Fatima, A Mystery Explained?
After John Paul II’s request on May 13, 2000, the third part of the secret of Fatima was published the following June 26. This was without a doubt a grace for our times, and we must take advantage of it.
Upon reading the text, one immediately grasps the meaning of the images in the “third secret”. Is not the angel of God’s wrath, brandishing the fiery sword, a reminder to all that God is not mocked, that sin, which goes against the respect due to God and His works, calls out to Heaven for vengeance (Micheas 5:14)?
What an appropriate reminder for our times that in seeking to exalt God’s fatherly love have in fact denatured it by despising His justice. St. Paul, the apostle of grace, warned already in his day: “Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with the angels of His power, in a flame of fire, giving vengeance to them who know not God, and who obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 1:8).
Our Lady alone, at once Immaculate and a refuge for sinners, contains the exercise of this divine justice for the time being; a ray of immaculate light is seen to come out of her hand and paralyze the avenging intentions of the angel; hence the particular importance, in our days of atheism and universal relativism, of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But the alternative is nonetheless decisive. Radical conversion (Penance! Penance! Penance!) is the only remedy for eternal damnation, as the following verses of the Epistle to the Thessalonians recalls: “They shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (II Thess. 1:9).
The Limits of the Official Interpretation
Despite the clarity of the first scenes, the “third secret” remains quite obscure as a whole, hence the explanation that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith added to the lines by Sister Lucia. However, this “attempt” is scarcely convincing: the synthetic vision of the 20th century presented to the reader omits facts as important as Nazism and the rise of Islamism, and fails to explain the phrases Sister Lucia added to her 4th Memoir: “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, etc. Do not tell this to anyone. Yes, you can tell Francisco.” An essential phrase with regards to the meaning of the third secret, since the Carmelite, one day in 1943, declared to the bishop of Leiria that in a way, these words alone contained the entire third secret (cf. Fr. Alonso, The Secret of Fatima: Fact and Legend, Madrid 1976, p. 64).
Besides, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the prudence of the terms used, recognized the limits of what it called an “attempt to interpret”. Many questions, each more relevant than the last, were raised in efforts to make this analysis correspond with everything the experts know about Fatima. We shall mention only one: when explaining why the “third secret” was only to be revealed in 1960, Sister Lucia said that “at this date it would be clearer.” In what way did Communism’s persecution of the Church, already so clear with the events that shook Spain in 1936, become clearer in 1960? How could John XXIII, in the middle of the Cuban crisis, have said in the presence of Cardinal Ottaviani, “This does not have to do with the years of my pontificate”? (Fr. Alonso, The Secret of Fatima: Fact and Legend)
In reality, Cardinal Ratzinger’s text paradoxically raised more problems than it was meant to resolve, mostly because of what it left unsaid. All these questions began with the key for interpreting the secret mentioned by Cardinal Bertone in his historical introduction. According to the letter that the seer of Fatima addressed to the Pope on May 12, 1982, the vision contained in the third secret described the evils that would befall the Church if she did not consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in a collegial act. In her letter, the Carmelite of Coïmbra’s intention was to denounce the consecration that John Paul II was going to pronounce the following day: this consecration did not fulfill Heaven’s requests, for two reasons; the consecration would be accomplished by the pope alone, independently of the episcopate, and its purpose was to place the entire world under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and not Russia in particular. After this “call to order”, John Paul II, in union with all the bishops of the world, pronounced a second consecration on March 25, 1984: “In a special way we entrust and consecrate to you those individuals and nations which particularly need to be thus entrusted and consecrated.”
Despite the absence of an explicit mention of Russia, was this consecration enough to transform the third secret from the threat for the future that it was into a key for interpreting the past? Such would seem to be the opinion of Cardinal Ratzinger:
The events to which the third part of the ‘secret' of Fatima refers now seem part of the past”; and to back this opinion he quoted the lines Sister Lucia wrote on November 8, 1989: 'Yes it has been done just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984.'
