The devotion to the Heart of Mary had a long history before the revelations of Our Lady of Fatima. But — as with the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which took on a whole new dimension with the revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque — the devotion to Our Lady’s Heart was given greater clarity and emphasis with the Fatima revelations.
On June 13, 1929, while still a Dorothean Sister, Sister Lucy dos Dores — little Lucia of Fatima — received, at her convent in Tuy, Spain, a revelation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which was, as well, a revelation of the Blessed Trinity. It was during this revelation that Our Lord said “the moment has come” for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart. But the consecration and consequent conversion of Russia, neither of which has happened, interest us only minimally in the present article. Regarding Russia’s consecration and conversion, we limit ourselves to only a few comments. When the promised conversion does take place — a conversion of atheistic, heretical, and schismatic people to the one true Faith under the pope — it will do so precisely as a result of its consecration to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart. Therefore, this re-catholicizing of a former Christian nation will be Mary’s victory. It also bears mention that the mystery of the Holy Trinity has a place of great prominence among the schismatic Russian Orthodox people. The heartland of that sect’s devotion is the monastery of the Holy Trinity of Saint Sergius.
It is the vision itself which primarily interests us here, as a subject of our thoughts, love, and contemplation. Here is Sister Lucy’s own account of it:
“The Reverend Father Gonçalves sometimes came to our chapel to hear confessions. I made my confession to him, and as I felt at ease with him, I continued to do so during the three years he remained there as superior.
“At this time Our Lord informed me that the moment had come when He willed for me to make known to the Holy Church His desire for the consecration of Russia and His promise to convert it… The communication took place in this way:
“I had requested and obtained permission from my superiors and confessor to make the Holy Hour from 11:00 until midnight from Thursday to Friday.
“Being alone one night, I knelt down before the communion rail in the middle of the chapel to say the prayers of the Angel, lying prostrate. Feeling tired, I got up and knelt, and continued to say them with my arms in the form of a cross. The only light came from the sanctuary lamp.
“Suddenly a supernatural light illumined the whole chapel and on the altar appeared a cross of light which reached to the ceiling.
“In a brighter part could be seen, on the upper part of the Cross, the face of a man and His body to the waist;
“On His breast was an equally luminous dove,
“And nailed to the cross, the body of another man.
“A little below the waist, suspended in mid-air, was to be seen a Chalice and a large Host onto which fell some drops of Blood from the face of the Crucified and from a wound in His breast. These drops ran down over the Host and fell into the Chalice.
“Under the right arm of the Cross was Our Lady with Her Immaculate Heart in Her hand… (It was Our Lady of Fatima with Her Immaculate Heart… in Her left hand… without a sword or roses, but with a crown of thorns and flames…).
“Under the left arm (of the Cross), some big letters, as it were of crystal clear water running down over the Altar, formed these words: “Grace and Mercy.”
“I understood that it was the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity that was shown to me, and I received lights about this mystery which I am not permitted to reveal.”
“Then Our Lady said to me: ‘The moment has come when God asks the Holy Father to make, in union with all the bishops of the world, the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means.’
“‘So numerous are the souls which the justice of God condemns for sins committed against Me, that I come to ask for reparation. Sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray.’
“I gave an account of this to my confessor, who ordered me to write what Our Lord willed to be done.”
It is our opinion that this vision “frames” the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It puts Our Lady and the great devotion Jesus wants us to have to Her Heart, in their proper place, so that the Heart of Mary, far from being detached from the central Mysteries of our Faith, is shown to be intimately related to them. In normal parlance, when we put someone in his place , it is an insult, a “putting down.” But, applied to the Blessed Mother, the phrase has to be understood literally. We are trying, by studying this vision, to put Our Lady in Her place: That is to say, we seek to put Her in the proper place in our hearts by appreciating the place God has assigned to Her; and Her place in God’s plan is higher by far than those of all other human persons.
Our plan from here on, in this article, is to break down the vision into its constituent parts. By “parts” we do not mean localized sections of the image but, rather, the distinct yet overlapping themes that make up its rich composition. We will distinguish these themes and comment on each one. This little study is not intended to be exhaustive in the least. Those who would like more on the subject are referred to Volume II of Frère Michel’s The Whole Truth About Fatima (pages 461-505) which was consulted in preparation of this piece.
First, the revelation of Tuy is Trinitarian. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are all clearly represented. Lucy herself said, “I understood that it was the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity that was shown to me, and I received lights about this mystery which I am not permitted to reveal.” What these “lights” are we will probably not know until the General Judgment. It gives us pause, however, to realize that the good sister is one living person who has received secret revelations of the Trinity, much as St. Paul received, “secret words which it is not granted man to utter.” (2 Cor. 12:4) Let us adore the generosity of our God, who consoled the much suffering Lucy with such an intimate privilege.
