A heretical Catholic priest named Arius: the father of Islam

June 29, 2017                                                                                                                               The Solemnity of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul

During the early eighth century Saint John of Damascus gave us the first extensive description of what the world would come to know as Islam, though he himself uses that word.  This passage comes his work Heresies in Epitome: How They Began and Whence They Drew Their Origin and I have taken it from the following website: http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/stjohn_islam.aspx .  The description he gives of religion of the Arabs at this time and of their prophet is fascinating, especially as it relates to the question of Arianism and its relationship to what we know as Islam:

There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites. They are also called Saracens, which is derived from Sarras kenoi, or destitute of Sara, because of what Agar said to the angel: ‘Sara hath sent me away destitute.’  These used to be idolaters and worshiped the morning star and Aphrodite, whom in their own language they called Khabár, which means great. [100] And so down to the time of Heraclius they were very great idolaters. From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.

He says that there is one God, creator of all things, who has neither been begotten nor has begotten.  He says that the Christ is the Word of God and His Spirit, but a creature and a servant, and that He was begotten, without seed, of Mary the sister of Moses and Aaron.  For, he says, the Word and God and the Spirit entered into Mary and she brought forth Jesus, who was a prophet and servant of God. And he says that the Jews wanted to crucify Him in violation of the law, and that they seized His shadow and crucified this. But the Christ Himself was not crucified, he says, nor did He die, for God out of His love for Him took Him to Himself into heaven.  And he says this, that when the Christ had ascended into heaven God asked Him: ‘O Jesus, didst thou say: “I am the Son of God and God”?’ And Jesus, he says, answered: ‘Be merciful to me, Lord. Thou knowest that I did not say this and that I did not scorn to be thy servant. But sinful men have written that I made this statement, and they have lied about me and have fallen into error.’ …

Moreover, they call us Hetaeriasts, or Associators, because, they say, we introduce an associate with God by declaring Christ to the Son of God and God.

You will notice right there in the middle of the first paragraph that it seemed to Saint John of Damascus that this man who the Arabs thought was a prophet had met and conversed with an Arian monk.  But why would he say this, and what was this Arianism thing that he was talking about?

By the time of Saint John of Damascus Arianism was dead or almost dead within the Christian world, but during its heyday four centuries before it had ranked among the greatest challenges the Church had ever faced.  This thing spread like a cancer throughout the Christian world and threatened to bring the newly emancipated Church to her knees for a time until God raised up Saint Anthanasius and the long and hard road to wiping this disease out had begun.  But what was it?

1) The doctrines of Arius

To understand what Arianism was we have to go back almost to the beginning, to the end of the Apostolic Age.  Saint John, who was then the last living Apostle and whose time on earth was running out, gives the Church both of his day and for all time this stark warning in his second Epistle:

For many seducers are gone out into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: this is a seducer and an antichrist (2 John 7). 

But what is he talking about here, about them being seducers who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh?  Certainly most heretics then and now have publicly confessed in some way, shape, or form the name of Jesus Christ and only a few have denied that whatever false version of Jesus Christ they confess actually came in the flesh.  So what is the Apostle talking about here?

To understand this statement we have to go back to the beginning of that same Apostle’s first epistle:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life: for the life was manifested; and we have seen and do bear witness, and declare unto you the life eternal, which was with the Father has appeared to us (1 John 1-2)

Here we get to the nub of the matter: the Apostle solemnly declares here that Eternal Life Itself took on flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ.  This is a concept that is beyond human (and perhaps even angelic) comprehension.  On our own don’t have the first clue what this really means.  We merely have to accept it and to believe it, but many would fall into error in the centuries after the Apostle wrote these words trying to provide their own definitions and explanations for what they meant.

The priest Arius was one of them.  He was not the first but he proved to be a funnel that channeled the primitive errors of the first Christian centuries into an organized movement that swept the Roman world.  He could not accept this teaching, or rather he strove to provide his own explanation for this great Mystery and he failed; in the process he produced a phenomenal error that continues to plague the Church and the world to this day.

When he deposed and excommunicated Arius and his cohorts in the year 318 AD the Bishop Alexander of Alexandria sent out a letter to the whole Catholic world explaining his reasons for taking this drastic step because Arius and his men were using deceitful tactics to gain the sympathy of many Catholic prelates.  In it he provides to his readers an excellent summary of the beliefs of this new sect that would go on to wreak such havoc:

And the words invented by them, and spoken contrary to the mind of Scripture, are as follows:-

“God was not always the Father; but there was a time when God was not the Father.  The Word of God was not always, but was made ‘from things that are not;’  for He who is God fashioned the non-existing from the non-existing; wherefore there was a time when He was not.  For the Son is a thing created, and a thing made: nor is He like to the Father in substance; nor is He the true and natural Word of the Father; nor is He His true Wisdom; but He is one of the things fashioned and made.  And He is called, by a misapplication of the terms, the Word and Wisdom, since He is Himself made by the proper Word of God, and by that wisdom which is in God, in which, as God made all other things, so also did He make Him.  Wherefore, He is by his very nature changeable and mutable, equally with other rational beings.  The Word, too, is alien and separate from the substance of God.  The Father also is ineffable to the Son; for neither does the Word perfectly and accurately know the Father, neither can He perfectly see Him.  For neither does the Son indeed know his own substance as it is.  Since He for our sakes was made. that by Him as by an instrument God might create us; nor would He have existed had not God wished to make us.

Some one asked of them whether the Son of God could change even as the devil changed and they feared not to answer that He can for since He was made and created, He is of mutable nature.”

These doctrines directly contradict the words of Jesus Christ and of Sacred Scripture in general on more occasions than you can count.  They count the Word by which the world was created as itself a created thing, thus distancing the world from God.  They say that the Son is separate from the Father, thus denying the Trinity.  And if one says that the Son is not God then one de facto denies the Incarnation.  Arius definitely did not lack ambition.  But the upshot of his professed doctrines is to try to accept Jesus Christ as some sort of exalted figure while at the same time denying both the Trinity and the Incarnation.  Where else do we find this?

In the Qur’an.  It is true that the portrayal of Jesus Christ was much more exalted in the mouth of Arius and his compatriots in the early 4th century than what is found in the Qur’an more than three hundred years later, but when you separate yourself from the Truth even in the slightest degree then the distance between you and that Truth will continue to grow over time.

How did Arius respond to these charges?  He wrote in response a letter to the same Bishop Alexander in the same year 318 AD.  In it he expresses some thoughts that are highly relevant to our discussion and I have spliced them together here for your consideration (the Scriptural citations were added by modern authors):

We acknowledge One God, alone unbegotten, alone everlasting, alone without beginning, alone true, alone having immortality, alone wise, alone good, alone sovereign…

And God, being the cause of all that happens, is absolutely alone without beginning; but the Son, begotten apart from time by the Father, and created and founded before the ages, was not in existence before his generation, but was begotten apart from time before all things, and he alone came into existence from the Father. For he is neither eternal nor co-eternal nor co-unbegotten with the Father, nor does he have his being together with the Father, as some speak of relations, introducing two unbegotten beginnings. But God is before all things as monad and beginning of all. Therefore he is also before the Son…

Therefore he thus has his being from God; and glories, and life, and all things have been given over to him; in this way God is his beginning. For he is over him, as his God and being before him. But if the expressions from him [Rom. 11:36] and from the womb [Ps. 109:3 (LXX), 110:3 English] and I came from the Father, and I have come [John 16:28], are understood by some to mean that he is part of him [the Father], one in essence or as an emanation, then the Father is, according to them, compounded and divisible and alterable and material, and, as far as their belief goes, the incorporeal God endures a body.

This is an abject contradiction of almost everything that Jesus Christ said about Himself in the Gospels but Arius also contradicts himself here.  He both asserts that the the Son was not always in existence and that He was created outside of time.  That doesn’t wash.  Time exists because of change.  And the change from non being to being of the Son implies de facto that it was done in time!  All of this is of the utmost importance because far from being a long dead heresy it forms the root and core of the the Islamic conception of the nature of God.

The Libyan priest’s fanatical defense here of the unity and transcendence of God leads him to deny the Trinity and the shared and equal Eternal Life of the Three Sacred Persons that manifests itself in nature and in all human society.  One can say that all society of any kind, whether animal or vegetable or human, is nothing but a very dim and distant reflection of the life of the Trinity but Arius’ prime assertion here is that God is a monad i.e. single and alone, or to put it another way: Allah is one God! (Qur’an 4: 171)

The Catholic Church does assert that the Son is begotten by the Father, but what this means or how it works exactly she has never made any claim to be able to explain since it is beyond natural human capacity to understand these things.  We must simply believe them.

Arius on the other hand in his fanatical defense of the unity of God denies his very Life.  Notice how many times he uses the word ‘alone’ in that first paragraph.  His insistence on God being a solitary Being is a denial of Life itself.  Life is individuals living in community.  Life in the natural world is a result of the communion of two beings to bring a third into being.  Life does not spring from a solitary creature save in the lowest forms of bacteria.  Life is all about communion.  There is no alone in life.

2) The history of Arianism and its historical progression

Arius published his doctrine in Alexandria before 318 AD.  He fled and gained the support Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia which was on the Asian side of the Bosporus, just opposite the then newly founded capital of Constantinople.  His ideas began to spread like wildfire through the empire.  The conflict forced the Emperor Constantine to bring the Bishops together at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 where Arius and his ideas were condemned and Bishop Alexander’s excommunication confirmed.

This condemnation had little effect.  Arianism found a foothold among the upper classes and the imperial family of the Roman Empire because it gave them a way to differentiate themselves from the common people who never were seduced by these heretical doctrines.  There were a couple of Arian emperors after Constantine and it suddenly became difficult to be an orthodox Catholic, and especially an orthodox bishop.

As a result a new class of people came into being called ‘semi-Arians.’  These ones didn’t really have a strong theological opinion one way or the other.  They simply wanted peace, peace with the empire and peace with each other and they were willing to compromise the Truth to get that false peace.

It should be understood that even while Arianism was sweeping the empire there seem to have been very few of what might be called fanatical Arians: that is men who were fanatical for the ideas themselves.  Mainly what the vast majority of the Arians of the 4th century were fanatical about was their position in society and gaining imperial patronage, and they would profess whatever theological opinion that was required to attain to these things.  That is why Saint Athanasius was described as being ‘alone against the world’ during his struggles.  Not because the Arian bishops were theological fanatics, though doubtless some were in that camp, but because they didn’t want Athanasius rocking the boat and messing things up; and oftentimes these folk can be far more dangerous to your life and property than theological fanatics.

But the work of Saint Athanasius did stabilize the situation doctrinally, and the Council of Constantinople was called in 381 AD and once more Arianism was condemned.  But the Church was aided this time by a firmly Catholic emperor Theodosius and Arianism rapidly began to lose favor within the empire.   But because of its connection with the Roman military caste of the time that had grown up during the decades of imperial patronage and the work of some Arian missionaries it gained new life among the barbarian tribes who were beginning to conquer great swathes of formerly Roman territory as the Western Roman Empire fell apart during the fifth century.

So now as the fifth century turned into the sixth the Catholic populations of Italy, Spain, and North Africa (modern day Tunisia and parts of Algeria) all fell under the rule of barbarian tribesmen who were Arian.  These men were not theological fanatics but they oftentimes did persecute the Catholic Church and her clergy and the Church was not generally at peace in those territories.

God however had other plans.  He raised up Clovis, the king of the Franks, in the early 500s and brought him into the Catholic Church.  The Franks began to form a powerful kingdom that was the forerunner of France thus earning for that country the title eldest daughter of the Church which she wore proudly for almost thirteen centuries until the disaster of 1789 from which she has never recovered.  But the Franks were the first of the barbarian tribes to become Catholics en masse and this helped to pave the way for others to come into the Church and when the forces of the Eastern Emperor Justinian reconquered Italy and North Africa and parts of Spain during the middle part of the sixth century these regions lost their Arian rulers and the political power of the Arians began to die out.

3)Arianism and Islam

So now as the 500s turned into the 600s Arianism had long lost its theological force in the Mediterranean world, and now its political support dwindled to nothing.  Open and avowed Arians, especially clergy and/or monks, would no longer have been welcome anywhere in the lands that had once been or still were part of the Empire.  They either would have left the Empire on their own to seek greener pastures or they would have been exiled.  Either way there must have been a deep and stirring dislike or even hatred for both the Empire and the Church that they felt had deprived them of their homeland.

But yet if they left it meant that they did adhere to their beliefs.  There must have been some who really did believe the doctrines of Arius or else the thing would have dissipated long before.

We do not know how the Arians lived their lives in those centuries or how they professed their beliefs.  The writings of Arians were rightfully destroyed by the ecclesiastical and civil authorities because of the lies contained in them so we do not possess any Arian prayer books or the like.  There is an account of a Spanish martyr named Hermengildus, the son of a Gothic king, who suffered his martyrdom during the 580s for refusing to receive communion from the hands of an Arian prelate so we know that there must have been at least when they dwelt in the Christianized provinces of the Empire some sort of a similitude of the Mass.  But we do not know how they understood something like Holy Communion as they denied the Eternity of Christ.  Or maybe this particular case was of a part of the clergy who wanted to profess Arianism for political purposes while maintaining the outward appearances of Catholicism for whatever reason.  Maybe there were many like this, we don’t know.

Nor do we have any idea of how the Arians who were fanatical enough about their beliefs to be exiled to a place like Arabia when things went south for them in the Empire would have lived or expressed those beliefs.  Maybe they would have long since dispensed with the idea of the Mass, after all if you deny the Eternal Nature of the Son of God and his Incarnation then there can be no Eternal Sacrifice can there?  In that case what are you really offering at Mass?  Just some flour mixed with water and baked and a cup of wine.  It really is a wonder why so many priests fell for the stupid theology of Arianism since its very essence tends to talk them out of their jobs.

So put yourself in the place of one of Arius’ ardent followers exiled to the desert and really believing what his spiritual father had cried out almost three centuries before: “We acknowledge One God, alone unbegotten, alone everlasting, alone without beginning, alone true, alone having immortality, alone wise, alone good, alone sovereign…  And God, being the cause of all that happens, is absolutely alone without beginning; but the Son, begotten apart from time by the Father, and created and founded before the ages, was not in existence before his generation”.

Think about this statement and all of its implications and put yourself in the position of that follower of Arius three centuries later who had been dispossessed and driven from his homeland and willing to sacrifice everything he had for his misguided belief.  Could you not imagine such a one as this exiled to the deserts of Arabia, once he had learned the local language, crying out to anyone who would listen something like Lâ ilâha illa illallah: “There is no god but God!”?  And if he did get some disciple, say a local merchant with a well to do wife who had connections throughout the Arabian peninsula, to follow him could you not imagine this follower of Arius teaching that disciple about those accursed Trinitarians, those glorified polytheists up north who only wanted to divide God and to cut him up and create many gods from the one God and who commit the most atrocious blasphemy by associating a creature i.e. Jesus Christ with the Eternal Godhead.  Perhaps this Arian monk told his disciple that if he ever encountered anyone like that then he should speak to them like this:

O People of the Book, exceed not the limits in your religion or speak anything about Allah, but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only a messenger of Allah and His word which He communicated to Mary and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you. Allah is only one God. Far be it from His glory to have a son. (Qur’an 4: 171)

This is nothing but an Arian confession of faith.  A gospel according to Arius.

For all we know these may have even been the thoughts of Arius himself, which he expressed to his disciples in one of his more honest moments when he wasn’t trying either to placate or seduce some ecclesiastical authority with his protestations that he thought that the Word was indeed the Son of God, well kind of, or that He was almost eternal, but not quite.  And these words of Arius — I mean Muhammad — I mean Allah– not only found their way into the Qur’an but were also inscribed all along the inside rim of the first great building built by the Arab conquerors in Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock, along with many other interesting things that I hope to get to in the next post.

I think now we have a much better idea why Saint John of Damascus naturally assumed that Muhammad had come into contact with an Arian monk at some point.  I would like to close here with a Benediction that was pronounced over those who had rejected their past belief in the Arian heresy and come into the Catholic Church.  It comes from a copy of a Roman Sacramentary produced at Paris around the year 750 AD but the contents date from a much earlier time closer to the fall of the Western Roman Empire.  I will give it first in the original Latin and then supply my own English translation:

BENEDICTIO SUPER EOS QUI DE ARIANA AD CATHOLICAM REDEUNT UNITATEM

Domine Deus omnipotens, Pater Domini nostri Iesu Christi, qui dignatus es famulos et famulas tuas ab errore et mendacio haeresos Arianae eruere, et ad ecclesiam tuam sanctam catholicam eos perducere, tu, Domine, mitte in eos Spiritum Paraclitum sanctum sapientiae et intellectus, spiritum consilii et fortitudinis, spiritum scientiae et pietatis, et adimple eos, Domine, spiritum timoris Dei, in nomine Iesu Christi salvatoris nostri.  Per quem et cum quo tibi honor et gloria in saecula saeculorum.  Amen.

BLESSING OVER THOSE WHO TURN BACK FROM ARIANISM TO CATHOLIC UNITY

Lord God Almighty, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who have deigned to rescue your servants from the error and lie of Arianism, and to have led them through to your holy Catholic Church; You Lord send to them the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of strength, the Spirit of knowledge and of piety, and fill them Lord with the Spirit of the fear of God; in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Through Whom and with Whom be honor and glory to You forever and all ages.  Amen.

May a blessing like this be pronounced of a great multitude of Muslims on the day that they are rescued from the lie that started with an heretical Catholic priest named Arius.

Immaculate Heart of Mary pray for us.  Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on us.

The birth of Islam

June 28, 2017                                                                                                                               The Memorial of Saint Irenaeus

Over the past six months or so I have been reading the work of several scholars and writers who are reexamining the events of the middle part of the first millennium in the Middle East that gave birth to the thing we know as Islam.  I confess that I had simply taken the Muslim story for granted i.e. that things pretty much did happen the way they said, except that I didn’t believe that the revelation was divine.  It seemed to me that the Muslim accounts of the events of the seventh century could be relied upon to give a basic framework of what took place if you took certain of their embellishments with a very large grain of salt.

But maybe that isn’t the case.  In my ignorance I was completely unaware that the first biography of Muhammad was not even written until a century after his reported death in 632 A.D.  and the establishment of the Arab empire in the Middle East, and that we only possess even this biography in very large fragments from a book that was penned a lifetime after that, in the early 800s.

And the copious and many time self contradictory hadith that give Muslims the details of their prophet’s life and form the basis for their understanding of how they should live their own lives and that I have quoted from in other posts on this site were only compiled during the middle part of the 800s, some two hundred years after the man’s reported death.

So what is going on here?  A pious believing Muslim would tell us that, sure, all of these written records were indeed compiled when you say they were compiled but all of the information contained in them were passed down orally (and the Arab culture of the time was essentially an oral culture) and faithfully through the many lifetimes that intervened between the time of Muhammad and the time that the events of his life were committed to writing.  Really?

And before you say “It is the same thing with the Gospels!  They were based on a vague oral tradition and only written centuries after the life of Jesus, whoever he was, if he even existed, so if you don’t believe what the Muslims tell us about Muhammad on that basis then why should I ever believe anything you say about Jesus?” I will tell you that the textual evidence from inside the Gospels, not to mention the parts of the Acts of the Apostles written in the first person by someone who obviously took part in some of the events he was recording and who also wrote the Gospel of Saint Luke about the life of Jesus, indicates that they are the product of eyewitness testimony and were all, save Saint John, composed in the decades immediately following the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  So spare me, and spare yourself, all of the fairy tales about Q and J and D and E and P and X and Y and Z, and leave the fantasies of modern ‘scholars’ who have spent their lives searching for highbrow sounding excuses to justify their unbelief on the side of the road where they belong.  Just read the Gospels themselves.

But back to the Muslims.  To believe that these memories were transmitted faithfully over so many generations then you really do have to believe that Muhammad was a divine messenger and that the Qur’an is divine revelation.  Because Divine protection is the only way of securing accurately and in great detail a message from the Most High (or anything else for that matter) that is transmitted among men across so many generations.  But was Muhammad a divine messenger?  What is the evidence?

You can already guess what my answer to that question will be, but there are a billion people in the world who think otherwise.  So let’s look at the evidence.  I was intrigued by the title of Robert Spencer’s book Did Muhammad Exist? so I read it and that in turn lead me to a collection of essays on the same subject entitled Early Islam and edited by Karl-Heinz Ohlig.

I will say first off that I do not agree with many of the conclusions of these authors.  Robert Spencer’s concern is politics.  He seems to see everything through the lens of the contemporary conflict of the last few decades between radical Islamic ideology and the secularist and functionally atheistic republics who have since the end of the 18th century dominated life in the formerly Catholic world.  Ohlig and the authors that he publishes are largely German and still in love with the so called ‘enlightenment,’ despite all of the terrors and misery that it has brought to our world.  The evince a loathing for every bit of evidence anywhere and on any subject that even indirectly points to the remotest possibility that there is an objective Truth outside of their own opinions and that this Truth has somehow revealed Himself in our world.  In other words they are completely hostile to even the idea of any sort of revealed religion anywhere in our world.

This hatred for Divine Revelation clouds their viewpoint and all of the conclusions they reach.  The people who lived during the time they are discussing, whether Christian or not, did not share this hatred, in fact the vast majority of them felt exactly the opposite and thus a chasm of misunderstanding opens up between our scholars and the people they are discussing.  Thus they are led to some of the most preposterous conclusions imaginable.

For example, the basic thesis of Ohlig and his companions seems to be that there was no real Arab conquest of the Middle East during the seventh century.  They posit that the Byzantines, after fighting an almost thirty year war against the Persians to first protect and then to get back the provinces of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine and the holy city of Jerusalem, then just decided to give them up, these the richest and most valued provinces of their empire, and hand them over to some Arab governors who became Arab kings and who were supposedly the real founders of the Arab empire.  Does that even make any sense?

