The precious children of Fatima, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, have captured our hearts, as the brave trio who fought against all secular odds to keep a promise to Our Lady. She asked them to come to her on the 13th of each month for six months, in the year 1917; and against overwhelming odds, they said Yes!
Our Lady gave them important messages during that period of time, many of which they couldn't begin to understand. Some of the profound things she said to them were for them alone; others were for the world. But the drama of the Miracle of the Sun on October 13, 1917, witnessed by more than 70,000 people in the Cova da Iria, and as far off as the Azores mountains, overshadowed for a time many of the messages she gave these little people.
Over the years, we have had an opportunity to go through all the occurrences of that six month period which would change the world forever. Everything was important to them, but some things burned an impression on their hearts and minds, more than others. One of these events was a vision, rather than a message from our Lady.
We have to preface this with some things, the children shared with one another. Most of this came to the world, years later from Lucia, when, under obedience to her bishop, she wrote on those early years. The messages connected with Hell played an important part in the Apparitions of Our Lady in 1917, as well as in those of the Archangel Michael in 1916. Just think about some of the things which were said to the children. One of the most forceful references to Hell was when Our Lady said to the children, "Many souls go to Hell because no one prays for them."
This was the beginning of her plea to us to pray for the conversion of sinners. Much of the thrust of the Fatima messages had to do with praying for sinners in an attempt to keep them from plunging into the eternal flames of Hell.
This accounts for the prayer, Mary gave to the children and to us through them, which we say at the end of each decade of the Rosary,
"Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls into Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy Mercy."
After this, Mary opened her hands and pointed down to the earth. The brilliant light opened the earth, burrowing deep into the bowels of the Underworld. The children were given a vision of Hell. In Lucia's third memoir, she describes it as follows:
"Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant."
They spoke about a sea of fire, filled with devils and the souls of people, black or bronzed, burning fiercely, ghastly screams of indescribable pain coming out of them, being sucked into a river of fire, like molten lava, embers of burnt skin flying off their charred bodies. The demons could be distinguished from the people in that they looked like ghoulish, deformed animals. The grotesque vision would have bristled the hair on the necks of the strongest adults. These innocent little children were petrified.
Mary spoke to Lucia.
"You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war will end, but if men do not cease to offend God, another worse one will begin.
"When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, famine and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father."
This vision of Hell, and Our Lady's words, had a devastating effect on the children, especially Jacinta, who was extremely sensitive and only seven years old. Actually, these were all little people, Lucia ten, Francisco eight, and Jacinta seven years old. Jacinta was upset by the vision of Hell. Really, she was disturbed by the whole idea of Hell.
When the apparitions first began, she would ponder on Hell. She was happy that the Lady had said she would go to Heaven. However, she was concerned about all those who would not go to Heaven, but to Hell. She stopped playing; she sat and prayed and meditated. This was before they had the vision of Hell. Lucia asked her once what was wrong.
"That Lady said that many souls go to Hell. What is Hell, then?"
"It's like a big deep pit of wild beasts, with an enormous fire in it - that's how my mother used to explain it to me - and that's where people go who commit sins and don't confess them. They stay there and burn for ever!"
"And they never get out of there again?"
"Not even after many many years?"
"No! Hell never ends!"
Jacinta had a problem coming to terms with the forever perspective of eternity. She would go for days, saying nothing and then all of a sudden, while they were playing, she would ask:
"But listen! Doesn't Hell end after many, many years then?"
Or she would ask:
"These people burning in Hell, don't they ever die? And don't they turn into ashes? And if people pray very much for sinners, won't our Lord get them out of there? And if they make sacrifices as well? Poor sinners! We have to pray and make many sacrifices for them!"
Then she would smile and say,
"How good that Lady is! She has already promised to take us to Heaven."
This was partly the cause for Jacinta's great sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. She believed and rightly so, that if they didn't sin, they wouldn't go to Hell. If she gave up lunch, and gave her portion to the sheep, souls would be converted. If she gave up drinking water in the sweltering Portuguese afternoons, and gave her ration to the sheep, she would be helping a soul from going to Hell.
Some years after the death of Jacinta, actually in 1941, Lucia was asked by her bishop to write yet another account of the apparitions of Our Lady and to a great degree, her relationship with Jacinta and Francisco. One of the areas they wanted her to reflect on was why Jacinta took on this role of sacrificing so intensely, for the conversion of sinners. It had become a commitment for her, or so some thought. Lucia explained it in many ways, all of which were true. But bottom line, the overpowering reason was: She had seen a vision of Hell! Our Lady had touched her little heart, and she would do anything to save sinners from Hell. She would give up her very life, if necessary, so that sinners would convert.
She would sit on a rock and ponder about Hell. Then she'd burst out,
"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, having conjured up that vision which was implanted in her brain and her heart, she would break into serious prayer.
"O my Jesus! Forgive us, save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are most in need."
She would repeat the prayer for hours on end, on her knees, rocking like a mother rocks a baby. She was in ecstasy. She would come out of it long enough to look at Lucia or Francisco or both, and chide them,
"Francisco! Francisco! Are you praying with me? We must pray very much to save souls from Hell! So many go there! So many!"
Then at other times,
"Why doesn't Our Lady show Hell to sinners? If they saw it, they would not sin, so as to avoid going there! You must tell Our Lady to show Hell to all the people (those who went to the Cova da Iria for the apparitions). You'll see how they will be converted."
She would ask Lucia,"What are the sins people commit, for which they go to Hell?"
Lucia would answer: "I don't know. Perhaps the sin of not going to Mass on Sunday, of stealing, of saying ugly words, of cursing and of swearing."
Jacinta asked "So for just one word then, people can go to Hell?"
And Lucia answered "Well, if it's a sin."
Then Jacinta cried: "It wouldn't be hard for them to keep quiet, and go to Mass. I'm so sorry for sinners! If only I could show them Hell!"
Then she would think for a moment, and grab her cousin.
"I'm going to Heaven. But you are staying here. If Our Lady lets you, tell everybody what Hell is like, so that they won't commit any more sins and won't go to Hell."
When we wrote about the Apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima, we glanced over the vision of Hell as many others had. There were too many other things: The Miracle of the Sun, the prophesy of World War II, the promise from Our Lady that "in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph." But in researching the vision and the effect it had on the children, in particular Jacinta, we realize that Our Lady was trying desperately to warn us, through these children, of the horrors that await those who break relationship with Jesus. Jacinta had to be projecting what the Lady feared for us. She became a sacrificial lamb, offering up a tortuously painful illness and death for the conversion of sinners.
My brothers and sisters, we tell you about this terror that the vision of Hell put into the heart of this little girl, so that you can have a small idea what Hell is like. And hopefully, as this touches your heart, you, like Jacinta will not stand by while our brothers and sisters are suckered into Hell. Remember, her panic was not because she feared Hell for herself. She knew she would be in the Kingdom. It was for us, those who have not seen Hell, who do not have a tiny concept of the torture of Hell. She was so concerned about us that she was willing to suffer and give up her life to save souls, so that they would not have to experience what she had seen with her own eyes.
It gives you pause to think. Hell is not a popular subject these days. We don't hear anything about Hell, especially from the pulpit. The truth, the teachings that have come down through the centuries that there is a devil and there is a Hell, has been replaced by psychobabble that there is no devil, just psychosis; there is no place called Hell, its a state of mind; this is all there is; there is no punishment for sin, there is no nothing. We've said somewhere else in this book that Satan's greatest accomplishment in the Twentieth Century would be for us to deny his very existence. And here we have some of our own priests, professors of theology in Catholic Universities, playing right into his hands, doing just that, denying his existence. Of course, it may be easier, on earth, taking that route, going with the flow, not making waves, afraid perhaps that their fragile canoe will capsize. We'll pray for their immortal souls. After all, there is a time when we all have to face the Lord; and they, having been given the responsibility for the guidance of our souls into Heaven, will have also serious accountability before His throne. Pray they not be lost. But most of all, pray that they not lead any of the Lord's little ones, you and us to Hell. Listen to the word of the Lord, as taught to us from the ancients right to our Pope John Paul II. Don't let Satan fool you; don't let him drag you down the primrose path to the pits of Hell. Listen to Jacinta and the other Mystics who have seen Hell. Take their advice. They've seen Hell!