We are shown here an image of the Trinity working outside Itself. When theologians study the mystery of the Trinity, they speak of the acts of the Trinity ad extra (exterior) and those ad intra (interior). The acts of the Trinity ad extra include creation, redemption, and sanctification of souls. The acts of the Trinity ad intra are the personal processions, namely, the generation of the Son from the Father and the spiration of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son. Frère Michel fittingly calls the vision of Tuy the “Icon of the Redemptive Trinity.” It is the Blessed Trinity redeeming mankind, an act ad extra . Each of the three Persons is described in relation to the life-giving Cross, which is shown, not as the “infamous gibbet” (St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross ), but as the glorious sign of victory sung of by the Church in the Good Friday hymn, the Vexilla Regis . Sister Lucy’s words: “and on the altar appeared a cross of light which reached to the ceiling.”
Our attention should be drawn to the mystery of the Cross, despised today as it was in St. Paul’s time, when he spoke of the “enemies of the cross of Christ,” who made the Apostle weep (Phil. 3:18). We cannot resist here quoting the words of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, whose spirituality so perfectly complements the Fatima revelations: “By His death, the ignominies of the Cross were made so glorious, its poverty and bareness so opulent, its pains so sweet, its hardness so attractive, that it became as it were deified and an object of adoration for angels and men. Jesus now demands that, with Him, all His subjects adore it… On the day of the last judgment He will … command the chief Seraphim and Cherubim to gather up throughout the whole world all the particles of the true Cross, and they will be so well reunited by His loving omnipotence that they will form but one Cross, the very Cross upon which He died. He will have His Cross borne in triumph by the angels who will sing its joyful praises. His Cross will go before Him placed upon the most brilliant cloud that ever appeared. He will judge the world with His Cross and by it. What will be the joy of the friends of the Cross on beholding it? What will be the despair of its enemies, who not being able to bear the brilliant sight of this Cross will cry out to the mountains to fall upon them, and to the depths of hell to swallow them up!”
In her narrative, which begins by describing the Cross, Sister Lucy presents to us the entire picture related to the mystery of the Cross, the sign of our redemption. Frère Michel’s name, “Icon of the Redemptive Trinity” could not be more apropos.
The Father, the First Principle of the Trinity, is seen at the top of the Cross, above His well-beloved Son. The Holy Ghost is shown on the breast of the Father. The icon is obviously not meant to show the Trinitarian processions. Had that been the intention, then the Father and Son would be shown issuing forth the Holy Ghost. Just as the Father and Son are both said to “send” the Holy Ghost into the lives of Christians and hence, of the Church, so do the Father and the Son both spirate the Third Person in eternity. In this icon, the Father is sending the Holy Ghost upon His Son. This order — Father, then Holy Ghost, then Son, from top to bottom — does not confuse the order of the processions. Rather — not referring to the eternal processions at all, but to the redemptive action of the Trinity in time — it recalls the prophecies of Isaias concerning the “suffering Servant of Yahweh.” “Behold my servant, I will uphold him: my elect, my soul delighteth in him: I have given my spirit upon him , he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” (Is. 42:1)
Jesus gave nothing but that which He received of the Father. It was the Father’s commandment that He lay down His life and take it up again (John 10:18). The Father’s words were the words Jesus taught: “all things, whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) Just as the Logos proceeds from the bosom of the Father in eternity, His mission in time is given Him by the Father. Once that mission is finished, He will return to His Father, His origin: “I came forth from the Father and am come into the world: again I leave the world and I go to the Father.” (John 16:28) The Holy Ghost appearing above our crucified Lord recalls to us the words and vision of St. John the Baptist: “And I knew him not; but he who sent me to baptize with water, said to me: He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, he it is that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and I gave testimony, that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:33-34)
It is fitting that this Trinitarian revelation be associated with Our Lord’s act of redemption for this reason, reduced to a theological axiom by Gossler: “Belief in, and knowledge of, the Triune God is contingent upon belief in, and knowledge of, the Son of God.” The same Jesus who came into this world to “bear testimony to the truth” that He and the Father and the Holy Ghost are one eternal Substance — this same Jesus also came to die on the Cross. The doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, hidden in the Old Testament, was fully revealed in the life and death, in the flesh, of one of its Persons in the New. The fact that it was the Second Person who became incarnate was no random choice, either, for the one Person who was a Son from all eternity was the only one who should be called “Son” in time.
