Tag Archives: Marian apparition

Are Catholics obliged to believe in Marian apparitions?

Catholics are obligated in faith to accept all general or public revelation, but they are not guilty of sin if they decline to believe in particular private revelations, even if those private revelations really occurred. If you find the evidence for a particular apparition unconvincing, you’re free to disbelieve in it. In fact, you should disbelieve in it, because you’d do yourself a disservice if you believed in something you think didn’t occur.

Karl Keating

Marian apparitions and apparitions of other saints are examples of what we call private revelations. They are given to individuals in private. General or public revelation is given to the whole Church, is enshrined in Scripture and sacred Tradition, and ended with the death of the last apostle. General revelation is binding on all Christians, but private revelations are binding only on their recipients. If you ever receive a private revelation in the form of an apparition and are convinced the revelation is from God or from one of his saints on his behalf, in conscience you are obliged to believe in its authenticity and to act on its message. If someone else claims to see an apparition, you’re free to ignore it, even if it’s authentic.

Belief in the authenticity of a particular apparition is never necessary for salvation. If someone says you can’t be saved unless you believe in a particular apparition, you can be sure the person doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Why do Catholics believe in this or that apparition? The reasons vary. Some are intrinsically stronger than others. Some people believe because they approve of the message. Others believe because they approve of other people who believe in the apparition, or they believe the testimony of the visionaries who claim to have received the apparition. Some folks are impressed with the spiritual signs or effects attributed to applying the message of the apparition. Still others believe because of miracles associated with the apparition. Often several reasons converge in the mind to form a moral certitude of the authenticity of the apparition and its message.

Let’s limit ourselves to the issue of miracles as proof, and let’s consider Fatima and Lourdes. At Fatima, on October 13, 1917, 70,000 people witnessed what has become known as the Miracle of the Sun. Even the anticlerical Portuguese newspapers reported the zigzagging of the sun and the remarkable drying up of the ground and of the witnesses’ rain-soaked clothes. It had been raining hard the previous night and into the morning. A few people who were present at Fatima and saw these occurrences are still alive. Not one has come out, after a long lifetime, to say the whole thing was a hoax. Some commentators, then and now, claim the Miracle of the Sun was an example of mass hallucination, but hallucination is a solitary phenomenon. In medical literature, there are no records of even two people having the same hallucination at the same time, so how can 70,000 see the same thing, especially when some of them — such as governmental authorities who were atheists — were predisposed to disbelieve in anything smacking of the miraculous?

KARL KEATING is the founder of Catholic Answers. This column is reprinted with permission from his book What Catholics Really Believe — Setting the Record Straight: 52 Answers to Common Misconceptions About the Catholic Faith, page 63 (Ignatius Press, San Francisco 1995).

Catechism 101

“Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #67

Fatima Message @ 100: More Relevant Than Ever

Rife with enough secrets, visions and warnings to fill a riveting suspense novel, the story of Our Lady of Fatima has captivated Catholics and others for a century.

Wake-up call

As the Church celebrates this month the 100th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, the messages she gave to three heroic peasant children seem as relevant as ever in a modern age marked by societal upheaval and uncertainty about the future.

“It’s definitely a message for our time and it’s a challenging message in many ways,” said Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, author of two new books, Our Lady of Fatima: 100 Years of Stories, Prayers, and Devotions (Servant) and Our Lady’s Message to Three Shepherd Children and the World (Sophia Institute Press). “The Blessed Mother spoke about warnings and what would happen if we didn’t change our ways.”

“If the Fatima anniversary were 40 years off, people would not pay a great deal of attention to it, thinking they have plenty of time,” added Father Andrew Apostoli, whose book, Fatima for Today (Ignatius Press), thoroughly examines the apparitions. “However, now that the anniversary is here and, looking at the world situation as it is, people are taking it as a wake-up call.”

For example, Father Apostoli said, Mary spoke of war in 1917 during World War I, but the fear of another war is just as real today. She also cited Communism as a threat to western Christian civilization, saying it would begin in Russia and spread its errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. “This is especially true with regard to the family and what God intended for each individual, for families and for the world,” Father Apostoli said. “Today, a form of communism is seen in the teaching of gender ideology which ultimately undermines the Judeo-Christian concept of men and women as creatures of God with inherent dignity.”

