The second Apparition of the Angel to the three children of Fatima in 1916 must have been at the height of summer, when the heat of the day was so intense that they had to take the sheep home before noon and only let them out again in the early evening. Lucia did not remember the exact date of the apparition but she recalled the circumstances surrounding it and the heat of the blazing sun.
‘One day, we were playing on the stone slabs of the well down at the bottom of the garden belonging to my parents, which we called the Arneiro. Suddenly, we saw beside us the same figure, or rather Angel, as it seemed to me.
“What are you doing?” he asked. “Pray! Pray very much! The most holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High.”
“How are we to make sacrifices?” I asked.
“Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country. I am its Angel Guardian, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with submission, the suffering which the Lord will send you.”
These words were indelibly impressed upon our minds. They were like a light which made us understand who God is, how He loves us and desires to be loved, the value of sacrifice, how pleasing it is to Him and how, on account of it, He grants the grace of conversion to sinners.
It was for this reason that we began, from then on, to offer to the Lord all that mortified us, without, however, seeking out other forms of mortification and penance, except that we remained for hours on end with our foreheads touching the ground, repeating the prayer the Angel had taught us.
At the second Apparition, down by the well, Francisco waited a few moments after it was over, then asked:
“You spoke to the Angel. What did he say to you?”
“Didn’t you hear?”
“No. I could see that he was talking to you. I heard what you said to him, but what he said to you, I don’t know.”
As the supernatural atmosphere in which the Angel left us had not yet entirely disappeared, I told him to ask Jacinta or myself the next day.
“Jacinta, you tell me what the Angel said.”
“I’ll tell you tomorrow. Today I can’t talk about it.”
Next day, as soon as he came up to me, he asked me:
“Did you sleep last night? I kept thinking about the Angel, and what he could have said.”
I then told him all that the Angel had said at the first and second Apparitions. But it seemed that he had not received an understanding of all that the words meant, for he asked:
“Who is the Most High? What is the meaning of: ‘The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications’?…”
Having received an answer, he remained deep
in thought for a while, and then broke in with another question. But my mind was not yet free, so I told him to wait until the next day, because at that moment I was unable to speak. He waited quite contentedly, but he did not let slip the very next opportunity of putting more questions. This made Jacinta say to him:
“Listen! We shouldn’t talk much about these things.”
When we spoke about the Angel, I don’t know what it was we felt.
“I don’t know how I feel,” Jacinta said. “I can no longer talk, or sing, or play. I haven’t strength enough for anything.” “Neither have I,” replied Francisco, “But what of it? The Angel is more beautiful than all this. Let’s think about him.”
The children had been overcome by an intense experience of the Supernatural. The same impact was repeated after each of the Angel’s three apparitions. Lucia described in her memoirs that, enveloped in an intense atmosphere of the supernatural, for a long time afterwards they were scarcely aware of their own existence. They felt the presence of God so intimately that they were even disinclined to speak to one another, play or sing.
At the Angel’s earlier first apparition to the children in the spring of 1916 (again Lucia could not recall the exact date) he had taught them a beautiful prayer:
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You. I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.
They had repeated the prayer often in obedience to the Angel’s instructions: “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.” But as the weeks passed by and the powerful impact of the Angel’s visit had begun to diminish, they had returned to the playful ways of children, praying less often.
On the second occasion the Angel appeared very suddenly with a gentle rebuke: “What are you doing?” These words must have made a strong impression on the children because they responded very faithfully to the Angel’s second message: “Pray! Pray very much! The most holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High.“ He was stressing the need for the children to pray even more than they had been doing. Jesus and Mary had plans for their lives and they needed to develop a strong prayer life to have the courage and generosity to respond to those plans. In addition to prayer, the Angel told them of the need to make sacrifices. When asked by Lucia how they should do that, he responded with words we too should learn from: “Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.“ As a person grows closer to God, the desire for the conversion of sinners also increases. Why? Because the more we love God, the more we must love those for whom He suffered and died and shed His Precious Blood upon the Cross.
This is one of the fundamental elements of the Fatima message. Our lives should become living vessels of prayer and sacrifice offered up to God in reparation for sin and for the conversion of sinners. We know from the Gospels that, “Heaven rejoices more over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine people who have no need to repent.”
The Angel told the children what would result if they offered sacrifices in reparation for sins and in supplication for sinners: “You will thus draw down peace upon your country.” St Augustine defined peace as “the tranquility of order”. When everything is in order, or the way it should be, we have peace. For example, if a person confessed his sins, received God’s mercy and amended his life, he would experience peace. If a family reconciled their differences and divisions, they would have peace. If everyone in the Church accepted the teachings of the Magisterium and lived by them, there would be peace and unity within the Church. If nations put aside their rivalries and reconciled their differences, everything would be in order and there would be peace.
The children were taking giant steps in their spiritual formation as the Angel taught them. With this apparition they were filled with a new enthusiasm for offering prayers and sacrifices. Their favourite sacrifice was to pray for hours on end kneeling with their foreheads touching the ground and repeating the prayer the Angel had taught them. When trouble afflicted Lucia’s home, she remembered the Angel’s words: “Above all, accept submissively the sacrifices that the Lord will send you.” Lucia recounts:
‘At such times, I used to withdraw to a solitary place, so as not to add to my mother’s suffering, by letting her see my own. This place, usually, was our well. There, on my knees, leaning over the edge of the stone slabs that covered the well, my tears mingled with the water below and I offered my suffering to God.
Sometimes, Jacinta and Francisco would come and find me like this, in bitter grief. As my voice was choked with sobs and I couldn’t say a word, they shared my suffering to such a degree that they also wept copious tears.
Then Jacinta made our offering aloud: “My God, it is as an act of reparation, and for the conversion of sinners, that we offer You all these sufferings and sacrifices.”
The formula of the offering was not always exact, but the meaning was always the same.’
With each of his three visits to the children in 1916, the Angel of Portugal was preparing them to be in a sufficient state of understanding and grace to receive the coming apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the following year.
(This post has been partly adapted from “Fatima Newsletter” and the book “Fatima For Today” by Fr Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R.)