Question: "Are apparitions of Mary, such as Lady Fatima, true messages from God?"
Answer: In Catholic tradition, there are many reported occurrences of Mary, angels, and/or saints appearing and delivering a message from God. It is likely that, at least in some of these cases, the people were genuinely seeing something supernatural. While some of what is seen in various places is perhaps the work of charlatans, other apparitions were apparently authentic. However, an apparition being authentic does not mean it is a message from God or a genuine appearance of Mary, an angel, or a saint. Scripture declares that Satan and his demons masquerade as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Satanic deception is just as possible an explanation for the apparitions.
The only way to determine whether an apparition is a "lying wonder" or a genuine message from God is to compare the message of the apparition with Scripture. If the teachings that are attached to these apparitions are contrary to the Word of God, the apparitions themselves are then satanic in nature. A study of the teachings of Our Lady Fatima with the "Miracle of the Sun" is a good example.
It would indeed seem that something spectacular happened on October 13, 1917, and that “something” did in fact appear and deliver a message. The fact that its timing coincided with what had been told to the shepherd children three months earlier would seem to tie this event with the apparitions they had been seeing over the previous months, first of the angel and later of the "Lady of Fatima."
When one compares the message of Fatima to what the Bible teaches, it is evident that the message of Fatima combines some biblical truth with several unbiblical practices and teachings. The following paragraphs are quoted directly from a website dedicated to the "Lady of Fatima," www.fatima.org. Specific words or sentences are underlined to indicate them to be unbiblical (not taught by the Bible), or anti-biblical (contradictory to the Bible). Following the lengthy quotations, more information will be given with specific reasons for classifying these apparitions as "lying wonders." Here then is a quoted summary of the overall message given by the Lady of Fatima:
The Message of Lady Fatima in General
"The general Message of Fatima is not complicated. Its requests are for prayer, reparation, repentance, and sacrifice, and the abandonment of sin. Before Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children, Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta, the Angel of Peace visited them. The Angel prepared the children to receive the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his instructions are an important aspect of the Message that is often overlooked.
"The Angel demonstrated to the children the fervent, attentive, and composed manner in which we should all pray, and the reverence we should show toward God in prayer. He also explained to them the great importance of praying and making sacrifices in reparation for the offenses committed against God. He told them: 'Make of everything you can a sacrifice and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication, for the conversion of sinners.' In his third and final apparition to the children, the Angel gave them Holy Communion, and demonstrated the proper way to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist: all three children knelt to receive Communion; Lucy was given the Sacred Host on the tongue and the Angel shared the Blood of the Chalice between Francisco and Jacinta.
"Our Lady stressed the importance of praying the Rosary in each of Her apparitions, asking the children to pray the Rosary every day for peace. Another principal part of the Message of Fatima is devotion to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, which is terribly outraged and offended by the sins of humanity, and we are lovingly urged to console Her by making reparation. She showed Her Heart, surrounded by piercing thorns (which represented the sins against Her Immaculate Heart), to the children, who understood that their sacrifices could help to console Her.
"The children also saw that God is terribly offended by the sins of humanity, and that He desires each of us and all mankind to abandon sin and make reparation for their crimes through prayer and sacrifice. Our Lady sadly pleaded: 'Do not offend the Lord our God any more, for He is already too much offended!'
"The children were also told to pray and sacrifice themselves for sinners, in order to save them from hell. The children were briefly shown a vision of hell, after which Our Lady told them: '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 what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.'
"Our Lady indicated to us the specific root of all the troubles in the world, the one that causes world wars and such terrible suffering: sin. She then gave a solution, first to individual people, then to the Church’s leaders. God asks each one of us to stop offending Him. We must pray, especially the Rosary. By this frequent prayer of the Rosary, we will get the graces we need to overcome sin. God wants us to have devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to work to spread this devotion throughout the world. Our Lady said, 'My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.' If we wish to go to God, we have a sure way to Him through true devotion to the Immaculate Heart of His Mother.
"In order to move ever closer to Her, and therefore to Her Son, Our Lady stressed the importance of praying at least five decades of the Rosary daily. She asked us to wear the Brown Scapular. And we must make sacrifices, especially the sacrifice of doing our daily duty, in reparation for the sins committed against Our Lord and Our Lady. She also stressed the necessity of prayers and sacrifices to save poor sinners from hell. The Message of Fatima, to individual souls, is summarized in these things."
On the same website, there is recorded an interview between Sister Lucy (the 10-year-old shepherd girl who was among the three children who saw the apparitions in 1917) and a Father Fuentes. The interview took place in 1957. In this interview focusing on Fatima and its message, Sister Lucy says the following:
"Father, the devil is in the mood for engaging in a decisive battle against the Blessed Virgin, and the devil knows what it is that most offends God, and which in a short space of time will gain for him the greatest number of souls. Thus the devil does everything to overcome souls consecrated to God, because in this way the devil will succeed in leaving the souls of the faithful abandoned by their leaders, thereby the more easily to seize them.
