Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas: Choosing the Light


Our Belen for 2016
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
When the Lord Jesus was born, it was in the middle of the night. People were fast asleep except the shepherds who were keeping the night watch over their flock. Nobody knew that it was the most awaited night, the night when the ancient promise of God was fulfilled. Everything was hidden in the darkness of the night.
But what was hidden in darkness will be proclaimed in daylight. Today, the Light of the world shines in the darkness. Not even the darkness is able to overcome it. No amount of darkness will ever limit the light. Light limits the darkness and not the other way around. Light dispels the darkness. The darkness does not dispel the light. Darkness is the absence of light. When the light comes, there is no darkness.

There is only one way for darkness to stay…and that is by blocking the light. “He came to what was his own but his own people did not accept him.” Light is refused by putting up a barrier to keep it from penetrating the darkness. The barrier sort of protects the darkness from the light. Hiding behind that barrier, a person remains in the dark.

But it is unfortunate that one should refuse the light and choose the darkness. “For what came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race…” Life is light. Where there is light, there is life. Living things grow under the light. Death lurks in darkness. It would be sad if people choose the darkness because doing so, they would choose death over life. And who wants to die? The desire for death defies all logic. Everything that lives wants to remain alive. It would do everything to be able to extend life even for one second more.

Light empowers. “Those who did accept him, he gave the power to become children of God.” There can be no higher dignity for man than to be a child of God. To accept the light is to be chosen and loved by God as his dear children. This is the life he offers us. He offers us the life of the children of God. And to do this, his light comes into the world. “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Like the sun at Fatima which one can look at without hurting one’s eyes, the Light of the world comes in the poverty of a little child. He is not a light that glares and blinds. He is a light that beckons, a light that attracts by its beauty. The sign of God is the poverty of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying on a manger. The poverty of the human nature which he took upon himself makes the unapproachable light of God less intimidating and more approachable. This Light beckons us to go out of the dark. It draws us out of the darkness of sin and death. It invites us to take away the barrier that shields us from his light and life. It invites us to turn away from sin, to shun the works of darkness. The seeming poverty of God makes people underestimate his power. Our impatience to put things in order makes us resort to works of death: wars, killings, violence. But the peace and order that comes out of it is simply the silence of cadavers, the silence of cemeteries.

If only the world would accept Christ the Light, then it would receive from the fullness of his grace, grace upon grace. “Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ.”  This is the true life giving grace. The mercy of the Christ Child is one that truly transforms and gives eternal life. It is the one that opens and fills paradise and not graves. “The Lord restores Zion. Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! The Lord comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem.”
If we accept Christ, he will reveal God to us. “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” Let us accept him for the Lord does not desire ruin for us but salvation. He desires not violence but peace. He desires not the death of the sinner but that the sinner should turn to him and live.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!  

Simbang Gabi 9 (Fatima Centennial): the Miracle of the Sun


On the last day of the Simbang gabi, we read the Song of Zechariah. His voice restored on the day of the circumcision of John the Baptist, Zechariah sang in praise of God for sending a Savior in fulfillment of his promise to Abraham and the prophets. He also recognized the vocation of his new born son who will go before the Lord to prepare his way. The song of Zechariah is being used as the morning prayer of the Church because of these words: “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Perhaps, the reference to the dawn also makes this song an appropriate reading for the last day of preparation for Christmas. Christ, the Radiant Dawn, is about to break upon us. He is the Sun of Justice who shall shine upon us who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The Fatima apparitions ended with a great miracle that our Lady promised to perform for all to see. It rained heavily on October 12, 1917 and on the morning of October 13. The much awaited miracle was lampooned by the secular press. Tens of thousands converged on Fatima in spite of the appalling weather conditions. They were all drenched with the rain but still they stayed on to see this promised miracle. At noontime, as Our Lady spoke with the 3 children, everybody present saw the heavy rain ceased and sky cleared. The sun appeared in a way that everybody could look at it directly without their eyes getting hurt. It trembled and began to move to and fro across the sky, throwing out multi-colored lights in all directions. Then, all at once, the sun detached itself from the sky and came plunging down like an enormous fireball on the screaming multitude. Everywhere people were falling into the mud in panic. They were crying out their sins and pleading for divine mercy as they cringed in imminent expectation of the end of the world. At the last moment, the sun halted its plunge and climbed back into the sky to resume its normal position and brightness. As the crowd heaved a sigh of relief, everyone noticed that their clothes and the entire Cove da Iria were completely dry. The solar miracle was only the 3rd time in history that God had used the sun to perform a miracle – the other 2 occasions being the prolongation of daylight at the prayer of Joshua (Joshua 10), and the sign given to the king of Judah in 714 BC by the prophet Ezekiel in which the shadow of the sundial retraced its path by 10 hours (Kings 4:20). The uniqueness of the solar miracle of Fatima was that its exact time and location were publicly announced months in advance.

