The Reliquary Casket of St Thomas of Canterbury

Half in Ruins

Mary first appeared to the visionaries in Fatima 99 years ago today.  Do those messages say anything to us today? I've found as soon as you mention Fatima, people immediately turn to the third secret. So rather than fight the urge, let's look at that.

The validity of the official text has been much disputed, but it's the only text we have. It speaks of a "big city half in ruins". The official commentary sees the city as symbolising human history. I don't think anyone would disagree that as the Kingdom of God has already come, the reference can also include the City of God. In our time and context this could be taken as representing the Church on earth. In the third secret, we see corpses along the way, presumably mainly in the half ruined city. There is specific mention of clergy and the laity who follow them - all being shot by soldiers outside the city, up the mountain below the cross. Effectively a second batch of the departed.  The commentary reads these as martyrs of the faith, and with good reason. But again, let's remember that in scripture death can be a metaphor for sin: for spiritual death.

The third-secret vision does not specify that all the dead earlier along the way are martyrs. So today we have those who suffer for their faithfulness even with martyrdom, and those who fall into error and sin: two different kinds of death. In similar fashion, the shooting soldiers can be the physically aggressive forces of Communism, but they can also represent those who spread the subtle lies of one who mimics God's ways, twisting truth around to produce the opposite outcomes. This subtler reading can still refer to atheistic communism, even today, or to the new atheism spreading in our land. Or it can refer to morality-light Catholicism, which sets our desires as the criteria for judging our lives. Many fall for any or all of the errors.

The tasks to which Fatima called the ordinary faithful remain unfinished. And so the warnings remain relevant in their principles. We have to identify how the battle is playing out in our context and remain true. The formula from heaven delivered at Fatima, is simple faithful commitment to Jesus in His church. To follow the long-standing consistent teaching and not some new spin.

The earthly portion of today's spiritual city is perhaps still half in ruins, or worse! The enemy is still wreaking havoc but on ever new fronts. As we, lay people, follow the priests and bishops, like in the vision, let's be mindful of the way our clergy lead us. Whether upwards into spiritual life, along the way of the true church, or into pretend solutions, the dead-end craters of exploding lies, that deliver spiritual death. The way to safety is found in Mary's example of faithfulness to her son - reminded to us by the apparitions of Fatima. You can't be faithful to a changing message. Beware those who teach a new gospel. Jesus said that the weeds are mixed in with the wheat in the field: he wasn't talking just about the laity.

How can I say that? Is not our Pope infallible? Our Pope is Peter. All the Popes are Peter. Peter is a continuous grace-fed role. There are not many Peters with different views, there is only one Office of Peter. But there are many individual Office holders, Popes in history, and according to scripture all have sinned in some and various ways (Romans 3:23). When the Office of Peter has established teaching within its competence, it is that which cannot err or change (John 16:13). If a Pope makes a subsequent mistake, God could strike him down, but then again, He might not. God is sovereign. We have to be faithful. Can I recommend the 13th Day film to you? The children show us how it's done.  Praise God!

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Christianity that won’t stay quiet!

The main picture is a detail of a reliquary which once contained the relics of Thomas à Becket. It's now in the British Museum in London.

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