Ignatius Press has recently published Fatima Mysteries: Mary’s Message to the Modern Age , by Grzegorz Górny and Janusz Rosikon. This is an oversize, coffee-table-type book, 400 pages containing over a thousand colorful photos, paintings, posters, clips, etc.
Another book about Fatima? The basic facts about the 1917 apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima are well known, from books like Fr. Andrew Apostoli’s Fatima for Today , William Walsh’s classic Our Lady of Fatima , and many others.
This week, we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the apparitions, however, and Fatima Mysteries goes much further, filling in historical details and contexts, as well as numerous corollary effects and events adeptly interwoven, up to the present. World War I and its effects on Portugal, the contemporary October revolution in Russia, as well as Masonic and other anti-Catholic movements, supply the background for Our Lady’s appearance to the three children in Fatima.
The warning at Fatima about World War II, the strenuous efforts of popes to deal with the human catastrophes, the incredible massacres and atrocities perpetrated under the aegis of Communist “brotherhood,” are described in conjunction with Sr. Lucia of Fatima’s ongoing efforts to convince the world to use remedies offered by the Virgin, as well as to convince popes to carry out the requested consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Pope Pius XII took tentative, but incomplete, steps to carry out this consecration. And dramatic developments took place during the 1960s at Vatican II, as hundreds of bishops who advocated the consecration of Russia were sidelined by the Vatican’s subdued Ostpolitik towards the USSR and by the presence of Russian Orthodox hierarchs who had been invited to the Council.
Finally, Pope John Paul II, after consulting with Sr. Lucia and working with political movements in Poland and joining with President Reagan to loosen the grip of the Soviets, made the consecration after experiencing what he considered to be Mary’s rescue from an assassin’s bullet.
The Consecration took place as Soviets were planning an attack on Europe after Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Holland, and Belgium agreed to accept American medium-range missiles in 1983. But on May 13 after the Consecration, an accident at the Severomorsk naval base caused most of the anti-aircraft missiles to explode, leaving the Soviet Northern Fleet without its strike capacity.
Fatima Mysteries also offers insights into facts and incidents not generally known. A few days after the great Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, St. Maximilian Kolbe finalized his goal of establishing the Militia Immaculata, dedicated to evangelizing the world with special emphasis on total consecration to Mary.
Meanwhile, newspapers around the world were mesmerized by “fake news” about life under Communism as a workers’ paradise. The Spanish painter Salvador Dali, commissioned by the World Apostolate of Fatima to portray the vision of hell witnessed by the three children, returned to his Catholic faith.
Fatima activists in Austria were successful in bringing about the removal of Soviet troops from that country. And at the same time that Pope John Paul II was carrying out the 1984 consecration in Rome, Bishop Pavel Hnilica (who had traveled surreptitiously to the Kremlin in civilian clothes) joined in the pope’s consecration along with Fr. Leo Maasburg at the Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Moscow, and repeated the consecration at the Church of the Dormition (Assumption) of Our Lady. Using hosts and water and wine in aspirin bottles, he and Fr. Maasburg were able to say Mass inconspicuously behind an open copy of the Soviet newspaper Pravda.
These are just a sampling of the historical occurrences that the authors interweave with the message of Fatima and portray as elements of the Fatima “mysteries,” orchestrated by divine providence. But I cannot help mentioning other factors that seem mysterious – or at least puzzling:
- The identity of the angel who appeared to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco prior to the apparitions of Our Lady. In the Spring of 1916, he identifies himself as the “Angel of Peace.” But in the summer visitation, he says he is the “Angel of Portugal.” Fr. Andrew Apostoli and other authors refer to this as the “second visit” of the first angel. Shouldn’t the two angels be distinguished?
- Our Lady assured Sr. Lucia that Portugal would “never lose the Faith.” But recent estimates of Mass attendance of Catholics in Portugal hover around 20 percent, and Portugal along with other EU countries has legalized abortion, as well as divorce and gay marriage. This seems problematic, and Sr. Lucia herself presents concerns about “the Faith” in Portugal in her book, A Pathway under the Gaze of Mary: “If Portugal does not approve abortion, then it is safe, but if approved it will have much to suffer.”
- During the May apparition, Lucia asked Our Lady about two friends who had died, Maria and Amelia. Mary answered that Maria was in heaven, but Amelia would be in purgatory until the end of the world. Fr. Apostoli comments that Amelia was between 18 and 20 years old when she died “in circumstances involving immoral behavior.” Even Lucia’s 10-year-old cousin, Francisco, would have to “say many rosaries” before entering into heaven. Certainly, such admonitions will cause many of us to wonder how we can attain the state of purification necessary to avoid purgatory.
- Finally, consider Our Lady’s mysterious comment to Lucia concerning the arrest of the three children in August 1917, by Arturo Santos, the administrator of the district of Vila Nova de Ourem: “She stressed that the scientifically ‘impossible’ miracle on October 13, 1917 would have been greater,” but was prevented by the lack of faith. I find it almost impossible to imagine a greater miracle than having the sun gyrating and sweeping down over the earth.
But needless to say, the greatest mystery connected with Fatima, is the forthcoming predicted conversion of Russia, which – to put it mildly – is still a “work in progress.”