If It Be of God: Our Lady of Fátima

Guam is a dot of an island in the Pacific Ocean, about a mile across and thirty miles long, and over a thousand miles from any other landmass. I was flown off the aircraft carrier during deployment, just as we were passing by Guam on our way over to the Gulf. (I say passing by, but in reality I had to take a flight in a mail plane for two hours to reach the island.) When I landed, I distinctly remember the smell. It was not unpleasant, but the air was saturated with moisture. It wasn’t so much humid as wet. I felt like a voyager in a distant land, because that is exactly what I was. And what would have been perhaps a crushing reality for many was nothing more than a merry adventure for me, not because I was some ascetic saintly soul detached from life and longing for death and the unification with the Divine. On the contrary, I was rather carnal and worldly, though pious in my own Novus Ordo way. My wife had just given birth to our first born. We were just beginning our life together. But, Providence saw fit that I be diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. 

Between hospital visits, the hours past by on the island very slowly. I did not feel very adventurous, though I knew I was on an adventure—as we all are, whether we’re on a pinprick island in the infinite blue, or we are an invalid in an apartment building in a podunk town. I did manage to venture out on Sunday, however, because I was not going to miss mass. I remember walking along the road, taking in the tropical morning of the island, the heat and moisture and traffic. As I made my way into the church, I recall a very ugly Novus Ordo sanctuary, in the modernist all-wooden style and architecture but dramatical contrasted by brilliant bouquets of flowers and ribbons and such things over in the corner, where a handful of Guam native women were rolling up little strips of paper and placing them at the feet of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fátima. 

A brief snapshot into the history books shows us the following: “On May 13, 1951, the statue arrived at Fatima at the close of the Holy Year designated by Pope Pius XII. Over a million people were there for this solemn occasion. During his radio address, His Holiness remarked: ‘In 1946, I crowned Our Lady of Fatima as Queen of the World and the following year, through the Pilgrim Virgin, She set forth as though to claim Her dominion, and the favors She performs along the way are such that we can hardly believe what we are seeing with our eyes,’” (as quoted on CorpusChristiPhx.org, emphasis added).

Could this have been a coincidence? Sure it could have been. I am inclined to believe that it was much more than that, not because Guam is so small, the world so large, and the statue of my Lady and I happened to be in the same dinky little church at precisely the same time (the statue would be removed by a handful of men in suits and white gloves just following the church service (I won’t call it a mass!). I believe it so because, after the encounter with the statue, my cares and worries for what would become of my life dissolved like a Sweet ’N Low packet in ice tea. The Pilgrim Virgin was claiming her dominion even over that little island in the ocean, even over that little, young man in the wooden pew with kidney disease. That is where my devotion to Our Lady of Fátima really began.             

There has been so much controversy as of late about Our Lady of Fátimaon the internet. There is a growing faction among those who are Catholic enough not to solicit sacraments from schismatics, but who insist that the apparitions and private revelations and even the Miracle of the Sun are all a hoax and totally fabricated. And you know what? I am okay with that, because the Church is okay with that, if there is sufficient reason to believe so, and if the belief is consequently prudent to hold. I confess I have not studied the questions raised against the historical record and discrepancies found therein. It is a labyrinthine labor I at present would rather not dive into. There is most probably something to be said for irregular documentation, even fabrication of evidence and such nefarious happenings surrounding the apparition of Our Lady of Fátima, the so-called secrets of the children seers, and other questionable events, and persons. Such was the case at Lourdes and La Salette, as well, and most probably by the same actors, the Freemasons—you know, the ones who infiltrated the Church to the highest offices, from the cardinalate even to the papacy? If Freemasons could pollute the wells of doctrine at the Second Vatican Council, of course they would try to pollute the most popular private devotion of the twentieth century—if not in the history of the Church! 

But take or leave Our Lady of Fátima, I don’t care. What I do care about, and this is the point of the article, is that, when the Church lends credibility to an apparition, then, yes, one is permitted even then to dismiss it; but one is never permitted to despise it. And that is precisely what is going on now on the internet, and that is the controversy I wish to end here and now. 

As Teresa Benns wrote recently: “Where the Church has thus given Her approval to any particular private revelation, it is no longer permitted to ridicule or to despise it. Fas non est, says Card. Franzelin, tales revelationes contemnere (de div. trad. 22). To do so were to fail in the respect due to the Church. But not to believe the revelation is no sin against the obedience we owe the Church. For the Church, by her approval or quasi-approval of these revelations, has no intention of obliging the faithful to believe them,” (The Casuist, as quoted on BetrayedCatholics).

It is simply unlawful and impious to contemn or despise so great a revelation as Our Lady of Fátima. To do so marks a perversion to Christian unity and of charity toward those who hold such pious beliefs. I am not saying one is not able to investigate the historical record and try it. That is a holy practice, because the object is truth, and seeking the truth in the highest things is always meritorious. But there must be a place from which we launch such an investigation, and there must be boundary lines which we are in principle unable to cross without committing sin and public scandal. 

