Book Review of
Fatima, a Spiritual Light for Our Times
Just in time for the Fatima centenary, Fr. Stehlin has released a second volume of spiritual reflections on the Fatima message, while also promising a third volume. In the first volume, Father went through the great apparitions of 1917; in this second volume, he considers the seers and the post-Fatima apparitions; in the third, he will look at the great secret of Fatima, especially its disclosure and non-fulfillment.
Fatima, a Spiritual Light for Our Times, volume 2, begins with a fascinating view of the personality of the three Fatima seers and the spirituality that each of them followed. Anyone who has spent time reading the story of Fatima knows that Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucy were, in the words of Fr. Stehlin, “very different and even contrasting characters” (p. 8). Their varied personalities translated into a different spiritual focus for each.
Francisco, being struck most by how offensive sin is to God, sought, in his devotions, to console God. Jacinta, deeply shaken by the vision of hell, with so many souls tossing around in eternal perdition, did all that she could to prevent more souls from going there. Lucy, being chosen as Our Lady’s messenger to the world, particularly focused on spreading devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Through the inspiring spiritual lives of these three children, we understand what Our Lady desires of us, as Fr. Stehlin explains (pp. 40-41):
The life of the seers of Fatima was like a living reflection in which we can see the desires of the Immaculate Heart … in the measure that we follow the example of their virtues, we will sanctify ourselves, and the wonderful promises of Our Lady will be realized in our own souls. From Francisco, we learn perfect love of God in the prayer of consolation; from Jacinta, we learn perfect love of neighbour by praying for the conversion of sinners. From Lucy, we learn how to live constantly in the light of the Immaculate Heart.
In the second part of the book, Fr. Stehlin turns to consider four post-Fatima apparitions to Sr. Lucy, apparitions which extended and clarified the Fatima message. Two of these apparitions occurred at the convent of the Dorothean Sisters in Pontevedra, Portugal on December 10, 1925, and February 15, 1926. The other two took place at the Carmelite convent in Tuy, Spain, on June 13, 1929, and May 29, 1930.
The messages of these apparitions are crucial for understanding the Fatima message, for they treat three of its essential elements: the spirit of devotion to the Immaculate Heart; the reason for the Five Saturdays devotion and the way it is to be practiced; the request for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart.
Fr. Stehlin firstly examines closely the words of Our Lord and Our Lady to Sr. Lucy at Pontevedra, as well as the words of the seer herself. By means of his careful guidance, the reader is able to understand why Our Lady of Fatima asks for the First Saturday devotion, why she asks for the recitation of the Rosary, why she asks for Confession and Communion. On the one hand, we are to do the work of reparation, atoning for five types of blasphemies uttered against the Immaculate Heart. On the other hand, we are to grow in holiness, drawing closer to Our Lady and so also Her Son by performing the practices she requested, in the same spirit in which she requested them. “The Immaculate Heart of Mary only desires for us a perfect union with her Son” (p. 66).
At Tuy, Our Lady announced the request for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart by the Pope, in union with the bishops of the world. Fr. Stehlin points out the great significance of this request, given that the only occasion on which the Pope normally acts in union with his bishops is at a general council (p. 114). Fatima, then, is of worldwide significance, if an act of the head of the universal Church is required to fulfill its demands.
There is another remarkable aspect to this request, the fact that one body of persons is asked to consecrate another body of persons, who perhaps do not wish to be consecrated. In the mind of Fr. Stehlin, this emphasizes the fact that, not only the Pope and the bishops, but we ourselves are able to be instruments in the conversion of others. By associating ourselves with great Marian movements, such as the Militia Immaculatae, we “become channels of grace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary to all souls for their conversion and sanctification” (p. 113). In this way, we personally answer the call of Fatima, and the accumulation of these personal answers will eventually lead to the great act of Russia’s consecration, which will come late, but will come.
It is hoped that this brief sketch of the second volume of Fatima, a Spiritual Light for Our Times indicates, in a small way, the many riches contained within its pages. Each of us has heard so much about Fatima, but knows so little about it. Especially in this year of Fatima’s centenary, we must make an effort to really understand what our Mother desires of us. This book makes that goal easy and effortless. By picking it up and reading a few pages at a time, we will perform our First Saturdays of 2017 with proper understanding and devotion, we will recite our Rosaries with a new depth and fervor, we will become ever more effective instruments of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, for the salvation of souls and her triumph.
Fr. Paul Robinson