The June apparition of Our Lady of Fatima


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

Our Lady’s Apparition of June 13, 1917 came on the feast of St. Anthony. As one of Catholicism’s most beloved saints, he is often portrayed as carrying the Child Jesus in his arms. Due to the fact that St. Anthony is the patron saint of Lisbon, Portugal, the major pilgrimage in Fatima today is transferred to June 10, the feast of the Angel of Fatima which is also known as the “Children’s pilgrimage.” 

St. Anthony is known as a Eucharistic saint. He once presented a challenge to a heretic who did not believe in the Real Presence. The heretic’s mule was starved for three days. When the mule was offered fresh feed, but came instead to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament held by St. Anthony, the heretic was miraculously converted to believe in the Real Presence. Our Lady of Fatima’s apparitions seem to reinforce implicitly once again the need for faith in Our Blessed Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist and for this purpose Mary comes in June to explicitly ask the children for the prayer of the Rosary and devotion to her Immaculate Heart. Just as through the intercession of St. Anthony, an unbeliever, was converted to faith in Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, so through devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who is our mother in the order of grace, we receive with living faith, the fruit of her womb, Jesus Christ, and are enabled to live lives pleasing to God.

After the May apparition of Our Lady, the contempt of her family was a painful trial for Lucia who had simply been made to report what had happened due to Jacinta’s indiscretion of letting loose the secret. Lucia states, “My one relief was to weep before the Lord, as I offered Him my sacrifice. It was on this very day that Our Lady, as though guessing what was going on, said to me: ‘Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.’ Our Lady’s apparition conveyed her mission to Lucia with tender maternal compassion for her needs, offering consolation in her trials. 

Sister Lucia reports in her memoirs: “As soon as Jacinta, Francisco and I had finished praying the Rosary, with a number of other people who were present we saw once more the flash reflecting the light which was approaching (which we called lightning). The next moment, Our Lady was there on the holmoak, exactly the same as in May. ‘What do you want of me?’ I asked. ‘I wish you to come here on the 13th of the next month, to pray the Rosary every day, and to learn to read. Later I will tell you what I want.’ I asked for the cure of a sick person. ‘If he is converted, he will be cured during the year.’”

As in the prior May apparition, Our Blessed Mother appears on the 13th day of the month with specific requests. The children are to return on the 13th of the subsequent month in July. They are to pray the Rosary every day. The virtues are born of grace and are constantly nourished by prayer, the breath of our soul.  Lucia is told to learn to read. Learning to read and then writing, which follows from an education, would be necessary for Lucia’s life as a nun as her mission was to remain on earth to spread devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, but this would be revealed to her later as Mary states, “Later I will tell you what I want.” So our Blessed Mother requires of the children simple obedience. By obeying her requests they would obtain for themselves many graces with the unfolding of future apparitions as well as the conversion and cure of many souls. 

When Lucia asks Our Blessed Mother in a direct prayer request for the cure of a sick person, Our Blessed Mother replies, “If he is converted, he will be cured during the year.” Perhaps this is to show the primacy of Spiritual conversion over physical healing and that no matter what our physical condition we must each strive to turn more and more to God in faith. Often in the Gospels Jesus required an act of faith before a cure. For example, “When He entered the house, the blind men approached Him and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I can do this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they said to Him. Then He touched their eyes and said, ‘Let it be done for you according to your faith’” (Mt 9:28). In this June apparition, Our Lady reveals the heart of the message of how we are to return to the heart of God.

“I would like to ask you to take us to Heaven.” “Yes. I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise Salvation to those who embrace it, and these souls will be loved by God, like flowers placed by me to adorn His throne.”

Our Lady tells Lucia that Jesus wishes to make use of her to make His own mother known and loved. It is not the first time in history that Mary has chosen very simple, humble souls to bear her messages to the world. This is true at all three apparitions of La Salette, Lourdes and Fatima.  At La Salette in 1846, Our Lady asked two children Maximin and Melanie to make her message known to all her people reinforcing her role as intercessor before her Son and Reconciler of sinners, especially in regards to God’s Commandments. In very direct terms and with great authority given her by God, the Blessed Virgin at La Salette warned against taking the Lord’s name in vain; the second Commandment, and about keeping holy Sunday, the Lord’s day; the day of rest; the third Commandment. Working on Sunday and encouraging others to do so when that work is not strictly necessary is wrong. Sunday is vital for thought and reflection on how we are living our lives; this is always vital; it should be a complete day of rest. The Blessed Virgin warns of the punishments ahead. She predicts the further great famine in France and reveals to the people the need to do penance.  

