Sunday, April 19, 2009

I Believe in Miracles


It is 1917, and Portugal is feeling the aftereffects of a storm of anti-religious sentiment and the violent overthrow of the government by socialist forces. Many church fathers are jailed, and all are fingerprinted, photographed and registered as (possible) criminals. The rural town of Fatima is small enough to have escaped much of this persecution; their church remains open, and most of the people are very devout.

Watching their flocks and playing in a field outside town on May 16 (the actual date of the first apparition was May 13), Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto see a flash of light and think it is going to rain. Gathering their sheep together and heading for home, they run straight into an unusual "cloud of light" surrounding a little tree on which a lady stands. Speaking slowly and gently, the lady asks them to return on the 13th of each month and to offer their sufferings to God for the salvation of sinners. She entreats them to say the Rosary for world peace. Later, they encounter their agnostic friend Hugo who tells them it is best not to reveal the vision to anyone else, but of course on returning home Jacinta immediately divulges her sightings.

Jacinta and Francisco's parents believe, but Lucia's mother reacts with disgust and subjects her daughter to emotional and physical abuse. She forbids Lucia to return to the Cova, but Lucia does so, and is told that her cousins will die and go to heaven "soon", while she will live a long life in holy service. The church father suggests the visions might be from Satan. Kidnapped by provincial administrator Arturo Santos, the children are threatened with death if they don't change their story. Trying to frighten them, he has first Jacinta, then Francisco dragged into another room. Jacinta's terrified screams convince Lucia that her cousins are dead, but she refuses to deny what she's seen. Warning her that she's about to experience "the full treatment", Santos reunites her with her cousins, who are very much alive, then throws them all in jail. There they find Hugo, who stands by them as they convince all the prisoners to join in the Rosary.

Unable to find any prosecutable evidence, Arturo frees the children, who find that the entire population of Fatima has been standing outside waiting for them.
On October 13, when the lady promised "a sign that will make them believe," about forty thousand people arrive, waiting through a torrential downpour. At precisely noon the clouds part and the sun shines brightly upon all the people -- then the sun shifts through a rainbow of colours and appears to drop toward the ground.

Many people panic, some pray or watch calmly, and a few disabled people are healed. As the sun returns to normal we see Hugo standing in the middle of the kneeling crowd, his hat still on. Removing it, he says "Only the fool sayeth there is no God." A short epilogue shows the huge basilica where the tree once stood. Inside, Lucia is a nun praying before the tomb where her cousins are buried.
Lúcia described seeing the lady as "brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun." According to Lúcia's account, the lady confided to the children three secrets, known as the Three Secrets of Fátima. She exhorted the children to do penance and to make sacrifices to save sinners. The children wore tight cords around their waists to cause pain, abstained from drinking water on hot days, and performed other works of penance. Most important, Lúcia said that the lady asked them to say the Rosary every day, reiterating many times that the Rosary was the key to personal and world peace. Many young Portuguese men, including relatives of the visionaries, were then fighting in World War I.

Thousands of people flocked to Fátima and Aljustrel in the ensuing months, drawn by reports of visions and miracles. On August 13, 1917, the provincial administrator and anticlerical Freemason , Artur Santos (no relation), believing that the events were politically disruptive, intercepted and jailed the children before they could reach the Cova da Iria that day. Prisoners held with them in the provincial jail later testified that the children, while upset, were consoled by the inmates, and then led the inmates in praying the Rosary. The administrator interrogated the children and unsuccessfully attempted to get them to divulge the content of the secrets. In the process, he tried to convince the children that he would boil them one by one in a pot of oil unless they confessed the secrets. The children, however, resisted. That month, instead of the usual apparition in the Cova da Iria on the 13th, the children reported that they saw the Lady on August 19 at nearby Valinhos.
Main article: Miracle of the Sun

As early as July the Lady had promised a miracle for the final apparition, on October 13, so that all would believe. What transpired became known as "Miracle of the Sun". A crowd believed to be approximately 70,000 in number, including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova da Iria. The incessant rain had finally ceased and a thin layer of clouds cloaked the silver disc of the sun such that it could be looked upon without hurting one’s eyes. Lúcia called out to the crowd to look at the sun. Sometime while Lucia was pointing towards the sun and seeing various religious figures in the sky, the sun appeared to change colors and rotate, like a fire wheel. For some, the sun appeared to fall from the sky before retreating, for others, it zig-zagged.
The phenomenon was witnessed by most in the crowd as well as people many miles away. Columnist Avelino de Almeida of O Século (Portugal's most influential newspaper, which was pro-government in policy and avowedly anti-clerical), reported the following: "Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - the sun 'danced' according to the typical expression of the people." Eye specialist Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, writing for the newspaper Ordem reported "The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceeding fast and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat".

