The 100th Anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima can be seen through a lens of history. Journalist, Craig Turner presents a fascinating view of the Fatima Century.
Note to readers from Father Gordon MacRae: In “How I Met Your Mother: Mary and the Fatima Century,” a recent post on These Stone Walls, I wrote of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima that began on May 13, 1917. They continued on the 13th of each of several months to follow.
“Our Lady of Fatima and the Fall of Communism” – Lighthouse Catholic Media
Before posting it, I received a message from journalist Craig Turner writing from Virginia. He sent along the outline of a CD he produced for Lighthouse Catholic Media entitled “The Rise and Fall of Communism: How Our Lady of Fatima Saved a world in Crisis.” He described his historical analysis as “How Mary intervened during a time of great crisis in the Church and the world, to save us from a great evil.”
As I read through the outline, I discovered that Mr. Turner’s description was the understatement of the year. His historical summation of world events parallel to the apparitions at Fatima is fascinating: So I invited him to submit his outline as a guest post. It is a privilege to present this riveting overview of the Fatima Century by Craig Turner.
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In 1847 a young Carmelite nun made the astonishing claim that Jesus had begun appearing to her. Upon telling her superior, the claim was met with skepticism. In 1846, Jesus warned her of an approaching storm: “the malice of revolutionary men.” The following year, on March 14, he appeared again to her, stating that a society known as the “Communists” was working to spread…
On March 30, 1848, Jesus appeared to her for the last time telling her that she had completed her earthly mission and would soon die. Though she was in good health, she accepted this revelation with peace. She suddenly developed pulmonary tuberculosis and died on July 8, 1848, at the young age of 33.
At the same time Jesus appeared to the nun in Tours, France in 1847, an unknown political theorist living in exile in Brussels wrote his social contract called The Communist Manifesto. His name was Karl Marx. His financier and fellow author was Frederick Engels. Shortly after the work was published, a wave of unexplainable revolutions broke out in Europe.
The Manifesto presented what it claimed to be an answer to class struggle, and was quickly published in other languages. In France, socialists set up a government after the fall of Napoleon, but their government was overthrown and many of its members executed.
In Germany, the German Socialist-democratic party was created in 1875 but it was deemed a threat to the country and outlawed by the German government led by Otto von Bismarck. In 1890 it was once again legalized and fully adopted Marxist principles. In 1893, Karl Marx died in poverty, but The Communist Manifesto continued to attract adherents. Standing over his grave, Engels declared him to be the greatest thinker of their age.
On October 13, 1884, Pope Leo XIII had an extraordinary vision: He had just finished offering Mass at the Vatican when he was knocked to the floor of his chapel by a supernatural force and heard the voices of Jesus and the devil in conversation.
The devil declared in a raspy and guttural voice that he can conquer the world and boasts he will have ultimate victory, but needs time and power “to those who have given themselves over to my service.” [It was at this time that Pope Leo XIII composed the well-known Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel.]
By 1905, three competing parties evolved in Russia. The Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labor Party advocated for a complete revolution. Social upheaval erupted in Russia and Europe. Though Karl Marx stated that Russia was an unlikely candidate for communism, it proceeded slowly along this path.
Other parts of Europe experienced socialist leanings and anti-religious fervor. The conflicts centered around two factions: those wanting to retain their personal liberties vs. the new forms of socialist governments and a conflict between the Catholic Church and atheist communism. [How history repeats!]
At this time, religious persecution broke out in Portugal. Between 1911 and 1916, 1,700 priests and religious were murdered. Religious property was confiscated and a law passed forbidding public religious ceremonies. Alfonso Costa, the head of state, publicly declared that “Thanks to this law, Portugal within two generations will have succeeded in completely eliminating Catholicism.”
On May 12, 1914, two weeks before the outbreak of World War I, 22 people mowing fields in Hrushiv, Ukraine saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary who told them, “There will be a war; Russia will become a Godless country, and their country will suffer terribly for 80 years, and will have to live through the world wars [spoken in the plural] but afterward will be free.”
Two weeks later, World War I broke out across Europe. Coupled with a global epidemic of tuberculosis, the war claimed tens of millions of lives. By 1917, more than 1.3 million Russian men had been killed in battle, 4.2 million were wounded, and another 2.4 million were captured. In the midst of this desperate struggle, Pope Benedict XV issued a public letter with an urgent plea to Mary to help bring peace to the world.
On May 13, 1917, eight days after the Pope made his plea, three shepherd children in a remote region of Portugal experienced the vision of a magnificently beautiful woman who descended from the sky surrounded by a supernatural light. She stood suspended at the top of a large tree. They asked where she was from, and she said, “I am from Heaven.” She asked that the children return on the 13th of each month for five more months. During the following months, great crowds began to assemble.
On the third visit, July 13, 1917, the “Beautiful Lady,” as the three children called her, declared that war is going to end, but that if the people do not cease offending God, a worse war will break out “When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign” of the impending future war, she said, as well as persecutions of the Church.
She promised to return to ask for the consecration of Russia to her, a form of entrustment or dedication. She did this in a future visit to one of the visionaries in 1929. Russia, she continued at Fatima, will soon become Communist.
On October 13,1917, the final apparition, more than 70,000 people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun. For 12 minutes, they saw the sun spin and “dance” in the sky but their eyes were not harmed. It was exactly 33 years to the day since Pope Leo XIII had seen his vision in the Vatican chapel.
In the same hour in which the Miracle of the Sun took place at Fatima, Vladimir Lenin entered Russia with a plan to establish a Communist state. At that same time, Bolsheviks in Moscow seized control of the great cathedral of the city, built by the Czars, and destroyed it. The miraculous and prized icon of Kazan housed in the cathedral was swiftly taken to safety outside Russia. Less than one month later, all of Russia fell to communism.
