The Fatima Decade Prayer

Note: Update on About Us page.

I have updated this post to attempt to correct some of my many typographical errors. Please pardon my elderly failings!

Today we have a completely new post for you which has come about due to a long-time reader’s questions regarding the Fatima Decade Prayer. It seems several sites, and several readers have become confused over the Fatima Decade Prayer. They ask, why did it pray for the poor souls in Purgatory and then why was it changed to being for poor sinners? A reader asked me to contribute to the discussion and I gave a brief reply, but then he returned to me with contrary explanations given by others so it seems I need to get into more detail.

The “mystery” was solved many, many years ago, for those who have read Frere Michel’s Trilogy, The Whole Truth About Fatima. In Volume I, Chapter VI, where he discusses  Our Lady’s Third Apparition – that of July 13, 1917.

Below is quoted from Frere Michel. I have  inserted, in bold italics,  the text of the  explanatory footnotes wherever he has the numerical footnote. Readers may submit questions in comments please. As an additional aid for clarity, I have highlighted in red some important quotes from Sister Lucia.


Right after the end of the secret, Our Lady continued: “When you say the Rosary, say after each mystery:

“O my Jesus, forgive us, deliver us from the fire of hell; lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need.” (335.  Here we give the text from the Fourth Memoir, in the most literal translation. However, the version usually adopted is substantially exact: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins , save us from the fire of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.” This beautiful prayer has been quoted with a number of variants, and it is still interpreted in various ways. Some believe that the second request concerns the souls in Purgatory. In an appendix we will justify the version we have adopted, and the explanation we propose.)

   ( . . . )

[Note: For brevity, I’ve omitted is his discussion of the meaning of the prayer itself, since we’ve discussed it before; but if there is demand, we can do another post for that.]

This is how the three seers understood this prayer, in the light of its immediate context, the vision of hell (339.  See the letter of Sister Lucia to Father Gonçalves, May 18, 1941: The last supplication has been applied to the souls in Purgatory, “because it seems that the meaning of these last words were misunderstood; but I believe that Our Lady was referring to souls in the greatest danger of damnation. This continues to be my impression, and no doubt you will believe the same thing after having read the part of the secret I have written down, and knowing that Our Lady taught this prayer during the same apparition.” Memorias e cartas, p. 443)

A striking passage from the Memoirs shows us how the little prayer of Our Lady often returned to the lips of Jacinta, and not only between decades of the Rosary, but to implore often the salvation of souls:

«Jacinta often sat thoughtfully on the ground or on a rock, and exclaimed: “Oh, Hell! Hell! How sorry I am for the souls who go to hell! And the people down there, burning alive, like wood in the fire!” Then, shuddering, she knelt down with her hands joined, and recited the prayer Our Lady had taught us: “O my Jesus! Pardon us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need.”

“Now», Sister Lucia continues, «Your Excellency will understand how my own impression was that the final words of this prayer refer to souls in greatest danger of damnation, or those who are nearest to it.»

These last words turn our attention towards those in their last agony. In all the myriads of Ave Marias we shall have prayed all during our life, we ask the Mother of Mercy to pray for us «at the hour of our death». But all these hardened souls who outraged Her unceasingly and never invoked Her? It is for them, in their place that Our Lady makes us pray during our Rosary.

This priority accorded the greatest sinners, was not understood, and was the principal reason why the original version of the prayer was abandoned for so long in favour of another, more classical one. Yet this prayer brings us to the full reality of the Gospel. It is the priority given to the erring sheep for the twofold reason that it is lost, and that its salvation will show more strikingly the untiring Love of its Good Shepherd.”

[Note: Now we jump to Frere Michel’s Appendix II]


What souls does it have to do with? The souls of sinners? Or the souls in Purgatory, as was long believed?


Up until the forties, in the majority of works on Fatima, we find the following version, cited by Father Castelbranco:

«O my Jesus, forgive us our sins! Save us from the fires of hell! And relieve the souls in Purgatory, especially the most abandoned.» (370. “The Unprecedented Miracle of Fatima” , p. 12 (1939). In 1940, Father Martin Jugie, in his book on Purgatory, quoted a similar formula, p. 337)

At this time, the pilgrims of Fatima recited the same formula at the Cova da Iria. How can we explain this discrepancy?


During the interrogation of August 21, 1917, Lucia related to Father Ferreira the version revealed by Our Lady a little more than a month earlier. Except for two words which do not change the sense, (371. Namely the conjunction “and” and the words “of it”, referring to God’s mercy: “especially those most in need of it.”) it is exactly identical with the text Sister Lucia transcribed in her fourth Memoir, December 8, 1941.

