In the spring of 1916, a full year before the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, an angel—the Angel of Peace—appeared to three shepherd children in a field outside their village of Fatima, Portugal, in order to prepare them for things to come. The angel taught them how to pray, and to offer penances in reparation for the sins of the world, and especially how to adore Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist.
The children saw the Angel of Peace several times. The last time he appeared, the angel came holding a chalice in his hands with a Host above it. Without a word, in utter silence, the angel knelt with his forehead touching the ground leaving the Host and the chalice suspended in the air. The angel prayed three times: “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly, I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”
Imitating the angel, with their foreheads pressed to the ground in profound adoration, the children joined the angel in reciting the prayer three times. The angel stood up and gave the oldest child, Lucia, the Sacred Host. Then he gave the Chalice with the Most Precious Blood to the other two children, Jacinta and Francisco. He said these words: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” Once again, the angel prostrated himself on the ground in silent adoration before the raised Host and chalice, and repeated the prayer three times, and then disappeared.
I am convinced that the Angel of Peace was calling all of us, in a special way, to pray before the Holy Eucharist, in silence, for the salvation of every single soul.
On May 13, 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the shepherd children in that same field. When the Blessed Mother appeared, she was, they said “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.” She asked the children to pray the Rosary every day, and to pray for peace in the world.
The Blessed Mother appeared again. In fact, she appeared six times over the next six months. In October, a huge crowd gathered with them. That day, a new miracle happened: the sky grew dark, and then the sun burst through the clouds, dancing and spinning across the sky. It shed colored light across the landscape. Tens of thousands reported seeing the same thing.
During the third apparition in July, the Blessed Mother shared a message for the children: three prophetic secrets, or messages: a vision of hell, a request that the world should turn from sin and consecrate Russia to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, and a prophetic vision which was revealed in the Jubilee Year, 2000, that the Church, and the Holy Father, would be called to suffer and be called to pray for the salvation of souls, and to penance for the conversion of the world.
The appearance of the Blessed Mother at Fatima was a grace for the whole world and the most important Marian apparition of our era. Her message was that the whole world should turn from sin, and pray for the grace of salvation in Jesus Christ, especially through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This message is the message of the Gospel, and a message the world needs today, more than ever.
The Blessed Mother also shared with the children that the greatest battle against evil in our time is waged in the family, and for the family. That Satan wishes to attack and undermine families, and that we must be vigilant to protect our families, and to defend the importance of the family in the world. Our families are made in the image of God, and God forms us to know him in the family. The Blessed Mother called us, at Fatima, to protect the family.
In a letter to Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, first President of the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome, and entrusted to St. John Paul II in 1981 on the occasion of his founding of the new Institute, Blessed Lucia of Fatima wrote these words: “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of satan will be about marriage and family… Don’t be afraid, because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue… However, our Lady has already crushed his head.”
Today, we celebrate 100 years since the Blessed Mother first appeared to the children at Fatima. But her message remains urgent and critical. We must pray for the conversion of the world and for the conversion of the family.
In the Diocese of Lincoln, we are blessed with a shrine to Our Lady of Fatima in Arapahoe. This year, the Holy Father has given a special gift to those who travel to the shrine as pilgrims.
Catholics who “visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Arapahoe in the form of a pilgrimage… humbly praying for the conversion of sinners, for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and in defense of the institution of the human family, concluding by saying the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and invoking our Lady of Fatima,” are granted a Plenary Indulgence—a remission from the temporal punishment of our sin in purgatory.
To gain such an indulgence, Catholics must also make a good confession, receive the Eucharist, and pray for the intentions of the Pope and the Church, and renounce attachment to sin. Those who are sick, elderly, or unable to travel to Arapahoe may gain the same indulgence through the same prayers, in the presence of an image of Mary, asking for her powerful intercession.
This indulgence is a special grace—given to us by the Holy Father to honor the Blessed Mother, and to encourage us to pray for the conversion of the world, and for the family. I encourage every Catholic in the Diocese of Lincoln to travel to the shrine in Arapahoe if they can, or to pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima.
Our Lady of Fatima appeared to promise us that Christ can bring peace to the world, and peace to every single heart. She begged us to pray for that peace, and to offer up every sacrifice for the conversion of the world. As we remember her appearance at Fatima, let us pray for peace, through the intercession of her Immaculate Heart.