Burying Benedict

CP&S comment Pope Francis’ “mercy” is a farce. He shows no mercy to those who disagree with him or his pro-Marxist programme to reshape the Catholic Church. Quite the contrary in fact: Francis scorns and insults his adversaries in harsh, unmerciful bombast. It becomes more evident by the day that Pope Benedict was the true humble follower of Jesus, who served the Church in faithfulness and continuity, whereas Pope Francis, Card. Kasper and ilk are hard-hearted, dogmatic progressives whose sole goal is to bury the past and remake a church of their own liking.


by Matthew Schmitz 

Though Benedict is still living, Francis is trying to bury him. Upon his election in 2013, Francis began to pursue an agenda that Joseph Ratzinger had opposed throughout his career. A stress on the pastoral over against the doctrinal, a promotion of diverse disciplinary and doctrinal approaches in local churches, the opening of communion to the divorced and remarried—all these proposals were weighed and rejected by Ratzinger more than ten years ago in a heated debate with Walter Kasper. For better or worse, Francis now seeks to reverse Ratzinger.

The conflict began with a 1992 letter concerning “the fundamental elements that are to be considered already settled” when Catholic theologians do their work. Some theologians had suggested that while doctrine might be universal and unchanging, it could be bent to meet discrete pastoral realities—allowing for a liberal approach, say, in Western Europe and a more conservative one in Africa.

In order to guard against this idea, Pope John Paul II and Ratzinger, then head of the Inquisition, insisted that the universal Church was “a reality ontologically and temporally prior to every individual particular Church.” There would be no Anglican-style diversity for Catholics—not under John Paul.

Behind this seemingly academic debate about the local and universal Church stood a disagreement over communion for the divorced and remarried. In 1993, Kasper defied John Paul by proposing that individual bishops should be able to decide whether or not to give communion to the divorced and remarried. Stopping short of calling for a change in doctrine, he said that there ought to be “room for pastoral flexibility in complex, individual cases.

In 1994, the Vatican rejected Kasper’s proposal with a letter signed by Ratzinger. “If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists.” Kasper was not ready to back down. In a festschrift published in 1999, he criticized the Vatican’s 1992 letter and insisted on the legitimate independence of local churches.

Ratzinger responded in a personal capacity the following year. It is because of such responses that he gained his reputation as a rigid doctrinal enforcer, but this caricature is unfair. Benedict has always been a poet of the Church, a man in whose writing German Romanticism blooms into orthodoxy. We see it here in his defense of Christian unity. He describes the Church as “a love story between God and humanity” that tends toward unity. He hears the gospel as a kind of theological ninth symphony, in which all humanity is drawn together as one:

“The basic idea of sacred history is that of gathering together, of uniting human beings in the one body of Christ, the union of human beings and through human beings of all creation with God. There is only one bride, only one body of Christ, not many brides, not many bodies.”

The Church is not “merely a structure that can be changed or demolished at will, which would have nothing to do with the reality of faith as such.” A “form of bodiliness belongs to the Church herself.” This form, this body, must be loved and respected, not put on the rack.

Here we begin to see how the question of the universality of the Church affects apparently unrelated questions, such as communion and divorce and remarriage. Ratzinger cited 1 Corinthians, where Paul describes the unity of the Church in terms of two sacraments—communion and matrimony. Just as the two become one flesh in marriage, so in the Eucharist the many become one body. “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

The connections Paul draws between marriage, the Eucharist, and Church unity should serve as a warning for whoever would tamper with one of the three. If the one body of the universal Church can be divided, the “one flesh” of a married couple can be as well. And communion—the sign of unity of belief and practice—can turn to disunion, with people who do not share the same beliefs joining together as though they did.

Kasper’s rejoinder came in an essay published in English by America. It is the earliest and most succinct expression of what would become Pope Francis’s program. It begins with a key distinction: “I reached my position not from abstract reasoning but from pastoral experience.” Kasper then decries the “adamant refusal of Communion to all divorced and remarried persons and the highly restrictive rules for eucharistic hospitality.” Here we have it—all the controversies of the Francis era, more than a decade before his election.

(It should be noted that overwrought terms like adamant and highly restrictive, for which Kasper has sometimes been criticized, were introduced by an enthusiastic translator and have no equivalent in the German text.)

Hovering in the background of this dispute, as of so many Catholic disputes, is the issue of liturgy. Ratzinger was already known as an advocate of the “reform of the reform”—a program that avoids liturgical disruption, while slowly bringing the liturgy back into continuity with its historic form. Kasper, by contrast, uses the disruption that followed Vatican II to justify further changes in Catholic life: “Our people are well aware of the flexibility of laws and regulations; they have experienced a great deal of it over the past decades. They lived through changes that no one anticipated or even thought possible.” Evelyn Waugh described how Catholics at the time of the Council underwent “a superficial revolution in what then seemed permanent.” Kasper embraces that superficial revolution, hoping that it will justify another, profounder one.

He laments that Ratzinger does not see things his way: “Regrettably, Cardinal Ratzinger has approached the problem of the relationship between the universal church and local churches from a purely abstract and theoretical point of view, without taking into account concrete pastoral situations and experiences.” Ratzinger has failed to consult what Kasper calls the “data” of experience: “To history, therefore, we must turn for sound theology,” where we will find many examples of a commendable “diversity.”

Though Kasper’s language is strewn with clichés (“data,” “diversity,” “experience”), it has genuine rhetorical appeal. We want to believe that there can be peace, peace, though there is no peace between Church and world. Just as we can be moved by visions of unity, we can be beguiled by promises of comfort. The contrast between the two men is thus rhetorical as well as doctrinal: Ratzinger inspires; Kasper relieves.

America’s editors invited Ratzinger to respond, and he reluctantly agreed. His reply notes that we are baptized not merely in but into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We are not made members of one of various local Christian associations, but are united with God. For this reason, “Anyone baptized in the church in Berlin is always at home in the church in Rome or in New York or in Kinshasa or in Bangalore or wherever, as if he or she had been baptized there. He or she does not need to file a change-of-address form; it is one and the same church.”

Kasper closed the debate in 2001 with a letter to the editor, in which he argued that it “cannot be wholly wrongheaded … to ask about concrete actions, not in political, but in pastoral life.” There the controversy seemed to end. Ratzinger became pope and Kasper’s proposal was forgotten.

Twelve years later, a newly elected Pope Francis gave Kasper’s proposal new life. In his first Angelus address, Francis singled out Kasper for praise, reintroducing him to the universal Church as “a good theologian, a talented theologian” whose latest book had done the new pope “so much good.” We now know that Francis had been reading Kasper closely for many years. Though he is usually portrayed as spontaneous and non-ideological, Francis has steadily advanced the agenda that Kasper outlined over a decade ago.

In the face of this challenge, Benedict has kept an almost perfect silence. There is hardly any need to add to the words in which he resoundingly rejected the program of Kasper and Francis. And yet the awkwardness remains. No pope in living memory has so directly opposed his predecessor—who, in this instance, happens to live just up the hill. This is why supporters of Francis’s agenda become nervous whenever Benedict speaks, as he recently did in praise of Cardinal Sarah. Were the two men in genuine accord, partisans of Francis would not fear the learned, gentle German who walks the Vatican Gardens.

And so the two popes, active and emeritus, speaking and silent, remain at odds. In the end, it does not matter who comes last or speaks most; what matters is who thinks with the mind of a Church that has seen countless heresies come and go. When Benedict’s enraptured words are compared to the platitudes of his successor, it is hard not to notice a difference: One pope echoes the apostles, and the other parrots Walter Kasper. Because this difference in speech reflects a difference in belief, a prediction can be made. Regardless of who dies first, Benedict will outlive Francis.

Matthew Schmitz is literary editor of FIRST THINGS.

[emphasis in bold in last paragraph is ours]

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Oh No! Yet another of our three holy “Thursdays” bites the dust in Rome!

Corpus Christi procession – Jules Breton, 1857

In many countries, ten days after the feast of Pentecost, elaborate and beautiful Corpus Christi processions along the streets have been held for centuries and are still being held today in cities and in towns of mainly Catholic countries, although in nearly all places the feast has been transferred from the traditional Thursday to the following Sunday.

For about a hundred years, in Rome, Italy, the centre of Roman Catholicism, these processions were only held within the confines of St. Peter’s Square, which is within the boundaries of the autonomous Vatican state, not technically part of Italy at all. In 1982, Pope St. John Paul II, recalling the elaborate processions through the streets of his native Poland, brought the Corpus Christi procession out of St. Peter’s Square and back to the streets and the people of Rome. “Pope John Paul wanted the Blessed Sacrament carried into the city, where the people lived, as they did in Poland” – (Remembering Corpus Christi with Pope John Paul II–Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.) This custom has been continued under Pope Benedict XVI, and, so far, under Pope Francis.

However, it was reported in the UK Catholic Herald last week that, “Pope Francis moves Corpus Christi procession to Sunday”:

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said a Sunday celebration will cause ‘less inconvenience’ in Rome

Pope Francis is to celebrate Corpus Christi on Sunday rather than Thursday next month.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said the Pope had decided to postpone the celebration next month from June 15 to June 18.

He said a Sunday procession would be easier for people to attend and would also cause less inconvenience in Rome.

Pope Francis made the decision, he said, “in favour of a better participation of the People of God, of priests and of the faithful of the Church in Rome.” He added: “There is a second reason: Thursday is a weekday and so there will be less inconvenience in Rome.”


So in the same sorry way that the glorious feast of Our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven, 40 days after Easter, was pushed forward to the following Sunday, throwing the dates of the feast all out-of-sync, the feast of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in Rome, under Pope Francis, has now also given in to pressure to make the celebration with the procession of the Most Holy Eucharist along the streets, less “inconvenient”.

Inconvenient to whom? To Rome’s drivers, with the city’s already chaotic traffic conditions? How could a Continent like Europe, built on Christendom, that spread the One True Faith to the four corners of the Earth, put anything like traffic problems before our sacred duty to give honour and homage to Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Adorable Sacrament on this one day of the year?

We already have our answer to the above questions, don’t we? Europe can no longer be described as a Catholic continent. Starting with the Protestant Revolution, through the worldly ideology of the Enlightenment, it has been handing its glorious Christan heritage over to the ‘g’od of Mammon… whilst the false religion of Islam, with its intrinsic hatred of Christianity, gradually and silently gains ground.

HERE is my little rant from three years ago about that so-called “inconvenience”. The well-loved Father Z has periodical little “rants” on this topic too, of the unnecessary pushing forward of Liturgical feast days to the following Sunday!

It may seem like an insignificant matter in the grand scheme of things, when far more serious attacks with grave, far-reaching consequences for Catholic doctrinal teaching and tradition are continually being aimed at the Church today. But for what purpose have we been created? It is precisely through these overlooked small ways, in the slackening of the spirit of sacrifice, putting our comfort and worldly ease before our love and duty towards God, that the greater, more dangerous issues that wish to undermine the Catholic Faith are able to flourish.

Time to wake up and take to heart the First Commmandment to love Our Lord and God above all things!

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Full text: Cardinal Burke’s historic call for consecration of Russia


The following address was given by His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke on 19 May 2017 at the fourth annual Rome Life Forum, which is organised by Voice of the Family.

The Secret of Fatima and a New Evangelization

The final words of the Virgin Mother of the Redeemer recorded in the Gospels are the words she spoke to the wine stewards at the Wedding Feast of Cana who came to her in anguish over the lack of sufficient wine for the guests of the newlyweds. She responded to them and their situation of great distress by leading them to her Divine Son, also a guest at the Wedding Feast, and instructing them: “Do whatever he tells you.”[1] These simple words express the mystery of the Divine Maternity by which the Virgin Mary became the Mother of God, bringing God the Son Incarnate into the world. By the same mystery, she continues to be the channel of all the graces which immeasurably and unceasingly pour forth from Her Divine Son’s glorious pierced Heart into the hearts of His faithful brothers and sisters on earthly pilgrimage to their lasting home with Him in Heaven.

By the mystery of the Divine Maternity, the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, assumed into glory, never ceases to beat with love for us, the children whom her Divine Son gave to her, as He was dying upon the Cross.[2] They are her sons and daughters in her Son, God the Son Incarnate. With maternal care, she draws hearts to her glorious Immaculate Heart and takes them to Him, to His Sacred Heart, and she instructs them: “Do whatever he tells you.” In the oldest preserved extant hymn to the Virgin Mother of God, found already on an Egyptian papyrus of the 3rd century, Christians pray:

We fly to your patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.[3]

Similarly, in the words of the ancient hymn for Vespers on feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ave Maris Stella, we pray:

Show thyself a mother; may the Word divine, born for us thine Infant, hear our prayers through thine.[4]

These words of the eighth-century hymn express in a clear and striking manner the mystery of the Divine Maternity by which the Virgin Mary is both Mother of God and Mother of Divine Grace. We ask the Virgin Mother of God to lead us to her Divine Son, in order that our hearts, one with her Immaculate Heart, may rest always in His Heart, the only source of our salvation.

In a most wonderful way, the Blessed Virgin Mary has shown herself to be our Mother in her apparitions to the three shepherd children at Cova da Iria, near Fatima in Portugal, one hundred years ago, from May 13th to October 13th of 1917. The world at the time found itself torn asunder by the unimaginable destruction and death wrought by the First World War and fatally menaced by the spread of atheistic communism leading the hearts of men away from the Heart of Jesus, the sole font of salvation. Atheistic communion was leading hearts into a rebellion against God and the order, which He has placed in His creation and has written on the heart of every man,[5] the only earthly creature made in His own image and likeness.[6]

God prepared the messengers of the Virgin of Fatima, Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and the Servant of God Lucia Rosa dos Santos, by three visions of the Angel of Portugal which took place during the Spring, Summer and Autumn of 1916. During the first vision, while telling the shepherd children not to be afraid and assuring them that he was “the Angel of Peace,” he taught them to pray three times with these words:

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope [in] and I love You. I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope [in] and do not love You.[7]

The Angel, as God’s messenger to the shepherd children was already indicating the way in which the Mother of God would lead: the way of prayer, penance and reparation. He concluded the vision with the words:

Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.[8]

During his second apparition, the Angel urged the children: “Offer prayers and sacrifices to the Most High.”[9] When Lucia asked how the children were to make sacrifices, the Angel replied:

Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an action of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country. I am its Guardian Angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you.[10]

The children were indeed led to pray as the Angel had taught them and to accept happily suffering for the sake of the forgiveness of sins and the repair of the disorder which sin always introduces into personal lives and into the world.

