The story of Fatima is a broad catechesis of the Catholic Faith.
The Angelic appearances in 1916 taught the children the reality of the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; of His desire for reparation for the sins committed against Him; of the value of penance and what it can achieve; and of the intense need for prayer.
The appearances of the Blessed Virgin emphasised the need for prayer, especially that of the Rosary; the revelation of the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart as a refuge for sinners, as expressly willed by God; of the effects of sin, in the order of nature as well as in the order of grace; and the reality of Hell with the subsequent the loss of many souls.
However, there is one detail of Fatima which we can easily overlook, one which reveals something else – another aspect of the Catholic Faith which, although not yet proclaimed dogmatically, nonetheless is a belief held by a great many of the faithful and also taught from time to time in the ordinary Magisterium of the Church. And it is this – that Mary, the Mother of God, is the Mediatrix of Grace. But how is this evidenced in the Fatima appearances?
The Blessed Virgin appeared to the three children in the Cova d’Iria on six different occasions, once each month.
Lucia tells us that She –
“was more brilliant than the sun and radiated a light more clear and intense than a crystal glass filled with sparkling water, when the rays of the burning sun shine through it”.
Lucia wrote that she and her two little cousins –
“were so close, just a few feet from Her, that we were bathed in that light which surrounded Her, or rather, which radiated from Her“.
During four of those monthly appearances, the beautiful Lady did something which, by nature of the repetition of the action, was clearly important and held great meaning – She opened Her hands and transmitted a heavenly light. This was itself reminiscent of the appearances of Our Blessed Lady to Saint Catherine Labouré in Paris in November 1830, when She revealed the design of the Miraculous Medal – on this, too, streams of light issued from Her outstreched hands.
On Her first appearance, on 13 May 1917, She told the children She had come from Heaven, asked them to return monthly, and then asked if they would willingly suffer in reparation for sins and for the conversion of sinners; the children gave their consent and the Lady said “you will have much to suffer but the grace of God will be your comfort”.
Lucia tells us the Lady then opened Her hands and, for the first time, She communicated an intense light which penetrated the children to their very souls, allowing them to see themselves in God, Who was that light. The experience was overwhelming and they fell to their knees and began to pray in praise of the Most Holy Trinity. The Lady then asked them to pray the Rosary every day and She disappeared.
At the second appearance, on 13 June 1917, the Lady promised to take Jacinta and Francisco to Heaven soon but added that Jesus wanted Lucia to remain on earth a while longer, to establish in the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Saddened to think she would have to remain alone, without her little cousins, the Lady told Lucia –
“Do not lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”
As She said this, She again opened Her hands and communicated the heavenly light for a second time. In this moment, the children saw themselves ‘immersed in God’– Jacinta and Francisco in the portion of light which rose toward Heaven, whilst Lucia was in the portain that was poured out upon the earth. Lucia noted afterwards that as this was taking place, they saw a Heart encircled by thorns which pierced it, and they understood this to be the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged terribly and seeking reparation.
On the third appearance, on 13 July 1917, Lucia asked the Lady to cure some people; She then said this –
“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice, ‘O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary’.”
And then, for a third time, She opened Her hands and communicated the heavenly light. This time, it penetrated the earth, revealing a sea of fire which is Hell, in which there were both demons and human souls, the latter shrieking in pain and despair. The children looked to the Lady, who said –
“You have seen Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace..”
She went on to predict the end of the War but also the arrival of a second one if people did not listen to Her, and She then promised that in the end –
“My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
Finally, on the sixth appearance, on 13 October 1917, the Lady revealed Herself to be the ‘Lady of the Rosary’ before speaking one last time –
“Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already too much offended.”She then opened Her hands a fourth time and on this occasion, the light radiated from them and onto the Sun. And in the minutes which followed, the great Miracle of the Sun took place.
The entire message of Fatima is an echo for our times of the message of the Gospel – it is a call to believe in God and to adore Him; to see our sins and their effects; to do penance and to make reparation for them – not only for our own sins, but for the sins of others; and to this end, to pray – especially the Rosary – and to offer sacrifices; and all of this to be done as a mark and a means of interior conversion and of our turning back to God.
