Friday, December 08, 2017

REPOST: Mary, Conceived Without Sin, You DID Know

Raise your hand if you have ever heard the song "Mary, Did You Know?" within the precincts of a Catholic church.  I can't see you, but I know you're out there.  My hand is also up.  Somehow, because this song mentions the Mother of God, it has become a Christmas tradition in some parishes.  But although the gentleman who wrote "Mary, Did You Know?" clearly means well, this song is both musically inappropriate for Mass and subversive of the Catholic faith.

From a musical standpoint, "Mary, Did You Know?" is basically a pop song, and although the Mass has been saturated with such for a couple of generations now, the fact remains that it is not sacred music suited for use at Mass.  But even more objectionable, from the Catholic point of view, is the lyrical content.  

"Mary, Did You Know?" is based on some abysmally erroneous assumptions.  To begin with, it is supposed that Mary does not know that her holy Infant is the Son of God.  Some saints -- for instance, St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and Doctor of the Church -- are of the opinion that even before the Annunciation, Mary had a profound understanding of prophecies and Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah.  But even without such an understanding, it would have taken a high degree of inattention on Mary's part to the message of Gabriel and the inspired greeting of her cousin Elizabeth for her to labor under ignorance of her Son's divinity.  It is further supposed that Mary does not know that her Son will suffer for the redemption of mankind.  This would have required her to utterly gloss over the prophecies of holy Simeon concerning her Son as God's salvation, a sign of contradiction, and concerning the sword of sorrow that would pierce her own soul.  The idea of the Mother of God not being in possession of the most critical facts about her divine Son, particularly in view of explicit revelations received by her, is absurd on its face.

But there is an even more blatant error in the lyrics of "Mary, Did You Know?" that ought to induce in every Catholic a sharp intake of breath.  It is a defined dogma of the Catholic faith that the Mother of God was conceived without original sin.  On December 8, 1854, in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. 
Contrast this with the following lyrics from "Mary, Did You Know?":
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.
Whereas Catholics accept as revealed truth that Mary was free from sin from the instant of her conception by virtue of the anticipated merits of Jesus' suffering and death on the Cross, the foregoing is based on the assumption that Mary was under the sway of sin at the time she gave birth to the Christ Child, and that she would remain so until His Sacrifice of redemption.  In short, it is a flat denial of the Immaculate Conception.  As such -- and for this reason alone -- it should never be sung in a Catholic church, or find any place in any Catholic liturgy, and Catholics should not embrace it.

Perhaps a fitting way to honor today's feast of the Immaculate Conception -- in addition to fulfilling our obligation to attend Mass -- would be to defend the dogma which this feast celebrates by doing what we can to see that "Mary, Did You Know?" remains unheard in our parishes during this and every Christmas season.

REPOST: Potuit, Decuit, ergo Fecit: Why the Immaculate Conception Must Be True

I will shew thee all good, and I will proclaim in the name of the Lord before thee: and I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please me.  
Exodus 33:19

Once in a while, a comment comes along that deserves a post-length response.  Here, from a self-professed ex-Catholic turned non-denominational, is one that just came in on my post about the appalling song "Mary, Did You Know?":
Mary had to have sinned. She called Jesus "my Savior" and what is Jesus the Savior for? Sinners. She had sinned. And there is no biblical evidence for her having no sin.
Sigh.

Those of you with a kick against the Immaculate Conception always want to set limitations on God.  You generally have no problem acknowledging in theory that God is infinitely good, infinitely holy, infinitely perfect, infinitely merciful and infinitely powerful; but in practice, what you really want is a sort of bite-sized God, One that we can wrap our woefully inadequate brains around and Who does not confound our puny capabilities.  So when God actually goes and does something that only an infinitely good, holy, perfect, merciful and powerful Being could do, you protest.  The fact, however, is that God can do whatever He wants; and whatever is fitting, we may be sure that He will do.

God can do the impossible more rapidly and easily than we can blink our eyes or draw a breath.  It was perfectly within His power to preserve Mary free from the taint of sin from the instant of her conception.  This singular privilege of His grace was purchased for her by the limitless merits of Christ's suffering and death on the Cross.  God, not bound by the constraints of time or space, was perfectly capable of applying these merits beforehand and granting this privilege in advance of the Crucifixion.  Thus God really was Mary's Savior, and did not need her to sin in order to be her Savior: His intervention to prevent her from receiving the taint of sin that she would otherwise have contracted as a descendant of Adam was also a salvific act.  Have you never been prevented from committing sins -- by being deprived of means or opportunity, or because you have never experienced the temptation to commit particular sins?  These are also interventions of God's grace.  So you should know from experience that God saves us, not only by forgiving sins we have actually committed, but also by preventing us from committing sins we would otherwise have committed, perhaps to our eternal ruin.   Why, then, should it be so hard to accept that God, out of the abyss of His goodness and mercy, could exercise His infinite power to prevent the Mother of His Son from being tainted by the least stain of iniquity from the very instant she began to exist?


It is altogether fitting that God should preserve Mary inviolate and immaculate from the first instant of her life.  God always gives us the grace we need to do the work He gives us: the greater the work, the greater the grace given to carry it out.  Was ever a more important mission given to a mere human being than that entrusted to Mary?  It was her task to supply the matter out of which the all-holy Son of God would take flesh, to bear Him in her womb, to nurse Him and to rear Him to manhood, and to share in her soul in the agonies of His Passion.  This touches on a point raised by my correspondent in a follow-up comment:

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for dying for our sins because He was without blemish. If Mary had no blemish either, that would pretty much validate her for crucifixion too. Which would make Jesus less important.
Here my correspondent, though off the rails in the implications for the importance of Jesus, hits on an important truth.  Mary did in fact suffer with her divine Son, more than any other human being could have.  The saints (e.g., St. Alphonsus Liguori) are of the opinion that her sufferings were greater than that of all other men who have ever lived or will ever live put together, and that only a miracle kept her from dying of grief.  This is why Catholics honor her under the titles of Mother of Sorrows and Queen of Martyrs: only her Son's sufferings exceeded hers.  When she presented her Son in the Temple, holy Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her soul, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed (Luke 2:35).  It makes sense that she should bear so great a share in her Son's Passion: not only was she his loving mother; she was also fully aware that He was God, and therefore of the horrible outrage that He should be murdered by His own creatures.  Moreover, would it have been possible for her to suffer entirely for his sake and not at all for her own if she herself had had a share in the sins that caused Him to be nailed to the Cross?  Still, this share of hers in Christ's suffering does not in any way diminish Him.  Jesus was the perfect Sacrifice not only because He was without blemish, but because He was God.  Mankind had outraged the infinite God, and therefore it would take infinite merits to repair the outrage; these could only be offered by the Son of God. 

If you do not accept the Immaculate Conception, then I am bound to ask you why you would want the Mother of God to have been a sinner.  Is this not tantamount to wanting an unworthy vessel for the Incarnate God?   Does it make sense for the woman entrusted with bearing and caring for and suffering alongside the Son of God to have spent even a single instant under the dominion of hell?  No: especially when you consider that the Woman of Genesis 3:15, between whom and the serpent God put enmity is none other than the Mother of God, and her Seed is none other than Jesus Christ:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
Here is scriptural proof of the Immaculate Conception.  If God creates perfect and implacable enmity between the Woman and the serpent -- and surely it is unthinkable that if God creates enmity between the Mother of God and evil, this enmity will be imperfect and half-hearted -- then it follows that she could never be under the serpent's sway, or in allegiance with him, as she must be if she had sinned.  Thus it was fitting for God to preserve her without sin from the very beginning.

Since it was perfectly possible for God to preserve Mary free from sin from the moment of her conception, and it was fitting that He should do so, it follows that He in fact did do so.  It would be a gross omission on God's part, and incompatible with His infinite perfection, if He should leave undone that which was fitting.  Therefore, we may safely take it that He did not leave it undone.  


Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit! He could; it was fitting; therefore, He did it!


H/T Canterbury Tales

Friday, October 13, 2017

100 October 13ths Ago: The Miracle of the Sun

All of Satan's fallen host seemed to have burst its bonds during the month of October, 1917.  The Battle of Passchendaele had raged since the end of July.  Only the day before the children were to keep their final appointment with the Lady of the Rosary, the Allies alone suffered 13,000 casualties trying to break the German defenses outside the rural Belgian village.  By November, upwards of three quarters of a million lives on both sides would be consumed; out of the wrack and ruin of Passchendaele, where he served in a Bavarian division, would emerge a young Austrian named Adolf Hitler.  Only a few days after the last apparition, the Bolshevik Revolution began.  How apt was the nickname of "Red October" that the Communists gave to this fateful month, when the fury of hell lashed the world as mercilessly as the torrential rain that fell on the Cova da Iria on the 12th and 13th.
Perhaps that rain, and the mud that went with it, were part of hell's wrath.  But if it was a campaign to keep people away from the Cova, it was a colossal failure.  Believers and skeptics alike defied the awful weather, choking the Cova and its approaches; Fr. Di Marchi quotes as the most widely accepted figure 70,000 souls.  Lucia relates in her Fourth Memoir:
We left home quite early, expecting that we would be delayed along the way.  Masses of people thronged the roads.  The rain fell in torrents.  My mother, her heart torn with uncertainty as to what was going to happen, and fearing it would be the last day of my life, wanted to accompany me.

On the way, the scenes of the previous month, still more numerous and moving, were repeated.  Not even the muddy roads could prevent these people from kneeling in the  most humble and suppliant of attitudes.  We reached the holmoak in the Cova da Iria.  Once there, moved by an interior impulse, I asked the people to shut their umbrellas and say the Rosary.  A little later, we saw the flash of light, and then Our Lady appeared on the homoak.

"What do you want of me?"
Now the Lady was to keep her oft-repeated promise to tell the children who she was and what she wanted.
"I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honor.  I am the Lady of the Rosary.  Continue always to pray the Rosary every day.  The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes."

"I have many things to ask you: the cure of some sick persons, the conversion of sinners, and other things..."

"Some yes, but not others.  They must amend their lives and ask forgiveness for their sins."

Looking very sad, Our Lady said:

"Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended."

Then, opening her hands, she made them reflect on the sun, and as she ascended, the reflection of her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself.
Now the Lady would keep the other promise: to perform a miracle for all to see and believe.  How often does it happen that a miracle on a huge scale is promised for a particular date -- and then it happens?  Herewith the eyewitness account of Dr. Joseph Garrett, professor of natural sciences at Coimbra University, written in December, 1917 and quoted in Francis Johnston's book, Fatima: The Great Sign:
I am going to relate to you in a brief and concise manner, without any statements which would conceal the truth, what I saw in Fatima on 13 October 1917...I arrived at midday. The rain which had fallen persistently all morning, combined with a blustery wind, continued fretfully, as if threatening to drown everyone. The dull and heavy sky, its dark-grey clouds water-laden, predicted abundant rain for a long time to come.

I remained on the road in the shelter of the hood of my car, looking rather disdainfully toward the place where they said the apparition would be seen, not daring to step on the sodden and muddy earth of the freshly-ploughed field. I was a little more than a hundred metres from the high wooden posts mounted by a rough cross, seeing distinctly the wide circle of people who, with their umbrellas open, seemed like a vast arena of mushrooms. A little after one o'clock [footnote omitted], the children to whom Our Lady, as they declare, appeared and appointed the place, day and hour of the apparition, arrived at the site. Hymns were intoned and sung by the people who gathered around them. At a certain moment, this immense mass of people, so varied and compact, closed their umbrellas and uncovered their heads in a gesture that could have been one of humility or respect, but which left me surprised and bewildered, because now the rain, with a blind persistency, poured down on their heads and drenched them through.

Later, I was told that this crowd, who finished up by kneeling in the mud, had obeyed the voice of a child. It must have been about half past one when there rose up, on the precise spot where the children were, a pillar of smoke, a delicate, slender, bluish column that went straight up about two metres, perhaps above their heads and then evaporated. The phenomenon lasted for some seconds and was perfectly visible to the naked eye...It was repeated yet a second and third time. On these three occasions, and especially on the last one, the slender posts stood out distinctly in the dull grey atmosphere.

