In Defense of the World Apostolate of Fátima

Originally published at Catholic Stand on July 5, 2015.

The World Apostolate of Fatima, USA Inc. recently published a biography of Sr. Lúcia—the last surviving visionary of Fátima (†2005)—entitled A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary (see my review here). The book itself was a translation of a Portuguese biography entitled Um Caminho Sob o Olhar de Maria and was published in 2013 by the Carmelite Sisters of Coimbra, Portugal. This translation was critiqued recently, and I would like to respond to the critique as a whole.

The critique makes two particular assertions for our consideration here. The first is an observation and the second is an erroneous claim. The observation concerns the translation of a key text within the new biography of Sr. Lúcia. The claim is that the publisher is “hiding” the “real” text. Before I respond, let me first briefly explain the matter at hand.

Background:

Back in February, I wrote an article entitled Is There a “Fourth Secret” of Fatima. In this article, I discussed the apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima within the context of some theories surrounding her message and the publication of a new biography of Sr. Lúcia. The principle theory identified in the article is what I labeled the “two-text” theory.[i] Those who subscribe to this theory were identified as “two-text theorists.”

After the publication of the Portuguese text of Um Caminho Sob o Olhar de Maria, the World Apostolate of Fatima, USA Inc. (WAF-USA) was given the rights from the Coimbra convent to publish the book in English translation. Unfortunately, the existence of the Portuguese biography was not announced too well in the English-speaking world.

The above changed when an Italian journalist learned of the biography and wrote about it in August, 2014. Said journalist wrote an article in which he discussed a revelatory piece of information from chapter 13 of the biography. This article was read and translated from Italian into English and published.[ii]

The new “revelation” in the biography is an indication that the third part of the secret of Fátima was comprised of what I will here call “visual” and “interpretative” components. The “visual” component was a supernatural vision and the “interpretative” one appears to be an as yet unknown explanation of the vision (it is presumed to have been given by Our Lady).

The biography states that the Virgin Mary appeared to Sr. Lúcia on January 3, 1944. This was after Sister had been ordered by her religious superiors to write down the third part of the secret. Sister was torn over obedience. Our Lady had said in 1917 not to tell the secret to anyone (except her cousin Francisco), but Sister’s religious superiors were ordering the contrary. Our Lady appeared to Sr. Lúcia in 1944 and said, “….be at peace and write what they command you, not, however, what is given to you to understand of its significance.”[iii]

In the above quotation, we see that Our Lady made the distinction between the “visual” and the “interpretative” components. She told Lúcia to write down what she saw, i.e. the “vision,” but not what she was given to understand of its meaning.[iv]

This was truly a revelation because for years it was debated whether or not there were words of Our Lady that explained the vision (which was published in the year 2000). Having the confirmation in Sr. Lúcia’s own handwriting that an interpretation did, in fact, exist—but which was not intended by Our Lady in 1944 for public consumption—was as valuable as it was remarkable. As remarkable as it is, the effort from two-text theorists has been rejuvenated.[v]

The “Observation”:

The recent critique makes the observation that there was a mistranslation of the above key text. On this simple point, I agree that the text was mistranslated. The WAF-USA’s translation is, “Be at peace and write what they order you, but do not give your opinion of its meaning.” A more literal rendering of the Portuguese text is what I gave above, namely, “….be at peace and write what they command you, not, however, what is given to you to understand of its significance.”

The mistranslation is particularly questionable because it makes the discourse of Our Lady to be about Sister’s opinion as opposed to an actual interpretation given to her by heaven. This mistranslation lends itself to the belief of two-text theorists that there is a cover-up of the third part of the secret of Fátima. This is why the critique in question states that WAF-USA is trying to “hide” something.

The Erroneous Claim:

While it is true that an error was made in translation, does it follow that there was a mistranslation with means to “hide” the truth? Just how did the text in question come to be mistranslated? I am in a position to address this matter and shall do so presently. WAF-USA has issued its own response. To shed further light, I would like to share my own personal story with WAF-USA’s roll-out of A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary.

For research purposes, I had contacted WAF-USA in February of this year (2015). I requested of the National Coordinator of WAF-USA, to read the Apostolate’s translation of chapter 13. To make a long story short, I was directed to the editor of the biography translation. We spoke at some length between phone and E-mail correspondence beginning on February 27. As the correspondence developed, I asked if it would be possible to read the entire book in advance to write a review for Catholic Stand.

At first, I was given permission to read chapter 13 only.[vi] This was given on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. This was the same day that the book had gone to the printer. By March 12, I had read the chapter and noted the above discussed mistranslation. I pointed it out to the editor and this was submitted to WAF-USA officials.

