Fatima 1917: The Dawn of Light and Hope

We take the title for today’s post from a chapter in Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité’s Volume II, where he recounts the period that followed the series of apparitions at the Cova da Iria, near Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

As we brace ourselves for this Pope’s next publicity stunt at Fatima to “commemorate” the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s first visit in the series of apparitions, let us consider what happened immediately after October 13, 1917. As we have related previously, those events  caused even the enemies of the  Church to admit that something  had occurred for which they had no explanation.

Frère Michel  tells us that Portugal had suffered under anti-Christian freemasonry for generations prior to Our Lady’s visitations to Fatima, with continued persecution of the Church and Bishops being exiled. However,

“… after May 13, 1917, everything soon changed in the souls of the faithful, when they learned that the Blessed Virgin Herself, their Queen and their Mother, and Heavenly Protectress, had deigned to visit them. With a single blow, She caused hope to spring up anew, along with the certainty of the victory of The Faith against the persecutors. If Heaven deigned to intervene, the ratio of strength between the forces was soon to be reversed.” …

“Faced with this great movement of faith and popular devotion, the sect (that is, freemasons) and all the public authorities remained powerless, inert. They did not know what to do. They could do nothing, because they had found a force more powerful than they were. Finally! As for the good people, who up until then had been continually oppressed, scorned for their faith and age-old devotions, they left on the evening of October 13 comforted and full of hope. They were sure that as God and His Holy Mother had manifested Their power in such a striking way, they would also gain a great victory over all the enemies of religion. As the journalist of O Seculo relates:  “The first pilgrims to leave are those who had come first, with their shoes atop their heads or suspended from their canes. Their souls are full of joy as they leave, to spread the good news in the villages, …”

The Portuguese historian Costa Brochado reported that on October 14, 1917,  the day following the Miracle of the Sun, in the municipal elections, the Catholics won by 750 votes. It was the first defeat in a very long time for the freemasons and results of Our Lady’s intervention were beginning to be felt throughout the country.

The most fanatical elements within the carbonari were furious at this setback. They wanted to attempt a spectacular operation to ridicule the events of Fatima … On October 22, the freemasons of the district of Santarem decided to   vandalize the place of the apparitions.  Under cover of darkness, the night of October 22-23, they proceeded to the Cova, where they demolished the primitive shrine erected by the peasants carrying off the little rustic altar, the lanterns, a crucifix and an image of Our Lady.

Lúcia later wrote of this,  “In the morning, news of what had happened spread like wildfire. I ran to the place to see if it were true. … I then asked Our Lady to forgive these poor men and I prayed for their conversion.” Frère Michel’s Volume II has many interesting anecdotes  about the faithful peasants’ resistance to the freemasons’ attempts to counteract the growing cult of Our Lady of Fatima, including causing donkeys to bray during the freemasons’  speeches against the Blessed Virgin’s apparitions.  But for now, we pass on to a remarkable although short-lived event that holds a message for us in these times as  well.

The Government of  Sidónio Pais – December 8, 1917 – December 14, 1918
Sidónio Pais – The President-King

“After seven years of violent and fanatical persecution, after a century of being banned from public life, as if by a miracle, the Church suddenly recovered all its liberties which it had a right to, and needed, to fulfill its work of saving souls. The event is particularly remarkable since the man who put an end to this long situation of who put an end to this long situation of injustice – and with great decision and rapidity, since it was all accomplished in a year! – had no clerical affiliations at all.

“Sidónio Pais had been a professor at Coimbra and a commander in the army. Before becoming Minister of State, he had been ambassador to Berlin until March, 1916. A member of the Unionist Party of Brito Comacho, he was known to be a die-hard republican and connected with Freemasonry. Sidónio Pais decided to put an end to the anarchy which was leading his country to disaster. Having rallied around him some of the saner forces of the Republic, he led a coup d’état to salvage Portugal. Launched on December 5, his revolution  “against the demagogy of the democrats”  was immediately welcomed by public opinion. The historians of Fatima have not failed to point out a happy coincidence.  It was on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the patronal feast of Portugal, which that year fell precisely on a Saturday, that the national uprising obtained its definitive victory.

The French historian Albert-Alain Bourdon, who hardly had the solemnity of the Heavenly Patroness in mind, wrote:  “Sidónio Pais triumphed over his adversaries on December 8. He decreed the dissolution of Parliament, and had himself named by a revolutionary junta President of the Republic and head of the dictatorial government.”

There then opened a completely new era for Portugal, a wonderful surprise for Catholics. Making a clean break with republican Jacobinism, Sidónio Pais immediately wished to return to the Church all her liberties, and restore the best national traditions. Is it not astonishing that this former high-ranking freemason considered reconciliation of the political power with the Church his most urgent and important task?