While I continued looking at the place of the apparitions in a serene, if cold expectation of something happening, and with diminishing curiosity, because a long time had passed without anything to excite my attention, I heard a shout from thousands of voices, and saw the multitude which straggled out at my feet, here and there concentrated in small groups round the trees, suddenly turn its back on the point toward which, up to now, it had directed its attention, and turn to look at the sky on the opposite side...The sun, a few moments before, had broken through the thick layer of clouds that hid it and shone clearly and intensely. I veered toward the magnet which seemed to be drawing all eyes, and saw it as a disc with clear-cut rim, luminous and shining, but which did not hurt the eyes...

It looked like a glazed circular piece cut from a mother-of-pearl shell...It could not be confused, either, with the sun seen through fog (for there was no fog at the time), because it was not opaque, diffused or veiled...The sky was mottled with light cirrus clouds, the blue coming through here and there, but sometimes the sun stood out in patches of clear sky...It was a remarkable fact that one could fix one's eyes on this brazier of heat and light without any pain in the eyes or blinding of the retina...

The sun's disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a heavenly body, for it spun round on itself in a mad whirl, when suddenly a clamour was heard from all the people. The sun, whirling, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge fiery weight. The sensation during these moments was terrible.

During the solar phenomenon, which I have just described in detail, there were changes of color in the atmosphere...Looking at the sun, I noticed that everything around was becoming darkened. I looked first at the nearest objects and then extended my glance further afield as far as the horizon. I saw everything in an amethyst color. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same colour. An oak tree nearby threw a shadow of this colour on the ground. Fearing that I was suffering from an affection of the retina...I turned away and shut my eyes, keeping my hands over them to intercept the light. With my back still turned, I opened my eyes and saw that the landscape was the same purple colour as before...Soon after, I heard a peasant who was near me shout out in tones of astonishment: "Look, that lady is all yellow!" In fact, everything both near and far, had changed, taking on the colour of old yellow damask. People looked as if they were suffering from jaundice, and I recall my amusement at seeing them look so ugly and unattractive. Laughter was heard. My own hand was of the same yellow colour...

All these phenomena which I have described, were observed by me in a calm and serene state of mind and without any emotional disturbance. It is for others to interpret and explain them.
Francis Johnson records that the solar miracle was seen over an area of 600 square miles.  He relates some eyewitness accounts:
In the town of Leiria, eighteen miles away to the north-west, the miracle was seen as a great red flash due to the restricting contours of the land.  Rev. Joaquim Lourenco, a canon lawyer of the diocese of Leiria in 1960, witnessed the miracle in the village of Alburitel, some nine miles distant.  He was a schoolboy at the time, and in 1960 he told John Haffert:

"I feel incapable of describing what I saw.  I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt my eyes.  Looking like a ball of snow, revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zig-zag, menacing the earth.  Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.  It was a crowd which had gathered outside our local village school, and we had all left classes and run into the streets because of the cries and surprised shouts of men and women who were in the street in front of the school when the miracle began.

"There was an unbeliever there who had spent the morning mocking the 'simpletons' who had gone off to Fatima just to see an ordinary girl.  He now seemed paralyzed, his eyes fixed on the sun.  He began to tremble from head to foot, and lifting up his arms, fell on his knees in the mud, crying out to God.  But meanwhile the people continued to cry out and to weep, asking God to pardon their sins.  We all ran to the two chapels in the village, which were soon filled to overflowing.  During those long moments of the solar prodigy, objects around us turned all colors of the rainbow..."

An American building contractor, Abano Barros, related to John Haffert in 1960 how he saw the miracle in a village near Minde, about eight miles from Fatima.  "I was watching sheep, as was my daily task, and suddenly, there in the direction of Fatima, I saw the sun fall from the sky.  I thought it was the end of the world."

At least one eyewitness, the poet Alfonso Lopes Viera, saw the miracle from a distance of 30 miles -- at the ocean town of San Pedro der Muel.  The author has also discovered at first hand that the miracle was seen in Pombal, some 32 miles to the north.  Investigations have proved that it was visible over an area of approximately 32 miles by 20.

As for the children themselves, Lucia relates simply and straightforwardly in her Fourth Memoir what they saw:
After Our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun.  St. Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands.  When, a little later, this apparition disappeared, I saw Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me that it was Our Lady of Dolours.  Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done.  This apparition also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel.
So ended this dramatic heavenly intervention in human affairs, at the height of the fratricidal fury that swept away the old order of things, and ushered in a new era of slaughter and destruction previously unknown.  But the message behind the drama is quite simple: repent and convert.

When will we start?

Monday, October 09, 2017

One More Thing...

Why is it that my "civil libertarian" colleagues want to do away with or at least vitiate the one civil right that most effectively guarantees our freedom, namely, the right to keep and bear arms?  That is the true purpose of the Second Amendment.  It is not there merely to guarantee our ability to hunt, and the "well-armed militia" clause does not serve as a limitation on the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, as the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a few years ago.  The Second Amendment is there because tyranny requires an unarmed populace.  Liberals have been working for decades to achieve a citizenry that is helpless and prostrate before those in power.  That is the real purpose of the welfare state -- and it works like a charm, in case anybody cares to take notice.

These same colleagues also like to rag on the police as bean-brained boobs, uniformed thugs or ruthless, scheming charlatans -- which in fact a few are, though most are not.  Yet these colleagues seem not to have noticed that the very gun policies they advocate would give an exclusive monopoly on firearms to these same rotters who, in their view, cannot be trusted to safeguard our constitutional rights.  

But then liberalism is really a sort of religious dogma that its adherents hold to every bit as unthinkingly as they assume I hold to my Catholic faith.  Which is probably why they assume, without investigating, that my Catholic faith makes no sense.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Random Thoughts

- I haven't had much to say lately on any subject, because there is so much that is so depressing going on, both in the world at large and in my own little corner of it, that I have felt like silence is the only response I can muster. Maybe it's time for the choleric side of my personality to reassert itself over the melancholic, which has had the upper hand for the last few years.

- There is indeed a sea change in the world, and the signs include the Brexit vote in June of last year, and the election of Donald Trump in the United States last November.  People are finally beginning to reject and push back against the "Enlightenment" ideology that has so fascinated the West's elites, and held Christendom in thrall, for the last two and a half centuries.  But the corrupt elites are themselves pushing back -- hard.  It remains to be seen whether we have started to regain our senses in enough time to save Christian civilization, and whether enough people are willing to defend it.