Pope Paul VI in 1967 would later on say about the miracle of the sun: “It was eschatological in the sense that it was like a repetition or an annunciation of a scene at the end of time for all humanity assembled together.” Indeed, there could be no greater sign than the miracle of the sun. At Fatima, there were 100,000 eyewitnesses coming from all faiths who at the time of the miracle, were all convinced that the end of the world had come. And afterwards, when they found themselves alive and dry but still quivering with fear, they realized that God had stamped his Mother’s words with a colossal preview of His 2nd coming.

The Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon said in 1977: “While the death of God is proclaimed with arrogant glee, Fatima appears like a great supernatural light. It is God who reveals himself with the impressive majesty of Sinai.” In the time of great incredulity, God used the sun in order to affirm the faith of his faithful that he is alive. In the Gospel, the Lord spoke of signs in the sun, in the moon and the stars that would speak of his coming (Luke 21:25). The solar miracle is definitely that sign in the sun that the Lord referred to. The sign of Fatima, the promise of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is the great promise of the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God. It is a dazzling sign of hope for a tormented and fearful world. It is a wondrous pledge of God’s unwavering love for his wayward children. Although the much of the world has abandoned him, he has not abandoned the world. Instead, through his Mother, the Lord promises to withhold the terrible arm of his Justice and to forgive his rebellious children if a “sufficient number” respond to the invitation of his grace to find refuge in his Mother’s Immaculate Heart. He assures us of final reconciliation and peace.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death.” (CCC, 1040) The miracle of the sun points to that day when God’s goodness will triumph over all evil. Indeed, the Lord Jesus is that Sun of Justice who will burn the arrogant and the evil doer. But he shall heal those who fear him (Malachi 4:1-2) In the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is found the promise of the victory of good over evil, Justice over oppression, peace over violence, humility over arrogance, mercy over sin. Let us do what our Mother asked in Fatima and bring the world closer to that era of peace.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!


Simbang Gabi 8 (Fatima Centennial): the Immaculate Heart of Mary as our refuge

Jesus I trust in you!

Elizabeth gave birth to St. John the Baptist and her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. Perhaps the reason for their joy was that the Lord has put an end to the curse of her sterility through the birth of a son in her old age. Little did they know that the birth of the Baptist did not simply mean the end of her mother’s curse but it also meant the end of the long wait for the promised Redeemer. “I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.” The parents’ insistence on the name “John” and the restoration of Zechariah’s voice were the signs to the neighbors and relatives that what they witnessed was no ordinary birth. The signs made them ask: “What will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”
“What will this child be?” The prophet Malachi gives us the answer: “Lo, I send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes…to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come to strike the land with doom.”

Many people simply regard the Fatima apparitions as a doomsday message. The warnings about wars, famines, persecutions of the Church, the spread of communism, the martyrdom of the good, and the annihilation of nations have caught the attention of many to the point that people think that Fatima was designed to scare people. To some people, Fatima is a prophecy about the impending doom that is to come.

However, we forget that Our Lady did not come to scare people about a future that they cannot change. When she first appeared to the children she said to them, “Do not be afraid. I will do you no harm…I am from heaven.” Our Lady introduced herself in the very same way the heavenly visitors introduce themselves to people in the bible: “Do not be afraid.” She came as God’s messenger with a proposal to avert what is to come as a consequence of our sins. She came with a message of consolation: “Jesus wishes…to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” She said to Lucia, “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.” (June 13, 1917) As John was sent to prepare the way before the Lord, so also the Lord sent his Mother to prepare for us the way that will lead us to him. That way is the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The wars, famine, and persecutions that are God’s punishment for the sins of humankind will afflict both the good and the bad. Evil causes suffering to the good people: “the good will be martyred and the Holy Father will have much to suffer.” And yet, we are to bear these sufferings because they purify us. “He is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord. Then, the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.” Even this evil which causes us suffering does us good. And the Immaculate Heart of Mary is being offered by the Lord to us as our refuge amidst suffering caused by evil. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart, making reparation to her and consecration to her, will be our way back to the Lord.

The Lord does not send to us in our time only the last of the prophets. He sends to us the Queen of the prophets herself. Not only does he open Zechariah’s mouth. He opens to us Mary’s mouth. Through her anguished message at Fatima, Mary calls us back to God. The Lord guides world events slowly towards the triumph of the Immaculate Heart. He guides the world towards that era of peace. Let us consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart. Let the Immaculate Heart of Mary be our refuge in these trying times. Let her be our way back to God.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!   

Simbang Gabi 7 (Fatima Centennial): The True Revolution

Jesus, I trust in you!

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Mary sang about the great things the Lord has done for her and for people. She sang of how the Lord looked upon her lowliness and exalted her by doing great things for her. Thus, she will be called blessed by every generation. But the Holy Spirit also enabled Mary to recognize what God does for the poor and the humble ones: He shows mercy to those who fear him; he shows the strength of his arm to the humble; he lifts up the lowly; he fills the hungry with good things; he comes to the help of Israel his servant. However, while he looks mercifully on the poor, he deals with the proud and the arrogant: he scatters the proud in their conceit; he casts down the mighty from their thrones; he sends the rich away empty. Coming from a 15 year old girl, the song is indeed radical and revolutionary because it upsets the usual paradigm by which the world looks at reality. The world extols the rich, the powerful and the proud while it looks down upon the poor, the hungry and the humble. But God has a different paradigm: he exalts the humble and humbles the proud.

When Our Lady appeared to the children at Fatima, she asked that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. If her requests were not heeded, Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church, the martyrdom of the good, the suffering of the Pope, and the annihilation of many nations. Why Russia and what errors would she spread? At that time, the message was not very clear because Russia was not a powerful nation to deal with. In fact, it was beset at that time with political and social unrest. On February 1917, Tsar Nicholas II was deposed from power and he was replaced by a weak Russian Provisional Government. Because of its involvement in World War I, a national crisis developed in Russia: disorder in industry and transportation intensified and obtaining provisions like food became very difficult. Vladimir Lenin rode on this social unrest and overthrew the provisional government by taking control of the Winter Palace through his Red Guards. He tried to gain public support for the Bolsheviks, pro-communist political party, through the use of the slogan: “Bread, Land, Peace and all Power to the Soviets.” But failing to get that support, he overturned the results of the elections for the Russian Constituent Assembly in November 1917. Using the armed guards, he prevented the meetings of the democratic assembly. This is now known as the October Rising or the Bolshevik revolution. In 1918, the Bolshevik became the Russian communist party and it endeavored to put the tenets of Karl Marx into practice. The error of Communism spread throughout the world. Nations disappeared and these became powerful Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). Communism seems to be in accordance with the revolution spoken of by the Magnificat of Mary: the upsetting of the social and political order, the inversion of power. However, there is that one great difference: Communism is a God-less ideology. It seeks to invert the social order independent of God. God had no place in the communist society. Religion was forbidden. Man separated from God is man dehumanized. If the human dignity is basically founded on the fact that man is the image of God, what would man be if the existence of God was denied?