During the third apparition, in the autumn of 1916, the Angel, “holding in his hand a chalice with a Host suspended above it, from which a few drops of blood fell, taught the children a much longer prayer:

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.[11]

The Angel then communicated the Sacred Host to Lucia and the Precious Blood to Francisco and Jacinta, with these words: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.”[12]

The third apparition of the Angel of Portugal manifested to the children the essentially Eucharistic nature of their prayer and sacrifice. In fact, Christ makes ever new His sacrifice on Calvary through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, for the salvation of souls and of the world. Hearts, one with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, are most perfectly united to the Heart of Jesus through participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice which reaches its culmination in the worthy reception of the incomparable fruit of the Sacrifice: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

The central message of Our Lady of Fatima was revealed in what is called the Secret of Fatima during the apparition which took place on July 13, 1917. The first part of the Secret has two essential contents. First, there is the terrifying vision of Hell, foreshadowed in the evils visited upon the world at the time. Then, there is the offer of God’s healing peace through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that souls may be saved from a life of grievous or mortal sin and its fruit: eternal death. Our Lady spoke these words to the shepherd children:

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, persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.[13]

While the first part of the Secret gives a severe admonition, it is also full of hope in the unfailing grace of God which brings about repentance for sins committed and peace in individual repentant souls and, as a result, in the world.

Referring to the punishments necessarily connected with the grave sins of the time, the second part of the Secret is the announcement of the peace which God wants to give to souls and to the world. The peace of God will come to the world through two means: 1) the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and 2) the practice of the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturday of the month. Our Lady spoke these words to the shepherd children:

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. In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, etc.[14]

Our Lady indicated the spiritual remedy of the deplorable situation in which the world and Church found themselves. She also foretold the terrible physical chastisements which would result from the failure to consecrate the agent of the spread of atheistic communism to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through her Immaculate Heart and to undertake the regular practice of reparation for so many offenses communicated against the immeasurable and unceasing love of God manifested so perfectly in the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus.

In fact, the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary did not take place, as she requested, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays did not become the practice of the universal Church. There ensued the terrible suffering of the Second World War and its aftermath, the spread of atheistic communism, resulting, in fact, in the persecution of many nations and of the Church in those nations, and the annihilation of some nations. The second part of the Secret also ends with the sure hope that the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph through obedience to her maternal instruction.

The third part of the Secret, indicated by the “etc.” at the end of the second part, has to deal with the spiritual chastisement brought about by the rebellion of man who instead of giving his heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary gives over his heart to the corruption of the worldly materialism and relativism of the age. The third part of the Secret was finally written by Sister Lucia on January 3, 1944, but was to be revealed at the death of Sister Lucia or in 1960, whichever date came first.

In her description of the third part of the Secret, Sister Lucia quotes “the Angel with a flaming sword” whom she saw at Our Lady’s left side:

Pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: “Penance, Penance, Penance!”[15]

She then describes the martyrdom of those remaining true to Our Lord, those of one heart, in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with His Most Sacred Heart. Beneath the two arms of “a big cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork tree with the bark… there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in their hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”[16]

Sister Lucia also records three declarations of the Mother of God. First, Our Lady asks that the third part of the Secret not be communicated to others, except Francisco, at that time (July 13, 1917), and then she gives the following instruction:

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 most in need.[17]

Finally, Our Lady assured Lucia that she had nothing further to request of her at that time.

Before considering in a bit more detail the third part of the Secret, I mention briefly how the other apparitions of Our Lady prepare for the apparition of July 13th and confirm it. During the apparition of May 13th, the Virgin asked the children come to the same place “for six months in succession on the 13th day at [the] same hour.”[18] She indicated that in the course of the six months, she would indicate to them what she desired of them. She urged the children to pray the Rosary and to embrace the sufferings which God sends “as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.”[19] She also assured them that the grace of God would not be lacking to them. During the apparition on June 13th, she asked the children to continue praying the Rosary, assuring them that she would tell them later what she wanted. She made clear that devotion to her Immaculate Heart is both a “refuge” and “the way” that leads to God.[20]

During the apparition of August 19th, which was postponed due to the imprisonment of the shepherd children, the Virgin confirmed her instruction regarding the need of praying the Rosary and offering many sacrifices for the salvation of souls. She also promised that during the last apparition, “I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.”[21] On September 13th, Our Lady once again confirmed the children in the practice of praying the Rosary and offering sacrifices for the salvation of souls and peace in the world. She renewed the promise of a miracle. She declared:

In October, Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. St. Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world.[22]

Faithful to Our Lady’s promise, on October 13th, after asking that a chapel be built to her honor as Our Lady of the Rosary and urging the daily praying of the Rosary, and repentance and reparation for sins, God provided the Miracle of the Sun to confirm faith in the message which our Lady brought to the world at Fatima. Time does not permit a fuller meditation on the other apparitions.

I now return to the third part of the Secret or Message of Fatima. Without entering into a discussion regarding whether the third part of the Secret has been fully revealed, it seems clear from the most respected studies of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, that it has to do with the diabolical forces unleashed upon the world in our time and entering into the very life of the Church which lead souls away from the truth of the faith and, therefore, from the Divine Love flowing from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus. Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, in his monumental study of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, writes the following regarding the third part of the Secret or what is often called the Third Secret:

In short, the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary undoubtedly refers much more to the third Secret than even the second. For the recovery of peace will be a gift from Heaven, but it is not, properly speaking, the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her victory is of another order, supernatural, and then temporal by addition. It will first be the victory of the Faith, which will put an end to the time of apostasy, and the great shortcomings of the Church’s pastors.[23]

As horrible as are the physical chastisements associated with man’s disobedient rebellion before God, infinitely more horrible are the spiritual chastisements for they have to do with the fruit of grievous sin: eternal death. As is clear, only the Faith, which places man in the relationship of unity of heart with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the mediation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, can save man from the spiritual chastisements which rebellion against God necessarily brings upon its perpetrators and upon the whole of both society and the Church.

The teaching of the Faith in its integrity and with courage is the heart of the office of the Church’s pastors: the Roman Pontiff, the Bishops in communion with the See of Peter, and their principal co-workers, the priests. For that reason, the Third Secret is directed, with particular force, to those who exercise the pastoral office in the Church. Their failure to teach the faith, in fidelity to the Church’s constant teaching and practice, whether through a superficial, confused or even worldly approach, and their silence endangers mortally, in the deepest spiritual sense, the very souls for whom they have been consecrated to care spiritually. The poisonous fruits of the failure of the Church’s pastors is seen in a manner of worship, of teaching and of moral discipline which is not in accord with Divine Law.

In recent history, for instance, Blessed Pope Paul VI made reference to the incursion of the devil into the most sacred aspect of the life of the Church, her Divine Worship, in his homily for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul in 1972. He reflected at some length upon the situation of the Church in the world during the years immediately following upon the close of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Using an image with a clear reference to the Sacred Liturgy, he spoke of his sense that “through some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered into the temple of God.”[24] He went on to reflect on how the abuse of the temple of God reflected a more general crisis in the teaching and practice of the Faith.

He spoke of a pervasive doubt, uncertainty, restlessness, dissatisfaction and dissent, and of a loss of trust in the Church, coupled with a ready placement of trust in secular prophets who speak through the press or social movements, seeking from them the formula for a true life.[25] He noted how the state of uncertainty prevailed within the Church Herself, observing that after the Second Vatican Council it was believed that “a day of sunlight had dawned upon the Church,” while, in fact, “a day of clouds, storms, darkness, wandering and uncertainty” had arrived.[26] He commented that the Church seemed to plumb the abysses rather than to seek to fill them.[27]

Blessed Pope Paul VI and Pope Saint John Paul II addressed the increasing gravity of the incursion of an atheistic materialism, secularism and relativism in the Church with the call for a new evangelization. For Blessed Pope Paul VI, a new evangelization is the fundamental form of proclaiming the truth of Christ in our time. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, “On Evangelization in the Modern World” of December 8, 1975, he described evangelization as the Church’s “… deepest inspiration, that which comes to her directly from the Lord: To the whole world! To all creation! Right to the ends of the earth!”[28] After reflecting on the first proclamation of the Gospel which “… is addressed to those who have never heard the Good News of Jesus, or to children,”[29] he declared:

But, as a result of the frequent situations of dechristianization in our day, it also proves equally necessary for innumerable people who have been baptized but who live quite outside Christian life, for simple people who have a certain faith but an imperfect knowledge of the foundations of that faith, for intellectuals who feel the need to know Jesus Christ in a light different from the instruction they received as children, and for many others.[30]

The degree of secularization about which Pope Paul VI referred with concern in 1975 has only continued to increase exponentially, also due to a grave impoverishment or even lack of adequate catechesis in the Church during the past four and more decades.

The pontificate of Pope Saint John Paul II, in fact, may be rightly described as a tireless call to recognize the Church’s challenge to be faithful to her divinely given mission in a completely secularized society and to respond to the challenge by means of a new evangelization. A new evangelization consists in: 1) teaching the faith through preaching, catechesis, Catholic education and all forms of communication, 2) celebrating the faith in Divine Worship and in prayer and devotion which are the extension of Divine Worship into every moment of daily living, and 3) living the faith by the practice of the virtues – all as if for the first time, that is, with the engagement and energy of the first disciples and of the first missionaries to our native place.

In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, “On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World,” Pope John Paul II described the contemporary situation of the Church in a world which is increasingly secularized, marked by a pervasive and constant spread of relativism, which “inspires and sustains a life lived ‘as if God did not exist’.”[31] Not by chance, in Evangelium Vitae, addressing the culture of death which tragically marks a totally secularized society, he made reference to such a way of living in ignorance of God and of the order with which He has created the world and, above all, man. He declared:

By living “as if God did not exist”, man not only loses sight of the mystery of God, but also of the mystery of the world and the mystery of his own being.[32]

He went on to describe the situation which “inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism,”[33] and in which man exchanges his very being for material possessions and pleasures, rejects suffering as meaningless, and views his body and sexuality in abstraction from his person.

To remedy the situation of a totally secularized culture, the saintly Pontiff observed, “a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world.”[34] He hastened to add that, if the remedy is to be effected, the Church herself must be evangelized anew. Fundamental to understanding the radical secularization of our culture is to understand also how much this secularization has entered into the life of the Church Herself. Pope John Paul II declared:

But for this [the mending of the Christian fabric of society] to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations.[35]

Pope Saint John Paul II, therefore, called upon the lay faithful to fulfill their particular responsibility, that is, “to testify how the Christian faith constitutes the only fully valid response – consciously perceived and stated by all in varying degrees – to the problems and hopes that life poses to every person and society.”[36]

Making more specific the call, he clarified that the fulfillment of the responsibility of the lay faithful requires that they “know how to overcome in themselves the separation of the Gospel from life, to take up again in their daily activities in family, work and society, an integrated approach to life that is fully brought about by the inspiration and strength of the Gospel.”[37] Before the grave situation of the world today, we are, Pope Saint John Paul II reminded us, like the first disciples who, after hearing Saint Peter’s Pentecost discourse, asked him: “What must we do?”[38] Even as the first disciples faced a pagan world which had not even heard of our Lord Jesus Christ, so, too, we face a culture which is forgetful of God and hostile to His Law written upon every human heart.[39]

Before the great challenge of our time, Pope Saint John Paul II cautioned us that we will not save ourselves and our world by discovering “some magic formula” or by “inventing a new programme.”[40] In unmistakable terms, he declared:

No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: I am with you.[41]

He reminded us that the programme by which we are to address effectively the great spiritual challenges of our time is Jesus Christ alive for us in the Church. He explained:

The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its center in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a program which does not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication.[42]

In short, the program leading to freedom and happiness is, for each of us, the holiness of a life lived in Christ.

Pope Saint John Paul II, in fact, cast the entire pastoral plan for the Church in terms of holiness. He explained himself thus:

In fact, to place pastoral planning under the heading of holiness is a choice filled with consequences. It implies the conviction that, since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethics and a shallow religiosity. To ask catechumens: “Do you wish to receive Baptism?” means at the same time to ask them: “Do you wish to become holy?” It means to set before them the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).[43]

Pope Saint John Paul II taught us the extraordinary nature of our ordinary life, because it is lived in Christ and, therefore, produces in us the incomparable beauty of holiness. He declared:

The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: the whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction.[44]

Seeing in us the daily conversion of life by which we strive to meet the high standard of holiness, the “high standard of ordinary Christian living,” our brothers and sisters will discover the great mystery of their own ordinary life in which God daily showers upon them his immeasurable and ceaseless love, calling them to holiness of life in Christ, His only-begotten Son.

The family is the first place of education in the Christian life, the first place in which the daily conversion of life to Christ, under the guidance and protection of His and our mother, takes place. Regarding Christian marriage and the family, and the call to evangelization, Pope Saint John Paul II, in his 1981 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, Familiaris Consortio, declared that “the Christian family, in fact, is the first community called to announce the Gospel to the human person during growth and to bring him or her, through a progressive education and catechesis, to full human and Christian maturity.”[45] Christian education in the family and in the school introduces children and young people, in an ever more profound way, into the Tradition, into the great gift of our life in Christ in the Church handed down to us faithfully, in an unbroken line, through the Apostles and their successors. Education, if it is to be sound, that is, for the good of the individual and society, must be especially attentive to arm itself against the errors of atheistic materialism, secularism and relativism, lest it fail to communicate to the succeeding generations the truth, beauty and goodness of our life and of our world, as they are expressed in the unchanging teaching of the Faith, in its highest expression in Divine Worship, prayer and devotion, and in the holiness of life of those who profess the faith and worship God “in spirit and in truth.”[46]

Education which takes place first in the home and is enriched and supplemented by schools and, above all, by truly Catholic schools is directed fundamentally to the formation of good citizens and good members of the Church. Ultimately it is directed to the happiness of the individual which is found in right relationships and has its fulfilment in eternal life. It presupposes the objective nature of things to which the human heart is directed, if it is trained to follow a correctly formed conscience. It seeks an ever deeper knowledge and love of the true, the good, and the beautiful. It forms the individual to this fundamental pursuit throughout his or her lifetime.

Today, the Church is beset by confusion and error about even some of her most fundamental and constant teachings. As a secular agenda continues to advance in the world, promoting the attack upon innocent and defenseless human life, upon the integrity of marriage and its incomparable fruit, the family, and upon the very freedom of man to worship God “in spirit and truth,”[47] the Church herself seems confused and even at times indulgent toward a mundanity which rebels against God and His law. The world has great need for the Church to announce the Faith, the truth of Christ, with clarity and courage, but sadly too often she remains silent or seems uncertain regarding the truth and its steadfast application to daily life in the world. At the same time, the confusion, which remains uncorrected, generates profound divisions among individual Bishops and Conferences of Bishops, among priests and among the faithful, in general. The most fundamental and important moral questions receive a different response from the pastors of the Church in different places. A new evangelization has been confused with a sentimental embrace of a secular culture which fails to call the culture to conversion and to give witness to conversion by the integrity of life of Christians. Not without reason, the faithful find themselves confused and disoriented. Such a situation leads also to a sense of abandonment.

