III. The Great Promise and Its Conditions
The most astonishing thing about Pontevedra, of course, is the incomparable promise made by Our Lady: "to all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months …" fulfill all the conditions requested, "I promise to assist them at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their soul." With boundless generosity, the Blessed Virgin promises here the grace of graces, the most sublime of all graces, that of final perseverance. This grace cannot be merited even by an entire life of sanctity spent in prayer and sacrifice, for it is always a purely gratuitous gift of the Divine Mercy. And the promise is without any exclusion, limitation, or restriction: "To all those who …, I promise."
The disproportion between "the little devotion" requested, and the immense grace attached to it, reveals to us first of all and especially the quasi-infinite power of intercession granted to the Blessed Virgin Mary for the salvation of all souls. "The great promise, (Father Alonso writes) is nothing less than a new manifestation of this love of complacency which the Holy Trinity has for the Blessed Virgin. For those who understand such a thing, it is easy to admit that such wonderful promises can be attached to such humble practices. Such souls accept the promise with filial love, and a simple heart full of confidence in the Blessed Virgin Mary."10
In short, we can therefore say in all truth that the first fruit of the Communion of Reparation is the salvation of the one practicing it. Let us place no limits on the Divine Mercy, but keep to the letter of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s promise: whoever fulfills all the conditions set down can be sure of obtaining at the moment of death at least — and this even after miserable lapses back into a state of grave sin — the graces necessary to obtain the pardon of God, and to be preserved from eternal chastisement.
As we shall see, however, there is much more in this promise, for the missionary spirit is everywhere present in the spirituality of Fatima. The devotion of Reparation is also recommended to us as a means of converting sinners in the greatest danger of being lost, and as a most efficacious means of intercession for obtaining the peace of the world from the Immaculate Heart of Mary.11
If Our Lady wished to attach such abundant fruits to the practice of this "little devotion", is it not to gain our attention more surely and move our heart so that we can practice it, and get others around us to practice it wherever we can? For this purpose it is important to be familiar with the conditions laid down, and have a precise knowledge of them.
Since 1925, Sister Lucy has never ceased repeating them, and always in the same terms. There are five conditions, to which is added a sixth, which concerns the general intention in which the other acts requested must be done.
"All those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months …" This first requirement of Heaven contains nothing arbitrary nor even anything absolutely new. It fits into the immemorial tradition of Catholic piety, which having devoted Fridays to the remembrance of the Passion of Jesus Christ and honoring of His Sacred Heart, finds it very natural to devote Saturdays to His Most Holy Mother. Such is the venerable tradition which motivated the choice of Saturday.
But this is not saying enough: if we look closely, the great request of Pontevedra appears as the happy culmination of a whole movement of devotion. It began spontaneously, then it was encouraged and codified by Rome, and it seems to be nothing less than the providential preparation for what was to come later.
The Fifteen Saturdays in honor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. "For a long time, members of the various Rosary confraternities had the custom of devoting fifteen consecutive Saturdays to the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, before this feast or some other time of the year. On each of these Saturdays, they approached the sacraments and performed pious exercises in honor of the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary." In 1889, Pope Leo XIII granted to all the Faithful a plenary indulgence for one of these fifteen consecutive Saturdays. In 1892, "he also granted those who were legitimately impeded on Saturday the faculty of performing this pious exercise on Sundays, without losing the indulgences."12
The Twelve First Saturdays of the month. With Saint Pius X, the devotion of the first Saturdays of the month is officially approved: "All the Faithful who, on the first Saturday or first Sunday of twelve consecutive months, devote some time to vocal or mental prayer in honor of the Immaculate Virgin in Her conception gain, on each of these days, a plenary indulgence. Conditions: confession, communion, and prayers for the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff."13
The Devotion of Reparation on the First Saturdays of the month. Finally, on June 13, 1912, Saint Pius X granted new indulgences to practices which almost exactly foreshadow the requests of Pontevedra: "To promote the piety of the Faithful towards Immaculate Mary, Mother of God, and to make Reparation for the outrages done to Her holy Name and Her privileges by impious men, Saint Pius X granted, for the first Saturday of each month, a plenary indulgence, applicable to the souls in purgatory. Conditions: confession, communion, prayers for the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff and pious practices in the spirit of Reparation in honor of the Immaculate Virgin."14 Five years later, to the day, after this thirteenth of June, 1912, there took place at Fatima the great manifestation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, "surrounded with thorns which seemed to pierce It". Sister Lucy was to say later on: "We understood that it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, which demanded Reparation."15
On November 13, 1920, Pope Benedict XV granted new indulgences to this same practice when accomplished on the first Saturday of eight consecutive months.16
A traditional Devotion … How wonderful it is to see Heaven content itself with crowning a great movement of Catholic piety, doing nothing more than giving precision to the decisions of a Pope, and what a Pope, Saint Pius X! In the same way, the Blessed Virgin had come to Lourdes to confirm the infallible declarations of Pope Pius IX.
