Saturday, October 13, 2012

Her Immaculate Heart Will Triumph

Today is the 13th day of October, the day that Our Lady of Fatima made her final appearance to the humble shepherd children Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta, the day that a reported 70,000 people witnessed the "Miracle of the Sun." At that time, 1917, the world was suffering horribly in the slaughter of so many millions of people in World War I and our Lady warned of even worse horrors and death in a war that was to follow. Nevertheless, with a call for prayer and penance, she promised that her Immaculate Heart would triumph in the end. This is a very important thing to keep in mind as we engage in the New Evangelization.

People have generally interpreted this warning of a greater war as referring to World War II, but since the "third secret" of Fatima was disclosed, we can understand the warning in even broader terms, that is, in long-term historical and eschatological terms, especially with respect to the Church and the faithful. Sister Lucia reports this third part of the vision, which had been revealed to her on July 13, 1917, in these words:
After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!'

And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions.

Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.
Blessed Pope John Paul II was shot, yet saved from death, on May 13, 1981, the anniversary of the first apparition. He famously attributed his survival of the shooting to Our Lady of Fatima, saying that one hand fired the gun, but another one guided the bullet.

As with interpreting the warning of a greater war to mean World War II, people have generally interpreted John Paul II as being the bishop dressed in white who is shot. But again, we can understand it in a broader sense. "We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete," Pope Benedict said during a visit to Fatima on May 13, 2010. Rather, humanity will continue to endure great hardship and suffering, hence the urgent need of the Church to offer people hope and proclaim "Repent and believe the Good News" of Jesus Christ (Mk 1:15). The faithful of the Church especially will suffer hardships, persecutions, and even martyrdom in professing Christ, as promised by Jesus Himself and as made clear in the Book of Revelation.

Although the whole purpose of the New Evangelization is to try to find more effective ways to proclaim the Gospel and spread the faith, starting with ourselves, so that we might help the Lord in the work of salvation, converting repentent hearts to His Love and Truth, the fact is that the world is often resistant to the light of love and truth. We are often resistant to it ourselves. And many times the response to our proposal is not merely polite rejection, but persecution. So we ought not be discouraged if we are rebuffed, but instead expect that such things will happen, and we must avoid the temptation of looking for immediate "success" in large numbers.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, "No slave is greater than his master." If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (Jn 15:19-20)

They will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name. And then many will be led into sin; they will betray and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. (Mt 24:9-13)
We ought to expect persecution in response to the New Evangelization. Indeed, hardships are already imposed upon the faithful throughout the world because of that faith -- the 20th century saw more Christian martyrs than any century before it -- and here in the United States, we might not be facing death, but most certainly we are afflicted with persecution of economic, legal, and political natures.

Yet, "blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of [Jesus]." (Mt 5:11) We have hope, real hope, which makes it possible to even rejoice in persecution and suffering.
Let us now examine more closely the single images [of the vision in the third secret of Fatima]. The angel with the flaming sword on the left of the Mother of God recalls similar images in the Book of Revelation. This represents the threat of judgment which looms over the world. Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword.

The vision then shows the power which stands opposed to the force of destruction — the splendour of the Mother of God and, stemming from this in a certain way, the summons to penance. In this way, the importance of human freedom is underlined: the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed. Indeed, the whole point of the vision is to bring freedom onto the scene and to steer freedom in a positive direction. The purpose of the vision is not to show a film of an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Theological Commentary on Fatima)
There is great hardship and suffering in the world. Yet, we do not despair because Jesus came to save us from death and destruction. Evil and suffering, while common throughout human history, will not have the last word. It is not set in stone that mankind will forever suffer. We have hope. Not the "hope" of wishes and grasping at straws, but of trustworthy confidence and assured expectation of salvation. (Spe Salvi)

We are asked to help Jesus in the work of salvation, which means enduring the Passion, it means embracing the Cross, but it is through the Passion and the Cross that suffering and death are transformed to joy and eternal life. In walking the way of the Cross with Him, taking upon ourselves what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ and suffering with Him (Col 1:24), we are comforted by being accompanied by our Blessed Mother, just as she accompanied her Son in sorrow. Mary points to her Son, exhorting people to pray and repent, to "do whatever He tells you" so that your hardship might be turned to joy. (Jn 2:5)
Let us now consider the individual images which follow in the text of the "secret." The place of the action is described in three symbols: a steep mountain, a great city reduced to ruins and finally a large rough-hewn cross. The mountain and city symbolize the arena of human history: history as an arduous ascent to the summit, history as the arena of human creativity and social harmony, but at the same time a place of destruction, where man actually destroys the fruits of his own work. The city can be the place of communion and progress, but also of danger and the most extreme menace. On the mountain stands the cross—the goal and guide of history. The cross transforms destruction into salvation; it stands as a sign of history's misery but also as a promise for history.

