Year ending with dramatic events and tone

      There were Christians killed in Indonesia. An extraordinary fire killed in China. There was a partial eclipse of the sun. In Rome the Pope -- usually keeping his Christmas message to the world upbeat -- this year lamented the "alarming signs of the culture of death." 

       Abortion. Euthanasia. Cloning. The millennium and Jubilee Year were drawing to a close and spiritual developments, simmering for most of the last two decades, were starting to boil. If ever there were signs that an extraordinary period of mercy was winding down -- and that the hand of God's justice would soon be seen -- it was in the way developments have sped up as we look back at 2000, which was actually the last year of the millennium.

       There was extraordinary news from the spiritual front. In any list of the top religious stories would be the Pope's historic visit to the Holy Land, the renewed violence there, the persecution of Christians in Asia, India, and Africa, the retiring of evangelist Billy Graham, the extraordinary gatherings in Rome during jubilee events, including two million on Youth Day -- five times as many as at the famous rock concert at Woodstock. 

       These were all among the top spiritual events of 2000, yet when it comes to mysteries of our faith it was hard to beat an event last June 26, when, after 83 years of confidentiality, the famous third secret of Fatima was released.

       It was extraordinary: according to an image in the secret, sometime during the past eight decades and probably in the 1980s an angel had been ready to torch the earth. Indications were that an intercession of the Virgin Mary had halted a nuclear conflict (a light from her doused the flames of the angel's sword) and this was extraordinary because at Fatima it had been prophesied that consecration of the world and Russia to the Immaculate Heart would do just that: stop Russia from annihilating nations.

       According to Fatima seer Lucia dos Santos a consecration of the world to Mary in 1984 had prevented a nuclear war from occurring the following year!

       That was the good news, but in 2000 were also indications of challenge, that with Fatima fulfilled the world was now entering a "new time," as described at the other huge apparition site of the century, Medjugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovina, where there is a set of new secrets that have not yet been fulfilled. 

       Is there another great chastisement in these secrets -- one as serious as what was in the third Fatima secret? Has the Pope once more reacted to it -- entrusting the world to Mary during an extraordinary ceremony with more than a thousand bishops last October? And will this forestall or at least alleviate the chastisements to come?

       These are questions that will in all likelihood yield to some answers in 2001 and the first decade of the millennium. Already strange extremes in weather, earthquakes, and other events have pointed to natural and perhaps military, economic, and societal disturbances to come. While the U.S. saw an extraordinary battle between pro-life and pro-choice activists play out in the drama of the closest-ever presidential race -- and while the triumph, on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe (patroness of both the Americas and the unborn), of the pro-life candidate, promised to halt or at least slow the descent into a moral abyss -- indications were that purification was on the way. From Medjugorje itself came indications of flowers blooming out of season and word from a seer that part of the Virgin's plan there -- whatever that plan is -- is about to unfold. 

       "We cannot but recall today that shadows of death threaten people's lives at every stage of life, and are especially menacing at its earliest beginning and its natural end,'' said John Paul II in his Christmas message, a reference to abortion and euthanasia, which he attacked further by saying that people could not anticipate the arrival of death ``as though we were masters of our own lives or the lives of others.''

       The Pope, privy to many private revelations, and acutely aware of Medjugorje, said today's world is confronted by problems "which pose a serious threat for the future.''

The third Fatima secret

The Pope's message to the world

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