The 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima is mere days from now. Today when pondering over this Saturday’s post, I knew it was most definitely going to be all about Fatima, but that there’s also much to be said about this very important Marian apparition. So much, in fact, that I highly doubt I’ll be able to jam-pack it all into one single post.
So, after some thinking and researching, I decided in honor of Our Lady of Fatima I’m going to be making a series of posts leading up to her feast day this Saturday.
In my research, as I visited my bookshelf, I remembered Archbishop Fulton Sheen writing an entire chapter on Fatima called, “Our Lady of Fatima and Russia.” Now, I know I reference Sheen a lot around here. I can’t help it. For one, he’s one of the great modern prophets of our times who seemed to truly understand and appreciate the direct significance of Our Lady’s coming to Fatima, as well as God’s plan in sending the Blessed Mother among us to save us from evil. And secondly, I haven’t got that many books.
Jokes aside, though, Sheen’s words were no doubt from the breath of Holy Spirit. And it is why, I feel, so many people (young and old) even today are so drawn to his wisdom, zeal, and prophetic statements.
So, for these little series of posts leading up to the 100th anniversary of Fatima, I’m going to let the best person I know of (other than the Fatima visionaries) explain Our Lady of Fatima better than I possibly can: Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
The pagan ideas of 1858, that man is animal, that freedom is isolation from law, that religion is antihuman, soon crept out of the covers of a textbook and the four walls of a classroom and finally became the violence of World War I, 1914-1918. This was the flowering into action of the false ideas of 1858. The secular world became flesh as war. To concentrate on but one year of this World War, the year 1917 would seem to be the most significant because of events in three places of the world.
On May 13 of that year Benedict XV imposed hands on Monsignor Eugenio Pacelli making him a successor of the Apostles. As the bells of Rome were ringing out the midday Angelus, a new Bishop had been given to the Church who would one day by hidden designs of Providence ascend the throne of Peter and govern the Universal Church as our Holy Father, Pius XII.
In Russia on May 13, 1917, Maria Alexandrovna was teaching catechism in one of the churches of Moscow. She had 200 children before her in the pews. There was a loud noise at the front door; horsemen entered, charged down the middle aisle of the great church, vaulted the Communion rail, destroyed the altar, then rode down the side aisles destroying the statues and finally the children, killing some of them. Maria Alexandrovna ran out of the church screaming. It was the first of those sporadic outbursts that foretold the coming Communist Revolution. She went to one of the revolutionists who was later to become famous, and when she screamed at him, “The most terrible thing has just happened. I was teaching catechism in the church when men rode in on horses, destroyed the church, trampled the children, and killed some of them,” Lenin, the revolutionist, answered, “I know it, I sent them.”
In Portugal, on May 13, 1917, three children from the parish of Fatima, Jacinta, Francis and Lucy were attending their flock when the Angelus bell rang from the steeple of the parish church. The three little shapers knelt down and as was their daily custom recited the Rosary together. When they finished it, they decided to build a “little house” which might shelter them on stormy days. But these little architects were suddenly interrupted by a blinding flash of lightning, and they looked anxiously at the sky. Not a single cloud veiled the brilliance of the midday sun. Frightened, they started to run when, just two paces ahead in the midst of the foliage of an evergreen oak, they saw a “beautiful lady,” more resplendent than the sun.
With a gesture of motherly kindness the lady said to them: “Fear not, I shall do you no harm.” The lady was very beautiful; she seemed to be from 15 to 18 years of age. Her dress, white as snow and tied at the neck by a gold cord, reached down to her feet which were just visible, barely touching the branches of the tree. A white veil embroidered with gold covered her head and shoulders, falling to her feet like the dress. Her hands were joined at the height of her breast in an attitude of prayer; a rosary of brilliant pearls with a silver cross hung from her right hand. Her face of incomparable beauty shone in a halo as bright as the sun, but seemed to be veiled by a slight look of sorrow.
Lucy was the first to speak: “Where do you come from?”