Second they posit that, based on that assumption, there was no charismatic figure who united the peoples of the Arabian peninsula, there was no sudden conquest out of nowhere that shook the world.  No, it was all very gradual and in fact nobody even really noticed the change at first.  Really?  The historical memory in the bones of every Christian would belie that point.  But those men are not Christians.

So why do I bring all of this up?  Why even listen to these men?

Because something happened in the seventh century.  But what?  The canonical Muslim sources date from many lifetimes later, but there are other sources that come from that time, and these authors do an excellent job of cataloging them, even if they misuse and draw wrong conclusions from them.

Something happened in the seventh century somewhere in Arabia that has perpetrated and has been made to perpetrate a fraud that has now captured the hearts of a billion people.  They deserve to hear the truth because they all share in the Human Nature of Jesus Christ and they are all sons of his holy Mother just like us, and they have the same right to know the Gospel as we and as our ancestors have had.

The evidence that this new seventh century ‘revelation’ to the Arabs, whatever they thought of it at the time, was not new and was not a revelation is all over their holy book and the history of those times.  But to understand it one must understand the Catholic Church and one must understand her enemies both in the other world and in this world.  And one must understand her history to understand the history of those enemies.

I have no letters after my name, and I work in a humble profession , but I have gleaned the knowledge of some things about history and about religion and about languages and about the history of the Church during my life.  Therefore I intend, God willing, to make the case here that to really understand the history of Islam we have to begin by going back three centuries to the days of Constantine, when the authority of a single Roman Caesar still held sway over the whole territory from Palestine to the borders of Scotland, and we must begin our discussion with a certain Libyan priest who took up his career in Alexandria named Arius, because the doctrines that he and his successors spread throughout the Roman Empire and the Mediterranean world are where Islam really began.  In the next post I intend to examine what we know of the history of Arianism and its doctrines and to examine the possibilities of a relationship between those doctrines and the doctrines that form the foundation of what is called Islam.

I entrust this effort to the protection of Our Lady of Fatima, fifteen days after the hundredth anniversary of the revelation of of her Immaculate Heart, and I beg her intercession with her Divine Son that whatever is done here may serve his inscrutable purposes and his Holy Will.

The Third Secret and the Vatican documents

The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.  If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”…  So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death. (John 11:47-48, 53)

May 12, 2017                                                                                                                                     The Memorial of Saints Nereus, Achilleus, & Pancras

Seventeen years ago now, in the late spring and early summer of the year 2000, there was a flurry of statements from some very notable Church officials concerning the Fatima Apparitions and the famous Third Secret.  These statements were all cobbled together by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and released on June 26, 2000 under the title The Message of Fatima and can be read here.  I urge you to read these documents because they have cast a shadow over the discussion of Fatima within the Church for almost two decades now.

First, these documents are not the product of a single author, but rather three men produced this thing, and Pope Saint John Paul II (who was reigning at the time) was not among them.  The authors were Archbishop (now Cardinal) Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli the then Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Angelo Cardinal Sodano the then Secretary of State of the Vatican City State, and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

These are strange documents issued by men who at that time had no authority to do what they were doing and it shows.

1) Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone

The first task of Archbishop Bertone seemed to be to convince Catholics that there was no longer any need for the Consecration of Russia.  In fact he went so far as to claim that Pope John Paul II had done it sixteen years before, even though the Holy Father had never made that claim himself.  To understand this we have to remember that in the year 2000 the Berlin Wall had been down for ten years and the world seemed to be at peace.  The Soviet Empire and indeed the Soviet Union itself had long since disappeared and there was not even any reason to think about Russia anymore.  These were the first days of Vladimir Putin’s presidency and the country seemed a basket case.

So Archbishop Bertone put the first dagger in the heart of the Fatima message: Russia had already been consecrated and the fall of the Berlin Wall proved it.  He cited a universal consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that Pope Saint John Paul II conducted on March 25, 1984 and said that this was the long awaited consecration that everyone had been hoping for.  He even provided the text of that prayer and no one seemed to notice that there was one word that Pope Saint John Paul II never used when making that consecration that day: Russia.  Read the prayer at the above link to the CDF documents and tell me if you see that word anywhere.

Archbishop Bertone also produced a single sentence from a much ballyhooed letter from Sister Lucia to Pope John Paul II where she says: “Yes it has been done just as Our Lady asked, on 25 March 1984.”  The curious thing about that letter is that it is dated November 8, 1989.  Do you remember what was going on in the world on November 8, 1989?  Massive demonstrations in all the major cities of East Germany forced the government to resign that day.  The Soviet Union was refusing to intervene as she had done in past uprisings against the Eastern Bloc governments and the next day the Berlin Wall came down.  Possibly Sister Lucia was just as caught up in the euphoria as everyone else on the planet.  She was only human after all.

And everyone bought it.  But to understand why they were so easily convinced of this thing we have to remember what the world looked like in the spring of 2000.  We forget now how good things looked at that time. The Berlin Wall had been down for a decade and the September 11 attacks had not happened yet.  The global economy was booming in the first flush of globalization and the internet age.  The European Union was in the process of implementing the new common currency, the Euro, that promised to bind the nations of that continent so tightly together that war could never erupt there again.  Peace was even threatening to break out in the Middle East.  Israel had withdrawn from south Lebanon a month before, ending an 18 year long disastrous adventure there, and Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were set to go to Camp David two weeks after the release of the Fatima documents to make a final peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  Times were good, and they were going to stay that way.  We don’t need to worry about Fatima and all that doom and gloom stuff anymore.

The second task of Archbishop Bertone was to dispense with the Third Secret.  This was really the third part of a single secret delivered to the children on July 13, 2017.  The first part was the vision of hell, and the second was the prophecy of the Second World War and the request for the consecration of Russia, and the third part– well nobody knew what the third part of the Secret was.  It was written down by Lucia on order of the Bishop of Leira in 1944 and placed in a sealed envelope which was kept by him until it was transferred to the Archive of the Holy Office in 1957.  Sister had by her own volition written not to open it before 1960 on the envelope.  Pope John XXIII looked at the envelope in 1959 and decided to send it back unopened.  Pope Paul VI read the contents in 1965 and decided not to release it.  Pope John Paul II read it after the attempt on his life in 1981 and again decided not to release it.  But in 2000 these men, ostensibly with the Pope’s approval, were going to release and interpret the thing.

The only hint to the contents of the Secret were two little tidbits that Lucia had written in her memoir.  Regarding the July 13, 1917 Apparition the only thing that she tells us that the Blessed Virgin said about that last part of the Secret was this: “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved; etc…  Do not tell this to anybody.  Francisco, yes, you may tell him.”  The ‘etc…’ would tend to indicate that the Blessed Virgin completed that statement with words, wouldn’t it?  Remember that.

I will save the second tidbit until after we see to the Third Secret.  By the year 2000 the Third Secret had long since acquired a mythological status among Catholics.  It was a great mystery known to every Catholic and every Catholic worth his salt had a theory about what it was.  If Fatima was ever going to be “part of the past,” as Cardinals Sodano and Ratzinger declared in these documents that it was, then the Third Secret had to be dispensed with.  So they mentioned several times, too many times if you ask me, in these documents that the Third Secret would therein be published in its entirety, and here is what they published:

“J.M.J.

The third part of the secret revealed at the Cova da Iria-Fatima, on 13 July 1917.

I write in obedience to you, my God, who commanded me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine.

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: ‘PenancePenancePenance!’.  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 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.

