1.2. The Immaculate Heart of Mary, Salvation of Souls.

«This vision (Lucy continues) lasted only a moment... otherwise I believe we would have died of fright.


«Terrified, and as if to plead for succour, we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and so sadly: “You have seen Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart”

Such are the words in which Our Lady Herself wished to give us the lesson to be drawn from the terrifying vision of Hell. These are gentle, calming words, full of a warm hope. For never does God reveal to us the terrible danger of our eternal damnation without immediately opening to us the arms of His mercy, indicating to us a way of salvation which is easy, accessible, and so attractive!

After the atrocious spectacle of the infernal devils comes the “blessed vision of peace”, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, Queen and Gate of Heaven.

Let us comment word for word on these few phrases, the simplicity of which is equalled only by the profound richness of their content.



He who does not understand, and who has never felt this fright, this profound and real fear of eternity in Hell, and first of all for himself, will hardly be able to penetrate the real meaning of the rest of the Secret. For let us have no hesitation in repeating it: the consideration of Hell is literally the first and last word of the Secret. It is not through chance if, just as it begins with the vision of Hell, the Secret ends with the little prayer which Our Lady teaches us: «When you recite the Rosary, say after each mystery: “O my Jesus, forgive us, deliver us from the fire of Hell,” etc.»

Hell is therefore a real threat for us also. The greatest saints themselves feared this eternal perdition. Here are the words of one of the most recent, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, this angel of purity who wrote down in his private notebook: « You can still sin gravely and go to Hell.» 1 Then what about us! We have within us a persistent source of malice, an inclination to sin so strong that, unless we continually implore God for His grace and pardon, this inclination would inevitably lead us straight to Hell. «Hell exists, and I myself can go there» – such is the true conviction of every true Christian. 2


Penetrated with this salutary fright, which little by little leads to filial fear, the children spontaneously called for help. It is enough for us to lift up our eyes: the Blessed Virgin is there, opening wide the doors of Her Heart to us. As Father Alonso writes: «The vision of Hell was given to inspire the children to have recourse to the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Her powerful intercession for the salvation of sinners.» 3

Our Lady Herself, with an admirable pedagogical art, willed this contrast. The radiant vision of the Immaculate Heart of Mary immediately follows the horrible vision, like the second in a series of paintings. We are face to face with the absolute Evil which threatens us – eternal chastisement, and even before that the evil of mortal sin which leads to it. All of Fatima reminds us these two are inseparable. God offers to us who are faced with this Evil the only Remedy which can preserve us from it: the Immaculate Heart of His Mother, Refuge of Sinners.

Sister Lucy explains this to Father Fuentes, indicating to him the way of salvation: «Finally devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Most Holy Mother, considering Her as the seat of clemency, goodness and pardon, and the sure gate for entering Heaven.» 4

Here we are in the purest Catholic tradition, which from time immemorial has venerated the Blessed Virgin as the «Mother of mercy and pardon», «the patroness of the most desperate causes», our last recourse after the greatest faults, as in the most terrible temptations. An eloquent testimony to this truth is the touching exhortation of Saint Bernard, which the liturgy has us read on the feast of the Holy Name of Mary:

«O man, whoever you are, if you realise that in the whirlwind of this world, far from walking on firm ground, you are driven hither and thither by storms and tempests, turn not your eyes from this bright Star, if you do not want to be swallowed up by the hurricane. If the winds of temptation are stirred up, if you encounter dangers and tribulations, look at the Star, and invoke Mary: “respice Stellam, voca Mariam”!

«If you are shaken by waves of pride, ambition, criticism or jealousy, look at the Star and invoke Mary! If anger, avarice, or the seductions of the flesh stir up a storm in your soul, cast a glance towards Mary, “respice ad Mariam”.

