July 13, 1917: the prophecy of World War II

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs (Mt. 24:7-8).

March 8, 2017

More than a year before the First World War ended the Lady of the Rosary was already warning the children of a second, and more terrible war if human beings did not repent from our evil and stupid ways.  Here again is what she said, again from Volume IV of Sister Lucia’s memoirs translated in 1998’s Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words:

If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.  The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI.  When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.

1) An unknown light

Well, those of us who live in 2017 know what this worse war was.  She was speaking of the Second World War that was indeed far worse than the First.  Nations for whom chivalry and Christian charity had once been their guiding principle for centuries were handed over to bloodthirsty former vagabond streetwalkers who reduced ancient cities to rubble and attempted to murder in a most savage fashion whole races of peoples.  But was there a warning from Heaven before this happened?  Was there an unknown light in the sky?  Yes there was.

On the night of January 25-26, 1938 there was an incredible light show in the skies of Europe and the North Atlantic that left the heavens red.  The link below is to a PDF of The New York Times article from January 26, 1938:

fatima 1-26-1938

I will reproduce excerpts from the text of the article here:

LONDON, Jan. 25.-The most brilliant display of an aurora borealis in fifty years held Britons spellbound over a wide area of this country tonight.  From 6:30 to 8:30 P.M. the people of London watched two magnificent arcs rising in the east and west, from which radiated pulsating beams like searchlights in dark red, greenish blue and purple.

During this period all transatlantic radio communication was interrupted…  One of the novel features of tonight’s display was the vivid red glow…  Police stations, fire brigades and newspaper offices all over the country were inundated by calls tonight asking “Where is the fire?”…

The lights were clearly seen in Italy, Spain, and even Gibraltar.  The glow, bathing snow-clad mountaintops in Austria and Switzerland was a beautiful sight, but firemen turned out to chase non-existent fires.

Portuguese villagers rushed in fright from their homes, fearing the end of the world…

GRENOBLE, France, Jan. 25.-A huge blood-red beam of light which scientists said was an aurora borealis of exceptional amplitude tied up telephone systems in parts of France tongiht and spread anxiety in numerous Swiss Alpine villages.

Emblazoned in the northern sky the light brought thousands of telephone calls to Swiss and French authorities asking whether it was a fire, war, or the end of the world.

So the newspaper called it an aurora borealis.  What else would they call it?  When we see something strange and unprecedented we fall back on what we know even if what we know does us no good, and even makes things worse.  Lucia was not instructed at this point to make the warning public either, but she would insist for the rest of her life that the events of the night of January 25-26, 1938 were God’s warning that the Blessed Mother had foretold.

Notice the blood red color of the light.  Blood would shortly begin to flow in unprecedented rivers across the continent.  Notice the resemblance to searchlights streaking across the night sky of London that would in two and a half years become a horrifyingly regular occurrence as German bombers attempted to raze the city from the air.

It should be noted that these lights shone on a night of peace in Europe, or at least it appeared so.  The governments and peoples of Europe were as yet wholly ignorant of what would soon be unleashed on them.  But that would soon change.

2) The Blomberg-Fritsch Affair

I am personally indebted to William L. Shirer’s work on Nazi Germany The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to understand the significance of the days around the January 25-26 unknown light for the onset of the war which was soon to follow.  The nature of these events was only discovered after the war when researchers had a chance to comb through the Nazi archives.

On November 5, 1937 Adolf Hitler held a meeting with the commanders of the German army and high officials in his government to inform them that he was planning an expansionist war in Europe and that he wanted everything to be gotten ready.  The commanders of the German army were unenthusiastic.  They had just gotten out from under the shackles of the Versailles Treaty and were not anxious to see their treasured Wehrmacht destroyed in this madman’s war.

Hitler’s two chief opponents inside Germany were War Minister Field Marshall Werner von Blomberg and Commander in Chief of the Army Colonel General Werner von Fritsch.  The army was the only institution in Germany that still had the power to oppose the Nazi regime and if its commanders objected there would be no war.

On January 12, 1938 Blomberg married a woman, Erna Gruhn, and Hermann Goering served as his best man and Adolf Hitler was in attendance.  Very soon after the Berlin police discovered that well, Blomberg’s wife (God rest her soul) had a past: prostitution and pornography and that sort of thing.

