On May 13, 1917, the Mother of God appeared to three shepherd children in Fátima, Portugal. The extraordinary visions, occuring on the 13th of the month for six months, are perhaps the most celebrated and famous of the Catholic faith. According to one of the child seers, the Blessed Mother confided three secrets to the children and exhorted the children and the world to do penance and pray the rosary. An entire account of the Fátima apparitions can be read here.
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about Fátima, and its significance to our current situation with the Muslim world, in light of the big broohahaha generated as a result of Pope Benedict’s comments. Being of Portuguese heritage (my parents are first generation immigrants), I had always been fascinated by the fact that Fátima had a connection with the Muslim world. (The city itself is located about 120 km north of Lisbon in central Portugal.) Fátima is originally an Arabic name, once given to one of Mohammed’s favoured daughters. It is therefore very popular name given to women among Roman Catholics and Muslims alike.
After eight centuries of Muslim rule of the Iberian penincula, the Christian kingdoms of north Portugal and Spain defeated and conquered the Southern Muslim forces. The Reconquista, as it is commonly referred to, resulted in the capture of a Muslim princess from Alcácer do Sal named Fátima who was so named in honour of Mohammed’s daughter. Of his daughter, Fátima, Mohammed once said: “She has the highest place in heaven after the Virgin Mary.” After her capture, she was betrothed to the leader of the Christian forces, and later baptized into the Catholic faith before her marriage in 1158. The village of modern day Fátima was given the Islamic name of this Princess.
Reports from Fátima indicate that thousands of Muslims make pilgrimages to the Catholic Shrine every year because of the devotion to the Blessed Virgin in the Islamic religion. The Koran mentions the Blessed Virgin Mary 30 times, while no other woman’s name is mentioned. In the Koran, Mary is described as “Virgin, ever Virgin.”
Now, let’s fast forward to the year 2000 when the third and final secret of Fátima was finally released. Here is a fair description of the events leading up to the release of the third secret by the Vatican:
Due to the long delay in revealing the third secret, all manner of theories circulated in the Church. Some claimed that it spoke of nuclear war, the deposition of the Pope, the assassination of a Pope, or the replacement of a Pope by an imposter. Finally, during a visit to Portugal for the beatification of the visionaries Francisco and Jacinta (Lucia was still alive), Pope John Paul II announced through his Cardinal Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, that he had decided to make the text of the third secret public. A few months later, the text was released by the Vatican, together with a discussion of the meaning of the text.
“After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’ And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White, ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father’. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.” (source)
The subsequent interpretation of this account by the Vatican sees these events in the past and referring principally to John Paul II’s near death at the hands at Mehmet Ali Agca, a Muslim Turkish assassin. John Paul II was shot on May 13, 1981, sixty-four years to the day of the first apparition at Fátima. Even Pope John Paul II is said to have believed that the text refers to the failed assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca on May 13, 1981, against him.
While this is probably true, we have to wonder if the story of Fátima is completed. Our Lady promised that her Immaculate Heart would eventually triumph. And most of the commentary up to now has always focused on the evil of Communism since she herself predicted that Russia would spread her errors throughout the world. But buried in there somewhere is Fátima. Why did heaven choose this village, the village named after a Muslim princess who converted to the Catholic faith?
In the current turmoil with the Muslim world, it is almost too inconceivable to believe what her appearance at Fátima might suggest: the conversion of the Muslim world to the Catholic Faith. How this can possibly happen, nobody really knows and even my speculations here are just mere musings on my part. Then again, if the West is plunged into a future conflict with the Muslim world, you have to wonder whether the the Third Secret really applies more to Benedict than it does to John Paul II.