Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fatima, History, and Homeschooling: The Last Catholic Emperor

Yesterday, we began a family read-aloud of A Heart for Europe (a poignant and heart-rending history of the last Catholic emperor, Emperor Charles and his beloved wife, Empress Zita) to accompany our current studies on World War I. In addition, we will recap the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima (already known well by my own children, since ours is a "Fatima-centric" family), possibly using Warren Carroll's book entitled 1917: Red Banners, White Mantle. This is our teens' second cycle in the study of world history, including the message of Fatima, together with research into the tragic fate of the Romanov's and the mystery of the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

There are many ways to "Keep It Catholic" in our studies; we just need to do a little searching, perhaps paying attention to timelines we can keep in our own minds. Although the following remark could be applied to all history, the years 1900 and onward are so compelling on a spiritual level, because (in addition to all that even secular history teaches) there lived the great saint, Pope Pius X, who - for reasons known only to God - died when human frailty would judge he was most needed as World War I began; in 1917, the apparitions and the all-important message and miracle at Fatima took place, followed by the horrid Bolshevik Revolution, the murder of the Royal Family of Russia, the allegations of England's betrayal in failing to assist the Czar and Czarina - extended members of their own family! Then came end-of-war negotiations and the unjust and overzealous punishment of Germany, which led to WWII (a lesson to victors that injustice eventually returns to those meting out the injustice), and the Great Depression in the US.

In Europe, the "night illuminated by a great unknown light" foretelling war and persecution manifested itself on the eve of WWII (just as Our Lady of Fatima warned); a great evil arose in Europe through the hands of Hitler and Stalin and Lenin; the A-Bomb was invented and detonated, thus ending WWII but causing unbelievable human suffering to the innocent civilians in Japan; in short, the world's pace stepped up considerably from brisk to frantic and chaotic.

And that is why Our Lady of Fatima came to the world in 1917. It was heaven's wish to avert all those tragedies; all heaven needed was our cooperation. Heaven is still waiting for our total cooperation, most especially by the Holy Father and the bishops when they collegially offer the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Only then will this tragic door of history be closed, to be joyfully replaced by an era of peace promised by Our Blessed Mother herself.

Of course, I haven't mentioned other historic happenings of the first four decades of the 20 century, like the sinking of the Titanic or the Lusitania or the Dust Bowl Years, or the evil Nazi attempts to annihilate whole races. Nor have I mentioned Cardinal Mindsentzy, the fate of Hungary, the communist take-over of China, the Truman years, the Bay of Pigs, or the dim memories of my own childhood revolving around the Vietnam War or Watergate. The point is - these things are not really ancient history (though it may seem so to us) but are a continuing line of events in the temporal order, leading to our own time in history. We must never forget the spiritual lessons of that same history. We must not forget the solution that Our Lady of Fatima gave us. It is the wish of heaven, the command of God and His Mother: Consecrate Russia, who has spread her errors throughout the world!

Until then - and even then - we must pray, study and act. In our homes and homeschools, we must pray for perseverance, we must study to acquire (or nurture) our Catholic conscience in history. (Have you read your Belloc lately?)

We must heed the Church's doctrines, especially those in regard to Catholic education. Once we humbly accept our need to "Keep it Catholic", we should seek out more Catholic resources, like the two mentioned above, and others like For Altar and Throne (the historical narrative of the Vendee - that small band of faithful Catholics of the cataclysmic French Revolution), Trianon and Madame Royale (both by Elena Marie Vidal - please don't miss these two!).

As we study history, we will find that we no longer see things with a "Catholic perspective" (which is a false notion) but rather with an informed Catholic conscience that understands history from within the bosom of Christendom, even if the walls of Western civilization are crumbling.

The one over-all truth that Catholic history teaches us is that God is with us, despite ourselves, but also that He also leaves mankind to his own devices when he becomes arrogant. (As the only creatures made in God's likeness and image, and on a whole, we human beings simply do not learn the lessons of history.) History teaches us that we needed a Redeemer and that we will always need Him. God keeps letting us re-learn the lesson.

Let us always pray for perseverance, not only for in persevering with our Catholic homeschools, but in learning what we must be and what we must do to persevere unto the end.

(First posted January 13, 2005 to the original blog, Keeping It Catholic - with Marianna Bartold)

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