Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
July 3, 2000
The third secret of Fatima
Thank goodness that's all over. "That," of course, is the speculation about the contents of the third secret of Fatima. Keeping the third secret a secret helped fuel a cottage industry of curiosity seekers and ideologues who used the unavailability of the message for their own purposes.
Now we have the message that Pope John Paul believes predicted the 1981 attempt on his life. More broadly and more importantly, however, is its "prediction" of the violent war on the Church and its leaders. That wasn't something new in 1917 and it hasn't ended today. But it was certainly a striking feature of the mid- and late-20th century.
The secret focuses our attention on the fact that life is ultimately a cosmic struggle between good and evil. It's easy to live one's daily life without that being foremost in one's mind. But life ultimately is not about getting ahead, maximizing one's pleasure or making a big pile of money. It's about good triumphing over evil.
Fatima's message, described in the broadest terms, is that this is a real war. Evil forces are out to achieve victory. For good to win, people have to make genuine sacrifices and have to be willing to suffer persecution. In fact, at Fatima Mary predicted that the Second World War would occur if the spirit of penance was not strong enough.
The secular view of politics is that if we can come up with the right diplomatic solution, war will be avoided and good will triumph. Canada's own struggle for national unity has typically been seen narrowly in terms of developing the right constitutional agreement. However, while diplomacy and legal frameworks are important, more important is the moral and spiritual fibre of the people.
The first Fatima secret was a vision of hell. It showed what happens to people in the next life if they turn their backs on God in this life. The third secret showed the pope and bishops traversing "a big city half in ruins . . . (full of) corpses." It's really a vision of what happens in this life if a whole society turns its back on God.
The reconstruction that our "city," our society, needs is spiritual more than physical. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's comment is pertinent: "Faith and prayer are forces which can influence history and in the end prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies."
In the light of this, it's fair to conclude that the wisdom given to children can be more powerful than the power of the mighty. This is a lesson of Fatima; it is also a central theme of Mary's prayer, the Magnificat. And it is central to the Beatitudes - the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit.
At the bottom of the mystery of life is a paradox. We become strong by becoming weak - by fasting, penance, and relying on God's will more than on our own. The pursuit of strength is futile; the pursuit of weakness through the cross of Jesus Christ is the only path to the fullness of life.
The story of Fatima is one of the great stories of the 20th century. It is great not because of the sensationalism attached to it, but because of the humble path to which it calls us. The mighty and bloody empires of the Nazis and communists have turned to dust; the gentleness found in the Immaculate Heart of Mary holds the promise of a truly lasting triumph.
The voice of God still speaks in history - it always will. The words spoken by Mary to peasant children in a remote part of Portugal have proven to be more prophetic than all the machinations of the rich, powerful and bloodthirsty. In that is our hope, not just for the world to come, but for the world in which we live today.
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