Mention of Jesus’ Incarnation and mission takes us from the Trinitarian aspect of the icon, to its Christology, which is the study of the Hypostatic Union , the union of the Divine and Human natures of Our Lord in one Divine Person.
Our Lord’s human soul received grace from the Father. Besides the “grace of union” by which His soul was united to the Logos, Jesus had Sanctifying Grace in a supereminent degree. As our mystic head, Jesus is the wellspring of grace. The graces that His human soul receives from the Blessed Trinity overflow to the rest of us, as an inexhaustible source of spiritual drink. “And of his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” (John 1:16) Being our pontiff, our “bridge-builder” with God, the sacred Humanity of Our Lord is the conduit through which all graces pass to men. This is what St. Paul means when he says that He is the “one mediator”: “For there is one God: and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5) Without the union of the two natures in Jesus, making Him “true God and true man,” this mediation would not have been possible.
One may assume that a Trinitarian theophany would have portrayed the living Christ, but in the Tuy revelation, that is not the case. Jesus is shown after His act of redemption, since His precious side is now wounded: something which happened posterior to His “It is consummated.” When, on crucifixes, Our Lord is portrayed alive, His eyes are open and his side is not wounded. When He is portrayed dead, the side is wounded and the eyes closed. Here, Jesus is shown after He “gave up the ghost.” (Mark 15:37) He is now in His death-sleep. Not only does the wound Sister Lucy mentions tell us this; her words imply the same: She refers to the Crucified as “the body of another man.” What does this teach us, but that the Logos is present in the dead Corpus? For, if the Trinity is being portrayed, then the Second Person cannot be missing: He is there personally united to that lifeless Body and to that Blood, which, while it no longer keeps Jesus’ Body alive, is life-giving.
This leads us to consider Jesus during his holy death-sleep. The Body, Blood, and human Soul of the Man-God are all united to the Person of the Son. That created human Soul which animated Jesus’ Body and made it more than a mere shell for His Divinity, is now dwelling in “hell,” as the Creed says, alluding to what we call the “limbo of the Fathers.” As His Soul “preached to those spirits that were in prison” (1 Pet. 3:19), It and the Body and Blood were waiting for the time of victory on the third day. At that moment, the Logos, by His sheer Omnipotence, conquered death and joined those elements of a living body back together, nevermore to be separated again.
It is in the Christology of the vision that we begin to see the dawn of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart. The Blessed Trinity is a pure Spirit; but in the Incarnation, the Second Person put on our flesh so that he could “condemn sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). In consenting to Her role in the Incarnation, Our Blessed Lady began Her co-redemptive career, given the fact that She knew it would cause Her suffering. (Being versed in the Scriptures, She knew that the Messias would be the “Man of Sorrows” of Isaias 53.) The energetic participation, body and soul, of the Virgin in the Incarnation prevents us from being surprised by the fact that the clearest definition of Jesus’ Hypostatic Union was given by the Church in terms of Mary. When the Council of Ephesus set out to teach us that Jesus is true God and true man, it did so by calling Her Theotokos : Mother of God. From this most exalted title of our Lady, all Her other graces and prerogatives flow.
Sacramental and Ecclesiastical
The words “Grace and Mercy” signify that “fullness” from which “we have all received,” that divine commodity that our Mediator dispenses to us. They are under the left arm of the Crucified, in “big letters, as it were of crystal clear water running down over the Altar.” In Holy Scripture, supernatural grace is often symbolized by water, such as the “living waters” about which Our Lord spoke with the Samaritan woman: “the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting.” (John 4:14) Copious Old Testament passages liken God’s grace to water. The Baptismal significance of water should not go unnoticed. In God’s providence, that element which was used merely to symbolize grace throughout the Old Testament, once sanctified by the Savior in the Jordan, can now effect grace when used sacramentally. Thus, St. Peter tells us that, just as in the Ark of Noe eight souls were “saved by water,” so, too, “baptism, being of the like form, now saveth you also.” (1 Pet. 3: 20-21)
Being the entrance into the Church, which is the “Mystical Body of Christ,” Baptism gives us title to partake of the physical body of Christ, the Eucharist. Baptism is the first sacrament, the incorporation into Christ. The Eucharist is the very Body of Christ, the greatest sacrament, the one by which we communicate without any medium whatsoever with Christ our God: “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him.” (John 6:57) And, as we are told elsewhere by Our Lord (John 15:5), whoever abides in Him “beareth much fruit.” The baptismal birth into the Mystical Body, into the very life of the eternal Trinity, giving us, moreover, the title to feed on Christ’s Body: what greater “Grace and Mercy” could there be?