- It is easy enough to expose the hypocrisy of the "open borders" crowd by asking them why they don't tear down their own fences and gates and throw open their own real estate holdings to all and sundry, no questions asked.  It is because they know they will be cleaned out and maybe even not escape the experience physically unscathed.  A nation -- which is an extension of the family, which springs from our human nature and has rights in the natural law -- is no different in this respect.  A family has the right to let some people into its home and keep others out, according as its interests dictate; to expect guests and visitors to obey the rules of the house; and to expel those who will not comply.  A nation possesses these same rights.  A national government also has the same duty to look first to the well-being of its own citizens, that parents have to look first to the well-being of their own children.

- It's depressing to think how far we have slid down the sewer of violence in the 21st century, and still more depressing to realize that that is the way our Elders and Betters, including those who run the mass media, want it.  Seven gangsters and gang associates died in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929, and the nation was aghast.  Eighty-eight years, a world war, multiple regional wars and countless murders, abortions and terror attacks later, the deaths of innocent civilians in European cities at the hands of Muslim extremists are barely making the news anymore.  The leaders of Europe declare their resolve to "carry on" and not be intimidated by terrorists, but they are utterly unwilling to do what it takes to put an end to the predations of terrorists.  Instead, they spend their time coming up with hash tags, and putting up barriers, and telling their people they are just going to have to put up with terrorism as a part of life, and chewing their nails about insoluble and even non-existent problems, like "climate change" and "carbon footprints."  Why is it they think it impossible to keep out of their countries people who want to destroy them, but consider it totally feasible to adjust the earth's temperature by means of legislative enactments?

- Let us not kid ourselves that mass murders like the one in Vegas last week are unrelated to the scourge of abortion.  Mother Teresa warned us of this at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994:
But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.  And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?
- It is worth remembering that in that same speech, Mother Teresa -- who is loved by both conservatives and liberals -- did not fail to draw the line between abortion and contraception:
In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self.  This turns the attention to self and so it destroys the gifts of love in him or her. In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception.  Once that living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily.
- I'm really getting sick of these NFL demonstrations. I don't watch football, but if I did, it would be for entertainment -- just like going to a movie or watching a TV show. For years, we have been putting up with having leftist propaganda shoved down our throats every time we go to some entertainment venue, and I, for one, am fed up. That's not why I pay to get in.

- Leftists reduce everything to politics. The last time I argued about this taking-a-knee business with a leftist, I was accused of hypocrisy on the grounds that patriotic displays, which I don't object to, are nothing more than a political argument for the side I agree with. This is how the left operates: redefine the terms so nobody else can possibly win.  We have to stop buying into their planted axioms.  In fact, everything is not politics, and displays of patriotism are not political. Patriotism is a virtue, and standing for the anthem with your hand over your heart is a civic ceremony wherein we give expression to that virtue and reaffirm our identity as Americans. These idiotic protests strike at our unity as Americans.  I say, throw the bums out. The First Amendment doesn't apply to players on the field. They are there to work and earn their keep, just like I am whenever I go to court.  Hold them to the same standards as any other employee in any other workplace.  I don't get to do or say anything other than what I get paid for in the course of my employment, and neither should they.

- It would be interesting to know just what Harvey Weinstein -- who looks every inch a disgusting pig -- did to lose him the protection of The Establishment.  Whatever it was, it cannot have been sexually predatory behavior.  Hollywood has been glamorizing sexually predatory behavior for years, and has show itself quick to circle the wagons around sexual predators in its midst.  When, for example, the authorities nabbed Roman Polanski on his way to a film festival in Zurich in 2009 -- more than 30 years after skipping out on his sentencing in Los Angeles for plying a 13-year-old girl with booze and quaaludes, then raping and sodomizing her -- the film community rose in outrage at the authorities.  Harvey Weinstein, incidentally, and not surprisingly, was very vocal in defending Polanski.  So what heresy did Weinstein commit that made his own company throw him out on his ear?  One is tempted to speculate that he might have said something that could, in a certain light, be construed as mildly favorable to Donald Trump.  That would correspond more exactly to the Hollywood Left's idea of high crimes and misdemeanors.

- I suppose the sea change I mentioned above might be taking place in the Church as well as in Western society at large, as witness the filial correctio published recently, several weeks after it had been presented to the Holy Father and gotten no response.  It is refreshing to hear heresies straighforwardly designated as heresies, but I cannot say that I am surprised that the Pope continues not to respond.  If a Pope really does subscribe to heresies, and he cannot bring himself to declare definitively against them, declaring definitively in their favor is not an option: the charism of infallibility that he possesses in virtue of his office prevents this.  The only thing a Pope could do in these circumstances would be to remain silent.  Whatever the case may be, the Church is in a real crisis.  We should be prepared for the possibility that we will not see this crisis resolved during the current pontificate.

- On the other hand, we are just a week way from the 100th anniversary of the culmination of Our Lady's appearances at Fatima, Portugal, when tens of thousands of believers and non-believers within about a 30-mile radius witnessed the miracle she promised to perform to prove that she really had appeared to the three children and called for penance, repentance and conversion.  We are also in the centenary of Red October, when the Soviet Union was born -- the instrument by which Russia has spread her errors throughout the world, as Our Lady warned she would.  One also thinks of the hundred years satan asked God to give him in which to destroy the Church in the vision Pope Leo XIII is said to have had that inspired him to compose the Prayer to St. Michael.  We have certainly seen the fury of hell intensify all over the world over the last several years, and the storm roils every level of Church and state, from the palaces and mansions of the great down to the most humble individual.  Are we now near the end of those hundred years?

I hope we may live to see the promised triumph of her Immaculate Heart, and that soon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

100 September 13ths Ago: Toward the Climax

St. Mary Magdalene, one of the greatest penitents.
The three children of Fatima had taken very much to heart the Lady's exhortations to do penance and make sacrifices for sinners.  They offered up their persecutions at the hands of the government, and Lucia's trials at home, but these were not enough.  The children soon got into the habit of giving away their lunches and picking acorns and bitter plants to eat instead; they would deny themselves water on hot days; Jacinta even wanted to drink from the same dirty water that the cows trampled in and muddied.  Sometimes, the children would refrain from hiding from curiosity-seekers (at which they happened to be quite adept) in order to be able to make a sacrifice of submitting to importunities.  One day, Lucia found a length of scratchy, stinging rope; cutting it into three pieces, the children wore it around their waists under their clothes as a sort of hair shirt.  Such was their zeal that they even wore the ropes to bed.  All to drag sinners back from the brink of hell. 

