THE TESTIMONY OF BISHOP HNILICA
This is a copy of chapter 6 of "Fatima, Russia & Pope John Paul II" by Timothy Tindal-Robertson reproduced with the kind permission of the publishers, Gracewing Publishing.
Hnilica was consecrated Bishop in Czechoslovakia at the age of thirty by his own bishop, who was near death. Owing to the persecution, his consecration could not be carried out in an official manner, and his bishop gave him a special mission, to help the Church in the East: "Your diocese stretches from Berlin to Moscow and Peking." Hnilica took this mission very seriously, and for forty years he brought help to many bishops and evangelized many people at the risk of his life. He came to Rome, where he founded a religious association called Pro Deo et Fratribus (for God and the brethren), and his work consisted in supporting people spiritually, with Bibles and Gospels, and also materially, with money.
It was not until long afterwards that his episcopal consecration was officially recognized by Pope Paul VI. They met at Fatima in 1967, and spoke with Lucia. Bishop Hnilica knows her very well, and has spoken with her several times about Russia. So he has been known as a bishop since the pontificate of Paul VI, and thus he was able to work in a manner which was more or less unofficial but very effective.
. . . Last week, Bishop Hnilica came to Fatima to celebrate this marvel of the Lord, and to speak with the Archbishop of Moscow about this evangelization of Russia.
Bishop Hnilica now declares without ceasing that the triumph announced by the Blessed Virgin at Fatima will only be possible if the Catholic and Orthodox Churches are reconciled. In his view, it is there that the profound meaning of the message is to be found. The promise "in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph" will only be possible if the two churches become one, and Bishop Hnilica says that this work of ecumenism should be lived and brought about in the dimension of charity; dialogue can only bear fruit in charity. At this moment, Russia needs help to rebuild the Church, for everything was destroyed by Communism. The other brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church can make contact with their Orthodox brothers and sisters in the dimension of charity, which is the most authentic sign of true Christianity. . . .
A few months ago, on his last trip to Russia, Bishop Hnilica was able to speak with representatives
of the Orthodox Church and to suggest this fraternal collaboration to help the Russian people to eat, and to obtain
spiritual as well as material nourishment. The person whom he met said to him: "We
beg you, help us, because otherwise we will not succeed." For this reason, he speaks
about this reconciliation, for the triumph of a Mother is only possible if the daughter and the son are reconciled.
In order to triumph, the Immaculate Heart of Mary needs our hearts, and heart means, in the first place, fraternal charity."
I am here at Marienfried for the first time. Marienfried is a surprise to me! When I first came, I looked around, and what did I find to my joy? The sign of Mary of the Latter Times! The sign of the latter times is at the same time the sign of the first times. The first account of Mary - or the first sign of Mary - can be found in the so-called Proto-evangelium. There it says, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed. And she will crush your head." What does this account tell us? It speaks of a victory. But also the last account, the one of the latter times, talks about a victor: a woman clothed with the sun. It all started in Lourdes. In Lourdes the Mother of God introduced herself as the Immaculate Conception. Pope Pius IX took the theological and biblical proof for the Immaculate Conception from the Protoevangelium: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and she will crush your head" (Gen 3:15). Mary appeared in Lourdes and identified herself: "I am the victor of all times." Just at the time when the serpent raised its head through atheistic Marxism, Mary spoke in Fatima: "I am the victor." May I recall some of these victories to your mind?
We all know how this sea battle ended. During the Pope's prayer in Rome, he had a vision where
he saw how both opposing fleets clashed. At this moment he also saw how the Mother of God spread her mantle over
the Christian soldiers. They won. In Venice there is still today a painting of this battle with the inscription,
"Not through our power, nor through our cannons, nor through our
courage, but through your help have we won."
Imprinted on one side there was a picture of the Sorrowful Mother of God; on the other the word
"Mary." When they attacked the Turks
on September 12, they shouted, "Jesus, Mary, help! Help us! Be at
our side!" And they won. We could give so many examples. But the Mother of God had
prophesied her greatest victory at Fatima: "In the end my Immaculate
Heart will triumph." This means that Love will triumph - the truth, the good, the
mercy of God. The Heart of Mary is a song of the mercy of the heavenly Father. This mercy will triumph, but with
one condition: the conversion of Russia. This is what I will mainly speak about. "Russia will be converted." This statement comes from Pope Pius XII.
