Every time I receive an email regarding Our Lady of Fatima and her message, it always seems to be one of those overly-used, repetitive messages: one that either asks for the immediate conversion of the world or the “proper” consecration of Russia, one of future predictions or of doom and gloom, but never one of the true invitation and positive message of what the Blessed Mother tried to convey to us. I believe the message of Fatima is much more than one that is based on fear, futuristic, or miracle mongering. The message is so beautiful and rich, and it substantial positivity invites so many people to a great devotion than just something we did not do or need to do right away, else things will be wrong for the rest of the world. If we do not understand and get the message right and make it real, personal, and positive for the common believers, it becomes repulsive and counter-productive to what we are really called to do.
When I was young, I was taught a Marian hymn about Our Lady of Fatima‘s message for the world. In the Vietnamese culture, we almost always end the Mass with a Marian hymn as to ask for the Blessed Mother‘s intercession or to focus on her example of discipleship; so, of course, this hymn quickly became one of my favorites. Even though many will not be able to read the message behind the lyrics, I will explain it to you in a bit later. The name of the hymn is “Lời Mẹ Nhắn Nhủ” and here are the lyrics:
“Năm xưa trên cây sồi, làng Fatima xa xôi. Có Ðức Mẹ Chúa Trời, hiện ra uy linh sáng chói. Mẹ nhắn nhủ người đời: ‘Hãy mau ăn năn đền bồi, hãy tôn sùng Mẫu Tâm, hãy năng lần hạt Mân Côi.’
Mẹ Maria ơi, Mẹ Maria ơi! Con vâng nghe Mẹ rồi. Sớm chiều từ nay thống thối. Mẹ Maria ơi! Xin Mẹ đoái thương nhận lời, cho Nước Việt xinh tươi, đức tin sáng ngời.”
Here is the rough translation of the lyrics:
“In time past, on top the oak tree in a village named Fatima, the Mother of God appeared in glory. She (Mother) reminded the people of the world to seek: repentance of heart, venerate her Immaculate Heart, and pray the Rosary. O Mother Mary, Mary our Mother, I have listened to your message and will try to be sincere and repentance. O Mother Mary, please accept my petition to allow Viet Nam to remain beautiful and (our) faith be radiating.”
I love this hymn because it invites me, as a believer, to truly take the message of Fatima to heart instead of presupposing it with fears or negativities. It grounds the Marian message with a heartfelt invitation and invokes a personal response, so that — whether Viet Nam or any country — the world will remain beautiful by how our faith is lived and radiated in the everyday life. Even though Fatima is a Marian message, it is also the message of the Gospel because it invites us to truly focus on our relationship with God and pray for the greater good of the world, especially for those who are in need.
First, repentance or conversion of heart is needed for all of us. This is the core message of the Gospel and of the Sacred Scriptures in general. We all have to recognize that our life of faith is one of continual conversion of heart and repentance when we have strayed away from God. Even with our best intention to live a life of discipleship, we often time end up being pulled by different things and in many different ways. The things of this world make us worry, anxious, frustrated, and sometimes angry or resentful; and when those matters happen, we start to doubt God‘s goodness, His providence, and divine will for us. It is easy to be yanked around and be distracted by so many appealing and immediate goods in front of us. Yet, these things only provide short-term or temporary satisfaction but they leave us more confused about what is truly good and sustaining. Therefore, to truly love God and live according to our life of discipleship requires many conversions of heart and moments of repentance.
It is also important for us to look at ourselves, ask real questions about our eternal happiness and see the directions where we are actually going. Conversion is not simply guilt or shame-based, it is based out of love — real love for God and our eternal life with Him. It takes a humble heart to recognize what is wrong, what needs to be done, the priorities that are important for our lives, the relationships that are life-giving, real, and true. It takes a genuine heart to love and be able to look at one’s self to recognize whether our priorities have been in order and fixated on the love of God or on other lesser and shallow pleasures and agendas. This is the important message that dictates and defines our lives of discipleship and commitment to love His will. Therefore, the message of repentance and conversion is one that is based on love, the love of God and the love for Him in our neighbors, loving Him above all things and in all things without being held back by personal, selfish, or lesser goods.
Second, we are called to venerate and imitate the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who loves the Lord Jesus Christ with all her heart. She teaches us to seek and follow God‘s will for us beyond our understanding. Her immaculate heart belongs to God and is always fixated on loving Him, even at times she did not understand why or how did things happen the ways they did. She taught us that we need to have our heart fixed on loving God, the personal and intimate knowledge of loving Him in spite of trying or uncertain times. Her immaculate heart reminds us to have a clarity of love, which is based on the real relationship with Christ Jesus, instead of expecting the (false) clarity of whatever goals, plans, things, or desires that we have set out for ourselves, others, and at times, for God Himself, too. The clarity of heart helps to strengthen our will as we seek to love Him with pure intentions and giving of ourselves. This is hard! This is something that we have to be honest, desire, and will ourselves as we learn to love God with the purity and clarity of heart instead of coming into the relationship with personal (unrealistic or constant) expectations, demands, or desires. It is hard because we have been subconsciously conditioned by our consumeristic world to objectify and base our relationship on the level of “return on investment” benefits. Yet, to love God with a pure heart and clear intention can be possible. We can learn much from her immaculate heart who has nothing more important than God Himself.
