We are in a very difficult time in the history of the Church. It seems that they are hitting us from all sides. We suffer attacks against the family, marriage, life and common sense. But what hurts us most are the blows we receive within the Church herself, because of infidelity and the sin of many of her members. The objective of this attack, although coming from such seemingly varied fronts, has a common characteristic: it is an attack against hope. The devil wants to wrench hope from our souls and defeat us through disappointment and discouragement. An army that loses hope in the victory fails to fight. And if it does fight, it seems that it has already surrendered, and the enemy walks all over it. But when an army is sure of its triumph, it fights relentlessly until victory. That is why Benedict XVI, in his Encyclical Spe Salvi, says: “The present, even if it is a trying present, can be lived and accepted if it leads to a goal, if we can be sure of this goal and if this goal is so great that it justifies the effort of the way.” Only when we are sure of our future, the present becomes bearable. But our future is not only bearable, our future is wonderful because it is the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is much closer than we think. But that triumph, as in any other battle, will not be free.
On May 13, 1917, a Lady from Heaven, brighter than the sun appeared to three children in a place called Cova de Iria, making their parish of Fatima famous worldwide. The Virgin Mary, that Lady who was so pretty beautiful, returned five more times to visit Lucia, Jacinta and Francesco. At the third apparition on July 13, 1917, Our Mother revealed to the shepherd children the vision known as The Secret of Fatima. The children kept her secret zealously. The two younger ones, Jacinta and Francesco, died shortly after the end of the apparitions. Lucia remained alone with her mission. The Lord wanted to use her to make the Immaculate Heart of Mary known and loved. In 1941, Lucia received permission from Heaven to write the first two parts of the secret, but continued to keep absolute silence about the third part of the vision.
What Lucia told in that first moment was that Our Mother had shown them hell, “where the souls of poor sinners go.” She explained, “In order to save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart." She also announced that if mankind did not stop offending God, God would have to punish the world “through war, hunger and persecutions of the Church and the Holy Father.”“To prevent it,” She explained, "I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are fulfilled, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace, if not she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.” But, along with the prophecy of such great sufferings, that comforting promise shines like a light: “But in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”That is our hope in the difficult moments we are living and in the face of the prospect that everything will surely get worse: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
On July 13, 1929, exactly twelve years after the announcement of the secret, Our Blessed Mother appeared to Lucia again saying,“The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means.” Lucia tries to send this message to the Holy Father—at the time Pius XII—but she could not make herself heard. The twentieth century was advancing and the prophecies of the Virgin Mary in Fatima began to be fulfilled. One day, Our Blessed Mother told Lucia: “They didn’t want to attend to my request... Like the King of France, they will repent and they will do it, but it will be late. Russia will have already spread her errors throughout the world, provoking wars, persecutions of the Church: the Holy Father will have much to suffer.”
So much suffering could have been avoided if the request to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary had been heeded as the Virgin asked! Instead, communism (which was fundamentally Russia's “error”) counted over a hundred million murders and the suffering of millions of people. Numerous wars broke out, including the Spanish Civil War, which Sr. Lucia considered one more of the bitter fruits produced by the “errors of Russia” and that she did not hesitate to define—and I quote literally—as “communist revolution.” In the meantime, in Germany humiliated by the Versailles pacts, an infamous figure came to power: Adolf Hitler, raised largely thanks to his triumphs against the violent local communists. We all know what happened: he launched his nation into one of the cruelest wars in history, World War II, as Our Blessed Mother had predicted in the apparition of July 13, 1917: “If people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI.”
Not that the Popes, holy popes at that, didn’t heed Her entirely. What happened was that they didn’t’t do the consecration according to Our Blessed Mother’s instructions. On November 31, 1942, Pius XII did a consecration that did not appear to meet Our Lady’s expectations because it was not made with all the bishops in the world. The same thing happened with the consecration by Paul VI on May 13, 1967, and with the first consecration John Paul II did on May 13, 1982. Lastly, on March 25, 1984, John Paul II repeated the consecration. When Sister Lucia was asked if what Our Blessed Mother requested had been done this time the sister said, “Yes, but it was too late.” Exactly fifty-five years late. Russia had already spread her errors throughout the world, and they continue making the Church and all humankind suffer. Nevertheless, something was accomplished. At the time—1980s—the threat of an atomic war was threatening the world. It was estimated that the stored atomic armament in the world could destroy several earths. Yet the atomic war did not break about. On the contrary, the communist government in Eastern Europe fell peacefully. Sister Lucia was convinced that the consecration of Russia would have saved us from a lot of suffering, even if it was done fifty-five years late. Just think if we would have listened to Our Blessed Mother’s request right away.