Reflecting upon the pressing need to respond to the grace of a new evangelization, we see how timely the apparitions and message of Our Lady of Fatima remain. At Fatima, the Mother of God, our Mother, provides for us the means to go faithfully to her Divine Son and to seek from Him the wisdom and strength to bring His saving grace to a profoundly troubled world. She provides six particular means for us to employ in addressing the situation. She asks us as individual members of the faithful: 1) to pray the Rosary each day; 2) to wear the Brown Scapular; 3) to make sacrifices for the sake of saving sinners; 4) to make reparation for offenses to her Immaculate Heart by means of the First Saturday devotion; and 5) to convert our own lives ever more to Christ. Lastly, she asks the Roman Pontiff, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. By these means, she promises that her Immaculate Heart will triumph, bringing souls to Christ, her Son. Turning to Christ, they will make reparation for their sins. Christ, through the intercession of His Virgin Mother, will save them from Hell and bring peace to the whole world.

While the Secret of Fatima is realistic about the great evils which beset the world and the Church, it is fundamentally a message of hope in the victory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The victory of grace, however, means for us the daily conversion to Christ, purification from sin in our lives through prayer and penance, and reparation for sins committed.

Visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 1982, the first anniversary of the attempt on his life, Pope Saint John Paul II declared:

Today John Paul II, successor of Peter, continuer of the work of Pius, John, and Paul, and particular heir of the Second Vatican Council, presents himself before the Mother of the Son of God in her Shrine at Fátima. In what way does he come?

He presents himself, reading again with trepidation the motherly call to penance, to conversion, the ardent appeal of the Heart of Mary that resounded at Fátima sixty-five years ago. Yes, he reads it again with trepidation in his heart because he sees how many people and societies – how many Christians – have gone in the opposite direction to the one indicated in the message of Fátima. Sin has thus made itself firmly at home in the world, and denial of God has become widespread in the ideologies, ideas and plans of human beings.

But for this very reason the evangelical call to repentance and conversion, uttered in the Mother’s message, remains ever relevant. It is still more relevant than it was sixty-five years ago. It is still more urgent….

The successor of Peter presents himself here also a witness to the immensity of human suffering, a witness to the almost apocalyptic menaces looking over the nations and mankind as a whole. He is trying to embrace these sufferings with his own weak human heart, as he places himself before the mystery of the Heart of the Mother, the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In the name of these sufferings and with awareness of the evil that is spreading throughout the world and menacing the individual human being, the nations, and mankind as a whole, Peter’s successor presents himself here with greater faith in the redemption of the world, in the saving Love that is always stronger, always more powerful than any evil.

My heart is oppressed when I see the sin of the world and the whole range of menaces gathering like a dark cloud over mankind, but it also rejoices with hope as I once more do what has been done by my Predecessors, when they consecrated the world to the Heart of the Mother, when they consecrated especially to that Heart those peoples which particularly need to be consecrated. Doing this means consecrating the world to Him Who is infinite Holiness. This Holiness means redemption. It means a love more powerful than evil. No “sin of the world” can ever overcome this Love.

Once more this act is being done. Mary’s appeal is not for just once. Her appeal must be taken up by generation after generation, in accordance with the ever new “signs of the times”. It must be unceasingly returned to. It must ever be taken up anew.[48]

The words of Pope Saint John Paul II make clear the perennial importance of the Message of Fatima: the giving of one’s whole heart, together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and thus the commitment to become an ever more effective agent of the sorely needed new evangelization of our culture. Attention to the maternal direction of Our Lady of Fatima draw souls to Christ Who will give them the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit for the conversion of their lives and the transformation of a culture of death into a civilization of love.

In what regards the Message of Fatima, I cannot fail to draw attention to the particular service of Portugal and, above all, of the Bishops of Portugal in bringing Our Lady’s maternal guidance and protection to the whole world. Our Lady promised: “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, ….”[49] The Secret or Message of Fatima was first entrusted to the Bishop of Leiria for the sake of the whole world. Rightly, the world looks today to Portugal, so favored by the apparitions at Fatima, to bring Our Lady’s Message of trust in the victory of her Immaculate Heart which is indeed the victory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The world looks to Portugal for the sign of the Faith which alone brings about the victory of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

In conclusion, let us not give way to discouragement before the tumultuous situation in which the world and the Church finds itself in our times. Rather, let us heed once again the maternal direction of the Virgin of Fatima for a new evangelization of the Church and, thus, of the world.

Let us be invested with the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and pray daily the Holy Rosary for the conversion of sinners and for peace in the world. Let us center of all our labors upon participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Act of Thanksgiving after each Holy Mass and throughout the day, Eucharistic Adoration, and the daily praying of the Holy Rosary – by which Our Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady, transforms our lives and our world.

Let us make reparation for the many and grievous offenses against the immeasurable and unceasing love of God for us by practicing the devotion of the First Saturdays and by embracing suffering and sacrifice for love of all our brothers and sisters and especially of those in most need.

Let us consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and work for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Certainly, Pope Saint John Paul II consecrated the world, including Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, 1984. But, today, once again, we hear the call of Our Lady of Fatima to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart, in accord with her explicit instruction. The requested consecration is at once a recognition of the importance which Russia continues to have in God’s plan for peace and a sign of profound love for our brothers and sisters in Russia.

May the Mother of God and Mother of Divine Grace lead many souls to unite their hearts to her Immaculate Heart in the total consecration of their hearts to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As the Mother of God teaches us, there is no surer way to grow daily in the spiritual life and thus to become “rivers of living water”[50] for a world which thirsts so much for the truth and love which are only found in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. So may the truth and love of Christ animate our homes and make them a light of hope for all who struggle against the forces of materialism and relativism. The Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph over any darkness in our hearts. Through her triumph in our hearts and in the hearts of many, through the triumph of the Faith, the Immaculate Heart of Mary will also triumph over the great darkness of our time by leading souls to the truth and love of her Divine Son, by leading souls to give their hearts, with hers, completely into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She will continue to speak to our hearts, as she spoke to the hearts of the wine stewards at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.”[51]


Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

1] Jn 2, 5.

[2] Cf. Jn 19, 26-27.

[3]Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genetrix; nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris, sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper, Virgo gloriosa et benedica.” Enchiridion Indulgentiarum. Normae et concessiones, ed. 4ª (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1999), p. 65, n. 17. [EnchInd]. English translation: Manual of Indulgences. Norms and Grants, translated into English from the fourth edition (1999) (Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2006), p. 62, no. 17. [EnchIndEng].

[4] “Monstra te esse matrem, sumat per te preces qui pro nobis natus tulit esse tuus.” The Raccolta or A Manual of Indulgences. Prayers and Devotions Enriched with Indulgences, tr. Joseph P. Christopher, Charles E. Spence and John F. Rowan (New York: Benziger Brothers, Inc., 1957), pp. 222-223, no. 321.

[5] Cf. Rom 2, 15.

[6] Cf. Gen 1, 26-27.

[7] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 46.

[8] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 46.

[9] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 46.

[10] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 47.

[11] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 30.

[12] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 30.

[13] Carmel of Coimbra, A Pathway under the Gaze of Mary: Biography of Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart, tr. James A. Colson (Washington, NJ: World Apostolate of Fatima, USA, 2015), p. 68. Hereafter, Carmel of Coimbra.

[14] Carmel of Coimbra, pp. 68-69.

[15] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 69.

[16] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 69.

[17] Carmel of Coimbra, pp. 69-70.

[18] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 58.

[19] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 58.

[20] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 63.

[21] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 81.

[22] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 86.

[23] Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, The Whole Truth about Fatima, Volume Three: The Third Secret (1942-1960), tr. John Collorafi (Buffalo, NY: Immaculate Heart Publications, 1990), pp. 816-817.

[24] “… da qualche fessura sia entrato il fumo di Satana nel tempio di Dio.” Paulus PP. VI, “Per il nono anniversario dell’Incoronazione di Sua Santità: «Resistite fortes in fide», 29 giugno 1972,” Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, Vol. 10 (1972) (Città del Vaticano: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1973), p. 707. [Hereafter, HomilyPaulVI]. English translation by author.

[25] Cf. HomilyPaulVI, pp. 707-708.

[26] “… una giornata di sole per la storia della Chiesa…una giornata di nuvole, di tempesta, di buio, di ricerca, di incertezza.” HomilyPaulVI, p. 708. English translation by author.

[27] Cf. HomilyPaulVI, p. 708.

[28] “… altissimum mentis instinctum in se excitat, qui ad eam proxime a divino Magistro proficiscitur, hisce verbis resonantibus: mundo universo! omni creaturae! usque ad ultimum terrae!” Paulus PP. VI, Adhortatio Apostolica Evangelii nuntiandi, “De Evangelizatione in mundo huius temporis”, 8 Decembris 1975, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 68 (1976), 40, n. 50. [Hereafter, EN] English translation: Pope Paul VI, On Evangelization in the Modern World (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, nd), p. 35, n. 50. [Hereafter, ENEng]

[29] “… ad eos praesertim habetur, qui Bonum Iesu Nuntium numquam audierunt, aut pueris…” EN, 40, n. 52. English translation: ENEng, p. 35, n. 52.

[30] “… cum crebro hodie eae invaluerint condiciones, quibus a lege christiana prorsus disceditur – plurimis hominibus, qui sacro quidem tincti sunt baptismate, sed extra quamvis formam vitae christianae degunt, plebi simplici, quae quandam possidet fidem, sed eius fundamenta vix cognoscit, viris studia colentibus, qui opus sibi esse sentiunt, ut Iesum Christum agnoscant alia ratione sibi propositum quam institutione, quae puerili aetate tradi solet, necnon aliis multis.” EN, 40-41, n. 52. English translation: ENEng, p. 36, no. 52.

[31] “…inhiant ac proclamant ita esse vivendum «etsi Deus non daretur».” Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Adhortatio Apostolica Christifideles Laici, “De vocatione et missione Laicorum in Ecclesia et in mundo,” 30 Decembris 1988, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 81 (1989), 454, no. 34. [Hereafter, CL]. English translation: Pope John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, 30 December 1988, “On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World” (Vatican City State: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, nd), p. 95, no. 34. [Hereafter, CLEng].

[32] “Vivens reapse «perinde ac si Deus non sit», non modo a Dei mysterio, verum etiam a mundi ipsius arcano suaeque vitae aberrat.” EV, 426, n. 22. English translation: EVEng, p. 40, no. 22.

[33] “…necessario ad materialismum practicum ducit, in quo individualismus, utilitarismus et hedonismus grassantur.” EV, 426, n. 23. English translation: EVEng, p. 40, no. 23.

[34] “… consortium humanum spiritu christiano ubique denuo imbuendum est.” CL, 455, no. 34. English translation: CLEng, p. 96, no. 34.

[35] “Id [consortium humanum spiritu christiano imbuendum] tamen possible erit, si christianus communitatum ipsarum ecclesialium contextus, quae his in regionibus et nationibus degunt, renovetur.” CL, 455, no. 34. English translation: CLEng, p. 96, no. 34.

[36] “…testari quomodo christiana fides responsum constituat unice plene validum, ab omnibus plus minusve conscie agnitum et invocatum, ad quaestiones et exspectationes, quas vita ipsa homini et societatibus imponit singulis.” CL, 455, no. 34. English translation: CLEng, p. 96, no. 34.

[37] “…hiatum inter Evangelium et vitam in seipsis superare valeant, in quotidianis familiae navitatibus, in labore et in societate unitatem vitae componentes, quae in Evangelio lucem et vim pro sua plena invenit adimpletione.” CL, p. 455, no. 34. English translation: CLEng, p. 96, no. 34.

[38] Acts 2, 37.

[39] Cf. Rom 2, 15.

[40] “… formulam veluti «magicam».”  Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Epistula Apostolica Novo Millennio Ineunte, “Magni Iubilaei anni MM sub exitum,” Acta Apostolicae Sedis 93 (2001), 285, n. 29. [Novo Millennio Ineunte]. English translation: Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, “At the Close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000,” 6 January 2001 (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2001), p. 39, no. 29. [Novo Millennio Ineunte Eng].

[41] “Nullo modo: servabit nos nulla formula, verum Persona una atque certitudo illa quam nobis Ipsa infundit: Ego vobiscum sum.” Novo Millennio Ineunte, 285, n. 29. English translation: Novo Millennio Ineunte Eng, p. 39, no. 29.

[42] “Iam enim praesto est consilium seu «programma»: illud nempe quod de Evangelio derivatur semper vivaque Traditione. Tandem in Christo ipso deprehenditur istud, qui sane cognoscendus est, diligendus atque imitandus, ut vita in eo trinitaria ducatur et cum eo historia ipsa transfiguretur ad suam usque in Hierosolymis caelestibus consummationem. Institutum enim hoc, variantibus quidem temporibus ipsis atque culturae formis, non mutatur quamvis rationem quidem habeat temporis et culturae, ut verum instituat diverbium efficacemque communicationem.” Novo Millennio Ineunte, 285-286, n. 29. English translation: Novo Millennio Ineunte Eng, pp. 39-40, no. 29.

[43] “Re quidem vera, si pastoralis ordinatio sub signo sanctitatis statuitur, aliquid compluribus cum consectariis decernitur. Inde enim in primis firma aperitur sentientia: si vera est Baptismus ingressio in Dei sanctitatem per insertionem in Christum ipsum necnon Spiritus eius per inhabitationem, quaedam repugnantia est contentum esse mediocri vita, quae ad normam transigitur ethnicae doctrinae minimum solum poscentis ac religionis superficiem tantum tangentis. Ex catechumeno quaerere: «Vis baptizari?» eodem tempore est petere: «Vis sanctificari?». Idem valet ac deponere eius in via extremum Sermonis Montani principium: «Estote ergo vos perfecti, sicut Pater vester caelestis perfectus est» (Mt 5, 48).” Novo Millennio Ineunte, 288, n. 31. English translation: Novo Millennio Ineunte Eng, p. 43, no. 31.

[44] “Omnibus ergo tempus est iterum firmiter hunc proponere «superiorem modum» ordinariae vitae christianae: ad hanc namque metam conducere debet omnis vita ecclesialis communitatis ac familiarum christianarum.” Novo Millennio Ineunte, 288, n. 31. English translation: Novo Millennio Ineunte Eng, p. 43, no. 31.

