The Fatima Message: A Final Chapter?

Somehow I missed hearing about the death of Fr. Nicholas Gruner (April 29), “The Fatima Priest,” whose controversial interpretations of the Fatima Message I have written about in TCT and elsewhere. May he rest in peace. He and other Marian-oriented priests have given me an incentive to investigate the 1917 apparitions at Fatima further, and make pilgrimages to that shrine.

A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary, the recently published biography of Lucia, may bring further clarification to the Fatima message, and even help dispel some of the suspicions that troubled Fr. Gruner and others.

Sr. Lucia’s fellow nuns, the Sisters of Carmel of Coimbra in Portugal, compiled the biography. It offers an account of the events and apparitions in 1917, but is mostly concerned with the aftermath of the apparitions, Lucia’s entry into the Dorothean Order, then the Carmelites, and her final years. Included are Sr. Lucia’s notes and letters, and other documents and correspondences. The treatment is respectful, but not hagiographical. It brings out Lucia’s difficulties in trying to fulfill her mandate as the only one still living one of the three Fatima seers.

She was often challenged by superiors who had different agendas, spiritual advisors who did not agree with each other, a bishop making demands that seemed to conflict with orders from heaven, etc.

Initially, she was allowed to enter the Dorotheans incognito. Her superiors forbade discussion of Fatima in her presence, however, so it became clear to the other sisters that the new religious was the remaining seer. Eventually her superiors allowed people to question her and get advice, request autographs and photographs – all of which caused great discomfort for someone who simply wanted to pursue her religious life like other nuns. She spent many years wrestling with her desire to enter a Carmelite cloister, but encountered much friendly opposition from those who didn’t want to lose her, as well as obstacles from ill health, and life in wartime.

She prayed constantly in making decisions about her vocation, and about her mission of spreading the message of Fatima. But only occasionally after 1917 did she receive special revelations:

  •             December 10, 1925: Our Lady appeared, requesting the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, with Confession and Communion, to make reparation for sins against Her Immaculate Heart.
  •             February 15, 1926: The Child Jesus appeared, encouraging Lucia to make efforts to spread this devotion, in spite of reluctance of superiors. (Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s Memoirs mentions that Our Lord appeared again later and complained that many who start making First Saturdays do not finish them.)
  •             June 13, 1929: Our Lady appeared, asking specifically for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart.
  •             May 1930: Our Lord explained to Lucia five types of offenses and blasphemies against Mary’s Immaculate Heart, and the proper fulfillment of the First Saturdays devotion.
Sister Lucia with St. John Paul II in 1982
  •             1936: Our Lord explained the necessity that the official consecration of Russia be carried out by the Holy Father and the whole Church; and that it will be done, although late.
  •             May 13, 1942: Our Lord appeared and clarified the nature of the sacrifice he was now requiring to make reparations for sin.
  •             In 1943, Lucia was seriously sick and in danger of death, the Bishop of Leiria visited and ordered her to write down the third part of the Secret. She protested that she had no order from heaven to do so, but the bishop said the responsibility was his and reminded her to be obedient. This caused great distress. She tried a number of times to obey the command, but her hand froze.
  • Finally, on Jan 3, 1944, Our Lady appeared, and said, “Do not be afraid, God wanted to prove your obedience, faith, and humility. Be at peace and write what they order you, but do not give your opinion of its meaning.” Lucia explained thereafter that she could only repeat the details of the vision, but not divulge Mary’s explanation.

Lucia made very few comments about the future, though a couple mentioned Portugal: “In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved.” But: “If Portugal does not approve abortion then it is safe, but if approved it will have much to suffer.”

About the consecration of Russia, she encountered many difficulties, but was a stickler (like Fr. Gruner, in a way). In October 1942, she told Pius XII it was not done, “because it lacked the union with all of the bishops of the world.” Regarding Pope Paul VI’s consecration on May 13, 1967, “They asked me if it was done as Our Lady requested. I answered no, for the same reason.” In a letter, she writes: “When John Paul II made it on May 13, 1982, they asked me then if it was done. I said no. It lacked the union with all the bishops.” Finally, “this same Supreme Pontiff John Paul II wrote to all the bishops of the world asking them to unite with him. . .and on March 25, 1984 – publicly and in union with all the bishops of the world who wished to unite – made the Consecration as Our Lady requested. They asked me then if it was made as Our Lady had asked for it, and I said yes. Since then it is done.”

All in all, Lucia appears in the biography as a humble and nondescript shepherdess, entrusted by the Queen of Heaven with a mission to the world, and secrets, but for the most part dealing with day-to-day crosses, trying to be faithful to her vocation as a religious while escaping the limelight.

The initial Fatima message in 1917 is still of the utmost importance, and in great need of implementation: “Jesus. . .wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. To those who accept this, I promise them the salvation of their souls and they will be loved by God like flowers placed by me to adorn His throne.”


Howard Kainz, Emeritus Professor at Marquette University, is the author of twenty-five books on German philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, and religion, and over a hundred articles in scholarly journals, print magazines, online magazines, and op-eds. He was a recipient of an NEH fellowship for 1977-8, and Fulbright fellowships in Germany for 1980-1 and 1987-8. His website is at Marquette University.