Despite the serious nature of the Fatima messages, they were entrusted to three unlikely visionaries – two young siblings and their cousin who were tending sheep on a hillside on May 13, 1917, when they saw a flash of lightning and a “lady dressed in white.” The children had been prepared for the vision the previous spring by an “Angel of Peace,” who appeared to them three times, telling them to pray and offer sacrifices in reparation for sins against God and for the conversion of sinners. The angel also taught them two prayers, one known as the “Pardon Prayer” and the other focused on the Eucharist.

Serious revelation and admonition

Later, the lady who appeared to the children echoed and expanded upon the angel’s messages. Saying she was from heaven, she promised to return to the apparition site on the 13th of each month at the same time for the six successive months. In the subsequent apparitions, she asked the children to pray the rosary daily for world peace and to bear their sufferings in reparation for offenses against God and for the conversion of sinners. She also shared with them three “secrets,” the last of which was revealed in 2000 when two of the children, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were beatified. Although other aspects of the Fatima apparitions, such as the “miracle of the sun” that occurred on Oct. 13, 1917, and Mary’s request that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, often get more attention, her admonition to pray the rosary and to pray for sinners forms an important part of the Fatima message, Cooper O’Boyle said. “We live in a culture that teaches us to think about ourselves and does not encourage us to think about sinners. Mary’s message teaches us to make sacrifices for sinners, to offer penance and pray the daily Rosary. She said so many go to hell because they have no one to pray for them.”

David Carollo, executive director of the World Apostolate of Fatima USA, founded as the Blue Army, said at the heart of the Fatima message is a call to live in accordance with the Gospels.

The children, he said, were shown a vision of hell and asked if they were willing to offer their lives so that others would avoid such a fate. “That’s what we’re taught. We have to save our own souls, but we also have an obligation to work for the salvation of others.”

Carollo agrees with Pope St. John Paul II that the Fatima message is even more important today than in 1917. He said it is significant that both of John Paul’s successors share his deep devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Pope Francis, in fact, has consecrated his pontificate to her and will visit Fatima May 12-13 for the centenary, when he is expected to preside over the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta, who died at the ages of 10 and 9, respectively. A second and final miracle required for their canonization was approved March 23.

Meanwhile, the cause of their cousin, Servant of God Sister Lucia, who died in 2005, is currently underway.

Assurance of consecration, Rosary’s power

During her life, Sister Lucia urged people to concentrate on Mary’s message instead of focusing on the more phenomenal aspects of the apparitions. Still, many persist in questioning whether all the secrets have been revealed and whether the consecration to Russia was properly fulfilled.

Father Apostoli said Sister Lucia, who was told by Mary that she would live longer than her cousins in order that she might spread the message of Fatima, stated before her death that no more secrets remained and that everything had been revealed. Sister Lucia also said that heaven accepted the consecration of Russia by Pope St. John Paul II in 1984.

Carollo said when he is questioned about the consecration during radio and television appearances, he reiterates what Sister Lucia said and declines to argue with those who will not accept it, instead advising them to heed Mary’s call to holiness and to pray and make reparation for sin. “First and foremost, we have to do those things. I would say focus on that. It’s common ground for all of us and that’s what our job is. She didn’t say to question the Pope. She said always pray for the Holy Father and the bishops.”

As the Fatima centenary nears, there also has been heightened interest in a letter Sister Lucia wrote to Cardinal Carlo Caffara as he was establishing the Pontifical Institute for the Studies on Marriage and the Family. In the letter, Sister Lucia said the final battle between the Lord and Satan would be about marriage and the family.

