This issue coincides with the conclusion of the “Year of the Eucharist.” It has been a year when the Pope hoped to renew the faith of Catholics in the Holy Eucharist as Sacrifice and Sacrament. The Church is “the Church of the Eucharist.” The mystery of the Holy Eucharist is a major part of the Fatima message which popes have called “a reaffirmation of the Gospel.”
All Marian Shrines, located at sites of Church approved apparitions, are Eucharistic centered. This is certainly true with the message of Fatima and its shrine in Portugal. The Fatima message both begins and ends with emphasis on Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
The year before Our Lady appeared to the three little shepherds in the parish of Fatima the Angel appeared holding in his hands a chalice surmounted by a host from which some drops of blood were falling into the chalice. After profoundly adoring God in the Eucharist the Angel gave the children Holy Communion. “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ ...” The bleeding Host reminds us that the Eucharist effected at the celebration of the Mass perpetuates the Sacrifice of the Cross.
A year after the Angel of the Eucharist appeared at Fatima in 1916, the Mother of God appeared on May 13, the Liturgical Feast of Our Lady of the Eucharist. She immediately drew the children to our Eucharistic Lord. When Our Lady opened her hands for the first time, shedding on the children a light so intense that it seemed as a reflex glancing from her hands and penetrating to the inmost recesses of their hearts, making them see themselves in God, who was that Light, by an interior impulse, communicated to them, they fell on their knees, repeating in their hearts: “Oh, most Holy Trinity, I adore You! My God, my God, I love You in the most Blessed Sacrament!”
You will read in this issue how Sister Lucia’s priest-nephew, with whom I was acquainted, at my request asked Sister Lucia, “What is the most important part of the Fatima message.” Sister Lucia said she wanted to think about it for a couple days. Then she answered: “The most important part of the Fatima message is at the beginning. At the Cabeco with the Angel.” It was at the Cabeco that the Angel of the Eucharist appeared with the bleeding Host, led the children to adore the Eucharist with him, and gave them Holy Communions of Reparation. With all this the little shepherds experienced an intense presence of God; silence was imposed on them. They felt a great peace and joy which left their souls entirely immersed in God.
During the July apparition when the vision of hell was shown, Mary said, “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” Mary then spoke of punishments to befall the world but conditioned the warning with: “In order 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 Saturday ...”
Finally, June 13, 1929, Our Lady said the time had come for the Collegial Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart “to save it by this means.” That revelation was given to Sr. Lucia in this Trinitarian and Eucharistic context:
“Suddenly the whole chapel was illumined by a supernatural light, and a cross of light appeared above the altar, reaching to the ceiling. In a bright light at the upper part of the cross could be seen the face of a man and his body to the waist (Father), on his breast there was a dove also of light (Holy Spirit) and, nailed to the cross, was the body of another man (Son). Somewhat above the waist, I could see a chalice and a large Host suspended in the air, on to which drops of blood were falling from the face of Jesus Crucified and from the wound in His side. These drops ran down on to the Host and fell into the chalice. Our Lady was beneath the right arm of the cross (... it was Our Lady of Fatima with her Immaculate Heart ... in her left hand ... without sword or roses, but with a crown of thorns and flames. ..). Under the left arm of the cross, large letters, as of crystal clear water which ran down over the altar, formed these words: ‘Graces and Mercy.’”
With Fatima being Eucharistic centered you can see why, when asked to write my autobiography, A Priest is a Priest Forever, I wrote, “Fatima has colored my priesthood.” The doctrines on the role of Mary and the Eucharist always affected my spiritual life. They were doctrines I already knew from Scripture and the magisterial teachings of the Church. But through Fatima they became much more alive and personal in my priestly spiritual life and in my role as a teacher of the faith when my heart became embedded with the Fatima message. Fatima offers a balanced spirituality that is Trinitarian, Christological, Marian and Contemplative.
As a priest, during the Year of the Eucharist, I gave special intense Eucharistic homilies at Masses here at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, Alabama.
I pray that reading this issue will inspire your faith and love for our Eucharistic Lord. RJF