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Lent 1997

The Angel of Fatima and the Eucharist

Part III

Union With God

By the time of the third apparition of the Angel of Portugal in the fall of 1916, the three shepherd children had already made considerable progress in the spiritual life. Surely, the Angel was a great help, yet all the lights and helps of the Angel are useless, unless these seeds of grace fall upon the soil of good and generous hearts. What is especially admirable in the children was their generosity and perseverance. Formerly, in their zeal for play and in the corresponding lack of the same for prayer, they had abbreviated the rosary down to 50 mini-ejaculations: "Hail Mary!" "Holy Mary". After the Angels first visit they began to pray the entire rosary and would pray the prayer of "My God I believe" for hours on end. On occasion Francisco would have to tell his cousins that dusk had fallen, and that they should have to hurry to get the sheep home before dark.

After the second visit from the Angel when he taught them the great value of penance and sacrifice, they became intimates of the mysteries of this science of love. They quickly learned that the poor children of the village were most willing to relieve them of their daily lunch when they took the sheep out to pasture. They learned that you could live on acorns and wild flower bulbs, they learned what penitential chords are and what intercession for sinners is about. They were filled with a burning, and therefore generous love for God.

It fills us with admiration, when we recall infrequency and brevity to these angelic visits. We have a tendency, it seems, to consider the mystical life a matter of frequent, sweet and familiar intercourse with God. Surely, the spiritual life begins with the delightful discovery of the goodness and personal love of God for us as individuals. But this delightful complaisance is only the first part of love; it must be matched by the perfection of love, which consists in our firm resolution to do the will of God and glorify Him in all that we can. It is this will, enlightened and acting in and through the theological virtues that led the shepherd children to such intimacy and union with God. In time, it necessarily led them deeply into the mystery of the Cross; by then the Blessed Mother had entered deeply into their lives offering them further singular graces in the measure that they were disposed. Indeed, at the very beginning on the 13th of May, she asked them: "Are you willing to offer yourselves to God to bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?"

"Yes, we are," was their reply. And the Blessed Mother answered: "Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort." Certainly, Her Immaculate Heart would be a safe refuge for them and an abundant source of grace, of consolation and strength. At the same time, She, the Mediatrix of grace, can never forget how divine grace entered into her own life in a singular way through the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. Surely, this is part of the reason why she sent the Angel to the shepherd children, to prepare them, even as she had been prepared. The culmination of the words of St. Gabriel to her and her loving consent to the will of God, -- "Be it done unto me according to thy word! -- is that the WORD of God takes on flesh in her womb and becomes Man. And the third and final visit of the Angel of Portugal will bring the same WORD of GOD made flesh sacramentally into the souls of the three children. This is why God became man, so that we might be united with Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

The Third Visit:The Eucharist & The "Most Holy Trinity"

The Blessed Sacrament is the key to the third visit of the Angel. Once again he appeared to the children while they were out in the hills busy tending their sheep. Still, they had found time to say their rosary and recite the Angel's prayer. What more could he have to tell them? He had already taught them how to pray and express their love in sacrifice. They had been most generous in their prayers and many sacrifices. But who can exceed God in generosity? Everything God both gives and takes from us in this life is ordered to that perfect gift of Himself, which we first savor in the Blessed Sacrament. So let us focus upon the Lord's invitation to perfect union with Himself in the Eucharist through the ministry of the Angel.

When the Angel appeared to them at the Loca do Cabeço he was "holding a chalice in his hands, with a host above it from which some drops of blood were falling into the Sacred vessel." The Angel left the chalice and host suspended in the air, and prostrated himself upon the ground with the children and prayed the following prayer with them three times:

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners. Amen.

The Angel then rose, and taking the host he gave it to Lucy, and to Jacinta and Francisco he gave the contents of the chalice, saying as he did so: "Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and console your God." Then he prostrated himself once more with the children and repeated the prayer to the Most Holy Trinity three times, then disappeared.

Just as the first prayer, "My God I believe" summarizes the whole of the law and the prophets in as much as it gives us in prayer form the perfect expression of the love of God and neighbor, so does this new prayer, "Most Holy Trinity" resume for us the complete revelation of the New Testament. This consists in the revelation of the Most Blessed Trinity and God's plan for redemption of mankind through the crucifixion and death of the Son of God made Man. His death is made daily present to us anew in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in Holy Communion. The Blessed Mother, His and ours, is the mediatrix of all graces. These two prayers, then, sum up the essential doctrine of the Old and the New Testament; they are essentially biblical in content.

