When Mary appeared to three shepherd children 100 years ago, the world noticed.
For long-time Catholics, the stories of these private revelations of Our Lady are so frequently mentioned that they often lose their impact. In the video below from Divine Mercy: The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, the drama of the apparitions is apparent. In fact, the Miracle of the Sun, which occurred on on October 13, 1917, is one of the most widely-experienced miracles in history.
What is the purpose of such a dramatic apparition?
The 100th Anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun, which is coming up on October 13, gives us an opportunity to recall the dramatic and powerful message of Our Lady to the world. This anniversary does exactly what Our Lady always does: it reminds us of the love of her Son, of the devastating consequences of sin, of the miraculous triumph of God’s saving grace, and of the power of sacrifice and intercessory prayer.
The following excerpt from Fr. Andrew Apostoli’s book, Fatima for Today, highlights the importance of the Fatima message today:
When Pope John Paul II was recovering from the bullet wounds he suffered during the attempted assassination on May 13, 1981, he made a careful study of the documents related to the Fatima message. He saw himself in the description of the pope who was shot praying before the large cross on the mountain. Realizing the significance of this message for our present time, he said, “Fatima is more important now than in 1917!” The Holy Father was convinced that the contemporary world is engaged in an enormous struggle between the forces of good and evil, between a living faith in the Supreme Being and the absolute rejection of God. He recognized the consequences of this struggle: there will either be a civilization of love and trust based on the sanctity of human life and those rights and responsibilities given by the Creator to each human person, or a tyranny of hate and oppression based on contempt of God, hatred of his Church and relativistic values. Let us recall a statement made by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla on a 1976 visit to the United States, two years before he was elected pope.
“We are today before the greatest combat that mankind has ever seen. I do not believe that the Christian community has completely understood it. We are today before the final struggle between the Church and anti-Church, between the Gospel and the anti-Gospel . . .”
The Importance of Fatima in Today’s Spiritual Battles
In that very important apparition of July 13, Oour Lady warned the children about the evils of Communism, which would begin in Russia and spread its errors throughout the world. She also said that Communism would cause wars and persecutions of the Church, in which the good would be martyred, the Holy Father would have much to suffer and various nations would be annihilated. Tragically, all of these things came true, and for this reason Pope John Paul II fittingly said that at Fatima our Lady foretold the main events of the twentieth century, a century characterized by extreme violence and the greatest destruction of human life that the world has ever seen. The threat of Communism and its many offspring remains to this day. Though the Soviet Union has collapsed, Communist regimes elsewhere in the world, particularly in China, still oppress the Church, while other forms of materialism oppose her in many countries that were once Christian. How can the Church do battle against the foes lined up against her?
Conversion from Our Sins
If sin is the cause of war and persecution, then the first thing we need to do is turn away from our sins and live lives of Christian virtue. God made us to know him, to love him and to serve him in this world so that we may be happy with him forever in the next. Holiness is God’s will for us! Remember what our Lady told the children at the end of the October 13 miracle of the sun: “Do not offend the Lord our God anymore, because he is already so much offended!”
Blasphemy and the Rejection of God—What are the sins we must turn away from? First, the sins of blasphemy, which are directed against God, our Lady, the angels and saints and those things that are sacred because they are associated with the honor and worship of God. Such offenses express an actual, even if indirect, hatred of God. These sins must be overcome by the lively faith of believers, along with their authentic love of God and neighbor. In Saint Paul’s words, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). Remember, God’s love is stronger than the world’s hatred. Our Lady’s message at Fatima will invigorate our faith and love if we only open ourselves to it.
The Culture of Death—Then there are the sins against life: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, assisted suicide and the whole “culture of death”. Add to that list murder, physical abuse, gang wars, ethnic and racial cleansing, and all the other violent crimes that come from hatred in our hearts. In the book of Genesis, we read the story of the first murder. Cain became jealous when his brother Abel’s sacrifice was more pleasing to God than his own. When they were walking out in the field together, Cain killed his brother and buried his body in the ground. Then the Lord said to Cain: “Where is Abel, your brother?” Cain answered: “I do not know! Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Lord then said to Cain: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground!” Abel’s innocent blood was crying out to God for justice. What about the innocent blood of the thousands of unborn children who are aborted each day worldwide? What about the approximately 50 million innocent unborn children who have been aborted in the United States since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion a constitutional right? Isn’t their blood crying out to God for vengeance? Archbishop Sheen said that unless we reverse the destruction of innocent life by abortion we will come to midnight on the clock of death, which he said will be a nuclear war.
It is important to recognize the connection between Communism and the culture of death. Under atheistic Communism, Russia did not recognize any God-given dignity to human life. A person was important only to the degree that he was useful to the state. Therefore, Russia became the first Christian nation in the world to permit abortion. It became so commonplace that there are women in Russia who have had as many as thirty-five abortions. Because the population of Russia has dropped drastically, the Russian government is now paying couples to have a second child.
How did the Communism that first planted itself in the Soviet Union spread abortion to western Europe and the United States? Communism teaches the radical equality of the sexes. Women in Russia, and later in Communist China, were required to enter the workforce in service of the state. What was forced upon the peoples taken over by Communism, was willingly adopted in western Europe and the United States in the name of equality. The movement for so-called women’s liberation in these countries insisted that women could not take their equal place among men in the workforce unless they had complete control over their ability to reproduce and that control included the power to kill their unborn children.
As abortion has lessened the dignity of life, euthanasia to eliminate the terminally ill, the handicapped and the elderly has gained acceptance. In an atheistic society, these people’s lives are seen to have no value, but only constitute a drain on the state’s resources. Now in even formerly Christian societies, for many it seems too much of a bother to care for those in great need, while at the same time the Christian meaning of suffering is being lost. We need our Lady’s help to reverse all of this.
The Attack on the Family—Another cause of the culture of death, which was fostered by Communism, is the attack on the traditional family. The family is the only place where the weak, whether they be very young, very sick or very old, are cared for by those bound to them through love. The family is the building block of society. If families are strong, the society will be strong; if they are weak, then the society will be weak.
As was noted earlier, Karl Marx saw the traditional family as an enemy of freedom and equality. The authority of husbands over their wives and that of fathers and mothers over their children create inequalities and are rivals to the absolute power of the state over each individual. This notion that the traditional family was the enemy of equality spread to Europe and the United States, where war was declared on those laws that supported traditional marriage. Little by little, the legal supports beneath marriage have been stripped away. First divorce was legalized, next cohabitating couples were given legal benefits that once were only granted to married couples. Now we see the push to give same-sex unions the same legal status as matrimony. Of course, when marriage is no longer honored and no longer understood as the only proper place for sexual relations, then sexual immorality runs rampant and weakens family life even further. Here we must recall our Lady’s words to little Jacinta that more souls are lost by sins of impurity than by any other.
If we are to build a culture of love and life, then we must put into practice the essential message of Fatima: we must pray, make sacrifices for the sake of our souls and those of others, and strive to grow in true Christian virtue.
Apostoli, Fr. Andrew. Fatima For Today (Kindle, Chapter 17). Ignatius Press.