By Traci Osuna
YONKERS, New York, MAY 31, 2011 (Zenit.org).- There’s a lot to the story of Fatima that many Catholics don’t know, according to the author of a new book on the 1917 miracle.
In “Fatima For Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope,” (Ignatius Press), Father Andrew Apostoli brings the story of Fatima to a new generation.
“[Catholics] are learning a lot that they didn’t know about Fatima,” says Father Apostoli told ZENIT. “A lot of good Catholics probably have a general idea … the rough lines of it and some details, but there’s a lot to the story.”
Since seeing the film “Miracle of Fatima” as a young boy, Father Apostoli says that the apparitions have had a great impact on his life.
“It was such a stirring story of these little children, their courage, and the importance of the message that Mary was confiding to them.” He says that he has tried faithfully to live as Our Lady requested, namely, keeping the devotion of the Five First Saturdays.
“That’s a very important part of the message,” the priest stated, “one, by the way, which Sr. Lucia — the oldest of the three children of Fatima — herself admitted was not being done in numbers that we need. It’s one of the two things Our Lady requested for the conversion of Russia.” The second being the consecration of Russia.
Father Apostoli’s great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima prompted Ignatius Press to request that he write an in-depth book on the subject. Having wanted to work with the Catholic publisher, the priest readily agreed. “It was a challenging book, I have to say. I’d be up late and my brain would feel like mush after a while, I couldn’t think. Finally, the thought came to me that Mary wants this book … and that’s what kept me going.”
To many, it may seem that a book on an occurrence that took place in a small village during the middle of World War I might not have much relevance today. However, both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI felt strongly that the message given during the Great War is just as meaningful today, if not more so.
In her message, Mary warned a still greater war was to come if people did not heed her words. “She also foretold the rise of communism and the spreading of these evils around the world and that’s what we’re dealing with now,” Father Apostoli explained. “We are dealing with the residue of all the effects of all the bad teachings of communism.”
In fact, the author proposes that U.S. secularism is “really nothing but communism in Western form.”
He cites the comment made by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla prior to becoming Pope — that the Church is in the greatest struggle of her 2,000-year history. What the cardinal called the struggle between the Church and the Anti-Church, Father Apostoli sees as the degradation of our entire Christian culture. “It’s the struggle between the culture of life and the culture of death. There’s the struggle between [preserving] the family and same sex marriages and the spread of homosexuality,” he says. “People are going crazy and because there’s such a moral decay in society, people are ready to accept anything.
“The present Holy Father, when he was cardinal, used to say that materialism of the world is suffocating spiritual values. That’s why people can’t hear the voice of God clearly, because they’re … trying to do what they want. But God has ways of calling people back.”
Father Apostoli sees a correlation to all the hardships our country is experiencing and Mary’s message to turn toward her son: “Sincere people need to hear God’s voice, I think. If people start doing what Our Lady said, graces will flow. I think what the nation is going through now … people losing their jobs, people have lost their savings, or are in danger of wondering what they’re going to live on, that’s going to call them back to God.”
At Fatima, Mary made the plea: “Do not offend the Lord our God anymore, because He is already so much offended.” To make amends for their sinful ways and to help save souls, Mary asked for people to make the Five First Saturday devotions. On the first Saturday for five consecutive months, Catholics are to go to confession, receive the Eucharist, pray five decades of the rosary and “keep Our Lady company” for 15 minutes while meditating on the mysteries of the rosary.” This time in prayer should involve not only reflection on the mysteries, but should evolve into a kind of heart to heart talk with Mary, Our Mother. She also asked that we pray for the conversion of sinners and for the lost souls.
“That’s what our lady wants … she wants us to live holy lives, try to do our best, and she will help us,” he says. “The rosary is a powerful prayer.” He also says that praying for the conversion of sinners is the key to peace. “If enough people change … and live holy lives, many souls will be converted and God’s not going to punish us. And that’s what I’m trying to do … raise the consciousness of people to do what Our Lady [asked].”
Father Apostoli says that Mary, with her message of conversion, was meant to prepare us for the struggles we are going through today.
Father also speaks of how the message of Fatima relates directly to the relationship between Christians and Muslims. He explains Fatima was the name of Muhammad’s favorite daughter. It was also the name of a Muslim princess who, upon the Christian defeat of the Moors in Portugal, was captured by the Christian knight. The two fell in love and, after she converted to Catholicism, they were married. She died shortly into their marriage. Heart-broken, the knight became a Cistercian monk. He named his wife’s resting place Fatima, in her honor.
In his book, Father quotes Archbishop Fulton Sheen regarding the significance of Mary’s appearance in Fatima: “I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Muslim people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too.
“And unless we have the conversion of hundreds of millions of Muslims, there will never be world peace … and you see that.”
Father Apostoli also addresses the debate over the validity of John Paul II’s consecration of Russia to Mary. He devotes an appendix to the consecration, explaining exactly what the Holy Father did and that it was approved by Sr. Lucia and accepted by Heaven. “There are people that say this is not true,” he says. “These remarks greatly offended Sister Lucia. They caused her great suffering, as they did the Pope.” He says that people wrongly assumed that Russia would be converted immediately after the consecration.
“Remember, [Mary] asked for two things for the conversion of Russia. The consecration was one thing, and the Pope did his part. She also asked for the Five First Saturdays devotion and I go to great lengths in my book … to explain it,” he says. “I refer to it as ‘Our Lady’s Spiritual Formation Programs,'” he says with a chuckle.
Fatima For Today tells the familiar story of how three innocent children faced the threat of death to do Mary’s will; but it also brings to light new information and in depth explanations to remind us that, while the current world view may be bleak, God’s love never falters and good triumphs over evil. But we need to do our part.
“Those who think that the prophetic message of Fatima is over are clearly mistaken … it can’t be over,” says Father. “I believe Our Lady did not make an empty promise or say something she doesn’t intend to fulfill. We may have gotten away from it, but she didn’t.”
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On the Net:
“Fatima For Today” Web site: www.fatimafortoday.com