[45] “… christiana enim familia est prima communitas, cuius est Evangelium personae humanae crescent annuntiare eamque progrediente education et catechesis ad plenam maturitatem humanam et christianam perducere.” Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Adhortatio Apostolica Familiaris Consortio, “De Familiae Christianae muneribus in mundo huius temporis,” 22 Novembris 1981, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 74 (1982), 823, n. 2. English translation: Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familaris Consortio, “Regarding the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World,” 22 November 1981 (Vatican City State: Vatican Polyglot Press, 1981), p. 4, no. 2.

[46] Jn 4, 24.

[47] Cf. Jn 4, 23-24.

[48] “E como é que se apresenta hoje diante da Santa Mãe que gerou o Filho de Deus, no seu Santuário de Fátima, João Paulo II, sucessor de Pedro e continuador de obra de Pio, de João e de Paulo e particular herdeiro do Concilio Vaticano II?

Apresenta-se com ansiedade, a fazer a releitura daquele chamamento materno à penitência e à conversão, daquele apelo ardente do Coração de Maria, que se fez ouvir aqui en Fátima, há sessenta e cinco anos. Sim, relê-o, com o coração amargurado, porque vê quantos homens, quantas sociedades e quantos cristãos foram indo em direcção oposta àquela que foi indicada pela mensagem de Fátima. O pecado adquiriu assim um forte direito de cidadania e a negação de Deus difundiu-se nas ideologias, nas concepções e nos programas humanos!

E precisamente por isso, o convite evangélico à penitência e à conversão, espresso com as palavras da Mãe, continua ainda actual. Mais actual mesmo do que há sessenta e cinco anos atrás. E até mais urgente….

O sucessor de Pedro apresenta-se aqui também como tesemunha dos imensos sofrimentos do homem, como testemunha das ameaças quase apocalípticas, que pesam sobre as nações e sobre a humanidade. E procura abraçar esses sofrimentos com o seu fraco coração humano, ao mesmo tempo que se põe bem diante do misério do Coração: do Coração da Mãe, do Coração Imaculado de Maria.

Em virtude desses sofrimentos, com a consciência do mal que alastra pelo mundo e ameaça o homem, as nações e a humanidade, o sucessor de Pedro apresenta-se aqui com uma fé maior na redenção do mundo: fé naquele Amor salvíficio que è sempre maior, sempre mais forte do que todos os males.

Assim, se por um lado o coração se confrange, pelo sentido do pecado do mundo, bem como pela série de ameaças que aumentam no mundo, por outro lado, o mesmo coração humano sente-se dilatar com a esperança, ao pôr em prática uma vez mais aquilo que os meus Predecessores já fizeram: consagrar o mundo ao Coração de Mãe, consagrar-Lhe especialmente aqueles povos que, do modo particular, tenhm necessidade disso. Este acto equivale a consagrar o mundo Àquele que è Santidade infinita. Esta Santidade significa redenção, significa amor mais forte do que o mal. Jamas algum «pecado do mundo» poderá superar este Amor.” Ioannes Paulus PP. II, “Ad Lusitaniae episcopos in aedibus Sanctuariii Fatimensis coram admissos,” die 13 Maii 1982, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 74 (1982), p. 908, n. 11. English translation: L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 17 May 1982.

[49] Carmel of Coimbra, p. 69.

[50] Jn 7, 38.

[51] Jn 2, 5.

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Reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (N.O.) and the Fifth Sunday after Easter (E.F.)


Sixth Sunday of Easter ( N.O.)

Fr David Sanders comments on the ‘Benedict Option’ and calls us to go beyond that towards a ‘Dominican Option’.


How should the Church in the West face what is seen as a rising tide of secularity often antagonistic to religion? One solution which has been suggested recently is called the Benedict Option. What does it require? It demands withdrawal and consolidation. If the Church is to survive this menace it must stop trying to compete with the combined forces of  capitalism and technology which destroy everything in their path. It must withdraw from the world and concentrate on building up its true identity through actually putting into effect the stringent demands of the Gospel. Just as St Benedict in the fifth century withdrew from the decadence of city of Rome before the fall of that great empire and founded monastic communities so must Christians today become creative minority communities who keep alive the flame of faith.

In the passages we have been reading from St John’s Gospel since Easter Jesus is faced with a similar situation. In this farewell speech Jesus is preparing his disciples how to face life without him. How will they survive imminently when he  willbe  taken and crucified but even after he has risen in glory to his Father how will he be  present to them? He does not want them to have any illusions. The world will hate them as it has hated him. They too will face persecution. So he concentrates on turning inwards. They will be a community apart. They must find their true identity by keeping Christ’s commandments. And this means that they must love one another. There is no mention of loving enemies.

The church community which Jesus prepares for them will replace the old temple now destroyed. Christ now is the new temple, his Father’s house, where they will experience the presence of God. As Jesus tells them ‘‘I am in the Father and you in me and I in you’’. The Christian community is where the Father and the Son will dwell and each member will experience the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Christ will not leave them orphans for they will be children of God living in this new family which Christ creates on the cross as he gives his beloved disciple into the care of his Mother.

But while the Gospel seems to turn inwards the first reading from Acts turns us out to the world. Obviously it makes sense for the Church to know its own identity before it tries to convert others. And as the Church remains in Jerusalem after Pentecost it insists on certain practices which define itself. It insists on the teaching of apostolic doctrine, it holds its property in common, it prays and it breaks bread in the eucharist. These disciplines define the Church. But once it knows who it is then it must obey Christ’s command to move out. It can no longer be self-absorbed. ‘You will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem, but throughout Judaea and Samaria and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

Persecution forces the Christians to leave Jerusalem. Stephen is stoned for his witness to Christ.  And today Philip enters the hostile world of the Samaritans and proclaims the Gospel. The Spirit of truth in John’s Gospel  is now the Spirit which  drives the Church out of its comfort zone. Through the power of the Spirit Philip continues the work of Jesus as he drives out the demonic spirits and heals the sick. Peter and John come up from Jerusalem to legitimate what has been happening. The church is one in its teaching and its mission.  And the Kingdom of God extends to new territories as the new converts are baptised and themselves receive the Holy Spirit. The mission must continue if Christ is to be a light to the gentiles.

The witness of John’s Gospel and the witness of the Acts of the Apostles must complement each other. Christians must know their faith and live it before they can evangelise. You can’t preach love of enemies unless first you have shown you can love your own brethren. The Church is both contemplative and missionary. Neglect one aspect and you undermine its witness. At a later period in the history of the Church St Dominic said that we must hand on the things we have contemplated. Contemplation and mission must go together. On reflection then it might be good idea for the Church to have a Dominican Option!

Acts 8:5-8. 14-17  |  1 Pt 3:15-18  |  John 14:15-21

Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. of St Dominic sending out his first friars, from the chapel of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.


Fifth Sunday after Easter (E.F.)

On this last Sunday after Easter the chants of the Mass are still as they were at the beginning of Eastertide, hymns of triumph and joy. Holy Mother Church never tires of celebrating Christ’s resurrection and the redemptive graces that have transformed our lives.

 But man forgets his better self with disconcerting ease. Today’s Epistle exhorts us to the serious practice of Christian life, and the Collect asks God not only for the grace of thinking aright but also for that of conforming our lives to the ideal indicated to us. This double invitation to a constant personal effort as well as to prayer leads to a properly balanced Christian life. \Exhortation to prayer is frequent in the Gospels of these last Sundays after Easter; it is connected with the sending of the Holy Spirit and Our Blessed Lord’s own prayer for His disciples. This week the call to prayer is emphasized still further by the three Rogation days.


Declare it with the voice of joy, and make it known, alleluia; declare it even to the ends of the earth: The Lord hath delivered His people, alleluia, alleluia.  Ps: Shout with joy to God all the earth, sing ye a psalm to His name: give glory to His praise.  Glory be to the Father.


O God, from whom all good things proceed, be generous to Your petitioners; so that by Your inspiration we may think what is right, and, by Your guidance may perform it. Through Our Lord.

Epistle:  James 1  22-27:    Gospel:  John 16  23-30


Grant us Lord, after feasting on the strengthening food of Your heavenly table, that we may both desire what is right and receive what we desire. Through Our Lord.

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Quærite faciem eius semper


In the Secret of Thy Face
When the world and the Church are taken by surprise, or shaken, and filled with noisy commentary and debate, the role of the monk is to disappear even more radically into silence and adoration, seeking the One Thing Necessary, seeking the Face of the Lord. Quærite faciem eius semper. The monk lives hidden in the heart of the Church, beyond the veil, in her Holy of Holies, where nought is heard but the steady heartbeat of Love. The monk prefers the inviolable silence of the Church’s mystic sanctuary — the Heart of Christ — to the wranglings of the public forum, and to the exchange of private opinions.

O how great is the multitude of thy sweetness, O Lord, which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee! Which thou hast wrought for them that hope in thee, in the sight of the sons of men. Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy face, from the disturbance of men. Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues. (Psalm 30:20-21)

The devil seeks always to destabilize a monk and to lure him out of the silence and separation from the world that is his natural habitat. In moments of fear, of confusion, of spiritual disorientation, and of doubt, the wisest and best response is to go more deeply into the heart of the Church, following the example of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Anthony of Egypt, and Saint Benedict. It is to follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who “kept all these words, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

An Unshakable Love
The mystic heart of the Church is found in the silence and hiddenness of the Sacred Host, and in the silence and hiddennness of the desert sanctified by the presence of Christ and of the angels. There, in the heart of the Church, is an unshakable love, a constant indefectible love, a love that reveals itself as mercy in the face of every distress.

We, who mystically represent the Cherubim,
And chant the thrice-holy hymn to the Life-giving Trinity,
Let us set aside the cares of life
That we may receive the King of all,
Who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.

(Cherubikon, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)

Until the Day Dawn
What, then, are we to do with our questions and our fears? We are to let go of them. They will be answered and dispelled in the time and in the manner ordained by God. And if our questions go answered, it is so that we might grow in faith and in hope, while keeping vigil “until the day dawn, and the day star arise in our hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). What are we to do with our fears and apprehensions? We are to release them into the maternal Heart of Mary, trusting her to deal with them as she sees fit. We are, after all, children, too little to grapple with the things that frighten us and with the fear of the unknown, but we have a Mother: the Star of the Sea who shines serene and bright over the stormy waves, even in the darkest night.

In Praying Much
For a monk, the answers lie not in talking much, but in praying much, like a child in his mother’s arms, held safe upon her breast; like John, the beloved disciple resting his head upon the Heart of Jesus. The changes and uncertainties of this life are threatening and destabilizing, but beyond all change, and untouched by it, is the God whom we call each day at None immotus in te permanens, “unmoved and unchanging in Thyself.” The essence of the divine immutability is that “God is charity: and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) Let us, then, hide ourselves and quiet ourselves by resting in love at the heart of the Church.

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Actor Jim Caviezal: Snubbed by Hollywood after playing Our Lord in “The Passion of The Christ”

James Patrick “Jim” Caviezal, born 26th September 1968, is an American actor who is best known for his role as Jesus Christ in the 2013 film, The Passion of the Christ, an experience that left a deep impression on him. In 1996, Caviezel married Kerri Browitt, a high school English teacher. They have adopted three children with special needs. They are both devout Catholics and they are active in the Pro-Life campaign. Caviezel has been a featured public speaker at various religious venues since the release of The Passion of the Christ.

“The Passion of the Christ” star Jim Caviezel details how Hollywood turned its back on him after portraying Jesus. (Getty Images)

From The Blaze

Jim Caviezel, who portrayed Jesus Christ in the 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ,” opened up in a recent interview about how Hollywood snubbed him after his portrayal of Jesus.

“All of a sudden I stopped being one of five most popular actors in the studio, and I hadn’t done anything wrong. I just played Jesus,” Caviezel told Polish film critic Lukasz Adamski.

Caviezel added that everyone has their cross to bear, and that judgment is waiting for everyone.

“Was I personally affected by this rejection? Well, everyone has their cross to bear,” he said. “The world changes … but I will not be in this world forever. Neither will the producers from Hollywood. At some point, everyone will have to answer for what they have done.

Caviezel portrayed Jesus when he was 33 years old and said he believed that it meant something for him to portray Jesus at the same age that he was crucified, and didn’t consider it a coincidence that the two shared the same initials.

“Don’t you tell me it was a coincidence!” he said. “There are no coincidences. I keep hearing about ‘accidents’ and ‘strokes of luck.’ Secularization affects the entire world, including the USA. Only atheists believe in coincidence.”

He continued, and affirmed his faith by calling out naysayers who are of the world, and not just in this world. “There are no coincidences for God,” he said. “Even when God resurrects the dead, they will say it happened by accident.”

The actor noted that despite working in Hollywood, it never tainted his faith — on the contrary, it made it stronger.

“I’ve never forgotten that the name of Jesus is above all else,” he said. “It is also the most controversial name of all times. Love is controversial and he impersonates love. Jesus was telling the Romans about love and they killed him because of that. ‘Who is that man to tell me what kind of person I’m supposed to be?’ – they asked arrogantly. He was betrayed by his own people and abandoned by everyone. My duty was not only to show it all on the screen. My real duty is to live in accordance with the gospel every day and to give witness to the truth.”   Read on…

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” – (Matthew 5:11-12).


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Is Pleasure Supreme?

From the Letters of Dr Robert Moynihan:

Is Pope Francis planning to re-examine the Church’s teaching on contraception?

Rumors have been circulating in Rome for several days, since a May 11 blog post by veteran Italian Vaticanist Marco Tosatti, that Francis is seriously considering setting up a commission to study Humanae Vitae, the 1968 papal document of Pope Paul VI, which condemned the use of artificial means of contraception.

The post is entitled “Humanae Vitae: Rumors of a Vatican Study Commission to Examine the Encyclical of Paul VI” (in Italian: “Humanae Vitae: Voci su una commissione di studio Vaticana per esaminare l’enciclica di Paolo VI”).

Here is a link to that article: link.

Then, on May 15, a German article appeared on the internet based on Tosatti’s article.

The German article, written by Giuseppe Nardi, is entitled “Hat Papst Franziskus ‘Geheimkommission’ zur Revision von Humanae vitaeeingesetzt?” (“Has Pope Francis Established a ‘Secret Commission’ to Review [Revise] ‘Humanae Vitae‘?”).

This German report is entirely based on Tosatti’s report, adding no new evidence to support Tosatti’s report.

However, the German report is much longer than Tosatti’s report, going into some detail about the issues surrounding the 1968 publication of Humanae Vitae and the battle over its acceptance (or rejection) in the decades since, including the basic question of the morality or immorality of contraception.

