The “Miracle of the Sun,” witnessed by thousands of Portuguese pilgrims Oct. 13, 1917, at Fatima, capped an amazing six months in which the Blessed Mother appeared to three simple shepherd children and imparted her wisdom that would draw the world closer to her Son and her Immaculate Heart.
As the Church concludes this 100th anniversary celebration, her directives and requests remain enduring, and crucial. This centennial highlights the call to renew, begin or continue Our Lady of Fatima’s directives.
“We’re living with the responses we made or did not make,” said David Carollo, executive director of the World Apostolate of Fatima (WAFUSA.org), which was founded in 1947 as the Blue Army to counter the “Red Army” of communism.
He observed: “Her requests were not totally ignored, and maybe kept worse things from happening.”
Our Lady’s wisdom encourages us still, as Carollo explained: “The closer to God, there is peace, harmony and love. The farther away is hatred and chaos. She pointed that out.”
“We know dates are an important way heaven communicates with us — even just the simple liturgical calendar gives us the highs and lows, feasts and fasts, that punctuate our lives,” explained Carrie Gress, author of The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis and a Register blogger.
Gress filled in the picture of the world 100 years after the Fatima apparitions. “We are living in times punctuated by both Antichrist as well as anti-Mary movements [described previously in the Register online]. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that womanhood and particularly motherhood — the icon of the Woman featured at the beginning and the end of Scripture fighting the serpent/dragon — has been decimated.”
“The staggering number of 3,000 abortions a day in the U.S. alone (roughly the same number of people killed on Sept. 11, 2001) should give all of us pause,” she added. “There is nothing more natural and tender than the love between a mother and her child. How is it that so many women could be convinced that aborting an unborn child is what must be done? The answer can only be diabolical. Finding our way back to that Woman is vital, both because of abortion, but also because women have forgotten who we are and the source of our own dignity and mission.”
Of the same mind is Father Richard Heilman, pastor of St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff Church in Cross Plains, Wisconsin, founder of the Holy League and RomanCatholicMan.com.
Father Heilman looks back at Pope Leo XIII’s vision Oct. 13, 1884, of God allowing Satan 100 years to attack his Church, prompting the Pope to compose the St. Michael Prayer.
“I tend to believe Oct. 13, 1917, is when the clash began,” Father Heilman said. “You can point to a lot of things that began in 1917 — the communist revolution was unleased at that time. The year before, while the angel was visiting [the children] in Fatima, the first contraceptive clinic was opened” in Brooklyn, New York.
He said the idea of 100 years isn’t unprecedented, pointing to the revelation the Sacred Heart made to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque on June 17, 1689, to tell the king to consecrate France to the Sacred Heart. Louis XIV didn’t, and exactly 100 years to the day, June 17, 1789, France’s King Louis XVI was stripped of power by the French Revolutionists; and later, though he tried to make the consecration while imprisoned, he was executed.
On this 100th anniversary of Fatima, “Look at what’s going on in our country,” Father Heilman said. “We’ve sacrificed nearly 60 million babies — aborted,” not counting the possible billions more lost through abortion-causing pills, contraception or destroyed in embryonic research. That’s not counting the effect of such evils on the rest of the world.
“People are noticing that things seem to be spinning out of control,” Father Heilman added.
That’s why Our Lady’s message endures. At the Mass for Our Lady of Fatima’s feast day in Portugal May 13, 1982, St. John Paul II said that “the motherly call to penance, to conversion, the ardent appeal of the Heart of Mary that resounded at Fatima 65 years ago … remains ever relevant.”
And as Pope Francis, visiting Fatima for the 100th anniversary to canonize Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto in May, reflected: “Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures. Such a life — frequently proposed and imposed — risks leading to hell. Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us. … In Lucia’s account, the three chosen children found themselves surrounded by God’s light as it radiated from Our Lady. She enveloped them in the mantle of light that God had given her. According to the belief and experience of many pilgrims, if not of all, Fatima is more than anything this ‘mantle of light’ that protects us, here as in almost no other place on earth. We need but take refuge under the protection of the Virgin Mary and to ask her, as the Salve Regina teaches: ‘Show unto us … Jesus.’”
“The critical focus now is the war on the family … and human sexuality,” emphasized Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Church in Washington, D.C., and a regular Register contributor.
He added, “We know that by experience and also because of what Sister Lucia wrote Cardinal Carlo Caffara in 1981.” In a 2008 interview, the cardinal revealed, “In that letter we find written: ‘The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage and the family.’ Don’t be afraid, she added, because whoever works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought against and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue. Then she concluded: ‘Nevertheless, Our Lady has already crushed his head.’”
And as Gress pointed out: “Mary has said that moral degradation will lead to natural disasters and war.”
“But there is hope,” Carollo emphasized. “The Fatima message is nothing more than a reiteration of the Gospels.”
“If there was no hope for people, God would not have sent his mother,” Carollo added. The fact the littlest seers were canonized 100 years after the apparitions, he believes, is “a Fatima gift from God for today and a gift for the future.”
Mentioning her own devotion to Fatima stems from the fact that Mary gave us the antidote to evil — the daily Rosary, First Saturday devotions and sacrifices for others — Gress finds there “is great hope in this, especially in the witness of just one man devoted to her, Pope St. John Paul II — that our course is not fixed and that prayer can change the world.” The bullet from the assassin’s gun in 1981 didn’t kill him, and he assisted in the fall of the Soviet bloc without shots being fired. She stated, “Truly this was miraculous. His life makes it clear that the world doesn’t need the masses for change to happen, just the faithful living out Mary’s message.”
Msgr. Pope agreed that this Fatima message is so enduring because “it’s basically what Scripture teaches — that prayer changes things. James 4:2 says, ‘You have not because you ask not.’ When we pray we literally change history. Our Lady is basically re-emphasizing that message and urging it for our times, to end war and the systematic elimination of human dignity. And to pray for the conversion of souls. People have lost any sense that they are going to be judged one day, so pray for the conversion of sinners.”
Msgr. Pope noted how Our Lady asked us to pray the Rosary every day for peace and for the conversion of sinners. “It’s really our fundamental weapon. Satan hates Our Lady. The weapon against Satan is the Rosary.” Agreed Father Heilman, “We need to cling to Mary’s mantle, and we do that by way of the Rosary. I like to call the Rosary the ‘umbilical cord’ to Our Lady. It’s a beautiful way to attach ourselves to Our Lady.”
Carollo concurred. “Isn’t it our job to work for the salvation of souls?” he said. “If we have a difficulty, we offer it up in reparation for the salvation of souls, and we bring about what Our Lady wanted — same as it was 100 years ago and 2,000 years ago. It’s basic Catholicism. The Fatima message just restated it.”
“To me, all the messages played out exactly as Our Lady said, even to the skeptical, comparing her words to what happened,” Msgr. Pope added. “That’s why I have a special devotion to her: Our Lady is speaking to us. Of all the apparitions, I’m most devoted to Fatima.”
And that devotion can change the world. Gress said, “The call is always to prayer, sacrifice, the sacraments. If we truly want to restore the world, Fatima reminds us that we can do a lot more in silence and small sacrifices than we will ever do through activism.”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.