On May 13, 1917, Lucia dos Santos, Jacinta Marto, and Francisco Marto, three Portuguese children, reported having seen an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal. It was the first of five such apparitions to which only those three children were privy. At each, the Blessed Virgin made certain predictions about the future, including World War II, and exhorted them to pray the Rosary for the salvation of the world. She also promised a final apparition, on October 13, 1917, at which many others would be present, “that all may see and believe.”
The event on October 13, 1917 has been called the Miracle of the Sun. It lasted approximately ten minutes and was witnessed by a crowd of at least 30,000 people. Though the eyewitnesses’ reports varied in details, there was an overall consistency to them that persuaded the Catholic Church to recognize it officially as a miracle.
Needless to say, various scientists and skeptics have offered alternative explanations for the phenomena witnessed by the crowd. There will always be alternative explanations for an event that appears to defy our secular understanding of Nature’s laws. That’s an inescapable aspect of reality; if an event cannot be replicated, there’s no way to choose among the possible causes for it. Those who lack faith or simply prefer secular explanations will choose one and dismiss the supernatural as the cause. This is also the case for the many miraculous cures reported by pilgrims to the springs at Lourdes.
But there is this about the Fatima apparitions:
- The Blessed Virgin’s predictions about the war in progress and about World War II proved accurate.
- Her predictions about the rise of Communism and the ultimate fall of the Soviet Union also proved accurate.
- Other predictions included massive clashes inside the Church -- "The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops...churches and altars sacked...." -- which, though not detailed, have surely been accurate overall.
- Though they stared at the disk of the Sun for ten minutes, none of the witnesses to the Miracle of the Sun experienced any damage to their eyesight.
Choose for yourself whether to believe or disbelieve.
Faith, like prayer, has power. Its principal effect is, of course, on the believer. However, that’s not where the power of faith ends.
The most visible manifestation of the power of faith is in the actions of the believer: what he chooses to do in response to the call of faith. If what he believes is wholesome and good, his actions will be as well. He might undertake great works of creation or interpretation. He might devote himself to evangelism or charity. Or he might retire to hermitage or monasticism: a life alone with faith and the visions it provides him.
Of course, wholesome faiths aren’t the only sort. The clearest possible example is rampaging across the globe as we speak, killing and destroying in the name of Allah. Those who murder, rape, and plunder for Islam are convinced that it’s God’s will that they do so. No exertion of argument or plea for tolerance can move them. Even their peaceably minded co-believers must concede that that’s what Islam’s scriptures command of them.
In the face of Islam’s jihad, the Western world has largely disarmed itself, having surrendered preemptively to a tide of secularism. It appears not to have occurred to people generally that the only effective counterforce to a destructive faith is a wholesome one – and that the most wholesome faith around, Christianity, responsible for the philosophical and ethical shaping of the West and the defeat of the Islamic hordes on two separate occasions, is still available.
Christianity asks little more of the believer than firmness of faith when under trial and good will toward others even in the throes of battle, yet it continues to be spurned even now that we need it most. Yet even many self-nominated Christians will decline, albeit with embarrassment, to defend their faith and wield it against the blatant villainy of Islam. Why that should be so is unclear...but I have a sneaking suspicion that for many it’s fear of the scorn of the “sophisticated:” they who proudly proclaim that they “left all that nonsense in the cradle.” Such is the damage the association of intelligence and urbanity with a lack of faith has wrought on the world Christianity created.
Among the Blessed Virgin’s gifts to the three children of Fatima were three “secrets,” two of which were made public swiftly thereafter. The first concerned entirely supernatural matters: a vision of Hell and an appeal that the faithful should pray for the salvation of all souls. The second was a prophecy of the end of World War I and the inception of World War II in 1939, and the rise of Communism should Russia not be redeemed from her evil ways.
It’s in the nature of Man and the free will God gave us that the future is not fixed. Predictive visions, Pope Benedict XVI has told us, are often monitory:
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.
This, too, is part of the decision – always an individual decision predicated upon individual experiences and understanding – to accept or decline the gift of faith.
The open, innocent acceptance of that gift is what we most need today. Yes, that’s “just one man’s opinion.” But ask yourselves, Gentle Readers, what gifts are being offered us by the skeptics, the scoffers, and the proclaimers of Man as the emergent god who needs no other?