Perhaps recalling the context of the vision will serve to intensify its Eucharistic aspect: Sister Lucy saw this vision while adoring Our Lord truly present on the Altar during a Eucharistic Holy Hour. Thus, while adoring the Blessed Sacrament, she sees “a Chalice and a large Host onto which fell some drops of Blood from the face of the Crucified and from a wound in His breast. These drops ran down over the Host and fell into the Chalice.” The Host, the visible species under which we of the Roman Rite receive the Body of Jesus, is shown dripping with the sacred Blood. Herein we see the connection of that familiar object of our devotion and the reality that the sacramental species veils: When we eat that Sacrament, we partake of the Body of God. It is a graphic reminder of the truth of the words of Consecration: “This is my body.” From the blood dripping off the Host, we see that in that one species is contained not only the Body, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus, but His Blood, too, that “precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled.” That Blood, not to be compared with “corruptible things, as gold or silver” (1 Pet. 1:18-19) is what we drink each time we receive. If only we would fully realize that when we receive, it is just as if we put our mouths to the side of our Lord on the Cross. Then, what fear and trembling would seize us and how thoroughly would we prove ourselves, lest we eat and drink to our own damnation! (1 Cor. 11:27-29)
The elevated Host and the chalice, which collects the Blood dripping over it, represent not only the Eucharist, but also that reality which the Sacrament effects and sustains: the Church. The Church is, to use the expression of St. Augustine “The Whole Christ.” It is Jesus, the Head, united to us, the members, a mysterious union explained by St. Paul when he writes: “the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body: all that partake of one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:16-17) Saint Augustine says of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, “If you receive them well, you are that which you receive.” (Sermon CCXXVII: On Easter Sunday )
This mystical and sacramental representation of the Church in the vision is linked to the legal and hierarchical aspect of the Church in the words Mary spoke to Her servant, Sister Lucy: “The moment has come when God asks the Holy Father to make, in union with all the bishops of the world, the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means.” The triumph of the Immaculate Heart will also be a triumph of the Catholic Church, which is a hierarchical, historical, mystical, and divinely instituted reality all at once.
The very place of the Tuy revelation also gives us copious fruit for meditation. The vision appeared “on the altar.” This tableau of our salvation could not be fixed in a more perfect location. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated on the altar in that Dorothean Sisters’ convent. The scene is a vivid reminder that the faithful make contact with the colossal realities of our salvation here and now every time we assist at Mass. At Holy Mass, the Trinity, the immolated God-man, and the Blessed Virgin re-present the Sacrifice of Golgotha. The words of Jacob, employed in the liturgy of the dedication of a church, can be applied as well to a cathedral or any humble chapel where the awful, all-holy, divine Sacrifice takes place: “How terrible is this place! this is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven.” (Gen. 28:17)
Now we come to the devotion of Fatima: The Immaculate Heart of Mary. “Under the right arm of the Cross was Our Lady with Her Immaculate Heart in Her hand… (It was Our Lady of Fatima with Her Immaculate Heart… in Her left hand… without a sword or roses, but with a crown of thorns and flames…)” Our Lady is standing exactly where she was during the Crucifixion of her Son. How appropriate is the Church’s selection for the Gospel of the Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (August 22):
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.” (John 19:27)
The Blessed Virgin is shown here in the vision of Tuy as the Co-Redemptrix and Universal Mediatrix of grace. To appreciate Her station here at the foot of the Cross, we will go back in time to the prophecy of Simeon: “And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed .” (Luke 2:34-35) Our Lady’s agony at the foot of the Cross was the consummation of Her whole life of sufferings. It was the greatest of Her sorrows. While Our Lord suffered His Passion, His Mother suffered Her Com-Passion. Mary perfectly united Her sufferings to those of Jesus. The crown of thorns, which encircles the Immaculate Heart, is the sign of Her suffering. The flames show us the intensity of Her charity.
Our Lady’s spiritual maternity also comes to the fore here. While giving birth to Jesus, She had no birth pangs. That curse put upon the daughters of Eve was spared Her. However, the woman of the Apocalypse (12:1-2), who is the Virgin, is described by St. John as being in a painful labor. Why is this? Do the Scriptures contradict the tradition of Our Lady’s painless delivery of Jesus? No. What needs to be understood here is that there is a distinction in Mary’s maternity. Her Divine Maternity is her Motherhood of God. Her spiritual Maternity is Her motherhood of the Mystical Body. We Catholics are Our Lady’s true “other children.” After all, Jesus is the “Firstborn amongst many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29) Being mother of all of Jesus’ members — His Mystical Body — the Blessed Mother gave birth painfully at that moment when the Church was born. Giving birth to the God-man was not painful, but giving birth to the “many brethren” was so, for we were bad children, regenerated at a tremendous price.
