Newsletter n°57 (14 August 2017)
The fourth apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, the centenary of which we celebrate at this time, is original in more ways than one. First of all, it took place in two stages. There was a first manifestation on the 13th of August 1917, but without the children, who were in prison at Villa Nova de Ourem. It is a kind of “apparition without seers”, an event unique in the history of the Church, as 18,000 witnesses were able to observe at the given time the same exterior phenomena as those seen during the preceding apparitions (see newsletter n°8). Then there was a second manifestation on the 19th of August in the presence of the children alone. However, the signs of Our Lady’s presence were perceived by Teresa, Lucia’s sister, and Teresa’s husband, although they were two kilometres away from the site of the apparition and had no reason to expect it, given that it was neither the day of the month nor the hour of the previous apparitions (see newsletter n°9).
The message delivered by Our Lady that day was very brief but it is particularly dense and important. It consists of two short sentences: “Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to hell because they have no-one who will make sacrifices and pray for them.” The first sentence repeats almost word for word what the Angel had said the previous year: “Pray, pray very much ! (…) You must always offer your prayers and sacrifices to God, the Most High.” The verb “pray” appears seven times during the course of the apparitions: it is used four times by the Angel during the spring and summer of 1916 (see newsletter n°25), then three times by the Holy Virgin during the apparition of the 19th of August 1917. Moreover, the Angel and Our Lady taught four prayers to the little seers, and Our Lady asked for the daily recitation of the Rosary six times (see newsletter n°31). Therefore, there is a real insistence on the necessity for praying, which recalls the teachings of the Gospel. In particular, Our Lord asked that we “pray always” (Luke 21:36); and after Our Lord, Saint Paul said: “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thes. 5:17)
Sister Lucia often insisted on the necessity of prayer. On the 13th of April 1971 she sent a letter on the subject to one of her nephews who was a Salesian priest, Father José Valinho.
My Reverend Father,
I see from your letter that you are worried about the turmoil and the disorientation of our times. It is indeed sad that so many are allowing themselves to be carried away by the diabolical wave that is enveloping the world, and they are so blind that they cannot see their error. Their principal error is that they have abandoned prayer. Thus they turn away from God, and without God they lack everything: “Without me you can do nothing.”
What I recommend to you, above all, is that you get close to the Tabernacle and pray. There you will find the light and the strength that you need to sustain you, and to share with others. Guide those under your care with humility, with gentleness, and at the same time with firmness, because superiors have the duty to defend the truth with serenity, justice and charity. For this reason they have more and more need to pray, to turn to God and to share with Him all their activities before doing so with human beings. Follow this road and you will see that close to the Tabernacle you will find more science, more light, more strength, more grace and virtue than you could ever find in books, studies, or any human being. Never consider the time you spend in prayer as wasted time. You will see that in prayer, God will bestow upon you the light, strength, and grace you need to do all He expects of you.
The only important thing for us is to do God’s will, to be where He wants us to be and to do all He wants of us, in the spirit of constant humility knowing that, of ourselves, we are nothing and that it is God who works in us and through us, to accomplish His work. Therefore, we all need to intensify our life of union with God, and we can only do this through prayer. It is in prayer that the soul encounters direct contact with God who is our strength and the source of all Good. Let time be lacking for everything else but never for prayer, and you will see that you will accomplish more in a short period of time !
Without prayer, or if we habitually sacrifice prayer for material things, we are all of us, especially a superior, like a split reed that serves only to beat egg whites into castles of foam which, without sugar to sustain them, soon dissolve and become coloured water.
For this reason Jesus Christ said: “You are the salt of the earth but if salt loses its strength it is good for nothing but to be thrown out.” We can receive our strength from God alone. We must get close to Him so that He can impart it to us. We can only realise this closeness through prayer because it is in prayer that the soul enters into direct contact with God.
I would like you to pass on these recommendations to your religious brothers; let them try it, then you can tell me if I was wrong, as I am convinced that it is the principal cause of evil in the world and the falling away of so many consecrated souls. We turn away from God, and without God, we go adrift and fall. The devil is very smart and looks for our weak points so he can attack us. If we are not careful and attentive in obtaining strength from God we will fall, because our times are very bad and we are very weak. Only God’s strength can sustain us.
See that you take everything with calmness and with great confidence in God. He will do for us what we cannot do ourselves. He will compensate for our inadequacies.
Always in union of prayer and sacrifice with Our Lord.
Sister Lucia, O.C.D.
We should meditate seriously on this letter as it was written by someone who had received the grace of seeing the Holy Virgin several times. Moreover, when she wrote it she already had 45 years of religious life: twenty years with the Dorothean Sisters and twenty-five years in the Carmel at Coïmbra. She is therefore particularly qualified to speak to us of prayer and care should be taken to follow her advice very seriously.
There are different ways of praying during the day: morning and evening prayers, the Angelus, saying grace at mealtimes, etc. Our Lady asked us to say the Rosary. And we should not neglect setting aside a short time for personal prayer. On his way to school, Saint Robert Bellarmin passed two churches: thus, in going to and coming from school, he made four short visits to the Holy Sacrament every day.
But we can pray everywhere. And every activity which we offer up is a prayer. (See meditation n°5 or n°6 of the preparation for the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.) We can’t always do everything. But we should make a real effort to respond to the request of Our Lady and the Angel: “Pray. Pray very much.”
To help us progress in this, here are two of the many books on this subject which have been particularly recommended to us: Du temps pour Dieu by Father Philippe and Cent lettres sur la prière by Father Cafarel. (Click on the title to go to a website where you can order the book.)
Here, then, are some ideas for responding to Our Lady’s insistent request for prayer. We must not let this centenary of the apparitions pass without deepening this necessity for prayer, a necessity which Saint Alphonse de Liguori also underlined in saying: “Whoever prays is sure to save himself. He who does not pray is sure to damn himself.” Moreover, by praying, we not only obtain our salvation, but also that of sinners, because many souls will be saved if we pray and make sacrifices for them: it is Our Lady Herself who taught us this.
In union of prayer in the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Yves de Lassus,
Cap Fatima 2017.