|Everything Anything You See on TV.
The 98th Anniversary of the Fourth Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.
The Nineteenth Thursday of Ordinary Time; or, the Memorial of Saints Pontian, Pope, & Hippolytus, Priest, Martyrs.
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Joshua 3: 7-10-11, 13-17.
• Psalm 114: 1-6.
• Mathew 18: 21—19: 1.
The Eleventh Thursday after Pentecost; and, the Commemoration of Saints Hippolytus & Cassian, Martyrs.
Lessons from the dominica,* according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I Corinthians 15: 1-10.
• Psalm 27: 7, 1.
• Mark 7: 31-37.
The Otdanije (Leave-Taking)** of the Feast of the Transfiguration; and, the Feast of Our Venerable Father Maximos the Confessor.
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• II Conrinthians 7: 1-10.
• Mark 1: 29-35.
4:20 PM 8/13/2015 — It's wonderful to be here with you again on the Thirteenth. Of course, I'm here for every thirteenth because this Shrine is my priestly assignment. The last time I spoke to you was back in June, on the 98th Anniversary of the Second Apparition, about which I was able to share some points which I hope you found helpful. And now I'm back again, which is unusual; I don't remember the last time we ever had the same speaker twice in one year; but, it's probably my own fault. Last year I had made a comment to someone here that the chaplain at the Shrine is always setting up things and arranging things and getting things for people, but never gets to give a major talk on the Thirteenth; so, I suppose someone said, “OK, we'll fix him: we'll make him do it twice.”
But, apparently, being required to do it twice wasn't enough of a punishment for me; in addition to that, they assigned me to speak to you on August 13th, which is listed on your fancy, glossy schedule as “The 98th Anniversary of the Fourth Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima”; except for one problem. What did Our Lady said to the children on August 13th, 1917? Nothing! The children never made it to the Cova that day. Our Lady made an appearance of sorts, but She didn't say anything because there was no one there for Her to say it to. Why the children weren't at the Cova that day is a story in itself, which we're going to look at; and, if you know most of this already, I ask you to kindly bear with me for the benefit of those who don't.
You may remember, from the last time we were together, I made a point of explaining how some people, with the best of intentions, sometimes make of Fatima and its message a religion unto itself, by which they judge all the rest of Catholicism, and how this is antithetical to the true message of Fatima as revealed to us through the three children, and how this can all be made clear by viewing these events within the historical perspective in which they occurred. So, let's back up a bit, and take a look at Portugal at the turn of the Twentieth Century.
In the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Freemasonry was gaining political power and ascendancy in many countries both in Europe and Latin America. It's followers were fiercely anti-Catholic and especially anti-clerical. They hated the Catholic Church, and they particularly hated priests. They effectively came to power in Portugal on February 1st, 1908, when they assassinated King Dom Carlos and his son, Dom Felipe, and officially took control of the government two years later when they overthrew Carlos' second son, Manuel II, in the revolution of 1910. Immediately they began an official persecution of the Church, and priests in particular, beginning with the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, whom they exiled from the country. In 1911 they passed a set of anti-religion laws that were the most severe the world had ever seen, and the leader of the Masons in Portugal, a man named Alfonso Costa, boasted that, in two generations, Catholicism would be eliminated in Portugal.