The message of Fatima is one of the greatest interventions of God through Mary in world history since the death
of the apostles. Only in the name of God does the Mother of God intervene. She doesn't say a word, doesn't take
a step, without the explicit will of God. Pope Pius XII further says: "You
cannot understand this message if you don't know atheistic Communism, if you don't know what happened in Russia." I want to add some statements of the popes about this battle with atheistic Communism.
"Today we see something that world history has never seen before: The waving of the flag of Satan in the battle against God and religion, against all peoples, and in all parts of the world; a phenomenon that outdoes all that happened before. Atheistic Communism surpasses all previous persecutions in the Church, even that of Nero or Diocletian, not only in its extent, but also in its violence. The whole world is threatened with falling back into a barbaric state, a state worse than before Christ came." These are weighty words. The world in the time before Christ was not against God. It had lost friendship with God, but it was searching for God. Today for the first time a part of humanity is against God. For the first time in history we see a cold-bloodedly planned and very precisely prepared battle that has turned against religion and against everything that is Godly. In this battle everything really revolves around the central question of the most important decision in this world: will man be for or against God. This decision determines human destiny. Could the one who was commissioned by God from all eternity remain indifferent? The hour of the battle against God is the hour of Mary, not only in this Marian year, but in this whole period of time. The Marian year will come to an end, but it was the intention of the Holy Father to start a Marian epoch with this year.
Pope John XXIII said, "The prince of this world (Lucifer) has always been in battle against God. But what we see today is a battle that has flared up throughout the whole world." He was referring to atheistic Communism. I can quote for you what the atheists say. For instance, Lenin declares, "God is my personal enemy. I prefer an atheistic exploiter or a billionaire to a believing proletarian." About ten years ago thc Communist newspaper, The Moscow Evening News, wrote: "We don't fight against the believers, nor do we fight against priests. We fight against God, to wrench the believers from him." In the place of God they put the Party. Listen to what they (the Russian Communists) say about Lenin, "Lenin: a name of unending greatness. He is like a star that sends its light against the centuries. Lenin's flag goes higher and higher. Lenin is as immortal as life itself." And about the Party: "The Party, the Party, the Party gave us everything, sun and wind! Never was she greedy; wherever she was, there was life. And what we are, we are through her, through the Party." This is the greatest blasphemy that was ever pronounced by a human being in all of history. This is something satanic. Could Mary remain indifferent? And the children of Mary, can we remain indifferent in facing this challenge? She has surpassed all challenges. Satan challenged God directly through the Russian Revolution in 1917. And to this challenge Mary answered in Fatima in 1917, "In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph." Love and mercy will triumph, not hatred. But only with us and through us. Mary does everything that is necessary. But we also must not remain inactive.
This, I think, holds true also for you here in Marienfried. Here the Mother of God appears as the "Mediatrix omnium gratiarum," as the mediatrix, as the victor.
One can only mediate after a victory. We have to contribute to this victory of love and mercy.
Now I want to tell you how this victory is already unfolding. Can we actually win? Certainly! We are one hundred percent sure that we will win because the Mother of God said so in the name of God. God wants it! We fight a fight that is already determined. God cannot lose; therefore the Mother of God cannot lose. We are already the victors. If the soldiers know that their generals are convinced of the victory, they will go into battle with great joy and enthusiasm. We have this guarantee: we are the victors. We lose only when we dissociate ourselves from God, from Christ. But the Apostle Paul asks, "Who can separate us from the love of Christ?" All of hell can't, all of humanity can't - nobody! Only I, myself, can make that decision.
Now about my personal story. As you know, I come from Czechoslovakia, a country where we have experiencied this battle. When the persecution by the atheistic Communists began, all the bishops were arrested first, then the seminaries were closed and the seminarians were brought to various work camps. After that, thousands of the best religious priests, nuns, and brothers were arrested; then the diocesan priests, and finally, the rest of the religious priests and brothers. In the space of one night they were all brought to various concentration and work camps: Jesuits, Salesians, Franciscans, etc. Later, 10,700 nuns of all the religious orders were taken. Today they are still in these camps, those that are still living. Tens of thousands of lay people were imprisoned, all the books were confiscated and destroyed, so that the state secretary of culture could say very proudly, "The Church is amputated at the knee." The poor secretary didn't know that the Church, when wounded at the knee, is by no means totally destroyed. She is still powerful and she will remain powerful.
