Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 13, 1917: The Campaign Opens

May 13, 1917 dawned upon a world in turmoil.  The fratricidal slaughter that engulfed Europe had raged for nearly three years, and had now spread over the whole globe.  One month earlier, the United States stepped into the European fray with her declaration of war on Germany.  The social and political order of the Old World was being swept away.  Two months earlier, the Czar of Russia abdicated, as his country slid toward the abyss of communism.  Nor were the horrors of 1914-1918 the worst the world would ever see.  The veterans of the War to End All War would not reach middle age before the outbreak of another and even more terrible war.  On May 13, 1917, Pope Benedict XV consecrated as archbishop the man who would steer the Barque of Peter through the bloodiest period (to that point) in human history.  As this future supreme shepherd knelt before the Pope, three shepherd children in a small plot of pasture land near Aljustrel, Portugal fell to their knees before a luminous vision over a small holm oak.

In 1941, the oldest of these three children, Lucia dos Santos -- now a Dorothean sister -- wrote under obedience in her 4th Memoir:
High up on the slope in the Cova da Iria, I was playing with Jacinta and Francisco at building a little stone wall around a clump of furze.  Suddenly we saw what seemed to be a flash of lightning.

"We'd better go home," I said to my cousins, "that's lightning; we may have a thunderstorm."
"Yes, indeed!" they answered.

We began to go down the slope, hurrying the sheep along toward the road.  We were more or less half-way down the slope, and almost level with a large holmoak tree that stood there, when we saw another flash of lightning.  We had only gone a few steps further when, there before us on a small holmoak, we beheld a Lady all dressed in white.  She was more brilliant than the sun, and radiated a light more clear and intense than a crystal glass filled with sparkling water, when the rays of the burning sun shine through it.

We stopped, astounded, before the Apparition.  We were so close, just a few feet from her, that we were bathed in the light which surrounded her, or rather, which radiated from her.  Then Our Lady spoke to us:

"Do not be afraid.  I will do you no harm."

"Where are you from"

"I am from heaven."

"What do you want of me?"

"I have come to ask you to come here for six months in succession, on the 13th day, at this same hour.  Later on, I will tell you who I am and what I want.  Afterwards, I will return here a seventh time."
The seventh time Our Lady came to the Cova da Iria was to give Lucia a private message in 1921, when she was was about to leave home to board at the Dorothean school in Vilar de Oporto.  Her bishop sent her there under an assumed name, among other reasons, to give her a chance at a normal life.  Lucia continues:
"Shall I go to heaven too?"

"Yes, you will."

"And Jacinta?"

"She will go also."

"And Francisco?"

"He will go there too, but he must say many Rosaries." 

Then I remembered to ask about two girls who had died recently.  They were friends of mine and used to come to my home to learn weaving with my eldest sister.

"Is Maria das Neves in heaven?"

"Yes, she is."  (I think she was about 16 years old.)

"And Amelia?"
"She will be in purgatory until the end of the world."  (It seems to me that she was between 18 and 20 years of age.)

If this young girl from rural Portugal, a place where the faith was still strong, had racked up enough offenses to merit purgatory until the end of time, what is to become of us in this time of weakened faith, with vastly greater opportunities for sinning and a culture that encourages us to yield to temptation rather than fight it?  

Lucia continues:
"Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?"

"Yes, we are willing."

"Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort."

As she pronounced these words, "the grace of God will be your comfort," Our Lady opened her hands for the first time, communicating to us a light so intense that, as it streamed from her hands, its rays penetrated our hearts and the innermost depths of our souls, making us see ourselves in God, Who was that light, more clearly than we see ourselves in the best of mirrors.  Then, moved by an interior impulse that was also communicated to us, we fell on our knees, repeating in our hearts:

"O most Holy Trinity, I adore You!  My God, my God, I love You in the most Blessed Sacrament!"

After a few moments, Our Lady spoke again:

"Pray the Rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world, and the end of the war."