At this point human persons appear: the Bishop dressed in white ("we had the impression that it was the Holy Father" [Sister Lucia later said]), other Bishops, priests, men and women Religious, and men and women of different ranks and social positions. The Pope seems to precede the others, trembling and suffering because of all the horrors around him. Not only do the houses of the city lie half in ruins, but he makes his way among the corpses of the dead. The Church's path is thus described as a Via Crucis, as a journey through a time of violence, destruction and persecution. The history of an entire century can be seen represented in this image. Just as the places of the earth are synthetically described in the two images of the mountain and the city, and are directed towards the cross, so too time is presented in a compressed way. In the vision we can recognize the last century as a century of martyrs, a century of suffering and persecution for the Church, a century of World Wars and the many local wars which filled the last fifty years and have inflicted unprecedented forms of cruelty. In the “mirror” of this vision we see passing before us the witnesses of the faith decade by decade. . . .

In the vision, the Pope too is killed along with the martyrs. When, after the attempted assassination on 13 May 1981, the Holy Father [Pope John Paul] had the text of the third part of the "secret" brought to him, was it not inevitable that he should see in it his own fate? 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" (13 May 1994). That here "a mother's hand" had deflected the fateful bullet only shows once more that there is no immutable destiny, that faith and prayer are forces which can influence history and that in the end prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies.

The concluding part of the "secret" uses images which Lucia may have seen in devotional books and which draw their inspiration from long-standing intuitions of faith. It is a consoling vision, which seeks to open a history of blood and tears to the healing power of God. Beneath the arms of the cross, angels gather up the blood of the martyrs, and with it they give life to the souls making their way to God. Here, the blood of Christ and the blood of the martyrs are considered as one: the blood of the martyrs runs down from the arms of the cross. . . .

Therefore, the vision of the third part of the "secret," so distressing at first, concludes with an image of hope: no suffering is in vain, and it is a suffering Church, a Church of martyrs, which becomes a sign-post for man in his search for God. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Theological Commentary on Fatima)
As in Revelation, the ultimate message of Fatima is this: Humanity will necessarily suffer great hardship in this world, but God has not abandoned us.

The Lady in white, clothed as with the sun, asks us to help her Son in the work of salvation, including prayer, penance, and redemptive suffering, not merely for ourselves, but for the salvation of others, for their conversion away from sin to embracing holiness. The faithful will suffer and even be hated and persecuted for this, but all this is beatitude (Mt. 5:3-10). We can expect a degree of suffering and persecution if we dare to engage with the world in the New Evangelization. Yet, in the end, notwithstanding all of the great evils that are thrust upon us, her Immaculate Heart will triumph.

The Immaculate Mother of God walks with us and with her pure Virgin heart, a heart full of the love and grace of God, she guides us to her Son. Our Lady of Fatima is Our Lady of hope, with her we have the comfort and assurance that good will prevail, that Love and Truth will triumph.
The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time.

The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: "In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Theological Commentary on Fatima)

The 13th Day (2009) a film by Ian and Dominic Higgins
In a world torn apart by persecution, war and oppression, 3 children were chosen to offer a message of hope to the world. Based on the memoirs of the oldest Seer, Lucia Santos, and many thousands of independent eye-witness accounts, The 13th Day dramatizes the TRUE story of three young shepherds who experienced six interactive apparitions with a “Lady from Heaven” between May and October 1917, which culminated into the final prophesized Miracle. . . . Stylistically beautiful and technically innovative, writer-directors Ian & Dominic Higgins use state-of-the-art digital effects to create stunning images of the visions and the final miracle that have never before been fully realized on screen. Shot on location in Portugal and in the UK, 13th Day Films worked with a cast of over 250 to re-create the scenes of the 70,000 strong crowds, and 3 Portuguese children play the iconic roles of the Seers. Witness the greatest miracle of the 20th Century, and experience the incredible, emotionally-charged and often harrowing world of three young children whose choice to remain loyal to their beliefs, even in the face of death, would inspire thousands.

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