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, and 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.
A hundred years ago, during the Fatima apparition on July 13, 1917, there was mention of the Rosary, a vision of hell, direction to help sinners, talk of consecration to the Immaculate Heart and consecration of Russia.
Our Lady began by reminding the children: “I want you to come back here on the thirteenth of next month. Continue to say the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, to obtain the peace of the world and the end of the war, because only she can obtain it.”
That is a directive, an instruction, a motherly order that we should heed and practice now more than ever. In the last 100 years, how many did so?
Next, she told them when she would reveal her identity and what way she would provide for people to accept the apparitions as true. “You must come here every month, and in October I will tell you who I am and what I want. I will then perform a miracle so that all may believe.”
Then, Our Lady set the scene and gave the children — and us — a way to help others so they would not end up as part of the vision she was going to show them next. She said:
Make sacrifices for sinners, and say often, especially while making a sacrifice: O Jesus, this is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
When Our Lady told this to the children, she opened her hands as she had during the two previous apparitions. Lucia described what happened. “The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire.”
In The True Story of Fatima, Father John de Marchi recounted how Jacinta’s father Ti Marto witnessed the children’s actions in the Cova da Iria that day. He remembered “that Lucia gasped in sudden horror, that her face was white as death, and that all who were there heard her cry in terror to the Virgin Mother, whom she called by name,” wrote Father de Marchi. “The children were looking at their Lady in terror, speechless, and unable to plead for relief from the scene they had witnessed.”
Later at the request of the Bishop of Leiria, Lucia described the vision this way:
As Our Lady spoke these last words, she opened her hands once more, as she had done during the two previous months. The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke now falling back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. Terrified and as if to plead for succour, we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and so sadly: 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.
Solution for Salvation
It’s essential to remember that before this vision given to young children, Our Lady presented them that very short, very powerful prayer to help sinners.
Then in July, after the vision, she gave them — and us — another essential prayer to help sinners:
When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.
She had already taught this vital prayer to the children as a prelude to this further vision a month earlier, on June 13, this way:
I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day. And after each one of the mysteries, my children, I want you to pray in this way: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell. Take all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.
There’s no time like this 100th anniversary year to begin this addition to the Rosary immediately if you haven’t already done so.
The Children Respond
The children took Our Lady’s revelations and requests to heart.
Lucia recounted that soon after Jacinta didn’t want to play one day. She told Lucia, “That Lady told us to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. So from now on, when we say the Rosary we must say the whole Hail Mary and the whole Our Father! And the sacrifices, how are we going to make them?”
Francisco said a good sacrifice would be going without lunch. Next, Jacinta asked about how long hell lasts, and heaven. Lucia said the idea of eternity made the biggest impression on Jacinta. Thinking about sinners and hell, Jacinta said, “Poor sinners! We have to pray and make many sacrifices for them!” Then she went on: “How good that Lady is! She has already promised to take us to Heaven!”
Lucia described how Jacinta took this matter of making sacrifices for the conversion of sinners so seriously “she never let a single opportunity escape her.” For example, in the area were two very poor families with small children. Jacinta told her brother Francisco and Lucia, “Let’s give our lunch to those poor children, for the conversion of sinners.”
The children agreed. This was just the tip of the prayers and sacrifices for sinners that they carried on.
Father de Marchi described how “Jacinta's boundless zeal permitted her no rest. Looking tactfully at her cousin and her brother, she seemed to feel that with their fierce and heart-wrenching supplications, they could pierce the veil-of heaven and, all by themselves, depopulate the pits of hell.”
Jacinta would tell her brother and cousin, “‘We mustn't stop our prayers to save poor souls! So many go to hell!’ Her heart beat in endless pity for the damned, but her intelligence demanded reasonably to understand why people went to such a frightful and hideous place as they had seen.”
Jacinta asked, “Lucia — do you remember how our Lady's heart, when she showed it to us, was being pierced by thorns?"
"Surely, I do” Lucia replied. “It simply means that her heart is wounded by the sins of people, and she is asking them to be sorry, and to make up for their sins, so that God will not have to punish them too much. She can't make people be good. They must themselves want to be good."
Later, very ill, Jacinta would share many insights, among them, “The sins which cause most souls to go to hell are the sins of the flesh.”
Father di Marchi noted the children realized why Our Lady asked to pray and make sacrifices for sinners. "Do this," the Lady was saying. "It is a great and good and loving thing to do. It will please God who is Love."