The prayer to the Most Holy Trinity is a most fitting preparation for receiving Holy Communion and a most fitting thanksgiving afterwards. The sacraments of Christ efficaciously produce grace in all those who receive them with the proper disposition. This disposition is greater and lesser among souls according to their cooperation with grace. The lesser cooperation of certain souls explains why years of Holy Communion are incapable of leading many souls to holiness: they do not prepare and dispose themselves properly for this coming of Christ into their souls. If we would pray this prayer or words and thoughts similar to it together with our Guardian Angel, we would surely benefit more from our Holy Communions. If we would pray for others, then more abundant graces would help them to respond more generously to Christ's sacraments.

How sad it is that for many souls, holy communion is over once they have swallowed the host. Rather than conversing intimately with Christ in their hearts, they gawk around the Church, look at their watches and race to the parking lot as soon as mass is over. Here too the Angel instructs us to offer fitting thanksgiving to God. Traditionally, we are encouraged to offer at least 15 minutes in thanksgiving. St. Alphonsus de Ligouri recommended an hour of thanksgiving after mass for priests. Clearly, this is the most precious time of our day, when we have God, Jesus Christ, wholly to ourselves in a 'private audience.' If souls fail to take advantage of His Eucharist presence in their heart, it is scarcely to be believed that they will develop any fervor in their love of God on other occasions.

The Angel's Mission: To Lead us to God

The Angel's mission is to lead us to God, to the place which He has prepared for us. But God is present, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament in every tabernacle in the world. Christ, the Lamb of God, made flesh, assumes the forms of Bread and Wine in order to be with us as our food, so as to be in us our Life and the way to the Father.

In all of this, the Angel is a facilitating friend, a messenger and agent sent by God to help lead the soul to this personal union with God and to school it in the generosity of love. The Angel is like another John the Baptist who rejoices upon hearing the voice of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, Whose way he has prepared, and before Whose presence in the soul, he, the Angel, reverently retires.

Growth in union with God is what the spiritual life is all about. Faith working by charity is the key to holiness. Everything else is secondary. It is not the visions and extraordinary phenomenon which produce saints, but that most mysterious of all cooperations: the cooperation of the individual's free will with the grace of God. In this greatest of dramas the Angel always plays his part. There is a temptation to think, "Oh, if only I had such celestial visions and visits, then I would be a saint too!" Divine Providence invites us all to holiness and provides each one of us with the grace and the means to attain this great goal. The imitation of Christ, His Mother and the saints is the surest path to heaven. When God intervenes prophetically in our world, as He did at Fatima through the Angel and the Blessed Mother, we should recall that He is always divinely with us in all that we think and do.

But that was not enough for the urgings of His love; He chose to remain with us also always in His Humanity. In every tabernacle in the world He is present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity loving us, waiting for us, longing for a reciprocation of our love. The third visit of the Angel is a great lesson in this love of our Lord. He does not wish to remain simply in the tabernacle; He wishes to enter our hearts.

Centuries of Jansenism had caused men's hearts to grow cold. Few dared to receive Holy Communion frequently. Before the consideration of the Divine Majesty, men had forgotten "the desire of Jesus Christ and of the Church [is] that all the faithful should daily approach the sacred banquet is directed chiefly to this end, that the faithful, being united to God by means of the Sacrament, may thence derive strength to resist their sensual passions, to cleanse themselves from the stains of daily faults, and to avoid those graver sins to which human frailty is liable; so that the primary purpose is not that the honor and reverence due to the Lord may be safeguarded, or that it may serve as a reward or recompense of virtue bestowed on the recipients. Hence, the Holy Council [of Trent] calls the Eucharist 'the antidote whereby we may be freed from daily faults and be preserved from mortal sins."1 These words of St. Pius X help us to understand more deeply, why it was that the Angel, after having instructed the children about prayer and sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, should bring them the Blessed Sacrament, which is nothing less than the perfect sacrament of salvation.

In bringing the Blessed Sacrament to the children, the Angel also prophetically instructed them about its place in our spiritual life. Let us briefly consider several relevant points.

Francisco & Jacinta's First Holy Communion

The Angel not only intervened in a singular way, offering the children Holy Communion -- other individuals in the history of the Church, like St. Aloysius Gonzaga, have received Holy Communion from an Angel -- but in this case he also offered Francisco and Jacinta their First Holy Communion. Why did the Angel do this? Lucy had already received her first holy communion the year before. She almost narrowly missed out, for although she knew her catechism better than all the rest of the children, it was thought that she, being only 6 years old, was too young!

