Editor’s note: Fr. Messias D. Coelho, an outstanding authority on the message of Our Lady, was the editor of the Portuguese religious newspaper, The Message of Fatima, as well as professor in the seminary at Fundao, Portugal. Although his English is not the most fluid, his words are an important historical commentary on the Fatima Message. This article is the eleventh in this series of lectures, transcribed by Howard Earp from audio recordings. We believe that this is their first appearance in a periodical.
Those of us who have made a consecration to Our Lady belong to her in a special way, more than others who have not consecrated themselves to her. If Our Lady came to Fatima to ask us to accomplish our own daily duties, she herself is always giving us proof that she too is accomplishing her own duties towards those who are consecrated to her. Let me give you some examples.
The day before yesterday we saw some slides on the shrines of Our Lady, one of which was the shrine of Pontmain. Pontmain was a small village which had been consecrated to Our Lady. There were thirty-nine men of Pontmain who were soldiers in the French-Prussian war. This was a terrible war in which the Prussians took a third of France, expelled French people from the country, and captured the emperor. Many people were killed. When we go on our pilgrimage to these sanctuaries, we will see a monument in every town to those who were killed during the course of three wars: the French-Prussian war, World War I, and World War II.
Thirty-nine men from Pontmain went to war. On the day they left Pontmain the parish priest invited them to Mass. He celebrated a special Mass for them, and then made a consecration of them to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At the end of the ceremonies he told them, “You may go out with joy because I assure you that every one of you will come back safe.” That is just what happened: all of them came back alive and safe. If you go to Pontmain and visit that church, you will find there a marble stone with the inscription that thirty-nine soldiers of Pontmain are grateful to Our Lady because all of them came back alive and safe from the war.
Why were these men so much protected by Our Lady? Because they belonged to her more than the others. They were in the worst battles, where most of the French soldiers were killed. What was it that protected those soldiers? Our Lady. She had a special right to defend them. They were more hers than the others because they had made a special consecration.
Let us look at an example showing the protection of Our Lady over something that is consecrated to her. The last apparition of Our Lady approved by the Church was, as you know, in Banneux. In this town there is a miraculous fountain Our Lady reserved for those who suffer. Banneux has now a big name — Banneux Notre Dame — which means Banneux of Our Lady. Do you know why? Because in the beginning of this century, the parish priest, along with the mayor of Banneux, consecrated this village to Our Lady. To remind everyone of this consecration they added, with the approval of the authorities, the name of Our Lady to this village, which is now called Banneux of Our Lady.
Then came the Second World War. As you know, Belgium was invaded first by the Germans, who destroyed many towns as they went across the country, even in the southern part called Arlon near Liege. Liege was almost completely destroyed by the Germans. Then Belgium was invaded again by American and British soldiers when they defeated the German army. Many other towns were almost completely destroyed.
In the small town of Banneux, however, no one was killed. Not even a window pane was broken by a bomb. It was not harmed at all, even though it was in the middle of the invasions. Why? This was due to the protection of Our Lady. She has the right to use us as she wants, and she has a special duty to protect us, just as others have of defending their children from every danger. She uses all her power to defend us after our consecration because we completely belong to her, just as we use all our power to defend our homes from our enemies. If enemies attack our home we call the police; we do all we can to protect our homes because they are ours. This is our obligation. Our Lady feels that she is obliged to defend us.
Who can be consecrated to Our Lady? What is the effect of consecration in ourselves? We have only seen the effect in Our Lady; let us now see it in ourselves. There are three things. First of all, according to this precept that we have seen, once we have been given to Our Lady, we should rely on her; we should trust in her. The second effect, now that she has a right over us, is that we should live this consecration. And what does that mean?
The most essential requirement is that we should desire everything that she wishes. Here at Fatima she revealed her will. “Why do you come to this earth?” Lucia asked. And she revealed why she came. “What do you want from us?” And she told us what she wanted. What she wants is the living of her Fatima message. So let us see what makes up the essential parts of the message of Fatima. We can sum them up in three points, prayer, penance, and the Eucharist.
