Reforming our lives according to Our Lady’s call at Fatima
22 May 2020
By Fr. Linus Clovis
⚜ The following talk was given on 22 May 2020 at the online Rome Life Forum on the theme “Coronavirus in the light of Fatima: a tragedy and a source of hope”.
The Wuhan virus has brought the world to a screeching halt, as lockdowns and curfews are used as means of controlling and checking the pandemic.
The opinions and authoritative declarations of experts and analysts, the information and misinformation of numerous news outlets and the rumours, exaggerations and suspicions voiced on social media have each contributed to creating an atmosphere of fear, bordering on panic and hysteria. This fear is experienced worldwide so much so that diverse populations have readily submitted to limitations on freedom, which half a year ago were totally unimaginable let alone conceivable. These include the declaration of states of emergency, the cessation of international travel, and the closure of schools, of colleges, of factories and of stores selling non-essential supplies. Further, practices such as social distancing, enforced wearing of masks, limited internal or zonal travel, and prohibition of social visits or of visits to homes for the elderly have also been employed. This very real fear tactic, as fanned by the media, was consolidated by the closure of the temples of recreation: sports facilities, theatres and restaurants.
To persons of faith, it was most surprising that the public exercise of religion was classed as a non-essential activity, as decrees outlawing the congregating of believers were rapidly followed by the total lockdown of their places of worship. For Catholics, whose supernatural instinct would have inclined them to appeal to Divine Mercy, a “great wall” was erected in their face as the Church hierarchy succumbed, without demur, to governmental pronouncements that placed all churches under “quarantine”. Even more disturbing was the speed with which a caucus of episcopal voices were raised to contradict the faithful’s “sensus fidei” that the pandemic was very likely a divine chastisement. The epitome of this absurdity was realized by the declaration, backed by and packed with pontifical authority, that the pandemic was merely Mother Earth throwing a sissy fit for the decades of terrestrial abuse she had endured from her greedy human children.
In her 2000-year history, the Church has faced many such epidemics and pandemics and responded with penitential practices, which were readily and widely implemented while piteous appeals were sent up to heaven through the hands of Her to whom “never was it known that anyone who fled to Her protection, implored Her help or sought Her intercession were left unaided”. The faithful readily embraced the various penitential exercises and disciplines, including fasting, processions, pilgrimages, vigils and above all, reform of life – both personal and public.
There have been, however, sober analyses of the Wuhan Pandemic. From these analyses, comes an Appeal recently issued by a group of bishops, cardinals and both Catholic and non-Catholic intellectuals warning that the pandemic may provide the opportunity for governments to restrict civil and human rights permanently.
“We have reason to believe, on the basis of official data on the incidence of the epidemic as related to the number of deaths, that there are powers interested in creating panic among the world’s population with the sole aim of permanently imposing unacceptable forms of restriction on freedoms, of controlling people and of tracking their movements. The imposition of these illiberal measures is a disturbing prelude to the realization of a world government beyond all control.”
This warning certainly exposes the plans of an elite group who refuses to accept the Fatima message and, whose drama continues and appears to be entering its final chapter.
Masking the Message of Fatima
Despite the wide veneration of Our Lady of Fatima, throughout the Catholic world, very few people have fully grasped the message that the Blessed Virgin addressed to the world. Many consider Our Lady’s message to be merely a call to conversion, to penance and, as simply a message of hope. The reason for this resides in the fact that the message has not been greatly publicized and where it has been propagated, only a portion of it has been preached or explained. Thus, for example, one would expect a flyer published at the Sanctuary in Fatima to contain the pith of the message. However, one such flyer from the Sanctuary states that:
“The Message of Fatima pleads with sinners to stop offending God, to seek pardon for their sins and to amend their lives, as did the prodigal son of the Gospel; it asks the just to pray much and to make sacrifices for sinners so they may not suffer eternal damnation in hell. All are asked by Our Lady to recite Her Rosary every day, to have devotion to Her Immaculate Heart and to receive Holy Communion in Reparation to Her Immaculate Heart on the first Saturday of the month. If people do not do these things, Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions against the Church. Many will be martyred, the Holy Father will suffer greatly and several nations will be annihilated … Our Blessed Mother’s own words assure us of peace and happiness for the entire world, if people do what She requested of them, when She appeared at Fatima in 1917.”
While all of the above is true, the flyer is nonetheless deceptive because it omits mentioning the great prophecy of how God will bring about the conversion of Russia and restore peace to the world; much more to outline the means by which this peace, as revealed by Our Lady during the 13 July 1917 apparition as part of the “third secret”, will be accomplished.
