It has often been said that macro-history finds its sense in micro-history, at least insofar as some hidden bonds can connect seemingly unrelated events. This applies to the apparition of the Virgin Mary in Fatima (13 May -13 October 1917). For the Catholic Church, there are no doubts about its veracity; hence the importance attached to its first centennial.
Pope Francis, whose pontificate is based on this, consecrated the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the world, on 13 October 2013, before the very statue of the shrine of Fatima (Portugal), sent to Rome for the occasion.
Many Church leaders and bishops will do the same, and next Sunday, 25 June, it will be the turn of Lebanon and the Middle East. A “Day of Lebanon in Fatima” is set from Saturday afternoon to Sunday in the great Portuguese shrine. On this occasion, Patriarch Al-Rahi will lead the rosary and the torchlight procession on Saturday and celebrate the Mass of consecration on Sunday. The pilgrimage is organised by the Patriarchal Commission for the Consecration of Lebanon and the Middle East and the Shrine of Harissa. Several other patriarchs and bishops will participate.
Between 13 May 1917 and 13 October 1917, the Virgin showed herself for six consecutive times on the 13th of each month to three young shepherds, Lúcia, Jacinta and Francisco, who were tending their flock near the small hamlet of Fatima, Portugal. Through them, the Virgin sent the world a warning that was not heeded at the time. The price of this refusal was the Russian Revolution (1917), the Second World War (1939-1945), and the attack on John Paul II (13 May 1981). The history of the apparitions is public knowledge; hence it is impossible to cite all the conjectures, both positive and negative, over the event.
Let us remember only that to spare the world the aberration of Communism (the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917), the Virgin had asked the Pope, on the 13th of May of that same year (five months before) to consecrate Russia to His Immaculate Heart, in union with all the Catholic bishops of the world. For motives of embarrassing diplomatic expediency, this act of consecration was not done in public at the time. However, upon request, Pius XII performed it – imperfectly – in 1942, in the middle of the world war. Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI refused to do it. It was finally John Paul II who, more than thirty years later, fulfilled the request.
After she became a nun, Sister Lúcia, the only surviving child who was visited occasionally by Our Lady after 1917, said of the four consecrations made (one by Pius XII and three by John Paul II), only the last one, that of 25 March 1984, had fulfilled the requirements of Heaven.
The implosion of the Soviet Union in 1989 without a single act of violence validated the enigmatic words uttered in 1917 in the middle of the Bolshevik revolution with no one giving a thought about the historic upheavals that would follow.
The last apparition of the Virgin to Fatima took place on 13 October 1917. On that day, at the request of the children who had received it from the religious hierarchy, the Virgin promised to give “a sign” authenticating her message and her person. In the presence of a crowd of tens of thousands of people who had gathered at the scene of the apparition, she kept her promise and the sun “danced”, spinning on itself and then detaching itself from the sky rushing upon the earth under the shaken gaze of the crowd that, for a moment, believed the end of the earth was imminent. Eventually, the sun resumed its normal position and the miracle stopped.
To those who, evidently, believed in a collective hallucination, the Virgin gave an additional sign. Their clothes and the earth soaked by a persistent rain that day found themselves miraculously dry after the miracle. Many newspapers reported the news.
So where is the secret thread? On 13 October 1884, 33 years before the day before the great sign granted in Fatima (the age of Christ at the time of his death on the cross according to Catholic tradition), Pope Leo XIII, one of the great pontiffs of the Catholic Church, after a Mass celebrated in the Vatican, entered into ecstasy for about ten minutes, deeply immersed into a frightful vision, that of an exchange between Jesus and Satan on the fate of the earth, the adversary he met in the desert, as reported in the Gospels. In this vision, the pope was given the opportunity to see a myriad of unclean spirits exiting an endless abyss set on destroying the Church. Leo XIII immediately sat down at his desk and wrote a prayer which he ordered to be recited at the end of each Mass, which was done for quite a while. In it, he entrusted to Saint Michael the archangel with the mission of defending the Church.
The struggle in which the Church is engaged is a long-standing spiritual struggle, which takes place through the events of nations and the circumstances that we individually experience. For a Christian, history goes somewhere; time is not cyclical. The act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is not a “magic” act, understood as a kind of contract among the “spirits” with an obligation of result. It is a way of expressing our absolute faithfulness to Him whose love and blood brought us “from darkness to His admirable light”, and we entrust ourselves to the One through whom He “became flesh” and to whom was conferred, according to His pleasure, the authority to be “Queen of heaven and earth.”