A bishop in prison once said: "The Communists took into account all the human strategies to destroy the Church. They imprisoned the bishops, the priests, the religious, and those in the lay apostolates. But they forgot the main element: the Holy Spirit. They will lose this battle, and they are already in the process of losing it." At this moment, in Russia, in Poland, and in Czechoslovakia we find that there is a religious enthusiasm awakening that has never been seen before. A short time ago there was a Marian pilgrimage to the shrine in Lewotscha. About 300,000 pilgrims took part in it. Most of them came on foot because the trains and buses were on strike. What enthusiasm! And that bishop continued, "I'm sure that our people will be faithful to our dear God and to the Catholic Church, because they revere the heart of Mary and the heart of Jesus so much." When the persecutions started, something else started too: devotion to Mary. We all looked to the protection of Mary. For example, we copied thousands - tens of thousands - of the little booklet of Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, with a hand press, because we didn't have any more religious printing shops. Bibles were copied in the same way.
May I tell you briefly about my own experiences? At that time I was neither a priest nor a bishop. I was a seminarian. At midnight we were awakened. Three policemen forced their way into our rooms. There were three of us in the room. "Get up! Follow us!" Outside there were three buses waiting and everybody had to sit down beside his "guardian angel," as we called the policemen. They were armed with machine guns. We drove into the unknown. What happened inside of me? I was afraid. I was almost desperate. I wasn't afraid of heavy work, which was the most likely fate that would await us in a work camp. In the past I had been a manual laborer for six years and I was used to heavy work. I was afraid that I could never be a priest.
The priesthood was the only yearning I had in my life, my only longing, my future, my joy, my happiness. And this I owe to my mother's prayers. She prayed for this when she was still a girl and not yet married. I was the first of eight children. Together with the Mother of God, she brought her sacrifices to God and with it this petition. But none of us was able to study. We were poor. But she continued to pray. She continued to pray and to do her work around the house. Then I started studying and entered the novitiate with the Jesuits. There was war. The bombs fell. Often we would cower in the cellar. Often our superior gave us absolution - maybe twenty or thirty times - during the days of greatest danger. During these moments I didn't pray. I struggled with our dear Lord, "Let me live, let me live! Allow me, at least once, to offer a single Holy Mass! Then I will be ready to die."
But when we sat in the buses and drove to the unknown, maybe to Siberia, I thought, "That's it. You can never become a priest!" Again dark clouds overshadowed my soul. Again my heart started to cry out, "Lord, allow me to offer at least one Holy Mass. Allow me to become a priest!" To get relief from these dark clouds, I took the Sacred Scriptures and opened them up. And what did I read? These were the words, "Did not the Messiah have to undergo all this, so as to enter into His glory?" I was shaken. This was the most striking answer from Heaven for my present situation. Before that I was desperate. Now a quiet entered into my heart that I had never known before. Suddenly, I realized that the essence of the priesthood is the Cross, suffering, and sacrifice. And the light of this Cross shone on all of us in the camp.
There were seven hundred seminarians and religious in our camp. I won't tell you about the external
circumstances. But there was something we felt very deeply, that which we heard in today's gospel, "Woman, behold your son! Behold your mother!"
I was ordained a priest in a hospital, in a room of the quarantine unit. At that time all the bishops of our country had been arrested. There was no one free who could ordain me. One of them was an outpatient in this hospital. But he was constantly accompanied by three "guardian angels," three policemen. The doctor who treated him was a Christian. On the day of my ordination, he told the security guards, "Today the patient has to be treated in the unit for contagious diseases." The policemen were afraid of being infected and let the bishop go into the unit by himself. I was there already. And so I was ordained a priest. It's very hard to describe what I felt. I felt the mercy, the love, the kindness, but also the power of God. I had given up hope of becoming a priest. But now I realized that for God nothing is impossible. What made a great impression on me was the fact that it was the feast day of the Archangel Michael, September 29. One hour before the arrival of the bishop I still didn't know if my ordination would take place. I told St. Michael, "You have selected this day for me." And I took his name, Michael, which means "Who is like God?" Whenever I was in danger, I said to myself, "Why be afraid? The police force of the Communists can be hundreds of thousands times stronger; against God it is nothing and will remain nothing."
