Signs of the Times
In Gaudium et spes the Second Vatican Council declared that “At all times the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task.” There have been few signs in the history of the world as unmistakable as the one given by Heaven itself at Fatima on October 13, 1917, only 45 years before the Council began.
More than a few of the bishops who attended the Council had been old enough to read about the Miracle of the Sun in the secular press which had recognized it as a world event. The Church had long since pronounced the Message of Fatima worthy of belief. Indeed, many of the Council Fathers had been consecrated bishops by Pius XII, who was known as “the Pope of Fatima.”
At Fatima the Church was given nothing less than a sign to govern the course of her mission in this age of human history. Yet, since the Council, it was this very sign which had been almost universally ignored by Churchmen. As a consequence, the Church is now witness to other signs—signs which show that the tragedy of Fatima continues, because the triumph of Fatima has been postponed. One need look no further than the headlines of the secular newspapers:
YELTSIN'S CHOICE EASILY RATIFIED;
MUSICAL CHAIRS IN MOSCOW
ON EVE OF NATIONWIDE STRIKE,
LOCAL AUTHORITIES THREATEN
NEW RUSSIAN RULES
BELARUS PRIEST REMOVED
CATHOLICS IN CHINA, FACING CRACKDOWN, RETURN TO THE UNDERGROUND
NEW REPORT SAYS DOZENS OF
To read the headlines from the perspective of Fatima is to recognize that a Heavenly promise has not yet been fulfilled. The lack of fulfillment is not, of course, the fault of Heaven: “Russia will be converted” the Virgin said at Fatima, and the Virgin does not lie. The fault can only be with men. The earthly plans of men militate against the Message of Fatima.
Eighty-one years ago, Our Lady of Fatima appeared at the Cova da Iria to deliver a message from God, authenticated by a public miracle the like of which has never been seen in the history of the world:
The Message of Fatima is not only a promise but a warning. The promise has not been fulfilled because the warning has not been heeded:
“If My requests are not granted, Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church, the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer and various nations will be annihilated.”2
In Canada, Father Gruner reads the headlines from Russia and China and ponders “the fall of communism”—a “fall” which is looking more and more like a very skillful reorganization. He takes no pleasure in the news which confirms what he and the apostolate have been saying for so long: that Russia has yet to be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in accordance with Heaven's command. In Russia the Communists are resurgent, and a new law discriminates against the Catholic Church and in favor of Russian Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. Catholic parishes are now required to register annually as if they were foreign sects, and the registrations can be revoked at will by any local bureaucrat in a bad mood. The Russian Orthodox are told by Catholic bishops that they need no longer return to Rome, and a Catholic parish becomes a Russian Orthodox museum. Russia has not converted.
Poland today is ruled by atheists. They are communists by a different name. Since the “fall” of communism, religious instruction in kindergarten classes has been replaced by sex-education. In response, Cardinal Glemp had asked: “Who can be opposed to little childrens' natural inclination toward God?” The answer is that men who hate God can be, and are, opposed to it. They are the same men who “liberalized” Poland's abortion law in 1993. During his last trip to Poland in June of 1997, the Holy Father addressed his people as a father addresses his errant children, pleading with them to turn away from the soul-destroying materialism they have embraced since the “fall” of communism. “A nation which kills its own children is a nation without hope”, he warned them. But even the Pope's own people have not listened to him. Later in that year Poland's liberal abortion law was pared back, but not repealed. Abortion is still “legal” in Poland, and sex-education is now mandatory in Poland's public schools.3
In China, Catholics have been driven underground, and priests and bishops are routinely arrested for the “crime” of being Catholics in union with Rome. In Europe, nations that were once Christian are being merged into a European Union of abortion on demand, universal contraception, divorce and homosexual “rights.” Throughout the world the sins which demand divine retribution are hailed as “the rights of man.” Russia has not converted, and the world becomes ever more deeply infected by its errors. The world, in fact, is dying.
