When appearing to three young Portuguese children at Fatima in 1917, Mary asked the Church to pray for the conversion of Russia. At that time, Russia was in the midst of a revolution that led to its becoming a communist country.
Russia has changed since 1917, and we can thank the prayers offered at Mary’s request, and the courageous leadership of Pope John Paul II, for any good that has taken place in that nation.
But why was communist Russia singled out as a prayer request by Mary? In his letter about hope, Pope Benedict offers us clues. He explains that communism’s founder, Karl Marx, argued that overthrowing the political and economic structures of his day would lead to a perfect world- a world in which God was unnecessary. His fatal flaw, however, was that Marx didn’t explain how things should operate once those structures were overthrown, and that led, in the Holy Father’s own words, to a “trail of appalling destruction.” In short, Marx neglected to account for humanity’s need for God. And when God is forgotten, all human dreams of justice and peace are bound to fail.
Yet that’s true, not just for Russia in 1917, but for every nation in every age. So perhaps we should continue to honor Our Lady of Fatima’s request that we pray for Russia. But as citizens of the United States, we pray for our country too, as we seek to build a better world, founded not just on human dreams, but in Christian hope.