Hence it is this latter version we have commented on:

«O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need.» (372. O meu Jesus, perdoai-nos, (e) livrai nos do fogo do Inferno; levai as alminhas todas para o Ceu, principalmente aquelas que mais (d’ele) precisarem. (Documentos, p. 341, 501)

[Note: This Portuguese version of the Decade Prayer is the same as that in Dr. William Thomas Walsh’s book, “Our Lady of Fatima”, page 220, Doubleday Image Books, 1947.]

Thus, there is no doubt about the authenticity of these texts, especially since in addition to these texts there are many others which show that Sister Lucia did not change the wording, except for tiny details which do not in any way alter the sense of the prayer. (373 . Here are a few dates: September 7, 1922, letter of Carlos Mendes (Barthas, Fatima, Great Miracle of the Twentieth Century , p. 322). The account of January 5, 1922 ( Documentos , p. 471). The interrogation before the canonical commission, July 8, 1924. The letter of Father Gonçalves of May 18, 1941 ( Documentos, p. 443), and finally the texts of the Third and Fourth Memoirs (Ibid., p. 221 and 341). On October 18, 1946, Sister Lucia dictated the same formula to Canon Barthas, adding: “and help especially those…” But the meaning is always the same.)


We know that during the interrogation of September 27, 1917, Lucia recited to Canon Formigao the same authentic version which she had already indicated a month before to her parish priest. (374. Cf. J. M. Alonso, Fatima, escuela de oracion , p. 105, and Historia da Literatura, p. 13: “The first written version of the Formigao manuscripts is precisely what the seers always repeated.”)

But who are these souls «who are most in need», and for whom Our Lady asks us to pray?

The good Canon, who of course knew neither the secret nor the messages of the Angel, nor the repeated invitations of Our Lady to pray and sacrifice ourselves for sinners, and was ignorant especially of the vision of hell, which is the immediate context of the revelation of this prayer, thought that it undoubtedly had to do with the most abandoned souls in Purgatory. Did not the word “ alminhas ”, diminutive of “almas ”, strongly suggest this hypothesis? Canon Barthas, who himself resolutely opted for the other solution, explains:

«In Portuguese, the word “ almas ”, especially in its diminutive form, “ alminhas ” (the little, poor or dear souls), employed without a qualifier, ordinarily designates the souls in Purgatory. In the churches, the donation boxes for the souls in Purgatory bear the inscription, “ caixa das almas ”, and on the corners of the roads one can find little buildings called “ ermida das alminhas ” (oratory of the poor souls).” (375. Fatima 1917-1968, p. 101)

Another significant detail: it is not rare in Portugal to hear a beggar asking for alms, “ para as alminhas”, for the souls in Purgatory. Hence we can easily understand how Canon Formigao came to believe that the prayer of Our Lady had to do with the departed. He also added a phrase to the initial version: «Lead all souls in Purgatory to Heaven, as alminhas do purgatorio todas …» But once this interpretation was deliberately adopted, he came logically to modify the text, as he himself recognized later on, (376. Alonso, Historia da Literatura, p. 14-15)  for the sake of greater clarity. This is the origin of the formula that he adopted and published in his works: «O my Jesus, pardon us, save us from the fires of hell, and relieve the souls in Purgatory, especially the most abandoned .» (377. … e aliviai as almas do Purgatorio especialmente as mais abandonadas. Documentos, p. 505.)

When in 1927 he quoted the interrogation of September 27, 1917, he presented his formula as being Lucia’s response to the question. This explains how the new version of the prayer, as corrected by himself, became widespread later on. (378. Let us point out that Father Alonso believed the theological interpretation of Canon Formigao could be justified, by insisting on the ordinary meaning of the word “alminhas”. According to him, the word “alminhas” settles the question: it refers to the souls in Purgatory. ( Fatima, escuela de oracion, p. 105; 1980.) Let us remark only that:

1. Sister Lucia seems to use indifferently either the word “alminhas” or “almas”. (Text of May 18, 1941.)

According to Castelbranco, the formula approved for the pilgrimages also has the word “almas”, while the Marto parents had learned the formula with the word “almas” in 1917.

2. Canon Formigao himself, in place of the word “alminhas”, came to substitute the clearer expression “almas do purgatorio”. Why then was the change necessary?

3. The majority of scholarly Portuguese critics interpret the word “alminhas” as does Sister Lucia herself, i.e. as designating the “poor souls” of sinners. Hence we conclude that in Portuguese, just as in Latin or French, the word “alminhas” is indefinite and, according to the context, can refer either to the souls of the departed or those of the living. Cf. Documentos, p. 447)


Beginning in 1921, and then for many long years, Lucia was so far removed from the pilgrimages of Fatima that she was almost completely ignorant of what was happening. Thus she could not rectify the erroneous formula that was recited there. But when she was asked for her opinion (unfortunately it was a little late!), she insisted on the reestablishment of the original version, and the interpretation that seemed the most obvious to her. We have already cited her letter to Father Gonçalves.

