It was in early 2014 that Preserving Christian Publications was contacted by Kevin J. Symonds of Waco, Texas, asking if we would be interested in publishing a book that he had written, a historical investigation of the famous vision of Pope Leo XIII. We immediately realized the book’s importance, because the famous vision of the Pope was clouded by uncertainty, by varying accounts that were inconsistent – and yet it was a historical event that seemed to be of central importance for modern times. The fact that the author had done a thorough investigation of all the information he could find about Pope Leo’s vision seemed to be something that many Catholics were waiting for, and we began a series of discussions that resulted in the book’s publication a year and a half later.
The fact that it took so long to publish a book of merely 200 pages requires an explanation. The book definitely resolved a historical mystery, but now that the history of Leo XIII’s vision is finally brought to light, what does it mean? What is the ultimate significance of the Pope’s vision in light of the teaching of the Church, and what is its meaning for Catholics today? In other words, what is needed is not merely a history of Leo XIII’s vision, but a doctrinal study of its significance, an aspect that the author was qualified to provide because he has a master’s degree in theology.
The author then set to work to write additional chapters to complete his account, making the book not merely a historical but also a theological investigation. As he continued his research, we discovered a short work by a nineteenth century exorcist that had been praised by the Holy See as reflecting its own thinking, which in the context meant the mind of Pope Leo XIII himself. The exorcist had shown not only the nature of diabolical assaults against individual souls, but also against victim souls who offered their sufferings for the salvation of others, and ultimately against the Church herself. Finally, the exorcist also described the central role of Our Lady in combating diabolical assaults against the Church.* This in turn pointed to the importance of the apparitions in Fatima approximately three decades after Pope Leo XIII’s vision. In the meantime, while continuing his research, Kevin Symonds studied chapter XIII of the Carmelite biography of Sister Lucia, which had just been published in 2013. This is the chapter devoted to the Third Secret. The chapter seemed to be of such importance that we contacted the Coimbra Carmelites in January of 2015, asking for permission to print it as an appendix to the book on Pope Leo’s vision. The Carmelites replied very promptly, but stating that they could not give permission to print the entire chapter because the book was soon to be published in English by the World Apostolate of Fatima-Blue Army (WAF). Kevin Symonds then contacted the WAF, just as the biography was being prepared to go to press, but he discovered a mistake in their translation of the words of Our Lady to Sister Lucia during the apparition of January 3, 1944.
Since this happened at the last minute, the WAF decided that instead of delaying the book’s publication, they would correct the error in the second edition. However, when the error was discovered soon afterwards by associates of the late Father Nicholas Gruner, these latter immediately concluded that the inaccurate translation was deliberate, aimed at altering the words of Our Lady, whereas in fact it had merely been an honest mistake. When the circumstances were explained to them, they then argued that not enough importance was given to Our Lady’s words, in that the book was published while those responsible knew of this error. While making these accusations, however, those raising such suspicions made mistakes in their own translation of these same words of Our Lady!
What is the lesson to be learned from this recent controversy? Rather than both sides in the debate hurling accusations at one another, all those who are genuinely devoted to Fatima should work together in the search for the truth. That is what Kevin Symonds sought to do in conducting his research, and in his discussions with the World Apostolate of Fatima, in the final months of the preparation of his book on Pope Leo XIII and the St. Michael Prayer, and afterwards with the late Father Gruner’s Fatima Center. At the very last minute, when his book was already at the printer’s, he received a special foreword written for it by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who added to the timely research of this lay theologian the approbation of a successor of the Apostles – a bishop with a special devotion to the Holy Angels, and a profound understanding of their role in defending the Church against the attacks of the demons.
*Anonymous [a religious: died Nov 5, 1909], Mary Crushes the Serpent: 30 Years' Experience of an Exorcist Told In His Own Words – Sequel to "Begone Satan" – edited by Father Theodore Geiger, translated by Father Celestine Kapsner, OSB from 1934 German edition, 66 page pamphlet $10 #63287