On May 13th, 1917 three children from a small village in Portugal claimed to have an apparition of the Virgin Mary appear before them. They claimed that the Blessed Virgin revealed three secrets to them that they could reveal to no one, and in fact the Third Secret could not even be released until 1960 and not to anyone but the Pope himself. They weren’t believed in the beginning and the children were even temporarily jailed (and it’s claimed the local law enforcement even threatened to boil them in oil unless they told the truth!) But in the end, thousands of people witnessed a solar miracle in Fatima, Portugal and the children’s visions would have a big impact on the Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century.
“Marian Apparitions” or visions of the Virgin Mary were pretty popular the end of the Nineteenth Century. The Church investigated many of them and determined a few “worthy of belief” (including one near Green Bay, Wisconsin, so we have our own Our Lady of Perpetual Packers Victory!) “Worthy of belief” means that they think that there’s something to the vision, but as a Catholic you’re not required to believe it (like you are required to believe that Mary was a virgin and that Jesus is the Son of God and not just a wise carpenter who was endlessly quotable.)
The First Secret of Fatima was a vision of Hell that Mary showed the three childern. The Second Secret of Fatima had to do with the end of World War I and the prediction that another great war would come shortly after if Russia didn’t start turning back to religion from atheism. Those secrets came out in the 1940s when Sister Lucia (the only surviving child who originally was contacted by Our Lady of Fatima, she eventually became a nun) was forced by her bishop to share the secrets in case she got ill.
The Third Secret of Fatima was kept under lock and key until 1960 when the Pop was allowed to read it. It was said that the Pope cried when he read the secret and that was enough to freak everyone out. Was it the end of the world that he saw? This was a generation of schoolchildren who were growing up with nuclear war safety drills and people building underground bunkers in their backyards. Did the Pope see the end of the world by man’s own hand?
These secrets became of such fascination to Catholics, that in 1981 a former Trappist monk decided to hijack an Aer Lingus plane and demand that the Pope release the Third Secret of Fatima.
When the Third Secret of Fatima was finally revealed, it turned out to be kind of boring. It was a vision of the Pope being murdered by gunman and when the Vatican revealed it in the year 2000 (with a treatise written by the future Pope Benedict himself, Cardinal Ratzinger) it was really just about the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, so “Hey, no big deal everybody, on this thing we’ve been hiding for damn near a century.”
That really hasn’t been good enough for some people, who think that the secret actually revealed that there would be a Pope who leads the church into ruin, a so-called “Anti-Pope” and there are people who believe that “Cool Pope” Francis is one. Even though he was in Fatima on the 100th anniversary to canonize the original children and declare their Catholic Sainthood, his detractors say that his liberal and easygoing attitude is going to lead the Church straight to the Fires of Hell.
Well, whether that’s true or not, there’s a different interesting theory that the people of Fatima actually saw a UFO on that strange day they saw “The Miracle of the Sun”. No less than UFO expert has posited that theory himself.
But a more sobering and sinister theory is that the Catholic Church was using these Marian Apparitions to influence world events, that Sister Lucia writing in 1941 that the Soviet Union must be consecrated back the Immaculate Heart of Mary and away from Atheism or the entire world would crumble was justification for the Nazi Invasion of Germany. The Church’s reputation during the Holocaust and the Second World War is often brought up as one of its less proud moments (the Vatican was completely surrounded by Fascist Italy, so there could be a good reason that they remained neutral, but still it’s an unfortunate history of silence.)
100 years later, Our Lady of Fatima still intrigues and mystifies people. But whether or not their claims were true, those three Portuguese shepherd children did something amazing, they changed the world with their story and affected millions of lives. The Sunspot song this week is in that same spirit, it’s called “Change The World”.
Did you read the news today,
did you listen to what it said?
It said our world was going to Hell,
and soon we’ll all be dead.
Don’t tell me about your apathy,
Don’t tell me you don’t wanna believe,
Don’t tell me that it’s not your problem,
Can’t you see… you’re not alone?
I want to change the world.
But I can’t do it by myself,
I need somebody else.
Wandering in the dark,
we’ve been living with blindfolds on.
Just thinking about ourselves for too damn long.
Don’t tell me that you don’t care,
Don’t tell me that the world’s not fair,
Don’t tell me there’s nothing you can do to help at all.
That’s no excuse.
I want to change the world.
But I can’t do it by myself.
I need somebody else.