Our Lady of Fatima said that “Russia is the instrument of chastisement chosen by Heaven to punish the whole world (for its sins) if we do not obtain, beforehand, the conversion of that poor nation.”4 And how was that conversion to be obtained? Only “by this means”, She said: the Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart by the Pope and all the Catholic bishops of the world, on the same day and at the same hour.5 And what if this request were not obeyed? Or what if some other ceremony were substituted—one less offensive to the Russian people, one more in keeping with current Vatican policies? Our Lady's warning about the consequences of such disobedience was quite clear: “various nations will be annihilated”6 and “Russia will overcome the whole world.”7
For the past fourteen years the purveyors of “Fatima Lite”, now allied with the anti-Fatima forces in the Vatican, have been promoting the delusion that the Pope consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Orwellian year of 1984. Oddly enough, the Pope himself has never publicly said so, although they constantly invoke his authority for their claim. Indeed, the Pope has said quite the opposite on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano.8 Yet the anti-Fatima forces persist in saying that Fatima is finished. As they peddle a Message of Fatima stripped of its divine warnings and reduced to a generic pietism, the world moves ever closer to that great chastisement of which the Virgin has warned us again and again in this age of apostasy.
In 1951, Pope Pius XII declared that “the world today is worse than before the flood.”9 But in 1951 abortion had not even been legalized—except, of course, in the Soviet Union and Red China. Since then, Russia has spread her errors, including abortion, throughout the world, just as Our Lady predicted at Fatima. Since 1984 alone, more than 600,000,000 children have been exterminated in the abortion holocaust. Yet 1984 was the very year “Consecration Lite” was introduced to the public by the merchants of “Fatima Lite”—a consecration of Russia which did not even mention Russia, and which most of the world's bishops did not join in any case. The blood of every child aborted since the introduction of “Consecration Lite” cries out to Heaven for vengeance, as Sacred Scripture confirms. But the merchants of “Fatima Lite” continue to peddle their fraudulent products, ignoring the divine warning that stares them in the face.
It is the warning of Fatima which most concerns Father Gruner today. The time for conversion and repentance promised by the Virgin if men cooperated with Her requests must nearly have expired, and the annihilation of nations must nearly be upon us. For many Catholics, there is a palpable sense that this is true. But for too many others, there is denial. “To whom shall I speak? And to whom shall I testify that he may hear? Their ears are uncircumcised and they cannot hear...And they healed the breach of the daughter of my people disgracefully, saying ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace...”10 Thus declared the prophet Jeremiah against the false prophets of Jerusalem, who had made themselves deaf to the warnings of Heaven. In 1998 the false prophets have made their ears deaf to the Message of Fatima. “Peace, peace”, they say, when there is no peace.
Father Nicholas Gruner does not claim to be a Jeremiah. He has never claimed to be anything but a Catholic priest who can see what is manifest: that the promises of Our Lady have not come to pass, and that the fault cannot be Hers. He will not say ‘peace, peace’, when he can see there is no peace. He will not commit that sin. He resolves to go on with what he is doing until God no longer permits it. He will pray for the strength to do so.
Introibo ad altare Dei. I will go unto the altar of God. The prayer of the Mass ascends to Heaven in the private chapel of Father Gruner's modest dwelling. Anyone who has seen Father Gruner offer Mass will be reminded that he is, before all things, a priest. He offers Mass as he always does, in the ancient Latin rite of the Catholic Church. Here, too, the words of Jeremiah may be recalled: “Stand ye on the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, which is the good way, and walk ye in it, and you will find refreshment for your souls...”11
Early in 1997, while Father Gruner was in Rome seeking a canon lawyer to defend him, Cardinal Ratzinger gave a press conference at which he introduced his newly-published memoirs. In those memoirs, the Cardinal concedes what had been obvious all along: The drastic reforms of the Mass in 1969 had caused “extremely serious damage” to the Church12, and the suppression of the “old Mass” was a “break in the history of the liturgy, the consequences of which could only be tragic.”13 And most significant in light of the Third Secret, which the Cardinal has read: “I am convinced that the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part on the collapse of the liturgy.”14
For nearly 30 years the post-conciliar revolutionaries and their active and passive collaborators had mocked and marginalized “traditionalist” Catholics as “disobedient” and “disloyal” to the Pope, for saying the very things now being said by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal Ratzinger is known to be the closest advisor to the Pope — the same Pope in whose hands Father Gruner's libellus15 had been placed nearly two years before by a pair of bishops and a young man pushing a wheelchair. As 1998 draws to a close, there was no word on Father Gruner's final appeals to the Apostolic Signatura, nor any word on the libellus which had been lodged with the Pope. Yet Father Gruner found some small measure of relief and hope in what the Cardinal had said in his memoirs. The tide was perhaps beginning to turn, not merely for him but for the whole Church. The Message of Fatima might yet be heeded; the new Jerusalem might yet avoid the fate of the old.