Now the Nazi regime was not necessarily high on moral scruples, several of Hitler’s supporters were active homosexuals, but Hitler now had his chance to get rid of the opposition since the Field Marshall had just violated the moral code for the German officer corps that he himself had put in place.  Adolf Hitler and Herman Goering threatened his War Minister and told him to either annul the marriage, resign, or everything would become a public scandal and a court martial.  Field Marshall Werner von Blomberg loved the woman, did not annul the marriage, and resigned as War Minister on January 27, 1938, one day after the unknown light in the sky.

After this Goering teamed up with Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS, and Reinhard Heydrich (all three of these men would become infamous for mass murder in the not too distant future) his right hand man to destroy the reputation of General Fritsch by trumping up false accusations of homosexual acts against him which at this time were still regarded as barbarism throughout the world that still thought itself civilized.  He was forced to resign on February 4, 1938 barely a week after the unknown light.

Hitler now took the opportunity to reorganize command of the Army in order to make it entirely his personal instrument.  The same February 4, 1938 he created the OKW to which both the War Ministry and the German High Command were subject and he put his lackey General Wilhelm Keitel in command of it.  Keitel would remain in that post and carry out Adolf Hitler’s orders without question until the German surrender in May, 1945, and was later hung by the Allies after the Nuremburg trials the following year, God rest his soul.

With the German army firmly in his grip, Adolf Hitler, the former vagrant who had been aimlessly wandering the streets of Vienna a few decades before now launched his assault on Europe and on civilization.  The geopolitical situation across the continent began to deteriorate rapidly and on March 12, 1938, a bare six weeks after the unknown light, Nazi Germany annexed Austria.  World War II had begun, though it would be a year and a half before the shooting would start.

3) The Pontificate of Pius XI

Our Lady prophesied in 1917 that the coming war would start under the pontificate of Pius XI.  In 1917 the pope was Benedict XV, Pius XI would not become pope until 1922, five years after the Apparition.  Pius was easily the most common name for a pope between 1775 and 1958 (no less than seven popes took that name during the period) but there was no guarantee that the successor to Benedict XV would take that name, nor how long he would reign, nor what would happen during that reign.

And there is the matter that we read in the history books that World War II did not start until Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  Since Pope Pius XI died on February 10, 1939 and Pius XII was pope when Germany invaded Poland how do we reconcile this?

Sister Lucia always insisted that the war started with the German occupation of Austria in March, 1938 under the Pontificate of Pius XI.  And history shows that for the Germans Austria was just a step to surrounding Czechoslovakia on three sides.  And once they got Czechoslovakia then Poland was surrounded on three sides.  Sister Lucia’s judgement about when the war started seems sound and since the Blessed Virgin endorses it who am I to disagree?

4) Pope Benedict XV’s warning

Our Lady never instructed Lucia to warn anyone about any of this.  In fact for Lucia this was all part of the Secret and she never told anyone about it until she wrote her memoir under obedience to the Bishop of Leira in 1941, long after the war had started.  Why didn’t Our Lady want Lucia to inform the world of this?

I don’t know.  But I do know that the Church and the Popes had been warning governments and their peoples at the top of their lungs since the days of Voltaire and the French Revolution in the eighteenth century that formerly Christian Europe was heading down a disastrous path which would lead them to ruin if they did not change their ways.  They never listened.  Why would they have listened to a nun with a story about a light in the sky?

But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:29-31)”

Two and a half years before the Apparitions at Fatima during the first months of World War I Pope Benedict XV issued a stark and extremely prophetic warning of his own in his first encyclical  Ad beatissimi Apostolorum published on November 1, 1914:

For what could prevent the soul of the common Father of all being most deeply distressed by the spectacle presented by Europe, nay, by the whole world, perhaps the saddest and most mournful spectacle of which there is any record.   Certainly those days would seem to have come upon us of which Christ Our Lord foretold: “You shall hear of wars and rumours of wars-for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt. xxiv, 6, 7).  On every side the dread phantom of war holds sway: there is scarce room for another thought in the minds of men.  The combatants are the greatest and wealthiest nations of the earth; what wonder, then, if, well provided with the most awful weapons modern military science has devised, they strive to destroy one another with refinements of horror.  There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter; day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood, and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain.