«If troubled by the enormity of your crimes, confused by the weight of the sins on your conscience, you feel yourself slipping into the whirlpool of sadness and the abyss of despair, then think of Mary, “cogita Mariam”. In perils, in anguish, in perplexity, think of Mary, invoke Mary. Let Her name be constantly on your lips, let it never leave your heart...» 5

Yes, this is exactly what took place: faced with the danger of sin as well as the menace of Hell, « terrified, and as if to plead for succour, we looked up at Our Lady»: “Illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte!” To this appeal from the children, full of anguish, Heaven deigned to respond.


«... We looked up at Our Lady, who said to us so kindly and so sadly: “You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go.”»


At Lourdes, although Bernadette cried one day because the Blessed Virgin seemed so sad, at other times the Blessed Virgin had nevertheless smiled. In the sky of Pontmain, by just one smile, Our Lady of Hope had ravished the seers with unspeakable joy: «See, She is smiling! See, She is smiling!» they exclaimed. 6 Then, jumping for joy, and clapping their hands, they kept saying: «Oh, She is so beautiful! She is so beautiful!» At Buissonnets also, the Blessed Virgin had smiled, instantly healing little Therese of her mysterious malady.

However, at the Cova da Iria, the Blessed Virgin always appeared serious, and never smiled. Canon Formigao had asked Francisco: «Did She ever weep or smile at all?» «Neither one nor the other, She is always serious.» 7

«Tell them also, Lucy is quoted as saying to Father Fuentes, that my cousins Francisco and Jacinta sacrificed themselves because they always saw the Blessed Virgin very sad in all Her apparitions. While with us She never smiled, and this sadness, this anguish we noticed in Her is because of offences against God and the chastisements threatening sinners. This anguish of Hers penetrated our soul; in our childish imaginations we could hardly think of enough ways to pray and make sacrifices...» 8

This twofold sadness is the fruit of a twofold love: love of God, who is so offended, and love of men, who march so miserably to their damnation.

Let us quote yet another statement of Sister Lucy’s. In 1946, William Thomas Walsh asked her:

«“Does the statue in the shrine at the Cova da Iria look like the Lady you saw there?” “No, not much. I was disappointed when I saw it. For one thing it was too gay, too alegre. When I saw Our Lady, She was more triste, or rather, more compassionate. But it would be impossible to make a statue as beautiful as She is.”» 9

This sadness of Our Lady, like the sadness of God which so afflicted Francisco, manifests the immense gravity of sin. Yet it is still full of goodness and compassion for sinners: Our Lady would like to tear them all away from the peril of eternal fire. « Poor sinners», Our Lady says, such as in French, when they say the Hail Mary, the faithful say “pray for us poor sinners”, judging the Latin formula, “pray for us sinners”, to be a bit too austere. We are reminded of Saint Bernadette, who made these words her last ones. She had seen the Blessed Virgin and lived like a saint. Still, on her deathbed, she kept repeating: «Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, a poor sinner, a poor sinner.»


This unspeakable sadness of the Heart of Mary in our regard cannot leave the Heart of God insensible for very long: He cannot resist Her intercession in our favour. Our Lady continues: «You have seen Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart.» Our Lady repeats this last phrase on July 13 for the second time; She had already said it on June 13, before manifesting Her Heart to the children. Here is the “secret of the Secret”, the whole essence and most important element of the Message of Fatima. More than anything else, and before anything else, Fatima is first of all the revelation by Our Lady of the Heart of God, His great design of love, and His absolute and irrevocable will for our times. This sentence looms large like an oracle, and every word must be carefully weighed.

“GOD WISHES...” The Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is not a matter of personal taste, an optional choice left to the faithful depending on their own interior attractions. Still less, of course, is it a desire Our Lady has for Her own benefit. No! It is willed by God. And not only is it willed by God hypothetically, or as something that “would be nice”, it is an absolute, unconditional will of God Himself!

“TO ESTABLISH IN THE WORLD DEVOTION TO MY IMMACULATE HEART.” Devotions usually spread more or less gradually, from province to province, nation to nation, or from religious family to religious family. In the case of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, God wishes it to be extended to the entire world; and He wishes it to be « established». In other words, it is not simply a matter of a private devotion, which can take rise, flourish and disappear, but a public cult – solemn and established on a stable foundation, and therefore a liturgical cult – recognised, patronised and spread by the hierarchy itself.


