God’s plan of Salvation through the first apparition of the Angel of Peace


Editor’s note: This guest column by Grace Small, a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Attleboro and a high school teacher, begins a nine-part series on the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

Now in the year 2017, during the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, we can survey the balance sheet of the past century. On the dark side, we have lived through the havoc caused by the hatred of a world estranged from God as seen by more than 50 wars in that short period. On the side of light, we are inspired by the love and witness of great saints such as St. Jacinta and St. Francisco Marto who were canonized this May, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Padré Pio, St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. John Paul II, to name a few. 

The signs of our times still occasion fearful apprehension though as Christians we are called to “rejoice in hope” in Christ Our Lord Who is Risen victorious over sin and death. We know too that He is with us. It is also consoling to know that our provident Father in Heaven still sends His angels and His own mother to our aid. We see in the Old Testament how God led His chosen people through the angel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. In our time, too, He sends His angel to His chosen people to protect them in times of distress. In the Book of Exodus God’s paternal care came with a grave warning if they did not heed:

“Behold, I will send My angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Take notice of Him, and hear His voice, and do not think Him one to be contemned: for He will not forgive when thou hast sinned, and My name is in Him. But if though wilt hear His voice, and do all that I speak, I will be an enemy to thy enemies, and will afflict them that afflict thee” (Ex 23:20-22).

In the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima we see in a broader context how God has sought to prepare the Church for its entry into the new millennium. The Mother of God’s apparition at Fatima in May 1917 was preceded by several visits of an “Angel of Peace” in 1916 whose words we wish to ponder. This anniversary also provides us an opportunity to examine how we are walking in the ways of God with our guardian angel with expectant hope for the fulfillment of God’s promises.

At Fatima, God sent His angel to teach three shepherd children the ABCs of the Spiritual life and prepare them for the message of Our Blessed Mother — echoing the Gospel, their message has perennial value for us all. While hanging on the cross, Christ entrusted His Own mother to St. John (and to us by extension) with the words, “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27). This was Our Lord’s last testament. When a dying man utters his last wishes, good men wish to take them to heart and carry them out. So, too, the Mystical Body of Christ, the spouse of Christ wishes to follow the Words of our crucified Lord and Bridegroom and take to heart His desire that we take His own Virgin Mother into our heart as our own Spiritual mother. 

How have we responded to the words of Our Lord’s Own mother to us His faithful followers? In 1917, an angel and Our Blessed Mother came to prepare God’s children to pass safely beyond those turbulent times into “an era of peace.” If her words had been fulfilled, an era of peace would have followed; still “in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” Again St. John Paul II affirms this in “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” when he states, “On this universal level, if victory comes it will be brought by Mary. Christ will conquer through her, because He wants the Church’s victories now and in the future to be linked to her.”

“Do Not be Afraid”

The first visit of the angel took place in 1916 when Lucia dos Santos and her two cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto were playing among the rocks. After eating lunch, the children quickly prayed their Rosary, which consisted of an abbreviated repetition of “Hail Mary, Holy Mary.” The children before the angelic apparitions were no different from many Christians who say their prayers very hastily just to get them done, or who are bored and eager to get over with Sunday Mass as quickly as possible. How many are eager to move on from prayer to get to their phone or other entertainments? We should ask ourselves, “How will we spend eternity with God in Heaven if we do not learn to pray and stay recollected in the presence of God?” 

As the children resumed their play, the angel appeared which Lucia described as “a light, whiter than snow and brighter than crystal pierced by the rays of the sun.” The children’s reaction was one of reverence and amazement. The Angel of Fatima reassured the children, “Be not afraid. I am the Angel of Peace, pray with me.” We see how this response to the angel is similar to that of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation who assures Mary, “do not be afraid” because she had found favor with God. So also these three humble children were favored with the dignity of the angel’s apparition. 

“I am the Angel of Peace”

The angel identified himself as the “Angel of Peace.” The existence of Spiritual non-corporal “angels” is a truth of faith (CCC 328). Of course, all the holy angels are, “ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain Salvation” (Heb 1:14). It is in this light that we must see and interpret the Angel of Peace’s visit and message: directed to our Salvation. We should not neglect this grace, approved by the Church, nor for that matter our own guardian angel. We should invoke Him often with trust because He is with us to bring us to God. Let us often like the faithful children pray the prayer the Church teaches us: “Angel of God my guardian dear to whom God’s love entrusts me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard to rule and guide.” Another aspect to be understood is messenger of peace brought by the angel and our Blessed Mother is the message of the Gospel. Marking his first anniversary of the assassination attempt on his life, St. John Paul II in his homily on May 13, 1982, said:

“If the Church has accepted the message of Fatima, it is above all because that message contains a truth and a call whose basic content is the truth and the call of the Gospel itself. ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel’ (Mk 1:15): these are the first words that the Messiah addressed to humanity. The message of Fatima is, in its basic nucleus, a call to conversion and repentance, as in the Gospel.” 

“Pray With Me”

The angel instructed them to pray with him and then knelt down reverently and bowed lowly as his forehead touched the ground. “Led by a supernatural impulse,” Lucia explained, “we did the same, and repeated the words which we heard him say.” The angel taught them:

“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.”

The Angel of Peace repeated this Pardon Prayer three times and then stood up. By his words “pray with me” we learn how we are called to pray with our guardian angel. We are also taught to pray to God with reverence and humility. The prayer teaches us the importance of making acts of faith, adoration, hope and love. And since we are called to love not only God, but also our neighbor, we pray for their Salvation, especially those most in need; hence the second half is a prayer for pardon and of reparation for those who do not believe, adore, hope and love God. This prayer is reminiscent of the Lord’s words on the cross to the Father for our pardon, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. 

“Pray thus. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.”

These last words of the angel in the first apparition are most revealing. We see the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are Spiritually united and are attentive to our prayers because they really love us. They have chosen us to be co-redeemers and collaborators of love and in reparation for sins of others. God has deigned that many graces are contingent upon our help. We can all make a serious difference because we are all called to participate with Jesus and Mary in the Salvation of the world, because as Our Lady will reveal, many souls are lost because there is no one to pray for them.

Through this initial episode of preparation one can understand how Christ sent the Angel of Peace to precede His own mother’s appearance in order to prepare the Church on her pilgrim way to Salvation. This peace plan is an integral part of His Own plan of Salvation. We must not see Fatima as so irrelevant or unimportant but rather as integral to the chosen people of God in the New Evangelization. Mary is the Mother of the Church from her infancy and continues act as mother and teacher to guide the Church in living the Gospel message in the modern age. St. John Paul II stated: “The appeal of the message of Fatima is so deeply rooted in the Gospel and the whole of tradition that the Church feels that the message imposes a commitment on her” (Homily at Fatima, Portugal, May 13, 1982). Just as Jesus and Mary united at the cross in our redemption, so too they are united still in Heaven guiding us toward the fulfillment God’s plan for our Salvation. God sent our Blessed Mother with an antidote as she prepares the Church for her victorious triumph of which we are called to play an integral role. The antidote thus far presented is prayer with our guardian angel that will bring us to a deeper relationship with the united hearts of Jesus and Mary. What a beautiful invitation to deepen our love and save souls! Let us be zealous apostles of love offering prayers and sacrifices with our guardian angel knowing that by so doing, we will be collaborating in saving many, many souls for Jesus and Mary.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts