Five months ago, Pope Francis was asked by reporters to comment on the Marian apparitions on Medjugorje, a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina –formerly a part of Yugoslavia– where in 1981 a group of children claimed to have witnessed the apparition of a ‘glowing’ humanoid form, seemed to holding a child in its arms. The apparitions are said to continue to this day in a regular fashion.
For a pontiff whose rule has been seen as a fresh wind of much-needed reformation among both liberal Catholics and secular citizens, Francis response to the reporters’ question was rather conservative: While he thought the initial apparitions deserved further study, he was personally even more skeptical about the current encounters, than the official position expressed by the report prepared on Medjugorje by representatives of the Church, at his behest:
“[…] I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of an office, who every day sends a message at a certain hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus. And these presumed apparitions don’t have a lot of value.”
The time of the questioning couldn’t have been more auspicious. The Pope was just returning from Portugal, where he had celebrated a multitudinous ceremony in which he canonized Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the three children who were the main witnesses or ‘seers’ in what it is considered one of the most important events in the modern history of the Catholic faith: The Fátima apparitions.
Canonization is the ultimate ‘seal of approval’ in Catholicism. It means that, in the eyes of the Church, Jacinta and Francisco are saints; worthy of veneration by the faithful, who are now allowed to pray to these little children in order to seek their intercession before the Holy Virgin –the Vatican is so enamored with bureaucracy, they even permit the existence of ‘heavenly lobbyists’ (but not heavenly clerks, if we remember Francis’ words).
Jacinta and Francisco were 7 and 9 when the apparitions took place. They died shortly after, victims of the influenza pandemic that swept through Europe by the end of World War I. Their older cousin, Lúcia Dos Santos –who is considered as the ‘main witness’ of the Fátima sightings, and the only one able to listen to the voice of the ‘lady’, and later record her words after she learned to read and write– died at the venerable age of 97, after spending most of her life away from the public eye inside a Carmelite convent. Perhaps it is because of her relatively recent departure that Lúcia –unlike her cousins– has yet to be fully accepted as a saint by the Church, since it is usually quite a lengthy process (even though there are a few cases of ‘fast-track’ canonizations in history, including the controversial Mother Teresa of Calcutta). Nevertheless, on February 13th, 2017 (almost 13 years after her death) the Diocese of Coimbra concluded its phase of the sainthood cause of Lúcia –what is known as ‘beatification’– meaning her canonization is just a matter of time.
Yet the most important thing about the elevation of Jacinta and Francisco into the altars of sainthood, is the confirmation of the Church’s full acceptance of the Fátima phenomena as a bonafide divine intervention. This acknowledgement took quite a while, though: It was only until October 13th, 1930 –exactly 13 years after the famous ‘miracle of the Sun’ took place– that Bishop José da Silva declared the miracle “worthy of belief”, permitting “officially the cult of Our Lady of Fatima” within the Catholic Church.
Since then, the Vatican has done all in their power to ‘sanitize’ the Fátima apparitions and conform them to the Church’s sanctioned narrative –a ‘Madonna’ to their liking. To understand just how much the original accounts have been distorted, one could do no better than to take a look at the critically acclaimed book ‘Heavenly Lights’ by the Portuguese researchers Joaquim Fernandes and Fina d’Armada –the first secular investigators to have access to the official testimonies of the apparitions collected by the Church shortly after the ‘Miracle of the Sun’ took place, which are fiercely guarded to this day inside the Fátima sanctuary.
With a foreword written by none other than Dr. Jacques Vallee, ‘Heavenly Lights’ strips Fátima from the religious dogma, and shows how much it has in common with what we currently call ‘close encounters of the third kind’.
Indeed, would Pope Francis be so quick to embrace Fátima and reject Medjugorje, if the ‘thornier’ aspects of the 1917 apparitions were widely known by the public? What would he respond, I wonder, if he were asked about the fact that months before the three little shepherds encountered the ‘lady from Heaven’ on May 13th 1917, Portuguese newspapers were already printing stories forewarning something very important was going to happen on that exact day?
This is exactly what Fernandes and d’Armada report on ‘Celestial Secrets’, the sequel to Heavenly Lights. Quoting from a pamphlet published in 1974 by a man named Filipe Furtado de Mendonça, they describe to the reader how a Spiritualist group residing in Lisbon managed to ‘channel’ an unusual message during one of their salons, celebrated on February 7th, 1917. Although its heyday had been in the late XIXth century, Spiritualism was still popular in Europe and the United States, and among the members of this particular group was a certain Carlos Calderon, who was considered to be a famous medium at the time. It was he who during the session felt compelled to ask for pencil and paper, and started to perform what is known in parapsychology as ‘automatic writing’ –the unconscious ability to produce written words, symbols or drawings through the alleged intervention of a non-corporeal agency.
The message, reproduced by Furtado de Mendonça in his pamphlet Un Raio de Luz sobre Fátima (A Ray of Light About Fátima), is particularly exceptional because most of it was produced with ‘mirror writing’ –meaning the letters are ‘inverted’ and can only be read by placing a mirror next to the letter. The text is mostly in Portuguese, and it reads:
It is not thy place to be judges.
He who is to judge thee would not favor thy prejudice.
Have faith and be patient.
It is not our custom to predict the future. The archanes of the future are impenetrable, although, on occasions, God does allow the corner of the veil cloaking it to be slightly displaced.
Have confidence in our prophecy.
The day 13th of May shall be a day of great joy for all the good spirits of the world [emphasis mine].
Have faith and be good.
Ego Sum Charitas (I am Charity).
Thou shall always have thy friends at thy side, who will guide thee and help thee on thy work.
Ego Sum Charitas.
