First of two parts
Non-believers call it coincidence, and many believers, too. Just don’t count the number of coincidences.
That may be what many in the audience might have thought during this writer’s presentation to leaders of lay groups of the Archdiocese of Manila for their monthly reflection session at San Carlos Seminary.
The July 15 talk covered major 20th century events when there seemed to have been heavenly interventions after various popes said special prayers to Mary, as she requested in Fatima, a rural parish in Portugal in 1917.
Plus: the unfortunate turn of events when the Holy Father at the time failed to heed our Lord’s instruction, conveyed by His Blessed Mother to three shepherd children a century ago, and affirmed by her and Jesus Himself to Sister Lucia dos Santos years after her cousins and fellow Fatima seers Francisco and Jacintha Marto died.
In those crucial moments, wars were ignited or prevented, suffering and depredation were escalated or ended, and the march of millions of souls was steered toward or away from God. And it’s still happening today.
A proud Pope unleashed World War II
Really? What exactly did the Supreme Pontiff do to trigger the most devastating conflict in history, which snuffed out more than 70 million lives?
Actually, it’s what he didn’t do, going by Our Lady’s message at Fatima. A century ago this month, on July 13, 1917, Mary unveiled three secrets, and the second warned of the Second World War.
“The war will end,” she confided, referring to the First World War raging across Europe then. “But if people don’t stop offending God, another, even worse, will begin in the reign of Pope Pius XI.”
“To prevent this,” Mary continued, “I shall come to ask the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays [of the month]. If people attend to my requests, Russia will be converted, and the world will have peace.”
On June 13, 1929, Mary again appeared to Lucia, then a nun in Tuy, Spain, and said: “The moment has come for God to ask the Holy Father, with all the bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart.”
She then warned: “If not, Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, fomenting wars and persecution of the Church.”
Since the Vatican recognized the Fatima apparitions as “worthy of belief,” one would suppose that the faithful, especially the Vicar of Christ, would follow His instructions relayed by His Mother.
But the Pope didn’t. Reigning since 1922, Pius XI — yup, the man in whose pontificate a more destructive war was prophesied— disdained Fatima, saying: “I am His vicar on earth. If He had something He wished me to know, He would tell it to me directly.”
So, the Vicar of Christ ignored His instructions from His Blessed Mother. And as she warned, a worse conflict erupted, starting with Japan’s 1933 invasion of Manchuria and, in Europe, Germany’s march into Austria in 1938,the year before Pius XI died. And Soviet Russia spread godless communism to half of humanity.
Consecration averts conflagration
Fortunately, the next Holy Father, Pius XII, paid greater heed to the Holy Mother of God. On October 31, 1942, a quarter-century after the last apparition at Fatima, he consecrated the Church and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Pius XII didn’t mention Russia, and he didn’t get all other bishops to join him. Still, his prayer had immense impact.
Four days later, on November 3, 1942, the Allies won their first major victory over German forces at El Alamein in Egypt. And history felt more of Mary’s saving hand.
In 1946, Sister Lucia spelled out heaven’s wish: “What Our Lady wants is that the Pope and all the Bishops in the world shall consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart one special day.”
Pius XII tried again in July 1952, three and a half decades after Fatima, consecrating Russia by name, but in an Apostolic Letter. God again rewarded the effort.
In October that year, Soviet leader Josef Stalin plotted an invasion to establish communism across Europe. But the following March, amid war preparations, he died of a brain hemorrhage.
The Pope who did the most public consecrations was St. John Paul II. On May 13, 1981, the 64th anniversary of Fatima’s first apparition, he survived an assassin’s bullet in St. Peter’s Square. John Paul II thanked Mary’s miraculous intervention, and likened himself to the “bishop in white” killed with bullets and arrows in the third Fatima secret.
John Paul II then “entrusted” the world to the Immaculate Heart on December 8, 1981, the Solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and again on May 13, 1982, one year after the attack, the 65th anniversary of Fatima.
Finally, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation on March 25, 1984, the Holy Father consecrated the world. He omitted mention of Russia, but prayed that Our Lady “enlighten [and]bless those peoples for whom You Yourself are awaiting our act of consecration and entrusting.”
Less than two months later, on the very anniversary of Fatima, May 13, 1984, an explosion at the Soviet arsenal of Severomorsk destroyed a key facility controlling rocket batteries covering the northern waters of Europe.
The base destruction convinced Moscow that it could not win a war with the West, which it had contemplated when the United States looked set to gain nuclear superiority with the planned “Star Wars” anti-ballistic-missile satellite system.
Three years later, on December 8, 1987, the Immaculate Conception feast, Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko died. Successor Mikhail Gorbachev launched sweeping reforms, which led to the fall of Soviet communism.
Today, Vladimir Putin’s government has restored property seized by communists from the Russian Orthodox Church, which is most fervent in Marian veneration. And Russian state enterprises are funding the building of Orthodox churches.
Next Sunday, let’s see how Fatima and other Marian apparitions through the centuries are impacting the Catholic Church today.