“My Immaculate Heart will triumph.” – The Blessed Mother
Review and Comments
There are many books available about Fatima, especially during the 100th year anniversary. Our Lady’s Message to Three Shepherd Children and the World is written in such an excellent way that it is my choice for teaching children about Mary’s appearance in Portugal during WWI, whether in a classroom situation or in a family setting. The author’s voice is relaxed and engaging as if a parent or grandparent is telling the story. Intertwined in the retelling are: Bible references, lessons every Catholic should understand, and questions to prompt deeper reflection about Mary’s message. At times the author emphasizes the important points of a section by restating the facts as a summary, which helps the reader focus on the main idea.
The story begins with interesting background information about the everyday lives of Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco and that provides a necessary understanding that they were just typical children. It continues with very descriptive accounts of the three visits of the Angel of Peace and the lessons which prepared the children for the Blessed Mother.
The first apparition of Mary is recounted by Lucia in beautiful detail. After that, each month’s message to the children is described thoroughly. The children were asked to accept two great missions – self sacrifice and probably the most familiar of Mary’s requests, to pray the rosary every day. The children readily agreed even though they understood that it would be very difficult. Other well-known facts of the story are also explained: the three secrets, the threats and harassment of government officials directed at the children, and the miracle of the sun. An interesting bit of information that is not always mentioned in the retelling of the story is Mary’s request for Lucia to learn to read.
The story continues after Mary’s appearances have ceased. The details about Jacinta’s and Francisco’s inspirational lives before their deaths and Lucia’s simple life as a nun and her continued mission to spread the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary are carefully explained.
I believe children and adults will be inspired by this story of Fatima. The holy lives of the three shepherd children certainly reveal examples of faithful obedience and true love of God, and the messages of the Blessed Mother should not be forgotten by anyone. I think Pope John Paul II summarized Fatima best when he said, “And so, while the message of Fatima is a motherly one, it is also strong and decisive. It sounds severe. It sounds like John the Baptist speaking on the banks of the Jordan. It invites to repentance. It gives a warning. It calls to prayer. It recommends the Rosary. The message is addressed to every human being. The love of the Savior’s Mother reaches every place touched by the work of salvation. Her care extends to every individual of our time, and to all the societies, nations, and peoples.”
- I understand some parents have trouble talking to their young children about hell. A parent of a student once asked me if I was going to talk about hell during our religion lessons because she did not want her child exposed to that subject. For this reason I’m mentioning that the shepherd children’s vision of hell is described in this book, but not in great detail. On the other hand it is good to remember that Francisco was 9 years old and Jacinto was only 7 years old at the time of the apparitions, and Mary did not think they were too young.
- Another message of Mary is also stated several times. Mary told the children to pray and sacrifice for souls because “many have gone to hell because there was no one to sacrifice or pray for them.”
- At the end of each chapter there is a section that includes questions that could be used for reflection or journal writing. Examples: “Can you endeavor to pray your prayers with greater love and attention to please God? How might you find more opportunities to pray and offer sacrifices?”
- Draw a picture of the Blessed Mother using Lucia’s description of Mary during the first apparition.
There is excellent vocabulary in this book – much of it Catholic vocabulary. Some of these words could be used for independent lessons: intercessory prayer, Purgatory, supernatural, visionaries, miracle, penance, Communion of Saints, conversion, sacramental, beatify, canonize, memoir, holm tree, mock, antireligious, naysayers, scoffers,
- Consecration of Russia:
John Paul II consecrated Russia and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary twice. The first consecration was on Mary 13, 1982 and then again March 25, 1984. Lucia stated that the consecration had satisfied the Blessed Mother.
- Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially …(special intention).
We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever. Amen.
- The Rosary:
The proper way to pray the rosary is explained at the end of the book.
- Pardon Prayer taught to the children by the Angel of Peace [intercessory prayer]:
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You! I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You. [All the prayers associated with apparitions are included at the end of the book.]
- What is intercessory prayer?
CCC 2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners. He is “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us . . . and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Jacinta and Francisco were beatified on May 13, 2000. They were canonized on May 13, 2017. The feast day for Saints Francisco and Jacinta is February 20. [The afterword discusses the canonization process for the three shepherd children.]
- What is the Communion of Saints?
CCC 946 After confessing “the holy catholic Church,” the Apostles’ Creed adds “the communion of saints.” In a certain sense this article is a further explanation of the preceding: “What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?” The communion of saints is the Church.
CCC 947 “Since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others. . . . We must therefore believe that there exists a communion of goods in the Church. But the most important member is Christ, since he is the head. . . . Therefore, the riches of Christ are communicated to all the members, through the sacraments.” “As this Church is governed by one and the same Spirit, all the goods she has received necessarily become a common fund.”
CCC 948 The term “communion of saints” therefore has two closely linked meanings: communion in holy things (sancta)” and “among holy persons (sancti).”
Sancta sanctis! (“God’s holy gifts for God’s holy people”) is proclaimed by the celebrant in most Eastern liturgies during the elevation of the holy Gifts before the distribution of communion. The faithful (sancti) are fed by Christ’s holy body and blood (sancta) to grow in the communion of the Holy Spirit (koinonia) and to communicate it to the world.
- Bible References cited in the book (You may want to read the stories with your kids):
Luke 15:4 –The Lost Sheep – This story is referred to when explaining that the children also cared for their sheep.
Heb 1:14 – When the Angel of Peace appears there is also a short lesson on angels.
- Five First Saturday devotion:
- The Fatima Prayer was given to the children by Mary. She asked that it be said at the end of each decade. Try to learn the prayer: “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. Amen”