The German article may be found here: link.

Then today, May 17, Maike Hickson of the website onepeterfive.com published an article based on Tosatti’s report entitled “Marco Tosatti on the Pope’s Secret Plans to Potentially Modify Humanae Vitae.”

Hickson writes: “As of today, Marco Tosatti still has not yet received either an official denial or a confirmation of the story from the Vatican.”

But she then adds: “In our own research, we have been able to confirm the story. A well-informed source in Rome has confirmed Tosatti’s account without however being able to give specific names of the members of that commission.”

Here is a link to her report, in English: link.

So, as of now, Tosatti’s report has not been officially confirmed.

Tosatti, in fact, in his original piece, tells us that his requests to various Vatican offices for either a confirmation or denial of the report have not met with any response.

So there is no certainty that his report is accurate.

However, Tosatti has been a Vatican reporter since the 1980s and enjoys relations of trust with a number of usually well-informed sources in the Roman Curia.

And Hickson is saying that she has been “able to confirm” the report with her own Vatican sources.

Therefore, when Tosatti writes that his sources have told him that the Pope is thinking of establishing such a commission, and when he decides to publish this information, and when Hickson repeats the story and says it has been “confirmed,” it seems at least worth noting.

The fact that his report has already been picked up in Germany and now in the United States means that it is already a matter that is being discussed and debated in several countries.

We will make every effort to confirm or deny this report, and one of our editors at Inside the Vatican, Christina Deardurff, a Catholic scholar educated at the prestigious Thomas Aquinas College in California and the mother of several children, will be preparing a complete report on the question for our June-July issue of Inside the Vatican magazine.

(To subscribe to the magazine, go here: link.)

“Pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, seems to be regarded as an ultimate, unmitigated good in our society,” Deardurff says.

“Indeed, we seem willing to use any means to remove any obstacle to our experience of such pleasure.

“Entire industries have arisen in support of this longing for pleasure: pharmaceutical companies which earn billions by manufacturing birth control pills which cripple the natural functioning of the body and cause pathologies like cancer and heart disease; the ‘adult entertainment’ industry, which exists to stoke the fires of our lust so we can, supposedly, enjoy even more pleasure than would be possible with actual mates; and the abortion industry, which crowns the whole by actually killing off our offspring so we can go on to live, and seek more pleasure, another day…

“All of this has as its engine the pursuit of physical pleasure, and it seems that our society cannot conceive of a higher good. People work ‘to have fun’ and they believe that is what makes life worth living, because ‘you only go around once.’

“And yet the profound joys unrelated to physical pleasure, the joy of gazing into the eyes of an infant, or of caring for an aged parent, the joys of a love which is not eros but agape, are forgotten.

“Pleasure is not supreme,” Deardurff concludes. “There is something more profound, and this ‘more profound’ is at the heart of the Christian message.”

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Nihilism: The Essence of the New Left — An Interview with Roberto de Mattei

From OnePeterFive:

Editor’s note: The following interview with Professor Roberto de Mattei was originally conducted by Hungarian journalists Norbert Filemon and Péter Heltai. Though it has already appeared in the Hungarian press, it has been made available to us through the graciousness of the interviewers to share here for the first time with the English-speaking world. We would like to thank Mr. Filemon and Mr. Heltai for their generosity in providing us with the use of this important discussion on matters of concern to all Catholics. 


Filemon and Heltai: We’re here in Rome next to Cardinal Peter Erdő’s titular church. Have you ever been to Hungary, have you got any Hungarian connections?

Roberto de Mattei: I have only been there once, and I could only stay for a few days. As a historian I appreciate all the countries that lived under the Soviet oppression. Hungary stands out because Hungarians were brave enough to rebel against the dictatorship. Cardinal Mindszenty, who is a hero of the Catholic resistance in the 20th century, is particularly close to me.

F&H: At the end of March in your speech at Cosmos Club in Washington, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Fatima, you drew attention to three other anniversaries that define our present: 1517, 1717, 1917. How are these numbers related to each other?

RM: In my opinion insofar as the history of ideas is concerned these three dates are related and it points out how deep political, cultural and religious crisis we live in. It is very important to understand the roots of this crisis, because our present is the result of a long process. All this started in Italy with humanism, then continued with the protestant revolution in German territories up to Luther. Then came the French Revolution, and finally the Bolshevik takeover in Russia. 1717 may be striking because it is not the French Revolution but the foundation of the first masonic lodge. There is a close relationship between the spread of the masons and the revolutionary events. It is a common denominator of the movements connected to these dates that their aim was to destroy the united Christian world.

F&H: These “attempts” clearly failed. How do we arrive at the present?

RM: In the 21st century there is a new wind is blowing: instead of construction there is destruction. Instead of (re)building there is demolition. This is the immediate target of today’s revolutionaries. What I say is easily understood in the context of Communism. The Communist ideology has two sides: on one hand there is a (not good, but) positive notion about an equal society without classes. On the other hand, there is this destructive aspect that wants to destroy Christianity and its base, family, property, state, and religion itself, in order to achieve the previous idea. This nihilism is the essence of the new left. The failures of the 20th century, namely the utopian visions brought only death and wars, have completely killed the constructivist approach — chaos and demolitions remained, and they hope something new may be born from that.

F&H: Let’s talk a bit more about those dates. 1517. This year many people remember the Reformation that started 500 years ago. The Catholic Church has changed a lot in the 20thcentury and has started and is trying to maintain dialogue with the other Churches ever since. What do you think, is this process successful? What may be the future of the ecumenism?

RM: I don’t think it has a future. The root of the problem is that there is not a unified protestant belief system, whereas the Catholic Church has one which has not been changed for 2000 years. One of the essential characteristics of the Catholic faith is that it is permanent. The protestant reformation is the opposite. After Luther came Zwingli, then Calvin, after that the Anabaptists, and they were followed by thousands of groups since then. The history of the Protestantism is the history of changes. The French bishop, an excellent theologian, Bousset already wrote a book with this title in the 17th century: The History of the variations of the protestant churches. Protestantism is similar to Islam in this respect. There is no unified Islam, either. There is no coherent teaching, there are only groups and religious trends. The only correct dialogue with protestants, just like with Orthodoxy or Islam, should be continued along the lines of the embodiment of unity, the papacy. With this we arrive to another crucial topic, that today’s crisis in the Church affects the centre of unity, the papacy.

F&H: What do you mean by the crisis of the papacy and the Church? Pope Francis seems to be a popular and open Church leader who, with the courage to use social media, can effectively communicate his message to the people.

RM: There is a crisis of faith and morals in the Church. A bishop who took part in the Synod on the Family told me that serious internal issues occurred during the meetings. Normally a situation like this should always be solved by the pope. He is the head, Christ’s earthly representative whose duty is to pronounce the last word in arguments and critical situations. But now, unfortunately, it seems that the papacy carries the symptoms of the aforementioned crisis, which, of course, has other, mainly historical reasons, as well.

F&H: You mentioned the Synod on the Family. A lot has been said about the crises of the institution of the family from a lot of people and from a lot of places in the 21st century. Based on this, Pope Francis convened a synod in order to find solution to the rising questions. What is wrong with this? Is this not a quick reaction that should be welcomed?

RM: Naturally, it is not a problem if the Pope seeks a solution in calling for a synod. But with or without a synod he could have said a few clear thoughts as the Head of the Catholic Church, that could show the path for the families in the middle of the crisis. What happened since 2014 instead? Utter chaos. The Pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia that was published after the synods is an extremely ambiguous document that causes huge confusion in the Church. Based on this document German bishop Müller said that the teachings of the Church have not changed a bit, the institution of marriage is still inseparable.

F&H: Why is it the Pope’s fault if bishops arbitrarily interpret a teaching?

RM: We are not talking about the opposition of just a few bishops. Cardinal Marx is not alone with his opinion. And most importantly, ordinary believers, in the meantime, do not understand what is happening. A Polish Catholic can hear from his bishops that the remarried can not receive Holy Communion, while if he goes go to Germany, the opposite will be told to him. The Catholic teaching must not be changed, it must be unified everywhere. The Pope, being the Vicar of Christ, is the only one who can publicly decide on this debate. We are talking about fundamental issues that are sensitive to us. Francis has not given any clear guidance in the past two years. His task, among other things, is to strengthen believers in their faith and to govern the Church. Instead, we find that he is saying something in an interview, then he takes half a sentence in one of his homilies, or in specific cases, writes a private letter to bishops of a particular country. These all create confusion and controversy. It is Pope Francis’ responsibility to manifest publicly and clearly on controversial issues.

F&H: If I understand it correctly, most of the debates are on a footnote of Amoris Laetitia, which some interpret as opening a way of distributing Communion to the remarried.

RM: In a letter, which was about this document and was addressed to the Holy Father by forty-five theologians, not just a single footnote was criticized. There are even more problems with the text. If four cardinals send a so-called “dubia” to the pope, with their concerns about the writing, it is not just about a footnote. Not to mention that those four cardinals, who have publicly taken up this, are just the face of all the others who are also concerned.

F&H: Since then, no response has been received from Pope Francis. Do you see the chance of breaking the silence?

RM: Solving such issues cannot wait. Perhaps, the Pope will soon take a manifestation on it. I do not know, but I am sure it will be clarified in the coming months.

F&H: Do you know about circles of Cardinals that are considering to take steps in this case within the foreseeable future?

RM: I know many cardinals who support this dubia, but their names are not in the document. I talked with them too. It is likely that there will soon be a move.

F&H: The last year out of three is 1917 you mentioned in your speech, which marks not only the Bolshevik Revolution but also the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Fatima appearances. In this connection, you pointed out that the messages received there are significant to humanity, even though they are private revelations. What is the message of Fatima in this hundred-year perspective ?

RM: Although the Virgin Mother appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century, it has perhaps become even more clear today what she had spoken to three simple shepherd children. The core of the message was, if Russia was not going to be offered up to her Immaculate Heart, their false doctrines were going to spread out to the world that was followed by wars and persecution of the Church.

These false doctrines, though the Soviet Union collapsed, are even more raging in the world than ever, since the center of Marxism is dialectical materialism and relativism.

In this ideology, there is no stability and constancy, but evolution only. Nowadays, dictatorship of the proletariat has been replaced by the dictatorship of relativism. This is the present of western societies. So our task is to bring in the Christian counter-pole into this situation.

F&H: At first sight, it appears, in the “Western world,” this battle has finished. In political and social issues the trend or stream of relativism became the absolute dominant direction, without any particular resistance.

RM: It might be so. Unfortunately, these mistakes affected the Catholic Church itself. Otherwise, here in Europe, there’s a false impression that every bad thing comes straight from the United States. The roots of every single false ideology is to be looked for on the “Old Continent.” In 1968, when the student riots in Berkeley, as one of the centers of the insurgency, had begun in California, its ideological background actually came from the Frankfurt School! Members like Adorno and the others took Marx and the Russian example as a basis. However, it’s also interesting that the LGBT’s agenda and the gender theory originate from Germany. Of course, the United States is the most significant propagators of all of this, but the source was always Europe and Russia. Abortion was legalized first in Russia, fifty years before it happened in the US. So I don’t agree with those views which imagine the US as the source of all trouble. I don’t even know considerable theorists in the above-mentioned subject. Gramsci, unfortunately, was Italian, Marx was German, and Lenin was Russian.

F&H: The solution, if there is one, could only come from Europe?

RM: The solution could come solely from Rome, from the Catholic Church. Perhaps during the papacy of Pope Francis or not, I don’t know for sure. Formerly when I was reading about the Messages of Fatima which says Russia will spread its false doctrine, I thought it this meant geographically. Now I clearly see that we cannot talk about just political and cultural spreading. This revolutionary process infiltrated the biggest counter-pole, represented by the Catholic Church. For me, this brought much closer the reality of the Messages of Fatima. Pope Francis uses Marxist style or rhetoric in his speeches. A few days ago, regarding the attacks committed against the Coptic Christians in Egypt [in an April 14 interview – ed.] the Pope emphasized the arms trade as the first reason and source of these types of attack. He was talking about material or financial interests, however it was clearly a terrorist attack carried out on religious basis. The Pope is not Marxist, but the rhetoric he applies, the conclusions are.

The only true answer may come from Christianity.

F&H: You mentioned multiple times the religion of Islam, which is one way or another, but more and more intensively present in Europe. You have five children. What kind of future do you picture for themselves?

RM: Merely on the basis of human aspects, Europe’s future is not too bright. The demographic crisis, which we talk about a lot, is a consequence of moral crisis. We have forgotten or have thrown our very values. Cases like this are always in favour of hedonism and relativism, the “fruits” of which we can already see. Contrarily, under the heading of migration, a Muslim inrush is happening towards Europe. This silent, peaceful Islam contains more dangerous risks than its violent version, because the latter – with suicidal terror attacks – is able to arouse shocking psychological reactions in the society and awake the people.

F&H: There have been many shocking terror attacks in the past few years all around Europe.

RM: And there will be more. There are two types of Islam. The first is the “Leninist,” violent direction, which attempts to take possession of power and make possible to hold it through violence. At the same time, there is another way which uses the change of demographic composition as a tool. From the European viewpoint both of them remained unsolved and we do not have the answers.

The religion of Islam hates Christianity. For more than fifteen hundred years Europe defined itself as Christian, and it also had strife with Islam within this definition. Due to lack of this now we experience the prominence and advantage of Islam.

F&H: There are plenty of European leaders and bishops who emphasize the “Christian response” when they stand behind the receptive migrant policy.

RM: Exactly, this is the problem. This attitude that the politicians and bishops represent is wrong and neglects the aforementioned bellicose mentality which, after all, contributes to the breakdown. I’m certain that the Church is strong enough to start off the action of resisting and fighting against progressivism, and the annihilators of the faith and the Church itself. If we take our part out of it, we’ll be able to change the mentality of Europe and organize the bout against external adversaries. Nevertheless, we know that this is an exceptionally uncertain period we live in. The situation in the Middle East and concerning the international associated with it represents a real threat which could end in a war that – in that case – could change the entire situation.

F&H: We are having this conversation in Rome right now, on Good Friday. If I correctly understand you, the “Western world” is also having its Good Friday. And what about the Resurrection?

RM: Falsehood can only prevail when the truth is hiding in the shadows. For the victory of the truth, there is no need for financial resources or power of numbers, only one thing: integrity. Fidelity. The Lord is never silent and passive on our things. The source of the problem is the infidelity of the western people. We need to rely on the divine grace, as Our Lady Fatima made her promise: “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” It’s a clear and firm promise. We don’t know exactly when will this happen, one year, or ten years in the future… We cannot make a prediction on this. What I do believe is that the centenary has an important significance.


