by Lourdes Policarpio
Japan. It is one of the richest countries of the world but unfortunately, Christians number less than 10% of the total population. Who can also forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the first atomic bombs were unleashed? In a land which has known the terrors of the atomic bomb, Our Lady gave a grave warning to mankind way back in 1973. Is it still relevant today?
The mysterious events in Akita, Japan began with a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary found in the Institute of the Handmaids of the Eucharist. Blood oozed from the right hand of the statue as it also did from the left hand of one of the handmaids, Sr. Agnes Sasagawa. The statue perspired abundantly and cried human tears; laboratory tests at Akita University confirmed that the liquid oozing from the Virgin's eyes were indeed human tears. About 500 persons were eyewitnesses to the crying of the statue and in several instances the weeping was filmed by television cameras and broadcast several times throughout Japan.
One test of the authenticity of an apparition is in the "fruits." Numerous conversions and cures have been attributed to Our Lady of Akita. A Korean woman, Teresa Chun, recovered miraculously from a brain tumor after praying to Our Lady of Akita. Documentation on this was done in St. Paul's Hospital in Seoul and an entire dossier was sent by the Korean bishops to Rome.
More important than the supernatural occurrences is what Our Lady of Akita, through Sr. Agnes, has been trying to convey. She warns us of a terrible punishment if mankind does not repent:
As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son. Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests.
By the "Flood," Our Lady of Akita is apparently referring to the Great Deluge in the time of Noah of the Old Testament.
Some may balk at the severity in the tone of the message of Our Lady of Akita. However, close followers of the Blessed Mother's messages immediately recognized in the message of Our Lady of Akita a repetition of the same grave warnings given in Fatima and Amsterdam. In Fatima, the warning was focused on the evils of atheistic Communism which would be spread by Russia. In Amsterdam, the Lady of all Nations warned of the degeneration of nations. Our Lady of Akita emphasizes that "the work of the devil will infiltrate even the Church." While the messages in the three apparitions have a different emphasis in focus, the common theme running through them is that mankind has sinned - and is sinning - gravely and deserves a severe punishment from God.
Thirty one years since the apparition of Our Lady of Akita, several questions may be asked. While there have been many natural calamities and wars, since the 1970s there has been no world war and no worldwide natural calamity in the likes of Noah's flood. Is the threat of a punishment therefore over? Should heaven's warnings already be consigned to the archives? Or are we being given more time to repent?
To say that there is no more threat of God's chastisement is to believe that mankind has become better through the years. Consider this, however... 1997, an International Gallup Poll conducted in sixteen countries posed this question: "Do you think it is morally wrong for a couple to have a baby if they are not married?" In twelve countries, the majority of respondents answered that it is not morally wrong. Among these countries were Mexico, Spain and France, all of which are supposedly Catholic.
The pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York reports that 54 countries now allow abortion- such countries covering 61% of the world's total population. In the list of countries where abortion is legal are France, Britain, Italy, Russia, U.S., and China the superpowers in the world today!
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGl) which compiles abortion data in the US, from 1973 to 2000, more than 40 million unborn babies have been aborted in their country. The estimated total abortions per year in the US has averaged 1.5 million. AGI notes that abortion deaths in only one year have outnumbered American casualties in so many wars combined, including the First and Second World Wars.
The estimated global monthly average of abortions today, based on data dated November 16, 2003, is 1.229 million. Countries where the abortion rate is high include Russia and China.
Optimists would say that the world is better off today because atheistic Communism has collapsed in Eastern Europe. However, the danger is to assume that since the fall of Communism, Russia has had a moral regeneration.
If we were to judge by news reports especially on abortion, Russia is still far off from the conversion prophesied by Our Lady of Fatima, if by conversion we mean a moral regeneration or a dramatic, significant turn-around to God. For one, abortion figures in Russia are very high (higher than in the U.S.) despite a recent decline. In Russia, from 4.6 million abortions in 1988, the total fell to 1.78 million in 2002.