Those lines were published on November 1, 1914.  French and British and German soldiers had only a few weeks before begun to dig the first trenches that would scar the landscape of France and drench it with blood for the next three and a half years.  When Pope Benedict XV was composing these words many people still harbored the illusion that the war could be short.  Read his words again.  Meditate on them.  They were prophetic not only for the First World War, but for the Second as well, and for the massacres the Bolsheviks committed in Russia and the Nazis throughout occupied Europe and of the massive bombings of British, German, and Japanese cities.

The years 1914-45 were a hurricane and a vortex of death in Europe.  And it didn’t stop there, and it hasn’t stopped yet.  People had been warned and they didn’t want to listen.  The light in the sky seems to have been meant for Lucia alone, though why I cannot say.

I would like to point to something else that Pope Benedict said.  He made an extremely stark statement about what time it is with regard to the Second Coming of the Lord, and I have never heard anyone comment on this (italics mine): “Certainly those days would seem to have come upon us of which Christ Our Lord foretold: ‘You shall hear of wars and rumours of wars- for nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.'”

Those words are taken from Our Lord’s discourse on his own Second Coming that He gave to Peter, James, John, and Andrew on the Mount of Olives, looking at the soon to be destroyed Jerusalem Temple, a few days before his Crucifixion.  Jesus states that the time of nations rising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms was only the beginning of the sorrows, or the beginning of the birth pangs.

And the Holy Father spoke with certainty about what time it was.  This encyclical was written more than a hundred years ago now: if that was the beginning then, where are we at now?  This explains the urgency of Fatima for right now, for this very moment.  She prophesied World War II.  There is no reason to expect that everything else she prophesied will not come to pass.

Go to Confession.  And pray the Rosary every day.

Impressions of the June 13 Apparition

And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple, and there were lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake, and great hail.  And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered (Revelation 11:19-12:2).

February 23, 2017                                                                                                                               The Memorial of Saint Polycarp

1) The public nature of the event

This is important because it demonstrates the extraordinary nature of the events at Fatima.  There were three primary witnesses (Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco) who could see the Blessed Virgin and all saw the same thing; two (Lucia and Jacinta) who could hear hear speak and both heard the same thing; and a single witness (Lucia) who both spoke to the Virgin and was answered by her.  But, as both Lucia’s own comments and William Thomas Walsh’s description of the lead up to the June 13, 1917 apparition reveals, there were also many other people present at the time of the Apparition.  Did they see or hear anything?  And if so what?

Here is William Thomas Walsh’s answer to that question from p. 67-68 of Our Lady of Fatima, starting with the voice of Maria Carreira describing what she heard while Lucia was speaking to Our Lady:

“Then we began to hear something like this, something like a very faint voice, but we could not understand what it was saying.  It was like the buzzing of a bee.”

Some of the bystanders noticed that the light of the sun seemed dimmer during the following minutes, though the sky was cloudless.  Others said that the top of the azinheira, covered with new growth, appeared to bend and curve just before Lucia spoke, as if under a weight.

That bit about the sound of a voice is the most convincing to me.  It is important to understand here that these things the children, and others, saw were not just images implanted in their mind or spirits, but an actual person.  The Blessed Virgin Mary has a body, as we know from the dogma of the Assumption.  It is a glorified body like that of her Divine Son and therefore it must have all the properties that the Gospels tell us that his Body had after his Resurrection i.e. the ability to appear and disappear from view, the ability to change shape, the ability to be in multiple locations at the same time and not to be deterred by material barriers such as walls, but also the ability to eat and drink and accomplish all of the tasks our bodies need to do though without them being necessary, as well as an infinite number of other properties that we were probably not told about.  In any case there was a real physical presence here and the testimony of these other witnesses bear this out.

All of this makes me unsure how the events of Fatima can be strictly classified as private revelation.  These clearly were not visions that only one person saw.  I’m not certain where to place Fatima on that continuum so I will leave it to the Church and the Holy Father to sort it all out.

2) A simple request

“I wish you to come here on the 13th of next month, to pray the Rosary every day, and to learn to read.”

To learn to read.  A simple request to most of us.  Anyone who is reading these words has obviously learned how to read.  But for a peasant girl from Aljustrel, Portugal in 1917 this may not have been entirely in character.  Very many people in the Portuguese countryside at that time were illiterate all their lives and it didn’t bother them a bit.  They had other duties to perform.  But Our Lady wanted Lucia to learn to read, and presumably to write.  So that is what Lucia did.

