The Light of Fatima


The story of Fatima has fascinated Catholics for the past nine decades.
Significantly, all eight popes who have guided the Church since 1917
have been personally devoted to Our Lady of Fatima. Pope John Paul II
even attributed his escape from an assassination attempt to Our Lady’s
intervention. That attack took place on May 13, 1981, sixty-four years
to the day after the first appearance of the Virgin Mary to three
simple shepherd children — Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta — in Fatima,

On the first visitation to the children, Mary announced herself as Our
Lady of the Rosary and she called for devotion to her Immaculate Heart.
She appeared to them five times more on the 13th day of each month.
During the final apparition in October, the Virgin delivered on a
promise she had made to the children that she would work a great
miracle so that all would believe what the children had said was true.
That day, despite a torrential downpour, seventy thousand people,
including newspaper reporters and photographers, trekked to
out-of-the-way Fatima to witness the event. When the hard rain finally
ceased, the storm clouds parted and the sun shot down at the people,
spinning like a flaming disk. The witnesses, whose clothes had been
soaked through by the storm, left the scene dry, as if it had never
rained. The event was even caught on photograph and published in a
number of newspapers around the world — including the New York Times.
A journalist for Portugal’s largest (and avowedly anti-clerical)
newspaper O Século reported what he witnessed this way: “Before the
astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood
bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden
incredible movements outside all cosmic laws. The sun ‘danced’
according to the typical expression of the people.”

these earthly visitations Our Lady revealed three “secrets” to the
children. Lucia, the only visionary to live to adulthood — she later
became a cloistered Carmelite nun and died just two years ago at the
age of 97 — explained in her Memoirs that the first message was
delivered during the third appearance. After showing the children a
vision of Hell, Mary said:

You have seen the destiny of souls of unfortunate sinners. In order
to save these, the Lord wishes to spread devotion to my Immaculate
Heart throughout the world. If the world does as I tell you, then many
souls will be saved and there will be peace. The War [World War I] is
about to end, but if men do not cease offending God, another worse war
will begin in the reign of Pius XI [who was not yet Pope]. To avoid
this affliction, I will entreat the consecration of Russia to my
Immaculate Heart, and a penitential Communion on the first Saturday of
the month. If my appeals are answered, Russia will be converted and
there will be peace. Otherwise Russia will spread her errors throughout
the world.

At the time of the visions, as Sister Lucia later explained, she
mistakenly thought that Russia was “a woman, a bad woman.” The first
two “secrets” of Fatima thus predicted the Russian revolution and the
Second World War. On October 17, only four days after the final
appearance of Our Lady in Fatima, the Bolsheviks forced Czar Nicholas
II to abdicate the Russian throne. Under the orders of Vladimir Lenin,
the entire royal family was put to death. We now know with the benefit
of hindsight that the Virgin of Fatima was correct. Russia did “spread
her errors throughout the world,” vanquishing God, persecuting the
Church in Soviet-dominated countries by seizing Church property, and
killing bishops and priests.

The third prophecy,
written down by Sister Lucia in 1944, has been the most controversial.
Though she asked that the last “secret” be revealed after 1960, when
its meaning could be understood, it was kept under lock and key by the
Vatican throughout the 20th century. The secrecy of five successive
popes fed fevered speculation that this “third secret of Fatima”
predicted the end of the world. Only in 2000 did the Vatican reveal
this third secret, and even then only provided a few of the details.
Sister Lucia’s vision concerned a “bishop dressed in white”:

We had the impression that it was the Holy Father. Other bishops,
priests, men and women religious [were] 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.

It was Cardinal Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI,
who urged that Sister Lucia’s prophecy be taken as a metaphor,
suggesting that the third secret was a reference to the assassination
attempt on Pope John Paul II. On May 13, 1981, a Turkish man by the
name of Ali Agca shot the Holy Father as he was making his way through
St. Peter’s Square. The Pope had bent over to touch a medal of the
Virgin of Fatima hanging on the neck of a child just as the bullets
rang out. The Pope was hit in the finger, elbow and abdomen. He later
attributed his escape from death to the Virgin of Fatima. His doctors
testified that if the Holy Father had not bent down as he did, the Pope
would have taken the bullets in his chest. Years later, when the
imprisoned Ali Agca met with Pope John Paul, the Turk eerily claimed
that he was an “instrument of divine will,” believing that he had
“played a part” in the Fatima prophecy.

Ever since 1917, there have been those who have sought to discredit
the appearances of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, despite powerful evidence
to the contrary. Some, even in the Church, insist that the visions are
part pious fraud, motivated by misguided religious zeal, and part mass
hallucination. When the Vatican released the third secret, Friar Mario
de Oliveira, for example, charged that Sister Lucia lived in a
“delirious world of infantile fantasies” and suffered “religious
hallucinations” (Sunday-Times, London, June 29, 2000).

is instructive to note that the first to try to discredit Fatima were
the Russians and the Freemasons. The Russians wanted total dominance of
Europe under Communist, atheist rule. They did not want heavenly
messages to get in their way. The Freemasons were powerful at the time
of the apparitions; they were anti-Catholic and made up a better part
of the Portuguese government including the president. They expelled the
Jesuits from teaching in Portugal; they closed monasteries and convents
and outlawed religious education. They could not bear the thought of
enemies they themselves could not see.

To this
day, the beat of the skeptics persists – sometimes even to the point of
absurdity. Case in point: although liberal Portuguese academics Joaquim
Fernandes and Fina D'Armada accept that the 1917 apparitions did indeed
take place, their recently published book Celestial Secrets: The Hidden
History of the Fatima Cover-Up, asserts (in all seriousness) that the
Fatima apparitions were a result of UFO visitations! They claim that
the image of the Immaculate Heart that “Mary” bore in her hand during
one of the apparitions was actually a sphere-shaped extraterrestrial
telepathic translation device. No kidding.

October 13, 1930, the Bishop of Fatima-Leiria officially approved the
apparitions that occurred in Fatima thirteen years earlier. He declared
that the apparitions were worthy of faith, and that devotion to Our
Lady was officially permitted by the Church, turning Fatima into one of
Catholicism's most revered pilgrimage destinations, with visits from
Catholics making it Portugal’s most popular tourist attraction. Pope
John Paul II, along with his predecessors since 1930 have all
encouraged devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Especially recommended are
the First Saturday devotions — rosary, Mass, confession, receiving the
Eucharist in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and meditation
on the mysteries of the rosary. Mary especially recommend praying the
rosary daily, reiterating many times that the rosary was the key to
personal and world peace. Perhaps the most important part of the
message of Fatima is that the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph in
the end. Evil will not overcome.



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