This post originally appeared at the National Catholic Register.
On Oct. 13, 2016, Catholics commemorate the 99th anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun”: In a small town in Portugal, called Fátima, the sun left its place in the sky and spiraled toward earth. This miraculous event was just an interstellar punctuation mark on the series of messages and miracles that happened during the six months that the Virgin Mary met with three shepherd children in the middle of a field, preceded by visits from the Angel of Portugal.
This week, EWTN will broadcast The Faithful Traveler in Fátima, a one-hour special in which we explore the history of the angelic and Marian apparitions to Lúcia Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. We also take a look at the shrine of Fátima itself and show pilgrims what they will see should they visit this amazing site.
As the centenary celebrations of Mary’s visits to the three little shepherds near, many have asked the question: Is Fátima still relevant today?
The answer to that questions is a resounding Yes. Let me tell you why.
In the spring of 1916, the Angel of Portugal began appearing to the three children. He met them three times over the course of a few months, and, each time, he taught them something.
- He taught them to pray, kneeling, with their foreheads touching the ground: My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.
- He taught them to make reparation for sins.
- He gave them the Blessed Sacrament.
While the angel taught the children these things in preparation for their meetings with the Mother of God, surely his lessons are relevant to us.
- Do we pray for those who do not believe? Do we adore? Do we hope? And do we love God by the witness of our lives?
- Do we offer reparations and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners?
- Do we adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?
The second stage of the apparitions began in May 1917, when the children met the Virgin Mary. What did she ask of the children?
- Offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings he sends you in atonement for all the sins that offend him and for the conversion of sinners.
- Pray the Rosary every day to bring peace to the world and an end to war.
- Amend your life and ask pardon for your sins.
- Do not offend Our Lord anymore.
In July, the Virgin Mary gave the children what are today called the “Three Secrets of Fátima.” They are called secrets because Mary asked the children to not reveal them until she gave them permission to do so.
- She showed them hell and asked them to pray for sinners, so that they might avoid its fiery end.
- She told them to pray for an end to the war (World War I), saying that if men did not stop offending God, there would be greater wars (World War II).
- She showed them a vision of a bishop, dressed in white, who was killed at the top of a hill, surrounded by martyrs.
What is the point of these secrets? Without prayer, sacrifice and reparation for sin, many people will go to hell, and there will be no peace on earth.
This is not a new message.
This is not a secret.
This message is eternal.
Mary’s messages in Fátima are a continuation of the words of the prophets, of John the Baptist and of Jesus himself.
Years later, beginning in 1925 at Pontevedra, Spain, Lúcia was in the convent when the Blessed Mother appeared to her and introduced her to the First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“Look, my daughter, at my Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console me and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary and keep me company for 15 minutes while meditating on the 15 mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.”
The centenary of the apparitions at Fátima comes at a perfect time for all of us. The apparitions are a reminder, a tolling bell that we need to hear at all times. This is a time to thank God for our faith and to double down on our prayer efforts. Make sacrifices. Go to confession. Bring your friends if you can. Make the First Saturday Devotion. Pray the Rosary.
And be sure to visit Fátima if you can.