One Lesson from Fatima: Things are Never as Inevitable as They May Appear to Be

Our Lady of Fatima and the Three Children

I want to begin with a personal anecdote that is not directly related to Fatima. In the academic year of 1996-1997 a junior at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio was running for student president, thinking that he would be able to have the most impact for good on campus by exercising that position his senior year. As a prominent member of the student senate he played a prominent and very public (both on national radio and outside of the U.S.) role in a number of significant changes that took place on campus. Notwithstanding his valiant efforts, he lost the presidential race. Unsure what to do, he turned to an older friend and mentor, and decided to become an R.A. in a dorm and lead a Bible study for freshmen in the dorm. This incoming senior would-be R.A. and Bible study leader, was a student leader in a very large para-church (primarily evangelical Protestant Christian) organization on campus, which, at least for the following two years (if I’m not mistaken), represented the largest para-church organization on any college campus in the world at that time, boasting about 1,000 members at their weekly meeting. His mentor, who happened to be Roman Catholic, was a staff member with that organization (at one point full-time, but by this point, part-time on a volunteer basis). That summer they decided to fast and pray for the future Bible study which together they would co-lead. They studied Scripture and church history together that summer, and they prayed and fasted that the future study would bear fruit for the kingdom of God.

Typical freshmen Bible studies within this organization at Miami had fewer than 10 members. This study had 40, 9 of whom came to faith in Jesus for the first time, 4 of whom (to date) entered the Catholic Church (3 of whom, including this very leader, entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil of 1999 less than 2 years after the study). By their junior and senior years of college, members from that study held leadership positions in all of the major Christian organizations on campus (and there were over 5, including 3 rather large ones), not only the one whose study it was. The leaders of course were none other than my fellow-co-bloggers Biff Rocha and Jason Shanks. One of those who entered the Catholic Church from that study is currently a seminarian on his way to ordination as a Catholic priest, another currently teaches Catholic priests at a seminary. The reason I bring this story up is because I was one of those 9 members of the study who came to faith in Jesus, and I was one of the 3 who entered the Catholic Church in 1999.

I wasn’t aware of the prayer and fasting Jason and Biff underwent for the study until after my conversion. All I remember was the hours of study and all-night debates, as I was an agnostic who didn’t believe in God (in contrast to an atheist, who knows God does not exist), who had been bar mitzvahed in a Jewish home a few years before. I was aware of the intellectual portion of my journey, but only later became more aware of the spiritual influence. As I have studied history, religion, theology, Scripture, and I have become ever more aware of how the hinge of history (both on the level of world events, and at the smaller level of our lives) is prayer. My story is one of many millions of examples of how this worked at the micro level. Let’s turn to one at the macro-level. 

The 3 visionary children of Fatima

Enter Fatima. In 1917, Jesus’ mother Mary appeared as Our Lady of Fatima to three children in Fatima, Portugal. Over 70,000 individuals (including skeptics and a number who were anti-Catholic) witnessed the miracle of the sun at the same time, on October 13, 1917. Our Lady of Fatima had revealed 3 “secrets” to the 3 children, the first of which was a vision of hell. The second secret predicts the end of World War I, and the beginning of another horrible war (World War II), but also hope for the conversion of Russia, which has been interpreted, since the revelation of the secret during World War II, the fall of Communism in Russia. The third “secret” remained secret until Pope John Paul II asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (currently Pope Benedict XVI) to make it public in 2000. The official Vatican commentary on the three secrets (as was well as photos of the actual hand-written letters and translations) may be accessed online here:

[As an aside, for purposes of clarity, the message of Fatima does not represent part of the deposit of faith, and the commentary does a fantastic job of clearly explaining the distinction between public and private revelation.] 

It is not a coincidence that John Paul II played a significant role in the fall of Communism in Europe. I’ve heard older (80 + year old Catholics) calmly explain, “I played a role in the fall of Communism because I prayed the rosary as Our Lady of Fatima encouraged us to do.” It wouldn’t be the first time. Many are unaware that 4 Catholic priests emerged from the rectory beside a church completely destroyed (only a matter of blocks from ground zero) by the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, who were praying the rosary faithfully following Our Lady of Fatima’s message. In the same year, Russia invaded Austria. Fr. Petrus Pavlicek led (eventually about 500,000 of) the faithful in praying the rosary. In 1955, the Russian army left without a single-shot fired. Anyone who knows the history of Russian invasions can see the significance of this. What does this have to do with John Paul II? 

