IT is most fitting that the 100th year since the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima ends on the Feast of the Holy Family, Sunday, in the Octave of Christmas. The late Fatima seer Lucia dos Santos (1907 – 2005) recounted in 1957:
“She [Mary] told me that the devil is about to wage a decisive battle against the Blessed Virgin, … where one side will be victorious and the other side will suffer defeat. Also, from now on, we must choose sides. Either we are for God or we are for the devil; there is no in-between.“
Nearly a half-century later, just two years before she died, Sister Lucia wrote Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, then just appointed head of a new Vatican institute on the family:
“The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is a decisive issue. However, Our Lady has already crushed its head.”
So, at the end of her centenary year, the Mother of God gives a final signal of the paramount importance of the family in her message and mission during her apparitions every 13th of the month from May to October 1917.
It should be no surprise. The Blessed Trinity is a family with the Father, the Son, and Their Love the Holy Spirit. The Second Person became man not like Venus springing as a woman from the ocean surf, but as an infant born to a virgin mother and a foster father, who raise the child like any other offspring in families over the entire course of human history.
And His mother is ours, too, just as His Father is our Father in heaven, and we are His children, called to join Him in eternal joy at the end of our days. In this lifelong journey to heaven, our Holy Mother The Church shows us the way and helps us obtain the graces to rise to divine perfection.
Now, imagine if the human family, the archetype resonating with and giving earthly meaning to all those heavenly epiphanies, no longer seeks the holiness it was meant to emulate in the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Then, not only would the age-old mold of family life be broken. So would be the fatherly, motherly, brotherly, and spousal echoes in the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Divine Motherhood of Mary, Jesus’s fraternal bond with humanity as children of His Father, and the Church’s marital bond to Christ. Not to mention the family’s crucial role as the crucible of the faith in the young before they hear their first priestly admonition.
The Holy Family under assault
Sadly, it is no secret that the holiness of the family is under assault in our time. Abortion, sexual excess and perversion, adultery, child abuse, pornography and prostitution, the subversion of traditional marriage blessed by God and the Church—these and other evil acts have exploded across the globe, now spread by the boundless, soulless internet and the Godless policies of secular governments.
Thus, a century after our Lady called for repentance and prayer to turn humanity away from its path away from God, the human institution that mirrors God’s own Trinitarian life and shares in His divine act of giving life, is under assault as never before.
Even the Catholic Church is rent by this discordant struggle over the family, with bishops debating bishops, Cardinals against Cardinals, as Mary warned in her 1973 apparition in Akita, Japan.
The eighth chapter of Pope Francis’s 2015 Apostolic Exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (Joy of Love) is dividing Catholicism, with leading theologians, clergy, and even prelates and Princes of the Church taking issue with the Holy Father.
However, this conflict of views is resolved, the dissonance it has triggered in the Church’s perspectives on the family cannot but undermine how the faithful see the family and the Church’s teaching about holiness in the home and how it mirrors divine manifestations and eternal truths.
A world emptied of love
If that weren’t affirmation enough of our Lady’s warnings of a century ago, the current, increasingly fearsome state of world affairs would certainly give credence to the apocalyptic warnings and visions she imparted to the Fatima children, especially Lucia.
The specter of global war already cast its destructive, deadly shadow in the decades since between our Lord and our Lady’s call for Russia’s consecration to her Immaculate Heart, repeatedly instructed in the years up to 1931.
Since then, World War II, the Korean, Middle East, and Vietnam Wars have erupted. Humanity has built weapons of immense destructive power, and extremist ideologies have unleashed wanton terrorist violence.
Now, the threat of global thermonuclear war has returned, with North Korea’s atomic weapons and ballistic missile program bringing the world’s nuclear superpowers to a point of possible atomic Armageddon.
But what makes the possibility of world-destroying war possible is not the multiplicity of nuclear warheads capable of destroying life on earth many times over. Rather, it is the utter absence of God and His love in many of the human institutions and individuals controlling the weapons of mass destruction, as well as other instruments of power and wealth in the world.
In this nightmarish world of the nuclear family under assault and nuclear weapons threatening all life, plainly, human mechanisms and faculties are not solution enough.
As we start a new year, we can also hope and pray, rosary in hand, that Our Lady of Fatima can still persuade her Son and our Father to give the world more time and far more saving grace. Amen.