Fatima, and the area around it, was under the administrative control of the city council of Vila Nova de Ourem, and the head of that council was a fallen-away Catholic and leading Freemason named Arturo de Oliveira Santos. Just file that fact in the back of your mind for a moment, and consider this suggestion: throughout all of history, politicians, journalists and entertainers have always been the same. Politicians always claim they want to help us; all they ask is that we give them power. Journalists always claim that they want to inform us; all they ask is that we trust that everything they tell us is true. Entertainers claim they only want to entertain us; all they ask is that we accept that the image of society they paint for us is real. Not long ago I caught a show on television—I don't remember exactly what it was, but it was some sort of drama—and in the story a mother had caught her daughter in bed with a boy, and became very upset, but not for the reason you might think. She wasn't upset because her daughter was having sex outside of marriage; she was upset because the boy her daughter was in bed with had not been introduced to her first; the implication being that, if this boy had been someone the mother knew for a while, there would have been no objection to the fornication. And this attitude on the part of the mother was presented as being the attitude of most American mothers, as being measured and reasonable and within the mainstream of society. Now, I can assure you that it isn't; but, if you're Mom and Pop America sitting in front of your TV, and you didn't know any better, you'd be wondering if maybe there wasn't something wrong with you if you didn't have the same attitude. How many of us have been tempted to question ourselves, and think that there's something wrong with us, when our initial reaction to gay marriage is one of revulsion and disgust? How many of us have been tempted to think that it's OK to believe abortion is wrong unless its necessary to save the life of the mother, in spite of the fact that there is no condition known to medical science in which an abortion is needed to save a woman's life? Some of you, I'm sure, watched that debate the other night in which a question on that topic was raised, except that there's no such thing as an abortion that's needed to save a woman's life. It doesn't exist.
We watch TV, we read newspapers, we listen to the pontifications of our politicians, and then we end up questioning and doubting our convictions because we're given the impression that we are somehow out of the mainstream, backward, out of step with the rest of society. Sometimes we even make the mistake of regarding the results of a poll. At ten o'clock in the morning a pollster makes ten phone calls. At ten o'clock in the morning, he's not going to be talking to anyone who has a job, he's not going to be talking to a housewife who's busy, he's not going to be talking to anyone who may be out of work but who's out looking for a job; at ten o'clock in the morning he's going to be talking to ten out-of-work dead beats with nothing to do at ten o'clock in the morning. And eight of them will tell him that they favor gay marriage. So, the next day he publishes his report that eighty percent of Americans are in favor of gay marriage, and demands that we believe him. How stupid does he think we are?
The bottom line is that the image of our country that's being presented to us is a lie. It's a fraud. We get depressed and we think our country is going down the tubes, but that's because we isolate ourselves, and the only image we have of our society comes to us from what we watch on television. The fact is, most Americans are disgusted by homosexuality, most Americans do understand that abortion is murder—that's why all the laws allowing both abortion and gay marriage had to be done in the courts, because they would have never been enacted at the ballot box—and most Americans are believing and practicing Christians. That's not the America you see on TV, because the America you see on TV is a fiction, created to make us feel that we're somehow strange, and need to change our attitudes. And that why, whenever the activities of the Church are reported, they are always reported with suspicion and contempt, because, when a whole societal program is based on a collection of lies, any entity which preaches the truth must be destroyed. And, as I said, this is nothing new; this has been the case since the day Pontius Pilot presided over the trial of Jesus.
Alright. Back to Portugal, 1917. The city council of Vila Nova de Ourem, is under the control of a Mason and fallen-away Catholic named Arturo de Oliveira Santos. Word of the apparitions at Fatima was spreading very quickly throughout the whole country. Now, not everyone who went to Cova did so for the same reasons: some of them came out of simple curiosity, some to ridicule and scorn, but the vast majority of them came because they believed. Four thousand people came to be with the children for the apparition of July 13th, and the Portuguese press couldn't ignore it. But, as I tried to explain, journalists tend to be anti-religious because the Church deprives them of their ability to mold and shape the mores of society as they see fit. They mask their fear of religion under a disguise of objectivity, claiming that they have a duty to report all sides of an issue. Included in their reports are the testimonies of anyone and everyone they can find who will say something critical. So, buried in every story are reports from child psychologists explaining how the alleged apparitions are consistent with common childhood fantasies; secularists raising the alarm over religious fanaticism and clerical deceptions, accusing the priests of using the children for their own gain; and politicians in Lisbon criticizing the local authorities for negligence in failing to put a stop to all this civil unrest and maintain peace and tranquility. And it was this last critique that caused the lamps in the office of Arturo de Oliveira Santos to burn late into the night. Three little shepherd children were threatening his phony-bologna job; and, during the Third Apparition in July, when Lucia said that the Mother of God had confided to her a secret, he picked up the phone and called for his car. It was time to put a stop to it.
