Liturgical Season 7/14/03 World News
New Resources  Marian Events  Mary in the Secular Press
 News from the
Marian Library
 Prayer Corner News Archives

Mary Page News items give insight into our interest areas, our outreach, and the many ways people honor Our Lady. We welcome your input and your comments.

Liturgical Season

To celebrate the month of July with Mary:

Marian Commemoration Days

Mary Page offers a variety of resources inviting study, reflection and meditation.  We also list important Marian dates for each month of the year.  Please see Marian Commemoration Days for the month of July.

Rosary Markings

Rosary Markings is an answer to John Paul II's proclamation of "The Year of the Rosary" (2002-2003).  Rosary Markings will explore various facets of the rosary all through this anniversary year.  It will be updated frequently.  

See our recent addition from July 10.  Previous Reflections are listed on our Rosary Index.

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New Resources

A section on international stamps with images of Mary has been added to our Resources index.  The latest added was Mexico.  Expect more countries to follow.

A section on Marian Spiritualities has also been added to our Resources index.  The latest additions were papers on the spirituality of the Carmelite, Dominican and Servite orders.  Expect more articles to follow.

We have added the latest edition of our Newsletter to our Publications index and updated the list of recent donors under Development.

We have posted reviews of the following books: Source Book About Mary; 100 Names of Mary: Stories and Prayers; and Blessed One: Protestant Perspectives on Mary.

We have also updated our answer to a reader's question: Why and how is the Old Testament figure of the Queen Mother a type or model of our Lady? as well as our meditation, The Rosary in Image and Text, and our address list of Marian Shrines in the United States

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  News from the Marian Library

New Course Will Be Offered!

The International Marian Research Institute would like to call your attention to a new course which will be offered from July 28 - August 1, 2003, Mary and the Internet. This course will provide an introduction to the history and nature of the Internet and web design.  Catholic teaching on the mass media, in general, and on the Internet, in particular, will also be discussed.  Numerous web sites with Marian themes from around the world will be shown and critiqued with regard to content and design. The instructors will be Mr. Michael P. Duricy, Sr. Danielle Peters, and Alejandro Cañadas. We encourage anyone interested in this fascinating, cutting-edge topic to attend. For more information, consult the course syllabus.

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MSA Call for Papers

"The Immaculate Conception: Human Destiny and Vocation" is the theme of the next meeting of the Mariological Society (Houston, Texas - May, 2004).  Suggested areas for papers include recent bibliography on the Immaculate Conception; Scriptural foundations; anthropological, pastoral, symbolic, and ecumenical implications; original sin in Eastern and Western approaches; the Immaculate Conception in art.   Those wishing to make a presentation should send a precis to the MSA Secretariat (Marian Library) by October 1, 2003.  

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Alumni Update

Emilio Cárdenas, SM, an IMRI graduate, recently published an illustrated book on the Rosary in Polish, Z Rózancem poprez Dni, Lata i Wieki (The Rosary for Days, Years and the Ages).

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Current Exhibit

Rosaries of the World will be on display in the Marian Library Gallery from June 20 to August 1, 2003.  The Gallery is open 8:30 am - 4:30 pm weekdays.  For more information, or to arrange for viewing at another time, call (937) 229-4214.  Crèches are also on display in our museum through Nov. 2003.

An article from U.D.'s Campus News Digest about the exhibit may be viewed online at http://www.udayton.edu/news/nr/070303.html.

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Major Exhibit Coming Soon

The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute invites you to visit The Mother of God: Art Celebrates Mary, thirty-eight paintings and sculptures from the permanent collection of The Vatican Museums, spanning seventeen centuries of Christian art and reflecting cultures worldwide.

September 4 - November 10, 2003

Roesch and Marian Library Galleries in Roesch Library on the University of Dayton Campus.
Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Free Admission -- Parking Available

For tours and information call: (937) 229-4254 or email: VaticanExhibit@notes.udayton.edu.
See also the article by Pamela Gregg in the August 22 issue of U.D.'s Campus Report.

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International Marian Research Institute Course Schedule

The schedule of IMRI courses for Fall 2002 - Fall 2003 is now available for view.  
Courses for the Summer (2003) started on June 16.