At Fatima, God could have manifested His Omnipotence as He did to Moses on Mount Sinai. He could have manifested His Wisdom as He did to the prophets. Such, however, was not His design. If He worked stirring miracles and prophecies at Fatima, it was secondary; it was to bring us to believe in His essential message. He could have showed us His Justice, as He did so many times in the Old Testament. He did not will to do it. Fatima is not a gospel of wrath, even if we are threatened there with terrible chastisements. No, what God has revealed to us there is His Heart. His Heart, that is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and what is dearest to this Heart, Its most profound intention, which is to make the Immaculate Heart of His Mother loved.

God wills that this Immaculate Heart of Mary reign, so that He Himself, in His Trinity of Persons, can be satisfied in His greatest Love. He loves Mary more than anything else, and He wishes Her to be glorified, honoured, loved, and served by all His other creatures. If we may dare to say it, in this lies the joy of God, His good pleasure, according to Fatima. From this primordial, boundless love for the Immaculate Virgin flows His absolute decree to make Her the universal Mediatrix, and the Instrument of Salvation for our souls: «To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart.»

Thus the revelation of Fatima completes that of Paray-le-Monial, and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is united with devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which He has demanded for over a century and a half. For these two devotions, just like the two Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, are inseparable and one can never go without the other. They necessarily go together and they mutually reinforce each other. Such is the great design of Our Heavenly Father for «the last centuries of history»: the reign and universal triumph of Their two united Hearts.

He has for the Heart of Jesus, His only beloved Son, pierced upon the Cross, a love so powerful that henceforth He wishes this Heart to be the object of a universal devotion; that everything be granted to us through this Heart, and nothing outside of It. And secondly, the Father and the Son, in the Heart of Jesus, have such Love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for Her Sorrowful Heart at Calvary, pierced with thorns by the sins of the world, that They have decided that everything would be granted to mankind through Her agency, through Her alone, and nothing without Her. Behold Her now, in Her turn, established as C0-Redemptrix alongside Jesus, our universal Mediatrix, “ the Mediatrix of all graces”.



God is Love, and in His infinite Wisdom He found a way to combine His first love, His unique and incomparable love for the Immaculate Virgin, and His infinite mercy for us poor sinners. And how? By deciding to save us through Her and Her alone, since She has become inseparable from Her Son, our unique Redeemer. There does She find Her honour and glory, while sinners find their salvation and their joy! « Our salvation is in Her hands», chants the liturgy for the feast of Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces. At Fatima, Our Lady reveals Herself in all clarity as the Queen and Gate of Heaven; to Her the eternal destiny of souls has been confided.


The apparition of July 13, 1917 sheds a bright new light on this truth of the Secret, a truth of decisive importance. When the children ask Her to take them to Heaven right away, Our Lady answers as though She were a Sovereign: «Yes, Francisco and Jacinta, I will take them soon.» Lucy alone was to remain: «Jesus wishes to use you to make Me known and loved... My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way which will lead you to God.» Thus Our Lady Herself promised to take Her three privileged souls to Heaven.

Then, through an unbelievable disposition of mercy, the promise is immediately extended to all. For Our Lady continues: «Jesus wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. To whomever will embrace this devotion, I PROMISE SALVATION; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers placed by Me to adorn His throne...» What stupefying words! An unbelievably easy way of salvation is offered us: it is enough that we adopt the predilection of the Heart of Jesus for the Immaculate Virgin, and to prove our fidelity by accomplishing Her little requests. What an anchor of salvation, what a sure and easy way for the poor souls of sinners, and the weak and cowardly souls that we are! What an unprecedented offer: devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the only condition for obtaining salvation! Who would still dare to say that Heaven is too hard to gain?


