On the 13th of June, 1917, the Blessed Mother appeared for a second time to three shepherd children on a small hill near the village of Fatima in Portugal. Lucia, the eldest of the three, recounts the apparition in this way:
“After having said the Rosary with Jacinta and Francisco and others who were present (about 50 or 60 people), we saw the reflection of light nearing us. We [described it as] lightning following Our Lady on the scarlet oak in May.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“Jesus wants you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. To those who embrace it, I promise salvation, and God will love these souls like flowers put by me to adore His throne. My child…Don’t lose courage. I will never leave you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the path leading you to God.”
The moment she said those last words, opening her hands, she transmitted to us, for the second time, the reflection of that intense light. In it we felt we were submerged in the grace of God. In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a heart encircled with thorns which appeared to pierce it. We understood it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary offended by the sins of mankind, craving for reparation.”
Many of you reading this are probably familiar with the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. In this month of June, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, followed by the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Lucia, reflecting on Our Lady’s words to her from this apparition, wrote years later: “Why does Our Lady ask for devotion to her Immaculate Heart in order to save poor sinners? Her reply is: It is because God wishes it. Yes, God wishes to use her, as the Mother of the People of God… Mother of Divine Grace, Mother of Divine Love, of which her Immaculate Heart is a symbol… She is the protectress, too, of all those who, with faith, hope and love, want to follow in Christ’s footsteps, giving for each one His own life, the life of grace. Mary suffered in her motherly heart all the offenses committed against God, Jesus Christ her Son. Thus, our prayers and our sacrifices united with the prayer and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, complete what is lacking in His redeeming, work, which is the part that concerns us, since we are members of His mystical body. Our Lady taught us to say: O Jesus, it is for love of you, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Yes, it is love that gives value to our prayer and sacrifices, united to the prayer and sacrifice of Christ.”
The message of Fatima and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary holds a special place in our Community due to our dear Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR’s great love for Our Lady of Fatima (to learn more, read Fr. Andrew’s excellent book on this topic – Fatima for Today) – it is also very significant for me in regards to my vocation call. When I was sixteen years old, my mother came across a magazine advertisement for a youth pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. She told me that when she called my grandmother to share with her the idea to send me and my cousin, Jennifer, on the pilgrimage, my grandmother immediately offered to pay for the whole trip. On the day we arrived in Fatima, my cousin and I linked arms as we entered the Shrine. Out of the blue, I heard in my heart, “You are going to be a Sister!” It was followed by a profound rush of peace and joy. We soon entered a chapel with Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. As I knelt down to genuflect in the aisle I looked at the host in the monstrance. Tears of joy began to stream from my eyes as I recognized the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I knew He was real. I knew He was there. It was a life-changing moment. From the time I felt called to religious life until now I have always felt the gentle hand of our Blessed Mother guiding me closer to Jesus. I sometimes describe the call I received in Fatima as a seed planted in my heart. However, even more than that it remains as a bedrock moment for me in my vocation. Therefore, the inscription I chose for the inside of the ring I received at my Final Profession of Vows was “To Jesus through Mary”. Mary is and has always been the “mother of my vocation.”
Let us turn to Jesus and Mary with renewed trust, confidence and hope in their protection and aid. Let us frequently recall Our Lady’s words, “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the path leading you to God,” and find courage and strength on our own pilgrim journey through life.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us! St. Jacinta and St. Francisco, pray for us! Servant of God, Sr. Lucia of Jesus, pray for us!
Sr. Catherine Mary, CFR