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Personal thoughts and reflections about Mary 
from our readers 

We've added a section to our Research and Publications section showing selected personal comments from our readers about the Virgin Mary.  Click here to see comments received within the past month.  From this page, feel free to submit your own personal thoughts on Mary.  

We also encourage our readers to submit their opinions on various styles of Marian Art through an on-line art survey.

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Marian Events


in Buffalo's downtown LaSalle Park on the beautiful Niagara River

SUNDAY, AUGUST 24 (starting at Noon EST and ending around 5:00 p.m. with Benediction)

Tel. No. 1-866-205-6512

Click this link for a list of all of the current Marian Events by geographical position.

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Prayer Corner Requests

You are invited to help us pray for our Prayer Corner intentions.  Please take a look!  This site has been updated and enhanced and now allows users to directly submit prayer requests or to volunteer as a prayer partner for these intentions!

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News from Around the World

From Zenit

Holy See Thanks Israel for Halting Nazareth Mosque

JERUSALEM, JULY 13, 2003 (Zenit.org)

The Holy See thanked the Israeli government for putting a stop to the construction of a mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation, in Nazareth.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano expressed the Holy See's gratitude last Thursday, when he met in Rome with Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Silvan Shalom. The Vatican's official statement on the meeting made no mention of the issue.

The Holy See, various Christian communities, and even key Muslim and Arab leaders, among them Yasser Arafat, opposed the construction of the mosque, whose cornerstone was laid on public land in November 1999.

According to Franciscan sources, the mosque was meant to appease fundamentalists who in previous years had attacked Christians. The local Muslim community already has its own places of worship in the area.

On April 4, 1999, while Catholics were celebrating Easter and Orthodox were marking Palm Sunday in the basilica, Muslim fundamentalists attacked and wounded a number of Christians. In 1998, fundamentalists destroyed some Christian-owned stores.


From L’Osservatore Romano

Not posted this week.

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Mary in the Secular Press

The director and editors of Mary Page under the auspices of the International Marian Research Institute do not necessarily endorse or agree with the events and ideas expressed in this feature. Our sole purpose is to report on items about Mary gleaned from a myriad of papers representing the secular press.

The "miracle" at Milton Hospital is multiplying. [Source: The Boston Herald, June 25, 2003]

Faithful flocking to venerate a window bearing what many believe is an image of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus now are turning their gaze to what looks like two crosses etched in the soot on the side of a smokestack.

"I believe that it definitely is a sign," said Patricia Burke of Quincy, standing yesterday on a once-grassy traffic island worn bare by the crowds that gather daily to view the image.

"I think God's telling us something. I don't know what that message is," she said.

The crosses, each about 6 feet high, stand one atop the other on the side of the square stack.

Alice Sweeney of Quincy thinks the images of Mary and the crosses are God's way of urging mankind to embrace "peace."

Lowell resident Maria Flaris, who made the trek to Milton with her son, said she thinks God sent the images "to bring peace in the Middle East. I think so and I hope so."

While the Madonna likeness has been widely recognized - even by skeptics who consider the origin to be random chemical activity - the crosses are more obscure.

"It's awesome, because I believe in the Blessed Mother and she's been appearing all over the place lately," said Joan Smith of Milton.

But her daughter, Karen Smith, was more skeptical as the two stood in a blazing mid-day sun yesterday to examine the smokestack.

"The cross - I don't see it at all," she said.

The image of Mary is covered by a blue tarp most of the day for crowd control but the view of the smokestack remains unobstructed.

A hospital spokeswoman had no comment on the latest image and said there are no plans to change the schedule for viewing the Madonna and baby Jesus. Officials remove the tarp from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. nightly.

Scrap of cloth draws flock of faithful to La Crosse [Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 23, 2003]

It had to be a journey of faith that brought hundreds here to walk up a hill in 80-degree heat to see a religious relic -- a tiny, half-inch-square piece of cloth.

Yet, for the faithful, the cloth was a tangible representation of the Virgin Mary.

Christians from throughout the state as well as from Minnesota and Iowa stopped to view the cloth, called the "Tilma of Tepeyac," which was part of a cloak worn by a man who said he saw the Virgin Mary more than four centuries ago in Mexico.