On that day I said to our dear Lady, "Now you are my only mother." I consecrated myself to her in a special way. I could not meet my natural mother, who had prayed for me so much. Therefore, she did not know anything about my ordination to the priesthood. I was ordained a bishop three months later in a basement. I fought against it. But my provincial ordered me to accept this ordination under obedience, so I agreed. It is not popular any more to obey, but thirty-seven years ago it was different. I was afraid of this great responsibility. On the way, on the train, I prayed, "Dear God, let this train be derailed so that I will not get there alive." This fear disappeared suddenly when, in the basement, the bishop started Holy Mass with these words, "In the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven, on earth and also in hell." Even Satan has to bow his knee. It struck me like lightning: "Why are you afraid? Not you, but Christ is the victor. He has won already. You have only to remain a humble instrument in His hand." This gave me the strength to let everything pass over me.
Finally, I would like to point out two things. Every bishop has to swear several oaths. First, to spread the Gospel, for Christ has commanded: "Go forth to the whole world and bring my message to every creature." This he said to his Apostles, and the bishops are the successors of the Apostles. Second, fidelity to the pope, fidelity to the Holy Father. This my mother had taught me long ago. Every day we prayed for the Holy Father, and I continued this even later, when I became a Jesuit. The Jesuits used to be uniquely proud of being subject to and obedient to the Holy Father in a special way. I prayed for him even more in the concentration camp. The reason for our being arrested was for fidelity to the Holy Father in Rome. In the camp a political commissar told us, "You can be free immediately, you can go home, but under this condition: you have to acknowledge the Patriarch of Moscow instead of the Pope in Rome." This opened our eyes. Satan knows what the foundation of the Church is: It is Peter. Only to him was it promised, ".... the gates of Hell will not prevail against it." Hell wants to destroy this foundation. The victory over Satan is promised only to the Church that is in union with Peter. And later Christ said, "Peter, Satan has desired to have you that he might sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail."
At that time in the basement I swore fidelity to Peter with all my heart. You know that every bishop receives a diocese when he is ordained. I was told, "Your diocese covers Peking-Moscow-Berlin." This was not meant geographically but symbolically. I didn't understand it at the time. Thirty years later, when I was allowed to concelebrate Mass with the Holy Father, I said to him afterwards at breakfast, "Holy Father, only you have a bigger diocese. It comprises the whole world. Mine comes right after that in size: Peking-Moscow-Berlin." The Pope said, "Paul, this is your mission field. Find yourself the best Christians as missionaries!"
Surely you have heard about the attempt on the life of the Pope in St. Peter's Square in Rome on May 13th, 1981. This attempt has brought us closer to the message of Fatima, and it made the message more clearly felt, because this attempt was already predicted. Even the Holy Father admitted that. As head of the Church, he is the one primarily concerned, but the message referred to all of us. During his time in the hospital, he wanted to know all about Fatima. I gave him all the available documents. After his release from the hospital, I brought him a statue of Our Lady of Fatima which some German pilgrims, who had been in Rome during the assassination attempt, had brought from Fatima. They wanted to give it to the Holy Father as a present. For three months it was in my chapel. It was the most beautiful statue I had ever seen. It was hard for me to part with it when I presented it to the Holy Father. And what did he say to me? "Paul, in these three months I have come to understand that the only solution to all the problems of the world, the deliverance from war, the deliverance from atheism, and from the defection from God, is the conversion of Russia. The conversion of Russia is the content and meaning of the message of Fatima. Not until then will the triumph of Mary come." The Holy Father had a chapel built on a hill on the eastern frontier of Poland - on the frontier of Russia - and put the statue there. The Mother of God looks toward Russia. But she wants us to look toward Russia as well.
When I accompanied the Holy Father as he was returning from Fatima, he asked me, "Paul, when and how will we be successful in converting Russia?"
