Those familiar with the Fatima apparitions will recall that Our Lady requested penance, prayer and devotion to her Immaculate Heart. She made this request during six visits to Francisco and Jacinta Marto and their cousin Lucia dos Santos on the 13th of each month from May through October 1917. She asked the children to sacrifice for sinners and observe the Five First Saturdays, which included going to Confession, receiving Holy Communion, praying the Rosary and meditating for 15 minutes on the mysteries of the Rosary over five consecutive months.
She also requested the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart and warned the children that if her requests were not met, there would not be peace in the world and the errors of Russian communism would spread throughout the world. These devotions, she told them, also would be a means by which individuals might help secure their salvation.
During the apparitions, Mary informed them that Francisco and Jacinta would not live much longer but that Lucia must continue on earth to further promote the message and importance of Fatima. She promised Lucia that she would not be left alone in carrying out her mission. Our Lady’s prophecy came true when, in 1918, the young siblings succumbed to the influenza pandemic. After that, Lucia continued to receive visits from both the Blessed Mother and our Lord Jesus.Our Lady’s requests of prayer, penance, sacrifices and devotions were challenging, but the children never failed to fulfill them. They held themselves to high standards and set a formidable example for others. Lucia was no less vibrant in her observances after her cousins had passed away. This caused some people to have the impression that the sacrifices Mary had requested were too great for them to perform and they became discouraged.
In 1943, Our Lord appeared to Sister Lucia and told her that what he desired was the fulfillment of one’s duties in life and sacrifices that fell in accord with adherence to his Law. This type of penance, he said, was possible for everyone.
In 1948, Sister Lucia was interviewed by American Catholic author, John Haffert. She told him that the most important request of Fatima is the fulfillment of one’s daily duty and that praying the Rosary assists one in doing so. Furthermore, she told him, observance of the Five First Saturdays helps one to free oneself from sin and reawakens the commitment to fulfill one’s daily duties.
Why such emphasis on the fulfillment of one’s daily duties? It is by the conscientious attainment of those duties that we sanctify the world.
In his encyclical Christifideles Laici, Pope St. John Paul II said:
The fundamental objective of the formation of the lay faithful is an ever-clearer discovery of one’s vocation and the ever-greater willingness to live it so as to fulfill one’s mission. …The lay faithful, in fact, are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially in this way of life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they manifest Christ to others.
Each one of us has a specific God-given mission and particular duties that go along with that. Regardless of our accomplishments, weaknesses or state of life, we are valuable to God and therefore to Our Lady. When we approach our duties with an attitude of self-sacrifice and holiness, we honor Mary’s requests and glorify God. Doing even the smallest duty with great love and as perfectly as possible is a way of giving witness to our faith.
Additionally, when we remain focused on God’s will for us — in even the smallest tasks — we strengthen our resolve against the evil one who seeks to corrupt and distract us. When we offer a duty well done as a sacrifice of reparation for sins committed against the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts and in petition for the conversion of sinners, we fulfill requests Our Lady made of us at Fatima. Then we are adding to the holy benefit of what were already doing rather than adding things that we might find impossible based on our situation and state of life.
A small example would be a person who has a rotating weekend schedule and therefore is unable to conduct the Five First Saturdays devotion. This is not something they could readily control and does not mean that they are being careless about Our Lady’s requests. It is not a matter of minimizing the requests of Fatima but of holding oneself to the task of sanctifying all that we think, say and do for the sake of those requests.
Certainly, it is optimal that we do all that Mary specified at Fatima, but whether we are able to or not, we can and should strive to fulfill our daily duties with the penitential spirit and in accordance with God’s law