"I think it's really neat," said Mary Jane Griffin, who drove four hours round trip from Eau Claire. "I've seen relics before and I get so much out of it. Faith-wise you don't always get to see things, so this is something we can see."

The Tilma of Tepeyac, which has been in the archives of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles since 1941, is on a 20-city tour. La Crosse was the third stop after Denver and New Haven, Conn., for the tilma, which next travels to Springfield, Ill., and Sacramento, Calif.

A tilma is a cloak that was worn by Aztec Indians centuries ago. According to the story behind the Tilma of Tepeyac, a man named Juan Diego said the Virgin Mother appeared to him three times in 1531 and asked him to speak to the bishop of Mexico City and tell him that Mary wanted a church to be built at the base of Tepeyac Hill.

Juan Diego, who was canonized last year, picked roses at the Virgin Mother's request and wrapped them in his tilma. When Juan Diego opened his cloak to give the roses to the bishop he discovered a colorful image of Mary imprinted on the tilma. The faithful believe it was a miracle.

In 1941 the archbishop of Los Angeles led a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to see the image of Mary on the tilma.

In gratitude, the archbishop of Mexico City sent a small piece of the cloak to the archbishop in Los Angeles, and now, it is encased in a small blue locket that on Sunday was draped around a 17th century statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe inside a plastic case. Two vases of white roses were placed next to the relic.

Thousands stood in line in Denver to see it, said Andrew Walther, coordinator of the tour.

"People have really been eager to see the relic and learn about the relic," Walther said Sunday.
La Crosse Bishop Raymond L. Burke asked organizers of the tour whether the relic could stop in this community on the banks of the Mississippi River. They obliged.

So Saturday morning, the Tilma of Tepeyac was brought to a chapel at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe of the Diocese of La Crosse, and Sunday afternoon another procession, led by Burke and the Knights of Columbus, carried the relic down the hill.

More than 300 people saw the relic on Saturday, and a similar number had stopped by on Sunday as of 2 p.m., said Andrew Brannon, interim executive director of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which opened last December.

"This is such a venerated piece," Brannon said. "To have a relic of this magnitude for such a young shrine, it means a lot."

Jane Noll traveled from Alma, about 60 miles away, with her husband and son, both members of the Knights of Columbus, to see the relic. Noll knew the story behind the tilma and wanted to see the piece of cloth because it's spiritually important to her.

"I'm a very big friend of the Virgin Mother. I pray to her often," Noll said.

Mike and Mary Jane Strube brought their three daughters from Wisconsin Rapids to see it.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance because I don't think we'll ever get down to Mexico" to see the entire tilma and picture of the Virgin Mother, said Mike Strube.

Group tours state with Virgin Mary image [Source: Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), June 20, 2003]

A group protesting abortion made its way across the Twin Cities on Thursday with a life-size depiction of the Virgin Mary.

Members of Suspend Abortion Compact in Minneapolis and some Catholic Church members visited clinics and churches that they say they feel have deviated from Catholic doctrine.

"We are basically protesting the destruction of the family, which is the foundation on which the church rests," said the group's director Colleen Clobes, of Minneapolis.

The visits are part of a three-week tour across the state.

Much of the group's presence went unnoticed Thursday morning as the protesters took the digital reproduction of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe (the Virgin Mary) _ displayed on a 4-foot by 6-foot wood frame _ to 13 churches and clinics in the Twin Cities. At each site, they prayed for about 15 minutes and then moved to their next stop.

According to religious historians, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to San Juan Diego in 1531 as the pregnant mother of God and left a "miraculous image" of herself on his cactus fiber cloak, which still exists. It is kept in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Many believe that those who touch the image will be healed or have their prayers answered.

Deborah Holt of Alexandria, Minn., who helped organize the tour, said she believes that the Our Lady of Guadalupe image brings healing to Minnesotans.

"It's like we're getting a visit from Heaven," she said. "She comes to help, to bring awareness of the sanctity of life."

Tina Smith, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota, said she was pleased that the protesters were respectful when they visited her organization's St. Paul location.

"We honor their right to be there," she said. "We are really happy that these protesters were quite peaceful."

Group members said they believe that their prayers for the clinics and churches will stop abortions and bring the churches back to the Catholic doctrine.
After the stops Thursday in the Twin Cities, the tour headed to Duluth. It returns Monday to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in South St. Paul, and it ends Tuesday in St. Cloud.