A century later we can perhaps better appreciate this request than the little girl from the Portuguese hill country did in 1917.  Lucia wrote the volume I have been quoting from.  She wrote to bishops and to popes.  God loves to work through instruments, particularly humble instruments.  And the written words of this humble peasant girl, relaying Our Lady’s message from heaven, have shaken the world.

One thinks of the many times these simple requests or inspirations from Heaven have altered the world.  One thinks in the first place of the request from Heaven to the Virgin of Nazareth nineteen centuries before she herself was to make this request of Lucia.  One thinks of the inspiration Saint Jerome had in the Syrian desert to learn Hebrew.  We still possess the monument, the Vulgate, that his affirmative reply to that inspiration left to the world.  One simple yes, one humble person, can change the world.

3) I will never forsake you

“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 to my Immaculate Heart.”

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

“No, my daughter.  Are you suffering a great deal?  Don’t lose heart.  I will never forsake you.  My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”

This to me is the promise that cinches the deal.  I defy the skeptics to explain this prophecy: I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon.  But you are to stay here some time longer.  Francisco died in 1919 and Jacinta in 1920, both during the Spanish flu outbreak that attacked the world during and after the end of the First World War.  But what about Lucia?  Well, Lucia did die: on February 13, 2005 at the age of 97 years old.  But you are to stay here some time longer.  Heaven does enjoy these sort of pithy little understatements.

Don’t lose heart.  I will never forsake you.  My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.  What a consolation that promise must have been during the long and strange course of Lucia’s life.  She was born anonymously in a time and place where a donkey was the most convenient form of transportation and a luxury that only rarely took the place of one’s own feet.  She died with her name known across the earth three days before YouTube made its first appearance on the internet.

Her suffering was acute on that day, June 13, 1917.  While Jacinta and Francisco’s parents reacted generally positively to the news of the first Apparition on May 13, but Lucia’s parents and sisters did not.  One of her mother’s most admirable qualities was an almost pathological determination to tell the truth, no matter what the cost, and her determined desire to implant this remarkable character trait on her children.  But she became convinced that Lucia was lying and making it all up.  She was determined to break her child of this lie and force her to admit publicly to the parish priest and anyone else who would listen that it was all made up nonsense.  In addition the Cova da Iria was their personal family property and all of the people visiting the spot and tearing it up since May 13, and even more in the months to come, had made it unusable to pasture the sheep.

So on the morning of June 13 her mother and sisters sent Lucia off with acid comments ridiculing her and she, being human, was not in the greatest mood when she arrived at the Cova da Iria at midday.  Jacinta encouraged her reminding her of the Lady’s promise that they would have much to suffer, but that it would be for the conversion of sinners.  In any case now, after all this misery, she was hearing that her two cousins, the only other people on earth who could possibly understand what she was going through, would soon be gone from this world.

But what a consolation from the lips of the Blessed Virgin herself: I will never forsake you!

4) The suffering of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a heart encircled by thorns which pierced it.  We understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation.

This particular image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that the children saw is what made me choose those lines from the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation, to begin this post.  I will repeat here the last verse of that passage i.e. what Saint John saw the woman clothed with sun going through:

And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.

That description of the woman from the Apocalypse bears a striking similarity to the image of the Immaculate Heart.  They both describe a woman in torment.  In particular I would like to discuss the phrase was in pain to be delivered.  That phrase comes from the old Douay-Rheims translation of the Latin Vulgate.  It is not the best possible translation, though I will own that this is not the easiest phrase to translate into smooth English.  But the Latin word that Saint Jerome used in the Vulgate for the phrase ‘was in pain’ was cruciabatur.  One doesn’t need to be a linguist to guess at what the root of that word is.  It is in the passive imperfect, so a possible translation from the Latin is that she was being crucified to be delivered.

But what about the Greek?  It isn’t exactly ‘was being crucified,’ but it is also far more intense than ‘was in pain.’  The Greek word is βασανιζομένη is a passive present particle that can signify any one of the following: being questioned by torture, being tortured, being vexed with grievous pains, being tormented.  There is also another use of the word that I find fascinating.  It applies to testing metals by the touchstone.  The touchstone is an ancient method of testing the purity of gold and/or other precious metals.

