When the Seven Holy Founders of the Order of the Servants of Mary were established in the Oratory of Santa Maria di Cafaggio, they decided to have painted a fresco of Our Lady representing her humbly proclaiming herself the handmaid of the Lord when greeted by the Angel. Being desirous that the painting should be worthy of the most holy Mother of God, they entrusted the work to an able and pious artist, named Bartholomew.
The saintly artist, relying on the aid of Heaven more than on his own skill, had recourse to Our Lady, fervently praying her that she would deign to direct his hand, that he might represent her in the most fitting manner. When he had completed the figure of the Angel and most of that of Our Lady, there yet remained to paint the features of the holy Mother of God. But how was he to depict the expression of this heavenly Mother in the act of pronouncing her admirable fiat, by which she became the Mother of God?
In this perplexity of mind the painter fell into a deep sleep. On awaking, how great was his astonishment to find the picture finished by an invisible hand! The faithful then flocked to witness this miracle and fixing their eyes on the Blessed Virgin, they repeatedly exclaimed: “What an angelical face, what heavenly features, what a celestial expression!” So beautiful indeed was the face of the Mother of God, that Michelangelo himself used to say this could not have been depicted by any human hand, but that it was truly a divine work.
‘Quivi non è arte di pennelli,onde sia stato fatto il volto della Vergine, ma è cosa divina veramente”. (Michelangelo)
‘There he is not art brushes,the face of the Virgin, but what is truly divine.’ ‘(Michelangelo)
Many were the graces bestowed by Our Lady on those who came to pray before this picture. Before long it was given the title of “Our Lady Saint Mary, full of grace.” This was the beginning of many further graces which the mercy of God granted, for more than six centuries, to those who came to invoke the Mother of God at this shrine.
Many people eminent for virtue came and knelt before this heavenly picture to implore Our Lady’s aid. It was before this wondrous picture that St. Aloysius Gonzaga made his vow of perpetual virginity. Here, also, both St. Charles Borromeo and in after years, Pope Pius IX, knelt in prayer and shed tears of tender devotion.
Very Rev. Alexis M. Lepicier, O.S.M. 1922.
St. Francis of Assisi – October 4
During the time that St. Francis was preaching in Gubbio, an enormous and ferocious wolf appeared in that area. It not only devoured other animals, but also men; and since it often came near the town, the inhabitants were taken by great fear. When the people went out to the fields, they would go armed as if for combat. Nonetheless, if any of the townspeople, even if armed, came upon it alone, he could not defend himself against it. The fear of this wolf became so great that no one had the courage to go beyond the city walls.
St. Francis, however, decided to go and meet the wolf, although all the inhabitants counseled him not to do so. Making the Sign of the Cross and putting all his trust in God, he walked out of the town with his brothers. At a certain point, his companions feared to go further, so St. Francis continued alone on the road that led to the place where the wolf stayed.
Many townspeople were following him from the distance to see what would happen. This is what they saw: The wolf advanced toward St. Francis with its mouth open. Approaching him, St. Francis made the Sign of the Cross and called out to the wolf saying: “Come here, brother wolf. In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I order you not to do any harm to me or any other person.”
Then a marvelous thing happened! As soon as the Saint spoke those words, the wolf closed its mouth, stopped advancing, and meekly laid itself down at the feet of St. Francis as if it were dead.
Then St. Francis spoke to the wolf: “Brother wolf, you are doing much harm and have committed great evils in this land, destroying properties and killing the creatures of God without His permission. You have not only killed and devoured animals, but you have dared to kill men, made in the image and likeness of God. For this, you deserve to be hanged as the terrible thief and murderer that you are. The people clamor and murmur against you, and this entire land is your enemy. But I want, brother wolf, to make peace between you and them, so that you will no longer offend them and they will forgive your past crimes, and neither men nor dogs will chase you any longer.”
As he finished saying these words, the wolf moved its body and tail and bowed its head to show that it had accepted the Saint’s proposal. Then St. Francis said: “Brother wolf, since you wish to accept and keep this peace, I promise you that the men of this land will always feed you while you live so that you will not be hungry, for I know well that it was out of hunger that you have done so many evils. But in granting you this great grace, I want you to promise me never to harm any man or animal. Do you promise this?”
The wolf, bowing its head, made an evident sign of agreement. Still not satisfied, St. Francis asked: “Brother wolf, I want you to give me a pledge of this promise, so that I can trust in it fully.” St. Francis extended his hand to receive the wolf’s pledge, and the wolf raised its right paw and meekly put it in St. Francis’ hand, giving him the requested guarantee.
Then St. Francis said: “Brother wolf, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ I command you to follow me without any fear, so that we may conclude this peace in the name of God.” And the wolf obediently followed him into the city as if it were a docile lamb. The townspeople marveled greatly at this, and the news spread quickly through the entire city so that everyone, men and women, great and small, young and old, went to the public square to see St. Francis with the wolf.