Tuy-3-1-1944″

That is no secret.  By itself there was no need to keep it secret for more than half a century.   If this is all that it was then what precisely was it that stopped Pope Paul VI or Pope John Paul II from releasing this in 1965 or in 1981?

I confess that I was not much of a Catholic in the year 2000 and these things made little impression on me.  I am not entirely certain that I was even aware of this while it was going on.  However I do not doubt that there might have been people who were devoted to Our Lady of Fatima and, on seeing this, began to doubt whether the Message was really all that important after all and just threw up their hands and walked away.  And of course that was the whole idea of the people who perpetrated this thing.

I have no doubt that this vision formed a part of the Fatima Secret, but it wasn’t the whole thing; it simply could not have been the whole thing.  Lucia wrote in her memoir that the Virgin told them “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved; etc… Do not tell this to anybody.  Francisco, yes, you may tell him.”  She told them something.  Remember that Lucia and Jacinta could both hear the Virgin, but Francisco could only see her.  If this vision had been all that it was then Lucia would not have had to tell Francisco anything because he would have seen it himself.

And then there is the matter of the dogma of the Faith in Portugal.  That line is absolutely not commented on at all in any of these documents.  It is one of two glaring omissions.  The only reference to it is in footnote number 7 where the anonymous footnote writer says this:

In the “Fourth Memoir” Sister Lucia adds: “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always be preserved, etc…”.

What do you mean ‘Sister Lucia adds’?  Were you there?  No.  You weren’t.  But Sister Lucia was most definitely there and she was the only one alive who knew exactly what the Virgin said.  Are you saying that Sister Lucia made this up and added it later?  Is that the idea you are trying to worm into peoples’ minds?  And if Sister Lucia made this part up then the whole thing is open to question isn’t it?  Oh this type is so clever…

So after all this we still do not know what the third part of the Secret is.  We know that there was that vision associated with it but we do not know the context.  We don’t know what the Virgin said save “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved; etc…”  But what does that mean?

If the Blessed Mother is speaking about the preservation of dogma in one place it can be taken as a clear indication that it will not be preserved in others.  Some sort of general apostasy seems to be being prophesied here.  This should not be surprising since all the groundwork for such a thing has been laid up and down various Church institutions throughout all of our lives.  In fact a soft apostasy is the day to day experience of most Catholics in the world.  But it has not yet reached the point where anyone is threatening to chop off your head if you do not fall down on your face before their false god or their false christ.  And the notion of apostasy helps make sense of the vision.  The Church is often described as a city in Sacred Scripture.  A half ruined city, corpses (i.e. souls dead in sin), bishops and priests and even the Holy Father himself being taken out.  You do the math.  Such a thing is prophesied to happen before the end with the rise of the great false prophet, the second beast rising up from the earth, who is helpmate to the antiChrist in the Book of Revelation.

Many people take the line “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved;” as an indication that somehow Portugal will be kept safe from whatever is to come.   I wouldn’t be so quick to do that.  Sister Lucia was very irregular with her punctuation and it would be unwise to take that semicolon as a full stop.  We do not know what the conclusion to that thought was.  It could have been “In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved in such and such a town or such and such a monastery,” or it could have been “In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved among people who pray the Rosary every day or people who consecrate themselves to my Immaculate Heart” or a million other possibilities.

2) Angelo Cardinal Sodano

Cardinal Sodano was called upon at an address he gave following the Papal Mass at Fatima on May 13, 2000 to make the interpretation that the above related vision was fulfilled in the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981.  It pains me to say this about a Prince of the Church, but that is ridiculous.

As if the Queen of Heaven would come to earth to prophesy and to warn of a terrible World War, show a vision of Hell, warn of the annihilation of nations, but the real reason that she came and what she told the children must at all costs be kept secret from anybody and everybody was that sixty four years later some one would attempt to assassinate the Pope.

Popes have often been assassinated.  During the first three centuries every Pope was martyred.  Pope Pius VI was kidnapped by the armies of the French Revolution who were sacking Rome and trying to destroy the Papacy as an institution in 1798 and marched off to France where he died of maltreatment in captivity at Valence a year and a half later.  That did not merit a special warning from Heaven.  Why should this merit one, and sixty four years in advance?

This sold at the time because John Paul II was very highly regarded by many Catholics who thought he showed great courage during that ordeal and believed he was instrumental in the fall of the Berlin Wall.  We all felt that it was providential that he hadn’t been killed that day in Saint Peter’s Square, so the ground had already been prepared for many people to buy into something like this.  But, in the vision the Pope dies, which John Paul II did not.  End of story.

3) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

I was a big fan of Pope Benedict XVI and was very sorry to see his papacy end the way it did.  I am forever grateful to him for Summorum Pontificum and for the restoration of the ancient Latin liturgy to the life of the Church.  I do not like what he did on this day when he was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger though.

He meanders through an overly long discourse on private vs. public revelation touching on Church History and psychology and the interior lives of children while ignoring the most important aspects of the events at Fatima.  He speaks as if the events at Fatima were simply interior experiences of the three children.  He speaks as if no one was standing on that holmoak, even though eyewitnesses saw the boughs bend.  He never in his entire discussion mentions the abundance of evidence that 70,000 people saw the sun dance on the Cova da Iria.

Even though his helpmate Archbishop Bertone stated at the outset of these documents that

Fatima is undoubtedly the most prophetic of modern apparitions.  The first and second parts of the “secret”– which are here published in sequence so as to complete the documentation– refer especially to the frightening vision of hell, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Second World War, and finally the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communist totalitarianism.

Cardinal Ratzinger discounts the prophetic nature of the vision reported as part of the Third Secret saying that “The purpose of the vision is not to show an irrevocably fixed future.  Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction.”  Fine, but what are these “forces of change”?  Communion of Reparation, Consecration of Russia, Penance.  Everything that your cronies in this enterprise are trying to drive people away from.

I have been overly long on this topic and I will conclude here on the saddest note.  Commenting on the vision the future Pope Benedict XVI states that

The concluding part of the “secret” uses images which Lucia may have seen in devotional books and which draw their inspiration from long-standing intuitions of faith.

He didn’t believe.  If Lucia got any part of these Apparitions from devotional books, and she was questioned repeatedly on that subject as a child, then the whole thing is open to question.  If this is what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger really thought about Fatima, if he thought that it was somehow or other the product of childish imagination, then that might explain why Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy ended the way it did.

While all of these high Church officials were saying these strange things about her Sister Lucia remained silent in her convent in Coimbra, always obedient to the Church.  She died in peace five years later and Our Lady took her to Heaven; while these three men linger on in a world that is darkening by the hour.

Blessed Jacinta Marto

But as to that second little tidbit that was recorded in Sister Lucia’s memoir about the Secret it goes like this.  She records in her first volume this exchange between herself, Jacinta’s mother and Jacinta after Blessed Jacinta had fallen ill on p. 45 of Fatima in Lucia’s own words

One day my aunt made this request: “Ask Jacinta what she is thinking, when she covers her face with her hands and remains motionless for such a long while.  I’ve already asked her, but she just smiles and does not answer.”  I put the question to Jacinta.

“I think of Our Lord,” she replied, “of Our Lady, of sinners, and of… (and she mentioned certain parts of the Secret).  I love to think.”

This may be the greatest revelation we will ever get about the Third Secret of Fatima outside of its fulfillment: there was something in that Secret that made soon to be Saint Jacinta Marto smile.

The Request for the Consecration of Russia

But tidings from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go forth with great fury to exterminate and utterly destroy many.  And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him (Daniel 11:44-45).

