Lucia dos Santos, Part III (Messenger of Fatima)
This coming Friday, October 13 is the 100th anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady of Fatima and the great miracle of the sun that she wrought on that occasion. Also, on the October 13, the Virgin identified herself to the children as Our Lady of the Rosary and urged them once more to continue praying the Rosary daily. Indeed, the Fatima apparitions contributed greatly to a renewal of the prayer of the Rosary in the 20th century. Yesterday, October 7 was the Church’s celebration of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Today, I intend to finish writing about the eldest of the seers of Fatima, Lucia dos Santos. Last Sunday I wrote about her as the great ‘witness’ of Fatima. Today, I will write about her as the ‘messenger’ of Fatima. While the exhortation to pray the Rosary daily is very much part of the message of Fatima, that is not how Our Lady described Sr. Lucia’s role. In the apparition of June 13, she told her, “I shall take Jacinta and Francisco soon, but you will remain a little longer, since Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart.”
Sr. Lucia’s role as a messenger is quite remarkable because it shows very much that God’s ways are not our ways. Four years after the apparitions the 14-year-old girl was removed from her home in Fatima in the central part of Portugal and taken to a boarding school run by the Dorothean sisters in the northern city of Porto where she was given a different name and her identity was kept a secret from everyone but the Mother Superior. This took place at the request of the new bishop, as part of his official examination of the apparitions, and with the agreement of both Lucia and her mother. Lucia would join the Dorothean sisters after she turned 18, remain with that community until 1946, and then enter the more strictly cloistered Discalced Carmelite Order until her death in 2005.
In other words, God hid his messenger in a cloistered convent removed from the world. While during the course of her life, Sr. Lucia would write many letters, she never had any direct access to any modern means of communication and her every contact with the outside world was strictly supervised by her Superiors. Yet, Sr. Lucia’s withdrawal from ‘the world’ meant that her message always remained rooted in the witness of her life with God.
That message went out chiefly by means of two books her “Memoirs” and “Calls from the Message of Fatima”. The first four Memoirs were written between 1935 and 1941 and became the chief and most indispensable source of knowledge about the apparitions of Fatima; later, in 1989 and 1993, she wrote two more memoirs (about her mother and her father), which were published in a separate volume. “Calls from the Message of Fatima” was published in 2001 as a sort of response to the numerous questions she had received over the years and her own mature reflection on the meaning of the message that had been entrusted her in her childhood.
At the center of Sr. Lucia’s message is devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is practiced in a very concrete fashion through the devotion of the Five First
The essentials of this devotion is that a person, on five successive first Saturdays of the month, with the intention of making reparation for offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary 1) go to confession, 2) receive Holy Communion worthily, 3) pray five decades of the Rosary, 4) keep Our Lady company for 15 minutes by meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary. The meditation is in addition to the recitation of the Rosary and it is sufficient to meditate on one or more of the mysteries. The confession does not have to be on the first Saturday itself. The devotion of five first Saturdays should not just be a once and done practice, but should be a means for continually growing in love of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Our Lady promised to those who practice this devotion the graces necessary for salvation at the hour of their death. This simple act of reparation was also to be the means by which Our Lady would prevent wars, famines, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. The practice of the Five First Saturdays lies at the heart of “Our Lady’s Peace Plan”.
Of course, praying the Rosary is part of the first Saturdays’ devotion. If we just consider the repetition of the ‘Hail Mary’ it is easy to grasp why the Rosary is so suited to making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When we pray the Hail Mary we greet Mary with God’s own words and God’s own greeting, through the angel Gabriel and St. Elizabeth. (cf. Lk 1:28, 1:42) It brings joy to the Heart of the Blessed Mother when her children continually remind her of that special moment in her life in which she conceived the Son of God in her womb.