When all the people were gathered together there, St. Francis arose and preached to them with these words: “It is because of our sins that God permits calamities like this. Much more dangerous than the fury of a wolf, which can only kill the body, are the flames of Hell that will last eternally for those condemned. See how such a great multitude fears the mouth of a little animal, but you should fear the mouth of Hell much more. Make, sincere penance for your sins, therefore, and God will free you now from the wolf, and in the future from the infernal fire.”
St. Francis continued: “Listen to me, my brothers. Brother wolf, who is here before you, has promised and pledged to me to make peace with you and not offend you in anything as long as you promise to give it the food it needs each day. I offer myself as surety that it will strictly observe this pact.
All the people in unison promised to feed it always. And before all St. Francis said to the wolf: “Brother wolf, do you promise to observe with these people a pact of peace, offending neither any human creature nor his belongings?” The wolf knelt down and inclined its head, and with subdued movements of its body showed that it wanted to observe the entire pact.
But still St. Francis said: “Brother wolf, the same way you made your pledge to me outside the walls, I want you to give me assurance of your promise before all the people, that you will not deceive me about the surety I offer on your behalf.” Then the wolf, raising its right paw, put it in the hand of St. Francis.
After all this took place, there was such great joy and admiration among the entire people, both because of the virtue of the Saint and the novelty of the miracle, that all began to shout to Heaven, praising and thanking God for sending them St. Francis, who by his merits had freed them from the jaws of that ferocious beast.
After that, the said wolf lived two more years in Gubbio. It would enter docilely into the houses, going from door to door, without harming anyone and not being harmed by anyone. It was courteously fed by the people, and as it went about through the houses and city, no dog ever barked at it or chased it. When the worf died of old age after two years, all the townspeople mourned the loss greatly because in seeing it walking through the city so tame, they were better reminded of the virtue and charity of St. Francis of Assisi.
Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. writes of final impenitence and of deathbed conversions in his book. Life Everlasting: A Theological Treatise on the Four Last Things
Deathbed conversion, however difficult, is still possible. Even when we see no sign of contrition, we can still not affirm that, at the last moment, just before the separation of soul from body, the soul is definitively obstinate. A sinner may be converted at that last-minute in such fashion that God alone can know it. The holy Cure of Ars, divinely enlightened, said to a weeping widow: “Your prayer, Madame, has been heard. Your husband is saved. When he threw himself into the Rhone, the Blessed Virgin obtained for him the grace of conversion just before he died. Recall how, a month before, in your garden, he plucked the most beautiful rose and said to you, ‘Carry this to the altar of the Blessed Virgin.’ She has not forgotten.”
Other souls, too, have been converted in extremis, souls that could barely recall a few religious acts in the course of their life. A sailor, for example, preserved the practice of uncovering his head when he passed before a church. He did not know even the Our Father or the Hail Mary, but the lifting of his hat kept him from departing definitively from God.
In the life of the saintly Bishop Bertau of Tulle, friend of Louis Veuillot, a poor girl in that city, who had once been chanter in the cathedral, fell first into misery, then into misconduct, and finally became a public sinner. She was assassinated at night, in one of the streets of Tulle. Police found her dying and carried her to a hospital. While she was dying, she cried out: “Jesus, Jesus.” Could she be granted Church burial? The Bishop answered: “Yes, because she died pronouncing the name of Jesus. But bury her early in the morning without incense.” In the room of this poor woman was found a portrait of the holy Bishop, on the back of which was written: “The best of Fathers.” Fallen though she was, she still recognized the holiness of her bishop and preserved in her heart the memory of the goodness of Our Lord.
A certain licentious writer, Armand Sylvestre, promised his mother when she was dying to say a Hail Mary every day. He kept his promise. Out of the swamp in which he lived, he daily lifted up to God this one little flower. Pneumonia brought him to the hospital, served by religious, who said to him: “Do you wish a priest?” “Certainly,” he answered. And he received absolution, probably with sufficient attrition [imperfect contrition], through a special grace obtained for him by the Blessed Mother, though we can hardly doubt he underwent a long and heavy Purgatory.
Another French writer, Adolphe Rette, shortly after his conversion, which was sincere and profound, was struck by a sentence he read in the visitors’ book of the Carmelite Convent: “Pray for those who will die during the Mass at which you are going to assist.” He did so. Some days later he fell grievously ill, and was confined to bed in the hospital at Beaune, for many years, up to his death. Each morning he offered all his sufferings for those who would die during the day. Thus he obtained many deathbed conversions. We shall see in Heaven how many conversions there are in the world, owing to such prayers.
In the life of St. Catherine of Siena we read of the conversion of two great criminals. The Saint had gone to visit one of her friends. As they heard, in the street below, a loud noise, her friend looked through the window. Two condemned men were being led to execution. Their jailers were tormenting them with nails heated red-hot, while the condemned men blasphemed and cried. St. Catherine, inside the house, fell to prayer, with her arms extended in the form of a cross. At once the wicked men ceased to blaspheme and asked for a confessor. People in the street could not understand this sudden change. They did not know that a nearby Saint had obtained this double conversion.
