Friday, May 13, 2011

Our Lady of Fatima

I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy.
 – Revelation 11:3
Today, May 13, is the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. It marks the 94th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady to the three shepherd children – Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta – in 1917.

Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta
Today also marks the 30th anniversary of the tragic shooting of Pope John Paul II in 1981. Blessed Pope John Paul attributed his survival and full recovery from the injuries caused by the assassin's bullets to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima.

Here is historic footage of the first Papal visit to Fatima by Pope Paul VI on May 13,1967 – the 50th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at the Shrine of Fatima just one year ago on May 13, 2010. The Mass was attended by more than 500,000 pilgrims.

As I was recently reading the encyclical Spe Salvi by Pope Benedict XVI, I came across a quote by the Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh about the "three children [who were freed from] the fiery furnace". I immediately thought of the three children of Fatima and how they were shown a terrifying vision of Hell by the Virgin Mary.
"We saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now following back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me do). The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying nad repellant likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals."
But St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh was not referring to the children of Fatima. How could he have been since he died long before they were born. He was referring to the children (or young men) of the book of Daniel who were saved by an Angel.

After the Fatima children saw the vision of souls suffering in Hell, they did all they could to try to save others from sharing the same fate by "making sacrifices for sinners" as Our Lady had instructed them. They performed the strictest penances they could come up with to try to offer their suffering in exchange for those who would otherwise be condemned.

And they were given the prayer of Fatima which we now recite after every decade of the Rosary:
"O, my Jesus. Forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven. Especially, those in most need of Thy Mercy. Amen."
There is more information about the penances of blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto here. Francisco died at age 10 and Jacinta at age 9.
At the end of October 1918, Francisco and Jacinta fell ill, almost at the same time. When Lucia visited them, she found Jacinta elated she said;"Our Lady came to see us and said that she is coming to take Francisco to heaven very soon. She asked me if I still wanted to convert more sinners. I told her I did. She told me I would be taken to a hospital and that I would suffer greatly there, but that I should suffer for the conversion of sinners, in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for the love of Jesus."
Jacinta often separated from the others and alone by herself would fall to her knees to pray for sinners. Then calling Lucia and Francisco she would ask: "Are you praying with me? It is necessary to pray much to save souls from hell!... How sorry I am for sinners! If I could only show them hell!" Even after she was taken sick, which eventually led to her death, she would get out of bed to bow her head to the floor, and pray as the Angel had taught for the glory of God, Jesus in the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which God is offended and to beg for the conversion of poor sinners. A priest finally had to tell her, as she would fall over at times doing this, that she should say the prayer in bed.
What Francisco wanted most was to console Our Lord offended by the sins of men. For this reason, on the eve of his death, he said to Lucy: "Look! I am very sick; in a little while I will go to heaven. "Then, when you are there, make sure not to forget to pray for sinners, for the Holy Father, for me and Jacinta," said Lucia.  "Yes, I will. replied Francisco but look, you had better ask Jacinta to do these things, because I fear I will forget when I see Our Lord!  I want to console Him first."
Lucia lived to be 97 years old. She became a Discalced Carmelite nun and took the name Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus. She died on February 13, 2005.

On May 11 at the weekly General Audience the Pope reminded us to pray the Rosary during the month of May which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Finally, I address young people, the sick and newlyweds, exhorting all to intensify the pious practice of the holy rosary, especially in this month of May dedicated to the Mother of God. I invite you, dear young people, to value this traditional Marian prayer, which helps to understand better and to assimilate the central moments of the salvation realized by Christ. I exhort you, dear sick, to turn with confidence to the Virgin Mary through this pious exercise, entrusting all your needs to her. I exhort you, dear newlyweds, to make the praying of the rosary in the family, a moment of spiritual growth under the gaze of the Virgin Mary.

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