In preparation for the Society of St. Pius X’s pilgrimage to Fatima, here is an extract from the book Fatima, A Spiritual Light for Our Times, by Fr. Karl Stehlin. The lives of the three children who saw the apparitions remain an example for each of us.
It is highly significant that Francisco could see Our Lady when she appeared in Fatima, but could not hear her speak. After each apparition, Lucy and Jacinta had to tell him what Our Lady had said. In this way, Our Lady made Francisco a different kind of witness. Accustomed to contemplation in solitude, he was able to consider in a very deep manner what he had seen, undistracted by the conversation which the other two children heard. He could concentrate entirely on contemplating the apparition itself. And this was precisely the purpose of Divine Providence.
Thanks to this divine plan, Francisco had the deepest possible understanding of the vision itself. And what impressed him most during the apparitions?
“I loved seeing the Angel, but I love still more seeing Our Lady. What I loved most of all was to see Our Lord in that light from Our Lady which penetrated our hearts. I love God so much! But He is so sad because of so many sins! We must never commit any sins again.”
“…What is God? We could never put it into words. Yes, that is something indeed which we could never express! But what a pity it is that He is so sad! If only I could console Him!” The theme of “consoling God” is so predominant in his short life that it became somehow his whole spirituality, the centre of his thoughts, words, and actions. “Francisco, which do you like better: to console Our Lord, or to convert sinners, so that no more souls go to hell?” — “I would rather console Our Lord. Didn’t you notice how sad Our Lady was that last month when she said that people must not offend Our Lord any more, for He is already too much offended? I would like to console Our Lord, and after that, convert sinners, so that they won’t offend Him anymore!”
How did Francisco see himself consoling God? Lucy writes: “He spoke little, and whenever he prayed or offered sacrifices, he preferred to go apart and hide, even from Jacinta and myself. Quite often, we surprised him hidden behind a wall or a clump of blackberry bushes, whither he had ingeniously slipped away to kneel and pray, or, as he used to say, ‘to think of Our Lord, Who is so sad on account of so many sins.’” “If I asked him: ‘Francisco, why don’t you ask me to pray with you, and Jacinta too?’ — ‘I prefer praying by myself, so I can think and console Our Lord, who is so sad!’”
But prayer is only one aspect. We can do even more if we try to console God in our sufferings.
From time to time, Francisco used to say: “Our Lady told us, that we would have much to suffer, but I don’t mind. I’ll suffer all that she wishes! What I want is to go to Heaven!” And Lucy said, “One day, when I showed how unhappy I was over the persecution now beginning both in my family and outside, Francisco tried to encourage me with these words: ‘Never mind! Didn’t Our Lady say that we have much to suffer, to make reparation to Our Lord and to Her own Immaculate Heart for all the sins by which They are offended? They are so sad! If we can console Them with these sacrifices, how happy we shall be.’”
Francisco had personal experience of the things he told Lucy and Jacinta, especially during his long sickness which ended in his death. “I asked him sometimes: ‘Are you suffering a lot, Francisco?’ — ‘Quite a lot, but never mind! I am suffering to console Our Lord, and afterwards, within a short time, I am going to heaven!’” He could not imagine heaven as anything other than a place where he could “console God forever.” “It won’t be long now till I go to heaven. When I’m there, I’m going to console Our Lord and Our Lady very much.” And his last words: “Yes, I’ll pray. But look, you’d better ask Jacinta to pray for these things instead, because I’m afraid I’ll forget when I see Our Lord. And then, more than anything else, I want to console Him.”
When Francisco died on April 4, 1919, his parents declared: “He died smiling!”