This special image of the Holy Family depicts a vision that the three children of Fatima—Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta—saw during the “Miracle of the Sun” on October 13, 1917, as explained in all of the major documentation of Fatima. During the “Miracle of the Sun,” the sun seemed to swirl in the sky flooding the entire plateau of Fatima, Portugal with great shafts of color. The sun then appeared to plummet towards the Earth, and many of the over 70,000 people present thought that it was the end of the world. At this same time, the children of Fatima saw the following vision, as described by Sr. Lucia:
When our Lady disappeared in the immense distance of the sky, next to the sun, we saw St. Joseph holding the child Jesus and Our Lady dressed in white with a blue mantle. St. Joseph and the child seemed to be blessing the world, making the sign of the cross (Letter from Sr. Lucia to her Bishop, December 8, 1941, Tuy, Spain).
Jerome Coniker, founder of the Apostolate for Family Consecration, with permission granted by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, personally talked with Sister Lucia on December 12, 2001. He asked for and received her blessing on this portrait of the Holy Family of Fatima. During the half-hour interview, Mr. Coniker explained to her that the portrait, with additional symbolism, was meant to illustrate the October 13, 1917 apparition of the Holy Family. Sr. Lucia noticed some of the added symbolism—the backside of the Miraculous Medal on the breast of St. Joseph, the rays of Divine Mercy from the heart of the Infant Jesus, and Our Lady stepping on the serpent. She acknowledged that it was a nice combination of prophecy, tradition and of the actual reality of Fatima, and that as best as is humanly possible it was a faithful representation of the Holy Family. Two copies of the image were given to Sr. Lucia for her keeping.
Explanation of the added symbols
The image of the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus is at the center of the portrait. When Our Lord explained 12 promises of his Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, he said that he would “bless every place where a picture of My Heart shall be set up and honored.” The same love that comes from the Sacred Heart is granted to us in Holy Communion, which is symbolized by the Eucharist encircling the Sacred Heart. Rays of Divine Mercy pour forth from the Sacred Heart reminding us of the vision of Our Lord to St. Faustina, an apparition that Pope John Paul II held up to the entire Church, in which Our Lord asked that his Divine Mercy image be venerated.
In the October 13, 1917 apparition, Our Lady also revealed herself as Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Sorrow and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. In this portrait, the Rosary and the scapular in her left hand remind us of Our Lady of the Rosary and of Mt. Carmel and summarize the message of our Lady at Fatima where she specifically asked that we pray the Rosary every day, wear the Brown Scapular, and practice the Five First Saturdays devotion as a means to make reparation to her Immaculate Heart. Mary’s Heart pierced with the sword of sorrow depicts our Lady of Sorrow (Luke 2:35) who suffers so much for our sins.
The scapular is the sign of our consecration to Jesus through Mary and is an act of faith when worn with reverence. The family Rosary is the primary prayer that will protect the family, and becomes a window through which we can see, with eyes of faith, the interior life of the Holy Family and the principal mysteries of our Faith.
The Fatima message is the formula for drawing down Divine Mercy. Once enough families live this message and are consecrated to Jesus through Mary in the truths of our Faith, and live these truths with great fervor, the era of peace promised by Our Lady of Fatima will be granted to the world.
Mary standing on the world and stepping on the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15) reminds us of the image on the front of the Immaculate Conception medal, popularly known as the “Miraculous Medal.” The reverse side of the “Miraculous Medal” (the cross intertwined with the “M” and the two Hearts of Jesus and Mary, all encircled by twelve stars) is shown on the breast of St. Joseph symbolizing his love for the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and his protection over the Church indicated by the twelve stars representing the twelve apostles.
“Whoever venerates a holy image venerates the person portrayed. This veneration of Mary and the saints—and images of them—differs from the adoration that belongs to God alone.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. Washington, D.C.: USCC Publishing Services, 2006, page 344.