Well-meaning parents who attempt to talk to their children about Fatima are all too familiar with the glassy-eyed look, the sullen slouch or the increased volume on the iPod. Such reactions can sometimes demoralize and discourage apostles of the Fatima message.
We do not understand how youth can resist that which has so many benefits for their young lives—they respond that the Fatima message is “so, like, yesterday.”
All too often, the Fatima message is drowned in the torrent of indigested information swamping today’s teenagers. They are catatonically bombarded by unprocessed and useless trivia.
Tossed about by vivid emotional issues, they frequently
suffer from identity and relationship crises. Consequently, they see no value in Fatima’s story. It seems to them somewhat childish, mind-numbingly boring, and totally disconnected from
any of their problems. As apostles of the Fatima message, it is up to us to change that perception.
Our first difficulty is communication. A picture of Our Lady of Fatima or even the Rosary means little to some people.
They see no reason to pray at all. We need to somehow make the Fatima message relevant in their lives. On this 94th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, it is high time to get back to the basics.
We will only communicate the importance of the Fatima message if we remember why it is so important to us.
The Veracity of the Message
Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta were ten, nine and seven years old, respectively. They were normal children with the common faults of their age and the simple aspirations of Portuguese peasants.
The Mother of God suddenly disrupted this normality with difficult problems, serious requests and a message of conversion
or chastisement for the world.
The children’s ignorance and extreme youth were the first proofs of the authenticity of their claims. Our Lady spoke about war, politics and the pope.
Jacinta was so young she did not even know who the pope was. They were oblivious to the European crisis, and had only a vague notion of the war. They knew even less about moral problems.
Yet they spoke with conviction about things they had no means of knowing. Their story did not change under persecution. They were separated and questioned aggressively. Their account never differed. They were jailed and threatened with a horrible death. They never wavered.
Then came the most difficult trials— the test of popularity. indiscreet people asked them for relics, sometimes in exchange for sums of money. They remained serene, calm and unmoved.
Content and Scope of the Message
The essence of Our Lady’s Fatima message is the choice between conversion or chastisement. This message is very simple.
So simple, in fact, that Our Lady charged three uneducated children to spread it to the whole world. Already in 1945, TFP founder and ardent Fatima promoter Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira wrote about what was at stake:
At Fatima, Our Lady delivered revelations of a universal scope. Our Lady confided to three shepherd children the whole contemporary crisis with its deep roots in impiety and sin and its consequent cataclysms and convulsions. This message was not only aimed at Eastern European nations in order to bring them back to Christ. This message targeted rather the remnants of old Christendom, now steeped in a form of paganism worse than that of ancient times, for neo-pagans lack the excuse of ignorance that ancient pagans could have had. The ferment of western paganism is apostasy, a sin against the Holy Ghost, the deliberate and satanic pursuit of error for its own sake. It is against the heretics of today, divested of the last traces of Christianity, that we need missionaries.1
Indeed, Fatima addresses the problems of our time. Our apostolate will bear fruit to the degree we follow the methods Our
Lady used at Fatima. In this article we will look at three powerfully effective methods she used and apply them to our own apostolate today: contrast, denunciation and revival of the notion of sin.
Contrast Good with Evil
The three seers were normal, honest children but not yet saints. Francisco died two years after the apparitions, and Jacinta died one year later.
In this short time, these two children scaled the heights of sanctity. Father De Marchi, one of the best authors on Fatima, describes how a great transformation took place whereby these youngsters accomplished in a week what great saints did in a year.
He affirms that Our Lady herself became their spiritual director.
To achieve such an impressive transformation in such a short time, Our Lady employed the method of contrast. First, she dazzled them with the visions of the Angel of Portugal, “more brilliant than a crystal struck by the rays of the sun.” This angel strengthened them with Holy Communion and taught them the prayer “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee. I beg Thee forgiveness for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee.”
After the angel’s three visits, Our Lady herself appeared. Lucia describes her as “a lady dressed all in white more brilliant than the sun, shedding a light that was clearer and more intense than
that of a crystal goblet filled with crystalline water and struck by the rays of the most brilliant sun.”
During that first apparition, on May 13, 1917, Our Lady already asked them to sacrifice for sinners. As they agreed, She said, “Well then, you will have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be
Lucia continues, It was upon saying these last words, “the grace of God” that for the first time she opened her hands, which emitted a most intense light that penetrated our breasts, reaching
the innermost part of our souls and making us see ourselves in God, Who was that light, more clearly than we can see ourselves in the best of mirrors.
Then, driven by a deep inspiration, we knelt down and repeated
inwardly: “O Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee! My God, my God, I love Thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”
In this apparition Our Lady seems to have given them a glimpse of the beatific vision, which introduced into their hearts a burning desire for God and Heaven.
The Other Side of the Coin: Vision of Hell
On July 13, 1917, during the third apparition, Our Lady opened her hands again. A shaft of light issuing from them penetrated
the earth and the children saw Hell.
The vision was so terrible that they later said that had they not been promised Heaven they would have died of fright.
We saw as it were, a great fire; submerged in that fire were demons and souls in human shapes who resembled red-hot, black and bronze-colored embers that floated about in the blaze, borne by the flames that issued from them with clouds of smoke,
falling everywhere like the showering sparks of great blazes—with neither weight nor equilibrium—amidst the shrieks and groans of sorrow and despair that horrified us and made us shudder with fear.
The devils stood out like frightful and unknown animals with horrible and disgusting shapes, but transparent like black coals that have become red-hot.
At this apparition, Our Lady again asked the children to sacrifice for poor sinners. The contrast between the beauty of Heaven and the horror of Hell made the moral choice easier. The intense attraction to Heaven and the profound horror of Hell became the axis around which their souls began to revolve.
The contrast filled their young lives with a compelling meaning and purpose. The fruits were rapid and enduring. The change in these children was amazing. Given the contrast of Heaven and Hell, virtue and vice, salvation and damnation, they chose to help make a difference.
From then on, their thoughts turned to God, Our Lady and how to help save poor sinners. The children often went off alone to pray and think, gave up much fun and games and spent long hours before the Tabernacle saying their Rosaries. They were so focused on opposing sin that they felt increasingly freer and unashamed to practice good.
In an ever-growing spirit of sacrifice, they cheerfully accepted the news of their early deaths, offering them for the salvation of souls. Jacinta generously embraced the revelation that she would
die alone far from all her loved ones, which for a child is a very difficult thing. In a short time, they were transformed from normal children into heroic saints.
Today they are beatified and we pray that they be canonized soon.
Use Contrast in our Apostolate Following the example of the method Our Lady used, we should use this method of contrast for our apostolate. We should show the splendor of the truth, goodness and beauty of Christian culture and compare these to the harsh falsehood, evil and ugliness of Revolutionary culture.
A personal example serves as an example of contrast. As young boys participating in one TFP summer camp many years ago, we were taken to the Arms and Armor Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. As we stepped into the grand
hall, we saw a spectacular exhibit of charging horses, mounted by knights in full armor, visors down, lances ready in the full glory of manly virtue in battle array.
The hours slipped away as we visited the various exhibits, our admiration growing for a civilization that could vest men in such militant splendor.
As the museum was about to close, our guides led us out through the modern-art section where we suddenly faced a hideous display of several columns of twisted books impaled on an old steel pipe and drenched in a thick varnish that formed a huge, shapeless glob at the pipe’s base. With the memory of glorious, magnificent knighthood still fresh, we felt the boyish urge to topple these senseless, monstrous looking things.
Fortunately, our guides, always zealous for law and order, stemmed the reaction. We went on to inspect several pieces of modern art just as shapeless and senseless. The Arms and Armor Exhibit and the Twisted Exhibit were part of the program.
That contrast helped us to make one of the most serious decisions of our lives— which world would we fight for? Did we want the orderly, hierarchical, beautiful civilization we had admired all day, or the hideous insanity of the last half hour?
This method can be applied to a thousand circumstances with the necessary adaptations. But the principle stands: show the contrast and ask for a decision.
There is one pitfall to avoid when using this method. Make sure the contrast is real. Never compare sin and ugliness to mediocrity. Mediocre goals, restricted horizons and mere correctness will not make the cut. This method is so powerful that, if we do not compare evil with an integral and splendorous
good, we actually will help the evil win.
Only compare a hideous evil with an attractive good. Providing the true, good and beautiful option takes work in our days. It
takes effort to provide a beautiful ambience, an uplifting conversation, an inspiring objective or brilliant perspective.
These do not just happen by themselves. These contrasts demand great and small sacrifices, but these are the sacrifices Our Lady asks to make the difference in our apostolate.
Evil slithers slowly, subtly, masking its final objective. A drug dealer never approaches a prospective buyer by saying, “Hey, want to be a drug addict living underneath an overpass?” Instead, he says, “Oh, are you feeling bad, unwanted and unloved? Take a tiny dose of this. It will make you feel better.”
Next time, when the drug dealer sees the prospective buyer again, the drug dealer asks, “Did you like that?” “It made me feel so good!” replies the unthinking prospective buyer. The drug dealer, like the snake, strikes the hapless buyer with, “Want a little more?” The answer is usually a feeble, “I guess . . . .”
How do we help this future addict? We warn him of the drug dealer’s true, but hidden, goal. Denounce it. Pull off the “helper” mask. Show the end of the road: addiction, mental slavery, ruin and death.
In a filmed interview, Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer, affirms that the common denominator of death-row inmates is an addiction to pornography, and that addiction starts with the
tabloids at the supermarket checkout counters.
And so it is with every type of evil. First there is a small, “harmless” beginning, then silent, slow decay, and
finally “sudden” tragedy.