Several years ago the chaplain in a prison in Nancy had the reputation of converting all criminals whom he had accompanied to the guillotine. On one occasion he found himself alone, shut up with an assassin who refused to go to Confession before death. The cart, with the condemned man, passed before the sanctuary of Our Lady of Refuge. The old chaplain prayed: “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who had recourse to thy intercession was abandoned. Convert this criminal of mine: otherwise I will say that it has been heard that you have not heard.” At once the criminal was converted.
Return to God is always possible, up to the time of death, but it becomes more and more difficult as hard-heartedness grows. Let us not put off our conversion. Let us say every day a Hail Mary for the grace of a happy death.
¶ And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee…
Everyone knows that the Church is against abortion. But how completely do we always understand why, for Catholics, this is such a major issue? I begin with a story from the National Catholic Register:
“NEW YORK — Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, an obstetrician who oversaw the performance of about 75,000 abortions before becoming a leading pro-life advocate and a convert to the Catholic faith, died at his home in New York Feb. 21 after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 84.
…In his 1996 autobiography The Hand of God, he told the story of his journey from pro-abortion to pro-life, saying that viewing images from the new ultrasound technology in the 1970s convinced him of the humanity of the unborn baby…
He noted, regretfully, “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age”.
That phrase of Dr Nathanson’s, “the humanity of the unborn baby”, is obviously enough the first part of what we need to understand. But that’s not enough. Being pro-life isn’t just a matter of being against abortion; it’s a positive, not negative, set of beliefs: it’s about knowing with certainty (which not everyone does) that all life is a priceless gift. And we begin with ourselves: with gratitude for our own life.
This gratitude is a distinguishing mark of all holy men and women. I think (as some of my readers may have noticed) that G K Chesterton is one of them, and that there is a strong case for his beatification and ultimate canonisation. His was one of the great prophetic voices of the 20th century: prophetic in both senses of the word, that is; he foresaw many things then still in the future and he also had a deep insight into what was wrong with the world in which he lived. This in turn had its origins in a profound sense of what human life ought to be.
And that all began with his gratitude for the gift of life. “I hung onto religion,” he wrote in his autobiography, “by one thin thread of thanks. I thanked whatever gods might be, not like Swinburne, because no life lived for ever, but because any life lived at all”. Seventy years before the pro-life movement Chesterton wrote this early poem, entitled “By the Babe Unborn”, about the wonder of life: in it, he imagines a child in the womb longing for birth:
If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,
If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.
In dark I lie; dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.
Let storm clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.
I think that if they gave me leave
Within the world to stand,
I would be good through all the day
I spent in fairyland.
They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.
A few years later, he attacked the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, one of whose key essays was entitled “The emptiness of existence”, and whose deep and systematic pessimism was to have such a massive influence on the literature and thought of the 20th century, by evoking once more his own key image of “the babe unborn”. Schopenhauer, wrote Chesterton, “had not that highest order of imagination which can see the things which surround us on every side with purified and primitive eyes. Had he possessed this he would have felt as we all dimly feel that a child unborn, offered the chance and risk of so vivid and magical an experience as existence, could no more resist taking it than a living child could resist opening a cupboard in which, he was told, were toys of which he could not even dream. He did not realise that the question of whether life contains a preponderance of joy or sorrow is entirely secondary to the fact that life is an experience of a unique and miraculous character, the idea of missing which would be intolerable if it were for one moment conceivable.”
Nobody has ever better summed up why Catholics don’t speak of their beliefs as being merely anti-abortion, but as being “pro-life”, an infinitely vaster conception. When Chesterton died, in the 1930s, abortion was still thought of, certainly by Christians of whatever persuasion, as unthinkably wicked. This was also generally true of secular public opinion, though there were, of course, exceptions: the Nazis believed in it, so did Adolf Hitler’s gushing English admirer, Marie Stopes.
By the 1960s, after the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust, and then of Stalinism and other human monstrosities, there had been a great movement towards Schopenhauer’s vision of the futility of human life, towards believing in his words that “in a world like this … it is impossible to imagine happiness”: and one result was the comparative ease with which ordinary men and women were more and more persuaded that the taking of life in the womb was a matter of very much less consequence than their parents and grandparents had supposed.
That’s what’s at stake here. That’s why the Church is so insistently (the secular world thinks obsessively and unreasonably) hostile to the taking of unborn life: because Catholics believe – more fundamentally than in anything else – in God’s Creation of this world and in the fact that, in Chesterton’s words, life in it “is an experience of a unique and miraculous character, the idea of missing which would be intolerable if it were for one moment conceivable”. The deepest tragedy of the 20th century is that for so many men and women, this dreadful notion became not merely “conceivable” (was ever a word used with a more poignant irony?) but normal.
