What can we learn from this message?
If the message wasn't of the utmost importance, then the Mother of Jesus would not have been sent as a messenger to give it to us.
The message is worth studying in detail, because messages like these tend to be carefully layered and only yield their full impact after a lot of prayerful pondering.
'Pray' is the first word of the message. What is prayer? The raising of the heart and mind to God. Each and every time Mary appears on earth she asks us to pray. It stands to reason that if she is asking us to pray, then most of us are not praying, or if we are praying we need to increase our prayer.
Why pray? Because pray connects us with God, the source of everything that is good. Prayer connects us to the power source of love. Prayer is the switch that turns the power on. If we pray, we give God permission to help us.
Why are we so reluctant to pray? Because the sheer act of praying acknowledges that we are not in control; acknowledges that God is the creator and that we are His creatures, and that we are not God. Despite the mountain of evidence in our lives that we are not in control, we still hate to admit it.
'Pray very much' is the next part of the message. A loving mother tells us what to do: 'Eat your greens. Eat lots of greens and you will be healthy.' If we pray much we will be on our way to being spiritually healthy. As long as we pray, and pray more than we are praying now, how we pray isn't important.
'Pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners.' This part of the message tells us what we should be praying about. Prayer is praise/adoration, thanksgiving, contrition/repentance and petition/intercession. If we are weak on those first three types of prayer, then work on them first. We tend to be pretty good at asking God for things, to heal us, to help us pass our exams, to take away our problems, to make that cute person of the opposite sex notice us etc. But how good are we at 'Pray very much for sinners'?
'Pray very much for sinners' implies that in our petitions and intercessions to God that the majority of those prayers should be for the conversion of those who are not living according to the 10 Commandments (not putting God and God's will in the first place in their lives, swearing, not attending Sunday worship, ignoring their obligations to their parents, stealing, lying, perjury, violence, murder, participating in sexual activity outside marriage, greed for material things etc). Every one of us has at least one person in our lives doing some of those things. Have we prayed for him or for her? Have we prayed regularly for him or for her?
'Pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners'. Here the Mother of Jesus is telling us that prayer alone is insufficient to obtain a conversion, sacrifices are also necessary. What are we willing to do as a sacrifice in intercession for a loved one's conversion? Are you willing to reduce your social media time? Could you give up the biscuit you like with your cup of tea? Is adding an extra no-alcohol day to your week possible? By and large our world has forgotten that prayer combined with sacrifice is very powerful, but Our Lady has not forgotten and like the good mother she is, she reminds us.
This need for both prayer and sacrifice to obtain a conversion alerts us that to win the conversion of a soul is not easy, and that it requires commitment and perseverance. It takes dedication and courage, and the good news is that if the mother of Jesus has requested this of us, then it is possible for us to do it.
The last part of the message gives us all the motivation we need: 'For many souls go to Hell because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.'
Why do we need to pray and sacrifice ourselves for our loved ones who are living sinful lives? Because we don't want them to end up eternally unhappy. If Mary is real, then God is real, and Hell is real. Hell never ends, not for a thousand years, not for a million years, not even after a billion years. Hell never ends. To not see beauty, to not hear harmony, to not feel loved, to not have a friend, to never hear another kind word, and to know that it was your own misdeeds and your own refusal to love that obtained a place for you in Hell. What unimaginable horror!
Our heavenly mother came to remind us that Hell is real, and that we have to do our bit to prevent others from spending their eternity there. If we truly thought about it, we wouldn't even wish our worst enemy to be deprived of love for all eternity. Even though it is so unfashionable to talk about the existence of consequences for our actions, that doesn't make those consequences go away. It is all too easy to think that consequences are only for those who are convicted of criminal misdeeds. Where are the consequences of our actions leading, to heaven or to hell?
'For many souls go to Hell': that part of the message should make us shudder. The mother of Jesus is telling us that it is quite common for souls to go to Hell, and not just the world's most hated persons from history. She is telling us that we need to do our bit to reverse this trend. She is telling us that we cannot assume that everyone we attend the funeral of will end up in heaven, contrary to what most eulogies have to say.
The other thought that eventually comes when pondering this message is that if I don't start praying and offering up some sacrifices to obtain conversions then I am partially responsible for those who could have been saved from Hell if I had started praying and offering sacrifices. How horrible must it be to stand before the judgment seat of God and to discover that no one had ever prayed for you! That no one had loved you enough to even light a candle for you. On the other hand, what consolation must it be to learn at the judgment seat of God that your friend had prayed for you every day; and that your friend had given up swearing in order that you might receive mercy and pardon.
Even though this message was given to the world in 1917, it is still relevant. When God speaks through Mary, He speaks eternal truths. He speaks truths that do not change with the centuries and with the millennia. We could even say that this message is even more relevant now than it was in 1917 because back then family life was strong, Sunday worship was strong and governments upheld the 10 commandments in their laws.
What should we do to respond to this message?
* We should pray daily.
* We should include prayers for the conversion of sinners in our daily prayers.
* We should find something each day to offer up as a sacrifice to God for the conversion of sinners.
Doing these three things is not beyond anyone.
You might find the prayers on the PDF below useful in doing the first two things:
Blessed Francisco, Blessed Jacinta, holy Sr Lucia, pray for us.