Editor’s note – This is the latest in a monthly series on Our Lady of Fatima during the celebration of the 100-year anniversary.
By Marilu D. Martinez
For the Umatuna Si Yu’os
“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to heaven, especially those who have most need of thy mercy. Amen.” Our Lady taught the “Fatima Prayer” to the three children to be said at the end of each decade in the rosary.
Though only 29 words, it is an integral part of the Holy Rosary highlighting five major tenets of our faith: sin, forgiveness, mercy, heaven and hell. Let’s grasp the significance of the Fatima Prayer.
“O my Jesus”. Dare we address The Lord and Creator in this intimate manner when His closest friends and followers in the Gospels addressed Him as “my Lord,” or “Master,” demonstrating respect and deference? Jesus Christ had a loving mother and devoted stepfather whom He may have endearingly called “mommy” and “daddy.”
Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary she was to be the Mother of the “Son of the Most High.” Mary knew the Power and the Almighty stature her Unborn Baby held; but to Mary, her Son would always be “my Jesus.” Through her eyes, Mary instructs the three children in addressing “her Jesus.”
In his 2002 Apostolic Letter on the Rosary, “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” St. John Paul II suggests we should pray the rosary through Mary’s eyes.
“Forgive us our sins”. Establishing a personal relationship with Jesus, we invoke His mercy. Our concern shouldn’t just be for our self. In charity, we invoke mercy for all souls; after all, we’re sinners. In the Our Father and Hail Mary we pray: “Forgive us our trespasses …” and “Pray for us sinners …”
To understand salvation, forgiveness and mercy we must grasp the concept of sin. Understanding the gravity of our sin enables us to acknowledge the need for penance and the efficacy of offering up sacrifices and prayers for “us” — a concern for the perdition of all souls. Acknowledging that sin requires forgiveness and redemption, and remembering the price paid for our sins by the One who also extends to us an unfathomable divine mercy, we plea to heaven with Christian Hope.
“Save us from the fires of hell”. Our Lady allowed the children a glimpse of hell which, understandably, frightened them. “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because no one makes sacrifices for them.”
Even as seven-year-old Jacinta received Mary’s assurance that she would enter heaven, the thought that others weren’t guaranteed a place moved her to regularly kneel for prolonged periods, repeating the Fatima prayer and offering it for those with no one to intercede for them! With simplicity and humility, the children heeded the prayer’s urgent call to conversion and penance accepting that no sacrifice was too small or great, no suffering too difficult, and no demands beneath them to obey.
Supplemental to the Eucharist, this prayer keeps reconciliation in focus. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is essential in keeping our tendency to sin at bay and in avoiding hell.
The topics of hell and sin are not very popular today; but if we believe that Jesus came to save us, shouldn’t that belief include an acceptance of the reality of a final destination of damnation He wanted to save us from?
“Lead all souls to heaven”. This plea is as clear as Jesus’ words in Jn 3:17: “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” God “desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Ti 2:4). One of Our Lady’s requests was that the children learn to read. Lucia and Jacinta eventually did. Francisco could not be convinced of the benefits of school. Asked what he wanted to be, he replied: “I do not want to be anything. I want to die and go to heaven.”
“Especially those in most need of thy mercy”. Human nature might lead us to think Mary is asking us to pray for others: public sinners reported in the media, ‘lukewarm’ Catholics who miss Sunday Mass, or those who openly commit scandals. Remember the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector who prayed in the temple (Lk 18:11)? Lest we overestimate our own virtues and fail to recognize our own need to pray for mercy, let’s pray with the simplicity that the tax collector did: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Praying the Fatima words to seek mercy for all, we also acknowledge the infinite Mercy of God — to which the Fatima Prayer leads us. As Jesus’ Mother chose children from humble, poor families to spread her message, Jesus too, chose St. Faustina from a humble existence to spread His message of love and boundless mercy for all souls. Recognizing the significance of God’s Divine Mercy message for the world, St. John Paul II opened the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday to the universal Church in 2000.
“Amen”. A Hebrew verb associated with “truth” and from the same root as “believe,” it is also used in agreement or for emphasis. Said after a prayer, it serves as an affirmation of the prayer’s content. (CCC2856, CCC1062)
With this clearer understanding, let us say “amen” with an awareness that it is our affirmation of the truths expressed in our prayers.
In honor of this 100th year of the apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, on the 13th of every month until Oct. 14, please join the noon monthly rosary at Barrigada parish (at the park next to the Koban) or at the Plaza de España in Hagatña. For Barrigada, contact Candie Benavente, 969-2354; for Hagatña, MaryLou Agustin, 483-1358 or Rufina Mendiola, 688-4327.