Simply stated, the answer that I received was that it was now very late in the editorial process; it was too late to make any changes. According to a notice by the Carmelite Sisters, the publishing date was slated for March 22, but this ended up being delayed until April 13. Those familiar with the publishing world know that a printing company needs a final copy in order to print. Once the final seal of approval is given, any further changes incur a fee.

Based on the above, WAF-USA was going to go with the translation “as is” but with the caveat that there was going to be a second edition. Moreover, if I understood correctly what I was told, there were already plans for a second edition even before I pointed out the error on March 12.

In sharing the above, I make no excuses for WAF-USA, nor am I trying to throw it under the bus. I share the story because the above-mentioned critique assigns a negative characterization to the intentions of WAF-USA. This is inaccurate simply because the Apostolate did not know of the mistranslation until it was essentially too late. They had every intention of correcting this error in the second edition.

Moreover, one should ask a very important question: was WAF-USA contacted prior to the publication of the critique? Consider also that for the last several months, I myself have made 3-4 attempts to contact the author of the critique, including once on E-mail. In the times that I called, message was left with a gentleman whose name escapes me. The past two calls in particular were to discuss important matters related to recent remarks on Fátima made by the critique’s author. None of my communications have received a response, written or verbal.

Conclusion:

I think that everything written above boils down to people needing to be more careful and diligent. All of us are duty-bound to inform ourselves. Moreover, people must consider that we are dealing with the simple reality of the messiness that is humanity and its being prone to making mistakes.

It is a fact that Um Caminho Sob o Olhar de Maria largely went unnoticed in the English-speaking world. This changed when the Italian journalist’s August 2014 article was publicized in that world. One can express a wish or desire for a better roll-out of the biography, but the fact is that we are dealing with some unique realities. First, there is the simple fact of working with cloistered nuns. Second, said book is in a foreign language and culture that, in my experience, is not too well understood in the English-speaking world.

For their part, all the Carmelite Sisters wanted was to tell the world of the beautiful soul of their fellow sister in religion, Lúcia of Fátima. Their primary goal is to show people a beautiful pathway to God through Mary as reflected in the life of Sr. Lúcia. Their aim is the interior life and Carmelite religious observance, not marketing strategies. They left the latter to the competency of others. This focus on the spiritual as opposed to the temporal has always been a terribly misunderstood, or at least little-appreciated, aspect of the history of Fátima and it is time that we give it its due. Let us be mindful of the fact that God uses poor instruments and that God’s power is made perfect in infirmity (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Having been privy to a part of the roll-out of A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary with the World Apostolate of Fatima, I can state that the folks at the Apostolate that I have met are honest and simple people who just want to serve God and Our Lady. Moreover, I understand that the Apostolate’s staff is very small and limited and that this affected the roll-out. Mistakes were made, but I am sure that any questions posed to the Apostolate are received and answered charitably.

Finally, let us also keep everything in proper perspective. We are discussing a sentence from a book wherein it is explicitly indicated by the Virgin Mary herself that at least as of January 3, 1944, certain information was not to be given to the public. Unless the Will of God ordained it to be communicated at a later time—and irrefutable evidence of this fact is provided to the public—one might just be arguing the Will of God and this can only displease the Almighty. This is the “state of the question,” all else notwithstanding.

Update: 8-31-15 A.D.:
I have updated Endnote iv to reflect more carefully the current terms of the debate on Fátima and the status quaestionis of the third part of the secret and Sr. Lúcia’s understanding thereof.


Notes:

[i] The theory states that the third part of the secret of Fátima has two parts. The first was revealed in the year 2000 by the Holy See, but, says the theory, it is allegedly covering up another text purported to be from Sr. Lúcia.

[ii] Fatima Crusader (Fall 2014, Issue 110, pages 22-26).

[iii] I am here using my own translation of the Portuguese.

[iv] This phrase is largely being interpreted to mean that there was some understanding of the vision given to Sr. Lúcia at an unspecified point in time. “Two-texts” theorists are interpreting the meaning given to Sr. Lúcia as continuing the debated phrase, “In Portugal, the dogma of the faith shall always be preserved…” from July, 1917. Here, Sister broke off the narration with a simple “etc.” hence the debate over whether there were more words of Our Lady. That there were more words of Our Lady is not necessarily a foregone conclusion at this time and is still a matter of debate.

[v] The critique against WAF-USA accuses the Apostolate of mistranslating the Portuguese text in the key area already discussed. The reader is reminded of the salient observation made in endnote 3 of my article Is There a “Fourth Secret” of Fatima? Though we respectfully disagree on some finer points, I do respect the professional accomplishments of this particular writer.

[vi] I later received the entire book in PDF format on March 24 for the purpose of my review.