(Column of Archbishop Ramon C. Arguelles, D.D. for Ulat Batangan October issue. )
During the WORLD APOSTOLATE OF FATIMA CONGRESS, one German priest lamented that the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference recently decided to reminisce the quincentennial of the emergence of Martin Luther and the Protestant reform as a remarkable event in Church history but no mention was made of the centenary of the apparitions in Fatima which St Pope John Paul II called probably one of the most important happenings in the Church of our times. Benedict XVI, in his visit to Fatima in 2010 encouraged the faithful to make a seven year preparation for the centenary (2010 – 2017), contending that not all what the Blessed Mother said in Fatima has been fulfilled. That was also left unheeded. Pope Francis realizes the magnitude of that event slating his participation in the Fatima festivities on May 12 to 13, 2017.
The Church in the Philippines is not oblivious of the Fatima phenomenon. Post World War II years witnessed countless people enthused by its spiritual wonder becaming its avid promoters. Fr Patrick Peyton who popularized the importance of the Family Rosary was one of the great Fatima apostles. Fr Roger Moore hopped from country to country, and in the Philippines from parish to parish setting aflame still more the already ardent love of Filipinos for Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, that earned for our Catholic faithful the label PUEBLO AMANTE DE MARIA. Upon hearing the German priest’s lament about the German Catholic Bishops’ apparent misplaced priority (Martin Luther’s rebellion as against the Marian phenomenon), one may ask: can the CBCP be similarly faulted for its silence about next year’s important Church commemoration, namely, the hundredth anniversary of the Fatima apparitions? Without doubt, many bishops, like their faithful and stirred by them, are aware that this year is the hundredth year of the visit of the Angel of Peace to the little shepherds.
Instead bishops are explicably and deeply distressed along with several citizens at the Philippine presidential overtures to China and Russia. Some openly vent their angst that communists have made inroads in government, and the anti-American rhetoric has become the people’s daily bread creating destabilizing consequences in regional and global politics. Others believe that the communist bogeyman raises goose bumps no longer. As a feared ideology communism has become passé if not at death’s door. Russia, or the former Soviet Union, exudes no more the feared character evocative of atheism, cruel dictatorship, religious persecution, oppression, etc. On the contrary, religion thrives in that country which produced martyrs in its land and elsewhere. It is the long-time ‘friend’ that appears to promote a Godless society and while pretending to champion human rights is seen as the power peddling death. Ninety-nine years ago, the Lady of Fatima warned that Russia would spread its errors. It did. But She also asked prayers for the conversion of Russia. It seems the famed Holy Russia comes back acknowledging the true God, returning to her heavenly Mother and Queen. Mary seems more loved there than in the neighbor beyond the tempestuous Pacific, whose economic assistance packages legalized killing of the unborn and the adoption of same sex union and other anti-God policies.
China is still ruled by self-declared communists. But the leaders are no different from other power hungry and market economy wizards of the West. The majority fear the current demagoguery reveals a dangerous shift in the direction of the uncertain path involving loss of long and hard earned friendship ties and the sure support of powerful allies. They are not ready to accept that the former anti-God and highhanded stance is now taken over by former masters who impose a secular view that excludes the Creator and the moral life He demands of creatures. The Blessed Mother indeed gave the warning that China has great designs to make trouble in the region and even the entire world and the Philippines is a primary target. On the other hand, the Holy Mother also pleads for prayer for the conversion of this immense land.
This year is the centenary of the ANGEL OF PEACE who visited three shepherd children in the once unheard of place in the westernmost extremities of Europe to prepare them for the visit of the Lady from Heaven. This angelic year must introduce the year of the QUEEN OF PEACE. Peace is the issue so prevalent these days. In the pursuit of peace even chrch people may be unconsciously drawn to wrong solutions. Peace certainly cannot be achieved by war. Neither does negotiation achieve peace. Most truly peace cannot be bought. The Angel taught the children to pray on their knees and recite: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not bleve, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.” Innocently but truly the children learned from the angel and communicates to all that true peace can be achieved if we believe, adore home in and love God. Is this not what is lacking in the world. The children pleads for those who fail to believe, adore, hope in and love God. This is the duty of the Church. There is no peace in the world because, following the iniquity of the enemy of God, humanity makes himself his god, knowingly and unknowingly. When the true God is not acknowledged and adored, false gods appear. This is the reason for the lack of peace. Therefore the Queen of Peace appeals to humanity (1) to pray which in the first place means adore the true God. (2) pray especially the Rosary, because the Rosary is the meditation of the Life of Jesus as lived by Mary and of the life of Mary s totally taken up by Jesus, (3) to be converted (to return) to the Lord, (4) to make reparation for the sinfulness of the world, (5) to go to confession and the Eucharist which is being reconciled and united to God, (6) to be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The call is as simple as that.
The world is in great upheaval. Many solutions have been offered by great and intelligent minds. Even within the Church intellectuals and exprts have their contrasting remedies. The Holy Mother says it very simply: Pray, Pray, Pray. Return to God. In the pursuit of elusive peace we need Mary to tell us still and remind us: Peace is a gift from Heaven, peace is from Heaven, from God, peace is God. It cannot be found elsewhere, only in God. A hundred years after the Fatima apparitions, in the time of even greater trouble than ever, the Queen of Peace needs to remind us where peace can be attained. Not outside God but only from God Who sends the world the Prince of Peace. #UB