Well, the Polish government had de facto veto-power on appointments to the position of metropolitan archbishop of Krakow. John Paul II, as bishop Wojtyla, was the only candidate the anti-Catholic state authorities would allow—they saw him as an un-political intellectual. Carl Bernstein (of Watergate fame) and Marco Politi explain, in their biography, His Holiness

“According to procedure, he [Cardinal Wyszynski] was obliged to present the Polish government  with a list of three candidates (previously approved by the pope) and to await a green light from the Warsaw authorities….Wojtyla’s [John Paul II] name wasn’t among the three….all of whom were rejected flatly by the government. And Wyszynski didn’t insert Wojtyla’s name into his second list of three—all of whom were also summarily rejected by the regime” (p. 99). 

Bishop Wojtyla

What were the Communists thinking? They thought the man who would become John Paul II would stay out of their way and help divide and undermine the Catholic Church in Poland and thus aid their own political machinations. Boy were they mistaken (huge understatement). Archbishop Wojtyla became an unrelenting thorn in the side of the Poland and thus the Soviet Union. As Cardinal Dziwisz colorfully relates in his recent memoirs of 40 years of friendship with John Paul II, they were bugged and followed by the KGB:

“The entire archbishop’s residence, including the study, the dining room, the parlor, and even the cardinal’s bedroom, was bugged, the whole place was ‘wallpapered’ with listening devices….(A Life with…, p. 42). 

You can read the incredible measures Archbishop Wojtyla took to fight peacefully but relentlessly, the anti-Catholic Communist authorities in places like George Weigel’s, Witness to Hope. One of my favorites is:


“[his] annual custom that would long be a burr under the Communist saddle—Christmas midnight Mass in an open field in Nowa Huta, the so-called model workers’ town outside Krakow, the first town in Polish history deliberately built without a church” (p. 151). 

When he was elected pope, Communist authorities thought he would finally leave them alone. He was elected pope on October 16, 1978. Within less than 7 months, he was back in Poland. Fr. Robert Barron writes about this eloquently when he notes:


“When John Paul II arrived in his homeland for his first visit as pope in 1979, his countrymen came out by the millions to hear him, despite numerous obstacles—physical and psychological—thrown up by the communist regime. In a remarkable prescient editorial, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said that, in the wake of that visit, communism in Poland was finished. This was before the formation of the Solidarity trade union and a full decade before the actual fall of the Soviet-backed regime. But what Brzezinski saw was millions and millions of people moving into a space of truth that the pope, by his words and presence, opened up. In the face of that, the illusion simply could not be maintained, no matter how many tanks and bombs defended it. And the forced dispelling the illusion is precisely what took place throughout the eighties in Poland, aided and abetted at key moments by a pope who wasn’t afraid to speak the truth about God and humanity” (The Strangest Way, pp. 106-107). 

It’s no wonder that, on Wednesday of May 13, 1981, Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II, an assassination attempt behind which all experts and all involved saw the hand of the Communist authorities. What Agca didn’t know, was that that particular date was the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Agca was not surprised that he was caught and thrown in prison, nor was he really surprised that John Paul II extended forgiveness to him. What surprised Agca, from which he never recovered, was that John Paul II survived the attempt. Agca never missed. He fired several shots. Four bullets entered John Paul II, and, in addition to tremendous blood loss, two of the bullets barely missed his mesenteric artery and his aorta. As John Paul II would claim on many

Blessed Pope John Paul II with Would be Assassin

occasions, “one hand pulled the trigger, another guided the bullet.” John Paul II attributed Our Lady of Fatima’s intercession as what saved his life. It was only after this event that he opened the then sealed third secret of Fatima, which depicted the successful assassination of the Pope. In response, the then Pope John Paul II (now Blessed Pope John Paul II), wanted to show our Lady thanks in some way. In addition to consecrating the world to Mary, he had a bullet from the assassination attempt placed in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. 

Previous popes had read the third secret, and then had it closed again, no doubt fearing they might be the victims of the assassination. In the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’s interpretation (linked above), John Paul II was the victim of the assassination,

Blessed Pope John Paul II before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima

but through prayer and our Lady’s intercession, was spared. The inevitable was changed. I had never thought about Fatima in this way (even though I read the CDF’s statement went it first came out in 2000), until the priest I see for confession pointed it out to me. Here’s what the CDF stated, in the words of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) in his theological commentary on the third secret of Fatima:


“The cross transforms destruction into salvation; it stands as a sign of history’s misery but also as a promise for history….That here [in the shooting of John Paul II] ‘a mother’s hand’ had deflected the fateful bullet only shows once more that THERE IS NO IMMUTABLE DESTINY, THAT FAITH AND PRAYER ARE FORCES WHICH CAN INFLUENCE HISTORY AND THAT IN THE END PRAYER IS MORE POWERFUL THAN BULLETS AND FAITH MORE POWERFUL THAN ARMIES.” [upper-case and bold added for emphasis]. 

