Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. 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 a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear.
— Fatima visionary Sister Lucia Dos Santos, recounting a vision of hell
From the accounts of the late Sister Lucia Dos Santos and her fellow visionaries, Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto, also deceased and both beatified, the three shepherd children from the rural town of Fatima in Portugal were allowed to see hell by none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary.
As affirmed by the Catholic Church, on the 13th of every month from May to October 1917, our Lady appeared to and spoke with Jacinta, then 9, and her cousins Francisco, 8, and Jacinta, 6. The Blessed Mother imparted warnings about the world’s grave transgressions, prophecies about coming chastisements and instructions for salvation.
With the 2017 centenary of the apparitions, there will be more and more presentations and activities commemorating the greatest supernatural event in the Catholic Church for the past hundred years: six consecutive monthly apparitions by Mary the Mother of God, to convey messages from Jesus Christ himself.
This writer will be sharing these messages in media and community groups, starting with this column. While the material is like those presented by other individuals and groups, this is a personal faith advocacy not part of any organization, with the aim of commemorating apparitions and messages affirmed by the Church.
Is it the end of the world?
What may obscure our Lady’s messages in some Fatima presentations is the mistaken impression conveyed by some advocates that she was predicting the end of the world. She was not, though the chastisements she warned of were earth-shaking enough, like World War II.
Yes, our Blessed Mother warned back in 1917 that if her instructions for repentance and prayer, and specifically for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart, were not done, there would erupt a far greater conflict than the First World War raging then.
As recounted by Sister Lucia, our Lady warned: “The war is going to end, but if people don’t stop offending God, another, even worse, will begin in the reign of Pope Pius XI.” Thus, our Blessed Mother prophesied the end of World War I, the successor of then-Supreme Pontiff Benedict XV, and a more catastrophic global conflict.
Sixteen years later in 1933, Adolf Hitler rose to power, and Germany invaded Poland in 1939. On the other side of the world, the Empire of Japan began its Asian conquests with the 1933 invasion of Manchuria in northeast China.
Thus began the Second World War, the deadliest and most destructive conflict in history, in which more than 60 million died, about one in every 30 human beings on earth then, and which gave rise to the most fearsome weapon ever, the atom bomb.
Were there further chastisements prophesied?
Sister Lucia recounts the Blessed Mother’s warning if Russia was not consecrated by the Pope and all bishops, as she instructed: “Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, fomenting wars and persecution of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me; it will be converted, and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world.”
There is debate on whether this prophesy had already come to pass with the worldwide spread of Soviet communism under Russia after World War II, the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope Saint John Paul II, his 1984 consecration “in spiritual union” with bishops across the world, and the 1989-1990 breakup of the Soviet empire.
What is hard to dispute, however, is the world’s continued descent into sinful ways until today, as lamented by Our Lady and several popes since Fatima, and for which she and Christ Himself warned of coming chastisements. Indeed, much of humanity isn’t even paying attention to God and His edicts from of old. Instead, people and nations act and live by economic, political, and technological tenets and imperatives.
Among the greatest transgressions is the legalization of abortion in many countries, including Christian ones, thus giving public approval to a sin that, the Church warns, cries out to heaven for retribution. Another sin demanding direct divine sanction, yet allowed and happening worldwide, is the unconscionable exploitation of the poor.
Nor would many disagree that reversing the dominant ideologies and lifestyles would be near-impossible — unless something spectacularly miraculous, calamitous, or both, happen to wake up mankind and bring us back to faith in and obedience to God.
Will that happen? That question is clearly above this humble believer’s faith grade. We defer to Sister Lucia, who lived till age 97 in 2005, eight decades after her cousins died.