By Father Robert J. Fox, director of Fatima Family Apostolate International
Was it the sun that danced at Fatima on October 13, 1917? In three phases the sun appeared to leave its central position in space and come zig-zag toward the earth like a giant Catherine-wheel so that tens of thousands of witnesses thought the end of the world had come. People called out for God's mercy and forgiveness. Multiple colors alternatively transformed the landscape and the people. Multiple colors for multiple graces. A miracle was foretold months in advance as to the exact day and hour by Our Lady "so that all may believe".
If the miracle of the sun that happened on October 13 was but a natural occurrence, a true physical disturbance in the sun, then it should have registered on astronomical equipment. None was reported by scientists any place in the world. People present felt they could reach up and touch the ball of fire before it reversed itself and ascended back into the shy. It happened in three phases. Many events of Fatima happened in threes.
Atheists who came to scoff were instead awe struck at the miracle. This testifies that what seemed to be the sun hurling itself to the earth was not due to mass hallucination. People who were expecting no miracle joined as one with the multitude of witnesses to the existence and power of the triune God. Fatima is for faith and this miracle was the visible supernatural occurrence to bring people to faith and conversion. It marked the beginning of an "explosion of the supernatural."
If not the luminous celestial body around which the earth and planets revolve, from which they receive heat and light, and which has a mean distance from the earth of 93,000,000 miles - what was it? I submit that as a foreshadowing of a new Pentecost it was a sign of the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit which would be ever more manifested in the present century now drawing to a close. It foreshadowed the new Pentecost that will accompany the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Pope Leo XIII dedicated this century to the Holy Spirit and heaven took the Pope seriously.
Members of the Church, as the present century draws to a close, in preparation of the coming of the third millennium, are ever more conscious of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Pope John Paul II says: "The Church cannot prepare for the new millennium in any other way than in the Holy Spirit." (TMA 1994)
The apostles were so powerfully regenerated at the first Pentecost with the visible signs of tongues of fire that it is known as the birthday of the Church. St. Augustine, early in the fifth century, said: "What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church."
We are living at the close of the century of the greatest changes ever known in the world or in the Church. The last fifty years has seen more change in scientific technology and acquiring of natural knowledge than since the beginning of the creation of man. The problem is that mankind's morality has not kept up with man's technology. Only by openness to the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the souls of individuals can our faith keep pace with the changing world. True faith does not change. It is immutable. But our understanding of the faith must develop ever deeper. For this and for increased divine life we need the Holy Spirit.
Pope John XXIII, elected to the Chair of Peter only shortly before, suddenly announced in January 1959 that he, who was already 77 years in age, would convene an ecumenical council for the entire Church. He was moved by the Holy Spirit to do this with the certainly that the Holy Spirit was about to bring a new springtime to the Church. Pope Pius XII foresaw this new springtime also, shortly before his death. Pope John Paul II at Fatima in 1991 spoke of the Church being at the day dawn of a new springtime.
The problems the Church faces today are not the result of the Second Vatican Council (1963-65). Had not this Council been called the faith problems of today would be multiple more.
The Second Vatican Council was a Marian Council guided by the Holy Spirit. Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. The Council opened on the feast of the Divine Motherhood of Mary (October 11, 1962). It closed on the feast of the Immaculate Conception (1965). There is no outpouring of the Holy Spirit except in communion with the intercessory prayer of Mary, Mother of the Church.
Ten days after Vatican II Council opened it issued a message to the world. It said: "Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we intend to renew ourselves and to become better witnesses of the Gospel. We strive to offer the people of this age the truth of God in a pure form, so they can understand it and accept it freely."
Each Pope since 1930 has said in some way, "Fatima is a reaffirmation of the Gospels." Our Lady was a catechist at Fatima in seeing the lack of knowledge and love for Jesus Christ and His Church's teachings engulfing the world. Heaven foresaw the godlessness of the 20 century getting underway. Diabolic hatred and the spirit of atheism and materialism became the signs of the time. Such was to bring the greatest persecution to Christianity in its 2000 years. But Fatima gave a supernatural sign of the Holy Spirit that would overcome in Christ and the members His Mystical Body the forces of evil.
Our Lady after showing the terrible vision of hell said: "But in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph." That triumph of the Spouse of the Holy Spirit can come only with a new and special outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the life of the Church and the lives of us all. Her Heart and the Heart of Her Son and the Soul of the Church are inseparable.
Our Lady started the charismatic movement of the Holy Spirit of the present century at Fatima. No less than Fr. Joachim Alonso, official historian of Fatima, said to me: "The Holy Spirit is working in the Church today through Fatima." Heaven took seriously Pope Leo XIII consecrating this century to the Holy Spirit and responded through the intercession of our heavenly Mother.
On May 18, 1986 Pope John Paul II looked forward to the third millennium and issued the encyclical letter, Dominum et Vivificantem, On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World.
In the Holy Spirit encyclical the Pope said: "Thus one can understand the profound reason why the Church, united with the Virgin Mother, prays unceasingly as the Bride to her divine Spouse, ... `The Spirit and the bride say to the Lord Jesus Christ: Come.'"
As individuals we must ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit. That Holy Spirit is the Soul of the Church. Thus we can know the Spirit acting in us is Holy and not otherwise when we pray, think and act with the Church.