It happened 100 years ago this last week. July 13, 1917. The Blessed Virgin Mary made her third appearance to the three shepherd children in Fatima Portugal. This apparition, the third of six, was different however. This one she had prepared them for in a special way. In this visit, the Blessed Mother showed the children the very vision of Hell.
Now some might say what a horrible thing to do to three small children, 10, 8 and 7? But had she not prepared them ahead of time, with heavenly grace, and by sending the angel of peace, then it would be tantamount to spiritual and mental torture. But she had given them special graces to help them understand what they were to experience.
Sr. Lucia later would recall the vision. She said: “We saw as it were a sea of fire…Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form … amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear.”
Too many people in our world don’t think Hell is real. They want to believe in Heaven, but not Hell. And yet, these children, 100 years ago, saw the very reality of Hell. You and I live in a world that has lost all sense of that. We live in a world that has lost all sense of that reality. Too many people want to believe that God is all merciful and that He would never allow His children to see Hell and be deprived from His Glory. That simply is a false reality and a false doctrine. God is Merciful, but He is also Just. And in His Justice, He must not force us into Heaven, when our sins have rightly condemned us to Hell.
Remember in the act of contrition, we pray: “I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell.” Those are not empty words, but a theological truth. They must also be a truth that we cling to and hold fast.
Pope after pope, from Venerable Pope Pius XII to our current Holy Father has warned the Church that the greatest sin in the world today is the loss of the sense of sin. Too many people do not believe that there is any sin, and no sin that would force them out of Heaven and into Hell.
Let me share with you the words of a modern day sage. He writes these words:
If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness.
I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — thee.
So, I would set about however necessary to take over the United States.
I’d subvert the churches first, and I would begin with a campaign of whispers.
With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.”
To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square.
And the old, I would teach to pray after me, “Our Father, which are in Washington …”
Then, I’d get organized, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting.
I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.
If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves and nations at war with themselves until each, in its turn, was consumed.
And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.
If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions. I’d tell teachers to let those students run wild. And before you knew it, you’d have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.
Within a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and then from the houses of Congress.
In his own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I’d lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.
If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious.
What’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?
I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun and that what you see on television is the way to be.
And thus, I could undress you in public and lure you into bed with diseases for which there are no cures.
In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.
Those words are prophetic, are they not. You might think they are contemporary, wouldn’t you? However they are not the words of a modern day prophet, nor of a theologian, but of American radio hall of fame broadcaster, Paul Harvey, and they were broadcast in 1964. Perhaps he was prophetic. Because those words are as relevant today as they were when he first aired them 53 years ago.
You see, the only way the devil wins, is if we do not repent of our sins and seek God’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God’s Mercy and forgiveness can be found there, where His Mercy overflows and He restores us to our sonship/ our daughtership. It is there that we come face to face with Divine Justice and Infinite Mercy.
And in closing, let us not forget the words the angel of peace taught those shepherd children to pray: now immortalized in the rosary:
Oh my Jesus, forgive us of our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy. Amen.