The nucleus of the Fatima Message
The essence of the Fatima message is found in the “secret” which Our Lady confided to the children in three parts. On 13 July 1917, she said:
“You saw hell where the souls of poor sinners go. In order to save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people do what I ask, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end.”
After warning of the consequences of ignoring Her message, Our Lady promised to return to “ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If people attend to my request, Russia will be converted, and the world will have peace”. In addition to Her mandate, the Blessed Virgin also stated that “[i]n Portugal, the dogmas of the faith will always be kept and then …” (At this point, the third part of the secret, commonly called “The Third Secret”, begins.)
On 10 December 1925, Our Lady appeared with the Child Jesus to Lucia and requested the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays saying,
“ … announce in my name that I promise to assist at the moment of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the First Saturday of five consecutive months shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for 15 minutes, while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me”.
Four years later, on 13 June 1929, Our Lady appeared to Sister Lucia at Tuy, Spain, along with a vision of the Most Holy Trinity. She told Lucia: “The moment has come in which God asks of the Holy Father to make, and to order, that in union with him, and at the same time, all the Bishops of the world, make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart”, promising to convert Russia as a result of this act.
Two years later, in August 1931, Our Lord Himself appeared to Lucia with a warning to the Church’s hierarchy regarding their failure to perform the consecration of Russia which He, Himself, had commanded through the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1929:
“Make it known to my ministers, given that they follow the example of the King of France in delaying the execution of my command, they will follow him into misfortune.”
Our Lord here was referring to the execution of Louis XVI by the soldiers of the French Revolution, following the century-long failure of the French kings to heed his request for the consecration of France to His Sacred Heart. Thus, Our Lord warns the hierarchy that they would suffer a similar fate as that of the French king. This fate was captured in the vision that was published in L’Osservatore Romano, 2000. Although the explanatory words of the Virgin were lacking, the vision was that of a bishop in white, other bishops, priests, religious and lay people being executed outside a devastated city.
Consequences of disregarding the Fatima message
In the July apparition, Our Lady clearly and unequivocally spelt out the consequences of disregarding Her mandate. If Russia is not consecrated, “she will spread her errors throughout the world causing wars and persecution of the Church…”
The situation in Russia
At the time of Our Lady’s appearance in 1929, the Russian revolution was over and Communism was firmly established, with Stalin in power pursuing a war against religion in Russia. Christmas and Easter were replaced with New Year’s Day and May Day respectively, Sunday was abolished and a six-day week was operative in what was now officially known as the USSR (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), only state marriages were recognized, and divorce and abortion were legalized. According to Bella Dodd, Stalin had laid and was already implementing plans to infiltrate the Catholic Church. In the aftermath of the Second World War, unbelievable concessions were made to Communist Russia as the Iron Curtain was drawn across many Catholic countries in Europe. The Soviets took full advantage of the situation and, by the 1960’s, the Communist influence extended over much of Africa and South America and stretched across the Middle East through to South East Asia.
Although Our Lady’s request was only partially fulfilled, She, nevertheless, obtained significant tokens by which the Popes would be encouraged to proceed to full compliance.
On 31 October 1942 and on 8 December 1942 Pope Pius XII consecrated the world, but not Russia explicitly, to the Immaculate Heart. This resulted in World War II being shortened. In his Apostolic Letter, Sacro Vergente Anno of 7 July 1952, Pope Pius XII consecrated Russia but without the participation of the bishops. Pope Paul VI on the last day of the Third Session of Vatican II consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary – but there was no mention of Russia. Additionally, the bishops looked on but they did not join in the act of consecration. On 7 June 1981, Pope John Paul II consecrated the world, but not Russia explicitly, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and repeated this act of consecration at Fatima on 13 May 1982. While John Paul’s consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart on 25 March 1984 was in union with the world’s bishops, it failed to make Russia the specific object of the consecration. However, this consecration seems to have contributed to the fall of the Iron Curtain five years later. Pope John Paul’s last attempt was an entrustment of the world to Mary, in the presence of 1,500 bishops but, again, without any mention of Russia.
Thus, despite the good intentions and the consecrations performed by Popes Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul II, Heaven’s explicit request for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has not been carried out.
The situation in the West
In his 1961 Apostolic Constitution, Humanae Salutis, Pope John XXIII wrote of the “rise and growth of a clergy better equipped in learning and virtue, of laity more conscious of its responsibilities…” and of living in one “of the most glorious periods of the Church’s history …which is so vibrant with vitality”. He then pursued plans to summon the Second Vatican Council which he said would be a “new Pentecost” for our times.
