The time—July 13, 1917. The place—Fatima, Portugal. The appearance of the Blessed Mother of God to three little children.
 
The very horrible World War was still going on. You would think that Europe would have learned its lesson by now. You would think that between the many Scriptural lessons, some of which we have discussed in previous numbers of this five-part series, and the frequent pattern of falling away from God, repentance and falling away again followed by horrible political, economic and related situations, Christians, especially, who have a special understanding of these things, would see that unfaithfulness to God brings about chastisement for the sake of His holiness. But no. Our Lady told the children at Fatima:
 
If people do what I ask, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end [which occurred four months later] and there will be peace. But if people do not stop offending God, another, even worse, will begin in the reign of Pius XI [who was not even Pope then].
 
Obviously, people did not stop offending God! I remembering asking a colleague who used to teach in my department, what did Germany ever do to deserve Hitler. I did not realize that he had published a book on the Weimar Republic, which was the German republic set up after World War I, so he was an expert. He told me that the Weimar Republic was completely decadent in every sense of the term. Political corruption was the order of the day; there was no law and order, so that groups, including the Army, did what they wanted; art was totally nihilistic as well as literature. Sexual immorality was rife. Was there ever a time more ready for yet another chastisement?
 
So, Our Lady told the oldest of the Fatima children on that day in 1913, “When you see a night illuminated by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God gives you that He is going to punish the world by means of war, hunger and persecution of the Church and the Holy Father.” She predicted that Russia will spread its errors, which no one understood at the time, because Communism had not yet taken over in Russia. Sure enough, on the evening of January 25–26, 1939, the Aurora Borealis shone farther south in Europe than it had ever done before. Lucia, the oldest of the Fatima children and the only one still living, saw this light from her convent in Portugal. St. Lucia wrote to the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon telling him that a war was about to begin. September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, and the Second World War was under way. It is estimated that 55 million people died worldwide. In addition, Russia did spread its errors; communism at the time took over one-third of the world, resulting in countless other deaths and sufferings of many people.
 
In this more recent case, Our Lady was the prophet who warned the world, and who actually worked a miracle, the Miracle of the Sun, which over 50,000 people witnessed, including atheists and communists, in order to punctuate her message.
 
This situation is so obvious that it is almost ridiculous to recount it. What does God have to do to get people to return to Him? All that was predicted at Fatima came true, including the fact that the Holy Father (Mary did not specify which one) will suffer. All the popes from that time suffered; they suffered from the sorrow of the war, the persecution of the Church, which continues today, and, of course, Pope John Paul II was shot on the instruction of communist leaders. Pius XII still suffers post-mortem from all those who deny that he helped Jews escape the persecution of Hitler.
 
World War II is over, the communist-caused Korean and Vietnam Wars are over, and Communism has retreated. But now new problems arise, and in the next, and last of these installments, I will analyze this recent phase and its spiritual underpinnings.



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