The group members started their day Thursday on sympathetic turf.

Margaret Eckert of St. Paul, who joined in prayer to welcome the image to the Twin Cities in the morning at St. Agnes Catholic Church in St. Paul, said she was excited to be so close to it. "At one point," she said, "I felt that I was touched to tears."

Julie Madden, peace and justice coordinator at St. Joan of Arc Church, said the church community was not offended by the protesters' presence Thursday morning.

"We could choose to interpret [what they're doing] as a disrespect for the work that we do, but I don't believe it is. I really don't," she said while observing a group prayer in the church parking lot in south Minneapolis. "As a community, I believe that we are very vital in the Catholic Church, and the larger community. We have done a lot of significant work on behalf of capital punishment, children, immigrants and the homeless."

Madden said the church embraces a "consistent life ethic," which means it acknowledges all life as scared.

At St. Agnes, Francisca Lemewih said she just had to touch the image.

She knelt before it, head bowed and caressed the image of the cloak gently with her right hand.

"I'm so happy," said Lemewih, of St. Paul. "I confide in her. I feel so fine. When I got close to her, I feel warm inside."

Catherine Turner, of Lino Lakes, spread her palm across her throat and came close to tears as she stared silently at the image.

"Love, life and protection, that's what she represents to me," she said. "She's my spiritual mother. She always gives me solace in my life. And everything that I've always wanted, she's given to me, and abundantly."

Bayou Liberty [Source: Times Picayune (New Orleans, LA), June 15, 2003]

Last week's Bayou Liberty Pirogue Races raffle winners are: Pirogue, Stacy Taylor; 19-inch color television, Fay Stanley;and $75 cash, Mary Ann Schroeder.

If you weren't a winner, better luck next year.

A touch of divine providence and a knock at the door has resulted in the restoration of a statue of the Virgin Mary and the building of a shrine in the backyard of St. Genevieve parishioners Janet, Eddie and Melissa Miller.

The Millers recently acquired the statue, which was in disrepair. They recruited friends Matthew Gomez, Philip Bellini, John Friery and their families to help bring the 650-pound statue to their home. It was placed in their backyard and then the family began to wonder how they would find someone to replace the missing finger and restore the feet to perfection.

"You don't look in the phone book for statue repairs," Eddie Miller said.

About a week later, a man knocked on the Millers' door looking for yard work. Miller didn't have any grass to cut, but took the man into the back yard which needed to be cleaned in preparation for the building of a shrine for the statue. The man, whose name the Millers cannot recall, mentioned that he had stopped at the votive chapel at St. Genevieve to offer prayers before proceeding in his quest for work.

When the man saw the statue, he remarked on its beauty, and Miller explained that he was hoping to find someone to repair and paint the statue. At this, the man stated he was a sculptor.

A deal was struck, and the 5-foot tall concrete statue of the Virgin Mary was miraculously repaired and painted.

The Millers set about building a deck and a garden to befit the beautiful statue. Religious articles which were in disrepair were sought from friends to be buried beneath the site where the statue rests. Ceramic vases were placed on either side and became fountains, symbolic of Jesus' first miracle at Cana when at his mother's request water was turned into wine.

Flowers planted nearby are called blue queen. On each side of an arch has been planted confederate jasmine. Once the finishing touches of a deck and garden benches were in place, a crowning was held at the Millers' home. Sixty-three people attended the spiritual and joyful celebration.
The Rev. Elbert Vasquez of St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church was present to bless the statue. A floral crown was made by Penny Warshauer and placed on the statue by Melissa Miller.

Children in attendance each placed a flower in a vase at the feet of the statue. After singing "Hail Holy Queen," the group retreated from the rain inside to continue the event by praying the Rosary. Stephanie Guillot offered a spiritual and beautiful rendition of "Ave Maria" accompanied by a tape of her husband, Glenn, playing the guitar.

A delicious buffet luncheon was served and topped off by a cake brought by Susan Morgan.

The Millers hope that the young man who brought their statue to life will contact them again.

Magnificent Mercs and millions [Source: Courier Mail (Queensland, Australia), June 14, 2003]

CULT leader Debra Geileskey who claims she has visions of the Virgin Mary has amassed a property empire worth more than $3.5 million.

