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.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

100 June 13ths Ago: Promises and Predictions

The war raged on.  Europe was no stranger to war; but the ferocity and the scope of this war were unprecedented.  The slaughter proceeded on an industrial scale.  And there were the new horrors, beyond all description: the blood and mud of trench warfare; poison gas; primitive tanks, whose operators could not expect to survive more than a few minutes in an engagement; and air raids over cities.  While the three shepherd children of Fatima were keeping their appointment with the Mother of God in the Cova da Iria on June 13, 1917, 18-20 German bombers struck the city of London in broad daylight, in one of the worst air raids of the war.  Four hundred people were injured, and 162 -- including 46 children -- perished. 

The peace that had fled the world had also fled Fatima, particularly in the home of Lucia dos Santos.  After the first apparition of Our Lady at the Cova da Iria, her little cousin, Jacinta, promptly broke the children's firm resolution not to tell anyone what they had seen; and thus began in earnest the sufferings the children promised to undergo for the conversion of sinners.  From this point forward, the children were hounded by inquisitors, both pious and profane, and curiosity-seekers.  But Lucia bore the added burden of persecution right at home.  Her family treated her with contempt; and her mother, who had a great horror of lying, employed every means, including corporal punishment, to make her daughter admit that she was lying.  It was hoped that the children would forget about the alleged apparitions amid the festivities of June 13th, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua.

But the children did not forget.  At noon on the feast of St. Anthony, the children were not at the festa, but at the Cova.  Lucia records in her Fourth Memoir:
As soon as Jacinta, Francisco and I had finished praying the Rosary, with a number of other people who were present, we saw once more the flash reflecting the light which was approaching (which we called lightning).  The next moment, Our Lady was there on the holmoak, exactly the same as in May.

"What do you want of me?" I asked.
"I wish you to come here on the 13th of next month, to pray the Rosary every day, and to learn to read.  Later, I will tell you what I want."
Amid the rending torments of nations, heaven remembers individuals, even the least of them, down to the last detail.
I asked for the cure of a sick person.

"If he is converted, he will be cured during the year."

"I would like to ask you to take us to heaven."
"Yes.  I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon.  But you are to stay here some time longer.  Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved.  He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart."
Some time longer...The Mother of God has a gift for understatement.  Jacinta and Francisco would both leave this world within three years, but another 88 years would pass before Our Lady would come for Lucia. 
"Am I to stay here alone?"  I asked, sadly.

"No, my daughter.  Are you suffering a great deal?  Don't lose heart.  I will never forsake you.  My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God."
As Our Lady spoke these last words, she opened her hands and for the second time, she communicated to us the rays of that same immense light.  We saw ourselves in this light, as it were, immersed in God.  Jacinta and Francisco seemed to be in that part of the light which rose towards heaven, and I in that which was poured out on the earth.  In front of the palm of Our Lady's right hand was a heart encircled by thorns which pierced it.  We understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation.
In her Third Memoir, Lucia looks back on the effects of this second apparition on her and her cousins:
...Our Lady told me on June 13, 1917 that she would never forsake me, and that her Immaculate Heart would be my refuge and the way that would lead me to God.  As she spoke these words, she opened her hands, and from them streamed a light that penetrated to our inmost hearts.  I think that, on that day, the main purpose of this light was to infuse within us a special knowledge and love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary, just as on the other two occasions it was intended to do, as it seems to me, with regard to God and the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.

From that day onwards, our hearts were filled with a more ardent love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  From time to time, Jacinta said to me: "The Lady said that her Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.  Don't you love that?  Her Heart is so good!  How I love it!"

In the Fourth Memoir, Lucia describes more particularly the effects of this apparition on Francisco:
...Francisco was deeply impressed by the light which, as I related in the second account, Our Lady communicated to us at the moment when she said: "My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way which will lead you to God."...

He remarked sometimes:

"These people are so happy just because you told them that Our Lady wants the Rosary said, and that you are to learn to read!  How would they feel if they only knew what she showed us in God, in her Immaculate Heart, in that great light!  But this is a secret; it must not be spoken about.  It's better that no one should know it."

