Last Friday, Pope Francis consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. My previous post spoke of why Christians love Mary so much. Understanding the love for the Mother of Jesus still leaves many wondering about the Fatima story, what consecration means, and how a 100+ year old prophecy applies to our world today. There is no way to convey the beauty of what happened in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, but I will briefly explain the facts to the best of my ability.
What Is the Fatima Story?
On May 13, 1917 in Fatima, Portugal three shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta, received a visitation from Mother Mary. Mary called herself The Lady of the Rosary and continued to visit the children on the 13th of each month for several months. Only one visit was missed from that May through October. This missed visit occurred because the children were kidnapped and threatened with torture and death unless they admitted to lying about the apparitions. Even under such terrifying conditions, none of the three conceded. What must have been a horrendous experience for them, God used for good by using it to help bring credence to their proclamations.
During her visits, Mary told the children to make reparations for sin and to pray. She asked them to pray the Rosary, which is a Scriptural walk through the life of Jesus, in particular. The children were also given other prayers, including the Fatima Prayer (These will be included in my next post).
The children were also given three secrets. The first was a terrifying vision of Hell. For a horrifying split second, these young children saw many souls suffering in Hell because no one prays for poor sinners anymore. The second revelation foretold the end of World War I, and the knowledge that, if the world did not change its ways, make reparations for sins against God, and devote itself to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, another, worse war, World War II, would soon follow. They were told that God would allow punishment of mankind through war.
To avoid this, the children were told to have the Pope consecrate Russia to Mary’s Immaculate Heart and to have people pray the Rosary, keep first Saturday devotions, and pray and do penance among other things. Failure to do so, would lead to atrocities beyond those that occurred in WWII, the persecution and suffering of many good people, and an annihilation of nations.
The third secret was kept hidden from the public for decades but has to do with a vision of the Pope climbing a mountain to reach a Cross. It is a bloody, climb with much pain and death. Mary promised that in the end Portugal would keep its faith and her Immaculate Heart would triumph.
Skeptics of Fatima
Word of the apparitions spread throughout the world. Doubters began to note the strength, courage, faith, honesty, and selflessness these young, peasant children showed when harassed. Skeptics saw the children’s unwavering dedication to The Lady even when faced with imprisonment and threats of pain and death. They noticed the children used words like Consecration and spoke of Russia and things poor, country children in a pre-internet world could not have known of on their own.
The children continued to meet the Beautiful Lady, and believers and skeptics alike came to Fatima to see for themselves. Finally, Mary told the children she would send a sign, and, on October 13, 1917, approximately 70,000 people gathered in this little country town to see a miracle or to confirm their doubt for themselves. Rain poured down and many said the Lady would not appear in such weather. They scoffed at the children and their beliefs.
Then, suddenly, the sun “danced!” It swirled in the sky and swung to the earth. Those gathered thought they would be burned alive, but instead, the sun dried the mud from the road, the rain from their clothes, and wetness from the countryside.
This moment changed the hearts of those who saw it, and I encourage you to research original statements made by skeptics and reporters.
Science may try to explain the dancing, swirling away. That is good. Science should be free to explore and question with an open-mind and no preset agenda. What science cannot explain away though, even if it comes up with a plausible “sun dancing phenomena” is how three small, impoverished, uneducated children from a tiny town in Portugal could have known the dancing sun would occur at this day and time or how they could gather 70,000 people there to witness it.
In one form or another, miracles occurred that day!
Today’s Commercialism of Fatima
Some refuse to believe in Fatima because of what they’ve seen there today. Distractions pull us away from God, and modern day Fatima is certainly full of distraction.
It’s easy to imagine the chaos that broke out after the miracle of the sun. It’s harder to imagine the transformation that occurred in that countryside since 1917. With 70,000 people witnessing such an awe-inspiring event, the message of Fatima spread around the world. Not all who came left; countless others came later for the chance to stand where a celestial miracle took place. Tens of thousands still arrive today! Tourism made this a perfect place for many to earn their living in selling Fatima souvenirs.
The separation of time makes man lose focus on God’s plans and turn to his own needs and desires. This is the story of our collective and indivudal fallen human history. We see it in Moses and the golden calf, in King David and Bathsheba, and in vendors who set up shop around Fatima. People have to make a living and well meaning, devout souls as well as nefarious ones came to Fatima to take advantage of Mary’s miracle.
Sadly, this hurts those who have gone to the shrine of our Lady of Fatima with hope in their hearts. Instead of the spiritual renewal they were afraid to hope for, these seekers saw commercialism and materialism. They saw vendors and moneychangers similar to what Jesus must have seen in the temple when he threw over the tables.
It is no surprise that vendors take advantage of Marian apparitions wherever they appear. This does not mean Fatima, or other approved apparitions, lose spiritual significance. It does not invalidate what actually happened. It does not lessen the beauty of what was presented or the horror of what will happen if Russia does not convert or our brothers and sisters do not repent and instead choose to spend an eternity in Hell. We can never base our faith in God on the quality of those in or around a place, person, or event. We must always focus on the Will and Love of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Objections to this Consecration
Beyond a hardness of one’s heart and the distraction of commercialism, the main objective to Pope Francis’ consecration of Russia is that some feel Russia was already consecrated by previous popes.
It is true that past popes have offered a consecration similar to the one Our Lady asked for; however there are debates about whether the requirements were met as requested by God through Mary. The Consecration was to be done in a certain way. The Consecrating Pope was to specifically mention Russia, but past popes have been reluctant to do so. There are various branches of Catholicism. The Roman Catholic Church is the one Americans are most familiar with. The Eastern Orthodox Church is the one most Russians are familiar with. Past popes have been reluctant to consecrate Russia in particular for fear of isolating or angering Eastern Orthodox Catholics who might take such a Consecration as a sign that they were looked down on or seen as not as holy as other branches.
Another reason some doubt whether past Consecrations are valid or not is because the pope was not to do the Consecration alone. He was to have the bishops of the world join him. Imagine the powerful message all those voices raised in unison would send to Heaven and to the world! Past popes did not have all the bishops fo the world do this either for one reason or another.
These may seem like small details, but proper form is necessary and is seen throughout the Bible, doctrine, our Sacraments, and more. Proper form is not legalism. It is more like following the recipe to bake a cake. If I want a delicious, good-looking cake, I cannot put the icing on before I bake it. No matter how much we try to deny it, often how things are done is at least as important as getting them done.
Conclusion – Our Lady of Fatima and the Consecration of Russia
There is much debate therefore as to whether past consecrations were valid or not. I will share my thoughts on this and what our role in the Consecration of Russia is in my next post.
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