Roberto de Mattei (1948):

Professor de Mattei is an Italian Catholic historian, writer and president of Lepanto Foundation in Rome. He studied political science and history at the University of Rome. He currently teaches modern history and Christian history at the European University of Rome. He also works as an editor at the newspaper Radici Cristiane and at the Correnpondenza Romana news agency. Between 2003 and 2011 he was the vice-president of the Italian National Research Council, and from 2005 to 2011, he was board member of the Italian Academy at the Columbia University in New York. He has published dozens of books and academic studies about the history of Europe and Christianity, which have been translated into many European languages. He is married with five children.

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St Simon Stock, the Brown Scapular, and Miracles

St Simon Stock receiving the Scapular from Our Lady

St. Simon Stock (1165-1265), whose feast day we celebrate today, 16th May, was born in Kent, England. He was strongly drawn to God as a child, and at the age of twelve he began to live as a hermit in the hollow of an oak tree. A man of great holiness and devotion, after two decades of this solitary and penitential life, he entered the world again to study theology and become a priest. His studies complete, he then returned to his hermitage. At this time the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him, intructing him to join the Carmelite Order that was just entering England. St. Simon became a Carmelite in 1212. By 1215 he became the Order’s leader and worked to establish it across Europe, especially at the great universities. He also travelled to Rome and Mt. Carmel in the Holy Land, and revised the Carmelite Rule to make them mendicant friars instead of hermits.

The Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Simon Stock again in Cambridge, England, in 1251 and presented him with a Brown Scapular, the habit of his Order, promising that those who wore it would not be eternally lost in Hell. The Scapular represents Our Lady’s protection and Her care for us:

“Receive, my beloved son, this Scapular of thy Order. It shall be a special sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace. Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”

Down through the centuries Our Lady has always kept this promise.

This apparition is known as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and her “scapular promise” is that she will intercede with her Son to ensure that the wearer of the scapular obtains the grace of final perseverance, that is, of dying in a state of grace. Such is the extraordinary promise Our Lady makes to those who wear Her Brown Scapular. And this wonderful promise makes the Scapular a most powerful sacramental from Heaven. Who could doubt Our Lady’s promise, or be so foolish as not to wear, with profoundest gratitude and reverence, this abbreviated form of the Carmelite Mantle? This garment of grace — two simple pieces of brown wool worn over the shoulders, and usually imprinted with the image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on one piece, and Our Blessed Lord on the other — is a tangible sign of the Blessed Mother of God’s love and protection for Her devotees. We should kiss the Scapular devoutly when rising in the morning, and every time we put on a new Scapular to replace one that is worn or damaged. For this gesture of reverence, we receive an indulgence of 500 days, and we are also reminded to ask Our Lady: “Preserve me this day from sin and the occasions of sin”. This is the origin of the Brown Scapular and devotion to it which soon spread to the laity to obtain the graces promised by Our Lady, a devotion later encouraged by many Popes.

Miracles of the Brown Scapular

The devotion to the Brown Scapular was authorised by miracles. God uses miracles as a witness to the truth of His promises and those of His Mother. Miracles are used by God to confirm the solid foundation of the devotions that the Church proposes to the faithful. The greater the number of miracles obtained by a particular devotion, the more it draws our attention to this devotion and authenticates the truth that the practice is pleasing to God. Of all the devotions adopted by the Church, none has been confirmed by more authenticated miracles than that of the Brown Scapular. What follows is only a tiny sampling.

Miracle of Grace 1

On the very day that Our Lady gave the Scapular to Saint Simon Stock, he was hurriedly called by Lord Peter of Linton: “Come quickly, Father Simon, my brother is dying in despair!” Saint Simon Stock left at once for the bedside of the dying man. Upon arrival, he placed his large Scapular over the man, asking Our Blessed Mother to keep Her promise. Immediately the man repented, and died in the grace of God. That night the dead man appeared to his brother and said, “I have been saved through the most powerful Queen and the habit of that man as a shield.”

Miracle of Grace 2

Our second miracle is a contemporary one and equally amazing. Fr John Higgins, from Downey, California, recalls his experience in 2012 of Our Lady’s motherly intercession with Her Divine Son in giving a man on the brink of death a second chance to amend his life. He was wearing the Brown Scapular! In Father John’s own words, “The Man I saw Brought Back to Life”:

“Who doesn’t enjoy a good BBQ with friends? When I was asked to a young couple’s home for a Young Adult Ministry Home Mass and BBQ I packed my Mass kit and off I went. I arrived about 6:00 pm with a hearty appetite and was greeted by about 15 young people. Then the phone rang and everything changed. I had to drive about 10 miles to a hospital where there was an emergency call.

I drove quickly, thinking that the nurse in charge of the ER, Anne, would be waiting for me. I knew her and her husband and children from the parish. When I walked in I could see paramedics at the foot of the only occupied gurney there, so I hurried and walked in. “Sorry, Fr. John, you’re too late. He’s gone.” Anne said, smiling. She had a lot of compassion, but also understood that I’d come as fast as I could. They were removing wires from an older man. I noticed that he was wearing a Brown Scapular, one of the old cloth ones. I reached and said “He’s wearing an old fashioned Scapular”. When I touched it there was a beep from a monitor, then another. The nurse, Anne, said “What did you do?” I said “Nothing!” She and another nurse jumped to work, reconnecting wires and calling for help. The Paramedics stood with their jaws dropped. The patient opened his eyes and said (in an Irish accent) “Oh, good, Father. I’ve been waiting for you. I want to go to Confession.” I nearly fell over. I’d done nothing but seen and touched his Scapular. The next thing I knew they were working on him. He didn’t get to go to Confession, but I gave him an emergency absolution as they worked. One of the Paramedics asked if I was OK and sat me in a chair.

A couple of weeks later the man came to me for Confession and told me that the doctor couldn’t figure out what happened and had to tear up the Death Certificate he’d already started to fill out. The Paramedics had come to see him in the hospital and shown him their notes. At the bottom of the page they’d written the time and place of his death and then in big bold letters had added “BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE BY GOD”.

Miracles still happen. And no, I didn’t do it. It just happened according to God’s will. Why does He intervene in some cases and not in others? I really don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet. But I do know that God has worked miracles in my life, the most important for me not being what He did for someone else, but what He has done over and over to bring me back from sin and death, through the Sacraments into His Covenant Relationship.”

On 13th October 1917, in her final apparition to the little shepherds of Fatima, the Blessed Virgin Mary came attired as Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding up the Brown Scapular. As Sister Lucia reminds us: “Our Lady held the Scapular in her hands because She wants us all to wear it”. And “to wear” the Scapular is the outward sign of a sincere inner desire to avoid all occasions of offending Our Blessed Lord by our sins. This is why the Brown Scapular is closely linked to Our Lady’s warnings and appeal to us at Fatima.

“Let it [the Brown Scapular] be your sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which We are particularly urging in these perilous times.” – Pope Pius XII.

[For further information and examples of heavenly protection, conversions and grace when clothed in this holy sacramental, the Brown Scapular, see HERE.]

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The danger of overlooking the most important part of Fatima

The warnings of Our Lady proved prophetic in 1917. They continue to resonate today

Sunday, May 13, 1917 would prove to be an auspicious day, both for the Catholic Church and for the whole tumultuous course of the 20th century. In the Sistine Chapel, Pope Benedict XV consecrated Eugenio Pacelli as archbishop, prior to sending him off to be nuncio to Bavaria. Thus one pope, an indefatigable voice for peace throughout a war then engulfing the world, sent off another on his path – as the future Pope Pius XII – to play a pivotal role in the next.

As unlikely as it sounds, 1,100 miles away on a dusty Portuguese hillside, something of perhaps greater import was taking place. Three primary-school age children – siblings Francisco (aged nine) and Jacinta (seven) and their cousin Lucia (ten) – were tending their families’ sheep. Startled by a sudden burst of light, they looked up expecting to see a thunderstorm coming. Instead, before them, as Lucia would later recount in her memoirs, was “a lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun”.

So began a remarkable series of apparitions at Fatima, an out-of-the-way village 80 or so miles north of Lisbon. Or rather, so they continued: this Lady in White was not the first visitor “from heaven” (as she told them) to have appeared “while shepherds watched”. The year before, for example, a figure calling himself “the Angel of Peace” had spoken to the children several times.

This latest visitation, however, marked a new and significant phase. As the Lady informed them: “I have come to ask you to come here for six months in succession, on the 13th day, at this same hour. Later on, I will tell you who I am and what I want.”

A great deal happened in those six months, very little of which may be recounted here. Each 13th day, however, the Lady returned as promised. Alongside her repeated appeals for penance, prayer and fasting, she entrusted the children with three revelations. Together, these made up the so-called Secret of Fatima. It is here where traditional Catholic piety and the “private revelations” of mystics enter the global stage of geopolitics.

On July 13, “Our Lady of the Rosary” (as she identified herself) entrusted the children with the first two parts of the secret. The first, and most important, we will deal with later. In the second, however, she warned them that unless the world repented, and sharpish, then not only would the current war continue, but it would soon be followed by a second and much worse one. This would be heralded by a “Great Sign” in the sky (in retrospect, often identified as the great Aurora Borealis of January 1938). To prevent this, Our Lady asked that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, and the First Saturdays Devotion be begun in reparation.

Significantly, she promised (or threatened): “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.”

For those who take their Marian apparitions seriously, this is a clear-cut case of a prophecy come true. For Our Lady’s requests were not notably heeded, and Russia did indeed spread its influence throughout the world, causing wars, persecutions and martyrdoms on a vast scale, and the annihilation of nations. And the Holy Father – or rather Holy Fathers, since it happened several times, just to be sure – consecrated Russia to her Immaculate Heart (albeit somewhat subtly, as they were prudently mindful of political and ecumenical sensitivities; Lucia herself confirmed that the deed had indeed been done). Furthermore, a post-communist Russian religious revival – if not one unalloyed by other factors – has taken place. And, fragile though it now seems, one can indeed speak in general terms of a period of (relative) peace.

The third and most famous part of the Secret was given on October 13, the last of the six monthly appearances. This was, of course, the occasion on which the sun was said – and by many thousands of people, a good number of whom had come to mock and “wag their heads” – to dance in the sky. Unlike the others, the Third Part was delivered not in words but visually: the Holy Father moving prayerfully through a corpse-strewn, ruined city; set upon by assassins, he is martyred, along with clergy, religious and lay faithful.

This metaphor-laden “dream sequence” ought not, as Cardinal Ratzinger explained upon the Third Part’s publication in 2000, be taken in a too literal a sense. Rather, like similar apocalyptic visions in Scripture, it is primarily symbolic: “The history of an entire century can be seen represented in this image.” Furthermore, he said, “the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed… Rather, the vision speaks of dangers and how we might be saved from them.”

As is well known, St John Paul II saw in all this a shadowy foretelling of the attempt on his life in St Peter’s Square on (note the date) May 13, 1981. That he was not in fact killed, he ascribed to the tender mercies of Our Lady of Fatima, and as proof that her calls for penance had, if imperfectly and belatedly, been heeded. Famously, the pope visited his would-be killer, Mehmet Ali Ağca, in prison. In 2009, news sources reported Ağca’s claim to have converted to Catholicism two years prior – on, naturally, May 13.

Given the explosive nature of the second and third parts, their connections to major world events, and the temptations they afforded to “Fatima truthers” to imagine conspiracies prior to (and long after!) their being publicly revealed, it is unsurprising that the first has been comparatively overlooked. But to my mind, it is by far the most important.

On July 13, 1917, Our Lady revealed to the little shepherds a vision of hell. I will spare you the details here (they can easily be looked up online), but as Lucia would later remember: “That vision only lasted for a moment… Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear.”

Hell is not much spoken of these days, especially not in the graphic ways that Lucia recounts in her memoirs. The very idea, I recently read in a theology book, is one “in the last analysis, unworthy of Jesus”. The trouble is, Jesus himself disagrees. His own descriptions, moreover, are graphically to the point. Thus when Our Lady of Fatima speaks of “the fires of hell”, she is simply repeating an image used often by her Son (Mark 9:43; Matthew 13:42, 50; 25:41).

In the Gospels, Jesus rebukes those requesting “a sign from heaven” (Mark 8:11) with the observation that “only an evil and adulterous generation” (Matthew 12:39) would require such. As we celebrate the Fatima centenary, then, we might reflect – somewhat uncomfortably – on the question: what does it say about the modern world that his Mother felt we might benefit from, not just one such sign, but several? And what might we do, for ourselves and others, to turn things around?

Stephen Bullivant is Professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. His latest book, co-authored with Luke Arredondo, is out now: O My Jesus: The Meaning of the Fátima Prayer (Paulist Press, 2017)

This article first appeared in the May 12 2017 issue of the Catholic Herald.

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De Mattei: “The Fatima Message… Has Been Put Aside”

There were undoubtedly some stirring and spiritually uplifting moments at the recent hundredth anniversary of Our Lady’s appearances to the three little shepherds at Fatima, but was the fundamental message the Blessed Virgin Mary had come to transmit to Mankind brought out into the limelight at this event? Many Catholics believe the essence of the message – the vital importance of conversion, true repentance for sin through penance and prayer, and the terrible consequences (Hell) for those who refuse God’s mercy and forgiveness – was purposely obscured in the public announcements, in-flight press conference and homily at the Mass for the canonisation of Francisco and Jacinta Marto.

From Roberto de Mattei (RORATE CAELI)

Father Z asked whether this “monstrosity of a monstrance” was a propeller!!

Five hundred people were in the square outside the Sanctuary at Fatima waiting for Pope Francis and the canonization of the two little shepherd Francesco (10) and Jacinta (9), who, along with their cousin Lucia dos Santos saw Our Lady and heard Her words between May 13th and October 13th 1917. The canonization took place and the Church has the youngest children not martyrs in Her history, written in the book of saints. The process for the beatification of their cousin Lucia who died in 2005, is also underway.

What Fatima devotees from all around the world expected from the Pope was not only the canonization of the visionaries, but also the fulfillment of some of Our Lady’s requests, until now gone unheeded.

Two antithetical centenaries are in fact, being celebrated this year: the Fatima apparitions and Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, occurring in the same month the Marian events were coming to an end in Portugal. At Fatima Our Lady announced that Russia would have scattered its errors all over the world and from these errors there would have been wars, revolutions and persecutions against the Church. In order to avoid these disasters Our Lady asked especially for a sincere repentance from mankind and a return to the moral order of Christian principles. To this necessary amendment of Christians, Our Lady added two specific requests: the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to be performed by the Pope in union with the bishops throughout the world, and the propagation of the practice of the first five Saturdays of the month, consisting of uniting ourselves with Her, confession and reception of Communion, for five consecutive months, meditating for fifteen minutes and praying the Rosary.

