When Solzhenitsyn’s died, the worldwide press were in a competition to out-do themselves in admiration of the literary giant. Solzhenitsyn was lauded as one of the greatest writers to have ever lived. He is accredited with having played a crucial intellectual role in the fall of Communism. And contrary to the usual candy-floss schmaltzy eulogizing the Western press doles out when a celebrity dies, the praise given Solzhenitsyn is justified. Incredible. Could it be that the liberal media were ‘waking up’? Not quite. And since Solzhenitsyn’s death, there has been very little discussion of his real vocation in national newspapers and even on the blogosphere. No corner of the press – religious or secular has yet given Solzhenitsyn what is rightly his greatest honour. It is this: Solzhenitsyn was the artist who dramatized what Our Lady at Fatima foretold about Russia and the world. No comparison exists between Solzhenitsyn and the Queen of Heaven, there remains only an alliance. Solzhenitsyn (perhaps totally unwittingly) was Our Lady’s servant.
Stalinism, Communism, the Gulags and societal Soviet persecution were the raison d’etre of Solzhenitsyn’s writings, but they were also what Our Lady of Fatima termed Russia’s ‘errors’. Yes, the media correctly identified Solzhenitsyn’s writings as brave exposés of the horrors of Communist Russia. But the media confine Solzhenitsyn’s apocalyptic analysis to Communist Russia. There is a continuing prevailing sense that the media is trying to establish a sense of superiority over the Russian chumps who made all the mistakes. A sort of ‘well if the Russians had done Lefty-liberalism-socialism our way, they wouldn’t have got themselves in the pickle Solzhenitsyn describes!’ In essence, the liberal media’s analysis of Solzhenitsyn has been insufferably, school-prefect-like patronizing. No attempt is made to see that what Solzhenitsyn described was of significance to everyone worldwide. As I will detail, we have not learned from the ‘errors’.
Solzhenitsyn was informed by his own personal, first hand experience of eight years in the Gulag and had the integrity to never deviate from the truth. It was Solzhenitsyn’s credibility that made the Soviet Russian authorities flinch.
And the fact that he was a best-selling author who would eventually sell thirty million books worldwide. Without Solzhenitsyn, the everyday reality and details of what Our Lady at Fatima warned would be our personal imaginings. His talent as a story-teller engaged readers worldwide. Solzhenitsyn’s meticulous attention to detail captivates attention, we are there with Ivan Denisovich prisoner of the Gulag when he must chose either socks or hard boots to scuttle around in the snow; he cannot have both.
Let us first explore Our Lady of Fatima’s urgent message. Before Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children.
The children were taught to pray by the Guardian Angel of Portugal. The Angel told them ‘to pray a great deal’. Our Lady appeared to them for the first time on the 13th of May 1917. On the 13th of July 1917, Our Lady showed the three seers a vision of Hell. St. Lucia depicted the vision as thus: ‘Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers’. The vision lasted an instant, but Our Lady told the children that poor sinners go there because they have no one to pray for them. Our Lady continued to notify the children that if people did not stop offending God, He would reprimand the world "by means of war, hunger and persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father," using Russia as His chosen implement of punishment. In other words, Russia would be the means, but the consequences are for everyone. However, it was a precise consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart that Our Lady requested. Our Lady offered very specific instructions, that if not granted, "Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer and various nations will be annihilated."
The ‘errors’ of Russia were never clarified for the three seers. By ‘errors’ Our Lady inferred that which is objectively wrong from a Catholic point of view. We can establish that, in Russia, the root ‘error’ was the abrogation of Christianity, the denial of religious formation and the denunciation of religion as ever having played an important role. What Solzhenitsyn would describe as ‘the total surrender of the soul.’
Firstly in Russian society, it was the concept of God as creator and judge that was utterly abolished. Hence, the dominant ‘error’ of Soviet education. The very first thing a Soviet child learned at school was the theory of evolution and where, as ‘animals’, they were on the evolutionary scale. There is much debate in Catholic circles about the validity of Evolutionary theories, but Catholics have never been taught by Mother Church to teach children that they are primarily animals. Under Stalin, the Soviet officials thought of the Russian people as animals with speech, and were content to treat them as such. In Solzhenitsyn’s novel A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the Gulag prisoners are like sub-humans in an abattoir. They scrounge for scraps of food, stand naked in a frozen field during a body search and every minute their survival is threatened. Solzhenitsyn peppers his prose with lots of ironies; how the Gulag guards are in defiance of the Communist ideology of equality for all men. How Communism was meant to eliminate social divides; when in fact total societal breakdown ensues because only the ordained alpha male authority figures are able to protect themselves. The weak are to be used, it’s their fault they are weak. The Gulag guards are atheists, believing in no higher Judge, nor do they have any concept of grace or even kindness for its own sake.
The Communist system has ensured the guards are aware of absolutely no biblical/Christian teaching that would lead them to think of themselves as other than vicious animals. Similarly, Solzhenitsyn’s novel Cancer Ward, ends with a zoo scene, representing the Soviet culture that has reduced humans society to a jungle.
Whilst not a Catholic, Solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a true depiction of the accumulative effect of Russia’s errors on Russia herself. It is Stalin’s Russia in microcosm and portrays Stalin’s Russia as one huge prison camp. The character of Ivan Denisovich embodies the Soviet view of religion. He can only see what religion may do for him in material terms. The ‘Our Father’ is incomprehensible to him, because he does not see how it will give him daily bread. Prayers for Ivan are like the complaints one makes to the Soviet authorities, pieces of raggy paper put in a box that will never get the establishment’s attention and is merely a pyrrhic exercise. A devout Baptist in the Gulag attempts evangelising Ivan. But for Ivan, talk of God’s love is meaningless babble. Ivan’s only religious contact is a Russian Orthodox priest who Ivan resented, and thus he distrusts anyone religious, because for Ivan religion and the personality of his cruel and indifferent authority figures are the same. Ivan’s rejection of religion signifies he is a product of the system he abhors. The challenge of bringing Ivan to the Christian faith is a taste of the challenge of bringing the entirety of Russia back to organised religion.
Solzhenitsyn not only revealed the deplorable conditions of Soviet Russia, he bared the souls of select Russian characters. As the spiritual nucleus of Solzhenitsyn’s works became more obvious, more and more did he stand alone. Solzhenitsyn was the ‘traitor’ of the ‘nomenklatura’, upsetting Russia’s reputation, but simultaneously ‘progressive’ politicians and writers found his traditionally religious outlook embarrassing. His devotion to orthodox Christianity but rejection of westernization of Russian culture would not know compromise. Throughout his writing career, Solzhenitsyn increasingly emphasized that the only antidote to Communism was a spiritual resurgence. This assaulted the West’s politically correct smarmy talk of democracy as the only solution. Solzhenitsyn wrote: ‘our present system is terrible not because it is undemocratic and based on force but because it demands total surrender of the soul.’
Whilst Solzhenitsyn knew what medicine the world needed, Our Lady held the prescription pad. Part of the prescriptions given the whole world was to pray the Rosary everyday; indeed six times did Our Lady call for the daily recitation of five decades of the Rosary. Our Lady also advised ‘the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays’.