Then she began to rise serenely, going up towards the east, until she disappeared in the immensity of space.  The light that surrounded her seemed to open up a path before her in the firmament, and for this reason we sometimes said that we saw heaven opening.
Almost exactly ten years after this apparition, a boy was born to a policeman and his wife in Bavaria, where the future Pius XII -- consecrated archbishop on the very day the apparition took place -- had served as Papal Nuncio.  That boy was destined to become the fifth successor of the man who had once been the Pope's ambassador to the boy's place of birth, and to take the name of the Pope that had made the ambassador an archbishop; and to steer the Barque of Peter through seas no less turbulent and furious than those through which Benedict XV and Pius XII had to navigate.  

Now, on the 93rd anniversary of this first apparition, and the 10th anniversary of the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the younger two shepherd children, he is at the place of the apparitions -- the third Pope to make such a pilgrimage -- where he has entrusted and consecrated all priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  

Pope Benedict's prayer before the statue of Mary in the Chapel of the Apparitions:

Holy Father:

Our Lady,
Mother of all men and women,
I come before you as a son
visiting his Mother,
and I do so in company
with a multitude of brothers and sisters.
As the Successor of Peter,
to whom was entrusted the mission
of presiding in the service
of charity in the Church of Christ
and of confirming all in faith and in hope,
I wish to present to your
Immaculate Heart
the joys and hopes
as well as the problems and sufferings
of each one of these sons and daughters of yours
who are gathered in the Cova di Iria
or who are praying with us from afar.

Mother most gentle,
you know each one by name,
you know each one’s face and personal history,
and you love them all
with maternal benevolence
that wells up from the very heart of Divine Love.
I entrust and consecrate them all to you,
Mary Most Holy,
Mother of God and our Mother.

Cantors and Assembly: We sing to you and we praise you, O Mary (v. 1)

Holy Father:
The Venerable Pope John Paul II,
who visited you three times here in Fatima
and thanked the "unseen hand"
that rescued him from death
in the assassination attempt on 13 May
in Saint Peter’s Square almost thirty years ago,
wanted to offer to the Shrine of Fatima
a bullet which gravely wounded him
and was placed in the crown of the Queen of Peace.
It is a profound consolation
to know that you are crowned
not only with the silver
and gold of our joys and hopes,
but also with the "bullet"
of our anxieties and sufferings.

I thank you, beloved Mother,
for the prayers and sacrifices
that the shepherd-children
of Fatima offered for the Pope,
led by the sentiments
that you inspired in them in the apparitions.
I also thank all those who,
every day,
pray for the Successor of Peter
and for his intentions,
that the Pope may be strong in faith,
bold in hope and zealous in love.

Cantors and Assembly: We sing to you and we praise you, O Mary (v. 2)

Holy Father:

Beloved Mother of us all,
here in your Shrine at Fatima I consign
the Golden Rose
that I have brought from Rome
as a homage of gratitude from the Pope
for the marvels that the Almighty
has worked through you
in the hearts of so many who come as pilgrims
to this your maternal home.

I am sure that the shepherd-children of Fatima,
Blessed Francisco and Jacinta
and the Servant of God Lucia of Jesus,
are united with us at this hour of prayer and jubilation.

Cantors and Assembly: We sing to you and we praise you, O Mary (v. 5).   


  1. Anita: I am certainly in no position to tell you what to read, but I know you love books, and it has become a habit of mine to recommend this text when the opportunity arises: God and the Sun at Fatima by Fr. Stanley Jaki HERE... book summarized at bottom.

    The book is "dense", many footnotes, references to original sources, witness accounts, etc. - perfectly commensurate (in my opinion) for a legal mind.

    Just a suggestion...

  2. TH2, thanks for the referral. I definitely want to check that one out. There is a great deal of nonsense talked and written about Fatima, so I am very interested to see what Fr. Jaki had to say about it.

  3. Fr. Jaki's book was published a year or two prior to 2000, and (FYI) he does not comment on the current controversy regarding the "Third Secret", which has grown in intensity in recent months - I assume that is what you are alluding to.

    I'm getting mixed signals about the whole situation. If you have been watching closely - in the occasional post, Fr. Zuhlsdorf is very subtly alluding to his openness with respect to Socci's book, etc. For me, this is going to necessitate some time, further study/reading.

    Any book recommendations for me?

  4. Even if he doesn't talk about the "Third Secret" stuff, I think any clarity of thought applied to any aspect of Fatima is valuable.

