Father Andrew Apostoli, of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, is a prolific author, preacher, frequent EWTN host and vice postulator for the cause of the canonization for Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
In his latest book, Fatima for Today (see book pick, page B5), Father Apostoli takes a definitive look at Our Lady’s apparitions and her messages — and their importance for today.
Shortly after its publication, he spoke from his friary office with Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen.
When Ignatius Press asked you to write Fatima for Today, was there anything you especially wanted to focus on?
They told me to “put everything in it,” so I concentrated on four things: presenting the historical facts of the apparitions; explaining the spiritual messages of Our Lady of Fatima, particularly the Five First Saturdays devotion; showing the importance of Fatima for our times because of our great spiritual struggle today with secularism, a remnant of communism; and answering objections regarding the consecration of Russia and the revelation of the Third Secret.
Yet many see communism as non-threatening and having little or no connection any longer with Fatima. Why is the Fatima warning still very relevant?
Actually, we are in a dead-heat battle with the basic message of communism, which is now seen as secularism in the Western countries of the world. Secularism aims to remove all signs and influence of religion from public life; to take religious rights away; to undermine the sanctity of human life by promoting abortion and attacking principles of Christian morality, especially marriage and family life. For example, pornography was not allowed in Russia, but the communists did a great job of exporting it to the West.
We are in an enormous spiritual battle. The communists were masters of deceit, and many of our Catholic people have been deceived. Interestingly, we cannot teach about God in our public schools, but the present Russian president is promoting the teaching of Orthodoxy in Russian schools.
You point out that Pope John Paul II insisted, “Fatima is more important now than in 1917,” and in Portugal in May 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said it’s a mistake to think the prophetic message of Fatima is over. Why is Our Lady’s message of such critical importance today?
The world is so divided between the atheistic communist world and the post-Christian Western world that we need this message as our greatest hope to save a Christian culture that has taken 2,000 years to establish. John Paul II said we are in the greatest spiritual battle of the Church’s 2,000-year history and that most Catholics are unaware of it. Secularism is threatening to destroy the Christian foundation of culture in the West.
Many have the notion that we don’t need God, but we do. The threat of a total war is very real. Our Lady promised an era of peace. That’s why we must do what she told us in numbers great enough to bring about the conversion of the hearts of those who hate God. This will lead to the promised triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. At Fatima Mary was particularly concerned with the salvation of souls. She told the visionaries that many souls are lost from God because there is no one to pray and offer sacrifices for them.
In the book, you explain about the sacrifices and how to make them.
In his apparitions, the angel of Portugal encouraged the children to make sacrifices, offering anything they do to almighty God. In his third apparition, he even taught them a beautiful Eucharistic prayer, called the Angel’s Prayer, which they would offer in reparation for the “outrages, sacrileges and indifference” which offend Jesus in the Eucharist. In one of her apparitions, Our Lady taught the children the Sacrifice Prayer for the conversion of sinners.
What are examples of “outrages, sacrileges and indifference?”
Desecration of the Eucharist is an outrage. Knowingly receiving holy Communion in mortal sin would be a sacrilege. Indifference would include talking in church or receiving holy Communion without adequate preparation. We have to make reparation for these offenses. The Eucharist occupies a very important place in the message of Fatima, which we must respond to.
St. John Bosco foresaw that some of the greatest trials in the Church’s history would occur in the 20th century and that only by devotion to the Eucharist and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary would the Church be saved.
Why do you stress in the book that Fatima is the most significant approved apparition?
Pope John Paul II said Fatima was the greatest apparition of the 20th century and perhaps all time. Our Lady called her children to live holy lives of prayer and penance. This is missing in many people’s lives today. They reject sacrifice because they’re attached to the world and so cannot allow Jesus into their lives. If we follow what Our Lady is asking, we will find ourselves close to Jesus.
Why do you treat in much detail the controversies that still persist about Fatima over the consecration of Russia and the Third Secret?
I became upset when good Catholics asked me, “Did Pope John Paul II make the consecration? Was it valid?” These good people did not have the information that would explain why the Pope carried out the consecration as he did. Such a brilliant Pope obviously knew what he was doing. Many of the accusations actually make demands of the Pope that Our Lady never made. In my book I stressed why the Pope made the consecration as he did, and Sister Lucia said, “Heaven accepted the consecration.” If people read the book, they will get the whole story.
You bring out many little-known facts concerning Fatima that are important. Please share an example of one that concerns the consecration.
One is that the Sacred Heart of Jesus told a Portuguese mystic, Blessed Alexandrina da Costa, to have Pope Pius XII consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Some object: “Why did the Pope consecrate the world? The Blessed Mother didn’t ask for it.” But the Sacred Heart did! That’s definitely a very important fact. Certainly Our Lady would have no objection to her Son’s request, since her last words in Scripture are “Do whatever my Son tells you.”
So the bishops of Portugal had received two requests — the one from the Sacred Heart through Blessed Alexandrina to consecrate the world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart and the other from Our Lady of Fatima to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. So instead of asking for two separate consecrations, the Portuguese bishops told Sister Lucia to ask Pius XII to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a special reference to Russia. When Sister Lucia prayed before the Blessed Sacrament for guidance in this matter, she said that Jesus told her “to do what the bishops had told her to do.” John Paul II followed the same format as Pius XII, but only he did it with the bishops of the world, which Pius XII was unable to do because of World War II.
Why do you focus in detail on the Five First Saturdays devotion?
This devotion is one of the most important requests Our Lady made, yet probably the most neglected. I call it “Our Lady’s spiritual formation program.” She requested it along with the consecration of Russia for its conversion. The Pope has done his part, but are we carrying out this devotion in sufficient numbers to bring about the conversion of sinners that Our Lady said would be needed for peace in the world?
You detail what can be done at this point. Such as?
Certainly Our Lady would want us to pray the Rosary every day, a request she made in all her apparitions. She said, “The Rosary can stop wars, bring world peace and convert sinners.”
Also, try to promote the Five First Saturdays devotion in parishes and prayer groups. Our Lady asked for confession, holy Communion, a Rosary and 15 minutes meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, all done in reparation for the offenses against her Immaculate Heart. This devotion will actually help our people grow in holiness through prayer, sacrifice, intercession and reparation.
The world is longing for peace. Our Lady promised it as the triumph of her Immaculate Heart. I know of no other plan from heaven that so directly leads us on the road to peace. Let us heed the words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI: “Learn … live … and spread the message of Fatima.”
Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.