Prayer. Our Lady made many requests for prayer. There is vocal prayer and there is mental prayer. She asked for fifteen minutes meditation, as you know. She made a demand for a prayer that is both mental and vocal — the Rosary. In the Fatima message we should distinguish between what is essential and what is not essential, what Our Lady demands and what she invites us to do. Her message has some invitations and some orders. The order here is the Rosary, “I want you to say the Rosary every day.” She does not say, “I ask you” — she says “I want.” The Portuguese word that she used is quero, which means “I want” you to say the Rosary every day. So say the Rosary. This is the most essential part of her order: the DAILY ROSARY. So only those who are willing to say the Rosary every day can be consecrated to Our Lady — only those who are willing. It may be that some do not say the Rosary every day because they have difficulties that excuse them. But they should always want to do so if possible; otherwise they will be against her wish. This is what she wants, “I want you to say the Rosary every day.”
The Eucharist. There are many things about the Eucharist in the Fatima message. The Eucharist was carried in the hands of the Angel, as you know. The priest offers the Eucharist in the Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Mass we offer Christ to God. We have Christ in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, in all-night vigils, and so forth. What is the most essential point regarding the Eucharist upon which Our Lady insisted? The Communion of Reparation on First Saturdays.
Before going on, let me tell you that this Communion is different from the devotion of the First Five Saturdays, which is only for five months. When you have completed five months, you have finished the devotion. Of course, you can repeat it, but to receive the grace that Our Lady promised, you need only five months. The Communion of reparation on First Saturdays, however, is for your entire life. You are to receive Holy Communion in reparation on First Saturdays every month you are able to go to Holy Communion. The confession of reparation, the rosary of reparation, the meditation of reparation — these belong to the other devotion, the devotion of the Five First Saturdays. The latter devotion is to attract the grace of salvation for yourself: “For those who do this, I promise to be present at the hour of their death with all the graces they need.” That is different. Our Lady asked for this to give peace to the world, to stop war. By this act of reparation, we offer her the Body and Blood of Christ — which, as you know, is infinite — and she in turn offers It to God. This is what reparation means: we give everything to her and then she gives it to God.
Those of you who have difficulties in going on the First Saturday can do so on the following day, Sunday. To do this we should have two things: first of all, a just reason — not any reason, but a just reason; and second, a priest to approve this reason. You may have to do this if your schedule does not fit into the parish schedule. You are allowed to change this for yourself, for your children and your relatives. Of course, you may go to Communion every day.
Penance. There are many aspects of penance in the Fatima message: the penance Our Lady ordered, and the penance she asked for, inviting us. The children were doing penance when they found the rope and tied it around their waists to suffer, and when they ate things that only beasts eat, and drank dirty water from the lake. They did many things like this.
What is the penance that Our Lady orders from us? It is only this: first of all, to accept every suffering coming from God with submission. Let us consider another point which will make this more clear: to accomplish our daily duty as perfectly as possible, as Christians always should do. This is the penance Our Lady ordered.
How can we know when our suffering comes from God? Very easily. Everything that does not come from your own will comes from God, even when it comes through someone who is a pagan, because there are only three origins of pain and suffering:
1) The natural law. We suffer because of the natural law. We are cold in winter and hot in summer. Because of the law of gravity, a stone may roll down a mountain as we pass by and hit us and kill us. All these laws were made for our good, although sometimes the result is suffering. Where does this suffering come from? It comes from Him Who made the law — God.
2) Our own limitations. Sometimes we wish to know everything — about medicine, architecture, art. We may wish we knew all languages. We may wish to visit every country. But it is impossible. We want to know everything, but we cannot. We may want to love everyone, to help everyone who is suffering. We should like to give them money, to comfort them and give them joy. But it is not possible. We may have not the money; we may have not the time. We have limitations. Who gave limitations to our knowledge, to the possibilities of what we can do? God. Therefore every suffering coming from our limitations comes from God.
3) The last point, the third origin of our suffering is the abuse or misuse of our human liberty, our freedom. I will tell you why. There is, for example, a man who marries a woman and has children. But instead of being a good father he spends his time playing and spending all his money. His wife is hungry and children are hungry. They have no money, no bread. His children are innocent; they have no fault. They suffer because this man abused his freedom, his free will. It was God Who gave us our liberty, and the power of using and abusing our liberty. He values so much our freedom that He prefers that we have this power even if it is abused by some. Therefore suffering from others’ abuse of their freedom comes from God.
Every suffering, therefore, that does not come from our own will comes from God: whether through the natural law, our own limitations, or the misuse of human freedom. Our Lady asks us to accept these sufferings, to accept every suffering that God sends us with submission.