The spreading of the practice of the First five Saturdays has never been promoted by the ecclesiastical authorities, the acts of entrustment and consecration by Pontiffs have all been partial and incomplete, but most of all, for at least fifty years, Churchmen have not been preaching the spirit of sacrifice and penance anymore, so closely linked to the two little canonized shepherds. In 1919 when Lucy visited Jacinta in hospital on the eve of her death, their conversation was entirely centered on the sufferings of the two cousins, offered for sinners to avoid the terrible punishments of Hell, which had been shown to them by Our Lady.

Pope Francis, who had never been to Fatima before, not even as a simple priest, did not touch on any of these themes. On May 12th, in the Chapel of the Apparitions, and presenting himself as a “bishop dressed in white”, the Pope said “As a pilgrim of the Hope that the Spirit awakens, I come as a prophet and messenger to wash the feet of all, at the same table that unites us.”Then, the invitation to follow the examples of Francesco and Jacinta.“Thus we will follow all paths and everywhere make our pilgrim way; we will tear down all walls and cross every frontier, as we go out to every periphery, to make known God’s justice and peace.”In his homily on May 13th in the sanctuary’s courtyard, Francis remembered “all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family” especially “the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned,” with the invitation to” rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love.”

The tragic dimension of the Fatima message, which rotates around the concepts of sin and punishment, has been put aside. Our Lady had said to little Jacinta that wars are nothing other than punishment for the sins of the world and that the sins which carry most souls to hell are the ones against purity. If today we are experiencing “a [world]war in pieces” , as Pope Francis has often repeated, how can we not connect this to the horrifying explosion of present-day immorality, which has gone as far as legalizing the inversion of the moral laws? Our Lady once again had said to Jacinta, that if there had not been any amendment and penance, humanity would have been punished, but in the end Her Immaculate Heart would triumph and the entire world would be converted.

Today, not only is the word “punishment” abhorred, seeing that the mercy of God cancels every sin, but the very idea of conversion is unpleasant, as proselytism, in Pope Francis’ view, “is the strongest poison against the ecumenical path”.

We need to acknowledge that the message of Fatima reinterpreted according to Pope Francis’ sociological categories has little to do with the prophetic announcement of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which Our Lady proclaimed to the world one hundred years ago.

[emphasis in bold is ours]

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Full text of May 13 in-flight interview with Pope Francis

(Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.)

From CNA/EWTN News

Vatican City, May 13, 2017 / 02:32 pm 

The following is an unofficial transcript of the in-flight press conference on the papal plane returning from Fatima to Rome on May 13, 2017. 

Greg Burke: Thank you Holiness, they were 24 very intense hours, as you said, for the Lord, 24 hours for Our Lady. It’s apparent that the Portuguese felt very touched when you said, “We have a Mother,” that they feel this in a special way. 100 years ago Our Lady didn’t appear to three important journalists, she appeared to three shepherds, but we’ve seen how they with their simplicity and sanctity were able to make this message reach the entire world. The journalists make the message arrive – it is seen from the number of nations from which they come – and they’re very curious about this trip of yours. If you’d like to say something first, great…

Pope Francis: First of all, good evening. Thanks. And, I’d like to respond to the first of the possible questions, so we can do things a bit more quickly.  I’m sorry when we’re at the halfway point and they come to tell me that it’s snack time… let’s do them all together. Thanks.

Greg Burke: Good, let’s begin with the Portuguese group, with Fatima Ferreira of the Portuguese TV Radio

Fatima Campos Ferreira (RTP): I don’t know what I think about sitting in front of the Holy Father. Well, first, many thanks for this trip. Holy Father, you came to Fatima as a pilgrim, to canonize Francisco and Jacinta in the year that the apparitions mark their 100th year. From this historical point of view, what is left now for the Church, for the entire world? Also, Fatima has a message of peace. Holy Father, you are going to receive in the Vatican in the coming days, the 24th of May, the American president Donald Trump. What can the world expect and what does the Holy Father expect from this encounter? Many thanks.

Pope Francis: Thanks. Fatima certainly has a message of peace. It’s brought to humanity by three great communicators that were less than 13 years old, which is interesting. Yes, I came as a pilgrim. The canonization was something that wasn’t planned from the beginning, because the process of the miracles was in progress but the all of a sudden the export reports were all positive, and it was done – that’s how the story was told – for me was a very great joy. What can the world expect? Peace. And what am I talking about from now on with whomever? Peace.

Ferreira: And what remains now of this historic moment for the Church?

Pope Francis: A message of peace. And I’d like to say one thing … before disembarking I received scientists from all religions who were doing studies in the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo, including agnostics and atheists. And an atheist said to me, “I’m an atheist.”  I won’t tell you from what ethnicity or place of origin he was – he spoke in English. And at the end, he asked me, ‘I ask you a favor: tell the Christians that they should love their message of peace more.”

Aura Miguel (Radio Renascença): Your Holiness, in Fatima you presented yourself as the “bishop dressed in white.” Up to now, this expression applied rather to the vision of the third part of the secret, St. John Paul II, the martyrs of the twentieth century. What does it mean now, your identification with this expression?

Pope Francis: The prayer, that, I did not write it… the sanctuary wrote it… but also I have tried because they said this, and there is a connection with the white. The bishop of white, Our Lady of white, the white glow of the innocence of children  after Baptism and innocence… there is a connection to the color white in that prayer. I believe – because I did not write it – but I believe that literally they have tried to express with white that desire for innocence, for peace… innocence: to not hurt the other … to not create conflict, the same.

Miguel: Is it a revision of the interpretation…

Pope Francis: No, but that vision … I believe that then Cardinal Ratzinger, at that time prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, explained everything clearly. Thank you.

Claudio Lavanga (NBC News): Thank you. Holy Father, yesterday you asked the faithful to break down all the walls, yet on May 24 you meet a head of State who is threatening to build walls. It is a bit contradictory to your word, but he also has – it seems – opinions and decisions different from you in other topics, such as the need to act to confront global warming or the welcoming of migrants … Thus, in light of this meeting: what is your opinion of the politics that President Trump has adopted so far on these topics and what do you expect from a meeting with a Head of State who seems to think and act contrary to you?

Pope Francis: The first question … I can respond to both… I never make a judgment of a person without listening to them. I believe that I should not do this. In our talk things will come out, I will say what I think, he will say what he thinks, but I never, ever, wanted to make a judgment without hearing the person. The second…

Claudio Lavanga: What do you think about the reception of migrants?

Pope Francis: But this you all know well…

Claudio Lavanga: The second instead is what you expect from a meeting with a head of state who thinks contradictory to you?

Pope Francis: Always there are doors that are not closed. Look for the doors that are at least a little bit open, enter and talk about common things and go on. Step by step. Peace is handcrafted. It is made every day. Also friendship among people, mutual knowledge, esteem, is handcrafted. It’s made every day. Respect the other, say that which one thinks, but with respect, but walk together … someone thinks of one way or the other, but say that …. Be very sincere with what everyone thinks, no?

Claudio Lavanga: Do you hope to soften his decisions after the meeting?

Pope Francis: This is a political calculation that I do not permit myself to make.

Greg Burke: Thank you Holiness, now there is a change of places, Elisabetta Piqué is coming.

Elisabetta Piqué (La Nacion): Thanks first of all for this brief and very intense trip. We wanted to ask you, today is the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, but is is also the important anniversary of a fact of your life that took place 25 years ago, when the Nuncio (Archbishop) Calabresi told you that you would become the Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires, something that meant the end of your exile in Cordoba and a great change in your life. Have you every connected this fact that changed your life with Our Lady of Fatima? And in these days that you’ve prayed before her have you thought about this and what did you think about? Can you tell us about that? Thanks.

Pope Francis: Women know everything, eh! No, I didn’t think about the coincidence, only yesterday while I was praying before Our Lady I realized that one May 13th I received the phone call from the nuncio 25 years ago. I don’t know… I said, well look at that. I spoke with Our Lady a little about this. I asked her forgiveness for all of my mistakes, also of a bit of bad taste for choosing people… but yesterday I realized this.

Greg Burke: Nicolas Seneze of La Croix is coming.

Nicolas Seneze (La Croix): Thanks, Holy Father. We’re returning from Fatima for which the Fraternity of St. Pius X has a great devotion and much is said about an agreement that would give an official statute to the Fraternity in the Church. Some even imagined that there would be an announcement today… Holiness, do you think that this agreement is possible in a short timeframe? And, what are the obstacles still? And what is the sense of this reconciliation for you? And, will it be the triumphant return for faithful who have shown what it means to be truly Catholic or what?

Pope Francis: I would toss out any form of triumphalism. None. Some days ago, the Feria Quarta of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, their meeting – the call it the Feria Quarta, because it’s the fourth Wednesday – studied a document and the document still hasn’t reached me, the study of the document. This is the first. Secondly, the current relations are fraternal. Last year, I gave a license for confession to all of them, also a form of jurisdiction for marriages, but even before the problems, the cases they had, for example, had to be resolved by the Doctrine of the Faith. The Doctrine of the Faith carries them forward. For example, abuses. The cases of abuse, they brought them to us, also to the Penitentiary. Also the reduction to the lay state of a priest, they bring to us. The relations are fraternal. With Msgr. Fellay I have a good rapport. I’ve spoken many times… I don’t like to hurry things. Walk. Walk. Walk. And then we’ll see. For me, it’s not an issue of winners and losers, it’s an issue of brothers who must walk together, looking for a formula to make steps forward.

Tassilo Forcheimer (ARD): Holy Father, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Reformation, Evangelical Christians and Catholics are able to walk another stretch of road together. Will there be the possibility to participate in the same Eucharistic Mass? Some months ago, Cardinal Kasper said: A step forward could take place already this year.

Pope Francis: There have been great steps forward, eh … we think of the first statement on justification, from that moment the journey has not stopped… the trip to Sweden was very significant because it was just the beginning and also a commemoration with Sweden… also there is significance for the ecumenism of the journey… that is, to walk together, with prayer, with martyrdom, with works of charity, with works of mercy. And there, Lutheran Caritas and Catholic Caritas have made an agreement to work together. This is a great step. But steps are always awaited. You know that God is the God of surprises. But we must never stop. Always go on. To pray together, to give testimony together and to do works of mercy together, that announce the charity of Jesus Christ, to announce that Jesus Christ is Lord, is the only Savior, and that grace only comes from Him. And on this path the theologians they will continue to study, but the path must proceed. And (with) hearts opened to surprises.

Mimmo Muolo (Avvenire): Good evening Holiness. I’m asking you a question in the name of the Italian group. Yesterday and today at Fatima, we saw a great witness of popular faith together with you. The same that is found, for example, also in other Marian shrines like Medjugorje. What do you think of those apparitions, if they were apparition, and of the religious fervor they have aroused seeing that you have decided to appoint a bishop delegate for the pastoral aspects? And if I can permit myself a second question I know is very close to your heart besides that of us italians… I would like to know, the NGOs were accused of collusion with the boat traffickers of men. What do you think of this? Thanks.

Pope Francis: I’ll start with the first. I read in the papers that I peruse in the morning that there was this problem, but I still don’t know how the details are and because of this I can’t give an opinion. I know there is an issue and the investigations are moving ahead. I hope that they continue ahead and that the whole truth comes out. Medjugorje, all the apparitions, or the presumed apparitions, belong to the private sphere, they aren’t part of the public, ordinary magisterium of the Church. Medjugorje. Medjugorje. A commission was formed, headed by Cardinal Ruini. Benedict XVI made it. I, at the end of 2013 the beginning of 2014, I received the result from Cardinal Ruini. It was commission good theologians, bishops, cardinals, but good. Very good. And the commission. The Ruini report was very, very good. Then there were some doubts in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Congregation judged it opportune to send each one of the members of this Feria quarta (Editor’s note: “Feria Quarta” is a once-a-month meeting in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during which current cases are examined) all the documentation, even those that seemed to be against the Ruini report. I received a notification – I remember it was a Saturday evening, late evening… and it didn’t seem right. It was like putting up for auction – excuse me the word – the Ruini report which was very well done. And Sunday morning the prefect received a letter from me that said that instead of sending them to the Feria Quarta, they they would send the opinions to me personally.

These opinions were studied and all of them underscore the density of the Ruini report. Principally, three things must be distinguished: the first apparitions, that they were kids. The report more or less says that it must continue being studied. The apparitions, the presumed current apparitions: the report has its doubts. I personally am more nasty, I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of a telegraphic office, who everyday sends a message at such hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus. And these presumed apparitions don’t have a lot of value. This I say as a personal opinion. But, it’s clear. Who thinks that the Madonna says, ‘come tomorrow at this time, and at such time I will say a message to that seer?’ No. The two apparitions are distinguished. The third, the core of the Ruini report, the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact. People go there and convert. People who encounter God, change their lives…but this…there is no magic wand there. And this spiritual and pastoral fact can’t be ignored. Now, to see things with all this information, with the answers that the theologians sent me, this good, good bishop was appointed because he has experience, to see the pastoral part, how it’s going. And at the end he’ll say some words.

Muolo: Holiness, thank you, also for the blessing of my fellow citizens who thank you, they saw it and are very happy…

Greg Burke: Holiness, now if I can be the nasty one, we have done all of the language groups and…

Pope Francis: Time is up already?

Greg Burke: There’s a question, they tell me.

Pope Francis: One or two more.

Joshua McElwee (National Catholic Reporter): Thank you, Holy Father. The last member of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, who was abused by a priest, resigned in March. She, Ms. Marie Collins, said that she had to resign because the officials in the Vatican did not implement the recommendations of the commission that you, the Holy Father, approved. I have two questions: who is responsible, and what are you doing, Holy Father, to ensure that the priests and bishops in the Vatican implement the recommendations suggested by your commission?

Pope Francis: Marie Collins explained the matter to me well, I spoke with her, she is a good woman, but she continues to work in the formation of priests on this point… she is a good woman who wants to work … but she made this accusation, and she has a bit of reason… why? Because there are so many late cases, then in this period of lateness, because they accumulate there, you have to make legislation for this… what should the diocesan bishops do? Today in almost all the dioceses there is the protocol to follow in these cases: it is a great improvement. This way the dossiers are done well. Then there are the accusations…this is a step. Another step: there are few people, there needs to be more people capable in this area, and the Secretary of State is looking for, even Monsignor Mueller (Editor’s Note: Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), to present new people. The other day two or three more were approved… the director of the disciplinary office changed, who was good, eh, he was very good but he was a bit tired… he returned to his home country to do the same with his episcopate. And the new one is an Irishman, Msgr. (John) Kennedy, he is a very good person, very efficient, prompt, and this helps a lot.

