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Guadalupe, Fatima, And Catholic Culture

November 22, 2016 Featured Today No Comments


The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe falls on December 12, and reminds us of the important series of apparitions to Juan Diego in Mexico, in 1531. The Blessed Virgin asked him to go to the local bishop, Bishop Zumárraga, with a request that a ‘little house’ be built for her.
After trying unsuccessfully to see the bishop, Juan Diego eventually returned to him with his cactus fiber outer garment, or tilma, filled with out-of-season flowers, which the beautiful lady had pointed out to him. When he came into the presence of the bishop, Juan Diego opened the tilma and let the flowers fall to the floor.
But what captivated the bishop and his entourage was the miraculous Image of Guadalupe on the Tilma, which has been preserved now in Mexico for nearly five centuries, although such fiber garments usually disintegrate within twenty years.
The consequences of the apparitions at Guadalupe were truly astounding. One of the early Franciscan Fathers, Toribio de Benavente, known as Motolinia or the “poor little one,” claimed as early as 1537, only six years after Guadalupe, that nine million Aztecs had been baptized.
The magnitude of this achievement becomes clear when it is realized that the evangelization of other Spanish and Portuguese possessions took centuries. It is all the more amazing since there had been a real threat of an uprising by the Aztecs against their Spanish conquerors just prior to our Lady appearing to Juan Diego. Spanish explorers had begun to colonize the Caribbean area after the discovery of the Americas in 1492, but it was not until 1519 that the Aztec empire, in what is now Mexico, was conquered by Cortés.
His small force managed to defeat the much larger Aztec forces under their emperor Montezuma, and put a stop to the endless flow of blood demanded by the dire religion of human sacrifice practiced by the Aztecs. Obviously, this dramatic intervention in history by our Lady points to her incredible intercessory power before the throne of God.
And Guadalupe, and succeeding Marian apparitions, such as those at Rue du Bac, La Salette, and Lourdes in France in the 19th century, and particularly Fatima in Portugal in the early 20th century, all show that the Blessed Virgin’s role in both the Church and world history is of paramount importance.
But we can learn another crucial lesson from what followed Guadalupe and these other apparitions. The mass conversions of Aztecs established Catholicism as the religion of Mexico, and after the French Revolution, in 1789, our Lady’s appearances in France certainly rejuvenated the Church there after the depredations of the Revolution.
The miracles performed at Lourdes made a particular impact on people’s minds, although there were also great 19th-century French saints such as St. John Vianney, St. Bernadette, and St. Therese of Lisieux at work, and also many new religious orders were founded. All of this contributed to the great revival of the French Church which took place at this time.
And likewise, following Fatima, and particularly the Miracle of the Sun on October 13, 1917, Portuguese society was slowly but surely transformed from a situation of coups, violence, and persecution of the Church, to one where, by 1942, Christian principles were once more widely accepted, and Cardinal Cerejeira, the patriarch of Lisbon, could say that what had happened in the country was a miracle.
What these historical episodes show is that genuine Marian devotion and practice are capable of changing history, and that our Lady’s interventions have not just been to promote pious practices such as the rosary. That is, such devotion has shown itself capable of changing the culture of particular societies, often in quite a dramatic way.
Coming back to Guadalupe, what happened there is very instructive if we are to change the culture of American and European society, and indeed Western society generally, so that it gets back to its Christian roots.
The Conquistadors were victorious against the Aztecs in 1519, and stopped the sacrificial killing of victims of the diabolical religion then current, but they were not able to change the culture of Aztec society to any great degree. There were conversions to the Church, such as in the case of Juan Diego, but they were slow in coming, and as indicated above, there was a danger of a rebellion of the Aztecs against the their new Spanish masters shortly before our Lady appeared in 1531.
It was those apparitions and their consequences which gradually changed the culture in Mexico, and that change clearly would not have happened without the Blessed Virgin’s intervention — God does not multiply miracles unnecessarily and if Mexico could have been converted without such an intervention then He would have undoubtedly been content to let events unfold in the normal way. And the same is true of the interventions in France and Fatima.

Promote The Rosary

So what does mean for our own “culture war”? Well, it would clearly seem to indicate that if we don’t include our Lady in our evangelizing efforts then they are not going to be sufficient to overcome the present culture of death. If she was required to overcome dangerous situations in previous centuries, how much more now when the world has grown so much more sophisticated in its evildoing?
But looking around, it is sadly the case that quite often Catholics, and even good Catholics, are content to pay lip service to the role of our Lady, while actually putting their confidence in programs of evangelization and so forth, or other factors, which without her, as recent history demonstrates, have been largely without effect.
This is not to say that these things are bad, just that they are obviously not sufficient to overcome the deadly forces now controlling Western society. It is, above all, a spiritual battle we are engaged in, and we must take up spiritual weapons if we are to succeed. And this even applies to the pro-life movement — as good and as necessary as it is, of itself, it will not change our present corrupt culture.
Organizations such as 40 Days for Life are increasingly showing the crucial role of prayer and particularly the rosary, in preventing abortion, but even if it were outlawed in the West tomorrow, that would not change the secular mentality which underpins the anti-life position.
Just as the fact that Cortés and his followers, in halting the terrible bloodshed of the Aztec religion of human sacrifice did not change Aztec culture at its most basic level, so something more is needed if our anti-God culture is to be converted back to Christ.
It can be argued that that “something more” is a wholehearted adoption of the Message of Our Lady of Fatima as given in 1917, and particularity the promotion of the rosary and the adoption of the Five First Saturdays devotion on as wide a scale as possible among Catholics.
The Miracle of the Sun was the greatest miracle since the Resurrection and points to the crucial importance of the message given by our Lady, and the urgent need to take it much more seriously, as the centenary of the apparitions approaches.
We have to change the culture, just as the Church changed the culture of the Roman Empire after it collapsed, in a process which led to the growth and flourishing of Christendom, the medieval Catholic religious society which became dominant in Europe, and also in the way that Mexican society was transformed in the 16th century.
One thing is certain — without an active reliance on our Lady, the Church will continue to struggle, whereas with her, we have the assurance that in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph and a period of peace will be given to the world.

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(Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related website at He has also a written a time-travel/adventure book for young people — details can be found at:

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