Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Mary, Behind Enemy Lines

The Count of Ourem, when he had driven the Moors from Abdegas, took one of their daughters to be his bride in about 1158. She was converted by his love, and in her honor he renamed the town for her: Fatima, a name beloved to her former coreligionists because it was borne by the daughter of Mohammed. Almost eight centuries would pass before the name of Mohammed's daughter would become beloved to Christians as well as Muslims. We still await the day when the name of God's mother will be as beloved to them as it is to us. Fatima holds the key, the Servant of God Fulton Sheen insisted, because the place named for Mohammed's daughter, or at least for one named for her, is the place that God's mother has made her own.

On May 13, 1917, when Mary first appeared there, though the little seers who saw her did not know it, all hell was breaking loose. Russia wasn't settled down from its democratic March Revolution and was already poised for the coming communist October Revolution. Mexico had just ratified its rabidly anti-Catholic and anticlerical Constitution of 1917, aiming all its government's powers toward the destruction of Holy Church. The forces of godless communism began to ravage the East and the Americas. At the same time, Europe, the heartland of Christianity, suffered under the Great War's slaughter so enormous that soon the entire continent would be scandalized from the Faith, and this under its hypocritically "Christian" leadership. It was in this context that the Blessed Virgin, the Holy Mother of God, brought a message to three little shepherds.

The Blessed Virgin taught the little children what Holy Church has always taught her children: pray and fast for the conversion of sinners. She encouraged them to do penances in reparation for the many insults to our Lord's Sacred Heart and to her Immaculate Heart. The forces of Satan, threatening then to overwhelm the world, could not be turned back by tanks and planes, for "For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places," (Eph 6:12).

This basic message was taken seriously even before our Lady gave it to the children. It was by praying the Rosary that Don Juan of Austria and Pope St. Pius V turned the Muslim armies out of Christianity's heartland in 1571. Though that battle was fought with fire and iron, it was won with wooden beads.

Some generations later, in 1984, the bishop of that place gave a speech in Vienna in which he said, "The Secret of Fatima speaks not about atomic bombs, nor about nuclear warheads, nor about SS-20 missiles. Its contents concern but our faith. To identify the Secret with catastrophic announcements or with a nuclear holocaust is to distort the meaning of the message. The loss of faith of a continent is worse than the annihilation of a nation; and it is true that Faith is continually diminishing in Europe."

Europe, it seems, has suffered a spiritual nuclear holocaust. We must wonder if the Faith in the US has not also been gutted, for all our churchgoing piety, when our divorce rate is so high and so many pregnancies end in abortion, when pornography has become a staple in our spiritual diet, and violence is such a popular form of entertainment that children now post on the internet videos of themselves beating each other up. Around the world the power of our Western practical, if not proclaimed, atheism struggles to legitimize every form of immorality conceivable. And it is not only the forces of godlessness that threaten to overwhelm humanity, but, as in 1158, Islam itself wages war on Christ, or at least those who used nominally to call themselves Christian.

The world now, as in 1917, very much needs the message of Fatima. We are surrounded on all sides - godless atheism and anti-Christian Islam. In a world awash in war and rumors of war, we have the same hope that accompanied the Count of Ourem, the little seers of Fatima, the martyrs of Mexico and Russia and China. Against their swords and terror, threats of bodily harm and spiritual nihilism, we have the Great and Holy Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, who charges into battle firing not shells but beads. Whether we are on the front lines against the devil, or living well within his conquered territory, we can be sure that she hears the clicking of our beads and the murmur of our prayers. She hears and transmits the distress signal to the Commander-in-Chief. Her Son, the Just Judge of the Living and the Dead, responds.

Pray, fast, do penance.

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