“They became, of their free will, co-redeemers with Christ. The vision of hell that they had seen in July was not erased from their minds. They prayed incessantly. They sought new sacrifice. Praying the Rosary, they never forgot to include the prayer after each decade Our Lady taught them to say.”
Part 2 Joins Part 1
Along with the Rosary is sacrifice.
In A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary, we learn Sister Lucia wrote to the Bishop of Leiria what the Lord told her. “This is now the penance that our good Lord asks: The sacrifice that all people have to impose on themselves is to lead a life of righteousness in the observance of His Law, and to do this to make clear the way for souls, because many judge the meaning of the word penance in great austerity, they do not feel the strength and pleasure to do it and get discouraged in a life of weakness and sin.”
The Lord told her: The sacrifice of each one required is the fulfillment of their own duty and observance of My Law; it is Penance that is now demanded and asked.”
Doctor of the Church St. Thérèse of Lisieux shows that little sacrifices have a great impact — little sacrifices in our daily duties, as the World Apostolate of Fatima also notes. These simple acts, like being charitable to a rude person, or taking care of a sick child, can resonate with graces for others and ourselves.
Our Lady’s July Prediction
In July Our Lady also told the children that World War I would end but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI...When you see a night that is lit by a strange and unknown light [this occurred on January 28, 1938], you will know it is the sign God gives you that He is about to punish the world with war and with hunger, and by the persecution of the Church and the Holy Father.
There would be no Pius XI until Benedict XV died in 1922, five years after the apparition. World War II initiated near the end of Pius XI’s reign in 1939.
However, there was a preventative. The Rosary. It obviously was not taken to heart by enough people. But it still remains the answer to peace today.
Our Lady gave another preventative at that time too. She continued:
To prevent this, I shall come to the world to ask that Russia be consecrated to my Immaculate Heart, and I shall ask that on the First Saturday of every month Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins of the world. If my wishes are fulfilled, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, then Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, bringing new wars and persecution of the Church; the good will be martyred and the Holy Father will have much to suffer; certain nations will be annihilated. But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and the world will enjoy a period of peace...
Though the answer was given and verified, there remains controversy about this in some places. Now is not the place to go into the details except for these: The first consecration was made by Venerable Pius XII on May 13, 1942, the silver anniversary of Fatima’s first apparition, but was invalid because it wasn’t done in union with the bishops of the world.
Eventually, the consecration was made at St. Peter’s by St. John Paul II on March 25, 1984. Sister Lucia wrote very clearly this consecration was accepted by heaven.
Indispensable Consecration to Mary
In fulfillment of her promise at Fatima on July 13, 1917, Our Lady appeared to Sister Lucy at Tuy, Spain on June 13, 1929. The Holy Trinity was visibly present. She told Lucia:
The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means. There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against me, that I have come to ask reparation: sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray.
Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary reveals that in 1936 Luca wrote to her confessor, “Intimately I have spoken to Our Lord about the subject, and not too long ago I asked Him why He did not just convert Russia without the Holy Father making the consecration. Our Lord replied:
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 the devotion to the Immaculate Heart aside devotion to My Sacred Heart.
Lucia added, “Pray much for the Holy Father. He will do it, but it will be too late. Nevertheless, the Immaculate Heart of Mary will save Russia. It has been entrusted to her.”
Writing John Paul II a letter dated May 12, 1982, Sister Lucia told him, “The third part of the secret is a symbolic revelation, referring to this part of the Message, conditioned by whether we accept or not what the Message itself asks of us: If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, etc.
“Since we did not heed this appeal of the Message, we see that it has been fulfilled, Russia has invaded the world with her errors. And if we have not yet seen the complete fulfilment of the final part of this prophecy, we are going towards it little by little with great strides. If we do not reject the path of sin, hatred, revenge, injustice, violations of the rights of the human person, immorality and violence, etc.”
“And,” Lucia continued, “let us not say that it is God who is punishing us in this way; on the contrary it is people themselves who are preparing their own punishment. In his kindness God warns us and calls us to the right path, while respecting the freedom he has given us; hence people are responsible.”
What is our responsibility? The July 13, 1917, message of Our Lady tells us —
- Pray the Rosary daily
- Make Sacrifices and pray for Sinners
- Make the Five First Saturday devotions
- Consecrate (ourselves) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary