By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer
What are the messages of Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Fatima? What do the messages of Divine Mercy and Fatima have to do with each other?
Father Richard James explored these and other questions as presenter of “Divine Mercy and 100 Years of Fatima,” part of the “Faith and Spirits” series Oct. 10 at Vito’s Coal-Fired Pizza and Restaurant, St. Clair.
Father James, assistant pastor of St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield, discussed what the message of Fatima and Divine Mercy have to do with us today during the evening event.
The Diocesan Office of Adult Formation offered the discussion that welcomed all adults.
Those attending included Mary Fran Hartigan, secretary of the Diocesan Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization and director of the Office of Adult Formation; and Rick Dooley, assistant director of the Office of Adult Formation.
The Blessed Mother appeared to three shepherd children – Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto – in a series of six apparitions in Fatima, Portugal between May and October 1917. This year marks the centennial of the famed Our Lady of Fatima Marian apparitions.
The children were visited by the apparition of an angel three times in the spring and summer of 1916, prior to the Marian apparitions.
Father James said the Blessed Mother told the children during the first apparition people must pray the rosary daily. She urged the children to sacrifice and pray for reparation for the sins of the world. There was also a prophecy that prayer would lead to an end to the Great War.
“The children were told by local authorities to keep quiet, and eventually they were even imprisoned. Ironically, the harsh treatment of the 10-year-old Lucia, and the younger Marto siblings, as well as skeptical press coverage even in the capital, led to increased fame and infamy. There was a constant barrage of news articles and ridicule of the children.”
On Oct. 13, the final apparition, crowds of over 50,000 witnessed the “Miracle of the Sun,” as people looked up and saw the sun “dance,” grow in size and appear in different, radiant colors.
Our Lady told the children that two of them would be in heaven soon. Francisco died in 1919 at age 10, and Jacinta died in 1920 at age 9. Pope Francis canonized them saints at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal on May 13, the centennial of the first apparition.
Lucia became a Carmelite nun and died Feb. 13, 2005 at age 97.
Discussing the three secrets of Fatima, Father James said the first was “a vivid image of hell.”
“But Our Lady told them many souls could be saved and there would be peace. We must work for our own and others’ salvation,” Father James said.
Mary emphasized praying the rosary and praying, “Oh my Jesus forgive us our sins and save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven especially those in most need of thy mercy.”
In the second secret, Our Lady spoke of the coming of an even more devastating war, as well as the spread of Russia’s error – communism. She promises that if people cease offending God and Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, peace would prevail.
“In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph,” Our Lady told the children.
Father James spoke of the third secret – a vision of the death of the Pope and other religious figures – in the context of the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima.
He recalled how St. Pope John Paul II was shot May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the first apparition. “He needed six pints of blood. The doctors working on him said he should have died. The bullet missed his vital organs,” Father James said.
John Paul II read the third secret the day he survived the assassination attempt – the secret had not been read by him prior to that.
“Reading it left him with no doubt his life was spared by Our Lady’s intercession.”
The third secret was written in 1944 in a letter by Lucia and placed in the care of the Holy See, with instructions that no one should read it until 1960, when St. Pope John XXIII decided that it be kept secret.
“The third secret reveals penance upon the world for its sins, and includes an image of Our Lady bringing God’s mercy to people,” Father James said.
Father James said soon after the assassination attempt, John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan worked to bring about the collapse of communism, and the Pope did consecrate the world and Russia to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.
“President Reagan spoke of the beautiful light of God’s mercy and compassion that radiated through John Paul II,” Father James said.
Of the third secret, Father James said, “These revelations are not predictions but a warning of what will happen if people don’t turn to God.”
“All of this began with three young children seeing apparitions of the Blessed Mother,” Father James said, encouraging those gathered to learn and read more about Fatima.
The message of the Divine Mercy is simple. It is that God loves us – all of us. And he wants us to recognize that his mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call on him with trust, receive his mercy and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share his joy.
This message and devotion to Jesus as the Divine Mercy is based on the writings of St. Faustina Kowalska, an uneducated Polish nun who, in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of about 600 pages recording the revelations she received about God’s mercy. Even before her death in 1938, devotion to the Divine Mercy had begun to spread.
“If you ask God to leave, he will. He doesn’t force himself into your life,” Father James said. “This past century with all its evils is what the world looks like when you ask God to leave.
“Mary gives the answer to what we need today.”
There is no charge for attending and no registration is required for Faith and Spirits. The venues have menus available for ordering food and drink at participants’ expense.