The theme of reparation as a means of obtaining mercy for souls is common both to the Divine Mercy devotion and to the message of Our Lady of Fatima.
In the Divine Mercy devotion, the Lord focusses explicitly on mercy, the greatest attribute of God, and offers us particular ways to obtain that mercy – through the Image, the Chaplet, the Feast and so forth. We are told to ask for mercy not only for ourselves, but for others. In other words, our prayers of reparation can – and do – obtain mercy for souls in need. Saint Faustina gives various examples of this in her Diary, where we see her prayers obtaining mercy for particular souls and even for entire nations. Her entreaties are like a lightning conductor, drawing down and focussing the mercy of God for those who do not implore it for themselves. The Divine Mercy prayers even speak of begging mercy “for our sins and the sins of the whole world”.
Similarly, throughout the message of Fatima, the Mother of God asked the children to pray – not only for themselves, but for others and for the whole world. Our Lady’s message of peace, for example, goes far beyond the three children – She speaks of the end of the war, but with another to follow, and requests the seers to pray “to obtain peace for the world”.
And so, this idea of merciful reparation exists in both messages.
Reparation in this sense is merciful precisely because it is offered for others; for sinners, and for the entire world. It is offered for those who will never know we are offering it; many of those may never ask it for themselves despite being in great need of it (as we all are); and many do not believe themselves to be in need of it; while others perhaps cannot believe that this mercy is offered to them. It is for these and for all souls that we make reparation, that “we make up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church”, as St Paul writes in the first chapter of his Letter to the Colossians.
In Baptism, we take up the Cross of Christ as we are anointed priest, prophet and king; in that moment, a duty and a responsibility is laid upon us to work for the glory of God, for the sake of the Kingdom and for the salvation of souls, precisely as Christ did. In other words, we are to become co-redeemers along with Christ. Our efforts are meaningless unless united to the Passion and Death of Christ – it is only through union with Him that they have meaning, worth and efficacy. Becoming co-redeemers in this way is not an action on our part – rather, it is a response to His grace working within us, the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
We heed and answer this call of Divine Grace in a simple way every time we pray the Fatima prayer –
‘O Jesus, forgive us OUR sins, save US from the fires of hell, and lead ALL SOULS to Heaven, especially those in most need of Your mercy.’
This is the Communion of Saints in action and in reality; praying for one another, offering sacrifice for the needs of each other and confident that God the Eternal Father hears and answers our prayers.
The devotion of the Five First Saturdays is a specific request of the Lord and His Mother. It, too, is a call to the Communion of Saints, a plea that we pray for mercy for other souls as much as for ourselves, and specifically, that we offer prayer and devotion in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so offended by the sins of poor mankind.
To call this motherly Heart ‘Immaculate’ means to recognise that It is perfectly attuned with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to Whom She gave flesh; it is to recognise that, by virtue of being forever untouched by even the slightest stain of sin, She perceives only too clearly the effects of sin – upon us, and upon the wounded Heart of Her Divine Son, ravaged and pierced upon the Cross precisely because of our sins. This motherly Heart, therefore, comes to ask us to make reparation for this.
Speaking to Sister Lucia of Fatima in 1925 , the Most Blessed Virgin gave the specific means to do so, and they are very simple and within the reach of all –
- To go to Confession
- To receive Holy Communion in the state of grace
- To pray five decades of the Rosary
- To spend another 15 minutes in the company of Mary, quietly meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary
- And to to do all this on the first Saturday of five consecutive months
- All of this, with the specific intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Mothers often offer us a little treat to ensure we do as they ask; the Blessed Virgin does similarly. Outlining how to make reparation to Her, She offers this promise –
“My daughter, look at My Heart surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce It 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 all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months go to confession and receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary and keep Me company for a quarter of an hour while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to Me.”
And in case there is any doubt at all, the Lord adds this –
“Have pity on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with the thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to remove them with an act of reparation.”
We would need to be foolish indeed not to listen to such a heart-wrenching appeal to our compassion, and not to respond as requested. It is sufficient to respond out of self-interest, certainly, mindful of the promise of graces at the hour of death; but the more perfect response is surely the one which issues out of compassion for that motherly and Immaculate Heart, and hopefully this will be the motive that propels us to respond.