“O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” According the memoirs of Sr. Lucia of Fatima, this prayer was directly taught by the Virgin Mary to the seers.
On the one-hundred-year anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, the universal Church reflects on Mary’s apparition. With joy, we celebrate the canonization of two of the seers who received the revelations. Jacinta and Francesco Marto lived Mary’s message with heroic charity and zeal for the salvation of souls. Now we must consider the weightiness of the events; Fatima’s relevancy over the past one hundred years, and its meaning for this present hour.
I did not orchestrate this, but Providence arranged that I celebrate the Centenary of Fatima in the Eternal City as a student at a Rome university in a course on liberation from evil through the ministry of exorcism. Enlisted by clergy into this ministry of mercy, I am receiving continuing education together with 240 students (mostly clergy and some lay assistants), representatives of thirteen countries, gathered to learn more about the task and responsibility of the hard fight with the devil.
This holy work requires “a deep bond with Jesus Christ, a constant and scrupulous care of self together with sacrificial love for suffering souls”. Believers and non-believers are more frequently calling the bishop’s office or knocking on the door of the parish priest seeking liberation from evil spirits. Christ’s ministers seek to respond with generous pastoral charity. The salvation of a great number of souls is at stake. One professor reminded us of the words of St. John Paul II, “We have to fight against the devil; only then are we witnesses of the Gospel.”
Fittingly, on the first day, Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of Saints, (who has been busy preparing for the canonization of seers Jacinta and Francesco Marto), gave an inspired talk titled, “The Role of Mary in the Struggle Against Satan” articulating nine key points. Here I will share a few of his reflections.
The Cardinal reminded us of the Marian aspect wherein, from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation, the scriptures present Mary as the “women” uniquely chosen by God to restore the dignity of woman after Eve’s fall into the temptation of Satan. The Virgin “Mary gives us a love that regenerates. Satan is absent love.”
In the book of Revelation, the two characters “the woman” and the “dragon” represent good and evil; life and death. Mary represents the Church according to some interpretations. “In modern and ancient interpretations, the Son of a woman is a personal messiah, Jesus Christ. He comes to send the devil away.”
“The event of Fatima underscores the victory of Mary over Satan.” Mary is the protagonist. Fatima presumes the presence of the Church though Mary. She comes to us in a time of war, anti-Catholic persecution, Communism, Fascism, Christian terrorism, and oppression of any religious values.
The Cardinal emphasized that Sister Lucia said, “Nothing is secret anymore; there is no fourth secret; all was published in 2000.” The Cardinal then commented, “Pope John Paul II is the great interpreter of the Fatima Secret.” After the assassination attempt on 13 May 1981, the Holy Father contemplated the events, and entrusted himself to the Virgin Mary whose maternal hand re-directed the path of what would have been a fatal bullet. He understands that the Lord and the Virgin Mary have intervened.
The third part of the secret refers to the killing of a bishop dressed in white (the Pope) surrounded by a group of soldiers who died also (the blood of the martyrs?). “There are various interpretations… the “official one is a publication in the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, by then Prefect, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.
“Fatima helps us to understand the signs of the times. Children see hell. They are exposed to this terror; enlisted to help save souls by prayer and penance. The children respond in faith with obedience to the revelation.” They understand “the key word: penance!”
“The free will of man is to choose between good and evil. Sometimes the future is presented in an irrevocable way: the vision of a city in ruin; a bishop in white is killed; martyrdom— (the future of the Church in the 20th century). Pope John Paul II acknowledged his own fate. The maternal hand of Mary says, ‘There is no unchangeable fate. Prayer is stronger than a gun!’ Mary shows us this.”
“Protagonist Pope John Paul II interpreted the secret of Fatima. He was overwhelmed by the message of Fatima. He felt the need to reflect on the meaning and value of the angel and Mary of Fatima.”
“He was wounded by a professional killer. We are before a Pope who stopped at the beginning of his “rebirth”. John Paul II realized that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave him a second life, a “Marian Kairos” (a propitious moment for decision or action). The Holy Father had other intentions for his papacy but the assassination attempt and, consequently, his reflection on the secret of Fatima, gives him the way to interpret Fatima, and his present and future. The vision convinced Pope John Paul II that death was avoided only by the powerful intercession of Mary. This was a turning point in his pontificate. The secret of Fatima reveals the fight against Satan (murderer) and the maternal guidance (power) of Mary.”
“Fatima introduces the symbol of the Blood; it reveals the battle between Satan and the Virgin Mary. The message throws light on the world today. Fatima opens a new vision of our future: a dark future enlightened by hope because of the maternal Heart of Mary. Fatima is a prophetic vision of the war waged against the Church and of immense suffering. I am a Salesian. I am reminded of the prophetic dream of St. John Bosco who humbly lowered his prophetic reality to call it a dream. He saw a ship in the sea attacked by smaller ships. The ship anchored itself to two columns: The Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Eucharist. We cope with the battles of this life with Mary and the Eucharist.”
“O my Jesus! Forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” This prayer said at the end of each decade of the Holy Rosary punctuates the spiritual weapon that defeats evil.
- “O my Jesus!” is the cry of the believing human heart.
- “Forgive us our sins” is the desire of a good conscience, a response to God who poured out His Blood for the forgiveness of sins.
- “Save us from the fire of hell” is a reminder that hell exists. We have complete freedom to choose NOT to go there.
- “Lead us to Heaven” –the union of our free will with the divine will. Grace carries us there if we vigilantly respond to God.
- “Especially those who are in most need”—penance, reparation, sacrifice –intercessory prayer for the salvation of souls.
The words of Cardinal Angelo Amato deserve repeating:
- The maternal hand of Mary reveals, ‘There is no unchangeable fate. Prayer is stronger than a gun!’ Mary shows us this.
- Fatima opens a new vision of our future: a dark future enlightened by hope because of the maternal Heart of Mary. Fatima is a prophetic vision of the war waged against the Church and of immense suffering.
- I am a Salesian. I am reminded of the prophetic dream of St. John Bosco who humbly lowered his prophetic reality to call it a dream. He saw a ship in the sea attacked by smaller ships. The ship anchored itself to two columns: The Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Eucharist. We cope with the battles of this life with Mary and the Eucharist.
Once, my father-in-law commented that the fall of the Berlin Wall was an answer to the prayers of a generation of Catholics who took to heart the message of Fatima. How will this present generation live the Fatima message?
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.