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Fatima, Portugal -Procession of Our Lady of Fatima. In the background The Sanctuary of Fatima.Shutterstock

(LifeSiteNews) — In order to bring about peace in Eastern Europe, Pope Francis declared that he will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25 in fulfillment of Our Lady’s request made in 1917 at Fatima. I offer these thoughts on Our Lady’s message in light of these events.

Heaven has a simplicity about its ways that we often easily overlook. Such is the case with the message of Fatima.

In preparation for the appearance of Our Lady to Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia, the Angel of Portugal first appeared to the three children in 1916 and taught them a short but efficacious prayer:

“O my God, I believe, I adore, I hope in, and I love Thee. I ask Thee pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope in, and do not love Thee.”

In this simple prayer that may be memorized in a moment and prayed as quickly, the angel taught the children both to make reparation for sin by asking pardon for sinners, and to turn to God through what infallibility pleases Him: faith, hope, charity, and adoration.

“O my God, I believe, I adore, I hope in, and I love Thee.” The three theological virtues and divine worship — this in a nutshell is what God desires of all of us in this life. Together, these virtues infallibly save. We cannot please God without them, nor will we be saved apart from them.

“I ask Thee pardon for all those who do not believe” — an echo of Our Lord’s own words on the Cross, “Father, forgive them.” (Lk 23:34)

After turning in love toward God, the soul asks pardon for those who do not love Him. It is a notable mark of those who love God intensely, that the first thought and inclination after that of pleasing Him is to make up for all those who do not love Him. This should not surprise us, however, since charity is at once a turning toward God and a turning away from sin. This is why perfect sorrow for sin necessarily accompanies charity, and vice versa. The soul that loves God intensely cannot bear the thought that He is not loved by all of His children. The love of God does not allow the devout soul to ignore sin. So the angel taught the children to make an act of faith, hope, charity, and adoration — “I believe, I adore, I hope in and I love Thee” — and after to make reparation for those “who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope in, and do not love Thee.”

On May 13, 1917, Our Lady made her first appearance to the three children. Her message was equally simple, in its own way.

“Pray the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.”

“Pray, pray much, and sacrifice for sinners, for many souls go to hell because there is no one to sacrifice and pray for them.”

“Let them offend Our Lord no more for He is already much offended.”

“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners.”

“I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the communion of reparation on the first Saturdays.”

Our Lady asks us to pray the rosary daily, to repent of our sins, to do penance, to sacrifice for the conversion of sinners, to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart, and to receive Holy Communion in reparation for sin. In return, she promises peace.

The simplicity of Our Lady’s requests can all too easily be lost on us. Prayer, sacrifice, conversion from sin — what she asks us to do are not complicated things that will take years to accomplish; they do not require great learning, or wealth, or political power, or even the heights of holiness. Children can do them; indeed, they were first made known to three young children. They simply require a faithful love that will humbly accept the mundane requests of the Mother of God for the repetition of the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary in the daily rosary, sorrow for our own sins, penance and intercession for sinners, the consecration of a country to her Immaculate Heart, and Communion in reparation for sin.

As a child, I learned the prayer of the Angel of Portugal. As a child, I learned to recite the rosary. As a child, I learned to meditate upon its mysteries. As a child, I learned to confess my sins, and to pray for the conversion of sinners. Later in life, with a more mature faith and a deeper understanding of the Christian life, I was able to reflect upon the simple wisdom of the angel’s prayer, and the reason why Our Lady wishes us to ponder over the mysteries of Christ’s birth, ministry, passion, and glory.

I understood this when I myself taught these things to my 5th grade class one year, only to hear from one of my non-Catholic students an exclamation one day, “Mary is so beautiful!” and again when as Headmaster of a high school, on a visit to the site of the first Mass in Maryland, a student devoutly prayed with head to the ground in thanksgiving after Holy Communion.

The kingdom of heaven is promised to the childlike. The simplicity of the message of Our Lady of Fatima is an invitation to approach it with the lowliness and simplicity of a child.