By Jim Dunning
(This article was originally published in "Irelands Own" magazine. The webmaster would like to gratefully thank the author, Jim Dunning, for his kind permission in reprinting it here.)
One wonders whether Our Lady used the word “Secret” because she knew that the three children before her would respect that description as something binding them to silence.
Years later, the surviving child, now known as Sister Lucia, was permitted to provide a written account of their experience and divide the Secret into three separate parts. It is worth noting that at the time of the Apparitions in 1917 all three children were illiterate. Fortunately, the messages, given chiefly to Lucia, were intended for publication at subsequent dates. Francisco was able to see their heavenly visitor but unable to hear her, while Jacinta was too shy to speak. Lucia was advised at the time to learn how to read so that she could fulfil the role of messenger.
The First Secret, divulged to the children during the third Apparition on 13th July, 1917, was accompanied by a terrifying vision of Hell, first described by Lucia in her third Memoir in 1942:-
‘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.’
She went on to say, ‘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.’
Our Lady then told them, ‘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 you do what I shall tell you, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.’
The Second Secret involved a great prophecy concerning a miraculous peace which God wished to grant to the world. ‘The war is about to end, but if men do not cease to offend God there will begin a worse one in the Pontificate of Pius XI...the punishment of the world is at hand for its so great sins by means of war, famine and persecutions directed against the Church and the Holy Father. To prevent this I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays of the month. If my demands are listened to, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. Otherwise Russia will spread her errors throughout the world….Many good men will be martyred; the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me; she will be converted and there will be peace.’
So when did Our Lady actually come to ask for the consecration of Russia? This happened in 1929 when Our Lady appeared to Lucia in her convent. Subsequently, a letter sent to the Pope by Lucia conveyed Our Lady’s wish that he should consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, along with all the world’s bishops on one and the same day. At the time the Holy See was being besieged by ‘revelations’ and prophecies from all over the world, so perhaps it is not surprising that this seemingly extravagant request went unheeded.
In 1940 Lucia wrote again to the Holy Father begging him to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart, with special mention of Russia. Pius XII acceded to her request in 1942. Our Lady’s request concerning Reparatory Communions was made even earlier, in December,1925, after Lucia had entered the community of the Sisters of St. Dorothy at Tuy in Spain. Our Lady appeared, showing her heart ringed with thorns, and said, ‘Behold, my daughter, my Heart surrounded with the thorns with which ungrateful men continually pierce it by their blasphemies and ingratitude.
‘You at least try to console me, and for my part I promise to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary to salvation all those who on the first Saturday of five consecutive months shall go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the Rosary and keep me company during a quarter of an hour, meditating the mysteries of the Rosary with the intention of offering reparation to me.’
It can be seen therefore that the Apparitions in 1917 were followed up in a logical manner. And as with Bernadette at Lourdes, the Blessed Virgin chose simple, uneducated peasant children for her purpose. The miracle of the sun at the final apparition in October, 1917, gave ample proof of the genuineness of their claims.
As for the timing, again there is a parallel with the visions afforded to Bernadette at Lourdes. Just as religion in France was being threatened by the forces of secularism in the 1850s, so was the Church in Portugal during the years leading up to the First World War. The Provisional Government of the newly proclaimed Republic suppressed religious orders and Portuguese priests were forbidden to preach. The publicity afforded by the miracle of the sun, observed by a crowd of 70,000, did much to restore the balance. The little chapel erected in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary at the Cova da Iria was later replaced by an enormous basilica attracting millions of pilgrims. Our Lady is never defeated.
The Third Secret? Well, that’s another story....(Click here for article on the Third Secret)
For more information on the children of Fatima, see Sister Lucia dos Santos and also Blessed Jacinta Marto and also Blessed Francisco Marto
-Jim Dunning lives in the United Kingdom. His hobbies include watching rugby and writing short stories and religious articles.