By 1984, the West had already adopted and embraced Russia’s errors by living in what can only be described as a state of practical atheism. This practical atheism manifested itself in the form of hedonistic materialism, family breakdown, divorce, widespread contraception, and the legal sanctioning of the sins that cry to heaven for vengeance, namely abortion and sodomy. These manifestations of atheism are poignantly described in St. Paul’s censure, of “having a form of godliness but denying its power”. (2 Tim. 3:5) Even more devastating, was the degree to which some church leaders actively and knowingly contributed to the aforementioned evils. Almost overnight, the news of the sex abuse scandals, the revelations of financial malfeasance and the consequences of theological dissent overwhelmed the Church. In the words of Paul VI, the smoke of Satan had certainly entered the Temple of God and what was gradually becoming visible was “the apostasy at the top”, which had been spoken of by those who had read the Third Secret. The “Pachamama” incident alone would have been sufficient provocation, one would have thought, for heaven to call the world to repentance by means of this global pandemic, Covid-19.
The situation in the Church
Writing in the February 1958 edition of Catolicismo, Brazilian Catholic thinker, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, prophetically asked:
“Could one not say that the enemy is stronger than ever, and that the age the Illuminati of days gone by dreamed of is upon us? Are we not indeed in an age of stark and total scientific naturalism that is dominated by materialistic technology? Are we not in the age of a ferociously egalitarian universal republic that has somewhat philanthropic and humanitarian inspiration and from which will be swept all remnants of supernatural religion? Is it not, in fact, communism? Is it not also here that lies the danger by which Western society, supposedly anti-communist, will slip towards the realization of this ‘ideal’?
“Yes. And this danger is closer than is usually imagined. However, no one pays attention to a fact of primordial importance: as the world is modelled according to this sinister design, a profound, and immense, and indescribable uneasiness is overwhelming it. Sometimes this uneasiness is unconscious and, even when conscious, is still vague and ill-defined. In any case, no one contests its existence. One would say that humanity is being violently forced into a mould that is not according to its nature and against which all the fibers of its existence writhes and resists.”
For the great majority of the world’s population, the origin, cause and purpose of the Wuhan pandemic is uncertain and widely disputed. However, it is certain that the fear generated is sufficient for the uninformed populace to unthinkingly agree to any proposal that seems to offer a plausible relief from this strange pandemic, which originated in Communist China. As such, people are willing to embrace measures that infringe, limit or even suspend or withdraw their civil and human rights. The recent Appeal succinctly outlines some of these concerns.
The Wuhan virus has undoubtedly affected the whole world and provoked apocalyptic scenarios from which Catholics, and especially those who are poorly catechized, will hardly be immune. Yet, for Catholics who are serious and informed about their faith, this is a grace-filled opportunity. The closure of our churches, even for private prayer and adoration, the cessation of access to all sacraments and the token of Easter virtually celebrated, is a wake-up call showing how easily life in the catacombs may return. While virtual Masses and Spiritual Communions have offered some solace to practicing Catholics, it has also given them an insight of how our house-bound elderly live out their faith.
Reflecting on the text “[f]or the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17), Archbishop Fulton Sheen explained that before the hand of God strikes the world, it always descends upon the Church first. Likewise, St. John Eudes warned that a sign that God is angry with His people is when He allows them to fall into the hands of evil pastors:
“The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than charity and affection of devoted shepherds … When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them. That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, ‘Return O ye revolting children … and I will give you pastors according to My own heart’. (Jer. 3:14,15) Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge upon the people in consequence of sin.”
What is wrong with the Church? The answer to that question is found in a mirror. I am what is wrong with the Church. You are what is wrong with the Church. We are what is wrong in the Church. We fail to take God’s call to holiness seriously. According to the polls, the lifestyle of Catholics is indistinguishable from that of the worldlings. In regard to the moral law, Catholics and worldlings hold the same view, if not the practice, of contraception, of divorce, of abortion, of homosexual activity and of gender ideology. Worse of all, is the fact that the Church’s constant and authentic teaching and beliefs on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, on the sacraments, on the Marian dogmas, and on moral issues are either rejected by or unknown to even practicing Catholics. The sense of the “sacred”, which has always been the hallmark of Catholic worship, is lost. It is no longer possible to spend quiet time in prayer after Mass. The current behaviour of church goers coupled with their noise level that follows the recessional hymn matches that which one would expect at a sports event. Christ, if He is still present in the sanctuary, is no longer the focus of worship. The Wuhan pandemic, with the imposed isolation and seizure of our religious liberties, should induce us into self-reflection, which, hopefully, would impel us into lighting candles rather than cursing the darkness.