Fatima, Portugal –October 13, 1917
The three shepherd children reported visions of a luminous lady, believed to be the Virgin Mary, in the Cova da Iria fields outside the hamlet of Aljustrel, near Fatima, Portugal between May and October of 1917. The lady appeared to the children on the 13th day of each month at approximately noon, for six straight months. The only exception was August, when the children were kidnapped by the local administrator-the children then saw her on August 19th in nearby Valinhos.
Lúcia described seeing the lady as “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal glass filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.” According to Lucia’s account, the lady entrusted three secrets to the children. She also told the children to do penance and make sacrifices to save sinners. They did things such as, where tight cords to cause pain, go without water on hot days, and other works of penance. Most importantly the lady told Lucia to pray the Rosary everyday because it is the key to personal and world peace.
In July the Blessed Virgin promised a miracle to the children on October 13th , her final apparition, so all would believe. This miracle became known as “The Miracle of the Sun.” A crowd believed to be approximately 70,000 in number, including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova da Iria. When the steady rain had finally ceased and a thin layer of clouds cloaked the sun so that it could be looked upon without hurting one’s eyes. Lucia was pointing towards the sun and called out to the crowd. And seeing various religious figures in the sky, the sun appeared to change colors and rotate, like a fire wheel. For some, the sun appeared to fall from the sky before retreating, for others, it zig-zagged. The phenomenon was witnessed by most in the crowd as well as people many miles away.
Here are briefly the facts; starting from the day after the events, by a reporter who cannot possibly be accused of partiality in this matter and for a good reason! We refer to Avelino de Almeida, the chief editor of “O Seculo,” the large “liberal” anticlerical and Masonic daily of Lisbon. He writes,
“From the road, where the carriages were crowded together and where hundreds of persons had stayed for want of sufficient courage to advance across the muddy ground, we saw the huge crowd turn towards the sun which appeared at its zenith, clear of the clouds. It resembled a flat plate of silver, and it was possible to stare at it without the least discomfort. It did not burn the eyes. It did not blind. We would say that it produced an eclipse. Then a tremendous cry rang out, and the crowd nearest us were heard to shout: ‘Miracle! Miracle! Marvel! Marvel! Before the dazzled eyes of the people, whose attitude transported us to biblical times, and who, dumb-founded, heads uncovered, contemplated the blue of the sky, the sun trembled, it made strange and abrupt movements, outside of all cosmic laws, ‘the sun danced’, according to the typical expression of the peasants …
Attacked violently by all the anticlerical press, Avelino de Almeida renewed his testimony, 15 days later, in his review, l’”Ilustraçao Portuguesa”. This time he illustrated his account with a dozen photographs of the huge ecstatic crowd, and repeated as a refrain throughout his article: I saw… I saw… I saw. And he concluded fortuitously: Miracle, as the people shouted? Natural phenomenon, as the experts say? For the moment, that does not concern me, I am only saying what I saw … The rest is a matter for Science and the Church.
…Saturday, October 13, begins for the pilgrims, as a walk of penance because it had rained the whole preceding night. Now, this almost sudden change of weather, with the dusty roads transformed into muddy quagmires by a pelting rain, causing to replace abruptly, for a day, the sweetness of autumn with the biting rigors of winter, did not succeed in moving them, to make them give up or despair.
From dawn, our reporter relates, visibly impressed by that calm courage, groups looming up again, intrepid individuals who pass through, without stopping for a moment, the small town, whose silence is broken by the chant of hymns intoned by feminine voices in harmony which contrasts with the roughness of the men… The sun rises, but the aspect of the sky is threatening. Some black clouds accumulate, precisely from the Fatima side. Nothing however holds back the pilgrims who, from all roads and by all means of locomotion, flock in that direction… Some small bells on a chain tinkle; we see here and there a cart decorated with palms. However, the festive atmosphere is discreet; the general manner is grave, the order perfect … Towards ten o’clock, the sky is covered completely and a heavy rain begins to fall. The downpour, whipped by a bitter wind, beating against the face, inundates the gravel roads, and pierces to the bone those who did not take the precaution of carrying an umbrella or some other means of protection from the bad weather. But no one becomes impatient nor gives up following the road…
How many were assembled at the Cova da Iria?
The maximum estimate was from Dr. Almeida Garrett, and was proposed some months after the event. It estimates the spectators at more than one hundred thousand. In “O Seculo” of October 15, Avelino de Almeida wrote: The crowd, by the unprejudiced calculations of cultivated persons very new to mystical influences, was estimated at thirty or forty thousand people. In his article of October 29, he corrected his first estimate: On October 13, according to the calculations established by people free from every prejudice, some fifty thousand people were gathered on the moor of Fatima. A neutral newspaper, the “Primeiro de Janeiro”, also estimated the crowd at fifty thousand individuals. We can therefore say, with a quasi-certainty, that this figure is a minimum; that is why the majority of historians propose as probable the presence of a crowd of seventy thousand witnesses.
In comparing the numerous accounts of witnesses, we can distinguish the diverse aspects and the result of the astounding phenomena established by all. For each one of them, it would be possible to line up some ten pages of witnesses which would constitute in themselves an impressive book.