The former school teacher whose Magnificat Meal Movement headquarters are based at Helidon, 80km west of Brisbane, also owns four Mercedes-Benz with matching number plates.

Land title searches show she owns or part owns at least 20 properties, including homes, farms, offices, shops and units.

In the past 18 months, Ms Geileskey and companies in which she is the sole director bought $2.3 million worth of property in the Gatton, Laidley and Livingstone shires.

Among last year's purchases was a $950,000 orchard, a $590,000 cattle property, $300,000 tropical fruit farm and a $285,000 house site.

Ms Geileskey is a director of 10 companies, and often uses the name Debra Burslem.

She owns or part owns about a dozen properties in Helidon's Railway St, the town's main street.

Ms Geileskey attracted world-wide attention with claims she received messages from Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

She also once claimed she ate only 33 times a year and survived on holy wafers and water.

With her now estranged husband Gordon, Ms Geileskey had more than $350,000 in debts when the couple moved to Queensland from Victoria.

Her "visions" gave her a much more comfortable existence.

The couple set up a private company, Our Lady's Mount, which obtained stakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property deeded to them by cult members.

Ms Geileskey is regularly seen traveling in a convoy of her Mercedes-Benz, which include number plates "CORMA 1, 2 and 3", standing for the title she gives to the Virgin Mary, "Co-Redemptrix, Mediator and Advocate".

One of the homes Ms Geileskey bought last year is in the peaceful farming district near Grantham in the Lockyer Valley.

Across the road, retired TAFE teacher Hank Deucker and his wife Judy, a nurse, built their dream home 10 years ago and run a few head of cattle.

They say they tried to "live and let live" as suggested by the local council, but after enduring more

than 100 loud parties and rock band practice sessions within a year, they have had enough.

"The first party lasted three days. Neighbours two kilometres away phoned up to find out what the racket was," Mr Deucker said.

On the afternoon of the third day of the first party, Mrs Geileskey arrived at the Deuckers' front door with three bodyguards and invited them to join the party.

"She said the party was for a few friends. There were 70 cars there. We said 'no thanks'," Mrs Deucker said.

"At night the only way to escape is to close the house and turn up the television until they stop at about one minute to 10."

The Deuckers phoned police and were told they could not do any-thing about noise until 10pm.

Ms Geileskey could not be contacted yesterday.

Bishop strikes off rogue priest [Source: The Australian, June 12, 2003]

THE Catholic Church has excommunicated a rogue priest who tried to appoint himself bishop over a controversial religious sect in country NSW.

In a letter to his followers in the Order of Charbel this week, Father Malcolm Broussard rejoiced that he had been appointed a bishop of the Catholic Church.

"God has chosen me to be a Successor to the Apostles in the pastoral ministry -- to shepherd the Flock of Christ under my care," he said, while pledging his obedience to the Pope.

But the Bishop of Wollongong, Peter Ingham, has announced Father Broussard's ex-communication from the Catholic Church.

Wollongong Diocese spokesman Father Peter Comensoli said Father Broussard was a disgraced priest from Houston, Texas, who became "caught up" with the Order of Charbel and had moved to Australia to join the order's 200-strong community in Nowra, NSW. And since his arrival, he had been refused a licence to operate.

The Order of Charbel is a group founded by William Kamm, known to his followers as Little Pebble, who professes to see visions of the Virgin Mary, and teaches that he has been chosen by God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary to be the final Pope on Earth. Last year, the Catholic Church issued a decree rejecting Mr Kamm's "absurd pretensions" and outlawing the sect.

But, Father Comensoli said, Father Broussard had stayed with the Order and traveled recently to Germany, where he was ordained a bishop by "another rogue bishop," himself ex-communicated.

Bishop Ingham, who issued the decree on Tuesday, said the excommunication could be removed only by the Apostolic See.

And, he said, anyone who continued to adhere to Father Broussard's ministry was effectively excommunicated. The sect could not be contacted last night.

Crossmolina residents sharply divided on whether statue of Mary should be moved [Source: The Irish Times, June 12, 2003]

Crossmolina residents and Mayo County Council have clashed over whether a landmark statue of the Virgin Mary currently obstructing traffic in the town should be moved.