I believe that the pope is safe to follow, not only in matters of faith and morals, but in devotions, prayers, and in all things that touch upon our holy religion, which belief I learned from the Church: 

“You will firmly abide by the true decision of the Holy Roman Church and to this Holy See, which does not permit errors,” (Bull Cum Postquam; Denz. 740b, as quoted from NovusOrdoWatch, emphasis added).

Did you catch that? In the Holy See, error is not permitted. Keep that in mind.  

“Therefore, because of your special faith in the Church and special piety toward the same Chair of Peter, We exhort you to direct your constant efforts so that the faithful people of France may avoid the crafty deceptions and errors of these plotters and develop a more filial affection and obedience to this Apostolic See. Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees,” (Encyclical Inter Multiplices, nn. 1,7, quoted from NovusOrdoWatch, emphasis added). 

So, in addition to the fact that the Holy See does not permit errors, we are obliged by obedience to submit to “whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees.” That is another very important point to keep in mind. Next,

“Nor can we pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, contend that “without sin and without any sacrifice of the Catholic profession assent and obedience may be refused to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See, whose object is declared to concern the Church’s general good and her rights and discipline, so only it does not touch the dogmata of faith and morals.” But no one can be found not clearly and distinctly to see and understand how grievously this is opposed to the Catholic dogma of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church,” (Encyclical Quanta Cura, n. 5, quoted from NovusOrdoWatch, emphasis added). 

So, the Holy See does not permit errors, and the teachings, determinations, and decrees from the Holy See should be submitted to in holy obedience, and not just in matters of dogmata, but also in the Church’s general good, her rights, and discipline, and not to do so is a sin. 

Now I make a point which perhaps some may disagree with, but which may be argued for further in the comment box. I personally believe it is demonstrable, but I know that I am liable to err and am not infallible—like the Holy See I am trying to defend! That is, that Our Lady of Fátima has indeed received papal approval at the highest level, that of the Holy See, and so the devotion as such could never contain anything harmful to the faith. Teresa Benns made a similar point when she said, “Regarding the apparition itself, it seems clear that the Church found it worthy of belief and treated it as such. Several mentions of Fatima can be found in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis and this alone indicates the Church at least implicitly acknowledged the validity of the apparitions,” (from the article “Final conclusions regarding the Fatima apparitions controversy,” which I encourage you to read!) 

The Acta Apostolicae Sedis is simply a gazette of the Holy See, which periodically would come out (it is only a shell today, though it looks the same as in the days when the Catholic Church existed in its hierarchical structures). I reproduce below the two entries into the AAS to which Benns refers.    

“This holy and most urgent intention should have the principal place in the prayers of each priest. Those who have been called to the sacred orders of the contemplative life are to pray for this special intention, and the faithful, when reciting the rosary so highly commended by the Blessed Virgin at Fatima, should entreat this same Virgin to intercede in favor of this divine vocation in order that the missions will flourish,” (Saeculo Exeunte Octavo, Encyclical of Pius XII emphasis added).

“Without doubt God will shower upon the noble nation of Portugal the liberality of His blessings as he did at its birth. And the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary, who is venerated at Fatima and is the same great Mother of God who obtained a great victory at Lepanto…It is well known that we have taken advantage of every opportunity – through personal audiences and radio broadcasts – to exhort Our children in Christ to a strong and tender love, as becomes children, for Our most gracious and exalted Mother. On this point it is particularly fitting to call to mind the radio message which We addressed to the people of Portugal, when the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary which is venerated at Fatima was being crowned with a golden diadem. We Ourselves called this the heralding of the ‘sovereignty’ of Mary,” (Ad Caeli Reginam, Encyclical of Pius XII, emphasis added.)

These are the endorsements of the Holy See of Our Lady of Fátima. According to what has been stated, the Holy See does not permit error. Therefore, there is no error in a devotion to Our Lady of Fátima. That is simple Catholic logic I hope everyone can follow.

It is true I have a special devotion to Our Lady of Fátima. I love her, because she has loved me first, and called my family and me out of the darkness of the false church and into her domain of heavenly grace which she spreads as like a mantle of maternal care over the entire earth—even over the oceans. But, do you know what? As much love and filial devotion as I have toward the Mother of God as she has made herself known in the apparitions at Fátima, I have a greater love and veneration for the Holy See, by which I even know that such an apparition is worthy of belief. Claims made of Marian apparitions are as numerous as the uncharted islands in the Pacific, and without the Holy See, one is liable to get marooned on one. But what is perhaps more perilous to the soul, is the insolent opposition to those apparitions the Holy See has approved; because, …if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God.