Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
In her July 13, 1917, apparition at Fatima, Our Blessed Mother first gave hope by telling the seers, Continue to say the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, to obtain the peace of the world and the end of the war, because only she can obtain it.
Today this surely can also mean the war within our society, our hearts. Between God and anti-God.
Then she showed the children hell where the souls of poor sinners go. It is to save them that God wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.
If people didn’t follow her requests and directions, there would be another greater war coming during the pontificate of the next pope — but it was conditional on men’s response to her.
Next came the third secret which was not revealed until the beginning of this millennium. Yet in speaking and writing on Fatima, Bishop Fulton Sheen pointed out the problem then and was exceptionally perceptive about the way it has escalated today.
“It probably refers to these times,” he said of the Third Secret in the early 1950s. “It will be a time of trouble.”
But Sheen was not lacking hope. “But before giving reasons for hope,” he said, “it is well to inquire why there is so much apprehension today.” Why? “Man is living in fear, but it is different from any fear in the past.”
People went from “filial fear” of God to fear of fellowmen as both World Wars had shown, then to the “most awful of all the fears, in which man trembles before the littlest thing in the universe — the atom!”
As in atomic bomb then, even now, but with other rebellions added. Sheen pointed out “the world has abandoned God and cast its lot with nature divorced from Nature's God. Man throughout history has always become wicked when, turning his back on God, he identified himself with nature. The new name for nature is Science. Science rightly understood means reading the Wisdom of God in Nature, which God made. Science wrongly understood means reading the proofs of the Book of Nature while denying that the Book ever had an Author. Nature or Science is a servant of man under God; but divorced from God, Nature or Science is a tyrant, and the atom bomb is the symbol of that tyranny.” Which has spiraled.
That remains today as other countries have the bomb and has accelerated to other areas of denying nature right up to the first days of the Book of Genesis.
While Sheen focused on the Cold War between democracy and Communism, his insights are perfectly applicable to today’s world situation. He said, “Whether we will it or not, we are being confronted…with the supreme alternative of God or anti-God …The preservation of civilization and culture is now one with the preservation of religion.”
We don’t have to check the long list of ways this is playing out.
There’s more to say on the July 13 apparition, but Sheen also grounds these thoughts into the October 13 Miracle of the Sun.
Linking Revelations Together
“There is Hope and a great Hope, too,” Bishop Sheen emphasized. “The Hope is ultimately in God, but…the start back to God must begin with nature.” The one “unspoiled” thing in all nature which “Wordsworth called our ‘tainted nature's solitary boast.’ That hope is in The Woman.” Our Lady.
In her July apparition, she told the children, in October I will tell you who I am and what I want. I will then perform a miracle so that all may believe.”
Sheen saw three possible interpretations of the Miracle of the Sun.
“The first is to regard it as a warning of the atomic bomb, which, like a falling sun, would darken the world. It conceivably might be a portent of the day when man, Prometheus-like, would snatch fire from the heavens and then rain it down as death on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
“On the other hand, it could be seen as a sign of hope, namely, that the Woman who came out of nature is mightier than the forces of nature.” He explained that “atomic fission is the way the sun lights the world. God put atomic fission in the universe; otherwise we would not have discovered it.
“At Fatima, the fact that Mary could take this great center and seat of atomic power and make it her plaything, the fact that she could swing the sun ‘like a trinket at her wrist,’ is a proof that God has given her power over it, not for death, but for light and life and hope. As Scripture foretold: And now, in heaven, a great portent appeared; a woman that wore the sun for her mantle (Revelation 12:1).”
Sheen also found “a third way of viewing the Miracle of the Sun and that is to regard it as a miniature and a cameo of what may yet happen to the world, namely, some sudden cataclysm or catastrophe… which would make the world shake in horror as the 70,000 shook at Fatima that day. This catastrophe would be a precocious or uncontrolled explosion of an atomic bomb which would literally shake the earth.”
The bomb’s atoms would be in revolt and “a symbol of man in revolt. But humanity in repentance will purchase a nature in complete control.” His description applies to the social order too, doesn’t it?