Lenin, the leader of Communist Russia, declared that religion is the “opiate of the masses,” and worked to stamp out religious belief. In 1918 he dissolved democracy and began remodeling the country upon Marxist principles by nationalizing industries and confiscating land. In 1922, he formally founded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Lenin was succeeded by Joseph Stalin, who would ultimately be responsible for 20 million deaths. He believed that religion must be removed in order for the ideal Communist society to be constructed. As a result, the government promoted atheism as the state belief system and carried out a campaign of terror against religious adherents.
In the 1930s, it became dangerous to be openly religious in Russia as churches were destroyed or confiscated and religion was violently persecuted. In 1917, there were 54,000 Russian Orthodox parishes in Russia. By 1939, they numbered only in the hundreds, and tens of thousands of priests, monks, and nuns had been persecuted or killed. Approximately 100,000 people were shot during the religious purge of 1937-1938.
In Spain, Catholics fared no better than the Orthodox in Russia. During the Spanish Civil War, 11,000 priests and nuns were killed by communist loyalists, and more than 20,000 churches, convents, and Catholic schools were desecrated or destroyed.
On the evening of January 25, 1938, an enormous light appeared in the sky across the globe, attributed later to be the greatest aurora borealis since 1709. The New York Times headline the following day was “Aurora Borealis Startles Europe.” Though usually seen in northern climates, the lights were seen as far south as southern Australia and knocked out radio transmissions.
Ten days later, Adolf Hitler took command of the armed forces of Germany. The following month he began his plan of world conquest by marching troops into Austria. The war that followed was devastating and catastrophic as disparate countries were pulled into the conflict. Several nations were ravaged by war, fulfilling the prophecy of the “Beautiful Lady” at Fatima.
By 1945 the tide had turned and World War II in Europe was nearly over, but with a staggering cost: 50 million dead. The most viciously persecuted were the Jews. Catholics fared only a little better. Of the 20,000 Catholic priests in Germany when Hitler came to power, 14,364 were killed, imprisoned, or exiled.
Seeing that his failure was imminent, Hitler dictated his will, blaming the Jews for World War II, and justifying their extermination. The following day he swallowed a cyanide capsule and died.
Japan was also at war with the United States and her allies in the Pacific. On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It leveled every building within one mile of the center of the blast with the exception of one structure: a parish house, eight blocks from the epicenter where eight Jesuits were living and had prayed the rosary daily.
Included in their prayers each day was a plea given at Fatima, “save us from the fires of hell.” They were the only people within a four-mile radius to have survived.
In an ironic twist of fate, Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor on the eve of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the United States. On the day of the feast itself, the United States declared war on Japan. Japan was forced to surrender and accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (also the name of the church in Hiroshima where the eight Jesuits survived).
On May 13, 1955, the 38th anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima, the Soviets began to withdraw their troops from Austria after a massive prayer campaign. In 1950, 66 years after Pope Leo XIII had his vision, Pope Pius XII defined as dogma the Assumption of Mary.
Meanwhile, communism had spread from the countries of Eastern Europe to China. In 1949, Mao Zedong established The People’s Republic of China as a communist nation. That same year, Western nations for NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – aligned as a defense against the spread of communism. In 1955 the Warsaw Pact formed among the communist nations. In 1961, construction of the Berlin Wall began, a symbol of the Cold War.
In 1978, a little-known cardinal from Communist Poland was elected pope. He subsequently condemned both communism and “unbridled capitalism.” The following year, a trade union at the Gdansk, Poland shipyard went on strike demanding freedom and democracy. The new pope managed to keep communist Polish authorities from succeeding in suppressing the strikers.
On May 13, 1981, the 64th anniversary of the first appearance of Mary at Fatima, Pope John Paul II was shot and nearly killed in Saint Peter’s Square by a man with ties to Bulgarian Communism. The following year, Pope John Paul visited Fatima and stated that Mary “guided the bullet” saving his life.
The surgeon who removed the bullet affirmed that its trajectory should have passed directly through the main arteries of his heart, but somehow moved around the organ sparing the Pope’s life.
Seeing the connection between these events, Pope John Paul II asked for the documents pertaining to Fatima in the Vatican Archives. He read them, concluding that the consecration of Russia to Mary, in union with the bishops of the world, would fulfill Mary’s request and end Russian Communism.
One hundred years after Pope Leo XIII had his vision of satanic influence, Pope John Paul II consecrated Russia to Mary in a ceremony in Saint Peter’s Square. The following year, an obscure communist, Mikhail Gorbachev, became leader of the USSR. Pope John Paul, in a letter to the last surviving Fatima visionary, asked if the consecration was done correctly. She responded, “Our Lady will keep her promises.”
On April 27, 1987, there were reports of the Virgin Mary appearing again in Hrushiv, Ukraine to a 12-year-old above a small church. Other reports followed in the ensuing months. Suddenly, and almost without warning, the Berlin Wall fell in November of 1989 and citizens passed freely between the East and the West. That same year, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania became independent states followed by the Ukraine in 1991.
Later in 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev appeared for a news conference on Russian television and announced that he is dissolving the Soviet Union and ending Russian Communism. The date was December 25, 1991, Christmas Day.
Craig Turner is a columnist and business owner in Washington, DC. He began his career in journalism in the 1980s covering Capitol Hill for Government Information Services. He has worked in both communications and public relations. His articles have been published in both print and online media including MSNBC, Business Week, and Reuters.