I would like to end this overly long blogpost with a related reflection more akin to the one with which I began this post, at the individual level…to show how such small events can turn into the type of world-historical events at the macro level just described. 

There once was a Catholic layman who was striving to serve God wholeheartedly as a tailor. He saw a number of young people who were like-minded, all trying to serve God

Jan Tyranowski

from their positions, and trying to grow in the faith and discern what God was calling them to do. The tailor’s name was Jan Tyranowski, and among the young men he mentored was one named Karol. Karol thrived under Tyranowski’s spiritual direction, and was introduced to the great Carmelite mystical tradition. Karol eventually entered the seminary to become a priest in a time and region of the world where that had become illegal—Nazi-occupied Poland—and for this, was on the Nazi’s completely legal hit-list of underground seminarians. Karol continued his clandestine seminary studies, was ordained a priest, and eventually came to be known throughout the world as Pope John Paul II, whose funeral in 2005 remains the most televised event in the history of the world. 

Conclusion: If you want to change the world, begin with prayer and fasting. Be a faithful friend reaching out to others, doing the best you can to spread peace, love, and joy to those around you. Prayer is the core of the message of Our Lady of Fatima: prayer is the hinge of history. Again, as Ratzinger concludes: “faith and prayer are forces which can influence history and…in the end prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies.” The prayer, fasting, and apostolate of friendship of Biff and Jason changed the course of my life. The prayer, fasting, and apostolate of friendship of Jan Tyranowski, changed the course of world history.

Jeffrey L. Morrow

About Jeffrey L. Morrow

Jeff Morrow is Associate Professor of Theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. He also serves as a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Jeff earned his Ph.D. (2007) in Theology at the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, in the program on the U.S. Catholic Experience, where he focused on historical theology and the history of biblical exegesis. He earned his M.A. (2003) in Theological Studies, with a focus on Biblical Studies, also at the University of Dayton. He earned his B.A. (2001) at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, where he double majored in Comparative Religion and Classical Greek, and minored in Jewish Studies. Jeff originally comes from a Jewish background; he attended Hebrew school and had a bar mitzvah. In 1997 he became an evangelical Protestant and was heavily involved with para-church ministry as an undergraduate student. He entered the Catholic Church, Easter Vigil 1999. Jeff is a popular speaker who speaks regularly at parishes and schools, as well as at larger events. He has made popular presentations at the Applied Biblical Studies and the Defending the Faith Conferences at Franciscan University of Steubenville, as well as with the Coming Home Network International. He has also published in popular periodicals including This Rock, The Catholic Answer and New Oxford Review. Jeff's scholarly work is primarily in the history of biblical interpretation, but he has also presented academic papers, and published scholarly articles, on a variety of topics related to theology, religion and the Bible. He has published scholarly works in academic journals including New Blackfriars, Pro Ecclesia, Toronto Journal of Theology, and the Evangelical Review of Theology. He has also made scholarly presentations before a number of learned societies, including the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature and the College Theology Society. He currently resides with his wife Maria (a doctoral candidate in Theology, specializing in Moral Theology) their four children Maia, Eva, Patrick, and Robert, in New Jersey.
This entry was posted in Conversion Story, Current Events, Evangelization, Faith & Politics, History, Holiness, Love & Truth, Mary, Papacy, Prayer, Saints. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to One Lesson from Fatima: Things are Never as Inevitable as They May Appear to Be

  1. supremeconscience says:

    You have made a common error. There are 3 categories not 2. You seem to think that there is only ‘Public Revelation’ (Scripture) and ‘private revelation’. But if you study the council of Florence, and use your brain, you will note there is a third category: ‘Public Prophetic’ which does not add to the Deposit of Faith but it points to events – as prophecy does – and its’ public nature is binding on all the faithful . Fatima has been authenticated by Popes more than any other vision in the history of the Church. Fatima is public prophetic. Fatima is therefore binding on the consciences of Catholic Christians.

  2. m88 says:

    Incredible points. Great arguments. Keep up the amazing spirit.

