Actually, it’s God’s plan, of course, expounded by His Blessed Mother and His Angel of Peace to the simplest of minds and hearts: three shepherd children in Fatima, a parish in rural Portugal, so far from the glittering cities of 1917 Europe, then the wealthiest and most advanced region of humanity, though hemorrhaging in the First World War.
So, what did the Virgin Mary and the Lord’s Angel say about the way to salvation?
Nothing new. As the Angel taught Jacintha and Francisco Marto and their cousin Lucia dos Santos, aged between 6 and 9 in the spring of 1916, we must believe and hope in God, and adore and love Him. And we offer prayers and sacrifices for those who do not believe, adore, hope and love.
Then, just as her Son did two millennia ago, Our Lady of Fatima called on people to repent and amend their lives. And she asked for special prayers: daily rosary and the First Saturday devotion for believers, and the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart by the Pope and all other bishops.
Faith and worship, hope and love, penance and prayer, for the glory of God, reparation for sins, and the conversion of sinners.
What about uplifting the poor, ending injustice and oppression, protecting the environment, and establishing world peace?
These are all good and necessary endeavors, too, but what threatens souls with eternal separation from God — the greatest peril to every human being — is not poverty, injustice, pollution and war, but the failure to believe, adore, hope, and love the Lord.
Just think: If one spends three, four or five score on earth never knowing and caring about God, never heeding His will, and living as He wishes, can one then suddenly join Him forever after death?
If all through life, one has been and done the very opposite of what God is and does, as shown by His own Son Jesus Christ living our human life, how can one expect to partake of the heavenly perfection one has opposed and even hated for decades?
This absence of faith, worship, hope, love and service toward God is the greatest threat to humanity, and Our Lady’s six apparitions at Fatima, and several others to Lucia in later decades, along with Christ’s own visits, all impart the prayers and devotions to rekindle and spread the all-important faith, hope and charity we need for salvation.
The world believes — or do we?
The problem for many a soul in our modern age, of course, is the paucity of faith, especially among those who think they don’t need God since they are well-endowed with power, wealth, talent, knowledge and technology.
In nation after nation, affluence, learning, governance, might and scientific advances are making more and more people set aside God and religion. Even those who say they belong to a faith may not actually be religious.
Three years ago, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life reported: “Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group.” That was the finding of its comprehensive demographic study of 2,500 censuses, surveys, and population records in more than 230 countries and territories.
There were 2.2 billion Christians, about one-third of the world’s population then, half of them Catholic. About 1.6 billion were Muslim, comprising a quarter of humanity and one billion Hindus (15 percent). Half a billion were Buddhist (7 percent), and 400 million (6 percent) practiced folk and traditional religions.
A 2015 survey by WIN Gallup International (different from Gallup Inc.) covering 65 countries found that 63 percent of respondents professed to be religious. Thais, Armenians, and Bangladeshis had the highest percentages of religious people, while Chinese, Japanese and Swedes recorded the least.
Plainly, belonging to a religion doesn’t necessarily mean being religious. And faith has been declining in major nations. In the United States, belief in God fell from 97 percent as late as 1965, to 86 percent half a century later.
But the real question for every human being is not demographic, but personal: Whatever humanity may statistically believe, what do you believe? And do you live by this faith in prayer, penance and action every day?
A Rosary a day keeps the devil away
One may now begin to see how Mary’s instruction to pray the Rosary daily, plus the Angel’s admonition to offer all that we do and go through to God for reparation for sins and conversion of sinners, are crucial to saving souls.
Quite simply, if Catholics cannot accept and obey instructions from the Holy Mother of God delivered in apparitions approved by the Vatican and affirmed by the Miracle of the Sun witnessed by 70,000 people, including atheists and opponents of Christianity, then where is our faith?
And if the hierarchy of the Church will not comply with God’s express command conveyed by Mary to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart, then even the leaders of Catholicism are remiss in the most fundamental tenet and imperative of our religion: believe and obey God.
And of course, if the Church, the divine instrument of salvation, is weakened in worship and allegiance toward heaven, all earth is lost.
But if Catholics high and low pray and perform devotions and consecrations in faith and obedience to God, as instructed by His Blessed Mother, then whatever may happen in this life, we will be saved in the next. That is Fatima’s promise.
And Our Lady further pledged that daily Rosary, the Five First Saturdays devotion, and Russia’s consecration will also bring peace to the world, and the conversion of sinners.
If we don’t believe it, that’s exactly our problem, as our Blessed Mother told us.
And God have mercy on those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Him.