What Our Lady spoke of to the three little children of Fatima was a message that emphasizes that heaven is real. It also makes it clear that our supreme responsibility is to live in such a way that we may be found worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven.
— Fr. Andrew Apostoli, Soul Magazine, Fall 2012
Lived well, the season of Advent can help us meditate upon our eternal life as well as the need to help others get to heaven. Our Lady emphasizes that heaven is real and that we need to live holy lives to get there one day, but it’s important to recognize that hell is very real, too, and is a sure consequence for unrepented sin.
Fr. Andrew Apostoli said, “Mary also warned us that the alternative [to leading a holy life] would be to lose our souls in hell forever! Mary’s message, then, clearly sets before us a choice of life or death, of eternal bliss or eternal misery.” He added, “She was deeply concerned that all her children would be saved, and none would be lost. She expressed this again with great sorrow.” Fr. Andrew pointed out that “she told the children in her August apparition: ‘Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.’ ”
We know that Our Lady of Fatima also showed the children a vivid vision of hell in her July apparition. For one frightening moment the three innocent shepherd children saw the darkness, heard the shrieking demons, and witnessed the souls of the damned burning in hell. Lucia would later say that if the Blessed Mother hadn’t assured them earlier that they would be going to heaven, they surely would have died of fright.
Yet, as horrifying as it was for them to see the reality of hell, the children became passionate about praying for the souls of sinners and in promoting Our Lady’s messages.
During that July apparition, Mary told the children that God was establishing devotion to her Immaculate Heart. She gave us great hope when she said, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph . . . and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”
I’ll share a story about Archbishop Sheen and the power of sacrificial love and perseverance to aid a sinner at death’s door.
Sheen and Sacrificial Love
A woman pleaded with Archbishop Sheen to help her dying brother. She was extremely concerned for his eternal fate and explained that he was not just a sinner but was unrepentant for very evil things he had done in his life. Archbishop Sheen agreed to visit him in the hospital. The woman told him that her brother had already thrown seventeen priests out of his room. So, the archbishop decided to make his every visit extremely short — about fifteen seconds. The man asked him to leave.
The archbishop persisted in his mission and ended up visiting the man for forty nights! Each visit was extremely short. Toward the end, he brought the Blessed Sacrament and entered the man’s room. After a while, the man told him to leave, and the archbishop explained that he had someone with him. He told him it was Jesus, and the man quieted down for a bit.
Then, once again, the man told him to leave his room. Before leaving, the archbishop bent close to the man’s cancerous face and begged him to ask God for His mercy before it was too late, because he would die that night. The man said he knew he was going to die and straightaway ordered Archbishop Sheen out of his room.
On the way out, Archbishop Sheen stopped by the nurse’s station and asked her to call him at any time if the man needed him and he would rush back. His phone rang at 3:00 a.m. It was the nurse. She informed the archbishop that the man had just died. We can imagine Archbishop Sheen’s heart sinking, learning of this death and not having been able to be at the man’s side to offer confession or an anointing.
The nurse then explained that as soon as Archbishop Sheen left, the man cried out loudly for Jesus’ mercy — over and over again for hours until he died! Archbishop Sheen never gave up on that sinner. His sacrificial love and perseverance helped a hardened sinner to turn away from hell and toward heaven.
The Fatima message is very much about converting our hearts and leading holy lives, as well as praying and offering sacrifices for sinners and praying the Rosary daily for peace in the world. Certainly, we want to live eternally happy in heaven one day. But we must also have a generous attitude in making reparation on behalf of sinners who might not have anyone to pray for them. Our Lady of Fatima calls us to stay close to her Son Jesus and to have a devotion to her Immaculate Heart.
How will you help a sinner? Can you teach the truth about hell and the consequences of sin? Can you lovingly suggest Confession to someone in need of it? Take time to prepare your heart for the upcoming Nativity of Our Lord Jesus, as well as for His Second Coming.
Try hard to carve out solid times for prayer and meditation each day. Take time to sit still with God — and listen. Ponder sacrifices you can make in reparation for sinners, and be sure to carry them out.
Dear Jesus and Our Lady of Fatima, please help me to aid sinners with my prayers, sacrifices, and actions this Advent. Our Lady of Fatima, please pray for me.
Pray the Rosary today in honor of Our Lady
of Fatima and for peace in the world.
Offer a sacrifice in reparation for sinners, as Our Lady of Fatima has asked. Through prayer, strive to convert your heart today with God’s grace and Mother Mary’s help, remembering that conversion of heart should be a daily occurrence.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Advent with Our Lady of Fatima, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.