What Cardinal Bertone does not mention is that on March 12, 1984, Sister Lucia, after reading the text of the consecration, declared to Senhora Pestana, one of her old friends: “This consecration cannot have a decisive character.”
On April 25, 1986, to a question from her cousin who asked her in the parlor if the consecration had been done, she answered “No” in the presence of several witnesses.
In May of 1989, Sister Lucia confirmed to Cardinal Law, the archbishop of Boston, “No, it has not been done.” The absence of the fruits promised by the Blessed Virgin in return for this consecration – the conversion of Russia to Catholicism and a time of peace – seem to confirm these repeated statements.
What, then of her sentence on November 8? Was it a more or less extorted recognition, in the euphoria of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the apparent collapse of Communism? Whatever the case may be, it seems difficult, in the present conditions, to base the entire interpretation of the third secret on this simple phrase.
A Partially Revealed Secret?
This is doubtless the reason for which certain specialists on Fatima (I am not one of them), given the obscurity of the visions described, believe the Blessed Virgin herself must have given an interpretation for this vision with some introductory words that were not revealed by the Vatican. As bold as this hypothesis may be, it does have some convincing arguments in its favor.
Take the famous phrase added by Lucia to her 4th Memoir, after the transcription of the 2nd secret: “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, etc. Do not tell this to anyone. Yes, you can tell Francisco.” These words, that are not reported in the interpretation document, seemed unimportant until June 26. However, say those who stand by this theory, they cannot be disregarded. Indeed, in all of the apparitions, Francisco always saw, but never heard the heavenly words. Now Our Lady said, speaking of the 3rd part of the secret (cf. Sister Lucia’s “etc.” after the sentence of the Faith being preserved), “Yes, you can tell Francisco.” Does this not go to show that the third part of the secret included not only the description of the vision but also formal words from the Blessed Virgin?
To give further credit to their theory, these specialists also cite the press release from the Vatican on February 8, 1960, through the intermediary of the Portuguese press agency ANI, announcing that the secret would not be published. The third reason given for not publishing the text was: “Although the Church recognizes the apparitions of Fatima, she does not wish to take on the responsibility of guaranteeing the veracity of the words that the three shepherd children said the Virgin had spoken to them.”
Fatima and St. John Bosco
For my part, as important as they may be, I fear that these interrogations on what may not have been said might turn our attention away from the text that was revealed. Should not this vision be the first object of our attention for the time being, revealed as it is by the Church? Indeed, it is full of intense, grave, obscure images. But many of the expressions used remind me nonetheless of St. John Bosco’s famous dreams. A sorrowful procession whose members belong to every rank in the Church, an afflicted pope crossing a city in ruins in the midst of corpses, armed enemies attacking the Church, two consoling angels, the death of the supreme head of the Church: so many images that the holy dreamer of Turin also saw, as these extracts, with which I shall end, show:
Now the voice from Heaven addresses the Pastor of pastors: 'You are in the great Conference with your Assessors, but the enemy of the good does not rest for a moment. He is studying and deploying every device against you; he will raise up enemies from among my sons. The powers of this world will vomit fire and will stifle the words of those who guard my law. It will not be.’
Then were to be seen a crowd of men, women, children, old men, monks, nuns and priests, and at their head the Sovereign Pontiff, leaving the Vatican and forming in procession. Then a violent storm broke, noticeably overshadowing the light, and seeming to begin a battle between it and the shadows. The procession crossed a small square that was strewn with dead and wounded; some of them asked for help while the ranks of the procession thinned out considerably. Having walked for a period corresponding to two hundred sunrises, they all noticed that they were no longer in Rome. Fear seized hold of their minds and each one pressed round the Pope in order to protect his person and to help him in his troubles. At that moment, two angels could be seen presenting the Pope with a standard […]. The pope began to walk and the ranks of the procession began to grow. When he entered into the holy city, he began to weep at the desolation in which he found the inhabitants, many of whom were no longer alive […].” “[…] The enemies [of the Church] became furious and fought with close weapons, proffering blasphemies and curses. All of a sudden, the pope was gravely wounded and fell with honor. Assisted with great care, he was struck a second time, fell again and died.