THE APPARITION OF THE CHILD JESUS TO SISTER LUCIA
In Pontevedra, Our Lady opened her Heart wide with an invitation for her beloved children to enter into it by way of a devotion that she herself has given us. This devotion is so important that Heaven intervened to give both practical guidance and a deeper spiritual understanding of it.
Two months after the apparition on February 15, 1926, the Child Jesus appeared to the postulant Lucy, asking her: “Have you revealed to the world what the Heavenly Mother asked you?”—“My Jesus! You know what my confessor said to me in the letter I read You. He said that this vision had to be repeated, there had to be facts permitting us to believe it, and that the Mother Superior alone could not spread this devotion.”
“It is true that the Mother Superior alone can do nothing, but with My grace, she can do anything. It is enough that your confessor gives you permission, and that your superior announce this for it to be believed by the people, even if they don’t know to whom it was revealed.”
“But my confessor said in his letter that this devotion already exists in the world, because many souls receive You every first Saturday of the month, in honor of Our Lady and the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.”
“It is true, My daughter, that many souls begin, but few persevere to the very end, and those who persevere do it so as to receive the graces promised. The souls who make the five First Saturdays with fervour and to make reparation to the Heart of your Heavenly Mother, please me more than those who make fifteen, but are lukewarm and indifferent.”
“My Jesus! Many souls find it difficult to confess on Saturday. Will You allow a confession within eight days to be valid?”
“Yes. It can even be made later on, provided that the souls are in the state of grace, when they receive Me on the first Saturday, and that they had the intention of making reparation to the Sacred Heart of Mary.”
“My Jesus! And those who forget to form this intention?” “They can form it at the next confession, taking advantage of their first opportunity to go to confession.”
COMMENTARY: This revelation of Our Lord at Pontevedra is much more important than it seems at first. It is not only practical guidance from heaven, but it is a solemn reminder from Our Lord Himself to focus on what is essential, the foundations or directives on which devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary must be established.
Our Lord provides His first directive in His answer to the objection that Sr. Lucy’s Superior did not have the power to propagate this devotion in the Church: “It is true that the Mother Superior alone can do nothing, but with My grace, she can do anything.” The keyword of this sentence is “my grace”, which means how to place ourselves always on the supernatural level. Fatima is a practical treatise on the doctrine of grace. It illustrates the triumph of grace over nature, of supernatural life over the purely natural life. The purpose is to open up immense graces of conversion and sanctification to the world, by people fulfilling the requests of Our Lady. The promises of Fatima are so far beyond the reach of nature that only an absolute and blind confidence in God’s grace can enable us to accept the message. In exchange for simple practices of devotion, Our Lord offers enormous benefits: the conversion of Russia, the restoration of the Church, and the salvation of many souls. Since these results are so far out of proportion to our little actions, Fatima is asking for a clear resolve on our part to see life from a supernatural perspective, a perspective without which we are powerless and “can do nothing”. This complete trust in Almighty God’s grace coupled with blind and faithful observance of Our Lady’s requests can certainly bring tremendous results.
Our Lord’s second directive concerns perseverance and selfless disinterest: “It is true, My daughter, that many souls begin, but few persevere to the very end, and those who persevere do it so as to receive the graces promised.” Our Lord refers to two real disorders in the spiritual life which often render many of our efforts impotent, so that what was begun with enthusiasm often ends in defeat. These two defects diminish the value and efficacy of our devotions: it is the failure to persevere and a personal selfishness which only looks for “profit”, which only performs the devotion in order to receive favours. It is easy to see how these two attitudes are closely related: if after some time we do not experience any noticeable benefits, we are inclined to abandon the devotion. Therefore we must always be vigilant against such an attitude and purify our intentions. Frequent meditation on the immense love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary will lift our spiritual life from the heavy weight of human selfishness and help us accomplish her will firstly and most importantly as a personal and reciprocal act of love towards her, enlivened with a pure desire for God’s glory, for her honour and consolation, and to bring her “bouquets of flowers”, i.e. many souls. Remembering the great generosity of Our Lady, shown through miracles and favours throughout history, can be a more than adequate motivation to believe with confidence that she is mighty and will fulfill her promises—when she pleases—and that she will certainly do it at the right time for us.
The third directive of Our Lord regarding devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary aims to increase the quality of our devotion: “The souls who make the five first Saturdays with fervour and to make reparation to the Heart of your Heavenly Mother, please me more than those who make fifteen, but are lukewarm and indifferent.” All too often our devotions betray an imperfect understanding of prayer, focusing mostly on the exterior words and number of times we have prayed. We focus on the ritual—the body—of our prayers, and we neglect the soul, which is the essential part of prayer. Our Lord reminds us that all true prayer must come from the heart, and its value lies not in its length but in our fervour and our purity of intention. We should always strive for a quality of prayer which is really pleasing to God. What pleases Him most? Two attitudes: “fervour” and “spirit of reparation”. Our Lord Himself teaches us through the spirit of reparation built into the message of Fatima how to grow in fervour and enrich our prayer: we must have a genuine sorrow to see the most beloved God so constantly offended, united with a desire to console Him.