Fatima, The Message for Our Times
Angelus Press: There have been many books published on the “facts” of Fatima. Why did it seem useful to you to write another one?
Fr. Labouche: The answer to your question is in the title of the book: Fatima, the Message for Our Times. I did my best to tell the story of Fatima, yes, but also to show that the effective remedy for the great evils of our times lies in a generous response to Our Lady of Fatima’s requests. I also did my best to take a look at the situation one hundred years after her apparitions.
I lived in Portugal for 10 years. My contact with the families of the seers (especially Joao Marto, Francisco and Jacinta’s older brother), the facts I observed, the places I visited, and my various researches, all persuaded me to transmit these imperishable memories.
Lastly, I hope that by referring to the major works on Fatima and the major works of Mariology I will have offered readers a humble synthesis for this centenary of the Apparitions of God’s Masterpiece, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who is also the Mother of our souls in this 21st century.
Angelus Press: First of all, what is the origin of the name Fatima?
Fr. Labouche: The name comes from a Muslim princess named “Fatima” who converted to Christianity in 1158 and married a gallant knight, Gonçalo Herminguès. She died shortly afterwards, and her heartbroken husband consecrated himself to God in the Cistercian abbey of Alcobaça. The abbey founded a little monastery in the neighboring mountains and sent Brother Gonçalo to it. He had his wife’s remains transferred to the chapel of this monastery which, after many transformations, became…. the parish church that stands in Fatima today.
Angelus Press: Can you give us an idea of the historical context in Portugal in the beginning of the century?
Fr. Labouche: With the action of the Freemasons and the growing influence of the ideas of the French Revolution, Portugal had become the most secularized country in the world. The law of the separation of Church and State, promulgated in 1911, was so disastrous that the very same year, during a congress of free-thinkers, Afonso Costa did not hesitate to proclaim “that within two generations, Catholicism would be completely eliminated from Portugal.”
The years that followed were among the darkest in Portuguese history. Anarchy and ungodliness contended in every way with the Catholic religion and sought its destruction. Only a miracle could save la terra de Santa Maria.
But in 1901, Catholics began to react, especially the students of Coimbra; they came together to study and diffuse the teachings of the social encyclicals of the popes. One of these students was a certain Antonio Oliveira Salazar.
The students united prayer, study, and action, and turned to the woman who had been named Queen of Portugal on October 20, 1646: the Virgin Mary. In 1915, they launched a Rosary Crusade that was so successful that the churches of Lisbon were full throughout the entire month of Mary. Many officers in uniform were even seen!
Two years later, the Virgin Mary Herself, under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary, came to Fatima to repeat six times the Crusade’s byword: “Recite the rosary every day!” The state of affairs of the Church in Portugal improved so quickly that as early as April 29, 1918, Pope Benedict XV spoke of the “extraordinary help,” the “singular quoddam auxilium,” of the Mother of God.
Angelus Press: Why did these three shepherd children receive this privilege?
Fr. Labouche: Why these children and not others? That is God’s secret. But it is certain that the excellent Christian education they received, and their beautiful natural qualities provided good ground for the great graces they received at the Cova da Iria and to which they would be faithful to the point of heroic virtue.
Angelus Press: You consecrated a chapter to the “Precursor Angel” who appeared to the children in 1915. What was his purpose?
Fr. Labouche: To prepare Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta to accept generously the mission that was to be theirs: to console God, to make reparation for the offenses made against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to save many poor sinners through their prayers and sacrifices. Later, through her writings, Lucia would spend eighty years making known to the world the messages of Our Lady of Fatima.
The Portuguese clergy had been asking for the Angel of Portugal to come for centuries on the liturgical feast of the Guardian Angel of the kingdom, instituted in 1504 by Pope Leo X.
Angelus Press: And then came the “big day,” May 13, 1917. What happened?
Fr. Labouche: A little before noon, Lucia suddenly saw a flash of lightning in the sky; although there were no clouds, Lucia told Francisco and Jacinta that it would be wiser to go home when suddenly, above a little holm oak, a Beautiful Lady appeared to them, “all of light.” She came from the heavens, from the direction of the sun, and she wore a white dress, adorned with gold, and a white veil on her head. She was “more brilliant than the sun. We were so close to her that we were surrounded by the light that came from her.”
Then the vision said she was from Heaven and recalled the last ends of all men. The three shepherd children had the joy of hearing from her lips that they would go to Heaven. She then spoke the following grave words: “Do you wish to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?” “Yes, we do,” answered Lucia. “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort. Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.”
Our Lady would repeat this request at every single one of her apparitions.
Angelus Press: And then the Blessed Virgin’s visits were repeated on the 13th of each month until October 13, except for the month of August, when she came on the 19th. Why was this?