In Lourdes, in 1858, Our Lady’s apparition to St. Bernadette as “I am the Immaculate Conception” is an affirmation from Heaven of the magisterial definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, declared four years prior in 1854, which states that Mary was herself conceived without the stain of original sin. Immaculate Mary presents herself as mother and model of purity for the world in need of this virtue. The Blessed Mother repeats that the most important thing is to be happy in the other life and that it is necessary to accept the cross in order to achieve that happiness. At Lourdes we see the importance of prayer, the Rosary, Penance, and humility (kissing the ground as a sign); a message of infinite mercy for sinners and for the care of the sick. In Fatima, we see continuity in the need for sacrifice and Penance with the intention of making reparation to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. This was the focus of the angelic apparitions and remain so of the six Marian apparitions in which Our Lady asks for Communions of Reparation on the first five Saturdays, the consecration of Russia, devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart and the prayer of the Rosary. 

Recall in the previous May apparition on the feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament we saw how when Mary tells the children, “You are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort,” as she opened her hands making the children see themselves in God. Moved by an interior impulse the children fell on their knees and repeated in their hearts, “O most Holy Trinity, I adore You! My God, my God, I love You in the Most Blessed Sacrament!” Our Lady emphasizes once again the union of the two hearts and in the June apparition that Jesus Himself wants to establish in the world devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart and those souls who embrace this devotion of love toward Mary’s Immaculate Heart will be loved by Him and will be placed by Mary around His throne. This means we must imitate Mary’s complete love of God in faith, purity and obedience to all His commands. Remember at Cana, Mary tells the servers, “Do whatever He tells you”(Jn 2:5). By loving Mary and loving our Eucharistic Lord by way of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, we come to the fullness of Divine charity, loving Our Eucharistic Lord through our mother’s own Immaculate Heart as children of God.

“‘Am I to stay here alone?’ I asked, sadly. ‘No, my daughter. Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.’ As Our Lady spoke these last words, she opened her hands and for the second time, she communicated to us the rays of that same immense light. We saw ourselves in this light, as it were, immersed in God. Jacinta and Francisco seemed to be in that part of the light which rose towards Heaven, and I in that which was poured out on the earth. In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a heart encircled by thorns which pierced it. We understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation.” 

This immense light which Our Lady communicated, is the light of faith which we receive in our Baptism. The children once again saw themselves in God, in the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity, which they could now approach through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Francisco alludes to this when he remarked, “These people are so happy just because you told them that Our Lady wants the Rosary said, and that you are to learn to read! How would they feel if they only know what she showed to us in God, in her Immaculate Heart, in that great light! But this is a secret; it must not be spoken about” (memoirs 126). Francisco had come to deepen his understanding of the indwelling of God within his soul. Jacinta and Francisco were in the part of the light which rose to Heaven because they would suffer and go to Heaven soon. While Lucia would remain on earth to live out the devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart as a Carmelite Sister and make it known by her life of consecration, prayer, sacrifice and writings. 

St. Jacinta reinforced this mission before she went into the hospital. She told Lucia: “You will remain here to make known that God wished to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When you are to say this, don’t go and hide. Tell everybody that God grants us graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that people are to ask her for them; and that the Heart of Jesus wanted the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated at His side. Tell them also to pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for peace, since God has entrusted it to her. If I could only put into the hearts of all, the fire that is burning within my own heart, and that makes me love the Hearts of Jesus and Mary so very much!” 

Once again, we see that the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are united and that we must obtain graces from God as mediated through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is the order established by God. Lucia’s life would shine before the world transmitting the brilliance of her faith by her sanctity of life. We also, each according to our state in life, should strive to consecrate ourselves to Jesus through Mary and with her help strive to live a life of immaculate purity and love for Our Eucharistic Lord. We should strive to keep God’s Commandments and use the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever we are aware of any grave fault before approaching our Eucharistic Lord. To help us we should examine our conscience with Mary, taking refuge in her heart and asking her to help us know how we have offended God, and to accompany us to make a good Confession to be reconciled to God. By the prayer of the Holy Rosary we are to meditate on our lives in light of the mysteries of Christ’s life as seen by Mary and ask her help to practice the Christian virtues.

Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is not new, nor is it something that originated at Fatima. It goes back to the 17th century when St. John Eudes preached about it together with that of the Sacred Heart; in the 19th century, Popes Pius VII and Pius IX allowed several churches to celebrate a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary. After the Fatima apparitions, Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church in 1944, so as to obtain by her intercession “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue” (Decree of May 4, 1944). 

The First Friday and First Saturday devotions are offered at my parish at St. Vincent de Paul in Attleboro. On the First Fridays we begin with a 7 p.m. Mass with Eucharistic Adoration and the Rosary until 10 p.m., and First Saturdays with the 9 a.m. Mass until noon every month. The First Fridays are in response to the request of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary and First Saturdays are in response to Our Lady of Fatima’s requests. 

Let us do our part to approach the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus through Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart making sincere acts of reparation for our sins and those of the whole world. If we embrace this devotion, as Sister Lucia and St. Francisco and St. Jacinta did, then we too can hope for the graces need for Salvation and to be among the number of flowers which she will place before the throne of God.

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