Pure gold being tested.  A woman with child crying in torment to be delivered.  The Immaculate Heart of Mary, the new Eve, the Mother of the living, pierced with thorns and being outraged by the sins of humanity.  Meditate on that.  What does it tell you?

Pray the Rosary daily.  Make reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Join the Rosary Confraternity.

The Primacy of Peter

I had the chance not so long ago to visit the Church of the Primacy of Peter in Tabgha, Israel on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.

 

The Church of the Primacy of Peter at Tabgha.  It was here on the north shore of the Sea of Tiberias that the events recounted in John 21 took place: the second miraculous draught of fish, the meal by the lake, and the prophecy of Peter's destiny.

The Church of the Primacy of Peter at Tabgha. It was here on the north shore of the Sea of Tiberias that the events recounted in John 21 took place: the second miraculous draught of fish, the meal by the lake, and the prophecy of Peter’s destiny.  (Taken by me April 24, 2014)

IMG_2024

Looking out from the shoreline at Tabgha. Roughly the same view our Lord would have had looking out from land to sea that early morning so long ago now as the Seven brought in the last miraculous draught of fishes.  (Taken by me April 24, 2014)

 

 

I will recount here the the 21st chapter, verses 1-19, of St. John’s Gospel in Greek, Latin, and English.  The Greek comes from 1904 text of the Orthodox Church issued by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the Latin from the Clementine Vulgate, and the English from the 1970 New American Bible (any typos or mistakes in the text of any of the languages are my own):

Μετα ταῦτα ἐφανέρωσεν ἑαυτὸν πάλιν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς μαθηταῖς ἐπὶ τῆς Θαλάσσης τῆς Τιβεριάδος ἐφανέρωσε δὲ οὕτως. ἦσαν ὁμοῦ Σίμων Πέτρος, καὶ Θωμᾶς ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμο, καὶ Ναθαναὴλ ὁ ἀπὸ Κανᾶ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, καὶ οἱ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου, καὶ ἄλλοι ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ δύο.  λέγει αὑτοῖς Σίμων Πέτρος ὑπάγω ἁλιεύειν. λέγουσιν αὐτῷ ἐρχόμεθα καὶ ἡμεῖς σὺν σοί. ἐξῆλθον καὶ ἐνέβησαν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον εὐθύς, καὶ ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ἐπίασαν οὐδέν.  πρωΐας δὲ ἤδη γενομένης ἔστη ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς εἰς τὸν αἰγιαλόν· οὐ μέντοι ᾔδεισαν οἱ μαθηταὶ ὅτι ᾿Ιησοῦς ἐστι. λέγει οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· παιδία, μή τι προσφάγιον ἔχετε; ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ· οὔ. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· βάλετε εἰς τὰ δεξιὰ μέρη τοῦ πλοίου τὸ δίκτυον, καὶ εὑρήσετε. ἔβαλον οὖν, καὶ οὐκέτι αὐτὸ ἑλκύσαι ἴσχυσαν ἀπὸ τοῦ πλήθους τῶν ἰχθύων. λέγει οὖν ὁ μαθητὴς ἐκεῖνος, ὃν ἠγάπα ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς, τῷ Πέτρῳ· ὁ Κύριός ἐστι. Σίμων οὖν Πέτρος ἀκούσας ὅτι ὁ Κύριός ἐστι, τὸν ἐπενδύτην διεζώσατο· ἦν γὰρ γυμνός· καὶ ἔβαλεν ἑαυτὸν εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν· οἱ δὲ ἄλλοι μαθηταὶ τῷ πλοιαρίῳ ἦλθον· οὐ γὰρ ἦσαν μακρὰν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς, ἀλλ᾽ ὡς ἀπὸ πηχῶν διακοσίων, σύροντες τὸ δίκτυον τῶν ἰχθύων. ὡς οὖν ἀπέβησαν εἰς τὴν γῆν, βλέπουσιν ἀνθρακιὰν κειμένην καὶ ὀψάριον ἐπικείμενον καὶ ἄρτον. λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· ἐνέγκατε ἀπὸ τῶν ὀψαρίων ὧν ἐπιάσατε νῦν. ἀνέβη Σίμων Πέτρος καὶ εἵλκυσε τὸ δίκτυον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, μεστὸν ἰχθύων μεγάλων ἑκατὸν πεντήκοντα τριῶν· καὶ τοσούτων ὄντων οὐκ ἐσχίσθη τὸ δίκτυον. λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· δεῦτε ἀριστήσατε. οὐδεὶς δὲ ἐτόλμα τῶν μαθητῶν ἐξετάσαι αὐτὸν σὺ τίς εἶ, εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ Κύριός ἐστιν. ἔρχεται οὖν ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς καὶ λαμβάνει τὸν ἄρτον καὶ δίδωσιν αὐτοῖς, καὶ τὸ ὀψάριον ὁμοίως. Τοῦτο ἤδη τρίτον ἐφανερώθη ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ἐγερθεὶς ἐκ νεκρῶν.