Fr. Labouche: The apparition on June 13 was very important: it was the revelation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, asking for reparation for the offenses made against it. Fatima is to this Holy Heart what Paray-le-Monial is to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The one on July 13 was the most impressive for the children, for they saw hell as it is, with so many poor souls falling into it. This vision, along with that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, greatly contributed to the sanctification of the shepherd children.
Then the Blessed Virgin told them that God wishes her Immaculate Heart to be honored and consoled, especially through the devotion of the Five First Saturdays. She also said that she would come to request the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart: she did so on June 13, 1929, in Tuy.
In August, the children saw Our Lady on the 19th, because on the 13 they were imprisoned by the mayor of Vila-Nova de Ourem, Arturo de Oliveira Santos. He even threatened to fry them in boiling oil if they continued to say that the Virgin Mary was appearing to them and speaking to them in Fatima. They heroically held their ground.
On August 19, not far from Aljustrel, their native village, the Beautiful Lady invited the three children to work effectively for the salvation of sinners: “Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because they have no one to make sacrifices and pray for them.” This little “because” tells us that a causal relation exists between the lack of prayer and sacrifice and the eternal loss of thousands of souls, and it invites us to be fervent and generous so that many souls in danger of being lost forever may be saved!
Angelus Press: For the chapter on the last apparition on October 13, you chose the title “The Sign from God.”
Fr. Labouche: The expression “the finger of God” that is used by Our Lord in the Gospel means the same thing. It is something that only the divine power can accomplish: a miracle, that Our Lady of Fatima had promised twice.
On October 13, in the presence of 70,000 people, the sun suddenly took on the form of an immense silver disk. It shone intensely but did not blind. “Suddenly, the sun began to tremble, to make quick movements and finally to spin at a dizzying pace, “like a wheel of fire, taking on all the colors of the rainbow” (Maria do Carmo).
Then “a clamor was suddenly heard,” tells Dr. Almeida Garret, “like a cry of anguish from the whole crowd. Still spinning rapidly, the sun seemed to detach itself from the firmament and advance, blood red, towards the earth, threatening to crush us with its fiery mass. Those were terrifying seconds!”
Finally, after ten minutes, the sun returned to its spot. When everyone was sure the danger had passed, there was an explosion of joy. Everyone broke out in shouts of thanksgiving: Miracle! Miracle! Blessed be Our Lady!”
In August 1990, I was personally able to speak with a very elderly couple who had witnessed the miracle of the sun 73 years earlier; everything they told me is in my book.
Sister Lucia’s Memoirs and the many testimonies of those who saw the miracle of the sun are very clear: it was an apocalyptic scene, a sort of “practice run for the end of time” (Fr. Calmel).
Never had Our Lady used such means (the revelation of her Immaculate Heart, the vision of hell, the miracle of the sun, an exceptionally large aurora borealis) to get men to take her requests seriously. Are they taken seriously today? The times are serious.
Angelus Press: In the conclusion of this chapter, you wrote: “2016… Under the sun of Fatima, thousands of visitors meander, mostly careless pilgrims or simple tourists. Its rays are silent.” What were you insinuating?
Fr. Labouche: I believe we are heading towards a chastisement. It may be a war, or worse yet, the loss of the Faith, the apostasy of the nations that were once Christian, a bloody persecution of the Church.
Angelus Press: After that day, what happened?
Fr. Labouche: First there was the mysterious aurora borealis on March 25, 1938, that had been foretold by Our Lady on July 13, 1917; then came World War II. The regions of the world where the glow was seen correspond remarkably with the zone of Christianity that was about to be lit on fire by the war.
Sister Lucia immediately interpreted it as the sign of “God’s justice, ready to fall heavily upon guilty nations. Know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war,” Our Lady of Fatima had said in July of 1917.
A month and a half later, German troops took Vienna. The Anschluss was established. On September 1, 1939, Poland was invaded. It was the beginning of the second world war, which would be worse than the first, leaving in its wake 40 to 50 million dead, 70 million gravely wounded, entire cities destroyed.
Angelus Press: About 70 years before Fatima, Our Lady appeared in France, in La Salette. Are there any similarities or connections between the contents of the two messages?
Fr. Labouche: Indeed, at La Salette, just like at Fatima, Our Lady gave the world a serious warning. But at Fatima, precise and powerful remedies were also given to us by Heaven: the daily recitation of the rosary, the devotion of the five First Saturdays, the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the sanctification of our souls by accomplishing our duty of state as Christians. We must do what it is in our power to do while there is still time! Our Lady of Fatima encourages us so that we will be able to say like St. Paul, even to the point of martyrdom if need be: “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the Faith.”