A little-known December 31 appearance of Our Lady to Sister Lucia had to do with the Church

by Barb Ernster –

A message from Our Lady to Sister Lucia on the last day of the year 40 years ago had to do with the Church. Mary appeared to Sister Lucia in her cell at the Carmel in Coimbra on Dec. 31, 1979, during an end-of-year community retreat.  

According to Sister Lucia’s diary, as recorded in her biography A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary, she was praying intently and interceding for the Church, “seeing it as a fragile boat being tossed upon the waves of the world’s revolt,” but noting Jesus’ promise that “the gates of hell would not prevail against her” (Mt 16:18).  She described that moment of intense prayer and the unexpected meeting with Our Lady:

In my soul, everything was darkness and bitterness! As the Lord said, His Church will not perish. Did He not promise to be with her (the Church) until the end of time? Did He not give this to His own Mother, my Mother, to be her Protector and Advocate from the many enemies and assist in the tortuous and difficult path of life? Did He not promise her the assistance of the Holy Spirit, Light and source of grace, strength and wisdom that enlightens the mind and guides along the paths of truth, justice and love? If need be, Lord, accept my life; I would rather die than fail to serve and love You each day at every moment. Turn me into You, so that the Father takes pleasure in seeing You in me!

So I prayed with my forehead tilted in my cell in the dark with the window closed, when I felt a gentle hand on my left shoulder. I looked and saw, it was my sweet Mother who had listened to my humble prayer.

“God has heard your prayer and sent me to tell you that it is necessary to intensify your prayer and your work for the union of the Church, of the bishops with the Holy Father and of the priests with the bishops to lead the people of God on the paths of truth, faith, hope and love, united in Christ our Savior.”

Although I felt happy after this meeting and inundated with peace, light and grace, I also felt the difficulty of such a mission. It’s so difficult to move the hardness of human hearts that only God can do, such as the stones, the children of Abraham! But I trust in God. If God wills it, He is there to do it, because nothing is impossible with Him.

 I trust in the protection of His Mother. I know that she is the messenger of the Lord to give me His word; it is He who fulfills this although serving this humble and poor instrument.

The Church now 40 years later is being tossed about on even bigger waves, waves that threaten to overcome it.  Many have left the Church because of the abuse scandals, others because of financial scandals. Many perceive that a darkness has descended inside the Church that threatens its very foundation—the dogmatic and moral teachings that have been entrusted to it.

Sister Lucia encountered this darkness in her intense prayer life. She felt often that she was supposed to pray for priests, based on her many encounters with them when they confided to her the burdens they carried and the temptations they faced in fulfilling their vocational call. Like the Blessed Mother, who must have consoled and encouraged the Apostles, Sister Lucia was a listening ear who helped direct them to the will of God and would pray for them.

As one so closely united to Christ and His Mother, she never thought to flee the Church when she was surrounded by the darkness of uncertainty. No.  She doubled down in prayer and penance, which was all she could do, despite visits from the Blessed Mother that brought her inner peace. She knew the great difficulty of moving the “hardness of human hearts.” And don’t we all feel that when we pray?  Sometimes our prayers feel pointless in the face of not just waves coming at the Church, but tsunamis.  What can we do?

For one, we cannot walk away. We must stay with the Bride of Christ. For where else would we turn? We are in the Garden of Gethsemane and must try to stay awake and pray. Sister Lucia would not let the difficulty of any situation get the best of her. For what does she tell us?  “I trust in God. If God wills it, He is there to do it, because nothing is impossible with Him.”

God will be there to do what must be done. We must stay diligent with our eyes on Him, our lanterns lit and extra oil so that the light does not extinguish in us. Prayer and penance, the Mass, adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary – these are the things that replenish us and keep us alert and steady.

Second, let us look at another visit of Our Lady to Sister Lucia, soon after Dec. 31, 1979.  On March 15, 1980, Lucia was again in her cell longing for heaven, for she felt the emptiness of her prayer, feeling as if she was doing nothing on earth.  She writes:

It hovered over me one very dark night, things that God allows; the dense shadows that only God knows and can dissipate. So I trusted Him and He gave me happiness. When I least expected it, the Mother of God entered my cell, a brief visit. Even though it was short, I would have liked it longer!

Our Lady said to Lucia: “God is your comfort and I am here to help you. It is to serve Him that you are still here.”

God Himself gives us our sense of purpose on earth – it is to serve Him. Our prayers and penances matter, even when they feel empty and that they are doing no good.  We must remember to offer our feelings and emotions to God, for they weigh on us and cause us to suffer – feelings of sadness, anger, emptiness, lack of purpose. When we offer them up as a sacrifice, they often dissipate and we are renewed in spirit. And we can count on our Blessed Mother to nourish and strengthen us.

2020 appeal to pray more for the Church

As we end the year and the decade, the World Apostolate of Fatima asks you to participate in a campaign to pray more for the Church and offer more penance for her.  We ask Sister Lucia to unite with us in our prayers and offerings and to intercede for us that we do not become discouraged. 

Here is what we would like you to do:

  • Pray the Angel’s Prayer frequently, especially during the consecration at Mass. This is a prayer of reparation and implores the conversion of sinners. Pray especially for the return of all those who do not believe in the Eucharist and have walked away.
  • Pray the Rosary every day. Perhaps pray more than five decades. There are 20 decades to the Holy Rosary. Trust that your rosaries have great power in moving the mercy of God to shed His graces upon this earth.
  • Pray the Pardon Prayer regularly. Ask God to forgive those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Him.
  • Commit to at least a Holy Hour every week and spend time with Jesus intimately in prayer.
  • Make the First Saturday devotion a part of your regular monthly practice.  Mary desires our intimacy with her and this devotion draws us closer to her Immaculate Heart.
  • Attend Mass as often as you can, not just on Sundays.
  • Offer every day your sufferings, including your emotions that can get the best of you.
  • Try to overcome one habitual sin, especially by attending Confession regularly.

The saints doubled down in times of turmoil and didn’t walk away. Let us turn to Sts. Jacinta and Francisco in this campaign for the Church, and especially to Sister Lucia, who lived the long, slow martyrdom of daily living for Christ.

Information for this article was found on pages 352 – 355 in A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary, the biography of Sister Lucia, published by the World Apostolate of Fatima USA. It is available in our online gift shop or by calling our Shrine store.

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24 Comments
  1. Thank you Barb. This is a beautiful reminder of what’s been entrusted to each of us and a powerful message as we enter the New Year together. God bless and reward you!

  2. As usual an excellent article in a reminder of how we should start the new year and the new decade. That is United to the hearts of Jesus and Mary and in promoting the message of Fatima thanks Barb for that good reminder

    • To Kate I’m glad I read this article, gives me ideals of what is necessary to do to get closer to Mary & Jesus. I will try to continue these things in my life. I get so busy that I stop doing the most important things for my life. I must stop take pause to remember how prayer helps us all.

  3. Thank youfor this powerful instruction.

  4. I am inspired and thankful ….

  5. Thank you for the encouraging article not only for myself but for all of Our Lord’s Holy Church. Through the Ever Immaculate Heart of Mary and in Our Lord Jesus Christ Prescious Holy Name I wish you and of Our Lady’s Blue Army a blessed and Happy New Year.

  6. Thank you for this beautiful inspiration! …Wishing everyone perfect vision in 2020!

  7. Thank you for that beautiful article. Times have been difficult, but I am saying my rosary every day and offering prayers for all who are in need. I know in my heart that Our Heavenly Father hears and will answer in His time, which is different than our time. Pray, and pray often.

  8. Thanks for the information
    God bless

  9. Thank you so much for putting this out there for us to read. I was not familiar with these later interactions of Our Lady with Sr. Lucia. Praise God. Great article with words of wisdom for our spiritual life. Thank You and God Bless You!

  10. It is important to be confident in prayer. As Padre Pio said, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry”. In the past. the Church has been attacked from within by heresies and from outside by Protestantism, Islam, and Buddhism. Then as now, I’m sure that some Catholics have left their Faith and will continue to leave when tested. They are the seeds which did not grow roots, and thus withered by the roadside as the parable says. When asked if we will also go, our answer should be Peter’s, “Lord, where shall we go?” Fear not, He is with us., and the Immaculate Heart will triumph!

  11. I will do it! And with much love and trust. It is our Mission!

  12. Thank you. I needed to hear this today and at this time with the various waves crashing against the Church.

  13. I will do it more

  14. Yes, we must pray for The Church, Pope Francis, and priests. It is a time for us to grow in personal holiness and make little sacrifices.

  15. Thank you so much for this article. It is very important to pray and fast for our Church and all the Priests and Bishops and clergies most important to our Pope Francis .

  16. Pray that the Church will continue to speak out against all the evils in the world.
    The Church is our last great hope.
    Use the Rosary as our conduit to Mary.

  17. Thank you all very much for the good messages from everyone I pray my Rosary and Divine Mercy everyday . God bless you all and Blessed Happy New Year 2020.

  18. Thank you for this reminder, it is definitely helpful in our busy life.

  19. Thank you for being a blessed instrument of the Holy Mother 🙏🏼

  20. Thank you for the article it is full of hope. Happy new year brothers and sisters .

  21. Help us with Pope Francis Lord. Change him!

  22. Sister Lucia so lucky that Our Mother, Jesus gave us, appeared and spoke to her. I will offer my disappointments, hopelessness, little angers, no patience, self loving, self importance etc. as sacrifices. Pray more for Pope Francis, as he has enemies galore, he needs our prayers on an astronomical level as he is the spokesman of God and he is a good one.

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