Liberating Laws

Since that time, measures tending to compensate the Church for the wrongs she suffered in the revolution of 1910 followed each other almost uninterruptedly. On December 9, 1917, the very day after his victory, Sidónio Pais lifted all sanctions taken against the bishops, who were thus enabled to return from exile. On December 22, a decree suppressed the prohibition of worship in religious edifices which the State had appropriated. On February 22, other dispositions of the law of separation that were harmful to the Church were abolished.

By February of 1918, the bishops, who were now free to meet at Lisbon, could write to Pope Benedict XV that the situation was improving.  On May 15, Sidónio Pais attended a solemn service in the Cathedral of Lisbon for the soldiers who died in the war. He was warmly congratulated by the bishop who preached the sermon.  By these kinds of gestures, making a clean break with the sectarianism of his immediate predecessors, the new head of State fearlessly demonstrated the new orientation of his policy. …

Little by little, Sidónio Pais revived the soul of the nation, openly renewing its great Catholic tradition. …  On June 28, 1918, a communiqué announced the reconciliation of the Republic with Rome. On July 4, the Pope congratulated Sidónio Pais and his government, and on July 10 there could be read in the official Journal the decree re-establishing the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

Frère Michel continues,

“Fortified by the support of the majority of the nation, the one-man-ruler pursued his work imperturbably, to the great fury of his former comrades, the freemasons:  “Commander Pais will give the Republic to the Jesuits!”  exclaimed José do Vale.  “The churches are reopening!” And in fact, Sidónio Pais was not content with letting several religious congregations return to the country; he was preparing a law which would restore all rights to the Society of Jesus.

This time he had gone too far. Already the Masonic sect had decided on his ruin. Sidónio Pais, who was aware of the anticlerical rage of his adversaries, no doubt expected reprisals, but he kept an intrepid courage. Costa Brochado, the Portuguese historian, reports this astonishing testimony:  “One of his police officers, the trusty Lieutenant Faria, told me one day that Sidónio Pais considered himself protected by the Blessed Virgin, and that at the end of his life he had “encouraging visions” which gave him an irresistible power.” After questioning those who knew the leader intimately, Brochado attributes to Pais open desires of conversion to Catholicism. This is quite plausible; otherwise it would be difficult to explain why this former freemason would have the courage to conduct such an openly Catholic policy so resolutely.

On December 6, 1918, there was a first attempt on his life,  from which he narrowly escaped. After that the police dared to raid the central seat of Freemasonry. It was now open warfare and the sect, which felt dangerously threatened, waited no more than eight days to renew the assassination attempt against a leader who was too far-seeing, too popular, and capable of destroying its age-old domination over the country.

On December 14, he attended a Mass on a minesweeper for soldiers who had died in combat. He then had to travel to one of the provinces. “Warned not to take the train because he was going to be assassinated, he declared that a head of State should not change his movements for motives of this nature. Shot right in the train station of Rossio in Lisbon, he died on the operating table at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, with a crucifix on his chest, which had been ravaged by the bullets.”  The hour of national salvation had not yet struck.

But the sacrifice of the courageous head of State was not without fruit, for the essence of his work remained. Although after his assassination the country fell right back into political anarchy, the republicans who soon returned to power did not have the strength to reactivate the anticlerical laws. Thanks to Sidónio Pais, the persecutions had ceased, the Church had recovered her liberty, and in spite of some unsuccessful attempts to take it away again, she kept it.

Twenty years later, in a discourse recalling the tragic death of Sidónio Pais – “the blood of a President was shed, a President who quickly passed on like a great hope” – Cardinal Cerejeira could declare:  “Since Our Lady of Fatima appeared in the skies of Portugal in 1917, a special blessing of God has descended on the land of Portugal. The violent cycle of religious persecution has stopped and a new epoch of pacification of consciences and Christian restoration has opened.”

The brief era of Sidónio Pais, who was termed Presidente-Rei, or the President-King, in many ways prepared the way for the Estado Novo, the 40 year regime of António de Oliveira Salazar, during which the Faith once again flourished in Portugal. Indeed, Portugal was blessed and miraculously spared the destruction of World War II. It was not until the withering “Springtime of Vatican II” that Portugal began to show the attrition of the faith that has become universal under the post-conciliar popes.

Think on it. The flood of graces from the Virgin’s apparition converted a freemason into a promoter of freedom for the Faith. This former atheist died clasping a crucifix, after expending his life in one brief but glorious service to free the Church.  The forces of the ancient enemy were able to kill him, but as Our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us,  “… fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  As we consider this first effect of the apparitions of Fatima, let us pray for the church and her leaders on this centenary; for we know that since apostasy began at the top, in the selfsame way must reparation be made, this is, from the top.

  Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.

  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy Kingdom come, Viva Cristo Rey!

  St. Joseph, guardian of the Holy Family, protect our families, protect our priests!

  St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.

~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!

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