“I come from Heaven,” replied the lady.
“From Heaven! And why have you come here?” Lucy asked.
“I have come to ask you to be here on the thirteenth day of each month at this hour for six months in succession. In the month of October I shall tell you who I am and what I want.”
Just at that very moment, when in the eastern end of Europe Antichrist was unloosed against the very idea of God and against society in one of the most terrible bloodlettings of history, there appeared in splendor at the western extremity of Europe, that great and eternal enemy of the infernal serpent.
Of the six appearances of the Blessed Mother to those children, the most important was the apparition of July 13, 1917. It must be recalled that this was the third year of World War I and of speaking of it she said: “This war is going to end. If people do what I have told you many souls will be saved and will find peace.”
“But,” she added: “if people do not cease to offend God, not much time will elapse and precisely during the next Pontificate another and more terrible war will commence.” As a matter of fact it was during the Pontificate of Pius XI that the terrible Spanish War took place, which was a prelude to World War II. During that time the Reds in their hatred of religion massacred cruelly 13 prelates, 14,000 priests and religious, and destroyed 22,000 churches and chapels.
The Blessed Mother then gave a sign as to when World War II would actually begin. “When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that it is the signal which God gives you that the chastisement of the world for its many transgressions is at hand, through war, famine, persecution of the Church and the Holy Father.”
Later on, Lucy as asked when the sign actually appeared, and she said it was the very extraordinary aurora borealis which lighted up a great part of Europe on the night of January 25-26, 1938. Speaking of the war to come Lucy said: “It will be horrible, horrible.” All the chastisements of God are conditional and they be averted by penance. The Blessed Mother, it is to be noted, said that World War II could be avoided, for she added: “To avoid this, I shall ask for the Consecration of the World to my Immaculate Heart, and Communion in reparation of the first Saturday of each month. If my requests are granted Russia will be converted; there will be peace. Otherwise Russia will spread its error throughout the world giving rise to wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will suffer martyrdom, and the Holy Father will have to suffer much. Different nations will be destroyed.”
At this point the Church has seen fit not to give us a part of that message. What that particular message was we do not know. It apparently is not good news, and it also would seem to refer to our times. In any case, we are given the conclusion of the message with hope and joy: “But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph, and Russia will be converted and an era of peace will be given to the world.”
The final revelation took place on the thirteenth day of October, 1917, when the Blessed Mother promised to work a miracle that all present might believe Her apparitions. On the evening of October 12, all the roads to Fatima were packed with carriages, bicycles and pilgrims on their way to the apparition. The witnesses were a crowd of 60,000 which had gathered by the noon of the thirteenth, many whom were unbelievers and scoffers.
We are not here concerned about proving the authenticity of these phenomena at Fatima, for those who believe in the realm of the spirit and the Mother of God need no proof, and those when reject the Spirit would not accept it anyway. What significance shall we attach to the apparent fall of the sun attested by the people at Fatima on that October day in 1917? We have no way of knowing for certain, but since its general effect was so frightening, we may speculate. Could it augur the day when men would steal some of the atomic energy from the sun and use it not to light a would, but as a bomb to thrust it down from the heavens on a helpless population. It used to be when famine was stalking the earth, when war was devastating the accumulated heritage of the centuries, when men were acting as wolves to men, and when great concentration camps like Moloch swallowed up millions, men could always look up to the skies for hope. If this earth were cruel, at least the heavens would be kind.
Did this Apparition portend that now even the heavens for a time would turn against man and its fires would be released upon the helpless children of God. Whether or not it was a premonition of the atomic bomb we know not. One thing is certain, it was not the end of hope, for amid all of the clouds, there is still the vision in the heavens of the Lady, with the Moon beneath Her Feet, the stars a crown about Her Head, and the sun above Her. The Heavens are not against us, and will not destroy while she reigns as the Lady of the Skies.
(Fulton J. Sheen, Communism and the Conscious of the West, p. 201-205)
To be continued….