Let us also say this right now: in requesting the Pope to solemnly approve the devotion of Reparation revealed at Pontevedra, Our Lady was not really asking for anything impossible. Providence had prepared everything so well that in 1925-1926, this devotion was right in line with a series of papal decisions giving the forerunners and "pre-figures" of the first Saturday devotion.
Yet a very new Devotion … However, what new elements there are, in this message of Pontevedra! And first of all, in the concession of excessive faculties which only Heaven can take the liberty of granting: on December 10, the Virgin Mary no longer requires fifteen, twelve, or even eight Saturdays to be devoted to Her. She knows our inconstancy, and asks for only five Saturdays — as many as the decades on our Rosary.
Then, above all, the promise joined with it has increased so dramatically: no longer is it a question of indulgences (that is, the remission of punishment for sins already pardoned), but a much more signal grace, the assurance of receiving at the moment of death "all the graces necessary for salvation". A more wonderful promise could hardly be conceived, for it concerns success or failure in "the most important business, our only business: the great affair of our eternal salvation".17
We have seen that it is not required that the confession be made on the first Saturday itself. If due to any necessity, it can be fulfilled even beyond eight days, but there must at least be a monthly confession. However, it is certain that, as far as possible, it is preferable that the confession be made on a day close to the first Saturday.
The thought of making Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary must equally be present. In this way, notes Father Alonso, "the soul adds to the principal motive of sorrow for our sins — which will always be that sin is an offense against God, Who has redeemed us in Christ — another motive for sorrow, which will undoubtedly exercise a beneficial influence: sorrow for the offense given to the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of the Virgin Mary."18
The Communion of Reparation, of course, is the most important act of the devotion of Reparation. All the other acts center around it. To understand its meaning and significance, it must be considered in relation with the miraculous Communion of autumn 1916; already this communion was completely oriented to the idea of Reparation,19 thanks to the words of the Angel. The Communion of Reparation must also be considered in relation to the Communion on the nine First Fridays of the month, requested by the Sacred Heart at Paray-le-Monial.
Someone might object: to receive Communion on the first Saturday of five consecutive months is almost impossible for many of the Faithful, who have no Mass in their parish on that day … Such is the question Father Gonçalves, Lucy’s confessor, put to her in a letter of May 29, 1930:
"If one cannot fulfill all the conditions on a Saturday, can it be done on Sunday? People in the country, for example, will not be able very often, because they live quite far away..."20
Our Lord gave the answer to Sister Lucy during the night of May 29-30, 1930: "The practice of this devotion will be equally acceptable on the Sunday following the first Saturday when My priests, for a just cause, allow it to souls."21 Thus not only the Communion, but also the recitation of the Rosary and meditation on the mysteries can be transferred to Sunday, for just motives of which priests are left the judges. It is easy to ask for this permission in confession. Note once again the Catholic, ecclesial character of the Message of Fatima. It is to His priests, and not to the individual conscience, that Jesus gives the responsibility of granting this additional concession.
After so many concessions, who could still claim that he was unable to fulfill the requests of the Virgin Mary?
In each of the six apparitions of 1917, Our Lady requested people to recite the Rosary every day. Since it is a question of repairing for offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, what other vocal prayer could be more pleasing to Her?22
In addition to the recitation of the Rosary, Our Lady requests fifteen minutes of meditation on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. This does not mean, of course, that a quarter of an hour is required for each mystery! Just one quarter of an hour is required for all! Neither is it indispensable to meditate each month on the fifteen mysteries. Lucy writes to Father Gonчalves: "To keep Our Lady company for fifteen minutes, while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary." To her mother, Maria Rosa, Lucy wrote essentially the same thing on July 24, 1927, suggesting only a meditation on some of the mysteries, left to free choice:
"Mother, I would also like you to give me the consolation of adopting a devotion which I know to be very agreeable to God, and which our dear Mother in Heaven has requested. As soon as I learned of it, I desired to adopt it, and see the whole world practice it.
"I hope therefore, Mother, that you will answer me by saying that you will practice it, and also try to get everyone else over there to practice it. You could not give me a greater consolation.
"It consists simply in doing what is written on this little image. The confession can be done another day, other than Saturday. The fifteen minutes (of meditation) might, I think, give you some trouble, but it is quite easy. Who would have difficulty thinking about the mysteries of the Rosary? To think about the Annunciation of the Angel to Mary and the humility of our dear Mother, who seeing Herself so exalted, calls Herself the Handmaid of the Lord; at the Passion of Jesus, Who suffered so much for our love; and of our Most Holy Mother near to Jesus on Calvary? Who could not spend fifteen minutes in these holy thoughts, before the most tender of mothers?
"Goodbye, dear mother. Console in this way our Mother in Heaven, and try to get many others to console Her in the same manner. In this way you will give myself also an unimaginable joy
"Your most devoted daughter, who kisses your hand."23
In this beautiful letter, Sister Lucy insists on the sixth condition, which is the principal one: each of these devotions must be accomplished "in the spirit of Reparation", towards the Immaculate Heart of Mary: "console in this way our Mother in Heaven ...", she wrote.
Without this general intention, without this will of love which desires to make Reparation to Our Lady to console Her, all these external practices are by themselves not enough to obtain the magnificent promise. This is clear.