On September 13th, the children were free to keep their appointment with the Lady in the Cova da Iria, hindered only by the immense crowds that gathered in eager anticipation -- thirty thousand souls, according to Fr. de Marchi.  Lucia records in her Fourth Memoir:
As the hour approached, I set out with Jacinta and Francisco, but owing to the crowds around us we could only advance with difficulty.  The roads were packed with people, and everyone wanted to see us and speak to us.  There was no human respect whatsoever.  Simple folk, and even ladies and gentlemen, struggled to break through the crowd that pressed around us.  No sooner had they reached us than they threw themselves on their knees before us, begging us to place their petitions before Our Lady.  Others who could not get close to us shouted from a distance:
"For the love of God, ask Our Lady to cure my son who is a cripple!"  Yet another cried out: "And to cure mine who is blind!"...To cure mine who is deaf!...To bring back my husband, my son, who has gone to the war!...To convert a sinner!...To give me back my health as I have tuberculosis!" and so on.

All the afflictions of poor humanity were assembled there.  Some climbed up to the tops of trees and walls to see us go by, and shouted down to us.  Saying yes to some, giving a hand to others and helping them up from the dusty ground, we managed to move forward, thanks to some gentlemen who went ahead and opened a passage for us through the multitude.
Now, when I read in the New Testament about those enchanting scenes of Our Lord's passing through Palestine, I think of those which Our Lord allowed me to witness, while yet a child, on the poor roads and lanes from Aljustrel to Fatima and on to the Cova da Iria!  I give thanks to God, offering Him the faith of our good Portuguese people, and I think: "If these people so humbled themselves before three poor children, just because they were mercifully granted the grace to speak to the Mother of God, what would they not do if they saw Our Lord Himself in person before them?"
Among the tens of thousands of witnesses on September 13th was Msgr. John Quaresma, Vicar General of the Diocese of Leiria.  Father de Marchi gives us an excerpt of a letter Msgr. Quaresma wrote about the events in 1932:
So on a beautiful September morning we left Leiria in a rickety carriage drawn by an old horse, for the spot where the much-discussed apparitions were said to take place. Father Gois found the dominating point of the vast amphitheatre from which we could observe events, without approaching too nearly the place where the children were awaiting the apparition.

At midday there was complete silence. One only heard the murmur of prayers. Suddenly there were sounds of jubilation and voices praising the Blessed Virgin. Arms were raised pointing to something in the sky. "Look, don’t you see?"

"Yes, yes, I do...!" Much satisfaction on the part of those who do. There had not been a cloud in the deep blue of the sky and I, too, raised my eyes and scrutinised it in case I should be able to distinguish what the others, more fortunate than I, had already claimed to have seen.

With great astonishment I saw, clearly and distinctly, a luminous globe, which moved from the east to the west, gliding slowly and majestically through space. My friend also looked, and had the good fortune to enjoy the same unexpected and delightful vision. Suddenly the globe, with its extraordinary light, disappeared.

Near us was a little girl dressed like Lucia, and more or less the same age. She continued to cry out happily: "I still see it! I still see it! Now it's coming down...!"
Father de Marchi gives the following account of this shortest of the Fatima apparitions:
Now, while the beads were being told, the crowd could see the children rise from their knees and face to the east, and see the wonder come alive upon their faces. A moment while the children waited, watching, watching, their eyes on the oak tree now, their joy like a flame. They had fallen to their knees again, and people, close to Lucia, heard her say:

"What do you want of me?"

But for Lucia and her cousins there were no people. Their senses could not wholly accommodate the Queen of Heaven standing in gentle courtesy above them. There was room for nothing more. Neither smiling nor grave, the Lady gave her simple, direct, and unadorned instructions:

"Continue the Rosary, my children. Say it every day that the war may end."

"Is that all?"

No, there was more, because the Lady repeated all she had told them the month before, reminding them that in October they would see St. Joseph with the Holy Child. God Himself would be seen and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Our Lady of Dolors would appear.

The Lady paused. Her triumphant beauty softened, her voice became more tenderly maternal.

“God is pleased with your sacrifices,” she said, “but He does not want you to wear the cords to bed. Keep them on only in the day.”

Lucia, whose eyes had been lowered during the Lady's statement of God's approval of their sacrifices, dared now to raise her glance.

"I have the petitions of many for your help," she said. "Will you assist a little girl who is deaf and dumb?"

"She will improve within the year," the Lady said.

"And the conversions that some have asked to have brought about? The cures of the sick ones?"

"Some I will cure," the Lady said, "and some I will not. Our Lord does not trust them all."

Lucia, obedient and satisfied, accepted this decision. She then remembered the desires of Maria da Capelinha and other pious women who had believed in the apparitions from the beginning.

"Would you like a small chapel to be built here with the money the people have left?" she asked.

"Yes; I would like a small chapel built in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary. But tell them to use only half the money for this. The other half is to be for the andors [litters] that you already know about."

Lucia’s thoughts turned inward to personal problems.

"So many believe that I am an impostor and a cheat," she said, "that they say I deserve to be hanged and burned. Will you please perform a miracle so that all of them can believe?"

"In October," the Lady said, repeating her earlier promise, "I will perform a miracle that will permit everyone to believe."
After this, the Lady rose and departed.

In the letter quoted above, Msgr. Quaresma noted that not everyone present received the privilege of witnessing anything out of the ordinary.  Did Lucia's own mother, Maria Rosa, fall into this category?  In her Second Memoir, Lucia records the following:
Since it seems Our Lord had, a month before, wished to give some visible sign out of the ordinary, my mother eagerly hoped that, on this day, such signs would be still more clear and evident.  The good Lord, however, perhaps to give us the opportunity to offer Him yet another sacrifice, permitted that no ray of His glory should appear on this day.  My mother lost heart once more, and the persecution at home began all over again.

But Lucia entertained no bitterness toward the family that laid such heavy crosses on her little shoulders:
[My mother] had indeed many reasons for being so upset.  The Cova da Iria was now a total loss, not only as a fine pasture for our flock, but even as regards the eatables we had grown there.  Added to this was my mother's almost certain conviction, as she expressed it, that the events themselves were nothing but foolish fancies and mere childish imaginings.  One of my sisters did scarcely anything else but go and call me, and take my place with the flock, while I went to speak to the people who were asking to see me and talk to me.