The conversion of Russia is a strong desire of the Holy Father's heart, because he knows the third mystery of Fatima,
and the desire of Mary. He wants Totus tuus, to belong
to Mary totally. I answered him, "Padre Pio is reported to have said, 'Russia
will be converted, if you find as many Christians as there are atheists.' And that is
the message of Fatima: believe, pray, adore and love God for all those who don't, and for those who most need the
mercy of God."
Today our Lady has this mission. She is not lacking in trust. But she has to find a certain number. Today she is looking for those souls, those "ten just men." That means the number of the just who are necessary today. I am convinced Marienfried is a sign of this. Mary is looking for the necessary victim souls, those children who are praying for others. Because that is the message of Marienfried, to pray for sinners. I have often met with Sister Lucia of Fatima. Once she said to me, "Father, the first request of the Mother of God to us was to be ready to accept the daily crosses which God will send to us, and to offer them for sinners. In later requests, she asked that we offer them especially for Russia. When she mentioned this country for the first time, Russia, we children thought that this meant a certain woman, perhaps a sinner, for whom we should pray." And indeed, it is a great woman, a big country, on whose behalf the Mother of God steps in. After all, she is committed to God.
And we? Haven't we neglected her? For seventy years we have not taken the essential message of Fatima seriously enough, namely the conversion of Russia.
The present bishop of Fatima once told me, "I was the secretary to the former bishop. He interviewed Lucia, and built the sanctuary of Fatima. At the end of his life he was paralyzed. As his secretary I was also his driver. One time as he limped toward me on his cane and said, 'Let us bring Mary to Moscow, to Russia!' I had to laugh. How could we bring the statue of Mary to Russia? Should I drive the car there? A paralyzed bishop with a statue in his hands all the way to Russia?"
But today, twenty years later, after the time I spent in the concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, during which we studied the message of Fatima, I understand what the bishop meant in those days: "The message of Fatima applies to Russia. Fatima and Russia are one."
You, here in Marienfried, are venerators of Fatima. The meaning of your life is the apostolate of Fatima. We have to bring Mary to Russia. Only then will the triumph of Mary come.
As you know, the Holy Father consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25,
1984, in the year of the Redemption. He invited all bishops to do the same, each in his own diocese.
But then, on the day of the consecration of Russia, I was in Moscow, and I performed the consecration in Moscow, in spiritual union with the Holy Father! How could this happen? I worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. In February 1984, I was with her in Calcutta. Because the Soviet officials there didn't know me, I applied for a visa to Moscow for March 22 to 25, and I received it! Mother Teresa asked all her sisters to pray. Those sisters said a novena for the consecration. Accompanied by a priest, whom I ordained for Russia at Fatima just a few months before, I arrived at the airport in Moscow at four o'clock in the morning. The controlling inspector asked me for my passport, and inquired if I was the person in the photograph. I had an Italian passport and I answered in Italian. The inspector didn't understand me, but I realized I had to pretend to be an Italian. Then he began to telephone. Outside it was ten degrees below zero. But it wasn't cold for me, I was sweating, perhaps more than I am now under the sun. The priest beside me was sweating too. Jokingly, he had said to me in Calcutta, "Father Paul, we are going to Moscow for four or five days, but perhaps it will turn into fourteen years in Siberia." It seemed that he might be right. I took out my Rosary, which Mother Teresa had given me, and I began to pray. The inspector was inside still phoning. But, thanks be to God, no one answered. It was four o'clock in the morning. The people that he tried to call slept well. The inspector didn't give up. He came out and asked me some questions. I answered again, "Si, si." He disappeared and phoned again. For a very long time. I had prayed nearly the whole Rosary and I said to the Mother of God, "I am totally in your hands. May the will of the Lord be done." When the official still didn't get any answer, he became very angry. He hung up, stamped my passport and said, "Beat it!" But after that came the baggage check. They searched the bag in which I had my episcopal cross, Bible, and different medals. I had hundreds of miraculous medals of the Mother of God and a few medals of the Vatican with me, perhaps sixty. The soldier took them in his hand and I could see that he liked them. He asked me: "What are these?" I told him, "Souvenirs from Rome." And I said, "Comrade, if you like them, you may take some." And he took some. I can testify that the Rosary and the medals opened the gates of Moscow for me.
The high point of my stay in Moscow was the feast of the Annunciation of Our Lady It was a Saturday,
and the Kremlin was open to tourists. So I planned it. I was a tourist too. But already at the entrance I had difficulties.