As those 70,000 people fell on their knees begging God for forgiveness and his mercy, “That whirling sun… may have been the harbinger of a world spectacle that will draw millions to their knees in a rebirth of faith. And as Mary revealed herself in that first Miracle of the Sun, so may we look forward to another revelation of her power when the world has its next rehearsal for the Dies Irae.”
Outcome Could Be Different
Sheen beautifully described how Our Lady took that “original atomic power which is the sun and proves it is hers to use for peace. “Yet it is not apart from man that she would save him from nature, as it was not apart from her free consent that God would save humanity from sin.” So in every case of rebellion against nature, we have to cooperate to return to right order.
Our Lady made that clear in her July apparition. She as much as said that the Second World War did not have to happen: This war will end, but if men do not refrain from offending God, another and more terrible war will begin during the pontificate of Pius XI. The if made it conditional.
“World War Il would not have happened if men had returned to God,” Sheen underscored. “World War III need not happen, and it will not happen if we as a nation return to God.”
Our Lady showed the way. To prevent this, I shall come to the world to ask that Russia be consecrated to my Immaculate Heart, and I shall ask that on the First Saturday of every month Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins of the world. If my wishes are fulfilled, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, then Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, bringing new wars and persecution of the Church; the good will be martyred and the Holy Father will have much to suffer; certain nations will be annihilated.
She clearly gave the tools of penance and praying the Rosary every day to cooperate with her. Sheen reminded, “Repentance, prayer, sacrifice — these are conditions of peace, for they are the means by which man is remade.”
Bishop Sheen gave two reasons why God wanted to have his Blessed Mother appear to bring us back to where we needed to be with prayer and penance.
“One reason immediately comes to mind,” he explained. “Since the world has lost Christ, it may be that through Mary it will recover him.” When at 12 Jesus was lost, Our Lady found him. “Now that he has been lost again, it may be through Mary that the world will recover Christ their Savior.”
“Another reason is that Divine Providence has committed to a woman the power of overcoming evil,” he affirmed. “In that first dread day when evil was introduced into the world, God spoke to the serpent in the Garden of Eden and said, I shall put enmity between thee and the woman; between thy seed and her seed, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel (Gen. 3:15)…It will be through the power of the woman that evil will be overcome.”
“We live now in an evil hour,” Sheen added, “for though goodness has its day, evil does have its hour. Our Blessed Lord said that much the night that Judas came into the garden: This is your hour, the power of darkness (Luke 22:53). All evil can do in that hour is to put out the lights of the world; but it can do that. If then we live in an evil hour, how shall we overcome the spirit of Satan except by the power of that Woman to whom Almighty God has given the mandate to crush the head of the serpent?”
Bishop Sheen had quite an interesting insight when writing on Fatima in 1952. It’s timeless, though he focused on the Russians during the Cold War. He wrote: “In the theology of the Russians, before they were overwhelmed by the cold heart of the anti-God…they went on to predict that, when the world would reject Our Lord as it has done today, on that Dark Night the light of his Mother would arise to illumine the darkness and lead the world to peace.
“The beautiful revelation of Our Blessed Mother at Fatima in Portugal from April to October, 1917, was another proof of the Russian thesis that, when the world would fight against the Savior, he would send his Mother to save us. And her greatest Revelation took place in the very month the Bolshevik Revolution began.”
We know the eventual outcome. During the July apparition she declared that in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and the world will enjoy a period of peace.
But we must cooperate.
Bishop Sheen condensed these rebellions — today’s escalating ones, not just Cold War ones — and the Fatima apparitions and the necessity of listening to our Blessed Mother’s directives in a short prayer as he intensely implored:
“O Mary, we have exiled Thy Divine Son from our lives, our councils, our education and families! Come with the light of the sun as the symbol of his Power! Heal our wars, our dark unrest; cool the cannon's lips so hot with war! Take our minds off the atom and our souls out of the muck of nature! Give us rebirth in Thy Divine Son, us, the poor children of the earth grown old with age!... Shame us all into enlisting as Thy warriors of peace and love!”