The practice of the Communion of Reparation must be attentive and fervent. Our Lord explained this to Sister Lucy in His apparition of February 15, 1926: "It is true, My daughter, that many souls begin (the practice of the fifteen Saturdays), but few persevere to the end, and those who persevere do it to receive the graces promised for it. Souls that make the Five First Saturdays with fervor and to make Reparation to the Heart of your Mother in Heaven please Me more than the tepid and indifferent who make the fifteen ..."24 Our Lady asks so little, but precisely so that we might apply ourselves to it from the heart. This does not mean that it will always be with much sensible fervor, according to the great maxim of spirituality: "To will to love is to love."
The brief words of the Child Jesus and Our Lady on December 10, 1925, say it all. They suffice to make us understand the true spirit of this devotion of Reparation:
"Look, My daughter, at My Heart surrounded by thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude … without there being anyone to make an act of Reparation to remove them … You, at least, try to console Me."
This image, which is so expressive, says it all: the blasphemies and ingratitude of sinners are like so many cruel thorns, which only we can remove by our acts of love and Reparation. For love, or "compassion", is the soul of all these practices. It is a question of consoling the Immaculate Heart of "the tenderest of mothers", which is so outraged.
Lucy had understood this perfectly at that very moment. The end of her letter to Monsignor Pereira Lopes, where she describes the apparition of the Child Jesus on February 15, 1926, is eloquent witness to this fact:
"Immediately after, He disappeared without my learning anything more of the desires of Heaven until now.
"And as for my own desires, (she continues) may a flame of divine love be lighted in souls so that, being sustained in this love, they might really console the Sacred Heart of Mary. I have at least the desire to console a great deal my dear Mother in Heaven, in suffering much for Her love."25
The originality of this message must be stressed.26 For here there is no question, at least essentially, of consoling the Blessed Virgin by having compassion of Her Heart pierced by the sufferings of Her Son. To be sure, the Message of Fatima presupposes this aspect of Catholic piety, which is already traditional. On October 13, 1917, Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows appeared in the sky to the three shepherds.27 However, the most precise meaning of the reparatory devotion requested at Pontevedra consists not so much in meditation on the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary as in considering the offenses which the Immaculate Heart of Mary now receives from ungrateful men and blasphemers who reject Her maternal mediation and scorn Her divine* prerogatives. All these are so many thorns which must be taken from Her Heart by loving practices of Reparation to console Her, and also to obtain pardon for the souls who have had the audacity to offend Her so gravely.
Nothing could better help us understand the true spirit of the Reparation requested by Our Lady of Fatima than the account of an important revelation Sister Lucy was favored with on May 29, 1930.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: The Blessed Virgin Mary, although She is a mere creature, because God has made Her truly the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven, She can rightly be said to have divine prerogatives.
10. Alonso, La Gran Promesa del Corazon de Maria en Pontevedra, page 45.
11. The great promise of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at Pontevedra does not fail to remind us, in a striking fashion, of the great promise of the Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary. But since this analogy is not the only one, we prefer to include in it the examination of a more complete parallel between the two messages of Paray-le-Monial and Fatima. In effect, the revelation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary mutually clarify and shed light on each other. We shall be able to explain this more clearly when we shall have progressed further in the explanation of the Message of Fatima.
12. Father F. Beringer, Les indulgences, leur nature et leur usage, Volume I, Number 767, Fourth edition, Lethielleux, 1925.
13. July 1, 1905, ibid., Number 760.
14. Ibid., Number 762.
15. See The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume I, page 159, pages 163-164.
16. Beringer, op. cit., Number 762. The Pope granted, in addition to the plenary indulgence, the right to the apostolic blessing with the indulgence at the point of death.
17. See Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, Preparation for Death, Twelfth Consideration, "The Importance of Salvation".
18. La Gran Promesa del Corazon de Maria en Pontevedra, page 75; cf. infra. Part II, Chapter VII, note 21, note 4.
19. See The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume I, pages 86-87.
20. Documentos, page 407; See Fatima et le Coeur Immaculé de Marie, page 46.
21. Sister Lucy’s reply, received by Father Gonçalves on June 12, 1930. Documentos, page 411; See Fatima et le Coeur Immaculé de Marie, page 47.
22. See The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume I, pages 296-298.
23. Documentos, page 403. For this meditation one may follow Sister Lucy’s advice. See The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume II, Appendix III. Also see page 26 of this booklet.
24. Documentos, pages 479-481.
25. Uma Vida, pages 351-353.
26. Which distinguishes it very clearly, for example, from the message of Berthe Petit, which Mother Montfalim, the Dorothean Provincial Superior, was helping to spread in Portugal at that time. See Father Duffner, Berthe Petit et la dévotion au Coeur Douloureux et Immaculé de Marie, page 147: Mother Montfalim had known Berthe Petit in Switzerland, during the World War. (Fourth Edition, Camaldolese Benedictines, La Seyne-sur-Mer, Var.)
27. See The Whole Truth About Fatima, Volume I, page 303.
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