Since the keys of Heaven have been entrusted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, how vain and perilous it would be to want to enter through any other door. To despise, then, the last excess of the mercy of our God and Saviour would mean turning a deaf ear to the offers of the Immaculate Heart of His Mother; on our part it would constitute a grave injury to God. Sister Lucy explains to Father Fuentes:

«The Holy Rosary and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary are our two last recourses, and so this means there will be no others... With a certain trepidation God offers us the final means of salvation, His Most Holy Mother. For if we scorn and reject this final means, we will no longer have the pardon of Heaven, because we have committed a sin which the Gospel calls the sin against the Holy Spirit, which consists in openly rejecting, with full knowledge and consent, the salvation being offered us. Let us remember that Jesus Christ is a good Son, and He does not permit us to offend and despise His Most Holy Mother.» 10

The Message of Fatima teaches us insistently one thing we had not considered: since God decided to attach such promises to the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of His Mother, the greatest sin in His eyes is the lukewarmness, the deliberate forgetfulness and scorn towards this Heart through which the Holy Trinity wishes to grant us the greatest blessings.

But, you will say: what if I do not have this devotion? Understand first that there is nothing astonishing in this, for it does not come of itself. Sister Lucy tells us that it is like an “infused virtue”. Like all other graces, it is obtained by prayer. We also receive it through a kind of “supernatural attraction” seeing it at work in the souls of the saints who lived it to perfection.


Besides being the final recourse of the greatest sinners on the verge of perdition, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary also stands out in the Message of Fatima as the surest and most rapid road to sanctity. The life of the three seers is a striking and fascinating proof.

If the Angel precursor, in his three apparitions of 1916, as well as Our Lady on May 13 had already mentioned the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it was only on June 13 that the three seers received the full revelation. 11 « Before the palm of the right hand of Our Lady was a Heart surrounded by thorns that seemed to be piercing It. We understood that It was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, which desired reparation.» The vision was accompanied with an infused grace which filled the children with «a special knowledge and love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary... Since that day, as Lucy tells us, we felt in our hearts a more ardent love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary.» 12


Silent on her own spiritual progress, Lucy relates for us – and with such refreshing spontaneity! – Jacinta’s outbursts of love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Here is one of the most beautiful passages in the Memoirs:

«From time to time Jacinta would say to me: “Our Lady said that Her Immaculate Heart would be your refuge and the road which would lead you to God. Don’t you love that? As for myself, I love Her Heart, it is so good!”»

«After the month of July, when Our Lady told us in the Secret that God wishes to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and that to prevent the future war, She would come to ask for the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart as well as the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays, when we would talk among ourselves Jacinta would say: “I am so sorry I cannot receive Communion in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary!”

«Among the ejaculatory prayers Father Cruz had taught us, Jacinta had chosen this one: “ Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation!” Sometimes, after saying this prayer, she would add, with the simplicity so natural to her, “I love the Immaculate Heart of Mary so much! It is the Heart of our little Heavenly Mother! Don’t you love to repeat, often, Sweet Heart of Mary, Immaculate Heart of Mary? I love that so much!”

«Sometimes, she would gather flowers from the fields and sing, with a melody she would invent at the same time: “Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation! Immaculate Heart of Mary, convert sinners, save souls from Hell!”» 13

Let us quote also this charming anecdote which shows how devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary always necessarily makes us grow in love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

«One day I was given a beautiful image of the Heart of Jesus, at least as beautiful an image as men can make of it. I brought it to Jacinta: “Do you want this image?” She took it, looked at it closely, and said: “It’s so ugly! It doesn’t at all look like Our Lord. He is so beautiful! But I want it anyway. It’s Him just the same!”