When St. John related his vision at Patmos, he was relating an apocalyptic re-enactment of what he saw on Golgotha. To explain this, let us call to mind the words of Jesus to the Virgin: “Behold thy son.” The common interpretation of this passage is that Christ gave His mother to be the mother of all Christians, using St. John as our agent, if we may call him that. Here, then, Jesus proclaims the spiritual maternity of His Blessed Mother, a maternity that embraces all Christians. Moments later — at the birth of the Church from the wounded side of our Savior, the Mother of Sorrows mystically gives birth. Because Her act of co-redemption — Her Com-Passion — is so intimately bound up with Jesus’ infinite act as the God-man, Her act takes on a quasi-infinite character. Her maternal Co-Redemption was sufficient to be the birth of all of Christ’s members at once. When Longinus’ lance thrust His side, in plain site of the Virgin, the sword of Simeon pierced Her heart. Then She became the New Eve, the “mother of all the living” (Gen. 3:20) in the supernatural order. In Sister Lucy’s vision, the Virgin stands on the Right side of Our Lord (the left, as we look at the vision). Therefore, She stands on the side of Jesus that is pierced. The fulfillment of Eve’s type must not go unnoticed. As Eve was born out of Adam’s side, so Mary becomes the New Eve from the side of the New Adam. By a Divine twist on the Old Testament types, the body of the New Adam came from that of the New Eve, whereas the order in Genesis was reversed. If it be pointed out that Our Blessed Lady is here said to “be born” spiritually and “give birth” at the same time, we point out that this is yet another variation on the type of Eve. After God formed our common mother from his rib, Adam called her Eve, because she would mother all the living. Eve’s creation had happened just moments before Adam named her, which he did by way of anticipating her future births. With the New Eve, Her spiritual birth, going all the way back to Her Immaculate Conception, was accomplished in anticipation of Christ’s act on the Cross; while Her maternity over all of regenerated mankind was effected at the Cross, only to be fulfilled in time, dispensed with the rest of the graces won by Christ’s redemption.
When Our Lord addresses His Mother from the Cross, He calls Her “Woman.” This title, which He also used at the wedding feast of Cana, was not derogatory as Protestants may take it. He was calling Her by the appellation used in both Genesis 3:15 and Apocalypse 12. She is the Woman who will crush the head of the serpent and the Woman clothed in the sun.
We pointed out earlier that the Church was born out of the lanced side of our Savior and that the Blessed Virgin’s spiritual maternity began there, too. But there is an even deeper connection between the Virgin and the Church. The Church is the society of all the supernaturally regenerated, of all of Christ’s redeemed. In that society, Mary ranks first, being the only perfectly redeemed, the only perfectly saved. By Her excellence, Mary is the prototype of the Church. For, to be sinless, perfect, and “full of grace” from the beginning of Her life to its end — all by the “grace and mercy” of the Trinity — was to be the unique redeemed one. Thus certain medieval theologians argued in defense of the Immaculate Conception, that if Our Lord performed a perfect act of redemption for humanity, there must be one human who was perfectly redeemed. At the heart of the Church is the Immaculate Heart, humanity’s perfect response to the perfect act of the perfect Triune God.
We hope that the thoughts presented here for the increase of our readers’ knowledge and love of God will achieve their desired end. Knowledge of Divine Truth cannot be static — it must lead us to a greater practical love of God or all it will do is puff us up. Included in this practical love is the habit of prayer, which is a good subject for us to use in finishing out these considerations. What was Sister Lucy doing when she was graced with the vision at Tuy? She was offering to God the prayers the Angel had taught her and her little companions, Blessed Francesco and Blessed Jacinta. One of these prayers furnishes us all with a simple, childlike expression of our love for the Blessed Trinity and the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the sacrileges, outrages and indifference by which He Himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.”
 This touches on the Trinitarian doctrine of the Filioque , a truth of the Faith rejected by the so-called “Orthodox.” For a brief explanation and defense of this doctrine, see “What’s the Filioque” in From the Housetops , No. 50.
 We are especially indebted to Frère Michel for the observations relative to Isaias’ prophecy.
 Merriam-Webster defines “theophany” as “a visible manifestation of a deity.”
 The words in parentheses are Lucy’s own.