    I haven't read Socci's book, though I have noticed that Fr. Zuhlsdorf seems to endorse his theory. I think all the secrets are out, with the possible exception of anything Sr. Lucia may have forgotten, or that she couldn't put into words, or that was only meant for her. I think we know all the stuff we need to know, and the conspiracy theories are a distraction.

    Some books that are worthwhile:

    -- Sr. Lucia's memoirs, parts 1 and 2. Can't do better than to go straight to the source! And they were written under obedience, so there's no element of self-aggrandizement. The first memoir deals primarily with the apparitions, and the second one deals primarily with the details of Lucia's life and family.

    -- Our Lady of Fatima, by William Thomas Walsh, ISBN no. 0-385-02869-5. I believe this is now out of print, but it is available on Dr. Walsh personally interviewed Sr. Lucia, the parents of Jacinta and Francisco, and many other witnesses. Sr. Lucia did take exception to some of the things he said about her father.

    -- Fatima, The Great Sign, TAN Books, ISBN: 9780895551634. This was written well before the 1984 Act of Consecration, so there's nothing about the content of the Third Secret. It does have a large number of witness accounts of the Miracle of the Sun, and also a lot of detailed information about the great aurora borealis of January 25, 1938, which Sr. Lucia said was the sign the Blessed Mother said would portend another war.

    One thing about this last book: it contains a detail that I haven't found elsewhere, so I don't know what to think of it. It says that when the Blessed Mother appeared to the children in August, after they had been kidnapped by the local administrator, she said that because of this, the miracle she promised for October would not be as great as it would otherwise have been.

    Anyway, check those out and see what you think.

  5. Thank you for the detailed comment and recommendations.

    I read Sr. Lucia's Memoirs a number of years ago, but I am going to go through them again (I got that book somewhere around here).

    I am going to look into the Walsh book, and Fatima, The Great Sign is not one I have read. Glad you mentioned the Aurora borealis for the latter, as that aspect of the Fatima message has always interested me.

    As for the mitigated greatness of the miracle due to the kidnapping - I have never, ever come across that report. Very interesting. Definitely have to look into that.

    FYI: I have in my possession copies of original weather records/readings from Coimbra Observatory - closes obs. near to Fatima (and from Lisbon) for the year/month/day/hrs during 1917. These data very much relate to the miracle of the Sun on 13 October, 1917. A work in progress...

  6. Now the weather records should be very interesting. The usual assertion is that no scientific instruments anywhere picked up any signs of anything unusual.

    But then again, everybody picked up on the aurora borealis of 1938, and everybody knows World War II broke out shortly thereafter; but the world is still full of people who don't think it portended anything.

  7. In re the lessening of the solar miracle referenced in Fatima: The Great Sign (forgot to mention the name of the author, by the way: Francis Johnston; and the book is published by TAN Books): I have just dug it out and found the passage on page 45:

    The Lady urged the children to continue going to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth of the month and to pray the Rosary every day. She repeated her promise to perform a miracle on 13 October. "Pray, pray a great deal and make many sacrifices," she said with a tender earnestness, "for many souls go to Hell because they have no one to make sacrifices and pray for them." She complained about the ill treatment to which the children had been subjected and said that on account of this, the miracle intended for October would be "less great".

    Then he goes on to talk about the theological lesson regarding the far-reaching effects of the sins of one single man. In Lucia's memoirs, she says that in August of 1917, the Blessed Mother said that she would perform a miracle in October so that people would believe, but does not mention allusions to the children's imprisonment or the effects of that imprisonment on the miracle. Unfortunately, Johnston doesn't cite a source for the above passage.

  8. The usual assertion is that no scientific instruments anywhere picked up any signs of anything unusual

    Good catch. Still decoding the records (Portuguese translations, some hand written stuff nearly illegible) - and still more data/info to obtain from non-standard instrumentation (solar radiometers, etc... pardon my techno-talk).

    Johnston's lack of a reference on the effects of the miracle gives me pause. I like/need to go to original sources to verify. Nonetheless, my interest in sparked and further exploration into this particular matter might be worthwhile.

  9. Johnston's book has a bibliography at the end, so I guess the next step is to check that out and see if it's in any of those books. I realize not every author is a footnote kind of guy, but I really hate it when there are no footnotes.