“Pray, pray very much. Make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to hell, because no one is willing to help them with sacrifice.”
-Our Lady of Fatima, July 13, 1917
Today is the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal. It is also the anniversary of the assassination attempt on Pope St. John Paul II, when Our Lady of Fatima intervened at what seemed the moment of his death to save his life.
This is fitting as Our Lady at Fatima appealed to us to assist those at the moment of their death, those in most need of mercy. More than 150,000 people die each day, which is 6250 an hour!
We are all familiar with the Decade Prayer that Our Lady asked the children at Fatima to add to the rosary: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.” This powerful prayer highlights the urgency of praying for our salvation, but not only ourselves, but those “especially those in most need.”
I would suggest that “those in most need” to be saved “from the fires of Hell” are precisely those who are dying. The urgency of praying for souls to avoid Hell appears so vividly in the first secret of Fatima:
Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror
The second vision follows from this and provides a solution:
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.
Let us not just pray for the dying, but unite ourselves to them and try to make up for any lack that they have in their need. The first angel that appeared to the children at Fatima taught them precisely to do this in the “Pardon Prayer”: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee! I beg pardon for all those that do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee.”
And also the “Sacrifice Prayer” to be prayed when making an act of sacrifice: “O Jesus, it is for the love of You, in reparation for the offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for the conversion of poor sinners.”
Our Lady of Fatima wants us to cooperate with her in working for the conversion of poor sinners and for peace in the world. She is teaching us to engage in an urgent spiritual work of mercy, “to pray for the living and the dead.”
In order to respond, first we should obey Our Lady’s request to pray the rosary and to engage in penance each day, as taught to the children by an angel: “In every way you can offer sacrifice to God in reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for sinners.” And: “Above all, bear and accept with patience the sufferings God will send you.”
In addition to Our Lady’s teaching at Fatima, here are a few others ways to support those who are dying.
1. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Jesus said to St. Faustina: “Pray as much as you can for the dying. By your insistent prayers, obtain for them trust in My mercy, because they have most need of trust, and have it the least. Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moment depends on your prayer” (St. Faustina’s Diary, 1777)
2. We can read Ven. Mary Potter’s great book, Devotion for the Dying: Mary’s Call to Her Loving Children, which TAN Books describes as its most compelling book. Mother Potter exhorts us to “do a grand work each day” by “aiding Mary to bring the Precious Blood” through our prayers for dying souls.
3. We can pray to St. Joseph, who is the patron of a happy death, with these prayers.
4. A new apostolate has formed, the Apostolate for the Dying, which has proposed a holy hour for the dying.
5. We can pray the following prayer: “Prayer for Those in Their Last Agony”
O most merciful Jesus, Lover of souls, I pray Thee, by the agony of Thy most Sacred Heart, and by the sorrows of Thy Immaculate Mother, cleanse in Thine Own Blood the sinners of the whole world who are now in their agony and to die this day. Amen. Heart of Jesus, once in agony, pity on the dying.
On this anniversary of Our Lady’s Apparition, let us respond to her plea: pray for the dying!