῞Οτε οὖν ἠρίστησαν, λέγει τῷ Σίμωνι Πέτρῳ ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· Σίμων ᾿Ιωνᾶ, ἀγαπᾷς με πλεῖον τούτων; λέγει αὐτῷ· ναί, Κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ· βόσκε τὰ ἀρνία μου. λέγει αὐτῷ πάλιν δεύτερον· Σίμων ᾿Ιωνᾶ, ἀγαπᾷς με; λέγει αὐτῷ· ναί, Κύριεο, σὺ ἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ· ποίμαινε τὰ πρόβατά μου. λέγει αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον· Σίμων ᾿Ιωνᾶ, φιλεῖς με; ἐλυπήθη ὁ Πέτρος ὅτι εἶπεν αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον, φιλεῖς με, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Κύριε, σὺ πάντα οἶδας, σὺ γινώσκεις ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· βόσκε τὰ πρόβατά μου. ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ὅτε ἦς νεώτερος, ἐζώννυες σεαυτὸν καὶ περιεπάτεις ὅπου ἤθελες· ὅταν δὲ γηράσῃς, ἐκτενεῖς τὰς χεῖράς σου, καὶ ἄλλος σε ζώσει, καὶ οἴσει ὅπου οὐ θέλεις. τοῦτο δὲ εἶπε σημαίνων ποίῳ θανάτῳ δοξάσει τὸν Θεόν. καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν λέγει αὐτῷ· ἀκολούθει μοι.


Postea manifestavit se iterum Jesus discipulis ad mare Tiberiadis.  Manifestavit autem sic: erant simul Simon Petrus, et Thomas, qui dicitur Didymus, et Nathanael, qui erat a Cana Galilaeae, et filii Zebadaei, et alii ex discipulis ejus duo.  Dicit eis Simon Petrus: Vado piscari.  Dicunt ei: Venimus et nos tecum.  Et exierunt, et ascenderunt in navim: et illa nocte nihil prendiderunt.  Mane autem facto stetit Jesus in littore: non tamen cognoverunt discipuli quia Jesus est.  Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Pueri, numquid pulmentarium habetis?  Responderunt ei: Non.  Dicit eis: Mittite in dexteram navigii rete, et invenietis.  Miserunt ero: et jam non valebant illud trahere prae multitudine piscium.

Dixit ergo discipulus ille, quem diligebat Jesus, Petro: Dominus est.  Simon Petrus cum audisset quia Dominus est, tunica succinxit se (erat enim nudus) et misit se in mare.  Alii autem discipuli navigio venerunt (non enim longe erant a terra, sed quasi cubitis ducentis), trahentes rete piscium.  Ut ergo descenderunt in terram, viderunt prunas positas, et piscem superpositum, et panem.  Dicit eis Jesus: Afferte de piscibus, quos prendidistis nunc.

Ascendit Simon Petrus et traxit rete in terram, plenum magnis piscibus centum quinquaginta tribus.  Et cum tanti essent, non est scissum rete.  Dicit eis Jesus: Venite, prandete.  Et nemo audebat discumbentium interrogare eum: Tu quis es? scientes, quia Dominus est.

Et venit Jesus, et accipit panem, et dat eis, et piscem similiter.

Hoc jam tertio manifestatus est Jesus discipulis suis cum resurrexit a mortuis.  Cum ero prandissent dicit Simoni Petro Jesus: Simon Joannis, diligis me plus his?  Dicit ei: Etiam Domine, tu scis quia amo te.  Dicit ei: Pasce agnos meos.

