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Our Lady Of Fatima… The July Apparition And Subsequent Controversies

August 13, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By FR. SEAN CONNOLLY

(Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of articles on the one hundredth anniversary of our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima. Fr. Connolly is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. Part six, because of its length, will appear in two separate issues of The Wanderer.)

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While recognizing the significance of the “Miracle of the Sun” in October 1917 where our Lady provided a sign proving the veracity of the Fatima event, her July appearance is the most important of all her apparitions to the three shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta.
In the July apparition our Lady delivered the core of her message with many serious warnings of what was to come with the promise of hope in the ultimate triumph of her Immaculate Heart. (1)
A professor of Mariology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Rev. Dr. Mark Miravalle, designates the present era of the Church as the “Age of Mary” on account of the historically unparalleled events of Church-approved apparitions ranging from the appearance of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in 1830 in Paris to more contemporary apparitions such as what took place in Akita, Japan in 1973. (2)
Miravalle declares the Fatima apparition of July to be the single most important revelation of this entire Marian Age for it establishes: “the quintessential importance of devotion to the Immaculate Heart; a vision of Hell; the conditional chastisements that would fall upon humanity during the twentieth century; the request for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart, and the promise of eventual victory with the ‘Triumph’ of her Immaculate Heart.” (3)
In her later detailing of the July apparition, Sr. Lucia divided the message of our Lady into three parts which she called “secrets.” Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, summarizes well how the revelation of the message slowly unfolded over the course of many years:
“She [Lucia] explained the first two secrets in one of her memoirs on August 31, 1941, and she made some additions to this text on December 8, 1941. She wrote about the Third Secret under the date of January 3, 1944. She stated that she did so ‘by order of His Excellency, the Bishop of Leiria, and the Most Holy Mother.’ This separate manuscript was placed into a sealed envelope, which was initially kept in the custody of Bishop da Silva of Leiria. On April 4, 1957, the unopened envelope was placed in the secret archives of the Holy Office at the Vatican.
“This extreme confidentiality led to a great deal of speculation and conjecture about the contents of the Third Secret, which were finally revealed by Pope John Paul II at the Mass of Beatification of Francisco and Jacinta Marto in the Cova da Iria on May 13, 2000.” (4)
Let us now review the message delivered by our Lady on July 13, 1917.
On the evening of July 12, Lucia resolved not to return to the Cova da Iria. The ridicule of others and the horrible doubt placed in her mind by the well-intentioned parish priest of Fatima, Fr. Manuel Ferreira, that this all might be “a trick of the devil,” was too much for her to bear. But when she awoke on the morning of July 13, the appointed day for our Lady’s next appearance, she felt an almost irresistible force compelling her to go. (5)
The encouragement of her younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, must have helped greatly as well. At the last minute she joined them and they set out together for the place of the apparitions. When they arrived, there was, quite amazingly, a crowd of four to five thousand people already present praying the rosary. (6)
After the customary flash of light our Lady appeared again over the holmoak tree. The following from Sr. Lucia’s memoirs summarizes what was communicated to the children in the first two parts, or “secrets,” of the July apparition:
“ ‘What do you want of me?’ I [Lucia] asked.
“ ‘I want you to come here on the 13th of the next month, to continue to pray the rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only she can help you. . . .
“ ‘Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’
“As our Lady spoke these last words, she opened her hands once more, as she had done during the two previous months. The rays of light seemed to penetrate the Earth, and we saw, as it were, a sea of fire. 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 huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made use tremble with fear. (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me.)
“The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. Terrified and as if to plead for succor, we looked up at our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and sadly:
“ ‘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 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 will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world. . . .
“ ‘When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need’.” (7)
These first two secrets were revealed in 1941 by Lucia in her memoirs after she had become a cloistered nun. They concern the vision of Hell and our Lady’s warnings about the Second World War and the evils of Communism, respectively.
By order of the bishop of Leiria and with the permission of the Blessed Virgin herself, Sr. Lucia wrote down the third part or “secret,” of our Lady’s message during the July apparition in 1944. Fr. Apostoli details the composition and storing of the Third Secret:
“She [Lucia] did not write the Third Secret in one of her memoirs as she did the first two secrets; rather she wrote it as a separate, single manuscript which she then placed into a sealed envelope. The sealed envelope was initially kept in the custody of Bishop da Silva of Leiria. To ensure better protection of the Third Secret, shortly before his death, the Bishop transferred the envelope to the secret archives of the Holy Office in Rome on April 4, 1957, and he informed Sr. Lucia that this transfer had taken place.” (8)
At some point, the envelope was kept in Pope Pius XII’s private apartment though it is highly likely but not certain, that he never read its contents. (9)
On the outside of the envelope Sr. Lucia wrote that it could be opened either by the patriarch of Lisbon or the bishop of Leiria in 1960 and made Bishop da Silva promise that it would be read to the world either at her death or in 1960, whichever came first. (10)
When all this was revealed to the public, a tremendous amount of expectation and curiosity grew among the faithful that only heightened as 1960 drew near. Many were bewildered and scandalized at the decision then of Pope St. John XXIII not to reveal the Third Secret. Even more distressing was a Vatican press release on February 8, 1960 which stated that “it is most probable that the Secret of Fatima will remain, forever, under absolute seal.” (11)
Like his Predecessor, Pope Paul VI did not disclose the secret after reading it either. It must be stated, however, that when Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, then an archbishop and secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, interviewed Sr. Lucia in 2000, he asked whether our Lady had set the date of 1960 for the revelation of the Third Secret.
“It was not Our Lady,” Sr. Lucia replied. “I fixed the date because I had the intuition that before 1960 it would not be understood. Now it can be better understood. I wrote down what I saw; however, it was not for me to interpret it, but for the Pope.” (12)
But at the time, the general belief of the public was that it was our Lady herself, who indicated that the secret must be revealed in 1960. With the secret withheld, speculation of its content only grew, often identifying it with all sorts of cataclysms, nuclear disasters, and understandably due to the turbulent times the Church endured in the post Second Vatican Council era, a crisis within the Church and a loss of faith.
Such speculation was bolstered by Sr. Lucia in various letters often referring to contemporary times as being plagued by a “diabolical disorientation” where evil is spread under the guise of good. (13) In the tumultuous times of the 1960s, this is precisely what faithful Catholics experienced as they had to endure an advancement of lukewarmness at best and heresy at worst from the pulpits of too many parishes and the classrooms of too many Catholic universities and seminaries.

John Paul II

At last, the third part of the July 13, 1917 message, known as the Third Secret of Fatima, was revealed by Pope St. John Paul II. The release of the Third Secret was announced at the beatification Mass of Francisco and Jacinta on May 13, 2000 and was revealed to the public on June 28 of that same year. It 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 splendor that Our Lady radiated toward 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’ and other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious 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 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, men and women Religious, 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” (14)

FOOTNOTES

1) Andrew Apostoli, Fatima for Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), p. 55.
2) Mark Miravalle, Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing, 2006), p. 189.
3) Ibid., pp. 195-196.
4) Apostoli, p. 56.
5) Joseph Pelletier, Fatima: Hope of the World (Worcester, MA: Washington Press, 1954), p. 11.
6) Apostoli, p. 56. cf. Pelletier, p. 11.
7) Lucia dos Santos quoted in: Miravalle, pp. 196-198.
8) Apostoli, p. 210.
9) Michel de la Saint Trinité, The Whole Truth About Fatima: The Third Secret (Buffalo, NY: Immaculate Heart Publications, 1985), pp. 486-488.
10) Ibid., pp. 210-211.
11) Michel de la Saint Trinité, p. 579.
12) Apostoli, p. 211.
13) Michel de la Saint Trinité, p. 841.
14) Lucia dos Santos quoted in: Miravalle, p. 202.

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