Again, a warning. This entry is boring.
So, again, I like to let people know about things that are happening that I don’t know if other people know about. So recently, the Vatican revealed the third secret / vision of Fatima. A while ago, the Virgin Mary appeared 3 times to 3 young children at Fatima in Portugal. Apparently, she revealed 3 secrets, 3 visions to them. They, two girls and a boy, went on to become nuns and priest. Two of them died, and recently the Pope went to Portugal to give them saint status.
I forgot what the first 2 visions were, but the 3rd was secret for a long time; only the Pope and a few people knew. There was a lot of speculation about it; some believed it was a vision of the end of the world. As it turned out, it was a vision of a holy man or someone crumpling under gunfire. It is now believed that this is a vision of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.
This is significant for the Pope, because I don’t know if you know this, but he believes that the Virgin Mary saved his life that day. Again, all this is probably not totally accurate, but that’s the jist of everything.
It was interesting to me because I’ve been to Fatima. I was lucky enough to go on a missions trip in high school to Portugal with DELTA ministries. Which is another story in itself. But anyway, during our time there we took a trip to Fatima. Like I said, the Virgin Mary appeared to three children there, on three separate occasions, I believe. So they built this big monument and a bunch of stuff there in Fatima, like a cathedral (I’m not sure about that) and a bunch of buildings.
It was easily one of the most depressing experiences I’ve had in my entire life. Let me explain what it’s like. Well there’s a church with a big statue of Mary, of course. But there’s also this really long walkway that goes to and from the area. Anyway, pilgrims come there for healing, and they walk the long road to the main area and back out again. But since they’re in need of healing, they are often limping or crawling on the path. And for some reason, which I didn’t fully understand, it was important that they do that on their own, so they didn’t use wheel chairs or any assistance like that. Some may have leaned on others for help, but I’m not totally sure. All I remember is that I saw a bunch of people crawling along that path.
They also had this area where they burned candles. As it was explained to me, the candles represented prayers to God, so you bought a candle to have your prayer heard. There were different sized candles, and apparently the bigger candles (which burned longer) meant your prayers were heard longer, or something to that effect. Again, this was all translated to me, and a long time ago, so I may be remembering it wrong. But there were also different candles, shaped like body parts. These were meant to represent the body parts that were ailing in the pilgrims that came, to be burned in that candle area.
Near this area, there was a section where some priest was constantly giving Mass. We were there for a few hours, and the entire time, there were people there celebrating Mass.
Stores weren’t allowed on the main grounds, but just across the street, there were tons of stores. Again, totally depressing. If Jesus came back and overturned the modern day money changers, I am positive that he would have made a stop there. These stores just sold tons of cheap trinkets, lame charms, and of course all those candles and body parts and such to people who came to Fatima. It just felt so horribly commercial (and terribly tacky, to boot), and they were praying off of innocents who were in need of healing. It just made me so angry, even in high school.
So the reason I bring this up is because the whole Fatima thing reminds me why I’m not a Catholic. You know, sometimes I’m kind of tempted towards Catholicism, because a lot of it is admirable and good, once you learn about it. It’s just, there are so many messed up things about it. And because of what Catholicism stands for (inherent in the word catholic), there’s no room for disagreement – there is only one way, the Catholic way. The thing is, a lot of that way is, in my opinion, screwed up.
So maybe I haven’t done a good job in explaining why I was so depressed that day. I think the greatest thing Bellarmine taught me about religion was that we need to have compassion. Anyway, I just felt a lot of compassion for the sick and hurt people who came to Fatima. I felt like I understood what Jesus meant when he said he saw people who were like sheep without a shepherd. I just felt like they were so innocent and so sincere, and so misguided.
Like, I don’t know, maybe it’s just because I’m Protestant, and maybe it’s not strictly Biblical, but I just don’t believe that you need to do crazy things like crawl 100 yards when you’re in severe pain to receive healing from God (or Mary). I also don’t believe the extent to which God hears your prayers depends on how much you spend. It was just sad to me, because what should be a matter of faith alone was overwhelmed by this works based worthiness and this strange mysticism. Like I said, I may have misimterpreted things, but that’s just the feeling I got.
That’s the other thing. There’s this aspect of Catholicism, the mystical part, that plays out in a lot of countries that’s just kind of weird to me. I don’t know, you often hear missions teams when they go to South America and then come back to report, how the majority of the population is Catholic, but it’s a “weird” Catholicism, mixed in with a lot of mystical elements. It’s just a common thing, I think, one that I don’t totally understand.
Anyway, the other thing about Fatima is that it reminds me of the (in my mind) strange preoccupation of Catholics with Mary. I know they don’t revere her as a God, but it’s coming dangerously close. There was/is a movement to exalt Mary as a co-redemptrix along with Jesus. I think I’ve mentioned this before. And I think to us Protestants it sounds crazy, but a surprising group of people are sympathetic to it, including the late Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II.
Co-redemptrix. To me, that’s just insane. I don’t know, to me, this whole Mary reverence thing comes from a unique interpretation of just one (or maybe a couple) of verses regarding Mary in the Gospels. It’s just bold. And a lot of bold things come from it. Including the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. I wrote about this before, but that refers to Mary, not Jesus. I don’t think everyone’s aware of that. It’s crazy.
The whole saint thing, I can be down with that, especially given Sal’s explanation of it. But the whole Mary thing, it’s just hard to take. And like at Fatima, the way Catholicism plays out in real life in some places is again, hard to take, for me. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except like I said, Catholicism is all about only one right way.
Which is another thing. I know I’ve written about this before, but there was once this encyclical letter saying that the Pope is infallible. Thus, any time the Pope issues an encyclical, that doctrine stands forever. Which is fine, except a lot of it is arguable. For example, the idea that the bread actually becomes the body of Christ leads to the idea of transubstantiaion, and it’s really really… creative. This in fact was the one issue about Catholicism that Rich Mullins couldn’t get over.
Besides that there are just doctrines that nearly no one obeys. For example, birth control is forbidden in the Catholic church. But a huge number of Catholics in the U.S. just ignore it.
The upshot is that a good many Catholics just ignore a lot of the doctrine, so there’s just this big hypocrisy there. Not to say there’s no hypocrisy in the Protestant church, but it’s still different – I just feel like many Catholics willfully disobey what their church teaches as doctrine. It’s a weird phenomenon to me.
It just saddens me, in a way, because especially at Bellarmine, I met a lot of sincere, good Catholics, and like I said, I admire them a lot, to the point where I’m tempted to be one. But there’s just so much about the Catholic church that’s just very fundamentally troubling to me, it’s really hard to get over.
I guess I’m different than a lot of other Protestants in that I consider Catholics Christians. I mean, not all of them. But I believe there are Catholics that are saved, though not all, just like there are Southern Baptists who are saved, though not all. I don’t think it’s possible to believe otherwise, unless you believe that no one was saved from around the years 600 – 1500. And that’s just too hard to believe.
I guess one thing I’ve wondered was whether the visions those childrens saw were real. You hate to discount something that such a huge group of people, some of whom I considered brothers in Christ, accept as true. I don’t know if I can do that. All I know is that those visions led to the building of a place that just absolutely depressed me. Suffering people come from all around and believe that they need to buy things, to do things, to suffer excruciating pain to receive healing from God. I don’t know, I hope that God honors their faith, even as their beliefs are misguided, because it broke my heart. But that’s seriously not what Jesus is about.
Sorry, Allie, I just started typing and a boring entry came out. I’ll try and do better next time.