God chose to conclude the Message in Fatima, in October 1917, with three further apparitions which I regard as three more calls placed before us for our consideration, so that we may keep them in mind during our earthly pilgrimage. While the people were gazing in astonishment at the sun which had gone pale in the light of the presence of God, the three children saw, beside the sun, three distinct and, to us, significant apparitions.
I do not know whether or not the Church’s theologians and thinkers have attached any special significance or interpretation to these apparitions. They would certainly be able to do so in more precise language based on sacred doctrine. I am only speaking about them here in order to do what I have been asked to do, and within the limits imposed by my humble ignorance and poverty. Thus I propose to say quite simply what I think God wished to say to us with these three apparitions.
The first was the apparition of the Holy Family: Our Lady, and the Child Jesus in the arms of St Joseph, blessing the people.
In times such as the present, when the family often seems misunderstood in the form in which it was established by God, and is assailed by doctrines that are erroneous and contrary to the purposes for which the divine Creator instituted it, surely God wished to address to us a reminder of the purpose for which He established the family in the world?
God entrusted to the family the sacred mission of co-operating with Him in the work of creation. This decision to associate his poor creatures with his creative work is a great demonstration of the fatherly goodness of God. It is as if He were making them sharers in His creative power; making use of his children in order to bring forth new lives, which will flower on earth but be destined for Heaven.
Thus the divine Creator wished to entrust to the family a sacred mission, that makes two beings become one in a union so close that it does not admit of separation. It is from this union that God wishes to produce other beings, as He generates flowers and fruit from the plants.
God established Matrimony as an indissoluble union. Once a couple have received the sacrament of Matrimony, the union between the two is definitive and cannot be broken; it is indissoluble as long as the couple remain alive. It was thus that God ordained it to be.
We read in the Book of Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27); two, yes, but these two are one: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). This is a law of God, which Jesus Christ confirmed and endorsed, in the face of human efforts, at that time, to pull in the opposite direction: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mt 19:4-6).
This is the law of Matrimony: from the time that they have been joined together by the blessing of God, the two become one, and this union does not allow of separation—What God has joined together, let no one put asunder. They become one by the bond of love that led them to commit themselves to each other in the one ideal of co-operation with God in the work of creation, and this involves the sacrifice and immolation that the giving of oneself always implies; it involves, too, mutual understanding, forgiveness and pardon. It is thus that a home is built up, made holy and gives glory to God.
A home must be like a garden, where fresh rosebuds are opening, bringing to the world the freshness of innocence, a pure and trusting outlook on life, and the smile of innocent happy children. Only thus does God take pleasure in his creative work, blessing it and turning his fatherly gaze upon it. Any other way of behaving is to divert the work of God from its end, to alter the plans of God, failing to fulfill and carry out the mission that God has entrusted to the married couple.
Hence, in the Message of Fatima, God calls on us to turn our eyes to the Holy Family of Nazareth, into which He chose to be born, and to grow in grace and stature, in order to present to us a model to imitate, as our footsteps tread the path of our pilgrimage to Heaven.
The Evangelist St Luke, after describing for us how Jesus Christ, as a young boy, went up to the temple in Jerusalem where He got separated from his parents and where they found Him three days later, adds: “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man”
(Lk 2, 51-52).
Parents who do not instill a knowledge of God and of his commandments into their children from an early age, teaching them to keep them in mind and to observe them, are failing to fulfill the mission entrusted to them by God. It is a law that God prescribed for his people: “And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut 6:6-7). Parents who disregard this law of God make themselves responsible for the ignorance of their children and for any misdemeanors that may result from it. And, very often, it is this ignorance that is responsible for the disordered lives of the children who torment the declining years of their parents, and are themselves lost.
What has been said applies even when the children are entrusted to the care of competent teachers, because what remains most engraved in the hearts of children is what they have received in their father’s arms and on their mother’s lap. Nothing can dispense parents from this sublime mission: God has entrusted it to them and they are answerable to God for it.
Parents are the ones who must guide their children’s first steps to the altar of God, teaching them to raise their innocent hands and to pray, helping them to discover how to find God on their way and to follow the echo of his voice. This is the most serious and important mission that has been entrusted by God to parents; and they must fulfill it so well that, throughout their lives, the memory of their parents will always arouse in their children the memory of God and of his teaching.
This is how St Paul encourages us to behave: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honour your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.’
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:1-4). And in the second Letter of St. John, which was undoubtedly addressed to an ecclesial community, but which he sees personified in the person of a mother—the elect lady and her children—we find, from the pen of the Apostle, a eulogy that we wish could be applied to all fathers and mothers: “I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children following the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. And now I beg you, lady, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, that we love one another” (2 Jn 4-5).
In families composed of parents and children, there are duties which the parents have to fulfill in relation to their children, and, vice versa, the children in relation to their parents. The Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), after listing the many duties of children, concludes with this appeal to their submission and gentleness: “My son, perform your tasks in meekness; then you will be loved by those who God accepts. The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself; so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord. For great is the might of the Lord; he is glorified by the humble” (Sir 3:17-20).
And the Apostle St. Peter presses home the same idea: “Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful” (1 Pet 5:5-8).
These words are addressed to us all, but especially to the young people who have as yet no experience of life, which is why the Apostle urges them to be submissive, sober and vigilant, in order not to be taken in by the illusions of life, by the disordered appetites of nature, and the diabolical seductions of the world. Because—St Peter goes on—”Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you” (1 Pet 5:8-10).
Yes, firm in faith, in hope and in charity, we must all struggle to achieve victory over evil, and attain the peace, joy and blessedness of the house of our Father who is God; and we, all together, form his family.
The children must never forget or set to one side the respect, gratitude and help which they owe to their parents, who are for them the image of God. In fact, just as the parents sacrificed themselves in order to bring up, educate and establish their children in life, so the children, in their turn, have a duty to sacrifice themselves in order to give pleasure, joy and serenity to their parents, aiding and assisting them, if necessary, in such a way that everything is done out of true love and with one’s eyes fixed on God: “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23). And we shall enjoy his friendship, as He has told us: “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn 15:14). And what has He commanded us? “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12).
This is how a family sanctifies itself, grows and prospers in that unity, fidelity, mutual understanding and forgiveness which generate peace, joy, mutual trust and love.
This article is an excerpt from Sr. Lucia’s “Calls” from the Message of Fatima, Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, Fatima, distributed by Ravengate Press.