Before Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was our Pope, at the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia on Aug. 13, 1976, he declared: "We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. … We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel."
That is still true today.
Then, as Pope John Paul II at Fatima on May 13, 1982 — a year to the day after the attempt on his life — he said he read with trepidation "the ardent appeal of the Heart of Mary that resounded at Fatima in 1917" because he saw "how many people and societies — how many Christians — have gone in the opposite direction to the one indicated in the message of Fatima."
He said sin was making "itself firmly at home in the world, and denial of God has become widespread in the ideologies, ideas and plans of human beings. For this very reason, the evangelical call to repentance and conversion, uttered in the Mother’s message, remains ever relevant. It is still more relevant than it was in 1917. It is still more urgent."
How much so today?
On May 13, 2010, at the same shrine in Portugal, Pope Benedict XVI again reminded the crowds: "We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete."
Still, many keep looking for solutions everywhere but Fatima, where Our Lady spelled out clearly and unmistakably a simple way to defeat evil and regain peace: the Rosary.
As we celebrate the 95th anniversary of Our Lady’s appearances at Fatima, is there any reason to doubt that we must heed her message now more than ever?
After all, as John Paul also noted in 1982, "The Lady of the message seems to have read with special insight the ‘signs of the times,’ the signs of our time. … While the message of Our Lady of Fatima is a motherly one, it is also strong and decisive. It sounds severe. … It invites to repentance. It gives a warning. It calls to prayer. It recommends the Rosary."
In her six apparitions, Our Lady called for the daily Rosary. Beginning on May 13, she said, "Pray the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war."
In her third appearance on July 13, she instructed: "Continue to pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only she can help you."
In her sixth apparition on Oct. 13, she coupled the request with her title: "I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day."
How much plainer can she be?
Remember, the Fatima apparitions are approved by the Church, and Fatima stands out as a world-recognized apparition.
For more than 31 years, Thomas McKenna, a director of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue Foundation (PilgrimVirginStatue.com), has been promoting and preaching the message of Fatima nationally and internationally.
Since 1947, this statue, which was blessed by the bishop of Fatima, has traveled continuously around the nation ever since the late John Haffert, co-founder of the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima, brought the statue to America.
"What Our Lady said is very simple," McKenna says. "What she came to ask people was very simple, but it wasn’t done. She said: Pray the Rosary. It’s something so simple every Catholic can do it. Pray the Rosary, make reparation, wear the (brown) scapular, and do the First Saturday devotions."
McKenna makes it clear: "These are not just the words of Our Lady of Fatima — she came as an emissary from God. God sent her as a living, charitable representative to ask people in the world to come back and focus on the faith."
Our Lady showed that the morality of the world was going way off course — and many souls were going to hell because of sins of the flesh. Today’s lack of morality far exceeds 1917’s situation.
As McKenna points out, "In the United States, we have in some situations legalized same-sex ‘marriage.’ Who could imagine the greatest holocaust of all time would have to do with abortion — and be supported by official governments? Pornography annually counts for more [money] than all major sports put together."
Father Gary Selin, formation adviser and assistant professor of theology at Denver’s Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary, who has been on pilgrimages to Fatima, also emphasizes: "It’s a strong indication that what she told the children in 1917 is even more applicable today because of the widespread violence, abortion, euthanasia."
"It all relates back to the message of Fatima," McKenna affirms. "If we don’t get back to a religious and moral basis, we will not have peace. Our Lady gave us the peace plan. How can we expect peace if we’re not following the peace plan?"
In his 2002 apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary), Blessed John Paul stressed that "only an intervention from on high, capable of guiding the hearts of those living in situations of conflict and those governing the destinies of nations, can give reason to hope for a brighter future."
Mary and her Son are the answer.
"The Rosary is a prayer by which we ask Our Lady to crush the head of the serpent," says Father Selin. "She’s been given that grace by her Son."
Together with the daily Rosary, Our Lady’s Fatima message included her requests for consecration and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the First Saturday devotions to repair the blasphemies against her Immaculate Heart, and offering daily duties, crosses and trials of life through the Immaculate Heart of Mary as sacrifices for the reparation for sin and the conversion of sinners.
"The Rosary is by its nature a prayer for peace, since it consists in the contemplation of Christ, the Prince of Peace, the one who is ‘our peace,’" said John Paul in his apostolic letter on the Rosary. He added, "By focusing our eyes on Christ, the Rosary also makes us peacemakers in the world. … The Rosary allows us to hope that, even today, the difficult ‘battle’ for peace can be won."
St. Padre Pio knew what was needed: "The Rosary is the weapon."
In his book Fatima for Today, Father Andrew Apostoli, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal and a Fatima expert, writes: "How powerful this prayer must be if it can obtain peace for the world. We, too, need to put into practice Our Lady’s request to pray the Rosary daily for peace in our time and an end to the culture of death so prevalent today."
Blessed Jacinta, one of the three Fatima child visionaries, implored: "God has placed peace in her hands, and it is from the Immaculate Heart that men must ask it."
In our hands, starting now, this October — the month of the holy Rosary — let Our Lady of Fatima, the Immaculate Heart, see the Rosary in our hands as we pray for peace and the culture of life.
Joseph Pronechen is the
Register’s staff writer.