St. Paul spoke of the doctrine of mutual responsibility and the common destiny of mankind. Because we are members of the Mystical Body of Christ, whatever affects one affects everybody. “If one man suffers anything, all the members suffer with it.” (1 Cor. 12:6). The collective responsibility of individuals applies to nations as well. Our Lady asked us to pray and to make sacrifices for Russia and for the conversion of sinners. Since we are one in Christ in his Mystical Body, we also become saviors of each other in the mystery of the Communion of Saints. We must collaborate in the work of redemption and so “complete what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings on behalf of his body, the Church.” (Col 1:24)

Due to the sacrifices and prayers of the devotees of Our Lady, communism has collapsed (except in China). Russia is beginning to show signs of conversion. Vladimir Putin is now a very strong defender of the Christians who are being persecuted in Syria and in Iraq. (Surprisingly, the US, under the administration of Obama, has given a mediocre response to the plight of the persecuted Christians in the Middle East.) A little more sacrifice, a little more prayer and the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Mary, Russia will be converted and peace will be given to the world. True peace will be found when Christ truly reigns in the world. This is the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us join Mary in the true revolution that would change the world.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!  

Simbang Gabi 6 (Fatima Centennial): Eucharist

Jesus, I trust in you!

Mary went in haste to the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant (John the Baptist) leaped in her womb and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” It was truly a blessed encounter because both Elizabeth and her unborn baby John were sanctified by the Holy Spirit and this brought joy to both of them. What could be the reason for such joy and for such blessing? The reason is the hidden presence of the Lord Jesus who, at that time, was already in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Our Lady did not visit on her own accord. Rather, she brought to them Jesus. He is the lover referred to by the first reading: Hark! My lover – here he comes…here he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows… Little did the Virgin Mary know that she was the tabernacle in whom God dwelt. Wherever she went, she brought the Lord Jesus with her. From within Mary’s womb, the Lord Jesus blessed and bestowed the Holy Spirit.

When Our Lady appeared to the children at Fatima, she said, “To prevent this (war, famine, persecution of the Church), I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays.” Necessary to living the Fatima message is Eucharistic reparation. The Blessed Virgin wants us to receive Holy Communion on the first Saturday of the month in reparation for the sins of mankind. On the third angelic apparition to the children in 1916, the angel prostrated himself before the Blessed Sacrament and after reciting a prayer of reparation “for the countless outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences” committed against the Eucharist, he urged the children to “make reparation and console your God.” After this, the children would spend many hours daily repeating the prayer taught by the angel and Eucharistic reparation became part of their lives.

The 1st apparition of Our Lady of Fatima occurred on May 13, 1917, the Feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. When she opened her hands on the children and communicated to them streams of intense light, the children were overwhelmed and they felt “lost in God” whom they recognized in that light. So, the children prostrated on the ground in adoration and poured out their praise of the Blessed Sacrament.

Our Lady asked that we receive Holy Communion on the 1st Saturday of every month. The angel in 1916, gave Holy Communion to the children. He said: “Receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation and console your God.” The angel was referring to sacrilegious Communions, the desecration of tabernacles and the violation of the Sacred Hosts which occur with frightening frequency throughout the world today. Besides these heinous crimes against the Blessed Sacrament, there is also the lapse of millions of our fellow Catholics to atone for. So many Catholics no longer receive Holy Communion. We must also make amends for the repeated violation of the 3rd Commandment: “You shall keep the day of the Lord holy.” On September 19, 1846, Our Lady appeared to 2 children in the village of La Sallete in France. There, she expressed her sorrow: “I gave you six days to work; I kept the seventh for myself, and no one wishes to grant it to me. This is what weighs down the arm of my Son so much.” That was in 1846, 170 years ago and the indifference to the Sunday Mass has worsened since then.       