May 11, 2017

On July 13, 1917 the Blessed Virgin informed the children that the day would come when she would ask the Holy Father to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart.  Eleven years and eleven months later on June 13, 1929 she came to Sister Lucia in the Dorothean convent in Tuy, Spain to make this request.

The text here was copied from her notes by her confessor at the time Rev. Fr. José Bernardo Gonçalves, S.J. and is reported in Appendix II of Fatima in Lucia’s own words pp. 201-02:

Rev. Fr. Gonçalves sometimes came to our chapel to hear confessions.  I went to confession to him and, as I felt at ease with him, I continued to do so for the three years that he remained here as Assistant to the Fr. Provincial.

It was at this time that Our Lady informed me that the moment had come in which she wished me to make known to Holy Church her desire for the Consecration of Russia, and her promise to convert it.  The communication was as follows:

13-6-1929. I had sought and obtained permission from my superiors and confessor to make a Holy Hour from eleven o’clock until midnight, every Thursday to Friday.  Being alone one night, I knelt near the altar rails in the middle of the chapel and, prostrate, I prayed the prayers of the Angel.  Feeling tired, I then stood up and continued to say the prayers with my arms in the form of a cross.  The only light was that of the sanctuary lamp.  Suddenly the whole chapel was illumined by a supernatural light, and above the altar appeared a cross of light, reaching to the ceiling.  In a brighter light on the upper part of the cross, could be seen the face of a man and his body as far as the waist, upon his breast was a dove also of light and nailed to the cross was the body of another man.  A little below the waist, I could see a chalice and a large host suspended in the air, on to which drops of blood were falling from the face of Jesus Crucified and from the wound in His side.  These drops ran down on to the host and fell into the chalice.  Beneath the right arm of the cross was Our Lady and in her hand was her Immaculate Heart.  (It was Our Lady of Fatima, with her Immaculate Heart in her left hand, without sword or roses, but with a crown of thorns and flames).  Under the left arm of the cross, large letters, as if of crystal clear water which ran down upon the altar, formed these words: “Grace and Mercy.”

I understood that it was the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity which was shown to me, and I received lights about this mystery which I am not permitted to reveal.

Our Lady then said to me:

The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means.  There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against me, that I have come to ask for reparation: sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray.”

I gave an account of this to the confessor, who ordered me to write down what Our Lady wanted done.

Later, in an intimate communication, Our Lord complained to me, saying:

“They did not wish to heed my request!… Like the King of France, they will repent and do it, but it will be late.  Russia will have already spread her errors throughout the world, provoking wars, and persecutions of the Church: the Holy Father will have much to suffer.”

First a word about the setting.  It is interesting to see that this occurred during while Sister Lucia was making a Holy Hour on Thursday night from 11pm to midnight at the start of Friday.  This practice was introduced, or perhaps reintroduced, into the life of the Church by the revelations to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque of the Sacred Heart a quarter of a millennium before.  The saint was instructed to practice this devotion in honor of Our Lord’s Agony in Gethsemane between the close of the Last Supper and his arrest in that garden: the start of his Passion.  And if you check you will find that June 13, 1929 was a Thursday.  Just an interesting little tidbit for our contemplation.

What is being requested here is an Act of Faith, a very pronounced, very public Act of Faith.  And in this age that we live in which is almost universally godless that is not easy.  But the question is ultimately very simple: do we believe or do we not believe?

This request once it was handed to the Holy Father Pope Pius XI by whatever intermediary brought it must have produced a knot in his gut, a shaking in his joints, and a confusion in his mind similar to that which we experience when we are called upon to make the Sign of the Cross and bless ourselves before a meal in a crowded restaurant at a table full of our carousing friends or acquaintances or business associates, except that it would have been to the power of about twelve million.

The world was in crisis in 1929.  Russia had been in the hands of the Bolsheviks for more than a decade and reports from inside that country must have been flowing to Pius XI for a long time about the atrocities they were committing and the general annihilation of the Church in that country since 1917.  The Bolsheviks were also setting up advance guards and revolutionary cells across Europe and threatening to overthrow governments in every country on earth.  As a result fascist movements rose up from the gutter of society promising to defend the people from Communism and to fight terror with terror.  The flock was under serious threat and what was left of Christian civilization seemed like it was about to be laid waste.

The Church was now looked upon as nothing more than a superstitious laughingstock by the governments and societal elites and large segments of the urbanized working class in those countries that she founded so long ago and had sustained through so many grievous trials in the past.  And now here comes this Portuguese nun telling the Pope that she had a vision at a convent in Spain referring her back to something that had happened in a field when she was ten years old and oh by the way he was now supposed to get all of the bishops of the world together to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and all of our problems would be solved.  Just like that.

Fine, but what if she is making this up, or is delusional, or doesn’t remember right.  Sure Pius XI must have heard something about the sun dancing in October, 1917 but that was twelve years ago, and it wasn’t widely known outside of Portugal.  For some curious reason the international press never decided to cover it.  So fine, what if I, Pope Pius XI, decide to unite with all of the bishops of the world to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary– and nothing happens?

What if all  I hear is laughter from Moscow and from Berlin and from Mussolini’s Blackshirts in Rome?  What kind of position would the Church be in then?  And then once Pope Pius XI makes the decision not to do it why would any of his successors want to make him look bad by contradicting him?

These are the games the devil can play with your mind, you know it and I know it.  Pray for the Holy Father.  Pray that he unite with all the bishops of the world to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  The hour is late, very late: we need to pray and sacrifice for this intention and we need to start yesterday.

The Great Promise of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

He who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, I will give him the morning star. (Rev. 2:26, 28)

May 10, 2017                                                                                                                                 The Memorial of Saint Damien Joseph de Veuster of Molokai

Time passed after the Miracle of the Sun and the world went through its revolutions.  Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco were swept up in the Spanish flu epidemic in late 1918 and as Our Lady had told the children on June 13, 1917 both of them were soon gone to Heaven: Francisco in April, 1919 and Jacinta in February, 1920.  They were beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2000 and will be canonized by Pope Francis this Saturday May 13, 2017 to mark the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s first Apparition.

Lucia was now alone in the world.  But Our Lady did not leave her.  The young Lucia would become a religious sister in the early 1920s joining the Sisters of St. Dorothy.  After beginning her life in the convent at Pontevedra, Spain she recorded further Apparitions of Our Lord and Our Lady.  Remember that on July 13, 1917 Our Lady informed the children that she would be coming to ask for the Communion of Reparation and for the Consecration of Russia.  She was not asking for them that day, but she was informing the children, and Lucia most especially that she would be coming in the future to ask for these things.

I give here Lucia’s account of how this came about, in this post it will be specifically relating to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Communion of Reparation.  Sister Lucia chose to write this account largely in the third person i.e. she uses ‘she’ to refer to herself.  So here it is from Appendix I of Sister Lucia’s memoir, pp. 196-97 of Fatima in Lucia’s own words:

On December 17th, 1927, she went before the tabernacle to ask Jesus how she should comply with what had been asked of her, that is, to say if the origin of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was included in the Secret that the most holy Virgin had confided to her.

Jesus made her hear very distinctly these words: “My daughter, write what they ask of you.  Write also all that the most holy Virgin revealed to you in the Apparition, in which she spoke of this devotion.  As for the remainder of the Secret, continue to keep silence.”

