“Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and to bear with submission the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners?”
– Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 1917
It is a curious thing that on coming to Fatima in 1917, the Blessed Virgin did not make any demands of the three children to whom She appeared. Rather, She made certain requests of them – and, by extension, these requests are addressed to all of us, since Her message was for the entire world.
The three Angelic apprearances the year before had prepared the children for the visits of Our Lady – these visits were something like a farmer tilling the unfurrowed earth, preparing it before the seed is laid, that the harvest might be bountiful. The visits of the Angel opened the hearts of the children to the grace of God, making them understand the need, the nature and the value of prayer and of suffering; and in this way, he began to prepare them for the message the Mother of God would bring. In the course of these Angelic visits, the children progressed rapidly along the path of holiness – that same path to which each and every one of us is called. They began to practice the love of God and submission to His will – expressed through prayer, sacrifice and charity – to an heroic degree.
At the first apparition, in May 1917, the Blessed Virgin told the children She was ‘from Heaven’ and then asked if they were willing to offer themselves to God, to willingly accept whatever sufferings He chose to send them, as an act of reparation and in supplication for sinners. Having received the initial consent of Her chosen ones, the Blessed Virgin promised that the grace of God would be their comfort amid all that would follow. She then opened Her hands and communicated to them an intense light, allowing them to see themselves in God, Who was that light.
As the next few months progressed, the Lady from Heaven would explain more about the reasons for coming to earth – She showed them the reality of Hell, asking the children to pray for the conversion of sinners so that they might avoid the punishments of Hell; She gave the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart, promising that by this means, many souls would be saved and there would be peace; and She promised to return later on, in order to say more about the two forms which devotion to Her Immaculate Heart would take. These two forms were the Collegial Consecration of Russia by the Holy Father in union with the Bishops; and the Communions of Reparation, commonly known as the devotion of the Five First Saturdays. She also promised that “in the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph”. And throughout every single appearance, She requested the prayerful recitation of the Rosary.
As Queen of Heaven, sent on behalf of Almighty God to Fatima, why does She request our co-operation rather than demanding it? The short answer is this – She does so for precisely the same reason that in the Gospel, the Lord – Her Son – requests us to “repent and believe the Good News” rather than demanding that we do so.
God gives us free will and He absolutely respects our use of it. This is why the Blessed Virgin, speaking to the children at Fatima about Hell, and showing them a vision of it, said that “many souls” go to Hell. God has not condemned these souls to Hell; rather, they have condemned themselves by means of the choices they have made in life and by being outwith the friendship of God in their last moments. God desires the damnation of no-one – He made us “to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this life, and to be with Him forever in the next”, as the Simple Catechism once put it. And it is precisely because God desires the damnation of no soul that He sent the Blessed Virgin to Fatima, with Her message of prayer, sacrifice and reparation. And in the same way that people were free to accept or reject the words of the Lord during His earthly life, so we, today, are similarly free to accept or reject the message of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima.
People ask why the world continues merrily on it’s way of sin, and the answer is very simple, whilst also very sad – it is because not enough people have taken to heart the message of Fatima; not enough souls are living that message given to us by the Mother of God. The Church was asked by the Mother of God to make the Act of Consecration, and this was finally done by the Holy Father in union with the Bishops, in March 1984, and it was accepted by Heaven, as Sister Lucia attested firmly and clearly on a number of occasions. And so the Church has done her part.
But the Blessed Virgin also asked us – each and every one of us – to do our part, too. Knowing this, why are so few people making the Communions of Reparation each first Saturday? Why are so few praying the Rosary every day? Why are so few people visiting the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament and making acts of reparation to Him? Remember, She promised that the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart would be a means of salvation for many souls and would bring peace. And so now, it is up to all of us.
Still, God respects the free will He gave us; as noted already, we are free to accept or to reject the message brought by the Mother of God, who requests us to pray, to make sacrifices, to amend our lives and to cease offending God.
The choice is ours. But we need to be clear – there are consequences to whatever choice we make.