Fatima is an Inspiration for Teachers
The staging of the marvelous apparitions of Fatima in 1917 consistently adhered to the long-established format of a teacher addressing her pupils. The dominance of the teacher, Our Lady, at the holm-oak tree, solves for the student of Holy Scripture one aspect of the style of teaching of Jesus that has been the subject of revisionism since Vatican II.
Every Roman Catholic who recalls attending Mass in the days when pews were pews and sermons were news, has no trouble remembering that to observe the Mass and to hear the sermon, the person in the pew looked upward. It was only after the liturgical innovators suggested that annulated seating was a threat to concentration did the theater-in-the-round format invade the designs of liturgical settings. The result of much experimentation resulted in many cases of church interiors taking on the sloped-floor aspect of the cinema, with the altar and the priest below the eye level of the congregation and, raked seating giving the faithful the feeling of being more an observer than a participant.
To deliver the Sermon on the Mount Jesus was on the Mount with the congregation below. That is why it is not called the Sermon Below the Mount or the Sermon to the Mount. Any teacher, with nothing but instinct to guide him, knows the value of having the student looking up while new information is imparted. It is the natural position of the recipient that is perfectly reflective of the natural position of any child receiving from a parent. Children look up, that is the law of nature. It is the prime geometry of the teacher-student relationship.
The inversion of the teacher-student position that results from theater seating in modern churches denies both the teacher and the student the natural flow of authority from the informer to the informed. Children taught in a theater setting are disoriented, confused and risk the accidental presumption so destructive to the formative mind: the presumption of knowledge, which is the greatest enemy of learning.
Just as Jesus looked down at the daughter of Jarius and raised her from the dead, just as He called down to Lazarus and beckoned him up from the tomb, just as He looked lovingly down on the gathered disciples as He rose into Heaven, so too Mary, on the holm-oak, looked down at troubled mankind and roused it from its wartime slumber, lowered to mankind the ladder of the Five First Saturdays to help him ascend from the edge of the inferno, and looked lovingly down upon the 70,000 gathered at Cova da Iria on October 13, from alongside the dancing sun, as Her Son blessed the whole world from on high.
The lessons of Fatima are an endless source of inspiration for teachers. The Cova da Iria is a classroom the likes of which has not been entered into since Jesus turned the slopes of Galilee into the first Sacred Heart school. But there is more, much more, than just the teacher-student dynamic in the positioning of Our Lady during the Fatima Apparitions. She arrived each 13th of the month from a flash of light high in the eastern sky, descended in a globe of light actually visible to onlookers in August, September and October and assumed Her natural position of authority atop the holm-oak tree that was her podium for the great lesson She was to deliver. Just as the light of Her glorified body was a window onto the True Light that enlightens every man who comes into the world, Her very form, the very shape of Her presence, was a conduit for the funneling into human history of the grace God on high offered to men at that moment.
It was St. Bernadine of Sienna who clarified simply and poignantly the obvious symbolism: All graces of the spiritual life that descend from Christ, their head, to the faithful, who are His Mystical Body, are transmitted by the means of Mary.
How perfectly Our Lady atop the tree personifies the love of God, flooding the earth with Her beauty, She Who is Full of Grace. St. Bernadine reminds us: From the moment in which this Virgin Mother conceived the Divine Word in Her womb, She acquired a special jurisdiction, so to say, over all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, so that no creature has since received any grace from God, otherwise than by the hands of Mary. Those hands opened at Fatima and from them streamed light that fell on the three child seers: Lucy, Jacinta and Francisco. The light enveloping Jacinta and Francisco went upward, as if back to its own Source, interpreted by Lucy to mean that they would soon be going there too. The light that enveloped Lucy projected downward to the earth in such a manner as to convince her that it meant she was to remain behind on earth for some time. Jacinta and Francisco died at the ages of ten and eleven respectively. Lucy, at the moment of this writing, is still with us at the ripe age of 93.
The glories of Mary, evident at Fatima, and the authority clearly given Her as the teacher of mankind, are referred to by St. Bernadine, writing long before the 20th Century: When Jesus Christ issued forth from Her womb, all the streams of divine gifts flowed from Her as from a celestial ocean.
The high tide of human history crested at Fatima. Until mankind catches the wave, the inversion of values ever proliferating from man’s presumption of knowledge will guarantee that he will never graduate from the campuses of war.