But greater secrets -- and greater sufferings -- were to come.

Monday, May 29, 2017

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

100 May 13ths Ago: The Campaign Opens

May 13, 1917 dawned upon a world in turmoil.  The fratricidal slaughter that engulfed Europe had raged for nearly three years, and had now spread over the whole globe.  One month earlier, the United States stepped into the European fray with her declaration of war on Germany.  The social and political order of the Old World was being swept away.  Two months earlier, the Czar of Russia abdicated, as his country slid toward the abyss of communism.  Nor were the horrors of 1914-1918 the worst the world would ever see.  The veterans of the War to End All War would not reach middle age before the outbreak of another and even more terrible war.  On May 13, 1917, Pope Benedict XV consecrated as archbishop the man who would steer the Barque of Peter through the bloodiest period (to that point) in human history.  As this future supreme shepherd knelt before the Pope, three shepherd children in a small plot of pasture land near Aljustrel, Portugal fell to their knees before a luminous vision over a small holm oak.

In 1941, the oldest of these three children, Lucia dos Santos -- now a Dorothean sister -- wrote under obedience in her 4th Memoir:
High up on the slope in the Cova da Iria, I was playing with Jacinta and Francisco at building a little stone wall around a clump of furze.  Suddenly we saw what seemed to be a flash of lightning.

"We'd better go home," I said to my cousins, "that's lightning; we may have a thunderstorm."
"Yes, indeed!" they answered.

We began to go down the slope, hurrying the sheep along toward the road.  We were more or less half-way down the slope, and almost level with a large holmoak tree that stood there, when we saw another flash of lightning.  We had only gone a few steps further when, there before us on a small holmoak, we beheld a Lady all dressed in white.  She was more brilliant than the sun, and radiated a light more clear and intense than a crystal glass filled with sparkling water, when the rays of the burning sun shine through it.

We stopped, astounded, before the Apparition.  We were so close, just a few feet from her, that we were bathed in the light which surrounded her, or rather, which radiated from her.  Then Our Lady spoke to us:

"Do not be afraid.  I will do you no harm."

"Where are you from"

"I am from heaven."

"What do you want of me?"

"I have come to ask you to come here for six months in succession, on the 13th day, at this same hour.  Later on, I will tell you who I am and what I want.  Afterwards, I will return here a seventh time."
The seventh time Our Lady came to the Cova da Iria was to give Lucia a private message in 1921, when she was was about to leave home to board at the Dorothean school in Vilar de Oporto.  Her bishop sent her there under an assumed name, among other reasons, to give her a chance at a normal life.  Lucia continues:
"Shall I go to heaven too?"

"Yes, you will."

"And Jacinta?"

"She will go also."

"And Francisco?"

"He will go there too, but he must say many Rosaries." 

Then I remembered to ask about two girls who had died recently.  They were friends of mine and used to come to my home to learn weaving with my eldest sister.

"Is Maria das Neves in heaven?"

"Yes, she is."  (I think she was about 16 years old.)

"And Amelia?"
"She will be in purgatory until the end of the world."  (It seems to me that she was between 18 and 20 years of age.)
If this young girl from rural Portugal, a place where the faith was still strong, had racked up enough offenses to merit purgatory until the end of time, what is to become of us in this time of weakened faith, with vastly greater opportunities for sinning and a culture that encourages us to yield to temptation rather than fight it?  Lucia continues:
"Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners?"

"Yes, we are willing."

"Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort."

As she pronounced these words, "the grace of God will be your comfort," Our Lady opened her hands for the first time, communicating to us a light so intense that, as it streamed from her hands, its rays penetrated our hearts and the innermost depths of our souls, making us see ourselves in God, Who was that light, more clearly than we see ourselves in the best of mirrors.  Then, moved by an interior impulse that was also communicated to us, we fell on our knees, repeating in our hearts:

"O most Holy Trinity, I adore You!  My God, my God, I love You in the most Blessed Sacrament!"

