Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Letter of '71

Historical events have symbolic value. God does not limit his communication to the human race through just words alone. No. He also speaks through events. As with the interpretation of Scripture, interpreting the meaning of historical events can be subjective and uncertain. Nevertheless, even with the possibility of misinterpretation, God still communicates historical events.

The great Peshtigo fire of October 8, 1871 was one such event. It was the worst natural disaster in American history; yet, it went largely unnoticed because the Chicago fire occurred just two days later on October 10, 1871. The Peshtigo fire raged “through Northeastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, destroying millions of dollars worth of property and timberland, and taking between 1,200 and 2,400 lives.” And in terms of fatalities, the Peshtigo fire exceeded the Chicago fire by several hundred. Furthermore, it ranks right up there will the sinking of the Titanic and it comes close to the number of lives lost from the terrorists attacks on 9/11 (if the higher estimates are correct). This massive wave of fire even jumped across the Green Bay waters into the Door Peninsula of Wisconsin.

It just so happened that twelve years prior in 1859, Our Lady of Good Help appeared to a young girl named Adele; later to be Sister Adele. The main message of the Mother of God for Adele was to “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.” However, she further reminded Adele that, “If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them.” This admonition by Our Lady leads seems to point us in the direction of the Peshtigo fire of 1871 (footnote: Christian prudence cautions us to consider the possibility that there may or may not be a correlation between the two). Sister Adele and her companions, in order to protect themselves from the inferno, “fled to the Shrine for protection. The statue of Mary was raised reverently and was processed around the sanctuary. When wind and fire threatened suffocation, they turned in another direction to hope and pray, saying the rosary.” Hours later rain came and those who had taken refuge at the Shrine were saved; what is more, the five acres of property the Shrine was built on was also spared. (More on this later)

With that background in place, we at last come to the developments which preceded the subject at hand. One hundred years after the worst natural disaster in American history, arguably one of the most important letters of the twentieth century was written. In 1971, Sister Lucia, one of three seers of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, wrote her nephew, Valinho, who was a Catholic priest. Father Valinho was evidently distressed over the “turmoil and the disorientation” of the late sixties and early seventies. She validated his concern by writing, “It is indeed sad that so many are allowing themselves to be dominated by the diabolical wave that is enveloping the world, and they are so blind that they cannot see their error.”
Western Civilization went from one having a Christian orientation with high church attendance to one that was secular and morally liberal in a very short time period. The Catholic Church was not unaffected.

According to Archbishop Chaput in Render Unto Caesar, in 1970 Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, said the following: “We are living at a tremendous turning point in the evolution of mankind, at turning point compared with which the Middle Ages to modern times seems as nothing.” Amid such revolutionary changes, “the city of man is beginning to strike terror in our heart.” He later wrote that “the Church is becoming extinguished in men’s souls, and Christian communities are crumbling.”

Sister Lucia’s characterization of the recent changes in society and in the Catholic Church as a “diabolical wave” was no hyperbole. Just a year later in 1972 Pope Paul VI would claim that the smoke of Satan had entered the Church.

More on the next blog-