    My web site :: m88

  3. best popcorn says:

    I got this website from my friend who informed me
    concerning this site and now this time I am visiting this website and
    reading very informative articles at this time.

    my site :: best popcorn

  4. zoosk says:

    Hi my family member! I want to say that this article is awesome,
    great written and include approximately all vital infos.
    I’d like to look more posts like this .

  5. I am regular visitor, how are you everybody?
    This paragraph posted at this website is really nice.

  6. Hi, the whole thing is going sound here and ofcourse every one is sharing data, that’s in fact good, keep up writing.

  7. My brother suggested I would possibly like this blog.
    He used to be entirely right. This put up actually made my day.
    You can nott consider just how much timee I had spent for thios info!


    Take a lolk at my site футбольный менеджер

  8. My partner and I stumbled over here from a different website and
    thought I may as well check things out. I like what I see so i
    am just following you. Look forward to looking at your web page yet again.

  9. Hey there this is kind of of off topic but I was
    wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually
    code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding skills
    so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience.
    Any help would be enormously appreciated!

  10. I was recommended this website by my cousin.
    I am not sure whether this post is written by him as no one
    else know such detailed about my trouble. You’re incredible!

    Here is my website; best curling wand

  11. After looking over a number of the articles on your
    site, I really appreciate your technique of writing a
    blog. I added it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back
    soon. Please visit my web site too and tell me what you

    my web site robotic pool cleaner reviews

  12. Wow! Finally I got a website from where I be capable of
    in fact obtain helpful information regarding my study and knowledge.

    Feel free to visit my weblog … knife sharpener reviews

  13. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering
    if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog
    that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates. I’ve been looking
    for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like
    this. Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy
    reading your blog and I look forward to your
    new updates.

    my blog post kitchen knife reviews

  14. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and
    wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
    In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

    Feel free to visit my page – canister vacuum reviews

  15. I’m curious to find out what blog system you are utilizing?
    I’m having some small security problems with my latest blog and I’d like to find
    something more risk-free. Do you have any suggestions?

    Here is my website best coffee maker

  16. Currently it looks like BlogEngine is the best blogging platform available right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

    My web site: งานเสริม

  17. You can definitely see your skills in the work you write.
    The world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe.
    All the time follow your heart.

    My web site … electric power washer reviews

  18. Great information. Lucky me I found your site by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve book marked it for later!

    Here is my page … หารายได้เสริม

  19. rea says:

    Thank you for anny other wobderful post. Where else could anybody get tjat type of info in such an idceal method of writing?

    I’ve a presentation next week, and Iam on the look for such info.

  20. What’s up to every single one, it’s in fact a nice for me to pay a visit this website, it
    consists of important Information.

    Feel free to visit my web site; who makes the best acoustic guitars in the world

  21. Highly descriptive article, I loved that a lot. Will there be a part 2?

    Look at my web-site: non carb diet

  22. Cleveland says:

    Sweet blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?

    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!

    Appreciate it

  23. Shelley says:

    I’ve been exploring for a little bit for any high quality articles or blog posts on this kind of
    area . Exploring in Yahoo I finally stumbled
    upon this site. Reading this information So i’m glad to exhibit that I have a
    very good uncanny feeling I came upon exactly what I needed.
    I such a lot without a doubt will make sure to do not put out of your mind
    this site and give it a glance regularly.

  24. says:

    Heya! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers?

    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up
    losing months of hard work due to no data backup.
    Do you have any solutions to prevent hackers?

    Here is my weblog how to build business credit fast (

  25. When someone writes an post he/she retains the plan of a
    user in his/her brain that how a user can be aware of it.

    So that’s why this piece of writing is amazing. Thanks!

    Feel free to visit my blog post: Anti inflammatory for dogs

  26. Very quickly this web site will be famous amid all blog viewers, due to it’s
    fastidious articles

    My web site – read here now

  27. says:

    Here we share with you tips to successfully make an Aquarian man fall in love.
    Your ex needs to process their feelings surrounding the breakup and come to an understanding of their own feelings.
    You should understand or know that the two of you are dealing with some kind of ache even though they might
    had been the ones who has done the dumping.

    Visit my website; สลายไขมัน –

  28. With the latest study from PEW Research stating that 95% of teens have access to
    the Internet, 80% of kids have cell phones and 48% have data plans, providing
    a safe cyber-space should be a priority for all parents.
    Then consider yourself one of the few, true internet marketers.
    It’s probably some mix of the two, so I have to give him props for
    not going too far in either direction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Subscribe without commenting