«She always carried it around. At night, when she became sick, she kept it under her pillow until it cracked. She kissed it often and said: “ I kiss it over the Heart; that’s what I love the most. How I would also like to have a Heart of Mary! Do you have any? I would love to have the two together.”» 14

Let us quote, finally, the admirable words by which Jacinta, as if expressing her last will and testament, confided to Lucy the most intimate secret of her soul. At the same time, she expressed in an incomparable manner the quintessence of the Message of Fatima:

«Shortly before leaving for the hospital, she said to me: “I don’t have much time left before going to Heaven. You will stay here, to tell the world that God wants to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When the moment comes, do not be silent. Tell the whole world that God gives graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that we must ask Her for them; that the Heart of Jesus wishes the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated alongside of It; and that we must ask for peace through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, since God has entrusted it to Her.”

«“Oh, if only I could put into all hearts the fire I have in my heart, which makes me burn with so much love for the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary!”» 15

Lucy, who was charged for her part with «making known and loved» the Immaculate Heart of Mary, never forgot her mission. To close this chapter, let us listen to her reveal to us, in just a few lines, the Secret of secrets:

«I always remember the great promise which fills me with joy: “You will never be alone. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the road which will lead you to God.” I believe that this promise is not for me alone, but for all souls who wish to take refuge in the Heart of their Heavenly Mother, and let themselves be drawn wherever She leads them... It seems to me that these are also the intentions of the Immaculate Heart of Mary: to make this ray of light shine before souls, to show them once more this Port of Salvation, always ready to welcome all the shipwrecked of this world... As for myself, even as I savour the delicious fruits of this beautiful garden, I strive to make them more available to souls, so that there they may quench their thirst with grace, comfort, and heavenly aid.» 16

In another letter, Sister Lucy reports confidences made by Our Lord Himself:

«I desire most ardently, He says, the propagation of the cult of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, because the love of this Heart attracts souls to Me; it is the centre from which the rays of My light and My love go through all the earth, and the unquenchable fountain from which the living water of My mercy flows into the earth17


Here is the whole essence of the Secret, and this was also the deepest inspiration of the life of our three seers. Their souls were so profoundly marked by the great Secret of Our Lady that the account of their lives is the best commentary on it. And, conversely, one could never understand the lightning speed of their ascent along the way of holiness, unless it were considered in the light of the great themes of the Secret: an immense compassion for sinners on the road to Hell; confidence without limits in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as the final recourse capable of saving souls from Hell; a vehement desire to go to Heaven and lead many souls there, by prayer and sacrifices; and finally a constant solicitude to make reparation vicariously for the faults of sinners, by offering loving consolation to the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary, outraged by sin.

Such was the program of sanctity for our three shepherds. All that remains for us is to see how heroically they put it into practice: in sickness and even unto death in the case of Jacinta and Francisco, and in exact obedience and immolation for Lucy, who was called to remain here below as the witness of the apparitions and messenger of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.


(1) Carnets spirituels, Retraites et méditations, p. 29; Lethielleux 1981.

(2) Read the beautiful Page Mystique where our Father places this vital truth in bold relief: CRC 92, May 1975.

(3) Fatima et le Coeur Immaculé de Marie, MSC, p. 36; cf. p. 61.

(4) Quoted by Alonso, The Secret of Fatima: Fact and Legend, p. 110.

(5) Homily II, on Missus est.

(6) Cf. CRC 40, January 1971, Il y a cent ans, Pontmain.

(7) Interrogation of September 27, De Marchi, p. 170. Lucy gave the same answer to Father Lacerda on October 19, 1917. Cf. Martins dos Reis, Sintese, p. 44.

(8) Quoted by Alonso, op. cit., p. 109.

(9) Our Lady of Fatima, p. 219-220.

(10) Quoted by Alonso, La vérité sur le Secret de Fatima, p. 93.

(11) Cf. our Vol. I, p. 158-159; p. 163-165.

(12) III, p. 111-112.

(13) III, p. 112.

(14) III, p. 116.

(15) III, p. 116.

(16) Letter to Mother Cunha Mattos, April 14, 1945, FCM, p. 21-22. Cf, our Vol. III, p. 150-151.

(17) Letter of May 27, 1943, to the Bishop of Gurza. FCM, p. 62-63. Cf. our Vol. III, p. 149-150.