She did so again, with still more vigour, in a conversation with Canon Barthas, on October 18, 1946. Here is the text (from Barthas):

«I permitted myself to ask Sister Lucia to qualify the sense of the word “ alminhas ” (souls): “In these souls which have need of divine assistance, must we see the souls in Purgatory or those of sinners?”, I asked her.

“Sinners ”, she answered without hesitating.

“Why do you think so?”

“Because the Blessed Virgin always spoke of the souls of sinners. She drew our attention to them in every way; she never spoke of the souls in Purgatory.”

“Why, in your opinion, did the Blessed Virgin interest you especially in sinners, rather than the souls in Purgatory?”

“No doubt because the souls in Purgatory are already saved, being already in the vestibule of Heaven, while the souls of sinners are on the road leading to damnation.” (This was essentially my own opinion also.)

“Your explanation seems highly theological to me. Why then in many churches and even in Portugal are the souls in Purgatory named in this prayer?”

“Nao sei. I don’t know. I myself never spoke of the souls in Purgatory. As for the rest, it does not concern me.”» (379. “Fatima 1917-1968”, p. 101-102 by Canon Barthas)

This declaration seems to us decisive. The prayer taught by Our Lady can only be understood properly in the more general context of the secret of Fatima. This excuses the modification of the text which Canon Formigao, in all good faith, thought he was entitled to make. Today, however, we prefer to recite this prayer in the same spirit as the three little seers, for as Sister Lucia justly writes in another place, «ordinarily, God accompanies His revelations with an intimate and minute knowledge of what they signify.» (380. III, p. 116.)

These (above) excerpts are taken from the solid study of Barthas, “The Portuguese Press and the Apparitions in Fatima 1917-1968″, p. 163-164.

Frere Michel de la Sainte Trinite. The Whole Truth about Fatima – Vol I.  [END QUOTE]

So, Sister Lucia was pretty clear in expressing herself:

And Frere Michel proves that the original misquote was a well-intentioned mistake by Canon Formigao that “got legs” as they say, and caused a lot of people to misdirect their prayers from the true Fatima message. See how the devil uses little details to trip up our good intentions!

Of course, it is good to pray for those in Purgatory! But the message of Fatima includes Our Lady’s heartfelt plea to pray for sinners who cannot help themselves – they cannot help themselves!  Now think how much more urgent is that plea today – there is a constant emphasis in the Novus Ordo church on God’s mercy, yet the faithful hear very little about His justice. But our Apostle’s Creed states that Our Lord Jesus Christ “will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

It is a terrible thing to leave the faithful in confusion on this point.

Regarding the mystery of the Fatima Decade Prayer, there was no mystery – the truth was right there where it has been for years – return to the true message of Fatima. And now this matter is settled as far as I am concerned. For the record, my advice to the reader who initially brought up this question was, to ask his priest for guidance.

For your reference, see “Grace has Fled” which is very appropriate to this post.

As the disobedience of the popes became institutionalized, the leadership of the Church became hardened in the sin of disobedience and hardened sinners need our prayers and sacrifices of reparation.

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 our daily duties in reparation and for the conversion of poor sinners.

Open your hearts to the Lord and serve Him only: and He will free you from the hands of your enemies. With all your heart return to Him, and take away from your midst any strange gods” (I Kings 7:3)

✝︎  Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
✝︎  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Viva Cristo Rey!
✝︎  St. Joseph, protect us, protect our families, protect our priests.
✝︎  St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.

Pray the Rosary for a Pope and Bishops who will obediently consecrate Russia.

~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!

2 thoughts on “The Fatima Decade Prayer

  1. Thank you evensong for this clear and thorough explanation. It once again reinforces the centrality of Frere Michel’s Trilogy with respect to understanding the message of Fatima.

    1. Thank you, Contemplatio.

      Actually my intention was to stress that if we really follow the message of Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima, we will set aside our curiosity and simply obey, that is, knuckle down and do the work that is so urgent : follow the Immaculate Mother of God, obey her Message of Fatima.

      Occasionally, a reader will let me know that they are not going to be checking my site as much, because they are determined to get away from the internet in order to live the message of Fatima. Nothing makes me happier! The internet can be a trap, and can quickly get us hooked, with its tantalizing promises of new information, new devotions, new apparitions – which are almost always pious frauds, filled with lame platitudes.

      Return to Fatima means just that – return to – and stay with, live with, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Mother of God who offers us victory over this sick and disoriented world. As Our Lord assured Sister Lucia, “To her, the victory has been given.” My site does not exist to make me money, I refuse donations and ask for prayers for our priests instead – and my posts are not geared to maximise page views (hits). I only want readers to heed Our Lady’s message then go do it!

      God be with you always, and Mary keep you close,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *