The September 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 eighth in a nine-part series on the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

Days prior to the September Apparition of Our Lady, the three shepherd children offered to the united Hearts of Jesus and Mary a multitude of sacrifices done with zealous love to obtain the conversion of sinners and to save them from Hell. The children were not forgetful listeners, but rather they put into diligent practice the maternal requests of the Mother of God. Recall that their lives of consecration to the Immaculate Heart came from their initial response to Our Lady’s request and their firm desire to freely offer themselves to God for the Salvation of souls. 

From this free response came their decision to grow in their devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which went beyond mere sentiment, to a life of continual prayer, Penance and contemplation in preparation and hope for their final celestial meeting in Heaven where they would be together with Jesus and Mary forever. But until that day came, the children would not omit any means to pray and sacrifice for sinners.

Sister Lucia recounts in her “Memoirs” how she one day found a piece of rope that had fallen off a cart. Just for fun, she tied it around her arm and noticed that the rope was hurting her. “Look, this hurts!” she said to her cousins. “We could tie it round our waists and offer this sacrifice to God.” As an instrument of Penance, the rope caused the children terrible suffering. According to Sister Lucia, “Now and then, Jacinta could not keep back her tears, so great was the discomfort this caused her. Whenever I urged her to remove it, she replied: “No! I want to offer this sacrifice to Our Lord in reparation, and for the conversion of sinners.” On another day, the children were playing and Jacinta encountered some nettles and stung herself. Realizing the penitential utility of these nettles she exclaimed, “Look! Look! Here is something else which we can mortify ourselves!” From that time on, we used to hit our legs occasionally with nettles, so as to offer to God yet another sacrifice.” The children also acquired the habit of giving their lunch to little poor children.

Here we see how the children embraced their vocation of reparation, even to excess. The Mother of God would appear in September to tell the children, “God is pleased with your sacrifices. He does not want you to sleep with the rope on, but only to wear it during the daytime.” This tells us that the sacrifices offered by the children were pleasing to God, but as a good Father, God Who is all knowing, was aware of the children’s inability to sleep with the rope on at night, so he limited their exercise of Penance to wearing the rope only during the daytime. Jesus sent His Mother to convey to the children His will for them in regards to Penance. What a caring Heavenly Father we have! Jesus and Mary care for us in every particular of our lives and are not indifferent to our sacrifices and sufferings. What a consoling truth this is for all of us! Many of the Penances of the saints are to be admired not expressly imitated. As Catholics, it is prudent not to undertake any extraordinary Penances without the permission of a Spiritual director or priest. However, there are many ordinary Penances that every person can and must do to deny ourselves daily, as Christian discipleship demands, for Our Lord said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mt 16:24). 

For example, we can go without sugar in our coffee, or turn down the air conditioner in our car, or wear pants instead of shorts, or long sleeves instead of no sleeves during the summer to make reparation for the sense of immodesty that reigns in our society. However, there are also those Penances that come to us daily, like some displeasure we receive from other people’s words or actions, from our jobs, from sickness or other circumstances. These displeasures accepted with a joyful heart and offered to God, as Our Lady instructed by saying, “O My Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary” can save coutless souls and bring meaning and value to the sufferings in our daily life, because we bear them in union with the cross of Christ and His Immaculate Mother on our way of the cross. Let us call upon the Immaculate Heart of Mary to give us a spirit of Penance and modesty which we can all do in a spirit of reparation.

Sometime later Jacinta and Francisco’s parents sold their sheep. This left Lucia to go out alone to pasture her sheep. Sometimes Jacinta and her brother would join Lucia, while at other times they would be waiting for her on her way home. Lucia remembers these days as “really happy days” when she could be alone, in the midst of her sheep, Lucia, “contemplated the beauty of the heavens and thanked the good God for all the graces He had bestowed on me.” This passage is important because it shows the value of time away or a Sacred time set aside each day in order to pray and contemplate the goodness of God in our lives, speaking heart to heart, with the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, developing a loving relationship with the One Whom we know loves us. The sacrifice of time and prayer is perhaps the most important sacrifice we can make in our hectic daily lives in the modern world and so it is the most important. 

This can mean spending some time with the Word of God, reading and meditating on Scripture passages or in preparation for Sunday Mass, attending Eucharistic Adoration for a quarter of an hour or more making a Holy Hour if possible. As important as these are, Our Blessed Mother exhorted us to continually “Pray the Rosary” since it is a practice all people can do every day, while other acts of piety or religion may not be possible every day for everyone. However, in praying the Rosary what is most important is to pray the Rosary meditatively, asking for a virtue to practice and for light as how to apply that mystery in our daily lives. On Sundays, we must make Sunday Mass an obligation in our families, after having prepared to receive Our Lord through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sundays are a day of rest, so this is the opportune time for family recreation but also prayer at family dinner and the family Rosary, remembering the words of Servant of God, Father Patrick Peyton, “The family that prays together, stays together.”

On the 13th of September, as Our Lady had requested in August the three children made their way to the Cova where a large crowd of 30,000 people had gathered. Some were curious, the secular and the atheistic press also gathered, but most people were praying the Rosary and were full of requests for Our Lady.

“At last, we arrived at the Cova da Iria, and on reaching the holmoak we began to say the Rosary with the people. Shortly afterwards, we saw the flash of light, and then Our Lady appeared on the holmoak. ‘Continue to pray the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war. In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Dolours and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. St. Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world. God is pleased with your sacrifices. He does not want you to sleep with the rope on, but only to wear it during the daytime.” 

“I was told to ask you many things, the cure of some sick people, of a deaf-mute.”

“‘Yes, I will cure some, but not others. In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.’ Then Our Lady began to rise as usual, and disappeared.”

It is in this September Apparition of Our Lady that we receive more details about the great miracle the children had requested of Our Lady, so as to provide proof to the world that her apparitions were true. Here Our Lady tells in certain terms that Our Lord would come in October. It is interesting that Our Lady also reveals that she will come as Our Lady of Dolours (Sorrows) and Our Lady of Mount Carmel and that Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world. 

Although the significance of these apparitions would become clear in October, here Our Lady is preparing the children and thousands for the great miracle of which would follow. Immediately, upon hearing this message, the devout Christian who was praying the Rosary would understand that St. Joseph and the Child Jesus represented the joyful mysteries of the Rosary, Our Lady of Dolours the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the glorious mysteries of the Rosary. Not only did this message increase anticipation in the promised miracle but also it gave greater emphasis to the mysteries of the Holy Rosary which the apparition highlighted.

Finally, Our Lady said, “In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.” The miracle would be so great that it would remove all doubt and would actually bring unbelievers and atheists to believe in the veracity of the apparition, which in fact happened as a result of the October miracle. Perhaps many of us would not be reading this article if the October miracle had not happened. The fact that the October miracle was foretold in this Marian prophecy contributed to the credibility of the Fatima Apparitions when they occurred. Finally the disposition of those who followed the apparitions prepared by the prayer of the Holy Rosary, disposed them to receive more or less grace and healing depending on their response to Our Lady’s requests. 

The September Apparition solidifies the hope of the children and of the people for a great sign or miracle to confirm Mary’s important message which she communicated to the three shepherd children. God was appealing once more to His children through His Son, and Mary, Mother of the Word. Mary came once more to implore us to take up with confidence an instrument of prayer and Spiritual warfare by which we can learn to identify our lives with the life of Christ, because we know that it is through our union with Christ and His merits that we are saved. Through this process of identification wrought by prayer and Penance and the graces it bestows, we become pleasing to the Father to the degree we reproduce in ourselves the sentiments of His Son which include His total dependence on the Father and His utter submission to the Father’s will “Thy will be done.” He has told us, “I and the Father are One” (Jn. 10:30). 

Through the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, we can see plainly that the Father chose that His Son, the Word made Flesh, be dependent upon Mary, His Mother, who nurtured Jesus and was His first and most faithful disciple. This is God’s desire for us as well. Mary reveals, that her Son, Jesus wants to establish devotion to Her Immaculate Heart, so that she can form us into the image and likeness of Her Son, the firstborn of many brethren, to be made pleasing to the Father and to bring us safely to Heaven, to the place where Jesus has gone to prepare for us.

On this 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, there are many graces available to the faithful. Pope Francis has granted an opportunity to obtain a plenary indulgence throughout the centennial year, from the 27th of November 2016 till the 26th of November 2017. What is an indulgence? An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. There are specific conditions for receiving an indulgence. The faithful must fulfill the ordinary conditions: go to Confession and Communion, be interiorly detached from sin, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.  

In addition, on this 100th Anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions, there are three ways to obtain the indulgence, detailed in a statement from the Fatima Shrine in Portugal:

1. Make a pilgrimage to the Shrine in Fatima, Portugal: To the faithful who make a pilgrimage to the Fatima Shrine in Portugal and participate in a celebration of prayer dedicated to the Virgin. In addition, the faithful must pray the Our Father, recite the Creed and invoke the Mother of God. 

2. Pray before any statue of Our Lady of Fatima: To the faithful who visit with devotion a statue of Our Lady of Fatima solemnly exposed for public veneration in any church, oratory or proper place during the days of the anniversary of the apparitions, the 13th of each month from May to October 2017, and there devoutly participate in some celebration or prayer in honor of the Virgin Mary. In addition, the faithful must pray the Our Father, recite the Creed and invoke Our Lady of Fatima. 

3. The elderly and infirm: To the faithful who, because of age, illness or other serious cause, are unable to get around, may pray in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and must Spiritually unite themselves to the jubilee celebrations on the days of the apparitions, the 13th of each month, between May and October 2017. They must also “offer to merciful God with confidence, through Mary, their prayers and sufferings or the sacrifices they make in their own lives.”

As the 13th of September and October quickly approach let us take this opportunity, if we have not done so already, to strive to obtain the plenary indulgence which can be applied to our self or the souls in purgatory. 

Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to obtain mercy in time of need!

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