This waste of time would have meant nothing to a wealthy family, but for ourselves, who had to live by our work, it meant a great deal.  After some time, my mother found herself obliged to sell our flock, and this made no small difference to the support of the family.  I was blamed for the whole thing, and at critical moments, it was all flung in my face.  I hope our dear Lord has accepted it all from me, for I offered it to Him, always happy to be able to sacrifice myself for Him and for sinners.  On her part, my mother endured everything with heroic patience and resignation; and if she reprimanded me and punished me, it was because she really thought that I was lying.  She was completely resigned to the crosses which Our Lord was sending her, and at times she would say, "Could it be that all this is God's work, in punishment for my sins?  If so, then blessed be God!"

So the children, and especially Lucia, continued their way up the royal road to Calvary, carrying their crosses without complaint, and even looking for more ways to suffer for the sake of poor sinners.  As for Maria Rosa, it remained to be seen whether her disappointment over not seeing any extraordinary signs would continue.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

100 August 13ths Ago: The Claw of Satan

Now the devil, no doubt alarmed by heaven's interventions in Portugal, decided to enlist human cooperation in his efforts to thwart them.  After the terrible visions and prophecies of July 13th, in which hell and its works were exposed, the troubles from without intensified, especially for Lucia.  As if the persecutions in her own home were not enough, the "freethinking" government officials -- who, however, were not free to admit either the truths of the Catholic faith or the possibility of divine intervention in human affairs -- began to turn their baleful gaze upon the children and the events at the Cova da Iria.  

Chief among these was Arturo Santos, the administrator of Vila Nova de Ourem, the county in which Fatima was located.  In The True Story of Fatima, the excellent account by Fr. John di Marchi based on his personal interviews of witnesses to the Fatima events, we have some background facts on Arturo Santos:
Arthur Santos was by training a tinker, or tin smith. His formal education had been slight, his ambitions large. A self-propelled and intrepid young man, he became the editor of the Ouriense, a local gazette in which his antimonarchical and anti-religious opinions were expressed with bitter zeal, and likely enough, some talent. In any case, with the advent of the Republic in 1910, Arthur Santos, at the age of twenty-six, was a man of consequence. After being elected to the Masonic Lodge of Leiria, the bustling Senhor founded a separate lodge in his native Vila Nova de Ourem, and was, before long, mayor or administrator of the county. This carried with it the corollary titles of President of the Chamber and Judge Substitute of Comarca. Wearing all these honours, with their companion authority, Senhor Santos was the most feared and influential man in his section of Portugal.
As an avowed atheist, Senhor Santos could only view the events in the Cova da Iria as a threat to civic order and the republican cause, so on about the 11th of August, he summoned Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco and their fathers to appear before him.  Ti Marto, the father of Jacinta and Francisco, refused to bring the children, though he appeared himself; but Lucia's family thought it would serve her right to have to appear in front of the administrator.  Lucia's Second Memoir:
As for me, what hurt me most, was the indifference shown me by my parents.  This was all the more obvious since I could see how affectionately my aunt and uncle treated their children.  I remember thinking to myself as we went along: "How different my parents are from my uncle and aunt.  They risk themselves to defend their children, while my parents hand me over with the greatest indifference, and let them do what they like with me!  But I must be patient," I reminded myself in my inmost heart, "since this means I have the happiness of suffering more for love of You, O my God, and for the conversion of sinners."  This reflection never failed to bring me consolation.
The administrator interrogated Lucia in the presence of her father, her uncle and several others, sparing neither promises nor threats to force out of her the secrets that had been confided to her, all to no avail.  He finally dismissed the child with a threat to kill her if necessary, and sent her home.  

But Senhor Santos was not through yet.  On the 13th of August -- the day the next apparition was to take place -- he personally appeared at the Marto home.  He wanted, he said, to see these wonders at the Cova himself, and decided to take the children there in his own carriage, with a stop at the house of the local parish priest, Fr. Ferreira, on the way.

But from the priest's house, the carriage did not go to the Cova.  Instead, it took the children to Senhor Santos' house.  Now began an ordeal that was to last for several days.  The administrator imprisoned the children in his house, where he subjected them to promises, bribes, and threats to get them to reveal the secrets they had heard from the Lady.  Not even the threat of being thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil could move them.  The administrator eventually threw them into the public jail, alongside actual criminals; but even this did not break them.  

Nevertheless, it was a real trial, especially for little Jacinta. In her First Memoir, Lucia describes her torments:
I went over and drew her close to me, asking her why she was crying.

"Because we are going to die," she replied, "without ever seeing our parents again, not even our mothers!"  With tears running down her cheeks, she added: "I would at least like to see my mother."

"Don't you want, then, to offer this sacrifice for the conversion of sinners?"

"I do want to, I do!"  With her face bathed in tears, she joined her hands, raised her eyes to heaven, and made her offering:  "O my Jesus!  This is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, for the Holy Father, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary!"
Lucia goes on: 
Next, we decided to say our Rosary.  Jacinta took off a medal that she was wearing around her neck, and asked a prisoner to hang it up for her on a nail in the wall.  Kneeling before this medal, we began to pray.  The prisoners prayed with us, that is, if they knew how to pray, but at least they were down on their knees.  Once the Rosary was over, Jacinta went over to the window and started crying again.

"Jacinta," I asked, "don't you want to offer this sacrifice to Our Lord?"

"Yes, I do, but I keep thinking about my mother, and I can't help crying."

As the Blessed Virgin had told us to offer our prayers and sacrifices also in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we agreed that each of us would choose one of these intentions.  One would offer for sinners, another for the Holy Father and yet another in reparation for the sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Having decided on this, I told Jacinta to choose whichever intention she preferred.  "I'm making the offering for all the intentions, because I love them all."

