July 13, 1917: the matter of Russia

For out of the north a nation has come up against her, which shall make her land a desolation, and none shall dwell in it; both man and beast shall flee away. In those days and in that time, says the LORD, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come; and they shall seek the LORD their God…  Behold, I am stirring up and bringing against Babylon a company of great nations, from the north country; and they shall array themselves against her; from there she shall be taken… Behold, a people comes from the north; a mighty nation and many kings are stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.  They lay hold of bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy. The sound of them is like the roaring of the sea; they ride upon horses, arrayed as a man for battle against you, O daughter of Babylon! The king of Babylon heard the report of them, and his hands fell helpless; anguish seized him, pain as of a woman in travail (Jeremiah 50:3-4,9, 41-43).  

March 9, 2017                                                                                                                                   The Memorial of Saint Frances of Rome

What to say about Russia?  Russia seems to be the hinge point of the whole Fatima message.  The Lord God has chosen this nation for some purpose unknown to me.  Let us reflect once more on what Our Lady told the children concerning the fate of Russia (parentheses mine for explanation):

“To prevent this(World War II), I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays.  If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church.  The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.  In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.  The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

1) Why Russia?

I don’t know for certain, but there are certain things about Russia that it might be helpful to think about.  Russia is the largest country on earth, geographically.  This is a country that borders both Norway and North Korea: think about that for a second.

russia-94

Russia also has an interesting history with regard to Christianity: as far as I can tell Russia is the only Christian country that has never been in communion with the Holy Father in Rome.  The first Russian prince was baptized by missionaries from the Church of Constantinople around the year 1000 and almost immediately thereafter the great schism between Rome and Byzantium occurred.  Russia was never in the orbit of the Roman Church, always Constantinople.  She was pilloried during the nineteenth century by some Catholic writers in the wake of the Crimean War for being a great driver of schism in Europe, but I don’t think that this is really the case.  Russia never broke from the Church of Rome as many other churches from Baghdad to London did, she simply was never part of it, and that makes her unique.  Russia also played an important, though largely unconscious, role in protecting the Church of Rome.

For 750 years, from roughly the year 250 AD to the year 1000 AD Western Europe was bedeviled by frequent invasions of warlike tribes off the steppes north and east of the Black Sea.  In the first assault these tribes destroyed the Western Roman Empire, but it did not stop there.  The Avars and the Slavs and the Lombards continued the assault after the Goths and Huns had all been pushed back or assimilated into the dying empire.  The continuous migration of the Asian steppes combined with the assaults of Islam from the south and the Viking raids from the north froze the development of national life in Western Europe during the whole of the second half of the first millennium.  The Roman Church and all that sprang from her were the only source of stability during those difficult centuries.

Around the year 1000 things began to change.  The main driver of this change was the formation of the proto-Russian Christian state centered around Kiev that began to bring order to large swathes of territory between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea.  From then on until the present day, with the sole exception of the Mongols during the thirteenth century who did far more damage to Russia than to Western Europe,  the civilization threatening invasions of whole peoples off the plains of Asia have ceased.  It was ultimately the establishment of the Russian state that made possible the great thirteenth century of Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Dominic that is the foundation of modern Catholic life.  None of that could have happened if Catholic civilization was forced to continue spending almost every bit of its energy fighting for its life against whole peoples marching off the plains of Asia every few decades.  In that sense Russia was a great gift to the Church of Rome even though she was never in communion with that Church.

But Russia is the choice of the Almighty to do something in this world before the end of all this.

2) The annihilation of nations

Our Lady told the children that if her request for the Consecration of Russia was not heeded then “various nations will be annihilated.”  What does this mean?  This is important because this part of the prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.  Adolf Hitler had in his sights to annihilate certain nations: the Jews, the Poles, and the Russians were his main targets.  If Germany had won the war and Hitler had lived long enough he may indeed have done so, but Providence prevented that.  So again what does it mean, “nations will be annihilated?”

This is a hard thing to quantify.  No nations have been annihilated at any time in recent history.  Possibly one could say that the Arabs annihilated Persian civilization during the seventh and eighth centuries by the imposition of Islam.  The Zoroastrian religion was rooted out of the Iranian plateau and the Persian national life as it had been before simply disappeared.  But even there the Persian language survived a dark period and reemerged before the turn of the millennium in the poems of Ferdowsi and is still spoken today in Iran and throughout Central Asia.