His first line of attack was through the children's parents, and this was dangerous; for, while the Martos, the parents of Francisco and Jacinta, never doubted the truth of the apparitions, Lucia's parents did not believe. Thankfully, perhaps because Lucia was the oldest, she had the strength of character to resist even the persuasive powers of her parents, and you may remember from our time together two months ago what a remarkably strong-willed individual she was. Santos' next attempt was through the parish priest; and, while Father Ferreira himself was skeptical of the children's claims, as any parish priest should be when presented with such things, leaving everything to the ultimate judgment of the Church, it's to his credit that he insisted that, if the Mother of God had confided a secret to the children, it was very wrong to try and pry it out of them, and he refused to do so.
Santos had hoped to avoid confronting the children himself, since berating children doesn't make for very good press for a politician, but in this case he felt he had no choice, and summoned the children to appear, with their parents, at the administrative council headquarters in Ourem. He was determined to pry this so-called secret out of them and expose them as frauds, thus making himself a hero to the powers-that-be in Lisbon who very much wanted all of this to go away. The meeting didn't take place exactly as he had planned: Lucia's father, who did not believe, took her there, but the father of Francisco and Jacinta, who did believe, went alone because he thought his children were too young to make such a journey. So, the only one of the children Santos got to interrogate was Lucia; and, as we saw two months ago, when you have a confrontation with Lucia, you're going to get bruised.
He tried every trick in the book: he demanded to know what this so-called secret was, and wanted her to admit the whole thing was a fraud. She ignored him. He threatened to have her killed if she did not comply, and she laughed at him. As the meeting ended, he threatened the two fathers that, if they didn't find a way to stop their children from going to the Cova on August 13th, then he would file civil charges against them for failing to control their children.
In the back of his mind he knew that he'd never get away with doing any of those things, and Lucia was certainly smart enough to know that; so, when August 13th came around, he decided to play the wolf in sheep's clothing. He shanghaied a priest from a nearby parish—and I don't have to tell you that there are, and have always been, priests who are not friends of our Lord—to go with him to the homes of the three children. Pretending to be very apologetic, he claimed that he wanted to go with them to the Cova so that, like the Blessed Apostle Thomas, “seeing he would believe.” But he suggested that, first, they go together to visit Father Ferreira, so that he could ask them and their parish priest some questions he still had in his mind, then, after the meeting, he would drive them to to the Cova himself. For some peculiar reason we will probably never understand, Lucia's often-evidenced shrewdness eluded her, and they ended up trusting him; except that, when the car finally stopped, they weren't at the Cova da Iria; they were in Ourem at the home of Arturo de Santos.
Now, Santos' wife was a devout Catholic who had practiced her faith in secret to keep the fact from her husband, and she was very kind to the children, gave them a nice lunch, and provided them with a very nice room for the night. The next day, however, was not so pleasant: Santos, determined to pressure the children to tell what they knew and admit it was all a lie, put the children in the city jail. He locked them up in the same cell with a group of thieves. As dangerous as that sounds, the prisoners in that cell turned out to be rather sympathetic to them, and actually tried to console them. There's a few stories Lucia tells in her memoirs about this time in prison, and I won't repeat them all, but there is one that stands out in my mind. She says,
Jacinta took off a medal that she was wearing around her neck, and asked a prisoner to hang it up on a nail in the wall. Kneeling before this medal, we began to pray. The prisoners prayed with us, that is, if they knew how to pray, but at least they were down on their knees. … While we were saying the Rosary in prison, [Francisco] noticed that one of the prisoners was on his knees but his cap still on his head. Francisco went up to him and said, “if you wish to pray, you should take your cap off.” Right away, the poor man handed it to him and he went over and put it on the bench on top of his own (Lucia's Memoirs, pp. 36, 128).
There are other stories, as I said, about this brief stay in prison in Ourem, but I don't want to just keep talking until I see a bishop standing impatiently in the back of the Shrine waiting to begin Holy Mass, so we'll move on.
