30 years ago today, Pope John Paul II took a bullet for Christ and His Church:
Much like a magnifying glass concentrates the rays of the sun into a burning focal point, on that day the forces of evil concentrated all their destructive desire on St Peter’s Square. Why? Just imagine for a moment that they had been successful. Imagine that the hand of Our Lady did not redirect those bullets. Imagine a JP2-less Church. Surely we’d have no Theology of the Body. Perhaps no contemplating the Face of Christ. The misguided ‘spirit of Vatican II’ might still have us uneasy about devotion to our Blessed Mother. The true dignity of women and their feminine genius would almost certainly be less explored. Would we be striving to live a civilization of love and a spirituality of communion? Would we be casting out into the deep in a new evangelization? We might still be afraid.
What would John Paul II have us remember especially today? I suspect he would want us most of all to continue to be directed toward Jesus by the message of Our Lady of Fatima. John Paul II visited Fatima on the first anniversary of his taking of that bullet. Here are some of the things he said:
I come here today because on this very day last year, in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, the attempt on the Pope’s life was made, in mysterious coincidence with the anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima, which occurred on 13 May 1917.
In the light of the mystery of Mary’s spiritual motherhood, let us seek to understand the extraordinary message, which began on 13 May, 1917 to resound throughout the world from Fatima, continuing for five months until 13 October of the same year.
“Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15): these are the first words that the Messiah addressed to humanity. The message of Fatima is, in its basic nucleus, a call to conversion and repentance, as in the Gospel. This call was uttered at the beginning of the twentieth century, and it was thus addressed particularly to this present century. The Lady of the message seems to have read with special insight the “signs of the times”, the signs of our time.
The call to repentance is a motherly one, and at the same time it is strong and decisive. The love that “rejoices in the truth” (cf. 1 Cor 13:) is capable of being clear-cut and firm. The call to repentance is linked, as always, with a call to prayer. In harmony with the tradition of many centuries, the Lady of the message indicates the Rosary, which can rightly be defined as “Mary’s prayer”: the prayer in which she feels particularly united with us. She herself prays with us. The rosary prayer embraces the problems of the Church, of the See of Saint Peter, the problems of the whole world. In it we also remember sinners, that they may be converted and saved, and the souls in Purgatory.
In the light of a mother’s love we understand the whole message of the Lady of Fatima. The greatest obstacle to man’s journey towards God is sin, perseverance in sin, and, finally, denial of God. The deliberate blotting out of God from the world of human thought. The detachment from him of the whole of man’s earthly activity. The rejection of God by man.
In reality, the eternal salvation of man is only in God. Man’s rejection of God, if it becomes definitive, leads logically to God’s rejection of man (cf. Mt 7:23; 10:33), to damnation.
And so, while the message of Our Lady of Fatima is a motherly one, it is also strong and decisive. It sounds severe. It sounds like John the Baptist speaking on the banks of the Jordan. It invites to repentance. It gives a warning. It calls to prayer. It recommends the Rosary.
The message is addressed to every human being. The love of the Saviour’s Mother reaches every place touched by the work of salvation. Her care extends to every individual of our time, and to all the societies nations and peoples. Societies menaced by apostasy, threatened by moral degradation. The collapse of morality involves the collapse of societies.