Mayo County Council wants to move the statue of the Blessed Virgin, which was erected in the Marian Year of 1954, to a graveyard in the town.

Mr Anthony Canavan, one of the original committee members which had the statue erected, said yesterday: "There was very little suffering in Crossmolina during the Famine compared to outlying areas. Fifty years ago it was decided to erect this statue as a mark of gratitude to the Blessed Virgin for being spared the worst ravages of the Famine." Ms Dorothy (Dor) Lynn, whose house looks out on the statue, has been its "guardian" since 1972, at the request of the local community of nuns, placing flowers there on procession days. "For me the pain of seeing the statue go would be unbearable," she said.

Townspeople are sharply divided on the proposal that the monument be dismantled and re-erected in the new extension to the local graveyard.

This divergence of opinion was reflected in a narrow, 14-13 vote in favour of its removal, at a poorly-attended meeting organised by the community council earlier this week. It has now been decided to hold a second ballot in the hope that more people will show up.

Some years ago, the parishioners of Crossmolina voted by a majority of about 80 to 1 to keep the shrine in its present location.

Dr Michael Loftus, chairman of the Crossmolina Community Council, explained that the removal of the statue was a sensitive issue and would not be resolved without a further ballot.

In recent weeks, with a major sewerage scheme under way in the town, the county council suggested it would be an appropriate time to move the monument to a new location, Dr Loftus said.

As the debate continues, the clergy is staying neutral. Local curate Father Pat Munnelly said yesterday: "It is an issue between the local authority and the people. Our only concern - whether the statue is removed or left where it is - is that it not be damaged in any way."

Deliverance from evil: The annual voodoo pilgrimage of Sodo brings an explosion of passionate religious fervour to Haiti [Source: Sunday Telegraph (London), June 8, 2003]

It might have been a vision of hell. In a dank gully, a maelstrom of water was whipped around moss-covered rocks. Drums were hammering in the background. A man resembled a cobra as he danced, eyes rolled back so only the whites could be seen and his head weaving from side to side. He was in a trance, possessed by a voodoo spirit.

"Damballah," said a woman next to me. Damballah is associated with snakes. The man moved sinuously among the crowd, water spattering on to him from 100 feet above. Eventually the spirit left him and he collapsed among the rocks of the river. Others saved him from drowning by lifting him out.

This was the Sodo, a voodoo pilgrimage held in the tiny town of Ville Bonheur, in the central mountains of Haiti. On July 16 each year, the village welcomes about 50,000 Haitian pilgrims, who come in celebration of an appearance of the Virgin Mary at the waterfall 150 years ago. Like any pilgrimage, it is part spiritual renewal, part journey and part party.

Haiti doesn't reveal its secrets easily. Much of what you see is alarmingly alien, but look closely and you will recognise rhythms and patterns from elsewhere. The country has a mixed French and West African heritage. The name Sodo in Haitian kweyol (elsewhere creole) derives from the French saut d'eau, meaning waterfall.

Possession is part of West African religious traditions. Voodoo is a mix of Catholicism and West African beliefs. These pilgrims worship both the Virgin Mary and her voodoo counterpart Ezilie Freda, an earthy, life-loving spirit that oversees sex as well as idealised love.

Where most voodoo ceremonies are either private or difficult to get into during a short trip, the Sodo is open to all-comers, and the Haitians are generally delighted that you are interested enough to be there. That said, this is not an easy trip. There is nowhere to stay in Ville Bonheur, though as a foreigner you can probably hire space in a room in one of the few houses in town.

Getting there is something of a trial, too - 10 hours in a truck in my case. In Port-au-Prince I asked a truck driver if I could have a ride. He thumbed me to the back. But the instant I clambered aboard I realised that something was awry. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and here were suitcases and a weary calm instead of knapsacks and ceaseless Creole chatter. Gradually I worked out that I was hitching a lift to a voodoo pilgrimage in a truckload of American Protestant Evangelists. Their disappointment was tangible. And vociferous.
So began five hours of heated debate while being bounced around in the back of the lorry. The atmosphere reached combustion when we spotted a voodoo doll nailed to a tree. I emerged a psychologically battered and chastened man.