Seven years prior to this Pope St. Pius X had mandated that children who had reached the age of reason (approximately seven years of age, give or take some) should be admitted to the First Holy Communion. Pius X showed that this was Christ's will: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Mk 10,14). To be sure, this decree was not new. Children's communion had been practiced in the early Church. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215 A.D.) and later again the Council of Trent had taught that children who had achieved the age of reason should be admitted to the Blessed Sacrament. The Angel's visit, then showed heaven's urgency that this light of the faith about children's communion, hitherto so sluggishly implemented (7 centuries from 1215-1916!), should be implemented with dispatch at the beginning of the 20th Century. Pius X was most concerned, lest children, deprived of this eucharistic embrace of Christ and so 'destitute of this strong help, [and] surrounded by so many temptations, they [might lose] their innocence and [fall] into vicious habits even before tasting the Sacred Mysteries."2

In a prophetic way, the Angel implemented the papal decree inviting Jacinta and Francisco to receive their First Holy Communion at such an early age.

Communion Under Both Species

It is further noteworthy that the Angel offered the Eucharist to the children under the species of the bread and wine, that is to say, he offered Lucy the Host, the Body of Christ, and the chalice of the Precious Blood to Jacinta and Francisco. Hence, we may say that it was the Angel of Fatima who 'reintroduced' Communion under both species back into the Western Church. The Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church have always maintained Communion under both species, perhaps in part, because they have almost always suffered persecutions, whereas this is not the case in the Latin rite. It is, of course, true that we receive the whole of Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity under each species, as the Church has always taught. Beyond this, if we may seek a symbolic reason, it would be this: The bread is a symbol of life, the staff of love, and therefore a communion in the life of Christ; while the Blood, "which has been poured out for you" better symbolizes the sacrifice and death of Jesus.

To drink from Jesus' chalice is to share in His sufferings. This symbolism is carried over into the Eucharist. Thus, the action of the Angel, on the eve of the Communist Revolution, was prophetic, for godless atheism of the 20th Century would spill more blood and send more martyrs to heaven than all the persecutions of all other Centuries combined. The 20th Century is truly the Age of Martyrs in the Church. This is why we may look forward so optimistically to the 21st Century, since the blood of the Martyrs can only presage, indeed, be the cause for a great new spring and flourishing of faith and grace in the Church.

Jacinta: A Victim for Sinners - Francisco: Christ's Consoler

While the Children of Fatima are not martyrs, still in their heroic sufferings they manifested the courage of the martyrs, especially Jacinta and Francisco. Lucy, who received the Host, was called to live as a witness to God's plans of love and mercy through the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, while Jacinta and Francisco, who from the chalice drank the Blood of Christ, were called in a special way to share in His victimal death. Indeed, within a few years each had consummated the holocaust of their life, dying at a very tender age a willing death of victimhood.

Concerning Francisco, Lucy recalls: "While he was ill, Francisco always appeared joyful and content." She asked him occasionally, "Are you suffering a lot?" "Quite a lot," he answered rather candidly, "but never mind! I am suffering to console our Lord, and afterwards, within a short time, I am going to heaven!"

Lucy also asked Jacinta if she was suffering much. The latter also replied, "Yes I am, but I offer everything for sinners, and in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. ... Oh, how much I love to suffer for love of Them [meaning Jesus and Mary], just to give Them pleasure. They greatly love those who suffer for the conversion of sinners."

The other good that is brought home more effectively through Communion under both species is the conscious awareness of the intrinsic link between Holy Communion and the Sacrifice of the Mass. Pope Pius XII expressed the truth rather concisely when he said, "by feasting upon the bread of Angels we can by a "sacramental" communion,.. also become partakers of the sacrifice."3 That is to say, Holy Communion is for the sake of participating in Christ's sacrifice. We receive Holy Communion in order to become one with Christ in His Sacrifice to the Father, in which He desired to accomplish two great goods: to glorify God and save sinners.

Jacinta and Francisco are representatives of these two paths of eucharistic life. Jacinta had an insatiable desire to sacrifice herself for the salvation of sinners whom she loved so much. No sacrifice for their salvation was too great for her; she longed to "repair their crimes." Francisco, on the other hand, was totally filled with the desire of immersing himself in Eucharistic adoration in order to "console your [his] God." Knowing that he would soon die, he discontinued school and would pass the entire day in adoration before the 'hidden Jesus' in the tabernacle. Lucy says that on the way home from school, they would stop at the Church to get him and find him still kneeling in the same place.

