By Father MieczysЕ‚aw Piotrowski TChr,
Love One Another! 3/2004 → Catholic Church
The disclosure of the third part of the Fatima secret was one of the landmark events of the Great Jubilee Year of 2000. John Paul II reminds us that the warning and urgent call to conversion contained in Our Lady’s message at Fatima is “not limited to one time. The call must be taken up by every generation in accordance with the ‘signs of the times.’ We must return to it constantly, respond to it ever anew.”
Given the situation of the world today, the Fatima message has lost none of its urgency. In her three-part secret, Our Blessed Mother reminds us that God, and only God, will satisfy our thirst for happiness. God created us for Himself. He desires that we share perfect happiness with Him. For our part, we must do everything in our power to join ourselves with Him by embarking on the hard and narrow path of faith. Our Lady’s message of July 13, 1917 is quite simply the message of the Gospels.
1. The first part contains a terrifying vision of hell. Here Our Blessed Mother recalls the truth of the Gospel that in rejecting God, we actually choose hell. Eternal damnation is an objective reality to which we are inevitably drawn when we live as though God did not exist, allow ourselves to be guided by the logic of selfishness, reject absolute moral norms, and treat evil as good and good as evil. Eternal damnation is the worst evil that can befall us. Of our own free will, we can bring ourselves to such a state of hardness of heart that we end up hating God and freely choosing hell at the moment of death.
2. The second part of the secret reveals the most effective means of avoiding hell. It consists in deep faith, which we can best acquire through devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady knew better than anyone else the pain associated with the dark night of faith. She believed heroically. In situations that were humanly hopeless, she believed with “a hope against hope”. She is, therefore, our best teacher and guide along the path that takes us to the foot of the Cross. By placing ourselves at the complete disposal of Mary, we learn to believe and trust in God at all times. This trust expresses itself in a) turning from sin; b) daily prayer, including the rosary and the reading of Scripture; c) monthly sacramental confession and frequent reception of Jesus in the Eucharist.
3. The third part of the secret deals with the historical consequences of the modern crisis of faith and morals and the potential results of rejecting the Fatima message. Since the call to penance and conversion contained in the message has gone largely unheeded, we have actually witnessed the fulfillment of a large part of the Fatima prophecies. In her letter to the Holy Father, dated May 12, 1982, Sister Lucia, the last surviving witness of the Fatima revelations, observes: “Even though we have not yet seen the entire fulfillment of the final part of this prophecy, we can see that we are moving toward it with rapid strides. It will come if we do not turn from the path of sin, hate, vengeance, injustice, abuse of human rights, immorality, violence, etc. I do not say that it is God who punishes us in this way. On the contrary, it is we who visit this punishment upon ourselves. God warns us patiently and recalls us to the path of righteousness, all the while respecting the freedom of choice He has given us. That is why it is we who bear responsibility.”
The published text of the Fatima secret reads like a prophetic vision. Cardinal Ratzinger explains in his accompanying commentary: “The angel with the flaming sword on the Blessed Mother’s left recalls similar images in the Book of Revelation. This represents the threat of judgement that looms over the world. Today the prospect of the world being consumed by a sea of fire no longer seems farfetched fantasy: man himself, by his inventions, has forged the flaming sword….The place of action is described in three symbols: a steep mountain, a great city reduced to ruins, and a large, rough-hewn cross.” A ‘bishop dressed in white’ along with other bishops, priests, men and women religious make their way toward the cross. Before reaching it, the Holy Father passes through a great, half-ruined city. Trembling, walking haltingly, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prays for the souls of the corpses he meets on the way. On reaching the hilltop, he kneels down at the foot of the great cross and is killed by a group of soldiers who fire on him with bullets and arrows. One after another, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, and laypeople of different rank and position are also killed (The Third Secret).
Given the 87 years that have elapsed since the Fatima revelations, we can safely state that the vision described in the third part of the secret represents the tumultuous events of the twentieth century. The great crisis of faith characterizing that tormented century led to the seizure of political power by militant atheists of Communist, Fascist and Masonic stripe. This atheism brought about the worst crimes of genocide in history, the moral disintegration of nations, the decline of culture, and horrific enslavement resulting from the trampling of individual human rights. More Christians died in that century as a result of hatred of their faith than in all the preceding centuries since the birth of Christ. Meanwhile, the Church passed through a true Way of the Cross.
