Saturday was May 13; it was the anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance at Fatima to Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia on May 13, 1917. May 13 is also the feast day of St. Robert Bellarmine, the Doctor of the Church who is most famous among traditionalists for his teaching that a manifest heretic would cease to be the Pope.
St. Robert Bellarmine (1610), Doctor of the Church: "A pope who is a manifest heretic automatically (per se) ceases to be pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church. Wherefore, he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the teaching of all the ancient Fathers who teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction." (De Romano Pontifice, II, 30.)
Although St. Robert wasn’t canonized until 1930 by Pope Pius XI, heaven obviously knew that St. Robert’s feast day would eventually occupy the day which would mark the anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance at Fatima. Why did heaven choose the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine to mark the beginning of Fatima? Almost all “traditionalists” who have commented on the probable contents of the third secret of Fatima agree that it deals with apostasy from the Church, and apostasy among those who purport to hold high positions in the Catholic hierarchy. Isn’t it interesting that for the first day of the message of Fatima – a message that, according to almost all traditionalist commentators, is intertwined with a warning about apostasy from the Faith among those who purport to hold high positions in the Catholic hierarchy – heaven chose it to be the feast of the saint who is most famous among traditionalists for his teaching that the occupant of the highest position of all, the Pope, would lose his office if he became a manifest heretic?! Perhaps this should give the non-sedevacantists pause – pause to consider what heaven is perhaps telling them by this alone, namely, that the teaching of St. Robert on this point must be heeded, since it is true and rooted in defined dogma.
Since May 13 just passed, it’s also fitting that we reproduce below William Thomas Walsh’s account of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima.
MAY 13, 1917: For just before them, on top of a small evergreen called the azinheira – it was about three feet high, and its glossy leaves had prickles on them, like cactus – they saw a ball of light. And in the center of it stood a Lady.
As Lucia describes her, she was “a Lady all of white, more brilliant than the sun dispensing light, clearer and more intense than a crystal cup full of crystalline water penetrated by the rays of the most glaring sun.” Her face was indescribably beautiful, “not sad, not happy, but serious” – perhaps somewhat reproachful, though benign; her hands together in prayer at her breast, pointing up, with Rosary beads hanging down between the fingers of the right hand. Even her garments seemed made solely of the same white light; a simple tunic falling to her feet, and over it a mantle from her head to the same length, its edge made of a fiercer light that seemed to glitter like gold. Neither the hair nor the ears could be seen. The features? It was almost impossible to look steadily in the face; it dazzled, and hurt the eyes, and made one blink or look away.
The children stood, fascinated, within the radiance that surrounded her for a distance of perhaps a meter and a half.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said, in a low musical tone, never to be forgotten. “I won’t hurt you!”
They felt no fear now, in fact, but only a great joy and peace. It was the ‘lightning,’ really, that had frightened them before. Lucia was self-possessed enough to ask a question:
[Lucia]: “Where does Your Excellency come from?”
“I am from heaven.”
[Lucia]: “And what is it you want of me?”
“I come to ask you to come here for six months in succession, on the thirteenth day at this same hour. Then I will tell you who I am, and what I want. And afterwards I will return here a seventh time.”
[Lucia]: “And shall I go to heaven too?”
“Yes, you will.”
[Lucia]: “And Jacinta?”
[Lucia]: “And Francisco?”
“Also. But he will have to say many Rosaries!”
Heaven! Lucia suddenly remembered two girls who had died recently. They were friends of her family, and used to go to her house to learn weaving from her sister Maria.
[Lucia]: “Is Maria da Neves now in heaven?” she asked.
“Yes, she is.”
[Lucia]: “And Amelia?”
“She will be in Purgatory until the end of the world.
“Do you wish to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the suffering that He may please to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and to ask for the conversion of sinners?”
[Lucia]: “Yes, we do.”
“Then you will have much to suffer. But the grace of God will be your comfort.”
As she spoke the words, “a grace de Deus,” [the grace of God] the Lady opened her lovely hands, and from the palms came two streams of light so intense that it not only enveloped the children with its radiance, but seemed to penetrate their breasts and to reach the most intimate parts of their hearts and souls, “making us see ourselves in God” – these are Lucia’s words – “more clearly in that light than in the best of mirrors.” An irresistible impulse forced them to their knees and made them say, fervently: “O most holy Trinity, I adore You! My God, my God, I love You in the Most Blessed Sacrament!”
The Lady waited for them to finish this. Then she said, “Say the Rosary every day, to obtain peace for the world, and the end of the war.”
Immediately after this she began to rise serenely from the azinheira to glide away toward the east “until she disappeared in the immensity of the distance.” (Our Lady of Fatima, pp. 51-52)