One hundred years ago today, fighting broke out in Russia. Promising "peace, land and bread," the Bolsheviks — the militant atheist footsoldiers of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin — launched an attack on government loyalists in the streets of Petrograd.
In the savage civil war that followed, Russia was decimated. Millions died, but it was only the beginning.
Our Lady's warning at Fatima — that, if unchecked by repentance, Russia would spread Her errors throughout the world — was coming to pass.
November 7 marks the centenary of the Communist Revolution in Russia, one of the great sorrows of human history.
It resulted in the total overthrow of the Christian order, replacing it with a new regime where the state was worshipped in place of God. Anything — and anyone — standing in its way was targeted for destruction. Individuals were cut down and institutions uprooted and replaced.
After seizing power, as a matter of Soviet state policy, Lenin prioritized the elimination of the Church.
In the first five years of Communist rule, the Soviets murdered 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests. Many more disappeared into gulags or were exiled, never to be seen again.
The suffering magnified after Lenin died in 1924. His successor, one-time seminarian Josef Stalin, sought to utterly crush the Church he had once served.
After just four years of his rule, authorities in the Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, had murdered the metropolitan of Kiev and another 28 bishops, as well as more than 6,700 priests. Stalin's reign of terror would last another quarter-century until his death in 1953.
All this was foretold by Our Lady of Fatima. On July 13, 1917, less than four months before the outbreak of bloodshed in Russia, the Blessed Mother warned of coming wars, famines and persecutions of the Church and the Holy Father — all consequences of sin. To prevent these sorrows, Our Lady said to the three Fatima children:
I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.
Within a generation, Russia's errors were indeed spreading; the Communist ideology was spilling over the country's borders and seeping into every corner of the world.
After World War II, Europe was partitioned with the Soviet Union claiming half, including Catholic Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, for itself.
Peering eastward across the divide, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned the United States that "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent."
Just as it was dividing Europe, Communism's shadow fell over Asia. Within five years, Korea had been severed in two and 2.5 million of its people were dead from war. Within 15 years, 45 million Chinese had starved to death in the worse famine in recorded history. From there, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were engulfed, with millions butchered by the Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge.
Communism then penetrated into Africa, where it claimed several countries and an estimated 2 million lives. Worst hit was Ethiopia, where it helped spark the catastrophic famine of 1983–85.
The ideology is still at work today, oppressing, murdering and destroying in North Korea, China, Vietnam and Cuba, where it still holds sway.
As appalling as the tyrannical political rule proceeding from Russia has been, its deepest error is far worse and all-encompassing. True to Our Lady's warning, this error has enveloped the entire globe over the past century. It has pierced the very heart of the Western world.
In 1920, the Soviet Union became the first nation in modern times to legalize abortion. It developed and promoted technology to this end. Its client states soon followed its lead. Today, these countries have the highest abortion rates in the world.
The West took longer to turn on its children but turn it did. As modernism took root and weakened the Church from within, atheism began to sprout outside the sanctuary. Both falsehoods robbed human life of its inherent dignity, each in its own way, and by the late 1960s and early 1970s, personal autonomy and sexual "freedom" were favored over the lives of the unborn.
Since 1917, Communism has killed 100 million people across dozens of countries. During the same period, one billion have been slaughtered through abortion. Since 1973, abortion has killed 60 million in the United States alone. This most terrible of Russian errors made it onto our shores, and today, we claim it as our own.
Before his death, U.S. abortion pioneer Bernard Nathanson, a one-time atheist who converted to Catholicism later in life, spoke on the magnitude of the abortion phenomenon: "The abortion holocaust is beyond the ordinary discourse of morality and rational condemnation. It is not enough to pronounce it absolutely evil."
"The abortion tragedy," he continued, "is a new event, severed from connections with traditional presuppositions of history, psychology, politics and morality. It extends beyond the deliberations of reason, beyond the discernment of moral judgment, beyond meaning itself."
Abortion, Nathanson said, is "a mysterium tremendum, an utter mystery to the rational mind — a mystery that carries with it not only the aspect of vastness but the resonance of terror, something so unutterably diabolic as to be literally unknowable to us."
Nathanson's contemplation of the abortion holocaust mirrors Russian historian and writer Aleksander Solzhenitsyn's 1983 reflection on what had happened to his country — how a once-Christian nation could so utterly unravel:
More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."
Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our Revolution ... if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."
What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire 20th century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.
Solzhenitsyn's words are as true for America in 2017 as they were for the Russia of 1917.
We have forgotten God. Let us heed Our Lady's call and return to Him.