The brilliant light of the Morning Star shall light thy way.
The last line of the cryptic message was not ‘inverted’, but written in a normal way and with a slightly different handwriting, along with the signature of the ‘entity’ using Carlos Calderon as medium: Stella Matutina (Morning Star).
I need not remind my dear Coppertops that throughout the ages the ‘Morning Star’ or planet Venus has not only been associated with the Virgin Mary, but also with Aphrodite, the pagan goddesses of Love, Fertility –and even with Lucifer, the ‘Bringer of Light’, as well as the Aztec/Mayan deity Quetzalcóatl/Kukulcán.
The Spiritualist group from Lisbon knew the message received by Carlos Calderon was incredibly important. Certain it was a sign that the end of the Great War was close at hand –even though the text makes no reference to it– they paid for a small ad in the classified section of the newspaper Diário de Noticias, on its edition of March 10th, 1917. On top of the short advertising they printed the numeral ‘135917’, a simple code referring to the ‘day of great joy’ they were expecting (13th May, 1917).
Of course, On the prophesied day the newspapers or telegraph wires didn’t report any breaking news. No declaration of truce nor a cease fire on the battle fronts. It was only gradually that word of the Marian apparition in Fátima started to spread, and the accuracy of the automatically-written letter was unquestionably corroborated, given the precautions taken by the group to print their ad with such anticipation.
Skeptics could try to rationalize the ad as proof that the Marian apparitions were a hoax carefully orchestrated by the Church, but such a theory is simply untenable. Consider how the Church has NEVER been comfortable with anything that has the slightest whiff of Spiritualism and the open communication with discarnate entities –in that regard their skepticism is curiously comparable to that of materialist atheists. Which is why the prophecy of the May 13th apparition has not been incorporated into the ‘canon’ of Fátima promulgated by the Vatican.
So, if not an orchestrated deception, then perhaps the ad was just a ‘lucky guess’? Fernandes and d’Armada rule out the possibility of a coincidence in their investigation, for one simple and convincing reason: Along with the Lisbon group, there was ANOTHER Spiritualist group on the city of Oporto, who delivered a SECOND letter to other Portuguese newspapers, referring to an ‘event’ that would be in some way related to the war, and would occur on the SAME date (May 13th) prophesied by the Lisbon group, which would “greatly impress the people.”
This second message was signed by a psychic named Antonio. No last name was given, which makes one suspect it was a pseudonym used by either a person or a collective. The letter sent by ‘Antonio’ to the editors of some of Portugal’s most important newspapers of the time —O Primeiro de Janeiro, Jornal de Notícias and Liberdade— was signed on May 11th.
And to make things even more interesting, the newspapers which printed the ‘sensational revelation’ –some taking it less seriously than others– did so on EXACTLY May 13th!
O Primeiro de Janeiro, the most-circulated journal in the North of Portugal, even ran the letter on its front page. Its editor-in-chief, Henrique António Guedes de Oliveira –widely regarded as the most respected journalist of his era– commented on it without mocking it, unlike his colleagues in Liberdade, who saw it as the perfect opportunity to prove psychics were nothing but fraudsters and charlatans. It seems that despite his clear anti-religious position and his support of the Republic, Guedes de Oliveira was actually very open to the idea of communicating with beings living in other realms:
[…]The intervention of those residing beyond Matter, on that place that exists above the Earth’s crust, cannot leave us indifferent, and it is with true alarm that I receive this information as a zealous defender of the truth.
Never had I thought we could establish such communication with beings from other world [emphasis mine].
That the newspapers of the time printed the ad and the letter is without question, and anyone is free to seek their own conclusions on whether they were a fluke or not. As for their ‘provenance’ and who exactly was ‘Antonio’, Carlos Calderon or the other psychics involved with them, Fernandes and d’Armada’s investigation in Celestial Secrets unfortunately does not go any further –they don’t even tell us what was the connection between the Spiritualist group in Lisbon and Furtado de Mendonça, the guy who published the pamphlet telling their story in 1974. Instead Fernandes and d’Armada try to build a case that such ‘channeling’ of messages could be facilitated when special ‘environmental’ conditions were met –e.g. geomagnetic disturbances or a higher level of sunspots. That type of speculation is definitely not without merit, and it seems that investigators like Hal Puthoff –who was involved with the American remote viewing program– as well as Soviet researchers looked into it.
The psychic message’s connection to the war, as was originally presupposed by their mediumnistic originators, was not entirely misguided either. Let us remember the second ‘secret’ given by the Virgin to Lúcia and her cousins also alluded to an imminent end to the conflict… followed by an even worse conflagration soon after.
But for me, the most important thing to highlight is this: That despite the ‘doctored’ dogma presented by the Catholic Church, the extraordinary events that took place in Fátima at the beginning of the XXth century cannot be shoehorned into a ‘Madonna to their liking’. They were far stranger, complicated and convoluted than what any institutionalized religion will be comfortable with accepting, if taken in their full scope –and by ‘institutionalized religion’ I’m also including UFOlogy, when it’s trying to sell cookie-cutter theories of contact with extraterrestrials using superior technology which is mistaken for supernatural miracles.
Whatever really happened on that secluded spot in Cova da Iria, one hundred years ago, will probably take us a few more centuries to fully comprehend –if ever. And the solution will continue to elude us, until we finally accept that psychic abilities (like channeling) and other ‘paraphysical’ phenomena are deeply entangled with the UFO mystery, despite what our ‘Nuts-&-Bolts priests’ persist in pontificating.
When we do so, perhaps we’ll discover that all along there have been ‘charitable friends at our side’, patiently waiting for us to leave our childish ways and enter the Light.