On August 28, 2003, Christian Science Monitor says that official statistics in Russia reveal that for every baby born, two are aborted. While the abortion rate has dropped by 23% comparing the years 1993 and 1997, this is not for moral reasons. Since the USSR collapsed, other forms of birth control have become available. Says a gynecologist, Dr. Lyudmila Timofeyeva: "The main reason abortion rates have dropped in recent years is that young women are becoming savvied about contraceptives and family planning."
Reading carefully the message of Our Lady of Akita, one can see the concern of Our Lady for the church: "The work of the devil will infiltrate even the Church". Several years ago, allegations of sexual abuse by the American clergy hit the press. What shocked Americans was not only the ghastly similarity in cases of sexual abuse of children by priests but also the "culture of secrecy" with which Church officials handled the various cases (Time, April 1, 2002). While sexual abuse of minors or children is a moral aberration and resolved by confession, it is also a crime and is punishable by law.
While in the Philippines, the idea of imprisoning priests may be anathema to pious Filipinos, in the U.S. a crime is certainly a crime even if committed by Fr. X. Figures reveal that since 1950, a total of 1,341 priests have been accused of sex abuse - a figure that is much greater than previously estimated. This figure only counted the lawsuits involved and does not reveal those who have not been caught and possibly, the other kinds of sexual misconduct.
To Jacinta, one of the three children to whom Our Lady appeared in Fatima, Our Lady revealed: "More souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason."
o argue, therefore, that the message of Our Lady of Akita is irrelevant because mankind has reformed is like looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. One has only to switch on the cable TV to discover the degree of sexual permissiveness which has engulfed the world.
On the other hand, there is also a need to respond to the message of Our Lady of Akita with Christian maturity. The less-emphasized portion of Our Lady's message is her call for prayer, penance and reparation. What is wrong is to simply be curious and broadcast the sensational - and remain indifferent to Our Lady's pleas for prayer and penance.
Our response must be full of faith. Gloom and despair, no! The evil in the world today is certainly overwhelming but there are also rays of hope. Vatican reports that from 1978 to 2001, the number of priests worldwide has fallen by 4%. Yet, as if to make up for the scarcity of priests, we are witnesses to the growing contributions of the lay people in the church. Indeed, the silent heroism of the majority of priests and nuns certainly is unreported; this is not media stuff
Even in Russia, there is hope that the mass murder of innocents will one day be stopped or at least diminish. In September 2003, Russia enacted its first restriction on abortion in almost fifty years. The new law limits the circumstances under which women can have an abortion between the 12th and 22nd week of gestation. Unfortunately, the new law was not enacted for moral reasons but for health problems. Abortions account for 30% of maternal mortality in Russia and furthermore there is a plunging population growth which former President Vladimir Putin has called a "creeping catastrophe". For military hawks that would mean a weaker defense!
Very encouraging also is the news regarding religious politicians there who say they will continue to bring abortion to the forefront of public discussion and to win a ban that allows termination only if the mother's life is in danger. This small Christian Democratic Party says it has the backing of all religious denominations, including the Orthodox Church, Russian Muslims, and Catholics.
In the U.S., on the other hand, one can only wonder what hope there is of arresting the flow of provocative movies which come forth from Hollywood to millions around the world. Yet, even here there is a ray of hope! Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ'' was a sensation. Millions flocked to see it around the world – hopefully, it had a potent and long-term evangelizing effect. Unbelievers and skeptics are not likely to read the Bible or a catechism book but they can be easily swayed to watch a controversial movie. Wielding tremendous influence as America's Favorite Star for 2003 according to New Harris Poll Results, Mel Gibson is a traditionalist Catholic. Truly, the Spirit can work even in unconventional ways! In the end, we can only entrust everything to Our Lady. The warning of Our Lady of Akita is premised on the condition "if men do not repent and better themselves."While we believe in the Blessed Mother's powerful intercession, there is also a need for a generous response. As she has said, "prayer, penance, and courageous sacrifices can soften the Father's anger."
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