by Donal Anthony Foley –
One of the primary aspects of Our Lady’s message at Fatima, which needs to be emphasized more, is the idea of devotion to her Immaculate Heart becoming a global phenomenon.
We can see this from her June 13, 1917 message, when Mary told Lucia that Jesus wanted the young seer to make the Immaculate Heart known and loved and that He wished to establish the devotion throughout the world. In return for this devotion, Our Lady promised salvation to whoever embraced it. She repeated this point during her July apparition, saying that this devotion was a way to save poor sinners from hell.
Over a century later, though, especially in these days of declining religious participation, the work of spreading this devotion worldwide is not done. Therefore, it is pertinent that we embrace this if we are to see a triumph of the Immaculate Heart.
When John Haffert, co-founder of the World Apostolate of Fatima/Blue Army, met with Sister Lucia in 1946, together they composed the pledge that Lucia said defined the devotion to the Immaculate Heart. More than 25 million people signed it in the subsequent decades. This “March of Pledges,” as it was called, became the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, and it is the same pledge that thousands continue to sign today, signifying their spiritual commitment to do what Our Lady asked.
Lucia explained that the sanctification of our daily obligations, according to our vocation in life, was the first condition of following the Fatima message. It is our pathway to growth in holiness – to personal conversion. The daily Rosary and the wearing of the brown scapular were the aids to help us achieve this. And, as Mary stated repeatedly in her apparitions, the Rosary would help us obtain much-needed peace – in ourselves, our families and our world.
Sister Lucia said in 1993 that we are in the third day of the week of Fatima, the post-consecration era. Much more was to unfold. Haffert has stated that the next Fatima day will come when the appropriate number of people throughout the world respond to Our Lady’s call and practice Communions of reparation for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This was specifically requested by Our Lady and the Child Jesus on Dec. 10, 1925. It is a practice that has not been taken up sufficiently by individuals, nor has it been promoted sufficiently by the Church. Yet, Sister Lucia has said it can avert wars and other calamities.
As the WAF/Blue Army approaches its 75th anniversary in 2022, its work in spreading the devotion to the Immaculate Heart continues, despite new challenges in the Church and the world.
100 Years of the Legion of Mary
Of course, this devotion to the Immaculate Heart, which involves a loving relationship with Our Lady, is not just a question of prayers, but also of deeds. In this respect, one organization that has focused on such “Marian” deeds has been the Legion of Mary, whose centenary takes place this year on September 7. The Legion was founded in 1921 in Dublin, Ireland, by Frank Duff – four years after the apparitions at Fatima. His aim in founding the Legion was the sanctification of its members through prayer and works undertaken by the basic unit of the Legion, the Praesidium, a Latin term for a detachment of a Roman Legion.
The idea was that Legion members would meet weekly as a Praesidium and given particular apostolic work to do as well as to report on the previous week’s work. The types of work traditionally associated with the Legion have included visiting families and the sick, both at their homes and in the hospital, and this is to be carried out in union with Our Lady. Duff emphasized the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, such that by working with Mary, Legionaries could serve their fellow members of the Body of Christ, seeing Christ in them.
Duff based his Marian ideas on St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion and promoted the saint’s idea of total personal consecration, focusing on the close union between Our Lady and the Holy Spirit.
The founder wanted Legionaries to have a broad vision, one with a particular focus on evangelization and conversion. Decades before Vatican II, he was laying down the essential point that the laity have a crucial role in building up the Church, the Body of Christ.
The Legion grew very rapidly, but as with many Catholic organizations, growth has slowed somewhat in recent years. Despite this, the Legion, like the WAF/Blue Army, is present in many countries and has millions of members worldwide, divided between active and auxiliary – or praying – members. Most of its members are found in countries such as South Korea, the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Certainly then, the Legion has also played a very important part in spreading devotion to Mary over the last century.
The fact that the Legion started just four years after Fatima points to it being part of an overall heavenly plan to spread devotion to Our Lady. Another aspect of this plan was surely the founding of the Militia Immaculate, or Knights of Our Lady, by St. Maximilian Kolbe, on October 16, 1917, just three days after the miracle of the sun at Fatima.
It is interesting to note that all three organizations used military terminology in describing themselves, and this in itself is a reminder that we are part of the Church Militant – and so meant to be fighting, in a spiritual sense, to promote the faith.
Given the current state of the world and the fact that the devotion to Our Lady is far from being a truly global phenomenon, we might be inclined to think that such an aim is difficult if not impossible for the various Marian apostolates. But there is little point in giving in to that type of thinking. As indicated above, we are all part of the Church Militant, and so, like an ordinary earthly army, we have to keep up our morale and keep advancing towards the truth.
Our job, then, is, in a spiritual sense, to keep fighting, and not lay down our arms. For devotees of Our Lady of Fatima, this means in particular to practice the devotion as Sister Lucia defined it. And we must not forget that we have the Blessed Virgin’s promise that in the end, her Immaculate Heart will triumph, and a period of peace will be granted to the world. So we know that we on the winning side.
Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published shortly – details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk