By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer
“The essence of Fatima is holiness. These children were given special graces, but more importantly they are examples to us,” said David Carollo, executive director of the World Apostolate of Fatima USA, April 24 during the adult speaker series “Faith and Spirits.”
Carollo presented “The Secrets of Fatima” at Allentown Brew Works with more than 60 adults in light of the approaching canonization of visionaries Francisco and Jacinta Marto on Saturday, May 13 in Portugal.
The brother and sister, who tended to their family’s sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.
“We are in a world that has moved away from God. Fatima is a message of hope and God sent the message,” said Carollo.
The apparitions occurred between May and October 1917 to Francisco and Jacinta along with their cousin Lucia. They reported visions of a luminous lady believed to be the Virgin Mary. She appeared to them on the 13th day of each month at approximately noon, for six consecutive months. The only exception was August, when the children were arrested by the local administrator.
According to Lucia’s account, the lady confided to the children three secrets, known as the “Three Secrets of Fatima.” She urged the children to engage in prayer of reparation and to make sacrifices to save sinners. Most important, the lady asked them to pray the rosary every day.
The last part of the secret was written down in 1944 in a letter by Lucia, the last surviving shepherd child. It was placed in the care of the Holy See, with instructions that no one should read it until 1960. The Catholic Church believes that it predicted the 1981 assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II.
“We need the intercession of these saints,” said Carollo.
When the children began revealing their encounters, they were met with disbelief, their property was vandalized and their families were ridiculed – but they remain devoted to the requests of Our Lady of Fatima.
Our Lady of Fatima also warned the children that war is a punishment for sin, and said God would further reprimand the world for disobedience to his will by means of war, hunger and the persecution of the church, the Holy Father and the faithful. In addition, Our Lady prophesied that Russia would be God’s chosen “instrument of chastisement,” spreading the “errors” of atheism and materialism across the earth.
“Our Lord manifests himself to the most humble because pride brings about sin. These children were humble and insignificant people. We have to be simple people. We don’t seem to understand what God is saying to us. God speaks to us in silence. He doesn’t speak to us when we are noisy,” he said.
Carollo specifically discussed the July apparition, in which Our Lady opened the earth and showed the children the vision of hell. She then asked them if they were willing to offer their lives for reparation of the lives of others.
“Fatima is about conversion. The children converted and brought reparation to the world,” he said.
The children desperately wanted others to believe in the apparitions leading Our Lady of Fatima to promise them that she would perform a miracle for everyone on Oct. 13.
On a rainy day, the three children said Our Lady of Fatima spoke to them and told them to advise the more than 70,000 water-soaked people gathered to look toward the sun.
“The sun appeared to be falling from the sky and seconds before it neared the earth it turned around and returned to the sky. After the phenomenon the people realized they were completely dry,” said Carollo.
“God did not send Our Lady of Fatima to say we are doomed. He sent her to tell us that souls can be saved and we can go to heaven. We are not going to solve the problems of the world with guns and legislation. Problems are solved by turning back to God,” he said.
Carollo said it is time for the laity “to step up” and help the church and families flourish.
“We have to become prayerful to obtain grace. We have to become people of charity who are willing to work for the salvation of everyone,” he said.
Shortly after the apparitions, the siblings were victims of the great 1918 influenza epidemic that swept through Europe that year. In October 1918, Mary appeared and promised to take them to heaven soon.
Francisco declined hospital treatment and continued to walk to church and receive the sacrament until his death on April 4, 1919.
“Jacinta died alone at the age of 10. Our Lady appeared to her in the hospital and asked if she would like to go to heaven. She offered up her loneliness and said she wanted to stay to save more souls,” said Carollo. She died Feb. 19, 1920.
The siblings were beatified in 1970. Their cousin, Lucia, died in 2005.
Pope Francis will canonize the siblings when he visits Fatima next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Mary on the site. They will become the youngest non-martyrs ever formally declared saints.