By Charlie Johnston
Last week, the Priest who keeps the archives of material I produce forwarded me this piece from Crisis Magazine with the note that it strongly supports my interpretation of the Third Secret of Fatima made over 21 years ago. Note that no apparitions or visitations were involved in that interpretation. Rather, when I first read the text of the actual secret on June 27, 2000, I recognized it as familiar territory from the totality of my life experiences and contemplation. The text of that secret as written by Fatima visionary Sr. Lucia, released by the Vatican at Pope St. John Paul’s order on June 26 of the same year, reads:
“I write in obedience to you, my God, who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine.
“After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendor that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’. And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father’. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”
Some have argued that this is not the complete secret. Possible, I suppose, but I find it most unlikely. To believe that, I would have to believe that this sainted Pope was intentionally deceptive. I would have to further believe that then Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI), the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the then still-living Sr. Lucia were co-conspirators with him in the deception. Good interpretation is brutally hard as it is. I prefer to act with great restraint. That does not mean that there is never a conspiracy afoot, but I have to see real evidence or compelling logic to consider such a thing. To believe that both St. John Paul and the future Pope Benedict, who risked death when they were young to live fidelity to their faith and that Sr. Lucia, who gave her whole life in orthodox service to the Lord, suddenly became cheap, deceptive hucksters defies all logic. People who think everything is a conspiracy simply put the cart before the horse. They come up with some wacky narrative of their own devising and torture all facts and evidence that come to light to contradict it to support their own narrative. It is the modern form of Gnosticism, the seduction of claiming secret knowledge that is counter-factual and counter-logical. It’s a fool’s game that does not just complicate interpretation, but makes it impossible. If somebody begins a conversation by assuring you that they are nobody’s fool or that they know the score, prepare yourself for a lengthy fact-free and unhinged rant. It is a waste of time and a playground for the devil.
I had been a great admirer of St. John Paul II from early in his papacy, while I was still a Protestant. It seemed to me that the abuses that were commonplace among clerics in the ‘70s and ‘80s, all justified under the “spirit of Vatican II” were simply attacks on the faith, itself. They were the rotting wood afflicting the ship of faith – and were contrary to the Documents of Vatican II. The “spirit” of Vatican II is like the “penumbras” liberal judges always assign to the Constitution – a means of contradicting what the documents actually say in order to justify what those clerics and judges want. By the ‘90s Pope St. John Paul was a veritable fountain of orthodoxy, issuing perhaps the most magnificent series of Encyclicals in history, defining and securing the ancient orthodox interpretations of faith, salvation, our evangelical calling, marriage and the family. He was relentlessly pulling away all the rotted timber from the ship of faith and replacing it with new, seasoned lumber to prepare the ship for a great crisis. It was hard for opponents to credibly argue that Pope St. John Paul was violating the “spirit” of Vatican II since he had been one of the prime intellectual and theological architects of that council.
In September of 1976, during a tour of the United States, then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope St. John Paul II was reported to have said in Philadelphia that:
“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine Providence; it is a trial which the whole Church, and the Polish Church in particular, must take up. It is a trial of not only our nation and the Church, but, in a sense, a test of 2,000 years of culture and Christian civilization with all of its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights and the rights of nations.”
As I contemplated the fountain of orthodoxy pouring forth from Pope St. John Paul, particularly in the ‘90s, I did not think that would finish the battle between the Church and the anti-Church, the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. Rather, I believed that St. John Paul was fortifying the ship of faith for the great battle ahead. This is part of the context in which I penned my interpretation of the Third Secret of Fatima and sent copies to my Priest Directors on June 28, 2000. Following is the verbatim text:
“The angel with the sword is the angel of God’s justice. The fire proceeding from the sword is what humanity has merited, especially in this horrible century. Our Lord is offended by many things, but nothing so much as the general indifference and contempt with which we have treated his mother. But it is her constant intercession and pleadings on our behalf which restrains God’s justice.
