“Penance, penance, penance,” cried the angel, pointing to the earth with his right hand in the “Third Secret” of Fatima.
This Lenten season is a perfect time to tie repentance into Fatima’s century-old call for penance and sacrifice.
In his book Fatima for Today, Fatima authority Father Andrew Apostoli of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal reveals that Carmelite Sister Lucia, the longest-living Fatima visionary, assured that we learn from Fatima that our penance and sacrifices will turn our hearts toward God, help convert sinners, and make reparation for offenses committed against God.
And there’s papal agreement, too. “The insistent invitation of Mary Most Holy to penance,” St. John Paul II said in his homily at Fatima May 13, 1982, “is nothing but the manifestation of her maternal concern for the fate of the human family, in need of conversion and forgiveness.”
The Thompsons of Hanceville, Alabama — Steven, Maria and their three sons and two daughters, ranging in age from 4 to 13 — are devoted to living out the Fatima message.
As Maria said, “Our Lady of Fatima is guiding our family.”
“For Lent, penance is something we definitely focus on,” she said, adding that Our Lady’s July message “asks [us] to continue to make sacrifices for our sins and for sinners and pray the ‘Sacrifice Prayer’ often. Any child could learn it in a heartbeat.” (Our Lady 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 offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’”)
To remind her children, Maria posts the Sacrifice Prayer around the house during Lent and encourages her children to offer up little irritations — for example, when a child stubs a toe, or when “I don’t want to give my little sister the ball right now.”
The bonus is that, with this prayer, “by the end of Lent they will all know it by heart,” she said. The Thompsons reinforce this Lenten lesson though the year with stories of saints who made sacrifices.
This is in keeping with the counsel of the World Apostolate of Fatima, also called the Blue Army, on its website: “Daily offer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the sacrifices demanded by the duties required of your state in life, as well as whatever hardships and difficulties God permits to touch your life, in reparation for your own sins, for the sins of others, and for the conversion of all sinners. In other words, ‘Offer it up.’”
Sister Lucia’s Advice
Sister Lucia calmed people’s fears about penance, as Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary reveals. “Many persons,” she explained, “feeling that the word ‘penance’ implies great austerities, and not feeling that they have the strength for great sacrifices, become discouraged and continue a life of lukewarmness and sin.” She said Our Lord explained to her: “The sacrifice required of every person is the fulfillment of his duties in life and the observance of my law. This is the penance that I now seek and require.”
Father Apostoli also gives a word to the wise about sacrifice and penance quite applicable for Lent. “First, we must always be prudent in choosing acts of penance,” he wrote in his Fatima book.
“Some people can do certain acts of penance, while others cannot. For example, some people can fast without doing any harm to their health, while other people would be injured if they tried to fast. Perhaps these latter would do better simply to give up things they like as their sacrifices.”
Then he adds: We must be sure we’re trying to practice virtue in our hearts, too. By way of example, he points out it is a contradiction to fast from a food while failing to forgive someone who hurt us or not trying to overcome a tendency to be annoyed.
“Sorrow for our sins is one of the most pleasing and effective penances we can offer the Lord, as we see in the psalm King David prayed after his fall into serious sin,” he explains.
In her book “Calls” From the Message of Fatima, Sister Lucia devotes a chapter to the call for sacrifice. In it, she gives many simple examples that anyone, young or old, can easily put into practice. “At times, it will be the cross of our daily work … yet other times, it will be the humiliations which happen all of a sudden and which we must accept,” she writes.
There are many little sacrifices we can offer to God, and to an extent, we must, she says.
“The fact that they are small in themselves does not make them any less pleasing to God, and also very meritorious and advantageous to ourselves because, by means of them, we prove the delicacy of our fidelity and our love for God and for our neighbor.”
For example, we can bear without complaining “little annoyances we may encounter on our path,” such as “a disagreeable irritating or unpleasant word; an act of ingratitude, being passed over or forgotten.” We can cheerfully let others take the first places and gracefully put up with the company of those we don’t like or we find unpleasant, too.
“[L]et us repay them with a smile, a little kind deed done for them, a favor, forgiving and loving, with our eyes fixed on God,” Sister Lucia says. “Make of everything you can a sacrifice — the Message tells us,” she counsels, “and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.”
That fulfills Our Lady of Fatima’s directions, according to her July 13 apparition.
She told the children, “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners; and say often when you make some sacrifice, ‘My Jesus, it is for love of you, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’”
May her advice be heeded this Lent — and always.
Praying and Acting
Capuchin Father Regis Scanlon, author, spiritual director and chaplain for St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity in the West, has three recommendations for the beginning of Lent — daily Mass and Communion, if possible; a daily hour of adoration; and the daily Rosary. “Now, there’s an active penance,” he told the Register.
Praying the Rosary daily fulfills Mary’s urgent request during each of her six appearances at Fatima. As she said in her third apparition, “You must recite the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.”
As penances and sacrifices go, Father Scanlon said we should be mindful that while we might give up steak, there’s always shrimp, advising more meaningful penances. “At Fatima, she didn’t call for us to ‘recycle,’” he said.
“We need ‘adult’ penances,” he added, suggesting that the faithful exercise their responsibility as Christian voters to write to legislators about the harms of pornography, same-sex “marriage” and abortion. And asking the pastor why he hasn’t had homilies about what the Church teaches about marriage — “that’s effective penance,” Father Scanlon said. “Do things to support chastity and purity against porn — that’s what we have to do.”
It’s not an easy penance, but the reward is great: “Anybody persecuted for standing up for the teachings of Christ has won. They have great grace from God.”
The Thompsons pray the daily Rosary as a family year-round. And they pray for sinners’ salvation, too, as they consider what Our Lady told the children in her August apparition: “Pray much, and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because there is no one to make sacrifices for them.”
Maria suggests ways to do so for her children: “‘Help uncle so-and-so, who has fallen away from the Church’ — make it personal and also make it broad for all souls, especially [those] most in need of our prayers.”
As she explained, “As Catholics, we’re called to make reparation, especially in a home that believes in Fatima.
“Our Lady is also asking my children — and all of us — to do this.”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.