I was supposed to hand over my bag with the "certain things" in it for safekeeping. The guard said, "That must
remain here." That I didn't
like at all. So I begin to chat with him: where does he come from, does he have children, what are their names?
"Konstantinus and Michael."
The name Michael means "Who is like God?" Who is as great as God, as good as God? Today a struggle against God has broken out in the whole world, not only in Russia, but also in the West, where I come from. But for us as Christians it is the sign of victory. Nobody is like God. We will triumph. And I said, "My name is Michael too." (I took it at my ordination.) And she said, "Then this is also your church. Welcome." Can you see you how our dear Lord sometimes jokes? So I entered my church. I went to the altar of St. Michael, I took out the Communist newspaper Pravda from my bag and I spread it out. However, between the pages of Pravda was L'Osservatore Romano with the text of the Pope's consecration of Russia. And I began to pray, "We have recourse to your protection. . ." and "we are imploring you, O Holy Mother of God. . ." I think those are the most beautiful Marian prayers. You should pray them often! There, in a church of the Kremlin, I united myself with the Holy Father and with all the bishops of the world; and so, in union with them, I consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
After that I went to the Marian church of the Assumption of Our Lady Here I repeated the consecration at the altar of the Mother of God. On the opposite side there is the throne of the Patriarch. I put a medal on top of it and I said to our Lady, "As soon as possible you have to bring the true patriarch to this throne." Again I took out the Communist newspaper with L'Osservatore Romano inside, united myself spiritually with the Holy Father and with all the other bishops, and said the prayers again attentively I said Holy Mass in this church too! How could I do that? Well, I pretended to take a photo. An empty bottle of aspirin tablets was my chalice. I arranged wine and a few drops of water so that they were handy. The hosts were in a little nylon bag. That's all that is necessary for a Holy Mass: bread and wine. The Latin text of the Mass for the feast of the Annunciation of Mary was in the pages of Pravda. Pravda means truth. Maybe that was the first time the whole truth was in that newspaper - the text of the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary.
That was the most moving Holy Mass of my entire life. It left me shaken. I felt the great power of God, God's love, God's kindness. Communism to me seemed so small; all dangers were so little, they didn't exist any more. Only God and Mary. At the Offertory I renewed the consecration of Russia to Mary. I said one part of the consecration prayer right after the Consecration of the bread and wine, when the living Savior was present. It was the part where it is written: "In a special way we entrust and consecrate to you those individuals and nations which particularly need to be thus entrusted and consecrated," (namely the nations of Russia).
When I told all this to the Holy Father, he was convinced that it was a sign for him. He had great difficulties getting even some of the bishops and cardinals in Rome to perform that consecration. Once I spoke with Cardinal Ratzinger for two hours on a plane. As you know, he is the right hand man of the Holy Father. When I told him all of this, he also said that it was not easy to get this consecration through. As I said, it was a sign for the Holy Father. God wants this consecration. For He even sent a Catholic bishop to Moscow on that date in order to perform the consecration there, together with all the bishops of the world. The Holy Father said to that bishop, "On that day, Paul, the Mother of God led you by the hand." "No, Holy Father," I answered, "she carried me in her hands, in her arms."
I'm sure I said the prayer "We have recourse to your protection" and "Under your shield" at least one hundred times in the streets of Moscow, on the trains and on the buses. Every Christian should say these prayers every day for the conversion of atheists, but also for himself, and he should offer his own crosses and problems as gifts to God. This is the victory of Mary. She wants to activate all her children for this victory, for the conversion of Russia. Not the destruction of Russia, but its conversion. Again and again I stood in Red Square, in front of the tomb of Lenin, where soldiers keep an honor guard. There are lots of flowers there. There again, I took out a copy of the Communist newspaper, Pravda, only two steps away from the soldiers. They thought I was devotedly studying Russian science. But I prayed and said to our Blessed Mother, "These soldiers are also your children. They and those flowers are here for your honor, not for this mummy of Lenin." I said the prayer for the consecration of Russia there too. While I was walking across Red Square, I prayed the Rosary and the Veni Creator Spiritus. At one side of the Square there was a huge building with the inscription: "Communism will triumph." "No," I said, "Christ has triumphed. He will win again through Mary!"