“The assassination attempt against John Paul II and its timing identify him as the pope of Fatima, but it is not the point of this secret. The ascent up the hill represents this pope’s particular mission. The city which lies half in ruins is Christianity, half of which no longer believes in God, but says Jesus was merely a good moral teacher. The corpses the pope meets and prays for on his way are those who, though they breathe, are spiritually dead. The cross at the top of the hill is the end of the pope’s mission on earth. It represents both his triumph and his death to this world. He kneels before it offering his work to Christ. It is after this triumph that the terror begins. It is the body of the pope’s work that the soldiers fire at. That they are in uniform shows that it is an organized effort. These are the legions who have given themselves over to Satan. But the pope has his legions as well. They are the priests and bishops and religious who joined themselves to him and followed him on his way. They will be true champions for Christ as the battle is joined. Prominent among them will be some of the dead souls – the corpses – reborn to spiritual life through the pope’s prayers. – Charlie Johnston, June 28, 2000”
Now the great confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel, is fully joined. And the legions of the satan are firing at St. John Paul’s work right within the very pontifical institute erected in his memory. But as St. John Paul often said, even in the very first words of his pontificate, “Be not afraid!”
The corpses who are spiritually dead now seek to remake the Church in their own desolate image. They will not prevail.
Late in 2017 I was taken to see the aftermath of some of the catastrophic fires in Santa Rosa, California. I wrote about it as follows:
“On Friday, December 1, I was given a tour of some of the fire sites in Santa Rosa, California by friends of mine who knew the damage well. I have never seen anything like it. Usually, when looking at a house that has burned, you see a scorched shell. Here entire neighborhoods and, in one case a small village, were utterly incinerated. Everything was burned to ashes down to the foundation, with only internal brickwork left standing. These were entire neighborhoods. We first visited a community of multi-million-dollar homes, all gone, all incinerated. We visited an older middle-class neighborhood, utterly destroyed. With the strange capriciousness of large-scale fires, occasionally there was a home untouched in the midst of the hundreds destroyed. We visited what was once a K-Mart that was now ashes and block – adjacent to an untouched strip mall that shared a parking lot with it.
The day after Thanksgiving in 1974, my family’s home burned up. I remember marveling at seeing an old wall phone incinerated with melted metal remains laying in a scorched pool on the shelf below. Meanwhile, less than a foot away on the same shelf, a soft rubber toy was intact with barely a scorch mark showing. A room was entirely consumed – except for a painting on the wall that was untouched, though everything around it was black. Fire is mercurial. Such extensive, comprehensive and complete destruction is amazing, though. It must have been hyper-hot, because cars parked on former curbs were also incinerated. In many cases, the wheels had melted like candles.
What was most amazing was that, in the midst of this catastrophic and comprehensive destruction, the trees were hardly touched. A few had minor scorching, but that was the extent of the damage. Even in the middle of vast incineration zones, trees swayed with their leaves fluttering. That’s right: even the leaves on the trees were scarcely touched. I looked at a row of cars along a former curb, one with its back wheel melted to a silver puddle. Less than two feet away stood a bush with its leaves green and healthy. I keep a poker face when visiting any tragic site with others, but I was completely flummoxed by this. I have pondered long and hard on it, speaking to several friends about the peculiarities here. It seemed to me there was more than a fire behind these ashes, that it was in some way a sign. The most insightful comment came from my friend, David Daleiden, who commented that perhaps, in terms of faith, it suggests that what is not living will be consumed and what is alive will be spared, even in the midst of a conflagration. My son suggested that in disaster, we are taken down to the foundation — and then find how sound our foundation is. Those are worthy of contemplation.”
We are in the midst of a growing conflagration. But this tour was a sign for me. What is alive to God in faith, even in the midst of conflagration, will be spared and, even, thrive – down to the most tender leaf. What is dead to God, with all its showy presumption, will be utterly consumed in the flames of its own hubris and swept away.
In his lifetime, Pope St. John Paul the Great busied himself preparing the faith and the faithful for the great confrontation ahead. Now that the great confrontation has begun, I know that St. John Paul intercedes for us constantly from heaven. Be not afraid, for our reclamation is at hand. We live in an age of great heroes rising.
St. John Paul, pray for us!
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