While Sister Lucia’s struggle to fulfill Our Blessed Mother’s request—consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary—was undergoing, other events took place. At the end of 1943, Sister Lucia fell seriously ill. The bishop of Leiria visited her, and when he saw the state she was in he ordered her to write the Third Secret for fear that she would take it to the grave. The bishop argued that although the message could not yet be read, it would not be lost if anything happened to Sister Lucia. Our Blessed Mother told her confident, “Write what he tells you, but not its meaning as I gave you to understand.” Sister Lucia obeys and gives the secret to the bishop. It concerns the alarming vision of the bishop in white who dies beneath the soldiers’ bullets and arrows under the cross after crossing a great city partly in ruins. On the wax-sealed envelope there was a note authorizing that it could be opened and read in 1960, but it was made public in 2000. It was done with a note from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that interpreted the vision as something that had already happened: “The vision of Fatima concerns above all the war waged by atheist systems against the Church and Christians, and it describes the immense suffering endured by the witnesses to the faith in the last century of the second millennium. It is an interminable Way of the Cross led by the Popes of the twentieth century.”
But it is really is hard to consider the secrets of Fatima fulfilled. Apparently much less fulfilled seems to be another text Sister Lucia wrote describing the vision she had on January 3, 1944, when Our Blessed Mother gave her permission to write the secret. “The tip of the spear as a flame unlatches and touches the axis of the earth, – It shudders: mountains, cities, towns, and villages with their inhabitants are buried. The sea, the rivers, and the clouds emerge from their limits, overflowing and bringing with them in a whirlwind houses and people in numbers that are not possible to count. It is the purification of the world by sin as it plunges. Hatred and ambition cause the destructive war!”
This vision seems to describe a more dramatic situation than the very secret. And it does not look like it has been fulfilled. The triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary—I think it is evident to all—has not happened yet. What to say then? It will have to be the very events that explain. After all, Christian prophecy is not divination nor is its object discovering the future of what will happen tomorrow. Its finality is calling us to conversion today.
I dare to keep reflecting, going back to the year 1960, when the Third Secret could have been made public but was not. Just one year later, on July 2, 1961, the Virgin Mary began to appear in Garabandal. In October that year, she gave her first public message that contained a serious warning: “If we do not change, a very great chastisement will come upon us.” Throughout 1962, the Virgin Mary communicates new messages to the girls in Garabandal that have important prophetical content. These messages have many similarities with the secrets of Fatima, which were not yet published at the time. In fact, Joao Pereira Venancio the bishop of Leiria at the time and the person responsible for bringing the third secret to Rome and intimate friend of Sister Lucia, was convinced that the message the Blessed Virgin Mary gave in Garabandal was the same as Fatima’s message, just updated for our times.
In Garabandal the Virgin Mary warns against the coming of a great tribulation for the Church. In Mari Loli’s words, “It will look like (the Church) is at the point of disappearing.” The political, social and religious scene of the world and the Church is shown to the girls before the arrival of three great events: warning, punishment and miracle, which are not ends in themselves but a path of purification that the Lord, in his great mercy, offers humanity as an opportunity for conversion and as preparation for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, triumph predicted in Fatima and confirmed by the messages of Garabandal, but also of Medjugorje and many other recent Marian manifestations. Let's not panic, then. The closer the Warning, the Miracle and the Punishment are, the closer will be the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary!
What do each of these events predicted in Garabandal consist of? Let's start with the first that is supposed to come. The Warning will arrive without notice as an extraordinary grace of conversion. Everyone will see in his or her conscience the good or evil he has done as well as the state of his soul as God sees it. Conchita wrote in her diary, “It will be seen by everyone everywhere. Each person will feel it, it is like a punishment. We will see what we have caused by our sins.”
Regarding the Miracle Conchita said, “The Blessed Virgin has announced to me a miracle that God Our Lord will work through her intercession. As the punishment is very, very great—as we deserve—the miracle is also immensely great as the world needs it.” Since the visionaries have not seen it, they cannot add much more. But they have said where it will take place: the Pines of Garabandal. It seems that the Virgin also said that, after the Miracle, there would be a sign in the Pines that could be filmed and photographed, but not touched.
Finally, "If we do not change, a great punishment will befall us." Conchita says, "The punishment, if we don't change, will be horrible." Only a sincere conversion of humanity could prevent it. The purpose of the Warning and the Miracle is precisely to convert humankind and avoid the punishment. Reflecting on the events predicted in Fatima and contrasting them with what was announced in Garabandal, the similarities between the content of the third secret of Fatima and great purification announced in Garabandal are astonishing. And the vision of January 3, 1944, greatly resembles the punishment announced in Garabandal: "It is the purification of the world for the sin in which it is immersed."
In Garabandal a near "end of time" was announced, by a moment of great trial and purification of the Church. Does anyone doubt that this great tribulation has already begun? Logically, this "end of time", since it is not the end of the world, will be followed by a new period in the history of the Church and of humanity. Faced with the announcement of such terrible events, that luminous promise shines before our eyes: "In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph." We have a certainty that fills our hearts with hope. We know that we have a Mother in Heaven who loves us very much and who does not want our condemnation (cf. Garabandal Message, June 18, 1965) and that we can accompany Her on the day of the triumph of her Heart if we let her triumph in our own heart first.