News from the
Marian Library
Mary in the
Secular Press


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 April 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 April.

The Eucharist with Mary

Eucharist with Mary is an answer to John Paul II's proclamation of "a special Year of the Eucharist" (2004-2005).  This feature will explore facets of Mary's relationship with the Eucharist and will be updated frequently throughout this year.  Our latest addition is Tabernacle of the Church.

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New Resources

A section on Mary in Doctrine has been added to our Resources index.  The latest addition was Mary and Dogma.

A section on Marian Spiritualities has been added to our Resources index.  The latest addition was The Marianist Corner.  Expect more articles to follow.

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

A section on Mary and Women is now under construction in our Resources index.  The latest addition was Bibliography.  Expect more articles to follow.

We have updated our list of The Hail Mary in Various Languages; and our answer to a reader's question: Do you have information about the image, Return to Ladye Park?  We also posted a commemoration on the late Pope John Paul II, A Pope For Mary.

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  News from the Marian Library

Current Exhibit Extended!

Blessed Art Thou: Mother; Lady; Mystic; Queen, a display by Michael O'Neill McGrath inspired by black pilgrimage Madonnas, will be exhibited at The Marian Library Gallery through April 22.  Copies of the beautifully illustrated book may be purchased for $30 ($10 off the retail price).  Packages of notecards  with artwork based upon the exhibit are also available at $5 for a set of twenty (all of the same picture). 

The Marian Library Art Gallery is located on the seventh floor of the Rosech Library, and is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.  For more information call 937-229-4214, or click into the virtual exhibit.

Creches and Straw Art are also on display in our museum.

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MSA Conference

The 56th Annual Meeting of The Mariological Society of America will be held at Marie Joseph Spiritual Center in Biddeford, Maine, May 18-21, 2005.  This year's theme is Mary, Eschatological Icon of the Church.  The program is as follows:

WEDNESDAY, May 18, 2005
3:33 p.m.--Meeting of the Administrative Council


5:30 p.m. Supper
7:30 p.m. Marian Evening Prayer--with the Cathedral Choir
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland. ME

THURSDAY, May 19, 2004


7:30 a.m. Morning Prayer
8:00 a.m. Eucharist (followed by Breakfast)
9:00 a.m. Registration
9:15 Welcome, Announcements

9:30 a.m. "Hope in a Hurting World: The Assumption/Dormition of Mary, Eschatalogical Icon of God's Promise"
Dott. Virginia M. Kimball, MSA President (Merrimack College)
Moderator: Fr. Sam Maranto, C.Ss.R.

10:45 a.m. "Francis of Assisi and Mary: Virgo Facta Ecclesia"
Fr. Michael W. Blastic, O.F.M.Conv. (St. Bonaventure, NY)
Moderator: Fr. Thomas Thompson, S.M.


12:00 p.m. