God’s plan of Salvation in the light of the second apparition of the Angel of Peace

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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 second in a nine-part series on the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

In Sacred Scripture Jesus tells us, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 18:3). If we want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, then of course we need to be obedient and submissive children of God. Real love for Jesus, consists, as He tells us, in doing His will, the will of His Father (Jn 14, 23; 15,10). He speaks to us through His Church: “Whosoever listens to you listens to Me” (Lk 10:16). Yet knowing the truth of revelation does not always help us discern how best to implement it in our lives. 

Here we need prayer and we need to foster interior silence so we can hear the voice of God, speaking to us through Mary, and through our guardian angel in our heart. In a similar way, God speaks to the whole Church prophetically by sending His mother and His angels with His admonitions and warnings, so that we can better read the signs of the times. Fatima is an excellent example of this, where Mary and the Angel remind us of the urgent truths of Salvation, we already know through the Church. Still we need to understand the Fatima message in our own historical context and embrace it with holy zeal.

Let us not remain indifferent or cold to their appeals and exhortations but be diligent in following these for our own good and the Salvation of souls. Such was the response of these three shepherd children.

 The first manifestation of the Angel left a deep impression on the three shepherd children, Lucia dos Santos, and the now-canonized St. Jacinta and St. Francisco Marto. The three children were filled with the presence of God and their response was silent awe and adoration. Lucia speaks of this in her memoirs:

“The supernatural atmosphere which enveloped us was so intense, that we were for a long time scarcely aware of our own existence, remaining in the posture in which he had left us, and continually repeating the same prayer. The presence of God made itself felt so intimately and so intensely that we did not even venture to speak to one another. The next day, we were still immersed in this Spiritual atmosphere, which only gradually began to disappear.”

The children’s response to the first apparition of the Angel was one of awe and deep recollection. The Angel had guided them through prayer into the presence of God, Who is transcendent. The children remained in a state of silence and secrecy even into the next day. The Angel brought each child into a deeper union with God than they had ever experienced and so they kept silent so as to relish this sweetness and not lose this intimate experience of God’s love. This experience is reminiscent the first stages of the Spiritual life when one experiences fervor, sweetness and deep recollection. Silence is so necessary to prayer and to maintaining recollection. How we need to create Sacred spaces in our homes in order to nurture our prayer life either in the early morning or in the evening. But most especially in Church where God is always present in the Blessed Sacrament, do we maintain a Spirit of prayer and recollection after we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. Do we offer our thanksgiving to so great a Guest even for a quarter of an hour as long as the Sacred species remain within us? This is the most precious time we can spend with Jesus after we receive His Sacred Body and Precious Blood in Holy Communion. 

After the solemn blessing, do we maintain silence because Our Lord still remains present for us hidden in the Tabernacle? Are we respectful of those still in prayer and consciously take our conversations outside? To those who were irreverent in God’s temple, Jesus said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Mt 21:13). Indeed when we are talking, we rob God of the reverent silence which is His due and break charity with our brothers and sisters in the pews who are still trying to pray. We must study how we can eliminate the tyranny of noise and nurture silence to maintain recollection so we can walk in the presence of God. Let us examine ourselves. Do we truly relish a desire to hear God’s voice and ponder His word in the silence of our heart, like Mary who pondered the words of the Angel Gabriel or do we easily abandon the great graces God gives us by our worldly conversation and dissipate those graces like an open bottle of perfume that easily loses its fragrance?

The children had returned to their daily playing, singing, dancing and playing games under the fig trees. By the second apparition of the Angel, much of the initial fervor had worn off. They had gone off to their daily duties of taking their sheep out to the fields when the Angel visited them again. “What are you doing? Pray! Pray a great deal. The hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy for you! Offer prayers and sacrifices unceasingly to the Most High.”

Just as the Angel asked the children what they were doing, so too we should ask the same of ourselves what are we doing with the time God has given us, with the graces with which He has filled our souls? Are we squandering our time with useless pursuits or are we immersed in prayerful acts of love and thanksgiving? The Angel seeing the children’s lack of Spiritual seriousness to his previous counsels exhorted them to pray! Pray a great deal. St. Alphonsus de Liguori in his “Treatise on Prayer,” states: “Let us pray, then, and let us always be asking for grace, if we wish to be saved. Let prayer be our most delightful occupation; let prayer be the exercise of our whole life. And when we are asking for particular graces, let us always pray for the grace to continue to pray for the future; because if we leave off praying we shall be lost. There is nothing easier than prayer. What does it cost us to say, ‘Lord, stand by me! Lord, help me! Give me Thy love!’ and the like? What can be easier than this? But if we do not do so, we cannot be saved.”

We should strive always to spend more time in prayer –— vocal prayer, personal meditation, the family Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration but especially the Holy Mass “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). Why? St. Alphonsus de Liguori says that if we do not pray we will not be saved. The Angel assures the children, and us by extension, that we should pray because the “hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy for us.” Here we see the part God wants us to play in the co-redemption of our brothers and sisters. In Christ’s cry from the cross, “I thirst” we can understand not only Christ’s cry for our love, but also for other disciples like His mother Mary, St. John and St. Mary Magdalene who will offer themselves as Spiritual sacrifices to God for the Salvation of the whole world. 

St. Paul exhorts us in the same spirit, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your Spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). This is the heart of the offertory of the Holy Mass, when we offer ourselves with the gifts of bread and wine to be offered to God. The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary look to us, the Mystical Body of Christ to help bring about the Kingdom of Heaven by uniting our lives to theirs by continual prayer and sacrifice for the Salvation of souls. Like the Angel of Peace, St. Alphonsus exhorts us, “Let us, then, in our prayers always invoke Jesus and Mary; and let us never neglect to pray.” 

Notice the Angel exhorts the children to “offer prayers and sacrifices unceasingly to the Most High.” We might justly inquire how to offer prayers and sacrifices without ceasing, and so did the children. Lucia asked the Angel, “But how are we to sacrifice?” The Angel responded, “In every way you can, offer sacrifice to God in reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for sinners. In this way you will bring peace to our country, for I am its guardian angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, bear and accept with patience the sufferings God will send you.”

We learn in this message that the Angel identifies himself as the nation’s guardian angel, “the Angel of Portugal.” We can thereby understand that just as the children were asked to offer sacrifices to God for peace in their nation we, too, need to pray continually for peace in our nation. We also learn that the Angel gives us a formula of how we are to “sacrifice” or “make holy” the offerings we make to God to repair the sins committed against Him and to bring peace to our country. “In every way you can.” Many Catholics offer to God a “Morning Offering” which encompasses this intention: 

“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.”

Though there are many variations of this prayer the main idea is to begin your day by giving everything to God, such as one’s responsibilities at church, at work, at home, at school and with other people. By exercising Christian virtue the Angel reminds us to keep silence instead of gossiping, go the extra mile unseen by others, work without complaint and do all things with love and with the intention of making reparation to God for the sins in which He is offended and for the conversion of sinners. This is how we can make of everything we do a sacrifice pleasing to God.

St. Jacinta and St. Francisco lived lives of heroic virtue. After this second apparition the children took the Angel’s words seriously. They would give their lunch to the sheep and later to the poor as an act of self-denial in reparation for sins. They would delay drinking while thirsting for water in the hot summer sun. These small renunciations and mortifications made up of small daily sacrifices are the greatest proofs of love for God: they are how the children consoled His Heart. These continual acts of mortifications in our daily acts and duties are difficult because we tend to be impatient. Accepting the sufferings God sends like a sickness, a contradiction, bad weather, or a negative turn of events in our lives are certainly more difficult than other forms of self-imposed penances. 

The Angel teaches that with silence and prayer we can conquer our self-love. To combat our own self-will relentlessly in everything we do is not easy and neither is accepting the sufferings God sends. Yet these small daily sacrifices are the very “treasures” and the means by which the children of Fatima so quickly climbed the heights of sanctity. So too can we, by following in their little way of loving prayer and sacrifice, thereby saving souls and becoming great saints in this third millennium!


© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts