Skip to comments.Fatima. The "Secret" Revealed (Catholic Caucus)
Posted on 05/10/2010 2:20:21 AM PDT by markomalley
ROME, May 10, 2010 For four days, beginning tomorrow, Benedict XVI will visit Portugal. His first stop will be Lisbon, and his last Porto. But in the central part of the trip he will stop at Fatima, where one of the most visited Marian shrines in the world stands.
Fatima is the place where in 1917 the Blessed Mother appeared to children and spoke with them, revealing, among other things, what would later be called a "secret."
The first two parts of this "secret" were made public in 1941, and are centered on a vision of hell and on persecutions of the Church.
The third and last part, long kept under wraps by the Vatican authorities, fostered keen anticipation that didn't die down even after the text was made public in 2000 by order of John Paul II. There are still those who maintain that some of the revelations are being kept hidden.
As cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger had a key role in the publication of the third part of the "secret" of Fatima.
In fact, he was the one who, as prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, gave the official interpretation of it in a "theological commentary" that accompanied the publication of the text.
An extract from his commentary is reproduced on this page. But the complete text is much more extensive. An entire chapter explains the meaning of the private "revelations" in relation to the definitive "Revelation" that is Jesus Christ, and which finds expression in the Old and New Testament. Moreover, there is an analysis of the anthropological and psychological structure of private "revelations."
At the heart of Ratzinger's interpretation of the "secret" of Fatima is a Christian meditation on history. A meditation that he will likely continue to elaborate in the homilies and speeches of the next few days.
In his commentary from 2000, Ratzinger absolutely ruled out the idea that the vision of the children at Fatima was "a film preview of the future," and of a future fixed forever, impossible to change. On the contrary, he said, the message derived from the vision is an invitation to human freedom, to change things for the better. John Paul II, he added, was right in maintaining that he had been saved by the "maternal hand" that deflected the deadly bullet aimed at him on May 13, 1981. Because "there does not exist an immutable destiny," and "faith and prayer are powers that can influence history."
Instead of apocalyptic revelations on the future, the visions of Fatima on the persecution of Christians Ratzinger furthermore says are a message of hope. The blood of the martyrs is a seed of purification and renewal.
And above all, "since God himself has a human heart and has thus revealed man's freedom in regard to the good, in regard to God, freedom to do evil no longer has the last word."
In anticipation of hearing what Benedict XVI will say in Portugal and in Fatima, the following is an extract from his commentary in 2000, preceded by the complete texts of the three parts of the "secret" and by the official statement with which the third part was made public ten years ago.
1. THE FIRST TWO PARTS OF THE "SECRET" REVEALED IN 1917, WRITTEN DOWN BY SISTER LUCIA IN 1941 AND MADE PUBLIC THAT SAME YEAR
The secret is made up of three distinct parts, two of which I am now going to reveal.
The first part is the vision of hell.
Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. 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 a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.
We then looked up at Our Lady, who said to us so kindly and so 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 illumined 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 of 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 shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.
August 31, 1941
2. THE THIRD AND LAST PART OF THE "SECRET" REVEALED IN 1917, WRITTEN DOWN BY SISTER LUCIA IN 1944 AND MADE PUBLIC IN 2000
The third part of the secret revealed at the Cova da Iria-Fatima, on 13 July 1917.
I write in obedience to you, my God, who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine.
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 splendour that Our Lady radiated towards 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." 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 the 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.
January 3, 1944
3. STATEMENT MADE IN THE NAME OF POPE JOHN PAUL II BY CARDINAL ANGELO SODANO, IN FATIMA, ON MAY 13, 2000
On this solemn occasion of his visit to Fatima, His Holiness has directed me to make an announcement to you. As you know, the purpose of his visit to Fatima has been to beatify the two little shepherds. Nevertheless he also wishes his pilgrimage to be a renewed gesture of gratitude to Our Lady for her protection during these years of his papacy. This protection seems also to be linked to the so-called third part of the secret of Fatima.
That text contains a prophetic vision similar to those found in Sacred Scripture, which do not describe photographically the details of future events, but synthesize and compress against a single background facts which extend through time in an unspecified succession and duration. As a result, the text must be interpreted in a symbolic key.
The vision of Fatima concerns above all the war waged by atheistic systems against the Church and Christians, and it describes the immense suffering endured by the witnesses of the faith in the last century of the second millennium. It is an interminable Way of the Cross led by the Popes of the twentieth century.
According to the interpretation of the little shepherds, which was also confirmed recently by Sister Lucia, the Bishop clothed in white who prays for all the faithful is the Pope. As he makes his way with great difficulty towards the Cross amid the corpses of those who were martyred (Bishops, priests, men and women Religious and many lay people), he too falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a hail of gunfire.
After the assassination attempt of 13 May 1981, it appeared evident that it was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path, enabling the Pope in his throes to halt at the threshold of death (Pope John Paul II, Meditation from the Policlinico Gemelli to the Italian Bishops, Insegnamenti, XVII, 1 , 1061). On the occasion of a visit to Rome by the then Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, the Pope decided to give him the bullet which had remained in the jeep after the assassination attempt, so that it might be kept in the shrine. By the Bishop's decision, the bullet was later set in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
The successive events of 1989 led, both in the Soviet Union and in a number of countries of Eastern Europe, to the fall of the Communist regimes which promoted atheism. For this too His Holiness offers heartfelt thanks to the Most Holy Virgin. In other parts of the world, however, attacks against the Church and against Christians, with the burden of suffering they bring, tragically continue. Even if the events to which the third part of the secret of Fatima refers now seem part of the past, Our Lady's call to conversion and penance, issued at the start of the twentieth century, remains timely and urgent today. The Lady of the message seems to read the signs of the timesthe signs of our timewith special insight... The insistent invitation of Mary Most Holy to penance is nothing but the manifestation of her maternal concern for the fate of the human family, in need of conversion and forgiveness (Pope John Paul II, Message for the 1997 World Day of the Sick, No. 1, Insegnamenti, XIX, 2 , 561).
In order that the faithful may better receive the message of Our Lady of Fatima, the Pope has charged the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with making public the third part of the secret, after the preparation of an appropriate commentary.
4. THEOLOGICAL COMNMENTARY ON THE SO-CALLED "SECRET" OF FATIMA
by Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
A careful reading of the text of the so-called third secret of Fatima, published here in its entirety long after the fact and by decision of the Holy Father, will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled. We see the Church of the martyrs of the century which has just passed represented in a scene described in a language which is symbolic and not easy to decipher. Is this what the Mother of the Lord wished to communicate to Christianity and to humanity at a time of great difficulty and distress? Is it of any help to us at the beginning of the new millennium? Or are these only projections of the inner world of children, brought up in a climate of profound piety but shaken at the same time by the tempests which threatened their own time? How should we understand the vision? What are we to make of it? [...]
The first and second parts of the secret of Fatima have already been so amply discussed in the relative literature that there is no need to deal with them again here. I would just like to recall briefly the most significant point. For one terrible moment, the children were given a vision of hell. They saw the fall of the souls of poor sinners. And now they are told why they have been exposed to this moment: in order to save soulsto show the way to salvation. The words of the First Letter of Peter come to mind: As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls (1:9). To reach this goal, the way indicated surprisingly for people from the Anglo-Saxon and German cultural worldis devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A brief comment may suffice to explain this. In biblical language, the heart indicates the centre of human life, the point where reason, will, temperament and sensitivity converge, where the person finds his unity and his interior orientation. According to Matthew 5:8, the immaculate heart is a heart which, with God's grace, has come to perfect interior unity and therefore sees God. To be devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means therefore to embrace this attitude of heart, which makes the fiatyour will be donethe defining centre of one's whole life. It might be objected that we should not place a human being between ourselves and Christ. But then we remember that Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: imitate me (1 Cor 4:16; Phil 3:17; 1 Th 1:6; 2 Th 3:7, 9). In the Apostle they could see concretely what it meant to follow Christ. But from whom might we better learn in every age than from the Mother of the Lord?
Thus we come finally to the third part of the secret of Fatima which for the first time is being published in its entirety. As is clear from the documentation presented here, the interpretation offered by Cardinal Sodano in his statement of 13 May was first put personally to Sister Lucia. Sister Lucia responded by pointing out that she had received the vision but not its interpretation. The interpretation, she said, belonged not to the visionary but to the Church. After reading the text, however, she said that this interpretation corresponded to what she had experienced and that on her part she thought the interpretation correct. In what follows, therefore, we can only attempt to provide a deeper foundation for this interpretation, on the basis of the criteria already considered.
To save souls has emerged as the key word of the first and second parts of the secret, and the key word of this third part is the threefold cry: Penance, Penance, Penance! The beginning of the Gospel comes to mind: Repent and believe the Good News (Mk 1:15). To understand the signs of the times means to accept the urgency of penance of conversion of faith. This is the correct response to this moment of history, characterized by the grave perils outlined in the images that follow. Allow me to add here a personal recollection: in a conversation with me Sister Lucia said that it appeared ever more clearly to her that the purpose of all the apparitions was to help people to grow more and more in faith, hope and loveeverything else was intended to lead to this.
Let us now examine more closely the single images. The angel with the flaming sword on the left of the Mother of God recalls similar images in the Book of Revelation. This represents the threat of judgement which looms over the world. Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword. The vision then shows the power which stands opposed to the force of destructionthe splendour of the Mother of God and, stemming from this in a certain way, the summons to penance. In this way, the importance of human freedom is underlined: the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed. Indeed, the whole point of the vision is to bring freedom onto the scene and to steer freedom in a positive direction. The purpose of the vision is not to show a film of an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction. Therefore we must totally discount fatalistic explanations of the secret, such as, for example, the claim that the would-be assassin of 13 May 1981 was merely an instrument of the divine plan guided by Providence and could not therefore have acted freely, or other similar ideas in circulation. Rather, the vision speaks of dangers and how we might be saved from them.
The next phrases of the text show very clearly once again the symbolic character of the vision: God remains immeasurable, and is the light which surpasses every vision of ours. Human persons appear as in a mirror. We must always keep in mind the limits in the vision itself, which here are indicated visually. The future appears only in a mirror dimly (1 Cor 13:12). Let us now consider the individual images which follow in the text of the secret. The place of the action is described in three symbols: a steep mountain, a great city reduced to ruins and finally a large rough-hewn cross. The mountain and city symbolize the arena of human history: history as an arduous ascent to the summit, history as the arena of human creativity and social harmony, but at the same time a place of destruction, where man actually destroys the fruits of his own work. The city can be the place of communion and progress, but also of danger and the most extreme menace. On the mountain stands the crossthe goal and guide of history. The cross transforms destruction into salvation; it stands as a sign of history's misery but also as a promise for history.
At this point human persons appear: the Bishop dressed in white (we had the impression that it was the Holy Father), other Bishops, priests, men and women Religious, and men and women of different ranks and social positions. The Pope seems to precede the others, trembling and suffering because of all the horrors around him. Not only do the houses of the city lie half in ruins, but he makes his way among the corpses of the dead. The Church's path is thus described as a Via Crucis, as a journey through a time of violence, destruction and persecution. The history of an entire century can be seen represented in this image. Just as the places of the earth are synthetically described in the two images of the mountain and the city, and are directed towards the cross, so too time is presented in a compressed way. In the vision we can recognize the last century as a century of martyrs, a century of suffering and persecution for the Church, a century of World Wars and the many local wars which filled the last fifty years and have inflicted unprecedented forms of cruelty. In the mirror of this vision we see passing before us the witnesses of the faith decade by decade. Here it would be appropriate to mention a phrase from the letter which Sister Lucia wrote to the Holy Father on 12 May 1982: The third part of the secret' refers to Our Lady's words: If not, [Russia] 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 Via Crucis of an entire century, the figure of the Pope has a special role. In his arduous ascent of the mountain we can undoubtedly see a convergence of different Popes. Beginning from Pius X up to the present Pope, they all shared the sufferings of the century and strove to go forward through all the anguish along the path which leads to the Cross. In the vision, the Pope too is killed along with the martyrs. When, after the attempted assassination on 13 May 1981, the Holy Father had the text of the third part of the secret brought to him, was it not inevitable that he should see in it his own fate? He had been very close to death, and he himself explained his survival in the following words: ... it was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path and in his throes the Pope halted at the threshold of death (13 May 1994). That here a mother's hand had deflected the fateful bullet only shows once more that there is no immutable destiny, that faith and prayer are forces which can influence history and that in the end prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies.
The concluding part of the secret uses images which Lucia may have seen in devotional books and which draw their inspiration from long-standing intuitions of faith. It is a consoling vision, which seeks to open a history of blood and tears to the healing power of God. Beneath the arms of the cross angels gather up the blood of the martyrs, and with it they give life to the souls making their way to God. Here, the blood of Christ and the blood of the martyrs are considered as one: the blood of the martyrs runs down from the arms of the cross. The martyrs die in communion with the Passion of Christ, and their death becomes one with his. For the sake of the body of Christ, they complete what is still lacking in his afflictions (cf. Col 1:24). Their life has itself become a Eucharist, part of the mystery of the grain of wheat which in dying yields abundant fruit. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians, said Tertullian. As from Christ's death, from his wounded side, the Church was born, so the death of the witnesses is fruitful for the future life of the Church. Therefore, the vision of the third part of the secret, so distressing at first, concludes with an image of hope: no suffering is in vain, and it is a suffering Church, a Church of martyrs, which becomes a sign-post for man in his search for God. The loving arms of God welcome not only those who suffer like Lazarus, who found great solace there and mysteriously represents Christ, who wished to become for us the poor Lazarus. There is something more: from the suffering of the witnesses there comes a purifying and renewing power, because their suffering is the actualization of the suffering of Christ himself and a communication in the here and now of its saving effect.
And so we come to the final question: What is the meaning of the secret of Fatima as a whole (in its three parts)? What does it say to us? First of all we must affirm with Cardinal Sodano: ... the events to which the third part of the secret' of Fatima refers now seem part of the past. Insofar as individual events are described, they belong to the past. Those who expected exciting apocalyptic revelations about the end of the world or the future course of history are bound to be disappointed. Fatima does not satisfy our curiosity in this way, just as Christian faith in general cannot be reduced to an object of mere curiosity. What remains was already evident when we began our reflections on the text of the secret: the exhortation to prayer as the path of salvation for souls and, likewise, the summons to penance and conversion.
I would like finally to mention another key expression of the secret which has become justly famous: my Immaculate Heart will triumph. What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the worldbecause, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise.
The complete text of Ratzinger's commentary is found in this dossier on Fatima compiled by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, on the Vatican website, with photocopies of the manuscripts and other documents, including the account of the conversation on April 27, 2000, between Sister Lucia and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, then secretary of the congregation:
> The Message of Fatima
The program and texts of Benedict XVI's trip to Lisbon, Fatima, and Porto:
> Apostolic Journey to Portugal, 11-14 May 2010
In the illustration, the beginning of the 1944 manuscript by Sister Lucia, with the third part of the "secret" of Fatima.
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.
I’ll be back later to read this thoroughly.
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