The Great Battle
Several major publications recently posted a tragic story, a parent’s nightmare, of a mother madly dashing to a departing cruise ship, calling out for her children, falling to her knees sobbing, as she realized that she had missed the boat. Evidently the ship had ported and she went sightseeing, When she returned later, she could only watch in horror as the boat took her two children away. This account is a parable for our day and age. Often, we can become so overwhelmed with daily responsibilities, so distracted by vain ambitions, extraneousness hobbies, soul-numbing indulgences, that we actually lose touch with our children—and sometimes lose them altogether. We can become so plugged into the world that we tune out our fatherly mission. C. S. Lewis said that indulgence causes spiritual fog. Comforts, indulgences, vain ambitions are methods that the evil one uses to numb us to the reality that we live amidst a battle between life and death, good and evil, God and the devil, heaven and hell. Indeed, we may very well be experiencing the most tenacious, deadly, epic spiritual battle that has ever existed in all of human history. Many, however, too intoxicated by the pleasures and comforts of this world, think that everything is just fine. Sr. Lucia, who as a child witnessed the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima said, “The final confrontation between our Lord and Satan will be over family and marriage.” St. John Paul II, before becoming pope, was appointed with the task of preaching to Paul VI during Lent. During one of these homilies he uttered the ominous words, “We may be wondering if this is the last lap along the way of denial which started from around the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Whether or not this is the last lap, it does appear that we are living amidst a battle upon which our salvation and that of our children hinges.
A Most Notable Century
Consider this: On October 13, 1884, Pope Leo XIII, after offering Holy Mass, became gravely pale, collapsed, and was believed by onlookers to be dying. After he recovered he shared that he witnessed a vision of our Lord telling Satan that the Church was imperishable, to which Satan responded that if he had a hundred years and more power, he could destroy the Church. Many have speculated when this hundred years began and when it will end, but most believe that we who are alive have lived and may be living during this most notably dark age. Consider that during the last century there have been an unprecedented amount of technological advances, that man has harnessed power hitherto unknown. For example, the airplane was invented in 1903; the first radio broadcast was in 1906; the tank was invented in 1916; in 1927 the television was invented and the first television broadcast was in 1948; the atom bomb was invented in 1945; the computer was invented in 1946; in 1957 the satellite was invented; in 1961 the first spaceship was launched; the cell phone was invented in 1973, and the smartphone in 1992; the Internet was invented in 1990; and in 1993 social media was invented. No other century has experienced such a radically escalated influx of inventions that have enabled mass communications, the transmission of mass information, and mass travel. At the same time as the technological quickening in the last century, we have witnessed an astounding disintegration of morality. Consider that the Anglican Church accepted contraception in 1914; in 1926 the first sex-reassignment surgery occurred; Playboy’s first issue, which sold fifty thousand copies, was released in 1953; the Pill was invented in 1960; the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s followed; 1969 to 1984 was the Golden Age of Porn; in 1969 pornography was legalized and Humanae Vitae fell like a bomb on the Church; in 1969 no-fault divorce became the law; in 1973 abortion was legalized; and in 1980 gender dysphoria was defined. In 2002 Clonaid announced the birth of the first human clone; in 2003 homosexual marriage was legalized; by 2012, Xvideos had become the largest porn site on the Web, with 4.4 billion page views per month; in 2013 the family was redefined from the traditional model; by 2015 over half of American adults raised Catholic had left the Church. It can be said that overall the average person is more moral than in ages past, however, due to our technological power, human morality has in many areas lost its compass. This unbridled power has given way to unrestrained lust and has resulted in the last hundred years becoming the bloodiest, most deadly, war-mongering century in all of human history. As the letter of James says, “From where are wars and contentions among you? Are they not from your lusts which war in your members” (James 4:1). Though these technological inventions can be used to achieve great good, it appears that during the last century the evil one has launched the perfect storm—unleashing hell on humanity and the Church by means of a technological quickening that has given man the power to indulge the lusts that war in his members, causing wars in the members of the human race.
On May 13, 1917, God intervened by providing certain guidance and what I believe is an ultimate solution to combat and overcome Satan’s perfect storm. It was while three children were leading their flock of sheep to the pasture known as the Cova da Iria outside the village of Fatima, Portugal, that Our Lady appeared to them. Lucia, then age ten, Francisco, age eight, and Jacinta, age seven, saw the vision of a Lady who pointed to the sky and said, “I have come from Heaven. I have come to ask you to come here for six months on the thirteenth day of the month at this hour. Later, I shall say who I am and what I desire. And I shall return here yet a seventh time.” Before proceeding, it may be beneficial to state that there are two types of revelations: universal, that is biblical or apostolic tradition as transmitted by the Church, and private, which the Church approves by simply stating that there is nothing about them that is contrary to faith or morals, but that people are not obliged to believe in them.