Here is the first marvelous fact described by Dr. Almeida Garrett: It must have been 1:30 p.m. when there arose at the exact spot where the children were, a column of smoke, thin, fine and bluish, which extended up to perhaps two meters above their heads, and evaporated at that height. This phenomenon, perfectly visible to the naked eye, lasted for a few seconds. Not having noted how long it had lasted, I cannot say whether it was more or less than a minute. The smoke dissipated abruptly, and after some time, it came back to occur a second time, then a third time…
The Sudden Stoppage of the Rain
Whereas the low and heavy sky had a very dark color, laden with moisture, released an abundant and long lasting rain, during the time of the apparition, the rain stopped totally. Abruptly the sky cleared: The sun triumphantly pierced the thick bed of clouds hiding it until then, and shone intensely. (Dr. Almeida Garrett).
This abrupt change of weather took all the eyewitnesses by surprise: It was a day of heavy and continuous rain. But a few minutes before the miracle, it stopped raining. (Alfredo da Silva Santos)
The Vision of the Sun Without Burning the Retina
Suddenly I heard the uproar of thousands of voices, and I saw the whole multitude spread out in that vast space at my feet … turn their backs to that spot where, until then, all their expectations focused, and look at the sun on the other side … I turned around, too, toward the point commanding their gazes, and I could see the sun, like a very clear disc, with its sharp edge, which gleamed without hurting the sight … It could not be confused with the sun seen through a fog (there was no fog at that moment), for it was neither veiled, nor dim. At Fatima, it kept its light and heat, and stood out clearly in the sky, with a sharp edge, like a large gaming table. The most astonishing thing was to be able to stare at the solar disc for a long time, brilliant with light and heat, without hurting the eyes, or damaging the retina. (Dr. Almeida Garrett).
And then we witnessed a unique spectacle, the reporter of “O Seculo” remarked in similar vein, an incredible spectacle, unbelievable if you did not witness it. From above the road … We see the immense crowd turn towards the sun, which appeared at its zenith, clear of the clouds. It looked like a plate of dull silver, and it was possible to stare at it without the least discomfort. It did not burn the eyes. It did not blind. One might say that an eclipse had occurred. (Article of October 15, 1917) The people could look at the sun as we look at the moon. (Maria do Carmo)
Suddenly, the heavenly body began to tremble, to shake with abrupt movements, and finally to turn on itself at a dizzying speed while throwing out rays of light, all colors of the rainbow: The sun turned like a fire wheel, taking on all the colors of the rainbow. (Maria do Carmo) It appeared like a globe of snow turning on itself. (Father Lourenço) The pearl-like disc had a giddy motion. This was not the twinkling of a star in all its brilliance. It turned on itself with impetuous speed. (Dr. Almeida Garrett) At a certain moment, the sun stopped and then began again to dance, to spin; it stopped again, and began again to dance. (Ti Marto) It is indeed therefore a triple “dance of the sun” which thousands of witnesses affirm, having contemplated it for several minutes.
The sun took on all the colors of the rainbow. Everything assumed those same colors: our faces, our clothes, the earth itself. (Maria do Carmo) A light, whose colors changed from one moment to the next, was reflected on the people and on things, notes Dr. Pereira Gens.
We suddenly heard a clamor, relates Almeida Garrett, like a cry of anguish of that entire crowd. The sun, in fact, keeping its rapid movement of rotation, seemed to free itself from the firmament and blood-red, to plunge towards the earth, threatening to crush us with its fiery mass. Those were some terrifying seconds. I saw the sun turn and it seemed to descend. It was like a bicycle wheel. (John Carreira) The sun began to dance and, at a certain moment, it appeared to detach itself from the firmament and to rush forward on us, like a fire wheel. (Alfredo da Silva Santos) I saw it perfectly descending as if it came to crash on the earth. It seemed to detach itself from the sky and rush toward us. It maintained itself at a short distance above our heads; but that sort of attack was of very short duration … It seemed very near the people and it continued to turn in the opposite direction. (Maria do Carmo) From those thousands of mouths, relates the engineer Mario Godinho, I heard shouts of joy and love to the Most Holy Virgin. And then I believed. I had the certainty of not having been the victim of a suggestion. I had seen the sun as I would never see it again.
Everyone Had Dry Clothes
A last astonishing fact: all those people, who were for the most part soaked to the bone, verified with joy and amazement that they were dry. The fact is attested to in the canonical process.
The Vision of the Solar Prodigy at a Distance
A marvelous thing, the phenomenon could be admired from beyond Fatima. And even, some perfectly credible witnesses, who were very far away from the Cova da Iria, related having seen the unprecedented spectacle of the dance of the sun, exactly like the thousands of pilgrims gathered around the holm-oak.