Dicit ei iterum: Simon Joannis, diligis me?  Ait illi: Etiam Domine, tu scis quia amo te.  Dixit ei: Pasce agnos meos.

Dicit ei tertio: Simon Joannis, amas me?  Constristatus est Petrus, quia dixit ei tertio: Amas me? et dixit ei: Domine, tu omnia nosti, tu scis quia amo te. Dixit ei: Pasce oves meas.

Amen, Amen dico tibi: cum esses junior, cingebas te, et amulabas ubi volebas: cum autem senueris, extendes manus tuas, et alius te cinget, et ducet quo tu non vis.

Hoc autem dixit significans qua morte clarificaturus esset Deum.  Et cum hoc dixisset, dicit ei: Sequere me.


After this, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.  He revealed himself in this way.  Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of this disciples.  Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”  They said to him, “We also will come with you.”  So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”  They answered him, “No.”  So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.”  So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.  So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”  When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.  The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish.  When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.  Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”  So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.  Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.  Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”  And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized that it was the Lord.  Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them and in like manner the fish.  This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  He said to him, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  Amen, Amen I say to you, when you were younger you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.  And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”


John 21 strikes me as being a Scripture passage that is deeper than the ocean and vaster than the expanse of the heavens.  All parts of Scripture contain their own deep hidden significances which can only be revealed by the Holy Spirit, but few can rival this particular passage (that seems to have been added by the human author St. John almost as an afterthought) in being pregnant with meaning.  Where does one start?

I have to say that the picture painted here seems in many ways to be one of the Church at the end of its journey, since the evangelist points out that it was already light and the boat was on the Lake of Galilee (or the Sea of Tiberias as he takes pains to call it right here) scarcely one hundred yards from shore.  This is a vision of the Church at the end of time.  A fascinating thing that St. John does at the very outset is to name five of the seven disciples present, but to leave the last two unnamed.  It is curious, because all eleven (Judas was gone and Matthias had not yet replace him) are not there and seven is generally a number associated with perfection by the ancients and the Apostle goes to great length and detail to name Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, and the (two) sons of Zebedee, but he leaves the last two unnamed and no identification is given; he merely says “two others of his disciples.”  Why should this be so?  It is a subject worth the time to meditate on in these dark times across the formerly Catholic world.

Simon Peter begins by saying “I’m going fishing,” or in the more archaic but strangely colloquial and heart warming Douay-Rheims translation “I go a fishing.”  So the apostles go fishing by themselves and fish throughout the night and of course they catch nothing.  The first light of dawn streaks across the sky and they see our Lord standing on the shore but don’t recognize him at first; another hint that this passage paints a picture of the Church far distant in time from the Incarnation.  He tells them to cast their net to the right which they do and the haul of fish is incredible.  Stop trusting in your own efforts Catholic Church!  Rely on the Lord alone and your haul of fish (men) will be more than you can possibly imagine.  St. John (the disciple whom Jesus loved) is still the only one able to publicly acknowledge that it is the Lord when he speaks those famous words to Simon Peter: “Dominus est!”  Upon hearing this Simon Peter wraps himself in a thin garment and jumps into the sea because he his naked, not lightly clad as the contemporary English version has it, but both the Greek and Latin agree that he was in fact naked.  Anyone who has been near the Lake of Galilee in the late spring or summer can relate to how hot it can get there and why a man would be running around in the buff on a fishing boat after working all night.  But of course this is Scripture and not just a short story so there is the deeper theological meaning.  Adam and Eve were naked in the garden and their first act after eating from the the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a rather pathetic attempt to cover their own nakedness.  Christ hung naked and uncovered on the Cross.  And here we have Simon Peter then also covering himself and his nakedness but, as opposed to what Adam and Eve ended up doing, he jumps into the sea and runs to meet our Lord on the shore.  What does this mean?  I don’t know exactly but there is something here worth meditating on.