At midnight I was standing in the moonshadow of the church - firmly locked - in a crowd of voodoo initiates, all holding candles and mumbling invocations to God to release the spirits. voodoo market offered candles, cords of coloured string and portraits of the saints. Men danced past, faces painted in a black-and-white chequered pattern. Nearby was a roadside crucifix, scorched and dripping with candlewax. Voodoo drums sounded long into the night.

Most Haitians consider themselves Catholic as well as voodooists and next morning they were all in church. The diocesan bishop railed against the meli-melo (mixing) of voodoo and Catholicism. But the congregation had other things on its mind. Special dedications were passed forward and placed on the steps of the altar. Candles were lit - the bishop ordered them to be extinguished - and then a fight broke out at the rear of the church. Voodoo drummers were trying to force their way in. At the end of the service the statue of the Virgin Mary was paraded around the town, led by thousands of dancers and drummers.

The centrepiece of the Sodo was the waterfall. As in many pilgrimages the act of physical cleansing aids the spiritual purification and the river filled with people, mostly women, washing. They stripped to their underpants and scrubbed themselves all over. One headed off with soap, shampoo and a toothbrush. After they dressed the last thing they did was to hitch up their skirts, drop their knickers into the stream and let the evil wash away. The river bottom ran springy with nylon.

A week later, around July 24, the pilgrims were in Plaine du Nord, honouring St James the Greater and his voodoo counterpart Ogun, the God of War. This was a much more sinister-looking affair. Ogun likes sacrifices of red cocks and bullocks and his sanctuary is the Bassin St Jacques, a mud pool.

The Bassin St Jacques is a short drive from Cap Haitien on the north coast. The crowds promenaded around the town, dressed in red and blue in Ogun's honour, even in modern camouflage gear. There were markets, food sellers and gambling games. Bands of drummers thundered away in the background throughout the heat of the day. Initiates prayed at the church and then threw their candles into the compound. Eventually they gravitated around the mud pool.

Pilgrims come for all sorts of reasons. A young man sitting next to me at the mud pool said he had come to give thanks for the year's "good treatment". Some had very specific requests. Next to him a woman, praying quietly, showed me her wish-list. On it were a washing machine and air-conditioning.

Not surprisingly, unlike at the Sodo, believers do not wash in the mud pool. Instead they made their dedications - of candles, food and rum - and threw them in. The pool itself was controlled by a posse of small boys, street children from the major towns, who fought over the dedications thrown in. They collected bottles of sacred mud for visitors, for a fee. They even stole from the unsuspecting - a bottle of rum or a dove for dedication - and charged for its return. It's all the fun of the fair.
All eyes turned as a bullock was led to the edge of the sacred pool. Suddenly the poor beast realised what was about to happen and struggled, but they had it securely, horns tied against a tree. After a theatrical flourish the executioners set about its neck with a machete. They chopped badly and the animal bellowed and went down on its knees, tongue lolling. They chopped away until the head was severed. Then it was held up and dedicated to Ogun.

It's not hard to see how it could be misinterpreted as a vision of devil worship.

Getting there

The cheapest way to Haiti from Britain is to take a charter flight (Britannia, 0800 000747; www.brit anniadirect.com; jmc, 0870 758 0194; www.jmc.co.uk) to the Dominican Republic, which shares an island with Haiti, and then travel overland. Contact Caribe Tours, 001 809 221 4422) from Santo Domingo to Port au Prince or independently across the northern border at Jimani and Ouanaminthe. Alternatively, you can fly via Miami on American

Airlines (0845 778 9789; www.americanair.com) and Air France (0845 084 5111; www.airfrance.com). It helps to make contact with someone in Port au Prince before going to the Sodo.

Staying there

Consider staying at the Oloffson Hotel (00 509 223 4000; www.oloffson.com), the fantastic gingerbread extravaganza that was the inspiration for the hotel in Graham Greene's The Comedians. Ask for help with getting to the Sodo.

At the Plaine du Nord pilgrimage you can stay in nearby Cap Haitien. Try the Roi Christophe (509 262 0414), a charming, old colonial house or the Jardins de L'Ocean (509 262 221169). From here it is a short drive to the Bassin St Jacques. Plenty of small airlines link Port au Prince to Cap Haitien (about pounds 30) or go by bus for much less.

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