The special reporter for the October 17, 1917 edition of the Lisbon daily, O Dia, reported the following, "...the silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds...The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands...people wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they.
The famous "Chapel of Apparitions", the exact place where Our Lady apparitions had occured. No movement or other phenomenon of the sun was registered by scientists at the time. According to contemporary reports from poet Afonso Lopes Vieira and schoolteacher Delfina Lopes with her students and other witnesses in the town of Alburita, the solar phenomena were visible from up to forty kilometers away

The Three Secrets of Fátima

Three Secrets of Fátima:
The first two secrets
The first secret was a vision of Hell, which Lúcia describes in her Third Memoir, as follows:
"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. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.
The second secret included Mary's instructions on how to save souls from Hell and convert the world to the Catholic faith, written in 1917: "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI.
When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.
The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world." The fate of the three children Lúcia reported seeing the Virgin again in 1925 at the Dorothean convent at Pontevedra, Galicia (Spain). This time, she said she was asked to convey the message of the First Saturday Devotions. A subsequent vision of the Christ Child Himself reiterated this request, by her account.
Lúcia was transferred to another convent in Tui or Tuy, Galicia in 1928. In 1929, Lúcia reported that Mary returned and repeated her request for the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart
Lúcia reportedly saw Mary in private visions periodically throughout her life. Most significant was the apparition in Rianxo, Galicia in 1931, in which Sister Lúcia said that Jesus visited her, taught her two prayers, and delivered a message to give to the hierarchy of the Church. In 1938, Lúcia saw the blood-red "Fire In The Skies Event" that was seen through out Europe and into Russia, taking this as an ominous sign of war as described by the Virgin Mary.[citation needed]
In 1947, Sister Lúcia left the Dorothean order and joined the Carmelite order in a convent in Coimbra, Portugal. Lúcia died on February 13, 2005, at the age of 97. After her death, the Vatican, specifically Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (at that time, still head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) ordered her cell sealed off. It is believed this was because Sister Lúcia had continued to receive more revelations, and the evidence needed to be examined in the course of proceedings for Lúcia's canonization.[citation needed]

Lúcia's cousins, the siblings Francisco (1908–1919) and Jacinta Marto (1910–1920), were both victims of the Great Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1919.
Francisco and Jacinta were declared venerable by Pope John Paul II in a public ceremony at Fatima on May 13, 1989. John Paul returned there on May 13, 2000, to declare them 'blessed' (a title of veneration below that of sainthood; see Canonization). Jacinta is the youngest non-martyred child ever to be beatified.
In 1941, Lúcia claimed that the Virgin Mary had predicted the deaths of two of the children during the second apparition on June 13, 1917. Some accounts, including the testimony of Olímpia Marto (mother of the two younger children) state that her children did not keep this information secret and ecstatically predicted their own deaths many times to her and to curious pilgrims.
According to the 1941 account, on June 13, Lúcia asked the Virgin if the three children would go to heaven when they died. She heard Mary reply, "Yes, I shall take Francisco and Jacinta soon, but you will remain a little longer, since Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart. Jacinta, in fact, accurately foretold the time and detailed circumstances of her death, according to Lúcia and hospital staff. Exhumed in 1935 and again in 1951, Jacinta's body was found incorrupt. Francisco's had decomposed.

The consecration of Russia Statue of Pope Pius XII in Fatima, Portugal. Just as a few years ago We consecrated the entire human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, so today We consecrate and in a most special manner We entrust all the peoples of Russia to this Immaculate Heart…
According to Sister Lúcia, The Virgin promised that the Consecration of Russia would lead to Russia's conversion and an era of peace. Pope Pius XII, in his Apostolic Letter of July 7, 1952 Sacro Vergente consecrated Russia to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Pius XII wrote,
Just as a few years ago We consecrated the entire human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, so today We consecrate and in a most special manner We entrust all the peoples of Russia to this Immaculate Heart…

In 1952 the Pope reminded the Russian people, that the Virgin Mary was always victorious. "The gates of hell will never prevail, where she offers her protection. She is the good mother, the mother of all, and it has never been heard, that those who seek her protection, will not receive it. With this certainty, the Pope dedicates all people of Russia to the immaculate heart of the Virgin. She will help! Error and atheism will be overcome with her assistance and divine grace".

Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II both had special relations to our Lady of Fátima. Pope Benedict XV began Pacelli's Church career, elevating him to archbishop in the Sistine Chapel on May 13, 1917, the very day, Our Lady of Fátima is believed to have first appeared to three shepherd children in Fátima. Pius XII, was laid to rest in the crypt of Saint Peter's Basilica on November 13, 1958, on the Feast of our Lady of Fátima.
The Lady of Fátima is credited by many faithful and, as mentioned below, by the Pontiff himself, with saving the life of John Paul II during the assassination attempt in 1981 on Fátima day.
Pope John Paul II again consecrated the entire world to the Virgin in 1984, without mentioning countries like Russia. Some believe that Sister Lúcia verified that this ceremony fulfilled the requests of the Virgin. However, in the Blue Army's Spanish magazine, Sol de Fatima, in the September 1985 issue, Sister Lúcia said that the ceremony did not fulfill the Virgin's request, as there was no specific mention of Russia, and "many bishops attached no importance to it".
In 2001, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone issued a statement, claiming that he had met with Sister Lúcia, who reportedly told him, "I have already said that the consecration desired by Our Lady was made in 1984, and has been accepted in Heaven." Sister Lúcia died on February 13 (same day as the apparitions), 2005, without making any public statement of her own to settle the issue.

A 2008 Conference in the former Soviet Union focused on a future accompanied by Mary. Orthodox Russians gathered in Minsk with Catholics of Belarus to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Mary's apparitions in Lourdes and to consider her role in their personal and national history. It was recalled that Our Lady told Bernadette Soubirous that she was the Immaculate Conception. To some faithful, this may be an indication that the prayers to the Lady of Fatima about Russia are effective.

The Third Secret:
The third secret, a vision of the death of the Pope and other religious figures, was transcribed by the Bishop of Leiria and reads:
"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, Religious men and women 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, Religious men and women, 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."
Controversy around the Third Secret The Vatican withheld the third secret until June 26, 2000 – despite Lúcia's declaration that it could be released to the public after 1960. Several sources, including Canon Barthas and Cardinal Ottaviani, said that Sr. Lúcia insisted to them it must be released by 1960, saying, "by that time, it will be more clearly understood." When 1960 passed without any such announcement, immense speculation over the content of the secret materialized.

Some sources claim that the third part of the secret revealed in the year 2000 was not the real secret, or at least not the full secret. This was long suspected because it was known that the third part of the Secret began with the words, "In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved etc." Sister Lúcia revealed this in her Fourth Memoir. These words and even this theme were not reflected by the version released by the Vatican on June 26, 2000.
Another argument for this revolved around the decision to release the secret much later than when specified by Sister Lúcia. It was thought that the secret might contain condemnatory remarks about the last pope (who obviously would not have wanted to release it), or that it might contain inflammatory remarks about Russia.
Instead, the third part of the secret as revealed was by far the most unspecific and ambiguous part (compared to earlier parts which said that if unconsecrated, "Russia will spread its errors around the world").
On November 11, 1984, as reported in the Pauline Catholic magazine Jesus, Cardinal Ratzinger stated that he had "read the text of the Third Secret." When asked why he had not revealed it, he replied:
"Because, according to the judgment of the Popes, it adds nothing to what a Christian must know concerning what derives from Revelation: i.e., a radical call for conversion; the absolute importance of history; the dangers threatening the faith and the life of the Christian, and therefore of the world. And then the importance of the end times. If it is not made public - at least for the time being - it is in order to prevent religious prophecy from being mistaken for a quest for the sensational."