Over the course of the first five apparitions, Our Lady revealed several vital messages, along with three “secrets.” The three secrets are: the prophecy of World War II; the vision of Hell; and the ever-debated and highly contentious third secret, the prophecy of the attempted assassination of St. John Paul II. Here is the core content of her messages: 1) We should mbrace the sufferings that God allows and offer them as a sacrifice and prayer for sinners—especially by praying the Jesus prayer: “O Jesus, it is for the love of You, for the conversion of sinners and reparation of the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 2) We should pray the rosary and meditate on the mysteries of Christ’s life in order to end war and bring peace to the world. 3) She promised salvation to all who devote themselves to her Immaculate Heart. 4) During the third apparition she opened her hands and rays of light appeared to penetrate the earth, enabling the children to see the terrifying vision of hell, full of demons and lost sinners enduring indescribable terrors. The children said that they saw a multitude of souls falling into hell like snowflakes. (Now, I realize that hell is not a very popular topic and many Christians today deny the existence of hell, evil, and the devil. I heard that one time Padre Pio was speaking about hell and a woman in the crowd said, “Padre Pio, I don’t believe in Hell.” To which he responded, “You will when you get there.”) 5) Our Lady promised that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph. 6) During the third and fifth apparitions she said that “in October . . . St. Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world,” and 7) also promised that she would perform a miracle for all to see during the sixth apparition.
The Miracle of the “Son” with His Father
What happened next, was nothing short of supernatural. On October 13—the day of the sixth apparition—the three children, along with approximately 70,000 pilgrims, gathered at the Cova in heavy rainfall that drenched the onlookers and made the ground a muddy mess. During the apparition, which lasted ten minutes, two things occurred: First, the sun began to spin wildly, zig-zagging across the sky, and then proceeding to dart down upon the crowd, who screamed with alarm, “We are going to be killed!” Others began confessing their sins aloud, begging for God’s mercy. Simultaneously, the three children were in an ecstatic vision, wherein Our Lady revealed St. Joseph and the Child Jesus blessing the world. It was precisely at this moment of the blessing of Jesus and Joseph that the sun ceased its radical descent and returned to its proper place in the sky. After the apparition was over, the pilgrims’ clothing, which had been soaked, and the muddy field upon which they trod, were now completely dry. Just a side note: many secular publications that had attended the event to discredit it testified to the authenticity and supernatural character of these events.
God’s “Secret” Weapon
Though there were three “secrets of Fatima,” I believe that the contention over the third secret is the evil one’s way of distracting humanity and especially us fathers from the most overlooked, and perhaps most important, secret of Fatima. Notice that during the sixth apparition—which occurred thirty-three years (the number of years of Christ’s life on earth) to the day Pope Leo had the vision of the evil one asking for a century to destroy the Church—St. Joseph appeared to the visionaries with the Child Jesus, and in union, they blessed the world, while at the same moment the 70,000 pilgrims witness the terrible, astounding miracle of the sun, believing that they were going to die, though their lives were spared and disaster was averted. It appears that Our Lady revealed the manner in which the world will avoid degeneration, disaster, and war. What is the remedy? What is the message of Fatima? “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” How will Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart triumph? By we fathers turning to the fatherly example of St. Joseph, who by means of his filial relationship with Jesus granted the fatherly patriarchal blessing to the world. Recall that one of the last times God spoke through a prophet in the Old Testament, He revealed through Malachi the solution for the world avoiding disaster: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:6). God is giving us the key to avoiding nuclear disaster, the solution to avoiding the destruction of our world, the Church, and our families, the key to saving souls from permanent eternal anguish and loneliness: Fathers, turn your hearts and gaze of love toward your children to ensure that they will not only turn their hearts and gaze toward you, their human fathers, but also with wholehearted trust toward their heavenly Father.
Our Lady is giving us the key to turning this ship around, to helping keep the world from falling over the edge and into disaster, to avoiding nuclear implosion, to restoring and redeeming the family and renewing the Church: Father, turn your hearts, souls, and minds toward the filial relationship of Joseph and Jesus and learn from him and embody his example of what it means to be a father of greatness. Notice also that Adam and Eve, the first virgin couple, were created on the sixth day of creation, but failed to replicate and transmit the image of self-giving love of the Trinity to humanity. However, in the sixth Fatima apparition—a symbol of the sixth day of creation—a new virgin couple appear with their Child Jesus, as witnesses that the family can become an icon of God’s trinitarian, self-giving love and fulfill its mission of communicating this divine love to the world. But how will this happen? Our times are defined by an unprecedented attack of Satan upon the family, and that, barring the grace of God, this attack has the potential to destroy the Church. The solution to overcoming this attack and winning this war is to go to Joseph. The conversion of the world, the renewal of the Church, the restoration of marriage and the family will occur when the man who is both husband and father turns to the just man St. Joseph and learns from him how to embody God the Father’s love and transmit this gaze of love to his children.
The Victory Bell Will Sound
Our Lady of Fatima shows us that through Mary and Joseph and Jesus, a new creation has dawned. The family is now capable of being a transmitter of God’s glory—provided that the father leads this family to God. St. Joseph’s blessing of the world in union with Jesus demonstrates his patriarchal fatherly right to bless and is confirmed by the Son of God. This indicates that it is our divinely ordained and patriarchal right—as priests of our families—to bless them and transmit God’s favor to our wives and children by means of our priestly sacrifices. St. Isidore of St. Joseph said, “The victory bell will sound in the Church when the faithful recognize the sanctity of St. Joseph.” How will the faithful recognize the sanctity of St. Joseph? When we fathers begin to embody his timeless wisdom and his ageless example, particularly his four pillars of embracing charitable authority, embracing woman, embracing the child, and embracing the silence. Indeed, “The final confrontation between the Lord and Satan will be over family and marriage.” This is the overlooked secret of Fatima: that the battle will be won when we fathers entrust our vocations, marriages, and families to St. Joseph, who entrusts all to Mary, who entrusts all of us to Jesus, who affords us union with the Father.