Among the prisoners, there was one who played the concertina.  To divert our attention, he began to play and they all started singing.  They asked us if we knew how to dance.  We said we knew the "fandango" and the "vira."  Jacinta's partner was a poor thief who, finding her so tiny, picked her up and went on dancing with her in his arms!  We only hope that Our Lady has had pity on his soul and converted him!  
Meanwhile, at the Cova da Iria, the appointed time for the apparition came.  A large crowd had gathered, but the children were not there.  Fr. di March provides the testimony of a witness:
As before, I arrived very early at the Cova and sat down near the little tree where Our Lady had appeared. I went in spite of the fact that many people had tried to frighten me out of going. There were rumours it was the devil who came, and that he would wait until many people had come, then open the earth and swallow us all. A woman from Caterina had told me this, but I was not afraid. With so much praying going on, I decided, nothing so evil could happen. I asked Our Lady to guide me according to the divine will of her Son, and then I went.

The crowd this day was even greater than it had been in July. Oh, there were many, many more. Some came on foot and hung their bundles on the trees. Some came on horses. Some on mules. There were bicycles too, and everything else, and on the road there was a great noise of traffic.

It must have been around 11 o’clock when Maria dos Anjos, Lucia’s sister, got there. She had some candles with her that she expected to light when Our Lady came to her sister and her cousins. All around the tree, the people were praying and singing hymns, but when the children did not appear, they began to get impatient. Then someone came from Fatima and told us they had been kidnapped by the mayor. Everyone began talking at once; there was great anger, and I don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t heard the clap of thunder.

It was much the same as the last time. Some said the thunder came from the direction of the road and others said it came from the tree. To me it seemed to come from a long way off. But wherever it came from, the thunder was a shock to the people. Some of them began to shout that we would be killed. We all began to spread out, away from the tree, but, of course, no one was hurt in any way. Just after the clap of thunder came a flash of lightning, and then we began to see a little cloud, very delicate, very white, which stopped for a few moments over the tree, and then rose in the air until it disappeared. As we looked around, we began to notice some strange things we had observed before and would see again in the months to follow. Our faces were reflecting all the colours of the rainbow—pink and red and blue and I don’t know what. The trees suddenly seemed to be made not of leaves, but of flowers. The ground reflected these many colours, and so did the clothes we wore. The lanterns that someone had fixed to the arch above us looked as though they had turned to gold. Certainly Our Lady had come, I knew, even though the children were not there.
 But the people's anger had been kindled against the civil authorities, and against Fr. Ferreira, whom they suspected of having a hand in the children's disappearance.   When the children were finally set free and returned home -- on the feast of the Assumption -- Ti Marto played a significant role in calming the people's wrath and preventing violence.

And the children, having faithfully endured their trials, were to be consoled for having missed their appointment with the Lady at the Cova.  On August 19th, they received a heavenly visitation.  From Lucia's Fourth Memoir:
I was accompanied by Francisco and his brother John.  We were with the sheep in a place called Valinhos, when we felt something supernatural approaching and enveloping us.  Suspecting that Our Lady was about to appear to us, and feeling sorry lest Jacinta might miss seeing her, we asked her brother to go and call her.  As he was unwilling to go, I offered him two small coins, and off he ran.

Meanwhile, Francisco and I saw the flash of light, which we called lightning.  Jacinta arrived, and a moment later, we saw Our Lady on a holmoak tree.
What favor Jacinta must have enjoyed with Our Lady, since she waited to appear until the child arrived.  Lucia continues:
"What do you want of me?"

I want you to continue going to the Cova da Iria on the 13th and to continue praying the Rosary every day.  In the last month, I will perform a miracle so that all may believe."
At this point, Fr. di Marchi  mentions a detail that does not appear in Lucia's memoirs, and whose source he does not name, although he mentions earlier in the book that he had personally interviewed Sr. Lucia.  He records that Our Lady said the following:
If they had not taken you to the town (meaning Ourem), the miracle would be even greater.    
Of this detail, Francis Johnston offers the following commentary in his book Fatima: The Great Sign:
And here we have one of the most solemn lessons in the entire story of Fatima.  How great would the miracle have been if the children had not been kidnapped?  Would it have been of longer duration?   Would it have been seen all over Portugal?  Perhaps over Spain or even France, bringing incalculable benefits to the Fatima apostolate and the cause of world peace?  We shall never know.  All we do know is that the actions of one evil man, Arturo Santos, have endangered the lives of everyone living today.  And this underlines a deep truth, frequently ignored today.  Each sin committed in the world adversely affects everyone else, just as each merit gained favorably affects all others.
Lucia's memoir continues.  She asked the Lady:
"What do you want done with the money that the people leave in the Cova da Iria?"

"Have two litters made.  One is to be carried by you and Jacinta and two other girls dressed in white; the other one is to be carried by Francisco and three other boys.  The money from the litters is for the 'festa' of Our Lady of the Rosary, and what is left over will help towards the construction of a chapel that is to be built here."

"I would like to ask you to cure some sick persons."

"Yes, I will cure some of them during the year."

Then, looking very sad, Our Lady said: "Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them."  And she began to ascend as usual towards the east. 
And so in August of 1917, from the center of the maelstrom of war, famine, death and pestilence he had loosed upon the earth, Satan reached out a claw and with it tried to slam shut the portal between heaven and earth that had opened up at Fatima.  But he only succeeded in moving the door a few inches.  Still, he was not through.  The struggle was far from over.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

100 July 13ths Ago: The Secrets

Now it was time to show the three children why it was necessary for them to suffer and to make reparation for sinners.  Lucia's Fourth Memoir:
A few moments after arriving at the Cova da Iria, near the holmoak, where a large number of people were praying the Rosary, we saw the flash of light once more, and a moment later Our Lady appeared on the holmoak.
"What do you want of me?"  I asked.

"I want you to come here on the 13th of next month, to 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."

"I would like to ask you to tell us who you are, and to work a miracle so that everybody will believe that you are appearing to us."

"Continue to come here every month.  In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe."

I then made some requests, but I cannot recall now just what they were.  What I do remember is that Our Lady said it was necessary for such people to pray the Rosary in order to obtain these graces during the year.  And she continued:

"Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."
Now the revelation of the horror of sin:
As Our Lady spoke these last words, she opened her hands once more, as she had done during the two previous months.  The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire.  Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear.  (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me.)  The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals.  Terrified and as if to plead for succor, we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and so sadly:

"You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go.  To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.  If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.  The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI.  When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.

"To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays.  If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; but if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church.  The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.  In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.  The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.  In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved..."
It must have been at this point that the children received the "Third Secret," which would not be revealed publicly for eighty-three years.  However, in obedience to the Bishop of Leiria, Lucia committed the Third Secret to writing in 1944 as follows (edited here for punctuation, spelling and paragraph breaks):
After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand.  Pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: "Penance, penance, penance!" 

