The Eucharist is the beating heart of the faith we profess. It is a living heart, for it is Christ Himself, Who remains with us and with the Church sacramentally, truly present in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Eucharist is Christ among us.
The Church tells us this about the Eucharist –
“At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. This He did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.1323)
And so it should be no real surprise that at Fatima, which has been called ‘the altar of the World’, the Eucharist was central.
Now, this may seem at odds with your general impression of Fatima – was it not about the Mother of God? Was it not about secrets? Was it not about the Rosary? Yes, it was these things; but above all else, it was about the Eucharist.
Let me explain.
Prior to the appearances of Our Blessed Lady, the Angel visited the children one year beforehand. He appeared three times and gave the children a profound catechesis of the Faith. At the first angelic appearance, around the Spring of 1916, the Angel invited the children to pray; bowing with his forehead touching the ground in a gesture of great reverance toward God, he taught them this prayer –
“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.”
And so this prayer contained two elements – faith and reparation. This was the first lesson of the catechesis – God exists, and our sins offend Him, so that His divine justice demands reparation.
The Angel then told them –
“Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications”.
These words added to the Catechesis – God desires and accepts the prayerful reparation of one soul on behalf of another.
Lucia would later write about the effects of this first apparition, which was profound on the three children and which left them enveloped in the very real sense of the supernatural, so much so that they were almost unable to speak with each other about what they had experienced.
The second angelic appearance took place a few months later, in the summertime of 1916. Finding the children playing the Angel asked them –
“What are you doing? Pray! Pray very much! The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High!”.
The catechesis was continuing – God should be our first consideration, and we express this through prayer in the first instance. Prayer should be very important to us, a bridge to God which we cross often. It is interesting, too, that from the very first moments of the events of Fatima, there is an explicit focus on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which were spoken about by the Angel during both apparitions. Asking the Angel how they were to do all this, he replied –
“Make of everything you can a scarifice, and offer it to God for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.. Above all, accept and bear with submission, the suffering which the Lord will send you.”
This elaborates further on the catechesis. There are innumerable opportunities for us to pray and offer sacrifices, and we should do this firstly to ask pardon for the offences against God, Whhose justice is offended; and secondly, to repair for the sins of humanity. But even more than these opportunities which we are asked to seek out for ourselves, we are asked to be submissive in all things to the will of God, to humbly accept whatever He deigns to send us, especially suffering.
How all this flies in the face of what the world tells us!
In the same way that little children make long preparations prior to receiving their First Holy Communion, so these first two visits of the Angel were a heavenly preparation for what was to follow next, at the third apparition.
Returing a final time in the autumn of 1916, the Angel appeared above the children, and in his hands he held a Chalice, with the Eucharist above it – drops of Blood were falling from the Host into the Chalice. Leaving the Host and Chalice suspended in the air, the Angel came and knelt beside the children, and then all four bowed deeply before the Eucharist, their heads touching the ground. The Angel then taught them another prayer –
“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 indifference with 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.”
This last prayer teaches us that the three Divine Persons of the Most Holy Trinity deserve and desire that we make reparation to Them for the sins of humanity – and the most perfect means of doing so is through the Eucharist, the very means given us by Christ as a perpetuation of His sacrifice on the Cross, that greatest and most perfect act of reparation to God on behalf of humanity.
This was the culmination and ultimate purpose of the Angelic appearances – the catechesis of these three children (and, through them and their account of it, our own catechesis), all serving to prepare them for what would happen next. The groundwork was now done and the children were ready to shortly meet the Mother of God in the Cova da Iria. There, She would explain more.
During the first appearance of Our Lady, on 13th May 1917, the beautiful Lady from Heaven communicated to the children a heavenly light which penetrated their souls and left them with an impulse to pray this prayer –
“O Most Holy Trinity, I adore You; my God, I love You in the Most Blessed Sacrament”.
The catechesis was continuing. The date of this first appearance was itself also a sign – at that time, 13th May was the feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.
At Her third appearance, in July 1917, the Lady asked the children to “sacrifice yourselves for sinners” and then immediately showed them a brief vision of Hell. Hell is the final outcome “for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love” God. It is not God Who condemns to Hell, but the soul itself – every choice we make in life leads us either closer to our further away from Heaven, which is eternal life in the Presence of God. And so Hell is simply the eventual outcome of our choices in life; for the soul standing before the Almighty at then moment of Judgement, this is clear to the soul, who realises it has already – in life – made it’s choice. All the Angel and the Lady had taught the children so far confirmed this.
This was the moment when the Lady announced God’s desire to save sinners by means of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, promising to save many souls by this means. This devotion would take two forms – a Consecration made by the Holy Father on behalf of the entire Church, and a devotion She called the ‘Communions of Reparation’ (we often refer to it now as ‘the Five First Saturdays’), to be made by every one of us. The Communions of Reparation involve prayer, devotion, acts of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and – above all – the offering of Holy Communion for these intentions; it is the very real expression of that earlier prayer directed to the Holy Trinity.
At Fatima, the Blessed Virgin had told Lucia She would return later to request these Communions of Reparation – and in Dececmber 1925, She did so. Appearing once more to Lucia, the Mother of God was accompanied by Her Son in the form of a young Child, elevated on a cloud. Our Lady was holding Her Immaculate Heart. The Christ Child said –
“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.”
Our Lady then spoke –
“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 fifteen minutes while meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to Me.”
The required and requested form of the participation of the faithful had been given.
Building on all the catechesis that had already been given by the Angel and by the Mother of God, we had learned how we can participate in responding to the Message of Fatima. That only left what was to be asked specifically of the Church.
Our Lady would return to Lucia in June 1929 to request of the Church the Consecration She had mentioned in 1917.
Lucia was given a vision of the Most Holy Trinity, with the Lord nailed to the Cross, the Eternal Father and the Holy Spirit above the Cross; to the right stood Our Lady as She had appeared at Fatima, holding Her Immaculate Heart. In the air next to the Lord was a Host, dripping Blood into a Chalice suspended beneath it. At the other side of the Cross, suspended in the air, the words “Graces and Mercy” appeared as though formed from crystal clear water. Our Lady then spoke –
“The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means. There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against Me, that I have come to ask for reparation; sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray.”
And this requested Consecration would be made, finally, in 1984 by Pope John Paul II.
The Church, then, had done what was asked of her.
And so that leaves each and every one of us.
We are asked, as much as the Church herself was asked, to respond whole-heartedly to the messages of the Angel and the requests of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima. It is a message of belief in God, of the recognition of our sinfulness and our associated need to make reparation, through devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by means of prayer, the joyful acceptance and offering-up of suffering, and by the practice of the Communions of Reparation, the ‘Five First Saturdays’.
And as we have now seen, all of this is focussed very explicitly on the Eucharist, the beating heart of our Church and of our faith.