After a few moments, Our Lady spoke again:

"Pray the Rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world, and the end of the war."

Then she began to rise serenely, going up towards the east, until she disappeared in the immensity of space.  The light that surrounded her seemed to open up a path before her in the firmament, and for this reason we sometimes said that we saw heaven opening.
Heaven was not idle.  The campaign had begun.

And today, May 13, 2017, the Church has confirmed the truth of another of Our Lady's promises at Fatima with the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta.  St. Jacinta is now the youngest person ever to be declared a saint based on heroic virtue.

St. Francisco and St. Jacinta, pray for us.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

By the Way...

...I just reminded myself.  Earth Day is really Lenin's birthday.  Here is the old bastard in a mugshot from 1895, looking every inch the punk kid brother of Satan.  And here is some first-rate commentary about his spiritual progeny, Ira Einhorn, the murderer who masterminded Earth Day.

Celebrate, if you must, this slithering hell-bait, the fuse that lit the explosion of destruction that was the 20th century.  As for me, I think I'll take the old internal combustion engine for a totally unnecessary trip across town in search of some white cheddar popcorn, the making of which produces greenhouse gas emissions.

Shining All the Lights for Earth Day: The Centennial Bulb

Today seems like a good day to bring back a classic post about a famous incandescent bulb in Livermore, California.  Obviously, a few elements of this post are now out of date: the socialist regime of Barack Obama, and its would-be successor, to have been run by Hillary Clinton, have now been sent packing.  Also, the Newcandescent bulb company discussed below has now apparently gone over to the LED market.  I am compelled to admit that, since this was written, the quality of LED bulbs has improved significantly; but it must be said that a big part of the improvement is the extent to which LED bulbs can now imitate the light of incandescent bulbs.  One thing that is not out of date is the Centennial Light itself which, as this re-post goes up, is still burning after 116 years.  

The Centennial Light, Livermore, California, the world's longest-burning light bulb.  This picture provides a good view of the mechanism of this lamp, as well as its beauty and careful hand-craftsmanship.  (Source.)
This light bulb hangs from the ceiling at Fire Station 6 on East Avenue in Livermore, California, where it serves as a night light over the fire trucks.  Hand-blown with a carbon filament, it was manufactured at the Shelby Electric Company in Shelby, Ohio and first installed at Livermore's fire department horse cart house on L Street in 1901.  It has been moved twice since then; since its most recent move, in 1976, it has been hooked up to its own independent power source, and has burned continuously without being turned off or going out.

Consider this.  The year this light bulb was installed was the same year that Queen Victoria died.  It was the year President William McKinley was assassinated, and Teddy Roosevelt took his place in the White House.  In 1901, Leo XIII was Pope in Rome; Winston Churchill was just beginning his extraordinary career in the House of Commons; the Panama Canal was still under construction; Douglas MacArthur was still a cadet at West Point; radio and motion pictures were still new inventions; the Wright Brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk was still two years away, and it would be another seven years before Henry Ford's Model T would begin to roll off the assembly line.  Since 1901, two world wars have ravaged the planet; most of the world's monarchies have toppled; the Soviet Union rose and fell; the Cold War raged; man took flight, first across continents and oceans, then to the moon and back; telephones, televisions, and above all computers have brought the entire world right into our homes.  Through it all, this bulb has continued to shine.   True, the Centennial Light is down to only a fraction of its original brightness; yet even its manufacturers, who prided themselves on making the best lamps in the world, could hardly have imagined how long this light's working life would continue.

Nor is the Centennial Light the only bulb possessed of extraordinary longevity.  Others have been documented as having functioned for many decades, including one that has shone since 1908.  Who knows how many other bulbs have worked for decades that nobody has documented?  Truly, the incandescent light bulb is among the most useful devices ever come up with in the history of human innovation.  

So it makes perfect sense that the current socialist administration, whose ultimate goal is the moral and material enslavement of Americans, should make war upon the incandescent bulb and try to cram vastly inferior fluorescent bulbs down our throats.  

