A Word in Season
A Bullet in Our Lady's Crown
John Paul's homily that day—May 13, 2000—summarized the Fátima message:
The message of Fátima is a call to conversion . . .
Man's final goal is heaven, his true home, where the heavenly Father awaits everyone with his merciful love.
God does not want anyone to be lost; that is why 2,000 years ago he sent his Son to earth . . .
In her motherly concern, the Blessed Virgin came here to Fátima to ask men and women "to stop offending God, Our Lord, who is already very offended." It is a mother's sorrow that compels her to speak; the destiny of her children is at stake. For this reason she asks the little shepherds: "Pray, pray much and make sacrifices for sinners; many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them." (John Paul II, Homily, Beatification Mass, May 13, 2000)
Then, at the conclusion of Mass, John Paul II did something remarkable. He invited Cardinal Angelo Sodano to reveal the contents of the third part of Secret of Fátima. Not only did it foreshadow the ongoing struggle against evil, but the very attempt on the pope's life.
[Concerning the third part of the message:] According to the interpretation of the "little shepherds," which was also recently confirmed by Sister Lucia, the "Bishop clothed in white" who prays for all the faithful is the Pope. As he makes his way with great effort towards the Cross amid the corpses of those who were martyred (Bishops, priests, men and women religious and many lay persons), he too falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a burst of gunfire.
After the assassination attempt of 13 May 1981, it appeared evident to His Holiness that it was "a motherly hand which guided the bullet's path," enabling the "dying Pope" to halt "at the threshold of death." (Pope John Paul II, Meditation with the Italian Bishops from the Policlinico Gemelli, Insegnamenti, vol XVII/1, 1994, p. 1061) (From the Address of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Fátima, May 13, 2000)
In a theological commentary following the 2000 revelation of the third part of the secret of Fátima, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI), as then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, affirmed Mary's role.
I would like finally to mention another key expression of the "secret" which has become justly famous: "my Immaculate Heart will triumph." What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: "In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world" (Jn. 16:33). The message of Fátima invites us to trust in this promise. (Joseph Card. Ratzinger, The Message of Fátima, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)
Did Mary's hand really guide the bullets away from John Paul II that he might be spared? (Do we Catholics really believe that we have such a mother in the order of grace, as Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church declare?) Blessed John Paul II seemed to think so. His public statements and his actions reflect a remarkable son's love for this venerable Mother.
Just last year, in his own visit to Fátima , Pope Benedict, ever the teacher and keeper of Blessed John Paul's legacy, but also a son of Mary in his own right, remarked in prayer before Our Lady of the Rosary: "It is a profound consolation to know that you are crowned not only with the silver and gold of our joys and hopes, but also with the 'bullet' of our anxieties and sufferings."
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.