This Lady brighter than the sun who came to Fatima in 1917 radiated and transmitted a heavenly light, each time communicating graces to the three children. The Lady was not the sourceof the light, for the light is the Light of Christ, Her Son – He alone is the Light of the World (cf. John 8:12). But She is the purest Mirror of Divine Grace and so She reflects this heavenly light without blemish or spot, for She is entirely immaculate. This heavenly light is the grace of God and She is it’s Mediatrix.
As noted, this role of Mary as ‘Mediatrix of All Grace’ has not (yet) been declared a dogma of the Catholic Faith; however – and this is very important – it does already feature as part of the Ordinary Magisteriumof the Church. There have been calls since at least 1896 for this title to be declared dogmatically, and in 1921 the Holy See approved an annual feast to be celebrated in Belgium honouring the Blessed Virgin as ‘Mediatrix Of All Graces’. At the Second Vatican Council, the proposal was discussed but the decision was made not to proceed at that time and the Fathers noted clearly – and rightly – that “This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator”, which is perfectly correct. Calls for a dogmatic definition continue to this day.
Mindful of Our Blessed Lady’s appearances to Saint Catherine Labouré to give the world the Miraculous Medal, where She had streams of light issuing from Her outstreched hands; St Catherine heard a voice explaining to her the meaning of these streams of light which poured down upon the globe representing the world –
‘This is the symbol of the graces which will be poured out upon the persons who ask them of Me”.
Clearly, then, Heaven desires that graces be distributed by the Blessed Virgin according to Her good will and She has the freedom to dispense them as She wishes. If we ask Her for graces, She will obtain them for us. She is not the source of the graces – that is God alone – but She is their conduit, their channel, and they flow through Her.
Saint Jacinta Marto continued to see the Blessed Virgin after the public appearances at Fatima and she later said to Lucia –
“Tell everybody that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that people are to ask Her for them”.
This very young – and deeply holy – child had grasped clearly the meaning of the light radiating from the Blessed Virgin.
Other Saints before Jacinta also grasped this role of the Mother of God, including Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who wrote –
“Jesus is the Mediator of justice; Mary obtains for us grace; for, as St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Germanus, St. Antoninus, and others say, it is the will of God to dispense through the hands of Mary whatever Graces He is pleased to bestow upon us. With God, the prayers of the saints are the prayers of His friends, but the prayers of Mary are the prayers of His Mother.”
Pope Leo XIII had this to say in his 1891 encyclical on the Rosary, entitled ‘Octobri Mense’–
“With equal truth may it also be affirmed that, by the will of God, Mary is the intermediary through whom is distributed unto us this immense treasure of mercies gathered by God, for mercy and truth were created by Jesus Christ.”
And Pope Paul VI, writing in April 1965 in his encyclical letter ‘Mense Maio’, said this –
“He (God) has appointed Mary most holy as the generous steward of His merciful gifts”.
Pope John Paul II spoke at some length on the subject of the mediation of Mary in his General Audience given on 1st October 1997 –
“Among the titles attributed to Mary in the Church’s devotion, chapter eight of Lumen Gentium recalls that of “Mediatrix”. Although some Council Fathers did not fully agree with this choice of title (cf. Acta Synodalia III, 8, 163-164), it was nevertheless inserted into the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church as confirmation of the value of the truth it expresses. Care was therefore taken not to associate it with any particular theology of mediation, but merely to list it among Mary’s other recognized titles.
Moreover the conciliar text had already described the meaning of the title ‘Mediatrix’ when it said that Mary ‘by Her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation’ (Lumen Gentium, n. 62). As I recalled in my Encyclical Redemptoris Mater: ‘Mary’s mediation is intimately linked with Her motherhood. It possesses a specifically maternal character, which distinguishes it from the mediation of the other creatures’ (n. 38). From this point of view it is unique in its kind and singularly effective.”
And so at Fatima, the Blessed Virgin used the imagery of the light streaming from Her hands as a reminder to us of Her particular role in God’s plan of Salvation; She mediates His divine graces to us as She chooses, for the Lord has willed that this be so.
Her Immaculate Heart is moved with love for us and in this way reflects the love of the Sacred Heart of Her Son, with which Her own Immaculate Heart is singularly and intimately acquainted. And in doing all this, She reveals something of the desires of Heaven and echoes the thinking and mind of the Church upon earth, which does indeed consider Her to be the Mediatrix of grace, even if that role has not – so far, at least – been dogmatically proclaimed.
Knowing all this, let us ask the intercession of this Immaculate Heart in obtaining for us all the graces we need.