This is Part I of a three part series on Saint Francisco of Fatima
The life of Francisco was marked by this stupefying revelation, this revelation of the Heart of God, this sadness which is the highest and unmistakable mark of His love for us. This is the great message Francisco bequeaths to us.
Some critics of the Message of Fatima assert that there is no need to console God, Who exists in perfect bliss. This is one of those treacherous half-truths, so dangerous to our faith. I am not worthy to attempt defending the Message but offer the following from Frère Michel de la Trinité, “The Whole Truth About Fatima, Vol. II”.
Since May 13 and the first “vision of God” which Our Lady had granted to Her privileged ones, Francisco, who had a contemplative and tender heart, was continually animated by one thought, dominated by just one sentiment: The Blessed Virgin and God Himself are infinitely sad; we must console Them.
I. THE GREAT SADNESS OF GOD
Here is an earth-shaking revelation which the Message of Fatima brings to light. Of course, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit enjoy an infinite beatitude which nothing could ever alter. This is an unquestionable truth, taught also by theology. And yet a mysterious suffering, a real pain that sinners cause Him coexists in Him with this perfect joy, this unalloyed happiness which is lacking in nothing.
Yes, it is a mystery which makes sense only in the light of His incomprehensible love for His creatures: the love of a kind-hearted Father who goes so far as to deliver over His only and beloved Son to death.
“For God so loved the world, as to give His only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” (Jn. 3:16)
“He that spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not also, with Him, given us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)
Our dear Lord’s infinitely generous, sacrificial Heart is the love of a Spouse and a Brother who sheds for us all the Blood from His Heart, the love of a sweet Friend, a Defender and Consoler Who wishes to remain in our souls for ever. Because our rebellions grieve Him “But they provoked to wrath, and afflicted the spirit of His Holy One: and He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them.” (Is. 63:10)
Saint Paul exhorts us “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God: whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30)
WHEN GOD WEEPS
Yes, as mysterious as it might seem to us, God really “suffers”, He is sad because of our sins, our hardness of heart which makes us deaf to His appeals and draws down upon us His paternal chastisements:
“But if you do not hear this warning, My soul shall weep in secret for your pride: weeping it shall weep, and My eyes shall run down with tears, because the flock of the Lord is carried away captive.” (Jer. 13:17)
“SORROWFUL EVEN UNTO DEATH”
Jesus, the “Image of the Father”, His only and beloved Son, has given us a perfect expression of this “Divine sorrow’’, for in a real sense He lived it in His soul: in His perfect sensibility as man, He wanted to be able to suffer, and to be vulnerable like us. In the garden of agony, He wanted to feel this human anguish even to the point of paroxysm, to the measure of His Divine sadness for our sins: “My soul is sorrowful even unto death” (Mk. 14:34), “and His sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Lk. 22:44.) And this great sadness of the Son, is it not, indeed before all else, the great sadness of the Father? “For he who sees Me, sees the Father.” (Jn. 14:9)
“IN AGONY UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD”
Yet, an even more astonishing mystery is that, even after rising from the dead, and being exalted up to Heaven where He sits in the Glory and infinite Joy of the Father, our Saviour still suffers, because of sins. As we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “And are fallen away: to be renewed again to penance, crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, and making Him a mockery.” (Hebrews 6, 6)
Let us point out, however, that this “suffering”, this “sadness” of the Heavenly Father, or of Jesus since His Ascension, are to be understood analogically. They are not suffered passively as with us, but on the contrary freely willed and chosen as the ultimate expression of Their mercy towards sinners called to conversion. They are only a manifestation of God’s love for sinners, a love which is sovereignly free and gratuitous, and which is not irrevocable.”
Is it not remarkable that, having willed to leave His Church the miraculous image of His Divine Face, Jesus chose to show it to us in a sorrowful state, imprinted with mortal sadness and all disfigured by the marks of His cruel Passion? Our risen Saviour, who came forth glorious from the tomb, could have left us an image of His Face resplendent with glory. But He did not wish to do so. He chose to give to men His outraged Face to contemplate, the face of the “Suffering Servant”. Why?
So that this authentic photograph of His Body inscribed on His Shroud invite them, until the end of the world, to have compassion on Him and be converted.
“CONSOLE YOUR GOD!”
In this agony, Jesus looks for souls willing to console Him, just as He did at Gethsemane.
“I looked for compassion, but in vain, and for someone to console Me, and I found none…”
“In Thy sight are all they that afflict me; my heart hath expected reproach and misery. And I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none.”
At Paray-le-Monial, Jesus will make the same complaint and the same appeal to St. Margaret Mary, showing her His Heart surrounded by thorns.
In his encyclical “Miserentissimus Redemptor” on the reparation due the Sacred Heart of Jesus from everyone, Pope Pius XI wrote: “In His apparitions to Margaret Mary, when He revealed His infinite charity to her, at the same time Christ let her perceive a sort of sadness, complaining of so many and such grave outrages, which the ingratitude of men made Him undergo… Thus we are able now, and we even must console this Sacred Heart, unceasingly wounded by the sins of ingrates, in a mysterious yet real manner.” And he mentions the beautiful words of Saint Augustine: “take a person who loves: he will feel what I am saying.” May 8, 1928, Actes de S.S. Pie XI , vol. IV, p. 106-108 (Bonne Presse, 1932).