The next day we went to Sagorsk. Sagorsk is the spiritual center of the Orthodox Church. We were at the grave of Saint Sergius and I was very impressed. So many people prayed there. I have never experienced anything like this in my entire life: "Gospodi pomiluj, Gospodi pomiluj!-Lord, have mercy, have mercy, have mercy!" About one hundred times. I said to Our Lord, "You would have a stone instead of a heart, if you didn't listen to these people and answer them soon." Further I said, "You would be worse than the judge in the Gospel, who didn't care about God or the people, but finally answered the widow only to have peace. You have to answer these people, at least to have rest from them." I'm sure the victory will come soon, the answer to so many prayers. For seventy years the people of this nation have been asking for the mercy of our Lord and praying to the Blessed Mother. In no country on earth is she so loved as in Russia, and nowhere are so many hearts praying to her as in Russia. Often I have said to Satan with regard to Communism, "You made a strategic mistake when you chose Russia as the locus of the battle. Russia is the country of Our Lady. Here she is called Bogorodica, which means Mother of God. You will lose in Russia. Already you are on the losing side."
Yesterday I met a Russian woman. She is more than eighty years old. When I spoke to her in Russian, she began to cry. "I've lost everything, my husband, my children." Another woman told me the same thing at this church in Sagorsk. I asked her where she came from, and she told me, "From Ukraine." I asked her what she was doing. She began to cry. She didn't know that I was a bishop. I looked like a tourist. She told me that she had been carried off to Siberia. "I've lost everything. My children too. The only consolation I have is my belief in God and in the Mother of God. God can, God must help."
In a museum there was a guide who explained an icon. "That is the so-called Sad Mother of God. She is sad because she foresees that she has to offer up her child for us." She said it with such warmth that I asked myself if she said it as a mother or as a believer. Indeed, as it turned out later, she was a believer.
I came in contact with the people in Sagorsk, and I spoke with them. They asked me where I was from. "From Rome." "So? Are you a tourist from Rome, where the Pope lives?" They didn't know that I was a bishop. After that, they asked me if I was Russian Orthodox. "No, I'm a Catholic. But everybody knows that the Catholics and the Orthodox have the same faith in God and the same love of the Mother of God." "Yes, that is true, we are brothers," they replied. "Give our regards to the Holy Father." "I will do it gladly. What are you expecting from the Holy Father? What should he do for you?" And they answered spontaneously, "Bibles! Bibles! We need Bibles, but in our language. Tell the Holy Father he should provide us with Bibles." When I told this to the Holy Father, he had tears in his eyes. "You see, they don't ask for gold, silver, money- not even for bread-but for the Word of God. We must give it to them." They need millions of Bibles. This request is addressed to all Catholics, for every brother is without a Gospel, without a Bible. That is a contribution to the triumph of Mary in Russia.
Once, after a homily about Fatima I gave in the Church of Saint Mary Major, I spoke with a woman who had been paralyzed for thirty years. She couldn't even eat alone. I asked her, "Would you like to offer it up for Brezhnev?" In those days he was the General Secretary of the Communist Party. She answered, "For anyone else, but not for that gangster!" I said to her, "Easy, easy. You can say that to me, but if the Mother of God asked for this sacrifice, what would you say?" "Oh yes, I couldn't say no to our Lady"
A short time ago a Russian doctor - a military doctor with the rank of colonel - came to Czechoslovakia. A nurse, who is a religious sister, but can only disclose her identity as a nurse, gave him a Bible. He kissed it and pressed it to his heart and said with tears, "This is the most beautiful present you could give me. Unfortunately, when I go to Russia, I will have to tear it into hundreds of pieces to give to others who will then copy them."
We can help them. Every Gospel produces new Christians. That is an apostolate. But we are able to do this only if we apply ourselves and make sacrifices. A widow wrote to me, "I've lost my husband, and I want to offer some money for the conversion of Russia." A mother wrote to me, "I've lost a child. I offer it for the conversion of the Godless." A blind woman said, "I offer my blindness, that they will receive light."