In the small village of Alburitel, situated eighteen or nineteen kilometers from Fatima, the whole town was able to enjoy the vision of the solar prodigy. The testimony frequently quoted is that of Father Inacio Lourenço, because it is the most detailed. But what he relates having seen, all the good villagers, questioned by the investigators, confirmed seeing it in exactly the same way.
In October, I will perform a miracle, Our Lady had sovereignty declared on July 13. And on October 13, it was at Her efficacious gesture that the marvelous “dance of the sun” began: Then, opening Her hands, She made them reflect on the sun, and as She rose, the reflection of Her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself.
Thus, the magnificent miracle, it is She Who promised it, Who announced it three months in advance, and at Her gesture the miracle was fulfilled. That is the reply of the Queen of Heaven to the instant supplication of Her shepherd: I would like to ask You to tell us Who You are, and to perform a miracle so that all may believe that You are appearing to us. A response surpassing all expectations and one of such magnitude, of such splendor, that no one would dare to dream it possible.
The witnesses of the event were indeed innumerable, their testimonies agree and we are flooded with the documents they have left us.
In the first place, the numerous accounts conveyed appeared at once in the Portuguese press. It is noteworthy that the first to provide testimony were the anticlerical reporters. The three articles of Avelino de Almeida, the one of October 13, immediately before the event, the other of October 15, edited at Vila Nova de Ourem on the evening of the 13th, and a third article of October 29, merit a special mention. In spite of the jeering tone and Voltarian irony which inspire in part the first article, in spite of the expected anticlerical tones which still appear in the article of the 15th. These texts from a reporter of talent, one who besides, is honest and conscientious, are historical documents of prime importance. But he was not the only one to relate the facts, for other reporters were present at the Cova da Iria.
Next there were the official investigations. In November, 1917, at the request of Bishop de Lima Vidal, who was then directing the diocese of Lisbon, the Parish Priest of Fatima led his investigation and questioned several witnesses of the parish. Unfortunately, he transcribed only… four depositions!
The investigations of the historians fortunately compensated for those negligences of the official investigators. Since Father Formigao, who obtained from Dr. José Maria de Almeida Garrett, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Coimbra, a very thorough account, the most scientific report in our possession, all the top historians went to question the witnesses. Father da Fonseca, in order to verify the points disputed by Father Dhanis; Father De Marchi, Canon Barthas, Father Dias Coelho and Father Richard.
In 1977, to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the last apparition, it was still possible to assemble in Fatima more than thirty persons who had been present at the solar prodigy and who could reveal their memories.
Thanks to those numerous testimonies, it is possible to reconstruct a precise running commentary, allowing us to relive, hour by hour and minute by minute, this decisive day, assuredly one of the most important in the history of the world.
More Original Fatima Photographs:
I think there is a line in George Bernard Shaw’s play St Joan in which the inquisitors say with exasperation about Joan’s visions, “Joan, Joan! These visions are all in your imagination!” To which she replies, “But of course! How else would God communicate with me?”
One of the major problems in our society and in our church is that we are suspicious of imagination. There are two forms of imagination. The primary is that part of us–our Soul–which connects us with all that is mysterious and mystical and intuitive and universal. This we might call Imagination with an “I”. The second is derived from the first and is the lower form of imagination–that faculty whereby we envision a solution, dream up a new future, devise the plot to a story, see in our mind’s eye what someone is describing or create something beautiful and amazing in our heads.
Our society and our church is suspicious and uncomfortable with both. Instead we prefer the utilitarian solution. We want facts. We want statistics. We trust engineers and mathematicians and scientists. We want proof. In religion we want certainty. We want dogma. We want rules. We want regulations. Do not misunderstand me. We need all this concrete, solid and “sure” stuff, but without Imagination–without contact with the Spiritual realm and all that is greater than us, transcendent and awesome and wonderful we are left with dull facts.
In religion we are suspicious of Imagination as well. We pull back from the mystical visions of the night. We draw away from the fiery chariot, the earthquake, wind and fire or the still, small voice of Love. We run from the immensity of Imagination–the power of the transcendent and the vast, swirling depths of the ocean of the impossible.
In place of the prophetic vision, the mystical transformation and the trembling ranks of angels we have substituted emotionalism. We mistake the sweet, sentimental comfort song for a real experience of the overwhelming Love of God. We accept the feel good self help sermon as a substitute for the transformation by the tongues of fire–fire that promises to transform only by burning away all the wood, hay and stubble in our lives. We opt for the false comfort of universalism–in which everyone gets to go to Heaven because God (who we have made into a sort of celestial Colonel Sanders) is too nice to send anyone to Hell.
What is required along with a renewal of the Spiritual Imagination is the renewal of Innocence. By this I do not mean naivete, or immaturity, but the sort of child like innocence demanded by the gospel. Along with out distrust of Imagination is a cynicism and skepticism which destroys the soul. The Innocence of which I am speaking is the sort of cheerful innocence which regards miracles as not only possible, but to be expected. This child like innocence sees wonderful connections between things the rationalist would never connect.