The life of little Francisco was marked by this stupefying revelation, this revelation of the Heart of God, this sadness which is the highest and unmistakeable mark of His love for us. This is the great message Francisco bequeaths to us.
GOD IS SO SAD, BECAUSE OF SO MANY SINS!
Francisco once confided to his sister and cousin: “I loved seeing the Angel, but I loved 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.”
There is a contrary error that Frère Michel notes here: it is that God could not condemn anyone to eternity in hell without necessarily inflicting an eternal torment on Himself! But this is failing to understand the sanctity of the just Judge, who the more He showed them, in the beginning, the excesses of His Divine Mercy, the more He shall show Himself to be pitiless towards the obstinate rebels.” (Frère Michel de la Trinité. “The Whole Truth about Fatima – Vol II”)
This unspeakable sorrow was what moved the little seer the most, when he was again introduced by the Blessed Virgin into the Divine Light and the very mystery of God on June 13 and July 13 (1917). At that time he pronounced these striking words:
“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!…”
Francisco’s words are mysterious, but ever so profoundly significant. In their laconic conciseness, they are certainly more true and more useful than so much vain speculation by philosophers about a Divine impassibility which only appears to men as the mark and the sign of a cold, dry, lonely heart, which can love neither itself nor anybody else.
But if God shows that He is sad because of our sins, it is because He has an infinite love for us, as a loving Father Who pardons repentant hearts, but knows that He will have to chastise in a terrible manner, rebellious and hardened hearts who prove deaf to all His advances.
On August 19, and again on October 13, Our Lady showed Herself as very afflicted. In this contemplation, Francisco found his own vocation, the end of his whole life: to console God and console Our Lady .
“I would like to console Our Lord”
Here is Sister Lúcia’s own account of what her cousin confided to her: “I asked him one day (doubtless shortly after October 13, 1917): “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 much offended? I would like to console Our Lord, and after that, convert sinners, so that they won’t offend Him any more.”
Already in 1916, at the Cabeço, the Angel had invited them to make reparation for the offences against the Eucharistic Jesus and to console Him. Before giving them His broken Body and His Blood poured out for us, he said: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” As we will see soon at Pontevedra, Our Lady will make the same request to Lucia, with insistence: “You, at least, try to console Me…”
But how can we fulfill this sublime office? By prayer and sacrifices. Francisco had understood this well.
TO CONSOLE GOD BY PRAYER
Since he prayed above all to console his God, Francisco felt moved by grace to look for solitude. He loved to be alone with God, heart to Heart with Him. Lucia recalled, “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?” He would answer, “I prefer praying by myself so that I can think and console Our Lord, Who is so sad!”
TO CONSOLE GOD BY SUFFERING
Prayer and sacrifice are the two great inseparable means – for the one cannot please God without the other – by which God wishes to be consoled for all the outrages He receives from sinners. To sacrifice ourselves means, before all else, to accept all the sufferings which God sends us: 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!”
Lúcia: “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 would 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 sufferings, how happy shall we be!”
This same constant determination to console Our Lord and the Immaculate Heart of Mary inspired Francisco with the desire to make sacrifices. Here is a charming episode reported by Sister Lúcia: “On our way to my home one day, we had to pass by my godmother’s house. She had just been making a mead drink, and called us in to give us a glass. We went in, and Francisco was the first to whom she offered a glassful. He took it, and without drinking it, he passed it on to Jacinta, so that she and I could have a drink first. Meanwhile, he turned on his heel and disappeared.
“Where is Francisco?” my godmother asked. “I don’t know! He was here just now.” He did not return, so Jacinta and I thanked my godmother for the drink and went in search of Francisco. We knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that he would be sitting on the edge of a well which I have mentioned so often. “Francisco, you didn’t drink your glass of mead! My godmother called you so many times, and you did not appear!” “When I took the glass, I suddenly remembered I could offer that sacrifice to console Our Lord, so while you two were taking a drink, I ran over here.”
Just as he was sensitive to the “sorrow” of God, Francisco was also sensitive to the needs of the sick and the suffering. In a few brief episodes from the Memoirs, Lúcia shows how good and charitable her cousin was.
“Thereabouts, lived an old woman called Ti Maria Carreira, whose sons sent her out sometimes to take care of their goats and sheep. The animals were rather wild, and often strayed away in different directions. Whenever we met Ti Maria in these straits, Francisco was the first to run to her aid. He helped her to lead the flock to pasture, chased after the stray ones and gathered them all together again. The poor old woman overwhelmed Francisco with her thanks and called him her dear guardian angel.” . . . .
COURAGE AND LOVE
This certitude of going to Heaven – which was transformed into a courageous acceptance and profound love, and then a firm act of the will, a heroic decision – consideration of the immense sorrow of God which is what best explains the behaviour of Francisco, and the amazing progress he made in such little time. For only eighteen months passed between the apparition of October 13 and the day of his death.
Parts II and III in next few days, God willing.
Thank you for reading, please pass along to others. It is very late and we have yet many who have not been reached.
Remember – Our Lady needs us to obey: First Saturdays of Reparation, daily rosary, at least 5 mysteries, wear her brown scapular and live your Total Consecration to her Immaculate Heart, offering daily duties in reparation and for the conversion of poor sinners.