An interview with Kevin Symonds*, Author of On the Third Part of the Secret of Fátima, published by “En Route Books and Media”, 2017
by Dr. Michela FerriWhy did you write this book and why are you interested in this topic of the history of the Catholic Church? Why and when did you become interested in this topic?
I wrote this book for a few reasons. Above all, I have a very strong interest in the Madonna. This interest is rooted in devotion to Our Lady that was instilled in me during my conversion twenty years ago. Secondly, the work for the book began in an indirect fashion during the research for another book “Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael.” Fátima is a part of this book and work that I did for it became the foundation for my latest book. I was very excited to be able to go more deeply into the story of Fátima as these apparitions have always been dear to me. Thirdly, and finally, the publication of a new biography on Sister Lúcia provided fresh insights into the history of Fátima. I believed this information to be very important as it helped to address some ongoing controversies surrounding Fátima and the famous third part of its secret.Were there specific aspects of this topic that you found to be difficult during your research?
Yes, there were some very difficult aspects. The most difficult was following the controversies. Over the course of decades, various controversies and accusations of conspiracy arose over the third part of the secret. Understanding the arguments and following them back to their sources was not an easy task, and there were times where I had to rest. Closely attached to this fact was locating the sources themselves. Regretfully, I was not able to find everything, but enough materials were located with the help of very kind people. Finally, there is the fact of the research in languages other than English. Thankfully, I enjoy some capacity with foreign languages and have a network of people upon whom I rely for assistance. Together, we have done some truly groundbreaking work with this book and I am indebted to everyone who helped me, especially the nephew of Fr. Agustín Fuentes (discussed in chapter five).Could you explain the structure of your book?
The book is divided into thirteen chapters, and this was a deliberate act on my part. The number thirteen is closely associated with Fátima as it is on the 13th of each month that the Madonna appeared to the three visionaries (except in August, 1917). Also, Sister Lúcia died on February 13th, 2005. Finally, it was thirteen years from the apparitions’ end to their approval (1917-1930). The first chapter is a history of Fátima and its secret with a special emphasis upon the third part. The chapter establishes the foundation for the remaining twelve chapters which examine specific aspects of the history of the third part of the secret. There is an epilogue at the end of the chapters wherein I summarize the general observations. Then there are appendices, some of which are important documents that have not been available to an English-speaking audience. A few of my own articles on Fátima are included in the appendices.
Could you explain the connection between Fátima and Pope John Paul II?
The connection between Fátima and Pope Saint John Paul II largely surrounds the failed assassination attempt on the Pontiff’s life on 13 May, 1981. That day was the 64th anniversary of the first apparition of the Madonna. The would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, shot and wounded the Pope. During his convalescence in the Gemelli Clinic, the Holy Father requested that the third part of the secret (among other documents) be brought to him. Seeing that the text showed a vision of a Pope being attacked, John Paul II associated his own experience with the vision. In the tradition of literature, it is said that prior to the assassination attempt, John Paul II’s devotion to the Madonna was rooted in Polish culture and tradition. In other words, he was not very familiar with Fátima. Having been shot and then reading the prophecy of the third part of the secret compelled the Holy Father to take a keen interest in Fátima. Thereafter, he saw his pontificate as intimately united with Our Lady of Fátima and sought to fulfill her request for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart, first in 1982 and then in 1984. He was also in communication with Sister Lúcia, who, together with the Holy Father, decided in 1982 not to release the text of the third part of the secret. That revelation came between May and June of 2000 with the belief that the specific prophecies of Fátima had been fulfilled. In 2005, both Sister Lúcia and John Paul II died within weeks of each other—the latter having died on 2 April, which was the First Saturday of the month and the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday. It is also a little-appreciated fact that the cane used by John Paul II towards the end of his life was given to him by Sister Lúcia.One hundred years after the events in Fatima sees the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta taking place today (Saturday the 13th of May). Do you believe their canonization presents a new message for the Catholic world?
The canonization of Francisco and Jacinta Marto does not present a new message for the Catholic world, though it does permit us to rethink some theological concepts. Above all, the canonization reiterates or reinforces the perennial message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all men, no matter their age. It has been believed that young people could only be canonized if they had died as martyrs. Francisco and Jacinta died natural deaths. There is no guarantee that because someone sees Jesus or Mary, as did Francisco and Jacinta, that they are going to be saints. In the history of the Church, one can find examples of people who did not always live exemplary lives after experiencing extraordinary graces. People are still capable of not corresponding with the grace of God, as the contemporary world readily demonstrates. Francisco and Jacinta were overcome with the love of God and the Madonna so much so that the greatest of sacrifices was as nothing to them, so long as it meant loving God more and saving souls. This is a message in and of itself to the world—that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone and the life of virtue can be practiced to a heroic degree even by the littlest among us. In this day and age, when a veritable cesspool of sin exists, Francisco and Jacinta stand up amid the ruins of society and point us to God and Our Lady.What is the sense, the message, of the miracle of Fátima?
I believe that it was Cardinal Cerejeira, the Patriarch of Lisbon, who once described the “miracle” of Fátima in terms of the conversion of the people and the country of Portugal. It went from Socialist revolution to honoring God almost overnight. This is the miracle of Fátima, and it stands as a living reminder to us today of what happens when we return to God and do penance. Recently, I attended the 24th International Mariological Congress in Fátima. I prayed and meditated on both the events of the Congress and the call of the Madonna in Fátima. During the course of my meditation, the famous phrase of the secret “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith shall always be preserved” came to mind. As I experienced Portuguese culture through its people, I began to see more depth to this phrase. The people preserved much of its “Catholic identity,” especially in the language. This came apparent to me when I was working on Portuguese texts for my book. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI warned the Portuguese against the ravages of secularism and to be prophets to our world. It is my prayer that Fátima continues to point the Portuguese (and others) towards God. The message is simple: conversion. The Immaculate Heart of the Madonna is held out to us as a pathway that will lead us to God.
*Kevin Symonds was born and raised in Massachusetts. He attended Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio where he obtained his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Theology with a background in the classical languages. He has worked with the Church’s theology of private revelation since 2002 and has published Internet and magazine articles. He is also the author of Refractions of Light: 201 Answers on Apparitions, Visions and the Catholic Church (En Route Books and Media, 2015) and Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael (Preserving Christian Publications, 2015). He lives in Michigan.
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