By David M. Carollo –
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Twenty-three years ago, I spent the new year in Rome leading a group of choir children and parents/chaperones on a pilgrimage. The choir sang at several venues coinciding with the welcoming of the new year – a new century, a new millennium. As the clock ticked down on December 31, 1999, we made our way to the Vatican where the crowds awaited with the Holy Father Pope St. John Paul II and several celebrities to pass this milestone in prayerful celebration. It was a joyful evening.
Many of you will remember the predictions of the Y2K meltdown that at midnight 1999/2000, all the world’s computers would zero out and shut down, leading to mass panic. I recalled the scene from the 1951 science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still when the power around the world had been neutralized by an alien race demonstrating their might. There was a remake that did not live up to the original in my opinion, but I digress. I am not a movie critic.
Making frequent trips to Europe during that time, I carried a cellphone which was very basic compared to today’s smartphones. I had several different chips that I would insert depending on which country I was visiting. Soon after the bells rang at midnight and the Holy Father imparted his blessing, I attempted to make a call, but the phone was dead. ‘Yikes,’ I thought! Perhaps these people were right, and we were returning to the stone age, writing with pencil and paper again. It turns out that the phone company TIM was free of charge and the system was jammed up. Whew, no horse and buggy taxis or returning to the US by sailing ship!
I was never one to be overly concerned about warnings of cataclysmic events, of which there have been many in my lifetime. The claim was always that the end of life as we know it was at hand. In the early 1980s, there was a prediction that the planets would align, and some strange gravitational disruption would leave us floating into space. In fact, they did align, as astronomers knew, but life continued as normal. We can easily get lost in this quagmire of fear and unrealistic concern over things that could happen, although prudence dictates that we should always prepare for difficult times, especially spiritually. If one escaped the world by hiding in a bunker, they might survive a disaster but suffer the greater loss of not interacting with others. Our duty is to engage the world, not hide from it.
Conquering Warnings with Fatima Taught Repentance
In the ’90s, I visited Akita, Japan, and spent several days with the Sisters at the “Seitai Hoshikai” (Institute of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist). It was a memorable personal pilgrimage. I learned what was stated in this Church approved apparition: “If men do not repent and better themselves, fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful.” A dire warning, yes, but nothing that cannot be avoided by true repentance. At Fatima, Mary warned us that nations could be annihilated. In fact, the third part of the Fatima secret showed an angel with a flaming sword about to thrust a conflagration upon the earth, but Our Lady held back his arm.
Numerous wars this past century and the tremendous decrease in births by choice are accomplishing this prediction of annihilation. Nothing spectacular is needed here to fulfill the warning. These are brought on by our actions or inaction. Rather than look for the fire in the sky or the waters of the flood, we need to look to the moment we will account for our lives individually, both our deeds and misdeeds. No predicted cataclysmic event will matter.
Fear is Anathema to Christianity
Predictions of doom and gloom will continue. Will we be fearful victims or strong advocates? Understanding that either by His direct or permissive will He allows chastisement to occur should not paralyze us, but lead us to a healthy fear of God and His dominion over creation.
I was disappointed in people and institutions that cowered in fear during the Covid pandemic. The shutdown of the world, especially churches at a time when the grace of God was most needed, is hard to reconcile. Examples such as the closing of the Shrine of Lourdes, the site of numerous physical miracles, when perhaps wider access to the healing waters there could have been beneficial, is hard to grasp. The famous Oberammergau Passion Play in Germany canceled the 2020 performances, breaking a promise to reenact the exceptional event of our salvation. The greatest irony is that this event held every ten years was initiated as a thanksgiving for the town being spared of the Black Plague in 1634. Faith saved the people of the town. I will not speculate as to the motivations of officials, but I think that people of faith would not have been so paralyzed by fear. A dangerous precedent was set during this time. Knee jerk reactions rarely have long term benefits. I cannot speak about the health aspects that may have been achieved by the isolation of people, but I firmly believe that any physical benefit gained has been offset by detrimental psychological effects. Fear is anathema to Christianity. Throughout history, saints exhibited the greatest courage, many paying the ultimate temporal price. The Apostles were told by Christ that they would suffer difficult earthly ends, leaving the seeds of the Faith behind.
Reconciling: This is the Fatima Message
We work to bring all to the Faith, but our first duty is to live properly, no matter how many times we have fallen. Imperfection is our lot. Attaining perfection is our goal. By prayer and education, we hope to lead others to do what only they can do – reconcile their own lives. This is the Fatima message. This is the charge of all Catholics.
St. Jacinta Marto exhibited the courage of a soldier when she lived her last days alone in a hospital in Lisbon, offering her suffering for the conversion of sinners. This young girl was not afraid to die, but more importantly, she was not afraid to live and keep gaining merit for the souls of sinners. We should not be afraid of death if we live in accord with the rules of life, but we cannot avoid fear of death if we are afraid to live. If the terrible events often predicted have not occurred, it is because God is giving us a chance to correct the errant path of our world. Let us make the best of it.
God bless you and Mary keep you in her Immaculate Heart.
David M. Carollo is the Executive Director of the World Apostolate of Fatima USA/National Blue Army Shrine. He wrote this for his Voice of Fatima column.