After seeing a vision of Hell, it might seem that the rest of the Fatima message would be relatively humdrum, but this is not the case. The July apparition at Fatima stands out because the children received the “three secrets” that are at the heart of the message of Fatima. The Blessed Virgin asked them not to reveal these secrets at the time of the apparitions. Francisco did not hear the secrets, but the girls were able to fill him in on the details afterwards.
The second secret has to do with the ending of the First World War and a warning about the coming of the Second World War if the world would not change and pray the rosary. In this part of the message, the Blessed Virgin promotes devotion to her Immaculate Heart and asks for the consecration of Russia to herself.
At the time of the apparitions in 1917, the entire world had been ravaged by World War I. 7 million civilians and 10 million soldiers died in the war. So many families had lost sons, fathers, brothers to the giant machinery of war and Europe especially was tired and overcome by the destruction experienced over the last several years. News of its ending would prove to be true one year later. This was a sign of great hope, as it had seemed that the world would never achieve peace again. Prayer would be key to achieve the end of the war.
This secret worries the children, since the Blessed Virgin notes that if the world does not turn away from sin, a worse war will break out. This would end up being the case, as World War II took somewhere between 70 and 80 million people in its deathly clutches and sucked the life out of them. The destruction reached new proportions and touched more places. What had seemed to be the worst war possible ended up being a shadow of the horror experienced only decades later.
Mary recommended to the children the devotion to her Immaculate Heart, especially the consecration of Russia and the devotion of the first Saturdays, which would be re-iterated at the Pontevedra apparition to Sister Lucia in 1925. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary reflects the grace that comes from the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Mary is truly free from sin and is indeed the first enemy of sin. She had a tremendous awareness of the horror of sin, since it had cost her Son his very life.
Something interesting about the revelation of the second secret is that Pope Pius XI is mentioned, even though at the time, Pope Benedict XV was reigning. Effectively, a second and more terrible war overcame the world and wreaked havoc once again in Europe and even in Asia and Africa. Mary is very aware of the traumas and disasters that are awaiting mankind and wants to do everything in her power to avert them. This also shows that the apparition truly gives insight about future events.
Once again, prayer and conversion are at the heart of the Fatima message. Mary wants her children to have a good relationship with her heavenly Son and thus exhorts them to pray. The devotion of the five First Saturdays is an excellent means that has helped many people begin a life of prayer. Many people would like to pray and find in the rosary an easy way to start. Because often, our problem is that “we do not know what to say”, but the Holy Spirit can help us readily through the words of the rosary as we finger the beads. Thus, the rosary can even turn into the tool of conversion, that teaches a soul that was far-off to pray.
The call for the consecration of Russia is noteworthy, as the Bolshevik Revolution had not yet taken place at the time of the apparitions. The Revolution would begin in November, but the secret was revealed in July and the apparitions would be over in October. It seems curious that the Blessed Virgin would appear in Portugal to speak about Russia. But Mary already knew that this nation would be dreadfully needy for her maternal care throughout the rest of the 20th century. Mary’s mantle descended upon Russia even before Atheistic Communism could take root.
The second secret of Fatima is a call to prayer, devotion to Mary and intercession for Russia. The world needs Mary, because the world needs a mother. We all need someone who believes in us, regardless of our own defects and failings. The 20th century is a testimony to the effects of a world without God, a world writhing in pain after the so-called “death of God.” At Fatima, Mary shows us that this death must not be definitive, as she is the first witness of the Resurrection. God is very much alive, as is shown in multiple ways, among them the continued affluence of pilgrims to Fatima.