Even when she was quite ill, little Jacinta would drag herself to daily Mass in the parish church of Fatima. Sometimes, Lucia would restrain her but she would answer: “I’m going for sinners who do not even go to Mass on Sundays.” If a sick little girl could do this, why can’t we?

It is a pity that we fail to understand how much joy the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament could give us. If only we could experience what the children experienced when they were lost in the presence of God. The presence of Christ in the womb of Mary bought joy to both Elizabeth and John the Baptist. It is the same joy that is bestowed on anyone who receives communion or at least draws near the tabernacle. Many people simply do not know what they are missing. Many of us fail to recognize Jesus who is really present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus is the joy desired by the human heart.

In this Christmas season, let us put the Mass at the center of the holy Day. The Festival is called Christmas…the Mass of Christ. The Mass is the center of Christmas because the Eucharist is the continuation of the Incarnation. Here, Christmas takes place anew: the Word becomes flesh. In this Christmas during the Centennial of Fatima, let us make a firm resolve to receive Communion every 1st Saturday of the month in reparation for the sins of men. The Lord wants to be consoled by us in this way. Let us give him joy and allow him to give us joy so that our joy may be complete.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Simbang Gabi 5 (Fatima Centennial): The Immaculate heart of Mary

Jesus, I trust in you!

The appointed time of the Incarnation has come. God sent the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary in bring her the glad tidings that she would conceive and bear the Son of God in her womb. The Father is sending his Son and he has chosen the Virgin to be his mother. “You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall name him Jesus…he will be called holy, the Son of God.” No one has loved the Son more than the Father. And by the annunciation, the Father entrusts to Mary the Son whom he loves the most, his only begotten Son. The Son left his heavenly throne and entrusts himself to the womb of his Mother.

When the Blessed Virgin showed the children a vision of hell, she said to them: “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.

“To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the 1st Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

The Blessed Virgin asked not only for the establishment of devotion to her Immaculate Heart but the consecration of Russia to her. When Our Lady asked that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, she meant that the Church, through the Pope, should offer that nation to her. To consecrate means to entrust to Mary not just individuals but an entire nation. It is significant that the Lord should want this consecration to take place. It was as if he was entrusting the battle against evil to the Blessed Virgin. In the book of Genesis, God said to the serpent: “I will put an enmity between you and the Woman, between your seed and her seed.” It is true that Jesus will save us, his people, from sins. But in his battle against Satan, he wishes to involve his Mother. The triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart is the triumph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Father entrusted Jesus to Mary at the Incarnation. At his crucifixion, Jesus entrusted the Church also to Mary when he said to her: “Woman, behold your son.” 
The Lord Jesus entrusted the spiritual battle to his own mother.

However, the consecration of Russia is not a magic formula that will bring about the desired results. Lucia said, “God will only permit the grace of Collegial Consecration when a sufficient number are complying with the message of Fatima.” This is why in 1967, Pope Paul VI wrote: “We now exhort all the sons of the Church to renew personally their consecration to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of the Church.” (Signum Magnum) This is the reason why we do not leave the consecration of Russia to the hands of the Holy Father alone. We must do our part by individually living out what Our Lady demanded at Fatima: conversion, Penance and Prayer (especially of the Rosary). We have to put our whole selves at the disposal of the Blessed Virgin in the very same way that she placed herself at the disposal of the Lord: “I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.” Every day, we must offer our minds, hearts, and strength to the Blessed Virgin and to ask her to do with us as she pleases. Before a collegial consecration of the world can take place, there should first be world-wide individual acts of consecration. If we do not confess our sins, nor live lives of penitence, nor pray the Rosary every day, the consecration of the world would be void of its meaning. We must entrust ourselves to Mary as God has entrusted the incarnation of his Son to her.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee! 

