The Five First
On 13 July 1917 the three children set off for the Cova da Iria eventually joining the large crowd that had assembled around the holmoak. For the third time they saw the indescribably beautiful Lady over the holmoak, and were filled with a sense of peace and happiness. Lucia was so absorbed with the apparition that Jacinta had to tell her that Our Lady was speaking to her, and again Lucia asked what she wanted.
Mary replied: "I want you to come here on the 13th of next month, to continue to pray the Rosary every day in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only she can help you." Lucia then asked her who she was and for a miracle so everyone would believe: "Continue to come here every month. In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe."
Lucia made some requests for sick people, to which Mary replied that she would cure some but not others, and that all must say the rosary to obtain such graces, before continuing: "Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary." Lucia later revealed that as she spoke these words, Mary opened her hands and rays of light from them seemed to penetrate the earth so that they saw:
"... as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals."
This vision of hell was the first part of the "secret" of Fatima, which was not revealed until much later. Ti Marto testified that at this moment, "Lucia took a deep breath, went as pale as death," and cried out in terror to Our Lady, calling her by name, while the children themselves looked up to the sad face of the Blessed Virgin, who spoke to them kindly:
"You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.
"To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world."
At this point the second part of the secret of Fatima ends and the third part begins with the words, "In Portugal the dogma of the faith will always be preserved ..." The first two parts of the secret only became publicly known in 1942, when a new edition of a book on Jacinta was planned for the silver jubilee of the apparitions. The third part of the secret was divulged on the orders of Pope John Paul II in May 2000.
Mary specifically told Lucia not to tell anyone about the secret at this stage, apart from Francisco, before continuing: "When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need." There was a moment of silence before Lucia asked if there was anything more, and after assuring her that there was nothing more, Mary disappeared off into the distance.
By 1925 Lucia, who was now 18, had become a postulant with the Sisters of St Dorothy at Pontevedra in Spain, and on Thursday 10 December, the Blessed Virgin, accompanied by the Child Jesus on a little cloud, appeared to her in her cell. Lucia recounted that Mary rested her hand on her shoulder, while showing her a heart encircled by thorns in her other hand.
The Child Jesus spoke first:
"Have pity on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother. It is covered with the thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to remove them with an act of reparation."
Then Mary said:
"My daughter, look at My Heart surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, try to console me, and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months go to confession and receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary and keep me company for a quarter of an hour while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me."
The Child Jesus again appeared to Lucia in February 1926 to encourage her to propagate this devotion, and additionally on the night of 29-30 May 1930, as she was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, she received an interior locution from him explaining why it was necessary to have a communion of reparation on five Saturdays.
She explained later that she had been given to understand that this related to the five main types of blasphemies and offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary: that is against the Immaculate Conception; against Mary's Virginity; against her Divine Maternity and her spiritual motherhood of mankind; for the offences of those who encourage in the hearts of children indifference, contempt and even hatred of her, and finally as reparation for those who outrage her in her holy images.
The setting aside of the first Saturday of the month as a special day of reparation to Mary did not originate at Fatima, but had been practised since the time of St John Eudes in the seventeenth century. The practice was given a further boost by an Italian nun, Sr Dolores Inglese, in the late nineteenth century, and was indulgenced by both popes St Pius X and Benedict XV. It was the message of Fatima though which gave it is present form. In return for complying with this request concerning the Five First Saturdays devotion, Mary promised "all the graces necessary for salvation."
Sources: Kondor, Fatima in Lucia's own words; Martins & Fox, Documents on Fatima; De Marchi, Fatima from the beginning, Fox, Fatima Today; Francis D. Costa, S.S.S. "Mary's Day and Mary's Months," in Mariology, Vol. 3.
Theotokos Catholic Books - Fatima Section - www.theotokos.org.uk