After Mass in the private chapel, there would, as always, be many additional prayers at the altar. Father Gruner would kneel serenely for nearly half an hour on a solid wood kneeler which would cause others to squirm in pain in a few moments. Later there would be the Divine Office, and always the Rosary. Some three hours that day, and every day, would be consumed by prayer. Mass after Mass, Rosary after Rosary, would be offered for the Consecration of Russia and the Apostolate devoted to its promulgation.
As the priest prays, his prayers are joined by those of bishops, priests, religious and laity around the world who have stood by him and supported his work despite all the controversy it has engendered. Why do they do so? The answer to that question cannot be found in any mere attachment to the man. The man is no more important than other men. The answer is found in what he says. For what he says is only what Our Lady said at Fatima.
The priest on his knees in the little chapel understands that the Message of Fatima is the urgent plea of a Mother to Her children, at a time of unprecedented peril for a world which grows more rebellious by the hour: “Only I can help you,” She said at Fatima. By the grace of God obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the priest believes this as a child believes it — literally, and with his whole heart. So, by that same grace, do many others. But not enough.
On a stage far vaster than the distance between Canada and Rome, the drama of Fatima moves swiftly toward its conclusion. In the fading light of a secluded chapel, Father Gruner prays. On the left side of the altar where he has just offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a statue of the Pilgrim Virgin, blessed at Fatima by the very Pope who proclaimed that Mary is Mother of the Church as well as Mother of God. The Pilgrim Virgin smiles down upon the kneeling priest, as She has throughout the twenty years of their travels together.
The Apostolate goes on, and the man they call “Fatima Priest” continues to guide dissemination of the Message of Fatima to millions. To the bewilderment of the anti-Fatima forces, the Apostolate continues to gather support for the cause of Our Lady of Fatima from Catholics around the world. In the end, it can only be explained by the priest's unwavering adherence to a Message which is not his, or any mere man's, but Hers. The many Catholics who support Father Gruner and his work bear witness, therefore, that his survival despite all opposition is owing to nothing more or less than this: He tells the truth.
1. Fatima in Lucia's Own Words (Sister Lucia's Memoirs) Fatima, 1976 pg. 162.
3. Solidarity Loses Polish Parliament Vote on Sex Education in School, CWN, December 31, 1997.
4. Interview of Sister Lucy by Father Fuentes Dec. 26, 1957. Quoted in Fatima: Tragedy and Triumph, pg. 27, by Frère François de Marie des Anges.
5. Fátima Ante La Esfinge by Father Joaquin María Alonso, pg. 107; also, The Fatima Crusader, issue 50, pg. 14; also in the article written by Abbé Pierre Caillon, issue 16, pg. 23. Both authors quote the communication of Jesus to Sister Lucy in May of 1936.
6. Fatima in Lucia's Own Words (Sister Lucia's Memoirs) Fatima, 1976 pg. 162.
8. L 'Osservatore Romano, March 26-27, 1984, pgs. 1, 6, reporting on the remarks of the Holy Father made on March 25.
9. The encyclical Evangelii Praecones.
10. Jer. 6:14.
11. Jer 6:16.
12. La Mia Vita (The Memoirs of Cardinal Ratzinger) as quoted in Latin Mass magazine, Summer 1997, pg. 8 in the article entitled “Aid and Comfort from Ratzinger”.
15. Rome, Nov. 20, 1996 A Canonical Petition to His Holiness John Paul II, Appen. VII, Fatima Priest, first edition, pg. 328.