Therese (who once played the part of Joan of Arc) as a child once saw the stars in the shape of the letter ‘T’ and exclaimed with delight that her name was written in heaven.
C.S.Lewis once wrote, “The saints, the poets and the children were right.” They had this Innocence and Imagination, and so their hearts were open to Eternity.
In 1842, a 28-year-old French Jew named Alphonse Ratisbonne was visiting Rome. He was the youngest son of an important banking family in Strasbourg, a close relation of the Rothschilds. As often happens with European Jews, a family takes the name of a city. The French Ratisbonne comes from Ratisbona, the Latin name for Regensburg, a famous German city near Munich. Alphonse was a Jew by race and religion, virulently anti-Catholic, and libertine in his customs.
Alphonse Ratisbonne was making a tour of Europe and the East before settling to marry his cousin Flore and assume a partnership at his uncle’s bank. Ending by coincidence in Rome instead of Palermo as he had intended, he was well received by the French diplomatic circle residing there. He reluctantly made a call on Baron Theodore de Bussières, a very fervent Catholic. Even though the Jew seemed quite far from any conversion, the Baron, undaunted by his sarcasm and blasphemy, saw in him a future Catholic and encouraged his visits.
One afternoon, during a lively conversation in which Ratisbonne was ridiculing the superstitions of the Catholic religion, the Baron challenged Ratisbonne to submit to a simple test and wear the Miraculous Medal. Taken aback but wanting to prove the ineffectiveness of such religious baubles, Ratisbonne consented and allowed the Baron’s young daughter to put the medal around his neck. Baron de Bussières also insisted that Ratisbonne recite the Memorare once a day. Ratisbonne promised, saying, “If it does me no good, at least it will do me no harm.”
The Baron and a close circle of aristocratic friends increased their prayers for the skeptical Jew. Notable among them was a devout Catholic who was seriously ill, Count Laferronays, who offered his life for the conversion of the “young Jew.” On the same day he entered a church and prayed more than 20 Memorares for this intention, he suffered a heart attack, received the last Sacraments, and died.
The next day, his friend Baron de Bussières was on his way to arrange the Count’s funeral in the Basilica of St. Andrea delle Fratte when he met Ratisbonne. He asked him to accompany him and wait in the church until he had arranged some matters with the priest in the sacristy.
Ratisbonne did not accompany his friend into the sacristy. He wandered through the church admiring the beautiful marbles and various works of art. As he stood before a side altar dedicated to St. Michael Archangel, Our Lady suddenly appeared to him. It was January 20, 1842.
Standing over the altar, Our Lady appeared wearing a crown and a simple long white tunic with a jeweled belt around her waist and blue-green mantle draped over her left shoulder. She gazed at him affably; her hands were open spreading rays of graces. Her bearing was quite regal, not just because of the crown she was wearing. Rather, her height and elegance gave the impression of a great lady, fully conscious of her own dignity. She transmitted both grandeur and mercy in an atmosphere of great peace. She had some of the characteristics of Our Lady of Graces. Alphonse Ratisbonne saw this figure and understood that he was before an apparition of the Mother of God. He knelt down before her and converted.
Returning from the sacristy, the Baron was surprised to see the Jew fervently praying on his knees before the altar of St. Michael the Archangel. He helped his friend to his feet, and Ratisbonne immediately asked to go to a confessor so he could receive Baptism. Eleven days later, on January 31, he received Baptism, Confirmation and his First Communion from the hands of Cardinal Patrizi, the Vicar of the Pope.
His conversion had enormous repercussions over all Christendom. The entire Catholic world became aware of it and was impressed by it. Afterward, Ratisbonne became a Jesuit priest. Ten years later, he and his brother Theodore, who also had converted from Judaism, founded a religious congregation – the Congregation of Sion – turned to the conversion of the Jews.
The Significance of the Miracle
Shortly after the apparition, based on the description of Fr. Ratisbonne, a picture was painted representing Our Lady who had appeared to him that day in Sant’ Andrea delle Fratte. When the picture was completed, he viewed it and said that it only vaguely depicted the beauty of the apparition he had seen. This is not difficult to believe since the actual beauty of Our Lady must far surpass any mere representation. The picture was placed on the exact spot where she had appeared to him, and became know as Madonna del Miracolo, Our Lady of the Miracle, referring to the two-fold miracle, her apparition and the instantaneous conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne.
Obviously, that apparition represented a great benefit for the soul of Ratisbonne. It also represented a benefit for the Catholic Church with the foundation of the Congregation of Sion, with its special mission to work for the conversion of the Jews. This congregation expresses well the Church’s position toward the Jews. Her position is not to hate the Jews, but rather to defend herself against their attacks. To the measure that they attack the Church, she defends herself. But above all, she desires their conversion, the eradication of Judaism as a religion, and the entrance of the Jews into the Catholic Church, which is the true continuation of the chosen nation.