"Father, the Most Holy Virgin did not tell me that we are in the last times of the world, but She made me understand this for three reasons. The first reason is because She told me that the devil is in the mood for engaging in a decisive battle against the Virgin. And a decisive battle is the final battle where one side will be victorious and the other side will suffer defeat. Hence from now on we must choose sides. Either we are for God or we are for the devil; there is no other possibility.
"The second reason is because She said to my cousins as well as to myself, that God is giving two last remedies to the world. They are the Holy Rosary and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These are the last two remedies which signify that there will be no others.
"The third reason is because in the plans of Divine Providence, God always, before He is about to chastise the world, exhausts all other remedies. Now, when He sees that the world pays no attention whatsoever then, as we say in our imperfect manner of speaking, He offers us with a certain trepidation the last means of salvation, His Most Holy Mother. It is with a certain trepidation because if you despise and reject this ultimate means, we will not have any more forgiveness from Heaven, because we will have committed a sin which the Gospel calls the sin against the Holy Ghost. This sin consists of openly rejecting, with full knowledge and consent, the salvation which He offers. Let us remember that Jesus Christ is a very good Son and that He does not permit that we offend and despise His Most Holy Mother. We have recorded through many centuries of Church history the obvious testimony which demonstrates by the terrible chastisements which have befallen those who have attacked the honor of His Most Holy Mother, how Our Lord Jesus Christ has always defended the honor of His Mother.
"The two means for saving the world are prayer and sacrifice. [Regarding the Holy Rosary, Sister Lucy said:] Look, Father, the Most Holy Virgin, in these last times in which we live, has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations, that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary. With the Holy Rosary we will sanctify ourselves. We will console Our Lord and obtain the salvation of many souls. "Finally, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Most Holy Mother, consists in considering Her as the seat of mercy, of goodness and of pardon, and as the sure door of entering Heaven."
In the above paragraphs concerning the message that Sister Lucy felt that the apparition wished to communicate to the world, there are so many things that are not only not found in Scripture but are contrary to Scripture.
1) Mary is referred to as the "Most Holy Mother" and having an "Immaculate Heart." By this Catholics do not mean that she was given the righteousness and holiness given to saints through the imputed righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) but that she was saved from sin in every form through having been conceived in her mother's womb without the stain of original sin. Never does the Bible refer to Mary as being sinless. Never does it refer to her having an immaculate heart. Rather, Mary refers to God as her Savior (Luke 1:47). This places her with the rest of humanity, as a sinner needing a Savior, but the Catholic Church holds that Mary was saved from sin through the merits of Christ by being conceived without sin and then living a sinless life. Again, never is this taught in Scripture. Rather, what Scripture teaches is that there is only one exception to the truth that we are all sinners (Romans 3:10, 3:23, etc.). That single exception is Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).
2) Sister Lucy speaks of devotion to the "Immaculate Heart" of Mary and saying the Rosary as the "last two remedies to the world." She also states that there is no problem that cannot be solved by saying the Rosary. It is the teaching of Fatima that saying the Rosary will lead to the salvation of many souls. Again, never is such a teaching found in Scripture. The Rosary's main prayer is the "Hail, Mary," which is repeated fifty times. The first half of it is a quote from Scripture of the greeting of the angel to Mary, "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." but the second half says, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death." Besides giving Mary a title which Scripture does not, it asks Mary to pray for us. Indeed, Catholics not only see Mary as the one through whom ALL of God's grace flows, and the one who intercedes to her Son on our behalf, but Catholics also direct prayers to her to deliver people from sin, from war, etc. Pope John Paul II's prayer from the early 1980s to Mary is an example of such. In this prayer he repeatedly pleads to Mary to "deliver us" from nuclear war, famine, self-destruction, injustice, etc.
Again, never do we find a godly person in Scripture praying to anyone but God or asking for intercession by anyone but those still living on this earth. Prayer to Mary or to saints is not found in the Bible. Rather, Scripture directs us to pray to God (Luke 11:1-2; Matthew 6:6-9; Philippians 4:6; Acts 8:22; Luke 10:2, etc.)! God entreats us to come boldly unto the throne of grace (His throne) that we may find grace and help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). God promised us that the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us according to the will of God with groanings that cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26). Why do we need to go through a saint, angel or Mary, especially considering the fact that neither the example of doing so nor the command of doing so is ever given in Scripture? Concerning prayer, we have the repeated example of two things in Scripture:
a) Prayer is made to God alone (1 Corinthians 11:5; Romans 10:1; 15:30; Acts 12:5; Acts 10:2; Acts 8:24; Acts 1:24; Zechariah 8:21-22; Jonah 2:7; 4:2, etc.)
b) Requests for prayer are made only to the living (1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Hebrews 13:18, etc.)
