"The message of Fatima is, in its fundamental nucleus, a call to conversion and penance, as in the Gospel (...). The Lady of the message seemed to read with a special perspicacity the signs of the times, the signs of our times.
"The call to penance is a motherly call; and, at the same time, it is energetic and decisive". Today, in our prayer, we hear this voice of Our Lady, at once gentle and strong, urging us on, as if addressed personally to each one of us.
Throughout the Gospel the words repent and do penance resound. Jesus will begin his mission by asking for penance: do penance, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. This word means the conversion of the sinner, and designates a whole set of interior and exterior acts aimed at making reparation for the sin committed.
Our Lady reminds us that without penance one does not receive the Kingdom of her Son; without penance one is in the kingdom of sin. Without penance you will all likewise perish, the Lord had announced. For this reason, in the message spread by the Apostles, when the Church was just born, the preaching of this virtue will occupy an essential place. The whole time of the pilgrim Church, in which we find ourselves, appears as spatium verae poenitentiae, a time of true penance granted by the Lord so that no one will perish. Penance is necessary because sin exists and we are not strangers to it, because it is necessary to make reparation for so many faults and weaknesses of our own and of our human brothers and sisters, and because no one, without a special and extraordinary privilege, is confirmed in grace. The ultimate purpose of penance," Pope John Paul II teaches, "is to make us love God intensely and consecrate ourselves to him. The Holy Curé of Ars used to affirm that it is as necessary for the soul as breathing is for the life of the body.
The first sign of this virtue is manifested in the love of frequent Confession of our present and past faults, which leads us to desire it, to care for it with care, with true contrition, and to carry out an effective apostolate among our relatives and friends to bring them closer to this sacrament of mercy and joy. The virtue of penance must be present, in some way, in the ordinary actions of every day: in "the exact fulfillment of the schedule you have set for yourself, even if the body resists or the mind tries to escape with chimerical reveries. Penance is getting up on time. And also, not to leave for later, without a justified reason, that task that you find more difficult or costly.
"Penance is knowing how to combine your obligations to God, to others and to yourself, making demands on yourself so that you can find the time that each thing needs. You are penitent when you lovingly stick to your prayer plan, even if you are tired, listless or cold.
"Penance is always treating others with the greatest charity, beginning with your own. It is to attend with the greatest gentleness to those who suffer, to the sick, to those who suffer. It is to answer with patience to those who are burdensome and inopportune. It is to interrupt or modify our programs, when circumstances - the good and just interests of others, above all - require it.
"Penance consists in bearing with good humor the thousand little annoyances of the day; in not abandoning one's occupation, even if for the moment the illusion with which one began it has passed; in eating with gratitude what is served to us, without importuning us with whims.
"Penance, for parents and, in general, for those who have a mission of government or education, is to correct when it is necessary to do so, according to the nature of the error and the conditions of the one who needs that help, above foolish and sentimental subjectivism.
"The spirit of penitence leads us not to become disorderly attached to that monumental sketch of future projects, in which we have already foreseen what our strokes and master strokes will be. What joy we give to God when we know how to renounce our scribbles and master strokes, and we allow Him to be the one to add the features and colors that please Him most!" What a good masterpiece then appears!