The next step back in history is the great annihilation of nations that took place under the Roman Empire.  The empire conquered all of those peoples and nations around the Mediterranean basin and over the centuries the individual differences between the peoples of the Empire gradually disappeared.  They began to forget their ancient languages and to speak Latin or Greek because it was easier to get by and it made them part of a wider world.  They began to worship the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon who in many ways were similar to the gods they had been worshiping anyways.  Gradually they just became Roman so that by the time the Roman Empire fell in the middle of the first millennium there was no going back to what had been before because people neither wanted nor could even really remember what that had been.  But all that took centuries and one gets the sense from the way Our Lady of Fatima speaks that this annihilation of nations will be rather sudden.

So does an annihilation of nations happen suddenly?  Yes.  If you go back to the Old Testament you will see examples of this.  Very many age old civilizations were suddenly destroyed during the first half of the first millennium before Christ by both the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires.  How did this occur?  By invasion, destruction of local authority, occupation of territory, and deportation of the populations of these territories.  And most important there was no other power to come in and save these people à la World War II. The most generous implementation of this policy was when whole communities were deported together to a faraway land where they were gradually broken up and assimilated over time.  In less generous circumstances families were broken up on a massive scale with fathers and military age sons murdered, mothers sold as slaves, daughters confined to brothels in foreign lands or married to foreign men and infants either slaughtered or adopted out to foreign parents never knowing where they came from.  Now imagine this happening to your country, your town, and your family, because that is what has been prophesied.

And this all relates to the Consecration of Russia.  Our Lady did not ask for it in 1917, because it was to be kept secret at that time.  She would come later to officially ask for the Pope to Consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart and we will speak more about the terms of that Consecration when we get to that.

O Jesus this is for the love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Thanks be to God for… Russia: a historical meditation

The Feast of Saint Peter Chrysologus

Russia has been in the news a lot lately, more so than in any time in the last two decades, and it caused me to think about the checkered history of that vast land.  It occurred to me at some point that Catholic Europe as we knew it in the second millennium, the great saints of western Europe Thomas Aquinas, Dominic, and Francis of Assisi and the nations and cultures of France, Germany, Italy, England, and Spain likely never would have come into being without Russia.

To understand this it is necessary to compare the situation of Europe in the first millennium after Christ versus what it experienced in the second.  At the time of the Incarnation and the beginning of the age of the Catholic Church the Roman Empire had just completed conquering the entire Mediterranean basin, a feat which has never been equaled before or since, and stretched from the British Isles to the Syrian desert.  However the lands in the north beyond the Rhine and the Danube were largely an undiscovered country.  In the third century of the Incarnation however the empire encountered the Goths, the first of the barbarian tribes that either were migrating or being pushed across the vast steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas from Asia into Europe.  This was the beginning of eight centuries of continuous migration and invasion that would sap the strength of the Roman Empire and eventually destroy it.

Into this came the Catholic Church with its message of salvation attempting to build a new civilization on the ruins of the classical world.  In those first centuries after the fall of Rome she was continually harried on all sides however.  The Huns, the Slavs, the Avars, the Lombards all came in on the heels of the Goths and Vandals along the highways of the steppes north of the Black Sea and continued to hammer Catholic civilization.  There was very little political stability in these centuries with the borders of the post Roman barbarian kingdoms shifting constantly like amoebas and the entirety of Christian civilization was consistently under threat from the marauding tribes of Asia in the east and the newly expanding empire of Islam to the south that had shattered the old Mediterranean unity and the Vikings coming in from the north.

Around the year 1000 things began to change.  The strength of Islam waned due to internal conflict, the Vikings slowly were converted from paganism into full membership in the Catholic Church and new state was being formed north of the Black Sea that would forever close the door on the highway from Asia into Europe.  When Prince Vladimir accepted baptism and brought the new state of Kievan Rus with him that road was shut off.  New and organized and united political entities were formed that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and put up a permanent roadblock to any migration from Asia into Europe.  The only power to breach this roadblock was the Mongols in the 13th century but they did not destroy Russia, they only occupied it and eventually withered away.

Once this new space opened up a new situation came into being in Europe.  There was internecine and fratricidal warfare to be sure but there was no longer the constant threat of massive, culture destroying invasion from the east.  The Church recovered her footing and launched the Crusades to save Constantinople from the Turkish threat and to recapture the Holy Land for a time.  The nation of France came into being and rule from Paris became a fact of life for ever greater parts of what had been Roman Gaul.  The kingdoms of Castille and Aragon accelerated the work of the reconquista and began to drive Islam out of western Europe and form the modern nation of Spain.  There was a flowering of scholastic theology in Italy and a greater devotion to the religious life, and the first beginnings of the Rennaissance.  The High Middle Ages were in full swing and the foundations of the modern world, with all of its glories and defects, were being laid.  All thanks to the formation of a unified political entity that stretched from the Baltic to the Black Seas and cut off the highway of invasion from Asia.  Thanks be to God for Russia.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!