What was confided on this subject in 1917, is as follows:

She asked for them to be taken to heaven, and the most holy Virgin answered: “Yes.  I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon.  But you are to stay here some time longer.  Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved.  He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.  I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and these souls will be loved God, like flowers placed by me to adorn His throne.”

“Am I to stay here all alone?” she asked, sadly.

“No, daughter.  I shall never forsake you.  My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”

On December 10th, 1925, the most holy Virgin appeared to her, and by her side, elevated on a luminous cloud, was a child.  The most holy Virgin rested her hand on her shoulder, and as she did so, she showed her a heart encircled by thorns, which she was holding in her other hand.  At the same time, the Child said:

“Have compassion on the Heart of your most holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.”

Then the most holy Virgin said:

“Look, my daughter, at my Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude.  You at least try to console me and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.”

Herein lies the Great Promise of the greatest and most marvelous and most wondrous thing in all Creation: the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  This is the way that will lead you to God.  This is the dwelling place that God created for Himself and it is our refuge in this perilous time as we traverse these darkening and storm tossed seas.

Practice the First Saturday devotion to the extent you can.  It is a simple and easy thing that we can do to warm the Divine Heart of our Savior and to make reparation to the wounded Heart of his most holy Mother.

Some questions may arise on how to practice this devotion.  First, you do not have to make Confession on the First Saturday.  Jesus told Sister Lucia in a later Apparition on February 15th, 1926 that it was possible to confess eight days before or after the First Saturday, provided that one is not conscious of any mortal sin when they receive Him on the First Saturday and the first bishop of Fatima Dom Jose Correia da Silva confirmed this in 1940.

Second, the last bit about keeping the Blessed Mother company “for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary” is open to interpretation as to how one might practice it.  First, this Apparition took place in 1925, almost eighty years before Pope Saint John Paul II made his recommendation about the new Luminous Mysteries so quite understandably the Blessed Virgin did not mention twenty, but fifteen.

But as to how to practice this aspect of the devotion Bishop da Silva stated in 1940 that “it is preferable to meditate on one mystery each month.”  And this makes sense.  My own personal practice is to select a portion of the Gospel or the Acts of the Apostles or some other part of Sacred Scripture that pertains to a different Mystery each month.

The promises of Our Lady are great indeed to those who faithfully practice this devotion.  Do it.

The aftermath of October 13, 1917

Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24).

May 3, 2017                                                                                                                                   The Feast of the Apostles Saints Phillip and James

In the weeks immediately following the day the sun danced before 70,000 astonished witnesses who fell on their faces and implored the Mercy of God in the Cova da Iria two events occurred in the world which would in time fundamentally alter the worldview of everyone who went by the name of Christian.  They collapsed the last pillars of what had been the worldly foundation of the Christian order and sowed horrible seeds of confusion that have borne and continue to bear malignant fruit throughout the Church and the world to this day.

1) The Russian Revolution

When the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd on the night of November 7-8, 1917, three and one half weeks after the Miracle of the Sun, it was the end of an era.  It was the end of the false peace which had prevailed in Europe since Napoleon Bonaparte had overthrown the French Directory on November 9, 1799.  Between 1799 and 1917 the peoples of Europe nourished in their breast in varying degrees the delusion that Christ and Belial could coexist and they were wrong.

The governments of that period did not produce any Robespierres who set up guillotines to butcher priests and nuns and bishops and make the streets run with their blood.  No, these were civilized men.  All the issues were debated responsibly in the newly formed and much exalted at the time popular legislative bodies.  These men calmly proposed and gently cajoled and thoughtfully persuaded their colleagues to vote on and to pass laws that at first slowly put an onerous tax burden on Church property, imposed mandatory military service on the clergy, and little by little removed the Church from the role she had in educating the young.  And the people for the most part went along with it.  They wanted all the high sounding rhetoric of 1789 about the ‘rights of man,’ but refused to remember the barbaric terrorism of 1793.

They thought that they could retain the fruits of Christian civilization while they little by little pushed the Catholic Church first to the sidelines and then completely out of their national lives.  They thought that the teachings of the Church could be ignored and yet they would continue to receive the blessings of civilization which she had first bestowed on their barbarian ancestors so long before.  They thought that they could boldly proclaim that man was free to worship any god he wished or no god at all and yet somehow they would continue to live under the protection of the God who had given life to both themselves and their nations.  They were wrong.

God was merciful and patient with them.  He sent them some of the greatest popes in the history of the Church to warn them of the perilous path they were on.  Blessed Pius IX and Leo XIII (read any of his encyclicals here) spent the entirety of both of their extremely long papacies that spanned the period 1846-1903 warning the peoples of Europe at the top of their lungs not to fall into the trap that was being set for them.  They never listened.  He sent them what was at the time the most terrible war in human history starting in 1914 to make them see the consequences of the path they had pursued.  They did not repent.  On October 13, 1917 the sun danced in Portugal to show them that indeed there was a God and that He was in fact paying attention.  They did not hear.  On the night of November 7-8, 1917 his patience ended and He gave to the children of Adam their hearts’ desire.

A radical movement of men whose sole purpose for existing seemed to be the annihilation of even the memory of God from the mind of the human race at first seized control of the Winter Palace in Petrograd, then the city of Petrograd, then the Russian government itself, and then after a long and bloody civil war gained control over the largest country on earth.  They established the first militantly atheistic regime in human history.  And they did not go away.

Unlike the quasi atheistic French revolutionary governments of the 1790s this regime endured.  They simply murdered anyone in that vast territory who would, could, or one day might even think of opposing them.  Mass graves are still being stumbled into all over Russia  The Church in Russia was not merely suppressed, it was annihilated.  And they made sure there would be no going back.

The secret societies who had fomented the French Revolution 130 years before knew that they had tried for too much too soon in those days and had caused a terrible reaction that was inimical to their interests.  They did not make that mistake again.  They exhibited a diabolical patience likely forced on them by necessity during the nineteenth century.  They were able to influence legislative bodies to push the Church out of her role educating the young and replace her with their own members or sympathizers.  They struck from the shadows and planned and plotted in dark corners and spewed their venom over the whole earth.  With each successive generation the role of the Church and of God assumed less importance in the lives of people and in the life of the nation, and by the turn of the twentieth century the very Existence of God was treated by societal elites (and sadly by more than a few clergy) as a mere philosophical proposition.  When 1917 rolled around there remained very few men of influence in the world who had the will to fight this thing.  Finally they were ready to strike.

Once their position in Russia was secure they founded their new state, the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, and used the enormous resources of that country to fund state institutions that aligned themselves with like minded movements abroad to foment atheistic revolution in various forms throughout the world while starving the Russian people.  By the time the USSR finally died out three quarters of a century after the Miracle of the Sun atheism had become the guiding principle of most peoples’ lives throughout the formerly Christian world.  Sure, some of them might say they are ‘christian’ or that they believe in some notion of God or another, or they may even go to a building on Sunday to sing some songs with other people who also claimed to be ‘christian,’ but all of that has had very little effect on how they live their lives.  And in Europe which had once been the seed ground of the Catholic Church and for more than a millennium had seen her as the foundation of her existence they do not even do that.  Russia will spread her errors throughout the world.

2) The taking of Jerusalem

On December 9, 1917, fifty-seven days after the Miracle of the Sun, the British Army under the command of General Sir Edmund Allenby took control of Jerusalem, seizing it from the Ottoman Turks.  Thus ended 673 years of continuous Muslim control of the holy city stretching back to August 23, 1244 and the fall of the last Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem to the Khwarezmian Turks.  But the men who seized it in 1917 were no longer Christians.

