In 2000, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger clarified the signs and symbols found in the Marian apparitions
For the past century individuals around the world have developed theories meant to decipher the hidden message of the three “secrets” of Fatima. Yet, Sister Lucia said herself that “the interpretation belonged not to the visionary but to the Church.” It is up to the Church to interpret the various signs and symbols of Our Lady of Fatima to give the faithful a clear guide in understanding what God wants to reveal to us.
The Church did exactly that in the year 2000 when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a lengthy theological commentary and interpretation of the famous “Third Secret.” He was charged with the task of clarifying the signs and symbols found in the visions of Our Lady, and made some striking discoveries.
Here are five surprising revelations found in the “Third Secret” of Our Lady of Fatima as interpreted by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI).
Penance, Penance, Penance!
1. “The key word of this third part is the threefold cry: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’ The beginning of the Gospel comes to mind: ‘Repent and believe the Good News’ (Mk 1:15). To understand the signs of the times means to accept the urgency of penance – of conversion – of faith. This is the correct response to this moment of history, characterized by the grave perils outlined in the images that follow.”
The central message of Our Lady of Fatima was “penance.” She sought to remind the world of the need to turn away from evil and repair the damage done by our sins. This is the “key” to understand the rest of the “secret.” Everything revolves around the need for repentance.
We Have Forged the Flaming Sword
2. “The angel with the flaming sword on the left of the Mother of God recalls similar images in the Book of Revelation. This represents the threat of judgement which looms over the world. Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword. The vision then shows the power which stands opposed to the force of destruction—the splendour of the Mother of God and, stemming from this in a certain way, the summons to penance.”
This particular part of the apparition tends to be the most distressing. It appears that God may strike us all down with a “flaming sword.” However, Cardinal Ratzinger makes the point that the “flaming sword” would be something that we create (like the atomic bomb) as opposed to any fire that comes down from heaven. The good news is that the vision records the flaming sword “died out in contact with the splendour [of] Our Lady” in connection to the call of “Penance, Penance, Penance.” The Blessed Mother has the final say and her radiance can stop any cataclysm.
The Future Is Not Set in Stone
3. “The importance of human freedom is underlined: the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed. Indeed, the whole point of the vision is to bring freedom onto the scene and to steer freedom in a positive direction … [The vision] is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction.”
Contrary to popular belief, the intense visions granted by Our Lady of Fatima are not a preview of what will come to pass. They are a preview of what could happen, if we do not respond to Our Lady’s call to penance and conversion of heart. We still retain our free will and are urged to use it for the good of all humanity.
The Blood of Martyrs Is the Seed of the Church
4. “The concluding part of the ‘secret’ … is a consoling vision, which seeks to open a history of blood and tears to the healing power of God. Beneath the arms of the cross angels gather up the blood of the martyrs, and with it they give life to the souls making their way to God … As from Christ’s death, from his wounded side, the Church was born, so the death of the witnesses is fruitful for the future life of the Church. Therefore, the vision of the third part of the ‘secret,’ so distressing at first, concludes with an image of hope: no suffering is in vain, and it is a suffering Church, a Church of martyrs, which becomes a sign-post for man in his search for God.”
It is true that the vision contains much suffering and peril, but it is not in vain. The Church may have to suffer much in the coming years, and this should come as no surprise. The Church has undergone persecution ever since the crucifixion and our suffering in the present time will only produce good effects in the future.
Take Heart. I Have Overcome the World
5. “‘My Immaculate Heart will triumph.’ What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind … The Evil One has power in this world … he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But … the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word … the word that prevails is this: ‘In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world’ (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise.”
To conclude, the “secret” of Fatima gives us hope in the midst of world torn by greed, selfishness and war. Satan will not triumph and his evil plans will be thwarted by the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There may be suffering in the near future, but if we cling tightly to Jesus and His mother, we will remain victorious.