From May to October 1917, the Blessed Virgin appeared in Fatima to the three shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, giving them messages, entrusting them with secrets and, above all, expressing her innermost desires. The content and depth of her words convince us, however, that they were not only addressed to the three seers, but to the whole of humanity. The Queen of Heaven wanted to warn people of the last century, which was characterized by profound change in mentalities and customs, and the imminence of great catastrophes on a political and social level.
But there was more. Anyone familiar with the revelations made by Our Lady in the Cova da Iria has the strong impression that her proclamation continues to resound to this day. “We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete,”1 said Benedict XVI on his trip to Portugal in 2010.
Yes, Mary’s message endures to this day, and it demands of us not to be indifferent to her maternal pleas. Now, among the desires that She expressed most ardently is that of the Communion of reparation on First Saturdays.
“God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart”
The first reference the Blessed Virgin made to this practice was in July 1917. The three little shepherds were at the site of the apparitions accompanied by a large crowd, as news of the revelations had already spread in the region. While they were praying the Rosary, Our Lady appeared and showed them hell, indicating the way to prevent the perdition of so many souls:
“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. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. […] To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”2
The Virgin Mary’s sublime and incisive speech resonated deeply in the children’s souls as an indisputable truth: they were the words of the Mother of God. However, as is usually the case with prophetic announcements, the three little shepherds, especially little Lucia, still had much to wait for and trust in.
In fact, while Francisco and Jacinta would soon receive their supreme reward in heavenly bliss, Lucia would have to fulfil an important mission on this earth. This, too, had already been foretold by the kind Lady, on which occasion She once again pointed out the path chosen by her Divine Son to save souls: “I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it.”3
“My heart is encircled by thorns”
And so it happened. Between 1919 and 1920, Lucia’s cousins left this vale of tears. For her part, she joined the community of the Dorothean Sisters and, in 1925, moved to Pontevedra, Spain. Her long journey in religious life began.
It was in this context that the Mother of God once again manifested herself to Sister Lucia to show her how devotion to her Immaculate Heart should be concretized, confirming the announcement made eight years earlier: the Communion of reparation on First Saturdays.
On December 10, 1925, the Blessed Virgin appeared with the Child Jesus at her side, suspended on a luminous cloud. Resting her hand on Lucia’s shoulder, Our Lady showed her a Heart encircled by thorns, which She was holding in her other hand.
With this scene before her eyes, the nun heard the Child God say to her: “Have compassion on the Heart of your most holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.”4
Then Mary united her pleas with those of her Divine Son: “Look, my daughter, at my Heart, surrounded by 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 fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.”5
After the apparition, the seer took steps to fulfil Our Lady’s command. On the advice of her superior, the young Sister Lucia turned to her former confessor, Monsignor Manuel Pereira Lopes. However, unwilling to commit himself to Heaven’s request, he ordered her to wait until the vision was repeated and there were facts to prove it. Furthermore – incredible as it may seem – he claimed that this devotion was not so necessary; after all, were there not already many souls receiving the Eucharist on First Saturdays and praying the Rosary in honour of the Mother of God?
New apparition of the Child Jesus
Patiently, the nun waited for two months, for another communication from Heaven. On February 15, 1926, while she was at work outside the convent, she met a child who asked her this unexpected question: “Have you spread throughout the world that which the Mother of Heaven has asked of you?”6
At this, the nun recognized that it was the Child Jesus himself. Saddened, she explained the obstacles raised by her superiors, especially the fact that many people supposedly already practised this act of piety. But the Divine Infant reaffirmed the importance of the new devotion, showing what its essence was: the intention to make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
He said: “It is true, my daughter, that many souls begin them [the First Saturdays], but few finish them, and those who do finish them, do so to receive the graces that are promised. It would please Me more if they did five decades with fervour and with the intention of making reparation to the Heart of their heavenly Mother, than if they did fifteen decades in a tepid and indifferent manner.”7
Unfortunately, even despite such a cogent appeal, many of those who were supposed to propagate this devotion received it with cruel coldness, like ungrateful children in the face of their Mother’s supplications.
Clarifications and paternal concessions
For those who wanted to heed the Blessed Virgin’s call, certain difficulties also began to arise, which prevented them from fulfilling her request with exactitude. Some, for example, were unable to go to Confession on Saturdays. Could they do so within the octave? What if they forgot the intention of reparation at the moment of Confession? What should they do?
Imbued with the trust of a daughter towards her father, the seer asked Our Lord for clarification. Magnanimously solicitous and desirous that this devotion should be practised by the greatest number of people, He not only allowed Confession within the octave of the first Saturdays, but gave even greater leeway: “Yes, and it could be longer still, provided that, when they receive Me, they are in the state of grace and have the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”8
Furthermore, those who forgot to formulate the intention mentioned above could do so at the next Confession, taking advantage of the first opportunity they have to receive this Sacrament.