At Fatima, Our Lady denounced the true, but hidden destination of a culture of sin: Hell. Fatima unmasks the enemy by showing its final goal. Hell is not a popular topic nowadays. During the TFP’s America Needs Fatima Home Visitation Program we show a slide
presentation of Fatima’s story. The most questioned part is the section on Hell.
Although a dogma of the Catholic Faith, many people no longer believe in Hell, and many of those who do, affirm no one goes there. No one is comfortable with the subject. Yet Our Lord promises that those who think of death, judgment, Heaven and Hell will not sin eternally (Ecclus. 7:40).
This may be bitter medicine, but like all good medicine, truly necessary. Unmasking the true, but hidden, goal of our culture of sin has a tremendous potential to help us, and those around us,
to get a grip on our lives. We suddenly face a serious perspective that carries a powerful impetus for conversion. Exposing sin thus deals it the harshest of blows.
Reviving the Notion of Sin
Our Lady at Fatima used yet a third method, another powerful means we can use in our apostolate: reviving the notion of sin.
Referring to Professor Corrêa de Oliveira’s Revolution and Counter-Revolution, we quote:
“One of the most significant missions of the Counter-Revolution is reestablishing or reviving the distinction between good and evil,
the notion of sin in thesis, of Original Sin, and of actual sin.”
We live in a society that minimizes, hides and rejects the notion of sin. Sin is the forbidden three-letter word. Modern psychology and psychoanalysis systematically avoid the label. No one is ever
“wrong.” A person evincing aggressive behavior, for example, either suffers from a complex, a syndrome, or is misunderstood
or challenged. Ascribing moral culpability to acts is not an option.
If announcing at a social gathering, “homosexuality is morally wrong and sinful,” one would be mercilessly labeled “judgmental,” “unfeeling” or “homophobic.”
In the field of education, there are teachers who teach there is no wrong answer. Children must be allowed to be “creative.” Telling someone that they are wrong causes “suffering,” “hurt feelings”
or “lowered self-esteem.”
Destroy the notion of sin, and the Ten Commandments are no longer needed. Without a notion of sin, there is no need for Redemption by Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no need for the Sacraments, and there is no need for all these “horrible” laws and morals.
The decadence of any great nation is directly linked to the loss of the notion of sin. Our culture goes to great lengths to avoid the word sin when talking about public blasphemy, abortion, artificial
contraception, divorce, euthanasia, immodesty, indecency and homosexuality.
The Fatima message makes clear the powerful means we have to overcome this. We need to call it what it is: sin. Our call to repentance cannot be vague. Our call needs to be for repentance
How to Go About It?
Contrasting good with evil, denouncing evil, and reviving the notion of sin will take sacrifice. To persevere will take yet more sacrifice. At Fatima, Our Lady asked us to sacrifice for sinners.
Here is our opportunity. These three methods will give us many opportunities to sacrifice for sinners.
Contrasting good with evil, as done by Our Lady, is a profoundly wise method. Indeed, if we only complain about evil without contrasting it with good, we will soon become tiresome nags spreading fear without hope. Presenting a splendorous attractive alternative to evil and forcing a choice is much more effective.
This requires not only “preaching” but real “engagement.” It requires the full and dynamic living out of our Catholic
faith, morality and culture.
Pray and think about what to do. Then sacrifice to make it happen. Nothing convinces more than example. Within the
flow of daily duties, there are a thousand things we can do to fight the culture of sin, thus answering Our Lady’s Fatima message. First, we must resort to the sacraments, ready fountains of grace,
strength and wisdom.
Then the possibilities are almost endless. Perhaps join an apologetics group or start one, not only to expand knowledge
of our marvelous Faith, but also to become its defender. We cannot love Catholic doctrine unless we know it. Today’s youth love to challenge and to be challenged. Yet they frequently
encounter no challenge in our Catholic Faith. Are we up to the task?
Get rid of the television, which ensures evil enticements are permanently lodged in the heart of the home. Among other things, boys need lots of good reading, adventure and the
great outdoors. Girls tend to need more social events and good friends for conversation. Make the home their refuge, not their prison.
Join a protest against blasphemy. Pass out anti-blasphemy fliers and contact the pastor for permission
to place them in church. Join a Rosary group.
Frequently these are the most profitable long-term investments we will ever make. Perhaps you can host a First Saturday Devotion at your house. Make it an enjoyable event, with good food and games for the youngsters, then take everyone to
confession and holy hour at the church.
Countering the culture of sin takes application, study, prayer, dedication, wisdom, courage and commitment. However, Our Lady elevated two youngsters to the heights of sanctity within
three years by using these methods. Thus, these Fatima methods worked in 1917 and they will work in 2011.
Our Lady will not fail us. We just need to get to work. Fatima is more than a story.
It is a way of life that will not let us down.
B Y M I C H A E L D R A K E