Monday, July 13, 2009

July 13, 1917: The Secrets of Fatima

It was 92 years ago today, amid the raging turmoil of the First World War and the Bolshevik revolution, that the Blessed Mother revealed a three-part secret to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco in the Cova da Iria at Fatima. The secret was a message of hope, but also a warning that -- if it had been heeded -- might have averted the unprecedented horrors of the 20th century.

This was Mary's third appearance to the children. The first time, May 13, 1917, when she promised the children that they would go to heaven, they were alone. The second time, when she foretold that Francisco and Jacinta would go to heaven soon, but Lucia would have to remain on earth for some time (i.e., 88 years!), they were accompanied by a few dozen curious onlookers. This time, five thousand people came to see what there was to see.

When the Lady came, there was something for the crowd to see, and to feel: though they could not see what the children saw, they did see a small cloud came to rest over the holm oak where the Lady had previously appeared, and feel the scorching July heat suddenly cool. Ti Marto, the father of Francisco and Jacinta, could hear what he described as a buzzing like a horse-fly in a bottle.

But the children saw the Lady herself. She asked them to sacrifice themselves for sinners, and taught them a prayer to say whenever they made a sacrifice. Then the first part of the secret:
Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.
Then the second part of the secret:
We then looked up at Our Lady, who said to us so kindly and so sadly:

“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. The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”
In 1929, Lucia, now Sr. Lucia, experienced another apparition during a nocturnal Holy Hour, in which the Blessed Mother asked for the Holy Father, in union with all the world's bishops, to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart.

As for the third part of the secret, Sr. Lucia committed it to writing under obedience in 1944, and put it in an envelope on which she wrote that the secret should not be revealed before 1960. She later said that the Blessed Mother had not told her to do this; she had done it on her own on account of an intuition that the secret would not make sense until after 1960. The Third Secret, as it came to be known, was finally revealed in 2000, at the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta Marto.
After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!'. And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
Today, two controversies still swirl around the secrets of Fatima: one, based on the idea that the Third Secret has still not been revealed (and that Rome's interpretation of the Secret is therefore bogus); and two, based on the idea that the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart has still not been done as asked. As to the first controversy, Sr. Lucia herself stated categorically that the secrets have all been revealed, and confirmed the interpretation.

As to the second controversy, it is certain that the collegial consecration took decades to accomplish; but Sr. Lucia stated categorically that the collegial consecration has been accomplished. On October 31, 1942, Pope Pius XII consecrated the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Sr. Lucia, stated that although this act of consecration would result in the war being shortened, it was not what the Blessed Mother had asked for. Ten years later, Pius explicitly consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart, but not in union with all the world's bishops. It was not until March 25, 1984* that Pope John Paul II consecrated the whole world to the Immaculate Heart, in union with all the world's bishops. Although the act of consecration did not specifically mention Russia by name -- one of the reasons some take issue with it -- it does entrust those nations and persons most in need of consecration. It also incorporates by reference the consecrations of Pius XII, one of which does mention Russia by name.

It is further alleged that the consecration was not effective because evil still has so much sway in Russia. This of course ignores the fact that the Soviet Union was dead within five years of the consecration. It also ignores the fact that the Blessed Mother never promised that evil would be totally eradicated before the Last Judgment. Most of all, it ignores the fact that the Blessed Mother asked for people to amend their lives and say the Rosary every day in order to avert disaster. Her requests were not heeded in 1917, and disaster was not averted. They must not have been heeded afterward either, since it the collegial consecration took so long to accomplish. Perhaps the long delay is also the reason the results of the consecration, though quite dramatic, were not dramatic enough to impress the skeptics. By 1984, Russia had had many years to spread her errors throughout the world, and there is still much damage to be undone.

But on July 13, 1917, the Blessed Mother reminded us of the remedies for this damage that are within easy reach: prayer and penance. This message is as timely now as it was 92 years ago.

*It occurs to me, as I write this, that this was the very day I received the Sacrament of Confirmation.

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