Let's face the facts about fluorescent bulbs -- and particularly the spaghetti bulbs meant to be installed in place of incandescent ones.  Like virtually all other things liberals are always trying to force-feed us, fluorescent bulbs stink.  They take forever to reach their full brightness, and their full brightness isn't much to write home about.  They're costly. They're full of mercury, which makes them dangerous.  They're worthless in an Easy-Bake Oven.  And you can't just throw them out when they burn out, like you can incandescent bulbs.  

Fortunately, there is still a company in this country that manufactures incandescent bulbs.  America's entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and well at Newcandescent, which legally manufactures incandescent bulbs.  And they say their bulbs will last 7 years.  

I don't usually plug products on this blog, but I'm glad there's somebody still manufacturing incandescent bulbs in this country.  Still, there is one thing that really sticks in my craw about it.  Even if you are a fan of fluorescent bulbs, if you are a patriotic American and lover of liberty, you must acknowledge that greater principles are at stake than the preferability of incandescent over fluorescent.  The fact that Newcandescent had to (a) redesign incandescent bulbs to comply with new federal requirements, and (b) apply to the Department of Energy for permission to manufacture the newly designed bulbs ought to fill you with rage.     

Did you ever think we'd reach a point in this country when American citizens would have to apply for permission from the federal government to manufacture incandescent bulbs on American soil?  Was this what the Founding Fathers had in mind?  Is there some provision of the Constitution, written, perhaps, in invisible ink, that gives the feds this authority?  Was this what generations of patriots shed their blood in distant lands to protect?

It's a shame to have to admit it, but the America upon which the Centennial Light first shone 111 years ago was a much freer one than the one we live in today.  Our first order of business in this country is to straighten ourselves up as individuals, governing our passions, recovering our Christian morals and living according to right reason.   Without this, nothing else will work.  Our second order of business is to throw out the socialist bums that have seized power in this country at every level of government.  Our third order of business is to reduce the federal government to its original constitutionally mandated functions, and every other level of government to reasonable proportions in accordance with state constitutions, common sense, and the principle of subsidiarity.  And in the meantime, we should support entrepreneurial efforts like Newcandescent that prevent the useful things that improve our lives from being cast into oblivion by socialist elites.

Shining All the Lights for Earth Day: Killing the Planet with Christmas

Since I wrote this nine years ago, I am compelled to confess that the quality of LED Christmas lights -- and indeed, LED lights in general -- has improved.  Nevertheless, my points below still stand.


*     *     *

Remember in Ninotchka, when Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas are at the top of the Eiffel Tower looking out over the city lights of Paris? He asks her if it isn't a beautiful view; after agreeing that it is, she delivers the other shoe, with a perfectly straight face: But it's a wa-a-a-aste of electricity.

Now, the line in question is very funny. It's funny both because of the deadpan delivery, and because the misplaced focus of attention on electrical consumption in the face of so much beauty is absurd. Nowadays, though, you have to wonder how many people would still find this funny. Unfortunately, too many people that are being looked up to as authorities have no sense of the absurd; and, even more unfortunately, too many people who should know better are taking them seriously.

And so it is that the Australian press -- also with a perfectly straight face -- vouchsafes us a story under the following headline: Scientists Warn Christmas Lights Harm the Planet.

"CSIRO [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation] researchers said householders should know that each bulb turned on in the name of Christmas will increase emissions of greenhouse gases," the story solemnly intones. Since Australia's electricity comes from coal, the evil of using Christmas lights to celebrate the birth of the Redeemer means an increase in "greenhouse gas emissions." Bottom line: Christianity is killing the planet.

But since the planet-destroying plebes are not willing to give up their primitive religious holidays and superstitions -- and the equally primitive desire for illumination during long winter nights -- the CSIRO has come up with helpful hints on how they can minimize their impact on our fragile ecosystem, until such time as they can be made to adopt the enlightened sterility of their betters. Timers, "energy-efficient bulbs," solar-powered lights, or "sourcing your electricity from verified green power suppliers" are all proffered as ways to avoid choking the globe on unnecessary Christmas emissions.

Well. Most people have no problem with timers, since they like to save on their electric bills, especially during tough economic times that are brought on in no small part by the meddling of the global warming people. In fact, WalMart, that citadel of white-trash consumerism and exploitation, sells timers, and even outdoor timers with light sensors, so you can have your lights come on at dusk and set them to stay on for just 2-6 hours. As for solar powered lights, there is frequently not enough sunlight to charge batteries in winter, so the net effect of solar-powered lights is likely to be little or no lights at all, which is what the global warming scaremongers are really after anyway.

And energy-efficient Christmas bulbs are the pits. Back when they used normal Christmas lights on the Idaho State Christmas Tree, you could see the Tree on the Statehouse steps all the way up Capitol Boulevard. Then the state started doling out Christmas cheer by the teaspoon, and switched to energy-efficient bulbs. The tree looks pretty in pictures, but the pictures don't convey the sad reality that you have to practically be standing underneath the tree to see it.

We live in a world that is long on violence, oppression, tyranny, hatred, and coldness, and short on kindness, gentleness, freedom, charity and warmth. It is made more so by the global warming Scrooges of the world, the new Puritans who can never rest easy as long as a spark of joy or innocent pleasure remains unextinguished anywhere on earth. If these sourpusses will not turn away from their perverted disgust with Christmas, then let them at least stop trying to drag the rest of us down into their private hell.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Harrowing of Hell (Re-Post)


I will deliver them out of the hand of death. I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy death; O hell, I will be thy bite... 
Osee (Hosea) 13:14 (Douay-Rheims translation)

Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that He might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit, in which also coming He preached to those spirits that were in prison: which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. 
1 Peter 3:18-20 (Douay-Rheims translation)

...He suffered, died and was buried.  He descended into hell...
From the Apostles' Creed

In this age of modernist obfuscation and general graying out of vivid supernatural reality, the Harrowing of Hell is probably the most ignored of the creedal doctrines.  Yet as Catholics, we are bound to believe that sin shut the gates of heaven against the souls of men; that it was only Christ's Passion and Death on the Cross that opened heaven; that until then, the souls of the Just were imprisoned; and that, after His death, Christ liberated these souls.  Perhaps one reason we do not devote more time to considering this stupendous event is because it has been obscured by the modern obsession with avoiding any and all mention of Hell: its edge has been blunted by the milquetoast English rendition of the event as "He descended to the dead."  This bland, pedestrian translation fails to confront us with the startling fact of Christ in Hell; we are not inspired to inquire further into its meaning.  It seems obvious that while His Body lies in the tomb, the Son of God is among the dead, having died on the Cross; but how can He, pure and sinless, be in Hell, and why?

First of all, what is the Hell to which Christ descends?  We think primarily of the Hell of the damned, from which there is no escape, and from whose punishments there is no reprieve.  Before the coming of Christ, sin barred the gates of heaven to men.  The souls of the Just could not get into heaven until after Jesus had sacrificed Himself to pay the penalty for our sins.  As St. Thomas Aquinas says in the Summa Thelogica:
[T]hrough Christ's Passion the human race was delivered not only from sin, but also from the debt of its penalty.... Now men were held fast by the debt of punishment in two ways: first of all for actual sin which each had committed personally: secondly, for the sin of the whole human race, which each one in his origin contracts from our first parent, as stated in Romans 5 of which sin the penalty is the death of the body as well as exclusion from glory, as is evident from Genesis 2 and 3: because God cast out man from paradise after sin, having beforehand threatened him with death should he sin.
So what happened to all the good people who lived before Jesus' time, and died without ever having the opportunity to believe in Him or receive the Sacraments?  They dwelt in a place of waiting -- variously called, among other things, the Bosom of Abraham, or the Limbo of the Fathers, or the Limbo of Hell.  There they did not suffer the torments of the damned, but they did suffer privation.  Aquinas elucidates:
After death men's souls cannot find rest save by the merit of faith, because "he that cometh to God must believe" (Hebrews 11:6). Now the first example of faith was given to men in the person of Abraham, who was the first to sever himself from the body of unbelievers, and to receive a special sign of faith: for which reason "the place of rest given to men after death is called Abraham's bosom," as Augustine declares (Gen. ad lit. xii). But the souls of the saints have not at all times had the same rest after death; because, since Christ's coming they have had complete rest through enjoying the vision of God, whereas before Christ's coming they had rest through being exempt from punishment, but their desire was not set at rest by their attaining their end. Consequently the state of the saints before Christ's coming may be considered both as regards the rest it afforded, and thus it is called Abraham's bosom, and as regards its lack of rest, and thus it is called the limbo of hell. 
Aquinas goes on to explain that the Limbo of the Fathers is not qualitatively the same as the Hell of the damned, because the damned suffer eternal torment without hope of reprieve, whereas the Just before the coming of Christ suffered no sensible torments and had hope for a release from imprisonment.  On the other hand, situationally, the Limbo of the Fathers was probably the same as the Hell of the damned:  
For those who are in hell receive diverse punishments according to the diversity of their guilt, so that those who are condemned are consigned to darker and deeper parts of hell according as they have been guilty of graver sins, and consequently the holy Fathers in whom there was the least amount of sin were consigned to a higher and less darksome part than all those who were condemned to punishment.
So, as Aquinas says
Directly Christ died His soul went down into hell, and bestowed the fruits of His Passion on the saints detained there; although they did not go out as long as Christ remained in hell, because His presence was part of the fullness of their glory.
We come to the reasons for the Harrowing of Hell, which we have already begun to touch on.  The Angelic Doctor gives three reasons why it was fitting for Christ to descend into Hell.  Firstly, to bear the penalty for sin -- namely, death of the body and descent into Hell -- in order to free us from penalty (though we are not yet delivered from the penalty of bodily death).  Secondly, to force Hell to disgorge its righteous captives.  And thirdly, to show forth His power and glory even in the domain of the devils.

This last point is worth lingering over.  Because the wills of the damned are confirmed in evil at the moment of their deaths -- just as the wills of the righteous are confirmed in goodness and charity at the moment of their deaths -- Christ did not rescue any of the damned from Hell.  In His essence, He visited only the Limbo of the Fathers; but the effects of His power reached every part of Hell.  Aquinas:

A thing is said to be in a place in two ways. First of all, through its effect, and in this way Christ descended into each of the hells, but in different manner. For going down into the hell of the lost He wrought this effect, that by descending thither He put them to shame for their unbelief and wickedness: but to them who were detained in Purgatory He gave hope of attaining to glory: while upon the holy Fathers detained in hell solely on account of original sin, He shed the light of glory everlasting.
In another way a thing is said to be in a place through its essence: and in this way Christ's soul descended only into that part of hell wherein the just were detained. so that He visited them "in place," according to His soul, whom He visited "interiorly by grace," according to His Godhead. Accordingly, while remaining in one part of hell, He wrought this effect in a measure in every part of hell, just as while suffering in one part of the earth He delivered the whole world by His Passion.
He puts it briefly in another place thus:
When Christ descended into hell, all who were in any part of hell were visited in some respect: some to their consolation and deliverance, others, namely, the lost, to their shame and confusion.
With Christ's visitation, the spoliation of Hell was complete.  A final extract from the Angelical that is worth many hours of meditation (emphasis added): 
When Christ descended into hell He delivered the saints who were there, not by leading them out at once from the confines of hell, but by enlightening them with the light of glory in hell itself.
Think of it.  Hell is the privation of God and His glory.  For the imprisoned elect who found themselves in the presence of the living God and beheld the light of His glory, Hell, in that moment, ceased to be Hell.  Hell was overthrown.  No wonder it is written in Philippians 2:10-11 "That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father."

Today at Matins (Office of Readings) according to the revised Breviary, we read the following ancient, anonymous Holy Saturday sermon:

Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and He has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, He has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won Him the victory. At the sight of Him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
I am your God, who for your sake have become your Son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by My own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of My hands, you who were created in My image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.
For your sake I, your God, became your Son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden. See on My Face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in My image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree. I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.