Up until this moment, it is pretty evident that, generally speaking, God is, in reality, a low priority in the lives of people, in our own lives and in that of our family. This reality was generated by a multitude of factors which include, spiritual sloth, time wasting, addiction to technical gadgets, toleration of habitual sin, silence in the face of sin, error and evil, lack of true devotion, and compromises with the world and lack of modesty as evidenced, not only on the High Street but, also, by the casual way many Catholic dress for Mass. This is further compounded by the corybantic pursuit of money, of material possessions, of worldly honour and social recognition.
Reforming our lives
In 1916, the children of Fatima were visited on three occasions by an angel who identified himself in his first apparition as the Angel of Portugal and asked them to pray.
In his second apparition, the angel indicated the necessity of sacrifices:
“Pray, pray very much, the hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on us. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High.”
“How?” asked Lucia.
“Make a sacrifice of everything you do and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended and in supplication for the conversation of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country.”
In the third apparition, the angel emphasized the importance of sacrifice when he taught the children the prayer:
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly and I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences with which He Himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of thee the conversion of poor sinners.”
When Our Lady appeared to the children in July 1917, She reinforced what the angel had told them:
“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
When asked, in 1946, what Our Lady meant by sacrifices, Sister Lucia replied:
“By sacrifice, Our Lady meant the faithful fulfilment of one’s daily duty … the rosary is important because we must pray it if we are to fulfil our daily duty … the five First Saturdays Devotion is also important because if people make them, they will purge themselves of sin once a month, and renew their purpose to fulfil their daily duty.”
She later added,
“all that God wishes in the way of mortification is the simple, dutiful performance of one’s everyday tasks, and the acceptance of their difficulty and tedium … many people imagine that penitence means the practice of great austerities and, as they have neither the strength, nor the generosity to undertake such austerities, they are discouraged and fall into a life of indifference and sin.”
Our Lord said to me “the sacrifice that each one can make is to do his duty and to obey My law. That is a form of penance I now demand.”
There are many sacrifices we can offer to God: our weariness, humiliations, disappointments, frustrations, tensions, misunderstandings, the weather when it is not to our liking. All of these, no matter how small, can be turned to our advantage by offering them to God while praying the sacrifice prayer that Our Lady taught, remembering that it is not so much the size of the offering which counts, but the readiness with which it is given.
The onus of ridding the world of this pandemic rests entirely on us. The Scriptures are replete with examples from which lessons can be learnt. Nineveh repented and was spared from destruction, while Sodom and Gomorrah remained in their sin and were destroyed.
The prophet Daniel, recognizing the misfortune of the Babylonian Captivity was the consequence of sin, lamented the fact there was no longer any place to make “offerings, sacrifices and oblation” to God and, instead, begged him to accept humble and contrite hearts. Likewise David, recognizing the enormity of his sin and, there was no sacrifice that could erase it, begged God to accept a humble and contrite heart. Therefore, in order to alleviate the burden imposed by the Wuhan pandemic, we ought first to turn to God with a humble and contrite heart.
At Fatima Our Lady gave us the prescription for reforming our lives thus:
- Stop offending God;
- Cultivate a spirit of sacrifice and mortification;
- Diligently work and duly pray;
- Pray the Rosary daily;
- Observe the First Saturday devotions;
- Consecrate oneself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary;
- Wear and live the spirit of the Brown Scapular.
When God sees the efforts of His people to turn away from their sin, He is always eager to relent and welcome home the prodigal. Our sincere repentance and genuine efforts to change will draw from His merciful Heart the blessing of having “shepherds after His own heart”. (Jer. 3:15) These shepherds will in turn be willing and ready to consecrate Russia in fulfilment of the request made at Fatima. Russia will be converted and God will bless us with an era of peace.
If the Lord willed this pandemic to get our attention, it is certainly time to turn from our iniquities, to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness”, (Mt. 6:33) lest we fall into pits of regret.
We are living in a terrible hour of chastisement which may, yet, become one of great mercy if we look to Mary, Star of the Sea, to guide us through the tempest. For nearly 200 years, She has shown much compassion for sinful humanity, obtaining for us stupendous miracles, beginning at Rue du Bac with the Miraculous Medal through to the Dance of the Sun at Fatima. Her motherly compassion is inexhaustible and she assures us that the consecration of Russia will be done, that Russia will be converted, that Her Immaculate Heart will triumph and that we will be blessed with an era of peace.