air for their ills, the Mother Provincial rented a house for them.
One morning on the beach, some women were collecting seaweed that the waves were pulling out while their two children played in the sand. Normally calm, the sea was quite strong that day.
Lucia had climbed some rocks and was harvesting shellfish when she heard screams and cries of distress from the women. A Bottom of Form
strong wave had gotten the children and was pulling them out. Lucia immediately jumped into the water.
“I managed to grab one of the children and bring her out,” Lucia would write. “At first I didn’t see the other, but soon discovered her leaning on a rock where, fortunately, she was trapped, wedged between rocks. I pulled her out with the help of Our Lady to whom I called, and managed to save those two lives. After a few agonizing moments during which the children vomited up the sea water they had swallowed, the poor women did not know how to thank me. ‘You have to thank the Virgin that was here and not me,’ I told them, to instill in them devotion to Our Lady. In fact, I believed that it was she who helped me because although swimming was easy for me, the affliction was enough to stop me.”
Fact #8: Francisco was nine when the apparitions began on May 13, yet he too became a mystic in his way. In her Memoirs, Lucia revealed how her young cousin preferred to be alone to pray, sacrifice, and contemplate once the apparitions began.
He wanted to always console our Lord who he said was so sad because of so many sins (and this was said of sin in 1917). On the way to school he would tell Lucia to go to school but he would stay in church “close to the Hidden Jesus. It’s not worth my while learning to read, as I’ll be going to Heaven very soon.”
There he would first of all console “Hidden Jesus” and then pray for the conversion of sinners.
Fact #9: Concerning the consecration of Russia, in both A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary and in Father Andrew Apostoli’s book Fatima for Today, we learn that Lucia wrote to her confessor in 1936 telling him that she asked the Lord why He did not just convert Russia without the Holy Father making the consecration.
She revealed that Our Lord answered, “Because I want my whole Church to acknowledge this consecration as a triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in order to later extend its cult and to place devotion to this Immaculate Heart alongside devotion to my Sacred Heart.”
Fact #10: The first attempt to consecrate Russia as requested by Our Lady came on October 31, 1942, by Pope Pius XII. Sister Lucia had written him in 1940 asking for the consecration. She told him that Our Lord Himself requests the pope to "consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with a special mention for Russia, and order that all the Bishops of the world do the same in union with Your Holiness."
The Holy Father did make the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but it was not done in union with all the bishops in the world. He consecrated all peoples, and although he did not use the specific word “Russia,” his words and descriptions in one section were unmistakable in meaning that particular country.
Yet Sister Lucia said Our Lord showed his “delight” even though the consecration was incomplete and promised an end soon to the war. In fact, very quickly after the consecration the tide of World War II battles began to turn in favor of the Allies.
Then on July 7, 1952, Pius XII again explicitly consecrated the Russian people to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in his Apostolic Letter Carissimis Russiae Populis (On the Immaculate Heart and the People of Russia). But this time, too, it this was not done in union with the bishops of the world.
Fact #11: Although a children, Jacinta was a mystic given insights from heaven into religion and the gift of prophecy. While in a Lisbon institute for exceptionally ill children that was run by a kindly nun, Jacinta received visits from our Lady.
In his book Father di Marchi lists Jacinta’s insights which were recorded at the time she spoke them. Some of them are:
"The sins which cause most souls to go to hell are the sins of the flesh."
"Fashions will much offend our Lord. People who serve God should not follow the fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same."
"The sins of the world are very great."
"If men knew what eternity is, they would do everything to change their lives."
"People are lost because they do not think of the death of our Lord, and do not do penance."
"Many marriages are not of God, and do not please our Lord."
"Wars are the punishments for sin."
"Our Lady cannot at present avert the justice of her Son from the world."
"Penance is necessary. If people amend their lives, our Lord will even yet save the world, but if not, punishment will come.”
"You must pray much for sinners, and for priests and religious. Priests should concern themselves only with the things of the Church."
"Priests must be very, very pure."
"Disobedience of priests and religious to their superiors displeases our Lord very much."
"Heaven forgive those who persecute the Church of Christ."
"If the government would leave the Church in peace and give liberty on, it would have God's blessing."
On Christian virtues: "Mother, fly from riches and luxury."
"Love poverty and silence."
"Have charity, even for bad people."
"Do not speak evil of people, and fly from evil speakers."
"Mortification and sacrifice please our Lord very much."
"Confession is a sacrament of mercy, and we must confess with joy and trust. There can be no salvation without confession."
"The Mother of God wants more virgin souls bound by a vow of chastity."
"To be pure in body means to be chaste, and to be pure in mind means not to commit sins; not to look at what one should not see, not to steal or lie, and always to speak the truth, even if it is hard."
"Doctors do not know how to cure people properly, because they have not the love of God."
"Who taught you these things?" I asked her. "Our Lady, but some of them I thought out myself. I love to think."
Jacinta revealed that our Lady had appeared to her and emphasized pervasiveness of “sins of luxury and carnality that cost the loss of so many souls.” Queen of Heaven was asking for penance in reparation of those sins.
Fact #12: Dr. Paul said that Sister Lucia tireless talked about Fatima, the Blessed Mother’s messages and requests, particularly praying the Rosary. She was “frustrated, however, when people wanted to focus on the miracles and secrets,” Paul said.
"She used to say, 'The miracles and secrets aren't important. We must concentrate on Our Lady's message. Live the Ten Commandments. That's what's important.'"
The nuns living with her at Carmel of Coimbra revealed that it always pained Sister Lucia as some people insisted on revealing the third part of the Secret.
She would say, “If only they live what is the most important thing, which has already been said…They only concern themselves with what is left to be said, instead of complying with the request that was prayer and penance!”
That should inspire us to live the requests Our Lady of the Rosary so plainly made for all of us through the seers at Fatima.