Suffice it to say, Santos questioned each of the children separately, threatening to boil them in oil if they didn't reveal the alleged secret and admit that the apparitions were a hoax. They refused. And on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption of the Mother of God, Santos had the children driven back to Fatima and deposited them on the front steps of the rectory of Saint Anthony's Church. Now, Mass was just letting out, and when the parishioners saw a car drop them off at Father Ferreira's house, they remembered that the last time they had seen them was when they had been taken away from there, and they assumed that Father Ferreira had something to do with it. Of course, he didn't, but it took Mr. Marto, whom they all respected, to convince them. Most of them had been at the Cova on the 13th, and had left disappointed when the children never showed up.
Lucia later said that the most difficult thing for her about this whole ordeal was not what Santos had done to them, but the fact that she had been completely betrayed and abandoned by her parents. Her mother, in particular, thought that, by allowing her to be carted off to Ourem, she would be frightened into admitting it was all a hoax. She couldn't help but compare their behavior with that of her aunt and uncle, who had believed without question what their children told them. When she got home, her parents offered no welcome, nor expressed any relief at seeing her alive and well. They just sent her off to the pasture with the sheep as if nothing had happened. Even so, she later wrote: “By a special grace from Our Lord, I never experienced the slightest thought or feeling or resentment,” but, accepted everything as a form of penance, seeing “the hand of God in it” (Memoirs, p. 74).
And, I would not be offended if you pointed out to me that I have failed in my assignment, since I haven't said a word about the Fourth Apparition. I should be excused, however, since today, August 13th, is the 98th Anniversary of … well … nothing. That doesn't mean there wasn't a Fourth Apparition, because there was. The Portuguese have a saying: “God may not come when we expect, but he is never late.” One week later, on Sunday, August 19th, the Mother of God did appear. It was the only apparition of Our Lady of Fatima that didn't occur at the Cova da Iria. It happened at a little place called Valinhos, about a ten minute walk from where two of the apparitions of the Angel of Peace had taken place. It was not a long visit, but two very important things happened: Lucia asked Our Lady what to do with the money that people were leaving at the Cova, and the Mother of God said that it should be collected up and used to built a chapel on the sight, which we know today as the Capelinha; we have a replica of it here on our property which you can visit. And it was also, during this short apparition, that Mary told the children that, in October, at the Cova, she would perform a miracle that would prove to everyone that she was really appearing there; and, that would, of course, be the Miracle of the Sun.
So, what should we take away from our observance of the 98th Anniversary of the apparition that didn't happen? Two months ago I had asked you to reflect on the seemingly innocuous request of Our Lady that Lucia learn how to read, and take from that the importance of all of us making sure that we are thoroughly informed about the truths of our Catholic Faith. Today, I ask you to reflect on what we shared earlier, about how the image presented to us of the world around us is, more often than not, a false one, tempting us against that most necessary virtue of Hope. If, in the midst of all their trials, these three children could have such confidence in Christ's grace and His Mother's favor, and Lucia in particular in the face of being totally abandoned by her parents, that they remained faithful without even a thought of turning back, then we, too, must cultivate that same virtue of Hope, never delaying to do those things asked of us, through these children, by the Mother of God, and never doubting our Blessed Lord Who said, “I am with you all through the days that are coming, until the consummation of the world” (Matt. 28: 20 Knox).
* In the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, on ferias outside of privileged seasons, the lessons are always taken from the preceding Sunday. A Mass for the commemoration may be offered at the discretion of the priest; otherwise, the commemoration effects only the celebration of Lauds.
** In the Ruthenian Recension of the Byzantine Rite, certain major Holy Days are follwed by a post-festive period, the last day of which is called the "Otdanije" or Leave-taking, on which the services of the day mirror those of the feast itself, almost as if the feast is being celebrated again. Akin to an octave as observed in the Roman Rite, this period is not always eight days, its length being determined by the importance of the feast and any possible conflicts with other celebrations.