The overall significance of Our Lady of Fatima is straightforward. She implored the children to engage in prayer, reparation, repentance, and sacrifice, and the abandonment of sin. Before Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children, Lucy, Francisco, and Jacinta, the Angel of Peace visited them in order to prepare them to receive Our Lady. The instructions he provided, representing an essential aspect of the Message, are often overlooked.
The Angel demonstrated to the children the fervent, attentive, and composed manner in which we should all pray, and the reverence we should show toward God in prayer. He also explained to them the great importance of praying and making sacrifices in reparation for the offenses committed against God. He told them: “Make of everything you can a sacrifice and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication, for the conversion of sinners.” In his third and final apparition to the children, the Angel gave them Holy Communion, and demonstrated the proper way to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist: all three children knelt to receive Communion; and Lucy was given the Sacred Host on the tongue and the Angel shared the Blood of the Chalice between Francisco and Jacinta.
Our Lady stressed the importance of praying the Rosary in each of Her apparitions, asking the children to pray the Rosary every day for peace. Another principal part of the Message of Fatima is devotion to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, which is terribly outraged and offended by the sins of humanity, and we are lovingly urged to console Her by making reparation. She showed Her Heart, surrounded by piercing thorns (which represented the sins against Her Immaculate Heart), to the children, who understood that their sacrifices could help to console Her.
The children also saw that God is terribly offended by the sins of humanity, and that He desires each of us and all mankind to abandon sin and make reparation for their crimes through prayer and sacrifice. Our Lady sadly pleaded: “Do not offend the Lord our God any more, for He is already too much offended!”
The children were also told to pray and sacrifice themselves for sinners, in order to save them from hell. The children were briefly shown a vision of hell, after which Our Lady told them: “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.”
She said that if people did not stop offending God, He would punish the world severely by means of war, famine, persecution of the Church, and persecution of the Holy Father. To prevent these chastisements, Our Lady offered a remedy: She would return to ask for the Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the Five First Saturdays. If Her requests were heeded, there would be peace. If not, Russia’s errors would spread throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions against the Church, the Holy Father to suffer much, martyrdom of the good and the annihilation of various nations.
Our Lady indicated to us the specific root of all the troubles in the world, the one that causes world wars and such terrible suffering: sin. She then gave a solution, first to individual people, then to the Church’s leaders. God asks each one of us to stop offending Him. We must pray, especially the Rosary. By this frequent prayer of the Rosary, we will get the graces we need to overcome sin. God wants us to have devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to work to spread this devotion throughout the world. Our Lady said, “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.” If we wish to go to God, we have a sure way to Him through true devotion to the Immaculate Heart of His Mother.
When Sister Lucy questioned Our Lord as to why He would not convert Russia without the solemn public consecration of that nation specifically, Jesus answered:
Because I want My whole Church to acknowledge that consecration as a triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that it may extend its homage later on, and put the devotion to This Immaculate Heart beside the devotion to My Sacred Heart.
Thus, we see that the conversion of Russia cannot take place unless and until the Pope and bishops consecrate specifically Russia, because God has reserved this grace — this special grace — to this special act of honor and reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Jesus does this because He wants to establish throughout the world, in the hearts and minds of the faithful, the importance of devotion to His Mother’s Immaculate Heart.
Devotion to the Immaculate Heart is central to the Fatima Message. God determined that the Consecration of Russia and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays be the means of implementing this devotion throughout the world, and gave this task to His Pope and bishops and to individual souls to practice and promote this devotion.
In order to move ever closer to Her, and therefore to Her Son, Our Lady stressed the importance of praying at least five decades of the Rosary daily. She asked us to wear the Brown Scapular. And we must make sacrifices, especially the sacrifice of doing our daily duty, in reparation for the sins committed against Our Lord and Our Lady. She also stressed the necessity of prayers and sacrifices to save poor sinners from hell. The Message of Fatima, to individual souls, is summarized in these things.
Besides these general points, given in the Fatima Message over 6 months, Our Lady confided a Secret to the three shepherd children on July 13, 1917. This Secret was meant for all Catholics, but was to be given to them later (at the latest, in 1960) since no one was prepared to understand it all in 1917.
In her Third and Fourth Memoirs, which were both written in 1941, Sister Lucy revealed to a wider audience the first two parts of the Secret. The third part of the Secret — or, as it is called, the Third Secret — was written down for the first time between January 2 and January 9, 1944.