In letting go and giving of our desires to be in control, we can will and desire to seek and embrace God‘s will for us, especially at times when we are not in control or do not have things our ways. This is counter-cultural and anti-egoistic because it subordinates everything that we have or want, especially our pride, to the love of God and His will for us. In the midst of many changing things, we are called to cleanse our interior and purify our hearts to truly love and seek the will of God above all things. It oftentimes will lead us to be like our Blessed Mother who walked the Way of the Cross and to stood at the foot of the Lord Jesus Christ, suffering and not knowing, yet believing, unite her sorrows with His love and standing by her Son when others abandoned or ignored Him. This is the important lesson of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to truly love and fixate our hearts with purity and clarity as to follow Christ Jesus and love Him at all times. This is the lesson of real faith and true discipleship as to bear and unite all that goes on in life for the love of Christ and the divine will of God for us.
Last, but not least, the message of Fatima includes the invitation to pray the Rosary as the way to sanctify and veil the world from the presence of evil that tries to overtake and direct us away from the love for God. We are called to not just pray the Rosary but to also reflect and meditate on its mysteries, especially as a way to walk with theLord Jesus Christ and our Blessed Mother from the moment of His divine conception to the giving of His life for us on the Cross for the salvation of the world, from the moment of her “YES” to the Almighty to the moment of her coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth because of her fidelity and radical love for God. It is important to pray, not as to get a transactional result of what we want from the Lord, but to learn, imitate, and live out our lives of faith and discipleship through the examples of Him who loves us and the Blessed Mother who unites her heart to His love for humanity through her constant fiat to the will of God.
I believe the message of conversion and repentance, of her Immaculate Heart, and of praying and meditating with the Rosary is an important message for each and every one of us. It is not something negative, scrupulous, and condemning but one that invites true faith, hope, and love for the will of God and our Christian vocation of radical and self-giving discipleship. If we are to change the world, it is not simply through fears or messages of condemnation, but the real message of hope that is based on radical love and self-giving charity for the greater good of all, especially in giving of ourselves and praying for the salvation of the world. If the message of Our Lady of Fatima is to be respected and appreciated, it would have to be enlivened with real faith, hope, and charity among those who believe and desire to follow the will of God for us (personally and universally).
I learned to appreciate and fall in love with the Fatima message because I had seen it through my grandparents’ devotion when we prayed the Rosary together as a family. I learned to love the Blessed Mother through my grandparents’ devotion to her Immaculate Heart as I saw both of them visiting and spending time at the Marian shrine when we went to Mass. I learned to pray and appreciate the message of heartfelt conversion and the call to repentance because I saw through my grandparents and many the genuine devotion of those who truly love God and want to seek His will. I have learned that true repentance and conversion of heart is not just about fear nor motivated by fears, it is about coming back to Him when we recognized that we have strayed away because we know how much He loves us. We repent and change our hearts because we can feel within our own lives how much love God has for us. It is much more than some hidden, mysterious key to the end times that we need to decrypt and scrupulously follow not to be left outside! If we truly love and follow the will of God by having her heart, giving our lives totally and completely to His will, and pray for the salvation and greater good of the world, we do not have to worry about the future for we live in the present moment with Him who loves us and has our hearts.
The message from Our Lady of Fatima has always been a loving and heartfelt one for me because I have seen the examples of how that had been enlivened through the people that I respected and admired as my heroes of faith. I steer away from fear-mongering articles because they do not bring true conversion and contrition, only resentment, apathy, and attrition. Our faith is much more than fear and petty worries. The Blessed Mother invites us to a greater love of the Lord by the giving of our very self to embrace His will for us and the world so that we become holy, loving, and trusting people who truly believe that the grace of God is working to bring all things to fulfillment. People need to see from us that we believe and live this message, full of hope and self-abandonment to His holy will. Therefore, let us end this reflection with the Fatima Prayer that we often attached to the end of each of the decade of the mysteries when praying the Rosary:
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to heaven especially those who are most in need of your mercy.
Help us, Lord Jesus Christ, to never be separated from you but to love you with all of our hearts. Please have mercy us, especially on those who are lost and lead of us back to your fold, so we can all come to know of your love for us and the sweetness of your forgiveness.