If everybody could donate at least enough for one Bible! It costs about six dollars, the bigger ones perhaps twelve dollars. This much most people can spare. When I speak about this to the children, I say, "You shouldn't ask your mother for the money for a Gospel for a child in Russia or in Czechoslovakia. You yourself have to sacrifice ice cream or chocolate." The children write to me, "Father Paul, I gave up ten portions of ice cream. I've given up chocolate. Here is the money" Some of the children came to evening Mass recently and brought their money in boxes to the church. I asked one of them, "How much is in here?" One box had about sixty-five dollars, another one about ninety dollars.
You should have seen those children's eyes, how they lit up! They wanted to buy something nice for themselves, but they gave it up. The joy of those children was never greater than on that day.
Children have to be educated to make sacrifices. But adults can make sacrifices too. Perhaps a cigarette a day. Once I gave a homily in Sardinia in the morning, and in the evening people came into the sacristy to give me something. One woman gave me an envelope with 400,000 lire-about 350 dollars. I didn't want to take it, but the parish priest said, "Don't worry, take it, she will be happy" The woman said, "Dear Bishop, I have a small pension every month. It amounts to 270,000 lire (about 250 dollars). Actually I am saving this money for my youngest grandchild. After my death the child will inherit this sum. But during your homily I thought to myself, If I offer the money for the kingdom of God, God can take care of the child better than I." How clever this woman is; that's real wisdom. Truly, the Lord can take better care of us. We have to trust more in Him. Another woman had saved up about fourteen hundred dollars for her funeral. During the homily she thought, "I can earn for myself the kingdom of God if I sacrifice it. And that's more than a beautiful funeral with flowers and music." This again is prudence, wisdom. Everybody is able to offer sacrifices, not only with money, but also with prayer.
And one last example. When I was in Russia in the museum where the famous painting of the Trinity by Andrej Rubljow, and the most beautiful of all Marian Icons - the Wladimirskaja - are kept, I saw another impressive painting. It describes a scene in the history of Russia. On one side you see the invasion of the Mongolians into Russia. They murder women and children and set the churches on fire. All the people were running away. At the other side of the painting is a big church with many windows and doors. In the middle there is the Mother of God, who activated all the saints in heaven and on earth to come to the aid of Russia. You see the emperor Constantine with the inscription "In this sign you will triumph." You see the Archangel Saint Michael with his sword and many saints who want to save Russia. History says that the Blessed Mother saved Russia in those times. But even more difficult times would come, and once more she would save Russia. As I stood before this painting, a class of children came past. They were about ten to twelve years old. Their teacher told them the story. A time would come even more grave than the time of the Mongol invasion. But the Bogorodica - the Blessed Mother- would save Russia.
Let's return to the message of Fatima. What does it mean? It means the activation of the powers of Heaven. All of Heaven takes part in achieving that victory, all the saints, all the angels, and the Blessed Mother. In Heaven the Mother of God does not have to ask, as we heard yesterday when she said to Bernadette: "Be so kind as to pray the Rosary." There is great joy among all the saints in Heaven when they can participate in the triumph of the Blessed Mother. She asks us for prayers and sacrifices too. Therefore we are called children of Mary. But have we really earned this name? The message of Fatima is the activation of all powers. Didn't Hitler command the general mobilization of Germany in 1939? Well, the Mother of God did the same, and she did it at Fatima. She is the co-redemptrix. She calls us to this co-redemption, to pray for it, to believe, to hope, and to love God for all those who do not love Him, for all those who most need the mercy of God.
The Holy Father said the same. If the mother country is in danger, defense is of the first priority All else is secondary, because the enemy wants to destroy everything. It is the same in our case. Everything else should be put aside so we can convert Russia. Through us the Blessed Mother has to become co-redemptrix for our brothers. That's right! We too are to be co-redeemers for our brothers. I make up in my body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.
The Blessed Mother calls us to the highest career possible - to become co-redeemers for our brothers
in Christ. That is the meaning of the message of Fatima, the message of peace. We shouldn't ask only, but we should
also apply ourselves with all our hearts. Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical Signum
Magnum - the Great Sign - the sign of the end, the triumph of Mary. He wrote it in
1967, for the fiftieth anniversary of Fatima. We live in the last times. We are all signs, a sign of Mary or a
sign of Satan.
Praised be Jesus Christ+
Copyright © Mark Alder and Timothy Tindal-Robertson 1992, 1998 and 2000-2001