By 1917 the British people had been separated from the Church of Rome for almost four centuries.  And even what Christianity remained among the Anglicans was rapidly waning as those isles became subsumed in the vast materialistic wave that came with a global empire.  By 1917 the religion of the British Empire was the British Empire: an empire that would soon be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Read an excerpt from General Allenby’s proclamation when he entered the city:

Furthermore, since your city is regarded with affection by the adherents of three of the great religions of mankind and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes of devout people of these three religions for many centuries, therefore, do I make it known to you that every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer of whatsoever form of the three religions will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those to whose faith they are sacred.

Guardians have been established at Bethlehem and on Rachel’s Tomb.  The tomb at Hebron has been placed under exclusive Moslem control.

The hereditary custodians at the gates of the Holy Sepulchre have been requested to take up their accustomed duties in remembrance of the magnanimous act of the Caliph Omar, who protected that church.

One can understand the need to maintain peace in the city, but are these the words of a Christian?  Would Richard the Lionheart have made this ridiculous statement?  Was that city only sanctified by “prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes of devout people of these three religions”?  Did not something else happen there that made General Allenby’s ancestors walk on their knees to do penance in that holy place?  Did not the Eternal Word Himself take flesh and sacrifice Himself to redeem us from our sins on a hill in that city?  Did not He rise from the dead in that city?  Does any of that matter?

If it was only the prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes from three different religions who are diametrically opposed to each other on the most important question of human existence that ‘sanctified’ this place then who cares?  If that is all it is then your local city landfill is of much more use to you than Jerusalem.  This proclamation is a supreme example of the religious indifferentism that had been destroying Europe since the French Revolution and it is why British rule of the Holy Land failed so miserably.  But why is this important to us?

The British conquest of the Holy Land and the subsequent failure of its rule opened the door to the return of the Jews to control the land for the first time in nineteen centuries.  The nationalist tide that had been rising up in Europe since 1789 swept up the Jews and gave birth to the Zionist movement in the latter part of the nineteenth century.  They saw the British advance toward Palestine as Our Lady was making her final Apparition in Fatima in the fall of 1917 as a once in a millennium opportunity and took full advantage of it.

During the British rule of Palestine the Jewish population dramatically increased and after the Second World War the sympathy generated by the Nazi massacre of six million Jews in Europe led to the British evacuation of Palestine, its partition, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.  Nineteen years later in 1967 the Israeli Army conquered the whole land and brought the whole of Jerusalem under Jewish control for the first time since they days of the Apostles.  But why is this important?

Since the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70 and the final mass expulsion of Jews from the Holy Land by the Emperor Hadrian sixty years later the Church had had something tangible to point to when proclaiming that the Old Covenant had been fulfilled and the New Covenant had superseded it.  The pagan Emperor Domitian had even done her the favor of carving into stone on the Arch of his brother Titus (who had been the one to destroy the Jewish Temple) in the city of Rome a memorial of that event that still remains with us to this day:

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One finds this consistently mentioned by Christian apologists from the earliest Fathers until the end of the nineteenth century and everywhere in between.  This was their visible, tangible proof.  The Jews had been expelled from the land and had never returned.  The Temple had been destroyed and never rebuilt.  The sacrifice of bulls and goats had ceased and never recommenced.  The priesthood of Aaron was dead and gone and replaced forever by the Catholic priesthood.  There were clear and visible signs: it was an easy argument to make.

But on December 9, 1917 the British Army conquered Palestine.  The Jewish population of the land multiplied greatly.  In 1948 the Jews in Palestine declared the State of Israel.  In 1967 the Israeli army conquered Jerusalem and put the Jews in control of the city for the first time since the days of the Apostles.  That argument became less easy to make, and those of weak faith have begun to waver.  The identity of the Catholic Church as the New Israel, which she is, has become less easy to express in these days in the minds of some.  Strange and highly destructive theologies such as the ‘dual covenant’ theory have emerged.

The Jews are once again masters of the holy city, masters of the temple mount.  And the presence of the Al Aqsa Mosque in that place and the fear of a massive Muslim retaliation is probably the only thing that prevents them from attempting to rebuild the ancient Temple.  There is a movement afoot in Israel, a small minority movement but a very passionate minority, to rebuild that Temple no matter what the cost.  The political situation in the wider Middle East is so chaotic right now that we have no idea what things will look like tomorrow, much less next month or next year.  Who can say what will happen there?  This monument to the designs of that sect stands above the Western Wall plaza probably less than a thousand feet from where the Holy of Holies once stood:

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Taken August 2, 2011

Yet the Truth is still the Truth.  What was true in 1917 AD and was true in 917 AD and was true in 517 AD and was true in 117 AD is still true in 2017 AD.  He who lives in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church is something greater if I may say so that He who was present in the ancient Holy of Holies.  The One in the tabernacle is both God and Man.  He is the Word made flesh and He dwells among us.

We live in very strange times where illusions and delusions lurk around every corner and are constantly reaching out to strangle the best of us.  Pray and keep watch.  The Faith of the ancients is still the Truth, even if appearances have changed.  After all, while Our Lord did prophesy that the Jews would be driven from Jerusalem, He also prophesied that they would come back.  And if anything ever does get built in Jerusalem it will be starkly empty of any Divine Presence.  All this is merely a sign of the times.

Pray.  Pray very much.  Pray the Rosary every day.  Never lose consciousness of God.  Our Lady has given us at Fatima a way through this catastrophe: her Immaculate Heart.

The declaration of a common Baptism between Rome and Alexandria

April 28, 2017                                                                                                                                 The Memorial of Saint Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort

I wanted to interrupt my discussion of the great Apparition of October 13, 1917 at Fatima to share with you a bit of good news that just came out of Egypt during the last few hours: the Holy Father Pope Francis, Successor of Saint Peter, has signed a joint declaration with His Holiness Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, in Cairo recognizing for the first time in much more than almost sixteen centuries that there is a common Baptism shared between the Church of Rome and the Church of Alexandria.

The whole declaration can be read here, but the operative language runs like this:

The mystery of Jesus who died and rose out of love lies at the heart of our journey towards full unity.  Once again, the martyrs are our guides.  In the early Church the blood of the martyrs was the seed of new Christians.  So too in our own day, may the blood of so many martyrs be the seed of unity among all Christ’s disciples, a sign and instrument of communion and peace for the world.

In obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies the Church, keeps her throughout the ages, and leads her to full unity – that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed:

      Today we, Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II, in order to please the heart of the Lord Jesus, as well as that of our sons and daughters in the faith, mutually declare that we will not repeat the baptism that had been administered in either of our Churches for any person who wishes to join the other.  This we confess in obedience to the Holy Scriptures and the faith of the three Ecumenical Councils assembled in Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus.

       We ask God our Father to guide us, in the times and by the means that the Holy Spirit will choose, to full unity in the mystical Body of Christ.

While the distance between this declaration and full Communion between the ancient Sees of Saint Mark and of Saint Peter is known only to God, this is good news.  Good news in a darkening world.  Please include a prayer of thanksgiving to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is our common Mother, sometime today.  And don’t forget that her title Mother of God that we now say so easily and take so much for granted had once, a very long time ago, to be defended against a monstrous attack waged against her; and her most stalwart defenders in that troubled time came from the Church of Alexandria.  And the Mother of God, the great Θεοτόκος, never forgets a good turn done to her, whatever disasters the intervening years, decades, centuries, or millennia bring.