Deacon Bob Ellis knows the Fatima story well. He is the national coordinator of the World Apostolate of Fatima in the United States.
Oct. 13 marked the 92nd anniversary of the so-called “miracle of the sun,” when the sun danced in the sky above the small village of Fatima, Portugal, with 70,000 people watching. Three young people, Francisco, Lucia and Jacinta, had been seeing visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a monthly apparition since May of that year.
Deacon Ellis, of Green Bay, Wis., spoke to Register correspondent Eddie O’Neill.
How did you become the national coordinator for the apostolate?
My involvement in the Blue Army — another name for the World Apostolate of Fatima — began in the mid-1970s, when it was first introduced to the Diocese of Green Bay by means of a tour by the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima. My pastor at the time, Father Arthur Danks (now deceased), was instrumental in arranging the statue tour and the initial formation of the Blue Army Division. I signed the Blue Army Pledge one evening during that tour.
When Father Danks was forced to relinquish his responsibilities as spiritual director, he asked if I would consider the position. I had been ordained a permanent deacon in 1986, was in the middle of rearing 14 children and supporting my family as a self-employed businessman. Since the only real time-consuming aspect of the position was the organization of the annual Rosary Rally for Peace, I felt as though I could handle it and accepted the position.
From 2002 through 2007, I faithfully tended to the annual Rosary Rally for Peace at our diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help outside of Green Bay. After the 2007 Rosary Rally, I began to wonder if I shouldn’t be doing more.
So I contacted the Blue Army national headquarters in Washington, N.J., early in 2008. After working on the final U.S. tour of the Odessa Pilgrim Virgin Statue and accompanying it to Kazan, Russia, I attended the 2008 national council meeting and accepted the position of national coordinator shortly thereafter.
What is the message of Fatima?
First, it is important to understand — and this is too frequently misunderstood — that the message of Fatima is not a message for Catholics only. Rather, it is a message from heaven for the entire world — for all of God’s and his holy Mother’s children — for people of all faiths in all nations and for all time.
The essence of the message of Fatima in a single word would be “reparation.” A short form of the message might be that there is too much sin and not enough reparation.
Most fundamentally, the message of Fatima tells us that hell exists and many souls are going there because there are too few people offering prayers, penances and sacrifices in reparation for their sins.
She also told us if her requests were not honored Russia would spread the errors of atheism throughout the world; there would be persecution of the Church; the Holy Father would suffer much; the good would be martyred; there would be an even greater and more destructive war than World War I, which was raging then; and there would even be the annihilation of entire nations.
Is the message still relevant?
John Paul II proclaimed that the message of Fatima is more important today than ever. It is not only relevant today — it is profoundly urgent. It is our failure to honor Our Lady’s Fatima requests which is chiefly responsible for what has transpired since 1917 — and what is about to transpire unless we wake up and respond to her requests soon.
Look what has happened: Russia was not consecrated until 1984. Consequently, as Our Lady had warned, atheism was spread throughout the world. The Church has never ceased being persecuted. The Holy Fathers have suffered enormously. The good are martyred daily in many places in the world. World War II — the greater and more destructive war she spoke of — occurred.
How does the message relate to the moral decay we are experiencing here in the United States?
We are perched upon the precipice of the annihilation of nations Our Lady warned of. Many seeds of atheism which fell upon our soil have now matured. Large numbers among us freely embrace the atheism that was brutally imposed upon the people of Russia. A practical or a convenient atheism is the core of the cause of the moral decay which envelops our nation today and which if not overcome will lead to our destruction.
What did Our Lady say about praying the Rosary?
When it was suggested to Sister Lucia that the praying of the Rosary was perhaps the most important part of the Fatima apparitions, she responded with a very firm and visibly annoyed, “No.” This is not to say that the Rosary isn’t important. Our Lady stressed its daily praying continually. But the most important part of her message is the need for reparation for sin.
Is there still hope for America? What must be done?
Yes. The message of Fatima is a message of great hope because it identifies the problem — sin — and provides the solution: reparation. The key is the honoring of all of Our Lady’s Fatima requests by sufficient numbers of people, but soon, before it is too late. Everyone needs to learn, live and spread the message of Fatima to others.
Eddie O’Neill writes from
Green Bay, Wisconsin.