Despite the clarifications made in the most recent apparitions, other doubts still arose. Under the guidance of Fr. José Bernardo Gonçalves, SJ, Sister Lucia answered a series of questions from this priest about Our Lady’s requests. Thanks to these enquiries, the confidante of Mary Most Holy had the opportunity to clarify why this devotion should be practised.
For example, why five Saturdays and not seven or nine? The nun explained that there are five types of offence against the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
“Blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception; against her Virginity; against her Divine Maternity, while at the same time refusing to receive her as the Mother of men; those who publicly seek to instil indifference, contempt and even hatred towards this Immaculate Mother in the hearts of children; and those who directly outrage her in her sacred images.”9
An appeal addressed to the whole world
After much vacillation, in September 1939 the Bishop of Leiria made this practice of reparation public. Even so, Sister Lucia knew that it was Our Lady’s will that it should not only be known in Portugal, but spread throughout the world. For this to happen, the Holy Father had to intervene. This is what the nun wrote to Fr. Gonçalves in 1930: “It seems to me that our good God, in the depths of my heart, is urging me to ask the Holy Father to approve the devotion of reparation that God himself and the Blessed Virgin deigned to request in 1925.”10
With the help of the Bishop of Leiria, a letter was addressed to Pius XII in 1940, entreating him to fulfil two ardent wishes of the Virgin of Fatima: the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the spread of the Communion of reparation on First Saturdays:
“Most Holy Father! I have come to renew a request that has already been made several times to Your Holiness. […] The request, Most Holy Father, is not mine; it is that of our good Heavenly Mother and of Our Lord. […] [In 1925,] after a revelation in which She asked that the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months be spread throughout the world, making, for the same purpose, a Confession, a quarter of an hour of meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary, and praying a Rosary to make reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences committed against her Immaculate Heart, to those who practise this devotion, our good heavenly Mother promises to assist them at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for their salvation. […]
“I take this opportunity, Most Holy Father, to ask Your Holiness to deign to make this devotion public and to bless it for the whole world.”11
The responsibility of every Catholic in light of Mary’s appeal
The conflicts of the Second World War were already shaking Europe when Sister Lucia’s missive reached the Holy Father. Once could hope that the realization of the prophetic warnings of 1917 would serve as an ultimatum to finally heed Our Lady’s call.
However, although we do not know the details of how the letter was received in Rome Eternal, we can say that this devotion certainly did not attain the scope Our Lady desired. We only have to look at the fruits of our society, immersed in the darkest moral crisis in history, to clearly see that the remedy that would have prevented the perdition of so many souls has been met with insufficient acceptance, in cases where it has not been consciously rejected… Not even this simple wish of Mary’s has been fully heeded!
However, while it is true that many did not want to hear Our Lady’s words or make reparation to her virginal Heart, it is even more true that her appeal is renewed to each one of those who bear the title of Mary’s children and slaves. It is their responsibility to say yes to this plea.
Among the great multitude of faithful Catholics, the Heralds of the Gospel desire the immense grace of being counted among her children and authentic devotees. For this reason, for almost twenty-five years they have been renewing the devotion requested by the Blessed Virgin every month, with the aim of not only making reparation for the offences committed against Her, but also, in some way, “anticipating” the triumph of her Immaculate Heart.
This is the reason why, on the initiative of Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, founder of the Heralds of the Gospel, a magnificent ceremony of crowning the Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima was introduced during the act of reparation of the First Saturdays held monthly in the churches, oratories and chapels of the Heralds in Brazil and around the world, and in a particularly splendid way in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Caieiras (Brazil).
This act seeks to represent the ceremony held in Heaven proclaiming Mary as Queen of all creation, awaiting the glorious day, promised by her to the three little shepherds, when her reign will be established over the face of the earth. ◊
1 BENEDICT XVI. Homily at the Shrine of Fatima, 13/5/2010.
2 SISTER LUCIA. Fatima in Lucia’s own words. Fatima, Portugal: Postulation Centre, 1976, p.104-105.
3 Idem, p. 161.
4 Idem, p. 195.
5 Idem, ibidem.
6 CARMEL OF COIMBRA. A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary. 2.ed. Washington, NJ, USA: World Apostolate of Fatima, 2015, p.160.
7 Idem, ibidem.
8 SISTER LUCIA, Fatima in Lucia’s own words, op. cit., p.196.
9 SISTER LUCIA. Memórias e cartas. Porto: Simão Guimarães, 1973, p.409-411.
10 Idem, p.405.
11 Idem, p.431.