But in the doctrinal and psychological context of those times, the Ratisbonne miracle had a more profound significance. In the 19th century, the Revolution was strongly promoting Rationalism, a school of thought that today has become outdated. Then the Revolution was emphasizing this point: the rational man, the man who tries to determine everything according to reason, cannot find the necessary supports in reason to believe that God exists, that the Catholic Church is the true Religion, and that she was founded by Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Revolution concluded, the entire Catholic edifice of doctrines cannot be accepted by human reason.
Those revolutionary assertions were just myths, like the Roman mythology or legends of the indigenous and African peoples. Most of the rationalist arguments were chicaneries or sophisms, with only a few proceeding from captious arguments. But because the Revolution insisted relentlessly on those points and presented a torrent of objections to Catholic doctrine, many people of that time lost their faith.
To counter this unrelenting wave of attacks against the Catholic Faith, Our Lady appeared and made miracles in several places.
The miracle of Ratisbonne’s conversion that took place in Rome shook up all of Christendom. In those times there was not this accursed ecumenism we are witnessing today. Then, the separation of the religions was much deeper and, therefore, so also was the gorge that separates truth from error, and good from evil. A wealthy and influential Jew, with absolutely no reason to favor the Catholic Church, suddenly converted because he saw Our Lady. He gave proof of his sincerity by giving up his positions in the world and breaking his advantageous engagement. He embraced the religious life, and founded a religious congregation to convert other Jews and to combat Judaism. It is impossible to imagine a more objective proof of the truth of the apparition. This episode had an enormous impact throughout Italy and France, and then the whole Catholic world.
This series of apparitions and miracles was the blow Our Lady chose to give to the Revolution at that time. She counter-attacked with a skillful strategy, very well calculated. It was her way to smash the head of the serpent. The very head of Judaism was smashed by the public witness of an important Jew who affirmed that the Catholic Church is true.
We should, therefore, analyze the miracles Divine Providence gives, looking for the higher rule that governs them. Miracles become more frequent in the epochs when they are more necessary.
The Miracle Needed Today
Today we have reached the situation where the action of the Devil is becoming more evident with each passing day. I am speaking not only about UFOs and the hippy revolution. It is clear, in my opinion, that these phenomena are linked to a preternatural invasion.
I am referring also to the death of rationality in public opinion. That men effectively stopped using their reason – as they did in the ‘80s and ‘90s – and acted only by temperamental impulses is something that cannot be explained except by a special action of the Devil. He is making an enormous effort to keep the Revolution going, notwithstanding its failure to convince public opinion. Since we cannot explain this preternatural action, it is also difficult to combat it efficiently. It continues to grow and is reaching such an apex that it seems to me an astounding miracle is necessary..
What kind of miracle will it be? What would be the miracle that could move contemporary man to return to the Catholic Faith? The mysterious designs of God are beyond the knowledge of man. But this does not prevent us from speculating based on what He has done in the past.
Contemporary man has reached such a hardness of heart that he is no longer touched by miracles like the one that took place with Ratisbonne, nor the series of miracles at Lourdes.
In my opinion two miracles are necessary:
First, we are in need of a miracle that would move the good Catholics to be unafraid to disagree with the prevailing opinion of the revolutionary milieu around them. They should become indifferent to that opinion. Further, they should take the offensive against it. This is the first part of what is necessary. It was what happened at Pentecost. Tongues of fire appeared over the Apostles, and they left the Cenacle with the courage to face everyone. Before this, they were cowards, but with this they became invincible fighters.
Was it something interior or exterior that took place there? I do not know. The whole city of Jerusalem heard an enormous exploding sound that came from the Cenacle. Therefore, it seems that it was not only an interior action within their souls, but that it was preceded or followed by some exterior miracle. What really happened there we do not know. But since today commemorates the Madonna del Miracolo, we should ask Our Lady to give us a similar miracle to transform us into the Apostles of the End Times predicted by St. Louis Grignon de Montfort.
Second, this divine intervention should be a chastisement that would punish the world for its acceptance of and concessions to the Revolution, and especially for the sin committed within the Catholic Church. To be more clear, for the acceptance of Progressivism within the Church even to her highest summits.
I am referring to the chastisement Our Lady predicted in Fatima in which many nations will disappear. The miracle of the sun that left its orbit and raced toward the earth seems to prefigure a cosmic chastisement where the very equilibrium of the sun may be altered in obedience to a command of Our Lady. What would be the consequences in our solar system if the sun would actually shake and change its course for a short period of time? Such a cosmic disequilibrium could produce all kinds of meteorological catastrophes on the face of earth, destroying countless things and people.
Even after that, many of the people who survived these catastrophes would still need the miracle of a conversion like the one Ratisbonne experienced.
Both of these perspectives point to grandiose miracles necessary to make contemporary men return to the right path and make possible the Reign of Mary, as Our Lady predicted in Fatima.
In order to be prepared for such miracles, I would advise praying the Memorare, the prayer that Ratisbonne said before his conversion. We should pray it often, asking the Madonna del Miracolo to give us these two miracles and the victory of the Holy Church over the Revolution.