An image of Our Lady as the three children had described their vision. This followed the report in the October 1981 issue of the German Catholic magazine Stimme des Glaubens of a discussion at Fulda in November 1980 when Pope John Paul II had stated to a select group of German Catholics, in response to the question why he had not revealed the Third Secret of Fatima, "If you read that the oceans will inundate continents, and millions of people will die suddenly in a few minutes, once this is known, then in reality it is not necessary to insist on the publication of this Secret."
However, in another interview, Pope John Paul II indicated that the entire secret of Fatima could be summarized in the idea that prayer, especially the Rosary, is the remedy against all manner of evil.
On November 15, 1966 Pope Paul VI revised the Code of Canon Law, striking down canons 1399 and 2318, which among other things had prohibited and penalized the publication of any material concerning any apparitions (approved or not) without beforehand obtaining a bishop’s imprimatur. After the revision, therefore, anyone in the Church was permitted to publish freely on Marian apparitions, including those at Fatima. Yet Sister Lúcia was still forbidden to reveal the Fatima Secret. She remained under an order of silence until her death in February 2005, unable to speak freely about Fatima without special permission from the Vatican.
Fátima prayers and reparation.
Some Roman Catholics recite prayers based on Our Lady of Fátima. One well known prayer is the Angel Prayer as an Act of Reparation to The Holy Trinity for insults and blasphemies against the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Sacrament. This prayer is attributed to an angel who appeared to the visionaries, and is hence called the Angel Prayer. In Catholic tradition, Muriel is primarily known as the angel of Portugal, and it was during his feast day that the Fátima events took place, and therefore he is referred to as the Fátima Angel.
Political aspects Conservative Catholics take the anti-Communist character of Lúcia Santos' messages very much to heart. The Blue Army of Our Lady is made up of Catholics and non-Catholics who believe that by dedicating themselves to daily prayer (specifically, of the Rosary) they can help to achieve world peace and put an end to the error of communism. In 1952, a feature film, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, was released. Critics held that the film overplayed the role of socialist and other leftist elements in Portuguese government as the "adversaries" of the visions.
They state that since the government was controlled not by socialists but by Freemasons at the time, most government opposition to the visions would have been motivated by concern for separation of church and state, not by atheistic or Communistic ideology. Other critics have stated that only the enemies of the message propose such a belief. Official position of the Catholic Church Inside of Basilica of the Rosary.
Private revelations do not form part of the deposit of faith of the Roman Catholic Church and its members are not bound to believe in any of them. However, as a matter of prudence, assent would normally be expected of a Catholic based on the discernment of the Church and its judgment that an apparition is worthy of belief. After a canonical enquiry the visions of Fatima were officially declared "worthy of belief" in October 1930 by the Bishop of Leiria-Fátima.
The Popes and Fátima Ecclesiastical approbation does not imply that the Church provides an infallible guarantee on the supernatural nature of the event. Theologians like Karl Rahner argued however, that Popes, by authoritatively fostering the Marian veneration in places like Fatima and Lourdes, motivate the faithful into an acceptance of divine faith Popes Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul II have voiced their acceptance of the supernatural origin of the Fátima events in unusually clear and strong terms. After the local bishop had declared that (1) the visions of the three children are credible, (2) the veneration of the Blessed Virgin is permitted, thereafter the Portuguese bishops approve and declare the genuine supernatural nature of the event.
The Vatican responds with granting indulgences and special masses to be celebrated in Fatima.In 1939, Pope Pius XII, who in 1917 was consecrated May 13, on the day of the first apparition, is elected to the papacy, and becomes the Pope of Fatima. One year after World War Two had started, Sister Lucia asks Pope Pius XII to consecrate the world and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She repeats this request on December 2, 1940, stating in the year 1929, the Blessed Lady requested in another apparition the consecration of Russia to her immaculate heart. She promised the conversion of Russia from its errors.

On May 13, 1942, the 25th anniversary of the first apparition and, silver jubilee of the Episcopal consecration of Pope Pius XII, the Vatican published the Message and Secret of Fatima. On October 31, 1942, Pope Pius XII, in a radio address informed the people of Portugal about the apparitions of Fatima, consecrating the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin with specific mention of Russia. On December 8, 1942, the Pontiff officially and solemnly declared this consecration in a ceremony in Saint Peter Basilica in Rome. On May 13, 1946, Cardinal Masalla, the personal delegate of Pius XII, crowned in his name Our Lady of Fátima, as the Pope issues a second message about Fatima:
The faithful virgin never disappointed the trust, put on her. She will transform into a fountain of graces, physical and spiritual graces, over all of Portugal, and from there, breaking all frontiers, over the whole Church and the entire world On May 1, 1948, in Auspicia Quaedam, Pope Pius requested the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of every Catholic family, parish and dioceses.

“It is our wish, consequently, that wherever the opportunity suggests itself, this consecration be made in the various dioceses as well as in each of the parishes and families.''
On May 18, 1950, the Pope again sent a message to the people of Portugal regarding Fátima: "May Portugal never forget the heavenly message of Fátima, which, before anybody else she was blessed to hear. To keep Fátima in your heart and to translate Fatima into deeds, is the best guarantee for ever more graces” In numerous additional messages, and in his encyclicals Fulgens Corona (1953), and, Ad Caeli Reginam (1954), Pius XII encouraged the veneration of the Virgin in Fatima.

At the end of the Second Vatican Council Pope Paul VI renewed the consecration of Pius XII to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and, in an unusual gesture, announces his own pilgrimage to the sanctuary on the fiftieth anniversary of the first apparition. On May 13, 1967, he prays at the shrine together with Sister Lucia. This historic gesture further cemented the official support for Fátima. Pope John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fátima with saving his life following the assassination attempt on the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima, in 1981. He followed the footsteps of Paul VI, on May 12, 1987, to express his gratitude to the Virgin for saving his life. The following day, he renewed the consecration of Pius XII to the Immaculate heart of the Virgin.