Monday, May 15, 2017

'What does Fatima mean?' by Hamish Fraster

Hamish Fraser with a dove
on his head: one released
during a Fatima conference
in Paris.
I'm not an expert on Fatima, but I thought that this excerpt from Hamish Fraser's book Fatal Star serves a useful contrast, and perhaps corrective, to certain conventional views of 'the message of Fatima'. The blog title is taken from a section heading in the book, p145, and the passage below follows it.

It is true that Our Lady of of Fatima did ask for prayer: for the Daily Rosary, the First Saturday devotion, and for the wearing of the brown scapular. Nevertheless, these are purely incidental to the essence of the Fatima message. This was made clear to John Haffert ... of the international Fatima apostolate...

When Haffert asked Sister Lucia whether the principle [sic] request of her heavenly visitor was for the Rosary, Sister Lucy's answer was most emphatically in the negative. Moreover, he affirms that her reply was given with a quite "surprising assurance" [from Haffert Russia will be Converted]. And Haffert, who is far too honest not to admit it, tells us that until then he had always assumed that the Rosary to be Our Lady's principal request.

When he asked what was her principal request, the reply came with no less assurance: "Penance".

Nor did the penance requested imply any spectacular recourse to fasting, flagellation or the wearing of hair shirts. According to Sister Lucia, Our Lady made it perfectly clear that all she was asking for was "the faithful accomplishment of our daily duties". And she proceeded to explain that Our Lady had requested the Daily Rosary, the First Saturday devotions and the wearing of the brown scapular, in order that the Faithful might have the spiritual fortitude necessary to the leading of truly Christian lives.

In other words, Fatima is the complete answer to the spurious piety of the gunman with a prayer on his lips.

As a former active and senior member of the Communist Party, both in the Spanish Civil War and in industrial Glasgow, Fraser was particularly interested in the connection with the conversion of Russia. He goes on to argue that, quite aside from any spectacular supernatural intervention, Russia's conversion would be inevitable if the Church's social teaching was manifested in the daily lives (including the work lives) of Catholics around the world.

In light of this recognition, the Catholic business man would not confine himself to making generous donations to the Church; in the market place no less than in the sacristy he would make it abundantly clear that to all and sundry that business need not always mean mere business. As an employer of labour, he would, like the Harmels and Alan Turner, provide a living example of the meaning of the great social encyclicals.

The Catholic worker would be similarly distinguished from the herd of the class-conscious. An ardent defender of justice for his fellow-workers and a conscientious member of his trade union, he would seek to give to the latter that Christian idealism which in the nineteenth century so distinguished the British trade unions from their anti-religious counterparts on the Continent. Insisting on the dignity of labour, he would insist no less on the humanity of the employer, and would refuse to be stampeded by the prevalent assumption that the doctrine of original sin is applicable only to owners of capital. ...

If, therefore, only the Catholic business men and the Catholic workers in our hypothetical parish were thus won over to realise that meaning of Christ's Kingship as it affected their daily lives, the mission of the Church would become visible for the first time in the modern world to the non-Catholic section of the population no less than to the Faithful themselves.

Fatal Star was first published in 1954. While I agree entirely with Fraser's point about the lost opportunity of the pre-conciliar era in the implementation (or even effective promulgation) of the Church's social teaching, compared with today the Faith was remarkably clearly manifested in the daily lives of Catholics at that time, and this was indeed why the Church enjoyed, again compared with today, such buoyant rates of conversion. It was manifested in practices like Friday abstinence, the stoic response of Catholics to prejudice and discrimination, the reluctance of Catholics to marry outside the Faith (which was connected with the large number of 'marriage converts'), and increasingly counter-cultural Catholic attitudes to divorce, abortion, euthanasia, contraception, and family size. Fraser could have no idea how bad things were about to become.

Not many Catholics today could hope to take a significant practical hand in influencing their work-places in light of Catholic social teaching, but the general point is more important than ever. Living our lives in a truly Catholic way means allowing the Faith to make a difference to what we actually do, and the difference it makes will be a stark one in many areas of life. We certainly can't respond to the message of Fatima if we are not doing this much.

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