Our Lord is already cooking bread and fish on the shore.  There is a curious correlation here with the Multiplication of the Loaves that I suppose shouldn’t surprise me since these two events occurred at almost the same spot; the Church of the Primacy of Peter is a short five minute walk from the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.  So there is something to this and, again it is worth meditating on but I do not have the answer.  Our Lord then tells them to bring in the fish they had caught and Simon Peter hauls in the entire catch of fish, numbering 153 large fish, and despite the large haul the net does not tear.  I confess that I do not know what the number 153 signifies; I am not certain that a satisfactory answer has ever been given except that it is a lot of fish and I also have heard some speculation that the ancients knew of 153 different species of fish in the waters of the world.  I am not sure but this whole passage seems to indicate that at the end of time many around the world and of all the races of man will be brought into the Church and before the Lord.  The reference to the net not tearing is an obvious reference to Luke 5 where at the beginning of the time of the Apostles with our Lord they make a large catch of fish and the net tears and many are saved but many also are lost.  Anyone with even the slightest understanding of the history of the Church over the last twenty centuries knows well the painful fulfillment of that prophecy, so we should have equal confidence that before the end of time all of the ruptures will be healed and that we will stand united with Peter before our Lord when he comes.  We have to do our part with prayer and sacrifices and not covering up the light of Christ, but it will all happen according to God’s own time and his own ways whenever that day comes.

Now we come to the famous reconciliation scene between Jesus and Simon Peter after the latter’s threefold denial of our Lord in the courtyard on the night of his trial.  This passage is rendered poorly in English, though it is not the fault of the modern translators alone (Douay-Rheims is equally bad on this score) but of the English language itself.  The language is simply inadequate to express what is really going on in this scene.  The endless repetitions of “Do you love me?” and “Yes I love you.” almost trivialize what is going on here.  In truth the word ‘love’ has been so bastardized in contemporary English that we really don’t have any real understanding of the concept anymore.  When our Lord asks Simon Peter the first time, as St. John rendered it into Greek, “ἀγᾷπας με πλεῖον τούτων” he is not just saying “do you love me more than these?”  The verb here expresses not just filial love or affection but the kind of love that was always rare and that the modern world has really lost any conception of: the kind of love where you pour out your very being for someone else, where you don’t just live for them or die for them but you both live and die for them and you do both every minute of the day,  the kind of love where you pour out your very being for your beloved.  And Simon Peter’s response is “σὺ ἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε.”  The verb that Simon Peter uses here, φιλῶ, is kind of a come down from the verb our Lord uses.  I think that a way of rendering the exchange into English for us to better understand it would be like this:

Jesus said to Simon Peter “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these, will you pour out your being for me?”  And he said to him: “Yes Lord you know that I love you.”…

He then said to him a second time “Simon son of John will you pour out your being for me?”  He said to him “You know that I love you.”

I will pause here and note that when our Lord asks the question the third time, and this will give us a hint as to why Peter suddenly gets so frustrated, he uses the same verb that Peter had been using, φιλῶ.  He asks Simon Peter this third time:

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

At this the first pope gets rather frustrated and annoyed and tells God who is sitting there right next to him and has just cooked for him a meal of bread and fish grilled on a charcoal fire, and he tells Him that He knows everything and of course He knows that Peter loves Him.  Our Lord would seem to know that Simon Peter loves Him but He also knows that he is still Peter and that he is not quite there yet, not yet where he needs to be, but that he will be.  My impression, and it is only that, is that our Lord’s unspoken response to Peter when he says the last time “You know everything, you know that I love you” would go something like this: “No, Simon, son of John, you do not yet love me, but you will.”

Hence the prophecy of Peter’s death: “When you were young…”  I have now had the immense privilege to stand both at Tabgha on the north shore of the Sea of Tiberias, where that prophecy was made, and in the place 50 feet under the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican before the bones of the Apostle himself where that prophecy was fulfilled.  And I wonder sometimes whether this prophecy of our Lord’s does not apply only to the man Simon Peter himself, but also to the institution of the papacy and by extension to the whole Church.  If the Catholic Church is, as Saint Paul wrote, the Mystical Body of Christ then it would seem that she must be betrayed and handed over by her own to Godless men just as He was; she must be stripped naked and hung on a Cross before the world just as He was; and she must die and rise just as He did.  And despite it all those last words of our Lord in this sequence apply just as much to the current Holy Father, to his successors, and to us as they did to Saint Peter: “Follow me.”

The High Altar of St. Peter's Basilica (taken by me April 26, 2013)

The High Altar of St. Peter’s Basilica (taken by me April 26, 2013)

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary 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 conversion of the Muslim peoples.