Simbang Gabi 4 (Fatima Centennial): Penance


The angel appeared to Zechariah and revealed to him God’s gift of a son. His son, John the Baptist, is to be the last prophet of the Old Testament whose role is to “prepare a people fit for the Lord.” This he shall do by preaching a baptism of repentance. He will be the voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. John’s preaching will be accompanied by a lifestyle of penance and prayer. The angel said: “He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.” The Lord Jesus himself will say: “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘he is possessed by a demon.’” John the Baptist would feed on locusts and wild honey.

Similar to the life and message of John the Baptist, the most important aspects of the Fatima message are prayer and penitence (pagpapakasakit). “Would you like to offer yourselves to God, to accept all the sufferings which he may send you in reparation for the countless sins by which he is offended and in supplications for the conversions of sinners?” thus Our Lady asked the children on the first time they met. To her, Lucia consented, speaking for all three. Our Lady nodded her approval and said: “Then you will have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”

The place of penitence in the Fatima messages will only be understood in the light of sin as an offense against God. “Fatima discovers for us the true sense of sin; sin as an offense against God, as a negation of love, of adoration, of faith and of hope…The idea of the offense made to God by sin was engraved forever on the children’s minds, and it was this that prompted them to make so many sacrifices as reparation and expiation.  They wanted ‘to console our Lord.’ ‘Does he still remain so sad,’ Francisco would say, ‘I am so sorry that He is sad like this.’
“In the message of Fatima, sin exacts a temporal suffering that must be undergone on earth or in Purgatory, or eternal punishment for those who die as enemies of God…For the whole of their lives, the little seers made sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, in expiation and reparation for the sins of men.” (Cardinal Dofner, 1975)

The children were shown by Our Lady a vision of hell on July 13, 1917. Our Lady said to them: “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go.” The vision of hell made a very strong impression on the children, most especially Jacinta.  Lucia said, “The vision of hell filled her with horror to such a degree that every penance and mortification was as nothing in her eyes, if it could only prevent souls from going there.” After seeing it, the three children undertook the most severe penances for the salvation of sinners. They wore a rope tightly round their waists, they gave their lunches to the poor, or even to their sheep; they did not drink during the furnace-like heat of August 1917.

The vision of hell would often move Jacinta to pray the prayer Our Lady taught them: “O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” She would say to her brother Francisco, “We must pray very much to save souls from hell. So many souls go there! So many!” Added to the message of penance, the message of Fatima requires a life of prayer, prayer understood as a personal and intimate conversation with God. The prayer of the message is a gratuitous prayer, that is to say, disinterested, not seeking personal advantage; but only for the conversion of sinners and for peace. The prayer of the message goes hand in hand with sacrifice. In the 2nd angelic apparition, the children were told: “Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High. In every way you can, offer sacrifices in reparation for the sins which offend Him, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.”

“The apparitions of the angel produced immediately in the seers a compelling need for silence. The silence of Fatima, a silence so desired by the little shepherds, is a call to encounter with God in grace and love. This is the 1st and the deepest meaning of the word penance in the message of Fatima, the anguished cry of the Mother delivered to all the children of the Church and to all of humanity. Fatima has sounded the call of universal metanoia, interior conversion, renewal, and the transfiguration of the sons of men into children of God.”

As we hear today of the vocation of St. John the Baptist, let our reflection of the message of Fatima bring us into the wilderness of prayer and penance. Let the constant cry of penitence save us from our frantic rush along the broad road of having, of unbridled enjoying, that leads fatally to the abyss of destruction. Let the messages of Fatima lead us back to our interior home, to the most intimate depths of our inner selves where the great transfigurations take place. Like the prodigal son who “entered into himself” (Luke 15:17), we shall recognize our tattered condition, our wasted self, and thereby come to the saving decision: “I will rise and return to my Father’s house.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!