Cardinal Ratzinger observes that “in the Via Crucis of an entire century, the figure of the Pope has a special goal to play. In his arduous ascent up the mountain we can clearly see a convergence of different Popes. Beginning from Pius X up to the present Pope, they all shared in the sufferings of the century and strove to go forward, through all the anguish, up the path that leads to the Cross. In the vision, the Pope is killed along with the martyrs. When, after the assassination attempt of May 13, 1981, the Holy Father had the text of the third part of the ‘secret’ brought to him, was it not inevitable that he should see his own fate in it? He had been very close to death, and he himself explained his survival in the following words: ‘…it was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path, and in his throes the Pope halted at the threshold of death’ (John Paul II, Meditation from the Policlinico Gemelli to the Italian Bishops, 13 May 1994). Yet the fact that ‘a mother’s hand’ deflected the fateful bullet shows again that there is no immutable destiny, that faith and prayer are forces that can influence history, and that ultimately prayer is more powerful than bullets, and faith more powerful than armies.”
The third part of the Fatima secret is a clear warning against all forms of atheism. Rejection of God and His laws (be it through the atheism of Communism, or that propagated by the New Age, or the practical atheism underlying the most widespread mindset of living life as if God did not exist) represents the gravest threat to mankind. The third secret is an especially urgent warning to the world at this juncture of history.
The second part of the Fatima secret mentions certain nations disappearing altogether. This has an ominous ring, summoning us to conversion. Neglect of prayer, ignoring the sacraments, living as if God did not exist, practical materialism, moral decline – all these lead to open rebellion against God and the moral and biological degeneration of entire peoples. Many today refuse to listen to the voice of their conscience, their common sense, and what Christ tells us in the Gospels and through His Church. The modern democracies have allowed themselves to be deceived by the mass media, which promote atheism, moral degeneration, and the culture of death.
It is becoming increasingly clear that our democracies (old and new) are succumbing to demagogic manipulation. In presidential and parliamentary elections, citizens are blithely voting in practical atheists who favor legalized abortion, pornography, same-sex unions, etc. They do so in flagrant disregard of the teachings of Jesus and His Church. When people reject the moral absolutes of the Ten Commandments, and embrace ethical relativism, they bring on the most appalling practical consequences. Criminal acts and radical abuses of freedom follow as a matter of course.
Will we heed the warning contained in the third Fatima secret – that atheism in all its forms is the gravest threat to us all? Recent history teaches us that Christians in Germany did not listen to the Fatima message. Blinded by the alluring promises of Hitler and his party, they quite legally and democratically handed power over to him. We cannot forget that those who voted for him bear a moral responsibility for that choice and its terrible consequences.
Yet we must not think that the fulfillment of the Fatima prophecy is already cast in stone. The future has not been decided. Everything depends on our attitude, our free choice. If we heed the call for conversion, then the prophesied disasters will not take place. If we do not heed it, we will certainly suffer the consequences of our sinful choices. God’s justice works itself out in His allowing man to taste the fruit his own sins. The prophetic vision of the third Fatima secret warns and reminds us that the future of humanity depends on the free choice of men and women, on their declaring themselves for or against God. This sober warning with its call to penance and conversion is meant to mobilize our will and strength to take the only logical step – the way of faith, penance and constant prayer. It is the only way of avoiding hatred, wars, bloodshed, and the moral and biological disintegration of our nations. Only in this way can we protect others and ourselves from eternal damnation.
The Holy Father tells us that the most important thing in the Fatima message is the call “to pray, pray, and pray again” (Fatima, 13 May 1982). Thus, John Paul II reminds us that people and nations that pray, are reconciled with God, and thus, enjoying the greatest treasure, have no cause to fear for the future.
The Fatima call to conversion is aimed at you and me. It is a call to strike out on the path of faith toward perfect happiness. Our personal consent and decision to follow Christ is all that is needed. “And the Lord gave me to know” writes St. Faustina, “that the secret depends on me, on my free agreement with all the awareness of my mind, that God waits for my word, my agreement. And I said: if You are with me, then whatever You desire, I will yield to Your will.”