I imagine that many of us here have at least heard of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, but we may not know much about them. Exactly 100 years ago, on May 13, 1917, an apparition of “a woman all in white, more brilliant than the sun” who eventually referred to herself as the “Lady of the Rosary” spoke to three shepherd children in the small village of Fatima in Portugal. This woman appeared six times to Lucia (age 9), and her cousins Francisco (age 8), and his sister Jacinta (age 6) between May 13th and October 13th, 1917.
The message of the Blessed Virgin Mary in these apparitions was essentially one of peace. But she warned of great consequences if people did not repent and turn away from sin, and turn more wholeheartedly to her Son, and pray for peace in the world. She spoke of war as a punishment for sin, and that if we as Catholics, as the Church, and as a human family did not seek greater repentance, we would soon see our sin lead to greater war, hunger, and persecution of the Church.
On the last day of her apparitions (Oct. 13th), Mary gave a miraculous confirming sign of her appearances and message. By that time, word had spread and 70,000 people had turned out to witness the apparition. All these persons witnessed the sun make three circles and move around the sky in an incredible zigzag movement in a manner which left no doubt in their minds about the truth of the apparitions. By 1930, the Bishop had approved of the apparitions and, since then they have been approved by the Catholic Church as authentic.
In 1981, the last surviving of the child visionaries (Sister) Lucia stated that during the apparitions, the Blessed Mother also said that the final battle between the Lord and Satan will be about marriage and the family. And here we are in our day and age, very confused about marriage, sexuality, and the family. Often, those who stand up for God’s design and what has been the norm for most of human history are considered intolerant or bigoted.
Our Lady’s message of Fatima has a very simple application to the lives of all of us in the world, especially us as Catholics. We must strive to reform our lives and continue to grow in our relationship with the Lord. In the apparitions, Mary recommended a couple very concrete things to do: prayer for peace, especially the daily Rosary, and also what is called the Five First Saturdays Devotion – an act of reparation.
Here is how you can make the Five First Saturdays Devotion. Do each of the following four acts on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months:
1. Go to Confession. Confession need not be made on the very first Saturday itself, but sometime soon around the day.
2. Receive Holy Communion. Receive Communion with the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Communion may be received either the Friday before or the Sunday following if it is difficult or impossible to receive Communion on the Saturday itself.
3. Pray the Rosary. This must be done on the First Saturday itself.
4. Meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary for an additional fifteen minutes.
While Our Lady does not promise that all who make this Five First Saturdays Devotion will go to heaven, she does promise that they will have all the graces necessary for their salvation provided to them at the our of their death. This will be a great way for us to pray for ourselves and for peace in the world, cooperating with God’s grace.