Our Lady of Fatima and Eucharistic Devotion
Marian feature for the Month of Mary
When Our Lady of Fatima first appeared more than a century ago in Portugal, she included vital lessons on the Blessed Sacrament in addition to her consistent theme of praying the Rosary every day.
It’s no coincidence, therefore, that the date of her first apparition in Fatima — May 13 — is the feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.
Describing that appearance in 1917, Servant of God Lucia dos Santos would write that Our Lady opened her hands and from them streamed light “so intense” that it penetrated their “hearts and innermost souls.”
Realizing it was God “who was that light,” Lucia, along with cousins Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, fell to her knees. The trio then began, as Lucia recalls in her memoirs, “repeating in our hearts: ‘O most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the most Blessed Sacrament!’”
“Already, the Mother of God was drawing the children to adore Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist,” explained John Preiss, president of the Fatima Family Apostolate (FatimaFamily.org). “As our heavenly Mother, Mary desires to lead all her children closer to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, our food for eternal life.”
Barnabite Father Julio Ciavaglia, director of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Lewiston, New York, points out something else about Our Lady and the Eucharist at Fatima. “It’s amazing how God prepared them for the arrival of Mary first with the Eucharist,” he said, referring to the apparitions of the Fatima angel in 1916. “This messenger comes with Christ himself to the children,” he said.
The angel held a chalice with a Host suspended in the air over it. Drops of blood fell from the Host into the chalice. The angel left the chalice and Host suspended in the air, knelt and told the children to repeat three times: Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly, and I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which he himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of his most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of you the conversion of poor sinners.
Then the angel gave the Host to Lucia and the Precious Blood to Jacinta and Francisco, saying, “Eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ terribly outraged by the ingratitude of men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.”
By the July 13 apparition, Our Lady first mentioned the First Saturday devotions in which two major pillars are the Communion of reparation and the Rosary. During the second part of the secret, she said: “To prevent this [World War II, persecution of the Church and Holy Father], 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.”
“She gave us a program to follow, typical of a mother,” commented Father Ciavaglia. “Like any mother,” she tells “what’s good for the child.”
At St. Jean Baptiste Church in New York City, Father Bernard Camire of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament draws the connection of Our Lady and the Eucharistic straight to Scripture, citing “the presence of Our Lady at the celebration of the Eucharist in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. She certainly partook of the Eucharist,” he said. The early Christians meeting in the Cenacle (also known as the Upper Room) listened to the apostles teaching the word of the Lord and partook of the breaking of the bread.
“Mary certainly lived the fullness of the Eucharist in her own life,” he added, “and the effects of the Eucharist are exemplified in her.”
Father Camire shared in his booklet The Eucharist and St. Peter Julian Eymard that his community’s founder, St. Peter Julian Eymard, “taught that, at the level of the sacramental life of the Church, Mary helps us to perceive the central place of the Eucharist in our personal life and in the life of the Church.”
Providentially, it was St. Peter Julian who was first to give Mary the title of “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament” in May 1868. This saint, who had a strong devotion to the Holy Eucharist and Our Lady, founded the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament May 13, 1856. The congregation celebrates this feast each May 13.
In the 20th century, St. John Paul II, who undoubtedly had a major connection with Fatima, crediting Our Lady of Fatima for saving his life, wrote in Ecclesia de Eucharistia (The Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church): “Mary is a ‘woman of the Eucharist’ in her whole life. The Church, which looks to Mary as a model, is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery.”
He also observed, “If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist. … Mary is present … at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist.”
A few years later, Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2008 Message for the World Day of the Sick, said: “There is an indissoluble link between the Mother and the Son, generated in her womb by work of the Holy Spirit, and this link we perceive, in a mysterious way, in the sacrament of the Eucharist.”
Preiss detailed how St. Francisco Marto spent hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, which he called “the hidden Jesus.” He was “praying for the conversion of sinners and for the sick,” Preiss said.
During his final illness, St. Francisco said what hurt him most was that he couldn’t go to the church “and stay awhile with the Hidden Jesus.”
About four years before the apparitions of the Angel, Lucia had already received her first Holy Communion. Her parish priest gave permission because 6-year-old Lucia had a profound ability to express the doctrine of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.
Preiss noted that, on one occasion, Lucia brought a picture of a chalice with a Host to Jacinta, who was ill. Lucia described in her memoirs that Jacinta was ecstatic, saying, “It is the Hidden Jesus. I love him so much. If only I could receive him in church. Don’t they receive Holy Communion in heaven? If they do, then I will go to Holy Communion every day. If only the angel would go to the hospital to bring me Holy Communion again, how happy I would be.”
In her memoirs, Lucia also recorded these words of St. Jacinta: “I am so grieved to be unable to receive Communion in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Connecting Our Lady and the Blessed Sacrament at Fatima, Preiss observed, “When we think of Our Lady, it always brings us back to Jesus. She’s telling us Jesus is our Lord and here for us in the Blessed Sacrament. Apparitions always relate to Jesus and the Eucharist, and adoration is one of those key elements to bring us closer to him and enhance our spiritual lives.”
The devotion of Our Lady and the Eucharist is reflected daily in Father Ciavaglia’s shrine in Lewiston, where the Eucharist is exposed every day, drawing the faithful.
“The Eucharist is there always for them,” the priest said. “People come here to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. She (Mary) is here because her Son is here in the presence of the Eucharist.”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.