And we saw in an immense light that is God something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it: a Bishop dressed in white.  We had the impression that it was the Holy Father.  Other bishops, priests, men and women religious going up [sic] a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark.  Before reaching there, the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins; and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way.
Having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big cross, he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him; and in the same way there died, one after another, the other bishops, priests, men and women religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the martyrs, and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
Then, after warning the children against telling anyone what they had seen and heard (except that the girls could tell Francisco, who was not able to hear what was said) the Blessed Mother gave the children what has come to be known as the Fatima Prayer, albeit in a somewhat different form than that which is now commonly used (at least in English):
"When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell.  Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need."

Then the apparition ended.  But the controversy over what happened that July 13th has not ended.  The Third Secret has given rise to much speculation, all the more since the decision was made not to make the Secret public in 1960, the year it was assumed the Secret should have been revealed.

Why 1960?  When she wrote down the Secret for the bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Sr. Lucia wrote on the outer envelope that it could only be opened after 1960.  When asked why, and whether Our Lady had fixed the date, she replied: "It was not Our Lady. I fixed the date because I had the intuition that before 1960 it would not be understood, but that only later would it be understood. Now it can be better understood. I wrote down what I saw; however it was not for me to interpret it, but for the Pope."  By the time the contents of the Secret were finally made public in 2000, on the occasion of the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, so much doomsday-scenario speculation had gone on about it, during the bloodiest century in human history, that it seemed almost anti-climactic.

So much so that a whole industry has grown up around the idea that the entire Third Secret has not been revealed, in spite of Sr. Lucia's categorical statement in 2001 that there are no more secrets.  It doesn't make sense, it is argued, that the vision of the Holy Father being shot refers to the attempt on the life of John Paul II on May 13, 1981, as asserted in the theological commentary on the Third Secret.  But that is a gross oversimplification of then-Cardinal Ratzinger's remarks.  The vision, he said, contains the whole bloody history of the 20th century, "a century of martyrs," as well as the special role of the Pope in "the Via Crucis of an entire century".  And, in view of the Communist connections of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Pope's would-be assassin, Ratzinger's reference to a comment Sr. Lucia made to John Paul II in a letter in 1982 should not be overlooked: "The third part of the 'secret' refers to Our Lady's words: 'If not, [Russia] will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.'"

Which brings us to part two of the July 13th controversy: whether or not, in spite of Sr. Lucia's statements to the contrary, the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has ever taken place.  On December 2, 1940, Sr. Lucia wrote to Pope Pius XII, asking that he consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart, and order all bishops to do the same in union with him.  She stated that Our Lady came to ask for this in 1929, and described the efforts that had been made to have it done.  On October 31, 1942, Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate heart.  On July 7, 1952, he consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart, but without the participation of the world's bishops.  Further acts of consecration follow in 1964, 1982 and 1983.  John Paul II finally made the consecration as requested on March 25, 1984, yet it is still alleged that the consecration has not been properly made.   Perhaps the strongest argument they have is the moral and economic mess that Russia is still in today, which seems to counter-indicate a change of heart on the part of the Russian people.

Concerning the consecration controversy, some observations:

-- The 1984 consecration is criticized for not having explicitly mentioned Russia.  Yet it is plain from the text of the act of consecration that the 1952 act of Pope Pius XII, which does mention Russia by name, is incorporated by reference.  That would be good enough in a legal document; it was clearly good enough for heaven, as subsequent events attested.

-- Our Lady promised that Russia would be converted, but she neither said when this would take place, nor promised that it would take place instantaneously.  God is not on our schedule.

-- There is a danger of expecting too much.  Our Lady never promised that the consecration of Russia would eradicate all evils from the earth.  That will not happen this side of the Last Day.  Furthermore, she did not say how long the "period of peace" that would follow the conversion of Russia would last.

-- Our Lady's promises at Fatima were conditional.  God made His promised blessings dependent upon our repentance and conversion, which has not generally been forthcoming.  The fact that we have not promptly heeded Our Lady's requests for repentance and conversion must be set down as a factor in the present state of world affairs.

-- We must not forget that more than half a century elapsed between the time Our Lady asked for the consecration (1929) and the time it was actually done (1984).  That was more than half a century that Russia had to spread her errors throughout the world.  The late date at which the consecration was done, coupled with the amount of damage done in the world by Russia's errors, has to have had an effect on the timetable.

-- Yet the cataract of disasters (from the Communist point of view) that led to the removal of the Soviet Union as a threat to world peace began almost immediately after the 1984 consecration.  It's hard to believe that there is now a generation of adults who are not old enough to remember the Cold War; perhaps this is part of the reason for the disappointment over the "failure" of Russia to be converted.  It is true that the seeds of failure had been sown in the Soviet system from the beginning.  Nevertheless, the Soviet Union persisted for generations: by the time the Soviet era came to an end, one had to be quite old to remember back behind it.  For those who do not remember the collapse of Communism, it is hard to overstate how breathtakingly sudden, swift and unexpected it was.   I recall very clearly that late in 1989, one of my German language professors, who was from Germany, still had family stuck in the GDR, and was anything but uninformed, declared her belief that the Berlin Wall would never come down; just a few weeks later, down it came.  In a few months, Germany would reunify, East Germany having voted itself out of existence. The following year, the Soviet Union would be no more. All of this was unimaginable just a few short years before, yet it all happened within seven years of the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart.

-- The words of Our Lady concerning the conversion of Russia make clear that it is not merely for the benefit of Russia that that nation must convert, but for that of the whole world.  There can be no doubt that the implosion of the Soviet Union which immediately followed the 1984 act of consecration was of considerable benefit to the world and to the cause of world peace, whatever else might come after.  As for the change of heart of the Russian people, surely the breaking of the shackles of Communism was a necessary first step.  The Communists had to experience the failure and collapse of their precious system.

-- We do not know what calamities have been averted because of the 1984 act of consecration.

But we do have an inkling, 100 years later, of how three small shepherd children were drawn into the maelstrom of human history and, by means of their generosity of spirit and heroic sufferings, became instruments in God's great intervention.  More suffering lay ahead.