Then there is another thing: Sometimes the bishops send – if the protocol is okay, it goes right away to the Feria Quarta and the Feria Quarta studies and decides. If the protocol is not okay, it must go back to be redone. That’s why you think of continental help or in a continent or two … in Latin America, one in Colombia, another in Brazil, as pre-tribunals or continental tribunals… this is in the planning… but then it’s fine, they study it at feria quarta and they take away his clerical status. This goes back to the diocese, and the priest makes recourse. First, the application was studied by the same Feria Quarta that had given the sentence, and this is unfair. I created another tribunal and I put an indisputable person as the head, the Archbishop of Malta, Msgr. (Charles Jude) Scicluna, who is one of the strongest against abuses, and this second – because we must be just – the one who makes recourse is entitled to have a defender. If he (the defender) approves the first sentence, the case is over.His only option is a letter asking the Pope for pardon. I have never signed a pardon. I believe, I do not know, another question. This is how things are. We’re going forward. If Marie Collins was right on that point, we were also on the way. But there are 2000 cases piled up.

Portuguese journalist: I’m going to ask a question about the case Portugal, but I think that it can be applied to many of the Western societies. In Portugal, almost all of the Portuguese say they identify themselves as Catholics. But the way the society is organized, the decisions that we make, often are contrary to the indications of the Church. I refer to marriage between homosexuals, the legalization of abortion, now we’re going to begin discussing euthanasia. How do you see this?

Pope Francis: I think it’s a political problem. And that also the Catholic conscience isn’t a catholic one of total belonging to the Church and that behind that there isn’t a nuanced catechesis, a human catechesis. That is, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is an example of what is a serious and nuanced thing. I think that there is a lack of formation and also of culture. Because it’s curious, in some other regions, I think of the south of Italy, some in Latin America, they are very Catholic but they are anti-clerical and ‘priest-eaters’, that … there is a phenomenon that exists. It concerns me. That’s why I tell priests, you will have read it, to flee from clericalism because clericalism distances people. May they flee from clericalism and I add: it’s a plague in the Church. But here there is a work also of catechesis, of raising awareness, of dialogue, also of human values.

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Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (N.O.) and Fourth Sunday after Easter (E.F.)

Fr Martin Ganeri looks to the destination of the Christian’s journey, and considers the roadmap that shows us how to reach it.

When people want to make a journey by car these days to some place they have not been to before, they usually plug in a sat nav, tap in the postcode and then set off.  All we have to do is to obey the instructions and turn right when we are told to, or turn left when we are told to.  And eventually we are told, ‘You have reached your destination.’
However, relying on a sat nav to find our way leaves us blind both about what the way actually is and what our destination is like.  We just follow the instructions we are given.  And this is very different from how things used to be when we had to rely on roadmaps and on our own knowledge.  In those days we studied the map beforehand and we could see the way ahead in front of our eyes laid out on the map itself.  We also used to find out what the destination looked like, so that we could recognise it when we reached it.  It still was not always easy to know how to find our way, but we had some knowledge about it, much more than we have when we rely on a sat nav.

Now, in the Gospel Christ tells his disciples that he is going to his Father’s house, where he will prepare a place for them also, going to heaven, which is their final destination.  He tells them they know the way to get there.  Yet, their puzzled reactions are like those who rely a sat nav, but then suddenly find themselves without it.  They feel they have no idea about either where Christ is going or what the way there is.  They feel blind and helpless.

Yet Christ reassures them that they do know the way and that they do know the destination to which they are heading.  For he tells them, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.’  Christ is the Way, because he is the truth and the life.  He is the Truth as the authentic and full revelation of God, the Father.  He has shown them the Father.  And he is the Life, because he offers to them eternal life, that life which is a share in God’s own life, the life of the Father, given through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Christ has revealed to us our destination and he is like a roadmap that shows us how to reach it.  For it is in his own humanity, his own human actions and words that he has both travelled that road for us and given us an example to follow, so that we can find the way for ourselves.  By his own death and resurrection he has put an end to death and made eternal life possible for everyone, travelling the road that leads directly to the Father.  And in his life and teaching he offers us a sure guide for knowing how to live in the present, helped and enabled to do by the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that we can also be worthy of a place in the Father’s house.

Yet Christ, as the Way, the Truth and the Life is more than just a roadmap to the Father.  Even the best roadmap is merely a means to get us to a destination.  But Christ is also the destination.  For he makes the Father visible to us in his own actions and teaching and he himself gives us the life of the Father through the gift of the Spirit.  So, when we contemplate Christ’s actions and teaching, when we imitate the pattern he gives us and when, through the sacraments, we some to share in his death and resurrection, we also come to our destination in the present life.  We already see the Father.  And we experience eternal life in the here and now.  Not fully, of course, but in part and in reality.  The full bliss of a place in our Father’s house is something that awaits us after death, but in Christ and in our life in Christ we are, in part, already there.

Acts 6:1-7  |  1 Pt 2:4-9  |  John 14:1-12

Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. of Middle Meadow Walk, Edinburgh.

Martin Ganeri O.P.

Martin Ganeri O.P.fr Martin Robindra Ganeri is Prior Provincial of the English Province of the Order of Preachers.






Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle, alleluia, for the Lord hath done wonderful things, alleluia; He hath revealed His justice in the sight of the Gentiles, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Ps: His right hand, and His holy arm, hath gotten Him salvation. Glory be to the Father.

The last Sundays after Easter continue to sing Christ’s glory and the joy of redemption. In today’s Holy Mass we cannot fail to notice the Introit and the exultant jubilation of the Offertory, are when sung one of the loveliest melodies of the Gregorian chant.

As the Ascension and Pentecost draw near, the Gospels remind us how Jesus prepared the disciples for His departure by telling them of the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would be their light, their strength and their support. This teaching about the mission of the Spirit has its value for us as well as the Apostles. To the Holy Spirit is entrusted the guidance of Holy Mother Church whose leader and inspiration He is, just as He is the very source of Christian life for each of the faithful “baptised by water and by the Holy Spirit”. By the permanent part He plays in the Church the Holy Spirit carries on Christ’s work and bears witness to Him, at the same time He convinces the world of error and sin in its refusal to accept the Saviour.

Epistle:   James 1, 17-21      Gospel:   John 16,  5-14


Shout with joy to God all the earth, sing ye a psalm to His name; come and hear and I will tell you, all ye that fear God. What great things the Lord hath done for my soul,alleluia.


Be present with us Lord our God, that by these gifts which we have received in faith we may be purified from sin and saved from all dangers. Through Our Lord.


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The Miracle for the canonization of Jacinta and Francesco

For a while now, I have been looking for information about the miracle approved for the canonization of the two Fatima seerers, Francesco and Jacinta.  The other day in Rome I even went to the Congregation for Saints to talk to a friend of mine there about the miracle.  I learned that it was a Brazilian boy who received the miracle, but my friend didn’t know exact details.  I got the information for the postulator, but received no response.

Strange.  What’s with the secrecy?  If I am not mistaken, there was one cause for a miracle which did not obtain approval.  So… what’s up with the secrecy?

As you know, after a person who is not a martyr has been declared to have displayed in life “heroic virtues”, and that decree is approved by the Holy Father, a person is then called “Venerable”.   Once a miracle through that person’s intercession is studied and approved (a rigorous procedure), he can be beatified.  One more miracle is required for canonization.

I believe that Jacinta is the youngest person who is not a martyr ever to have been declared to have lived a life of heroic virtue and thereafter beatified.  I think that goes for the canonization, too.

Although the approval of one miracle through the invocation of more than one person (Francesco AND Jacinta) is not usual, it is not unheard of.

Today there was a presser in Fatima.  The details of the miracle were finally given:

Via AP:

Brazilian boy’s survival of brain injury is Fatima ‘miracle’

FATIMA, Portugal — The parents of a Brazilian boy whose recovery from a severe brain injury is being cited by the Vatican as the “miracle” needed to canonize two Portuguese children broke their silence Thursday to share the story.

Joao Baptista and his wife, Lucila Yurie, appeared before reporters at the Catholic shrine in Fatima, Portugal on the eve of Pope Francis’ arrival. Francis will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the so-called Fatima visions of the Virgin Mary by canonizing two of the three Portuguese children who experienced them.

The “miracle” required for the canonization concerns the case of little Lucas Baptista, whose story has to date been shrouded in secrecy.

His father said Thursday that in 2013, when Lucas was 5 years old, the boy fell 6.5 meters (21 feet) from a window at the family’s home in Brazil while playing with his infant sister, Eduarda.  [This is a bit like the miracle for Juan Diego.]

The ambulance to the hospital took an hour, and when Lucas arrived he was in a coma and had suffered two heart attacks, Baptista said. During emergency surgery, doctors diagnosed a severe traumatic brain injury and a “loss of brain material” from the child’s frontal lobe.

Doctors said Lucas had little chance of survival, and if he did live, would be severely mentally disabled or even in a vegetative state, the father recalled.

Baptista said he and his wife, as well as Brazilian Carmelite nuns, prayed to the late shepherd children who said the Virgin Mary appeared to them in “visions” in 1917. Two of those children, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto, will become the Catholic Church’s youngest-ever non-martyred saints on Saturday.

The third child, Lucia dos Santos, Francisco and Jacinta’s cousin, became a Carmelite nun. Efforts are underway to beatify her, too, but couldn’t begin until after she died in 2005.

Joao Baptista, wearing a blue shirt and tie as he read a statement at the Fatima shrine and took occasionally pauses to compose himself, said doctors removed tubes from his son six days after Lucas’ fall.

“He was fine when he woke up, lucid, and started talking, asking for his little sister,” Baptista said. After another six days, Lucas was released from the hospital.

“He’s completely fine … with no after-effects. Lucas is just like he was before the accident,” his father said. “The doctors … said they couldn’t explain his recovery.”

Journalists were not allowed to ask questions. [Did you get that?]

Sister Angela Coelho, the Portuguese postulator who led the project to canonize the shepherd children, said her office was informed of the Brazil story about three months after it happened.

She said officials had to wait and see whether the boy’s recovery was complete before presenting the case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The recovery must be medically inexplicable.  [The requirements are also sudden, complete, and lasting.]

“We thank God for Lucas’ cure and we know in all faith from our heart that this miracle was obtained with the help of the little shepherd children Francisco and Jacinta,” Baptista said. “We feel immense joy to know that this was the miracle that led to this canonization, but mostly we feel blessed by the friendship of these two children that helped our boy and now help our family.”


Saint Francesco and Saint Jacinta, pray for us!

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Fatima at 100: Can a scientist take the Miracle of the Sun seriously?

This excellent article first appeared in yesterday’s on-line edition of the Catholic Herald, and the Catholic Herald Magazine today.

By Fr Andrew Pinsent

The crowd looking at ‘the Miracle of the Sun’, which happened during the Our Lady of Fatima apparitions (Wikimedia Commons)

A scientific perspective does not rule out miracles. We must remain open to exploring the unexplained

The question in the headline implies that the expected answer is “no”, but as a former particle physicist, my response is “Why not?” Contrary to a common prejudice, a scientific perspective does not rule out miracles, and the event at Fatima is, in the view of many, particularly credible.

As regards miracles in general, the usual prejudice against them takes one of two forms. The first is to claim that a scientific worldview excludes miracles, wrongly defined as breaking the laws of nature or, specifically, physics. This prejudice rests on a misunderstanding of the scope of scientific laws, which describe how simple, idealised systems behave in isolation. Such laws enable us to perform extraordinary feats, such as the final voyage of the Cassini spacecraft now taking place through the rings of Saturn.

But such laws say nothing about what happens when a system is not isolated, especially when a free personal agent intervenes. To give an example, if I throw an apple in the air, its trajectory will approximate a parabola that can be predicted from its initial position and momentum, but that prediction says nothing about whether or not I choose to catch the apple. And if I can intervene to change the trajectory of an apple then presumably God, who is all-powerful, can do the same and much more. Hence there is no real problem with miracles from the perspective of scientific laws, since to describe how a system behaves in the absence of intervention says nothing about whether an intervention can or does take place.

A second form of the prejudice is to claim that a combination of natural causes can and should be found to explain what appears to be miraculous, reducing the miraculous to the providential. To give one of many examples, it is not uncommon for clerics and teachers of a certain age, who find the miraculous mildly embarrassing, to claim that Jesus’s feeding of the 5,000 was simply a matter of people being shamed into sharing the food they already had.

But such explanations rarely fit well with the actual accounts, especially the reactions of eyewitnesses. Nor are such explanations either necessary or helpful. Obviously, we need to bring our critical judgment to bear on reports of particular miracles, which are exceptional signs in a world of created beings with their own natural powers. But to decide, in advance of any evidence, that miracles are impossible or never happen, is against the spirit of critical inquiry and is a counsel of despair. After all, if no miracles ever happen, then we are trapped in a world of natural powers, inadequate for our happiness, and doomed to individual and ultimately cosmic decay and death.

How, then, should we assess Fatima, and especially the reported miracle of the sun of October 13, 1917? This event accompanied the last of six apparitions to 10-year old Blessed Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto (who are shortly expected to be declared saints). The crowd of witnesses numbered in the tens of thousands and we have many testimonies, including from university professors and reporters, later compiled in a book by John Haffert, Meet the Witnesses of the Miracle of the Sun. For example, Avelino de Almeida from O Século, an anti-clerical government newspaper, and who had previously mocked the children, wrote that the sun made sudden, incredible movements, “outside all cosmic laws”.

Today, the Church does not demand that we accept the miracle, but states only that the apparitions of Our Lady themselves are worthy of belief. Nevertheless, given the number and range of eyewitnesses, and the political and ecclesial shock to Portugal that followed this event, everything we know is compatible with a public miracle of the most extraordinary kind and credibility.

From the perspective of 2017, the timing also seems propitious. The apparitions took place four centuries after the start of the Protestant Reformation in 1517, and two centuries after the founding of the first Grand Lodge of the Freemasons in London in 1717, milestones in the shift from Catholicism to religious indifferentism. On the very day of the miracle of the sun in 1917, the Petrograd Soviet took military control in Russia, paving the way for atheistic communism to begin its ruinous domination of much of the world, persecuting the Church and leading to the cruel deaths of tens of millions of people.

Hence it is not surprising that God should have granted us a spectacular miracle, with stern warnings, of the repentance and penance with which we need to respond to his gift of grace, for the salvation of our souls and of the world.


Fr Andrew Pinsent is research director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford University, a member of the Theology Faculty, a Research Fellow of Harris Manchester College, and a priest of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. 

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