Cooper O’Boyle, who will be leading a pilgrimage to Fatima with Father Apostoli in September, said Sister Lucia’s message is not surprising considering how the definition of marriage is being challenged and changed. “It’s just all around us, this attack on the family and on marriage . . . The final battle could be a century long, we don’t know. But we know we’re engaged in spiritual warfare, we need to put on our armor, have a strong foundation of prayer and follow Our Lady of Fatima’s instructions. She said the rosary is powerful enough to stop wars. We need to take the time and do what she asked us to do.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

The Three Secrets

The Fatima Visionaries were given three “secrets” by the lady who appeared to them. The last was revealed in 2000.

1. The children are shown a vision of hell and told to encourage devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart for the salvation of souls and peace. A worse war [than WWI] is predicted if people do not cease offending God.

2. Mary asks that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, and for reparation through receiving Communion on the first Saturdays of each month. If this is done, she promises the conversion of Russia and a period of peace for the world.

3. The children see a vision in which a bishop dressed in white is killed by soldiers firing bullets and arrows. After his attempted assassination, Pope St. John Paul II read this third secret, concluding that “a mother’s hand” had redirected the path of the bullet, saving him.

Fatima Phenomena – Timeline of related events

Spring, 1916: An “Angel of Peace” appears three times to Francisco Marto, his sister, Jacinta, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos while the three are tending sheep on a hillside.

May 13, 1917: The children see “a lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun.” She tells them to return each month for the next six months on the 13th day at the same hour.

July 13, 1917: The lady promises to perform a miracle in October for all to see and believe.

Oct. 13, 1917: After the apparition, crowds witness “the miracle of the sun,” in which the sun appears to dance, swirl and descend toward Earth.

April 4, 1919: Francisco Marto dies.

Feb. 20, 1920: Jacinta Marto dies.

Oct. 24, 1925: Lucia enters the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Spain and continues to receive private revelations about the Fatima message.

May 31, 1949: Lucia makes her profession as a Discalced Carmelite, taking the name Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart.

May 13, 1982: Pope John Paul II consecrates the world to Mary at the Fatima shrine, a year after he was shot and wounded by an assassin. He credits the Immaculate Heart of Mary with his survival.

March 25, 1984: Pope John Paul II consecrates the world, “especially the peoples for which by reason of their situation you have particular love and solicitude,” to Mary, fulfilling her request to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart.

May 13, 1989: Jacinta and Francisco are declared “venerable.”

May 13, 2000: Jacinta and Francisco are beatified.

Feb. 13, 2005: Sister Lucia dies at the Carmelite Convent in Portugal.

The incredible power of the rosary

I’ve been reading a book called Champions of the Rosary by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, which I strongly recommend. There have obviously been many books written on the rosary over the years. However, it seems that many are older and they are often translations from the foreign original text, thus making them a bit of a tougher read.

Tom Monaghan

Father Calloway published his book earlier this year, and he writes in a very conversational manner. The book also has some very impressive endorsements, including Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and Archbishop Joseph Di Noia. In this book, Fr. Calloway touches on the historical, theological and devotional elements of the rosary and weaves them all together.

In a section of the book called the “Age of the Rosary,” he talks about a span of 125 years when there were eight major Marian apparitions approved by the Church — plus two official declarations of new Marian dogmas, finally ending with a Marian Year.

1830 Marian apparition: St. Catherine Labouré (Miraculous Medal)

1846 Marian apparition: Our Lady of La Salette

1854 Dogma of the Immaculate Conception proclaimed

1858 Marian apparition: Our Lady of Lourdes

1871 Marian apparition: Our Lady of Pontmain

1879 Marian apparition: Our Lady of Knock

1917 Marian apparition: Our Lady of Fatima

1932 Marian apparition: Our Lady of Beauraing

1933 Marian apparition: Our Lady of Banneux

1950 Dogma of the Assumption of Mary proclaimed

1954 Marian Year

He points out that almost all of the apparitions listed above have a rosary dimension to them.

How can any Catholic ignore this plea of Our Lady to pray the rosary daily? I understand that many Legates get to meetings late and miss the rosary and some the Mass. It strikes me that they are missing the most important part.

I am told the rosary has more spiritual benefits when it is prayed with others. Every month Legates have the opportunity to participate in three powerful things: rosary, Confession and Mass. Isn’t this worth getting to the beginning of the meeting?

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder and chairman.