Why at the Loca do Cabeço?

The relation of Communion to the Sacrifice of Christ helps understand the significance of the Loca do Cabeço. 'Cabeço' literally means the highest point of a mountain or hill, but the word itself is taken from the comparison to a man, whose highest point is the 'cabeça' or head. Hence, the Angel appeared to the children -- transposing now to the biblical scenario -- at the place of the head or the skull, that is say, the Loca do Cabeço may be seen as a symbolic counterpart of Golgotha. What may we understand by this? At Golgotha we have the true passion and death of Christ in His humanity, which sacrifice is renewed daily in the Sacrifice of the Mass; at the Loca do Cabeço the Angel presented the children with the 'eucharistic passion' of Jesus, Who in the Blessed Sacrament is horribly outraged by the sins of ungrateful men. And so he calls the children, and through them the faithful in the modern world, to repair these crimes and to console their God.

This third, eucharistic visit of the Angel, therefore, proclaims the need for Eucharistic adoration and united prayers and sacrifice to amend the sins of mankind. These, as we know, are the hallmarks of the spirituality in the latter part of our Century; if they had marked its beginning, communism would have failed and there should have been no World War II.

Peace and the Presence of God

This was the last visit of the Angel to the three children. We cannot express more perfectly what the Angel accomplished in his mission than by recalling Lucy's own words:

Impelled by the power of the supernatural that enveloped us, we imitated all that the Angel had done, prostrating ourselves on the ground as he did and repeating the prayers that he said. The force of the presence of God was so intense that it absorbed us and almost completely annihilated us. It seemed to deprive us even of the use of our bodily senses for a considerable length of time. During those days, we performed all our exterior actions as though guided by that same supernatural being who was impelling us thereto. The peace and happiness which we felt were great, but wholly interior, for our souls were completely immersed in God.

By leading the children to Christ in the Eucharist the Angel had accomplished his mission. And while he disappeared, he invisibly continued to guide and support them in the fulfillment of their duties. He had identified himself as the Angel of Peace, and now by uniting them to Christ in the Eucharist, they have gained a great and interior peace and happiness which can only come in union with God, by being 'completely immersed in God."

Behold, Christ is there in the Blessed Sacrament waiting for us; how willing our Angel is to pray with us, to strengthen us in our prayers and sacrifices. Nothing is lacking for us to become holy. "Now the heavenly powers join invisibly with us in adoration. Behold, it is the King of Glory Who is coming in procession. Behold, that which is carried is the mystical sacrifice already completed. In faith and in awe do we approach to participate in life eternal."4

Fr. William Wagner, ORC

FOOTNOTES
1 St. Pius X. Sacra Tridentina Synodus, Dec. 20, 1905.
2 Quam Singular. 1910
3 Mediator Dei. nr. 118.
4 Hymn from the 'Mass of the Presanctified' in the Byzantine Rite which is sung between the consecration and the reception of Holy Communion.

 

ST. FRANCIS DE SALES WRITES IN A LETTER:

"My dear daughter, we must testify to Jesus Christ all our confidence, with the holy apostles and disciples, on whom He did not will to send His Holy Spirit till after He had ascended into heaven. If you ask me why this was, you must first know that the Holy Spirit is the wine of heaven, according to St. Bernard, who said that in heaven there was an overflowing abundance of this wine, It means the joy of the Holy Spirit and beatific jubilee -- but they had not that sacred bread of Christ's humanity. The earth, on the other hand, had this sacred bread, which it made its delight and its joy; it had not that sweet and sparkling wine of the Holy Spirit, which was to inebriate our souls and crown them with joy.

And hence that admirable inference of Jesus Christ's, when He showed His Apostles that it was not right to keep the humanity of Jesus Christ, and at the same time to have this admirable wine of heaven. There must be then, said Jesus Christ, a holy bargain between you and the Angels: you shall infallibly have from heaven that mighty wine of the Holy Spirit, if you share with it your sacred bread which is still on the earth and as it were in your hands -- that is, the humanity of Jesus Christ. I think, my dear daughter, that this is enough to open your heart wide for the reception of the Holy Spirit, and of those tongues of fire and adorable flames."

(Letters to Persons in Religion. Newman, Westminster, MD 1943, pp. 424-425.)