The message of Fatima is, in its basic nucleus, a call to conversion and repentance, as in the Gospel. This call was uttered at the beginning of the twentieth century, and it was addressed particularly to this present century . . . . The call to repentance is a motherly one, and at the same time it is strong and decisive. (Pope Saint John Paul II, homily given in Fatima on May 13, 1982)
Today the universal Church remembers and celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the miraculous events at Fatima, recalling the wondrous appearance of Our Heavenly Mother and the life-giving message she brought. In considering the meaning of her message as it pertains to us today, I am reminded of something Sister Lucia wrote in a letter to Cardinal Caffarra:
[T]he final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, she added, because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue… however, Our Lady has already crushed its head.
In my many travels, I experience firsthand the prophetic words of Sister Lucia concerning marriage and the family. These sacred institutions are at the heart of the battle because they touch upon the very pillar of creation, which is the truth about the relationship between man and woman, who are made in the likeness and image of God. If these heavenly created institutions are compromised, then the entire building collapses.
We should not view the message of Fatima as merely a historic moment, but rather as a living message purposely spoken to this age. The moral crisis we see in the world demands continued prayers, penance and sacrifices. Our response to the perverse secular culture is our ongoing conversion and spiritual renewal. We are being called to holiness.
We are prompted by the example of the visionaries, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, to offer acts of mortification with heroic virtue. At the height of their innocence, the two younger children, Francisco and Jacinta, offered themselves as expiatory victims. Sister Lucia, told she would live a long life, would exhaust her life in the service of prayer and mortification for the salvation of souls. Lucia asked Our Lady if she would take them to heaven. Our Lady answered:
Yes, I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. You, however, are to stay here a longer time. Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish the devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world. I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and their souls will be loved by God as flowers placed by me before His throne.
When Lucia asked if she were going to be left alone, Our Lady responded:
No, my daughter. Does this cause you to suffer a great deal? I will never leave you, my Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.
Our Lady’s appeal for prayer and penance made to the children, to which the children responded with joy and complete obedience, also applies to us. Striving for holiness and mortifying our senses enables us to be fervent in prayer, gives us interior strength in resisting temptations, helps us to detach from worldly concerns, and unshackles our hearts from earthly vanities and attachments. Seeking holiness increases clarity of thought, making us more sensitive to the discernment of what is holy and what is abomination.
The evil one also knows the significance of marriage and the family. This is why he attacked our first parents and continues his assault today upon marriage and family. Marriage is the only institution that unites parents with their children, that recognizes the natural right of a child to have a mother and father. The family is the first cell of society, the domestic church, first government, first school, first hospital, first economy and the first mediating institution of society. Within this primary school, children learn moral and gospel values, which ultimately give shape to our cultures and societies. After all, society passes through the family, the first school.
Defending the truth about life, marriage and family is costly. The visionaries of Fatima suffered greatly because of the apparitions. Family and friends who failed to understand what the children received from Our Lady persecuted them. Newspapers waged a bitter campaign to discredit the apparitions and the visionaries. Despite all the ill treatment, the children bore it all with patience and charity, always mindful of Our Lady’s request to offer their sacrifices for the sake of poor sinners.
As we enter the good fight in the battle over marriage and family, we know that we too will be besieged by hatred and rejection. Our Lord reminds us, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). We stand before two opposing views; one set upon a path of obedience and life and the other upon disobedience and death.
We also know that the attacks against God’s divine plan for marriage and family do not come only from outside the Church but also come from within – born of sins from disobedience, dissent and rejection. This is why the Church, the people of God, needs the message of Fatima to be a constant reminder as to the universal call for repentance conversion, and renewal. Only in this spirit, renewal of heart and soul, can we be the leaven in the dough. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…(1 John 4:18) We draw strength and comfort from Our Lady of Fatima who reminded Sister Lucia that she was not alone in this great battle – in her Immaculate Heart we find refuge.
There is still much for us to learn from Our Lady of Fatima. Her message is a sign of hope to a world torn by strife and discord. The answer to the attacks on marriage, family and society is the same today as it was 100 years ago – repent and be obedient to the will of God.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.