In addition, nowhere is it taught that Mary is all-seeing, all-hearing, and omniscient (or nearly so), as she would have to be to hear and respond to the multitude of prayers that are directed toward her from the many Catholics who pray to her simultaneously around the world. Instead Scripture teaches that both angels and the spirits of the dead are finite beings, able to only be in one place at a time (Daniel 9:20-23; Luke 16:19f).
3) One of the repeated messages of Fatima is the call for personal "reparation" or "penance." This Catholic concept teaches that we must make amends to God and to Mary for the sins we have committed against them. Repeating one of the phrases from "The Message in General," the angel told the children to "make of everything you can a sacrifice and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended..." Reparation is defined as "an expiation ... something done or paid as amends; compensation." This ties in with the Roman Catholic teaching of temporal punishment which a person can take care of through penance now or through time spent in purgatory later. The Bible NEVER speaks of the need to make "reparation" for our sins or doing "penance" to pay for our sins. Rather, what it teaches is that we are to offer our lives as living sacrifices to God in gratitude for all of the mercies He has shown us in salvation (Romans 12:1-2). When a person becomes a Christian, his sins are forgiven and paid for in full by Christ. There remains no further payment that can be made for them, no further expiation required.
4) A key aspect of following the Lady of Fatima is the bowing down before and venerating the images associated with the apparition. Throughout the Bible, we find that any time someone bows down before one of the "saints" or angels, he is told to get up and to stop. Only when done to "the Angel of the Lord" (a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ) or before Jesus or God the Father is such veneration accepted. Catholics make a distinction between "worshiping" God and "venerating" Mary and the saints, but when John the Apostle prostrates himself before an angel, the angel does not ask, "Are you worshiping me or venerating me?" The angel simply tells him to stop and to "worship God" (Revelation 19:10). Likewise, when Peter was being "venerated" (prokuneo - the Greek word that the Catholic Church uses for "veneration" as opposed to "adoration" which only God deserves) by Cornelius in Acts 10:25, Peter tells Cornelius, "Stand up, I myself am also a man." It should be noted that prokuneo is used in the Revelation passage as well. Thus, we have the repeated example of an angel or "saint" being "honored" and the command to stop doing so!
Thus, praying to Mary is contrary to the scriptural admonition to pray to God and the scriptural example to do so. It is also illogical to substitute praying to an all-loving, omniscient, omnipotent God (Psalm 139; Hebrews 4:14-16) for praying to some saint or Mary, when there is no scriptural evidence that they can even hear prayers. To pray to saints and Mary on a worldwide basis is to ascribe to them the attributes of omnipresence and omniscience which God alone possesses—this truly is idolatry!
5)Concerning the "Miracle of the Sun," there are repeated cases in which "lying wonders" are spoken of in Scripture (Exodus 7:22; 8:7; 8:18; Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; Revelation 13:13-14). God tells us in Deuteronomy 13:1f that when someone makes a prediction that comes true or gives a seemingly miraculous "sign," but he is teaching the worship of strange gods, not to give heed to him but rather to treat him as a false prophet.
For a Christian, the "content of faith" ought to be the Bible and what it teaches (Isaiah 8:20; 2 Timothy 3:16). And while Catholics may argue that the "Lady of Fatima" is not calling on us to worship "strange gods" but to worship the true God, the idea of venerating Mary to such an extent that her "Immaculate Heart" is put on the same level of devotion as Jesus' "Sacred Heart" is undeniably the exaltation of a woman to a position never given to her in Scripture—equality with God. To honor her as one would honor Christ is to exalt her. Likewise, to focus on Mary to such an extent that we spend more time praying to her than to God is also idolatrous, especially in light of the direct commands of Scripture to pray to God and the complete silence in Scripture concerning any exaltation of, or prayer to, Mary.
Was the "Miracle of the Sun" a lying wonder? Based on biblical teaching, it would certainly seem so. Satan has no problem mixing enough truth to make a teaching seem right with just enough error to damn souls to hell. Where is the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ—the message repeated throughout the whole of the New Testament—ever mentioned in the whole message of Fatima? Where is it ever mentioned that salvation is only through faith in Christ's finished work on Calvary and that our works have no merit apart from Him (Ephesians 2:8-9)? Penance and making offerings for reparation of our sins are antithetical to Christ's finished work on Calvary and of our need for salvation by grace alone through faith in Him alone. Calling upon Mary and her “Immaculate Heart” and viewing the Rosary as the ultimate means of saving souls fly in the face of such biblical truths as Acts 4:12 and 1 Timothy 2:5. "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).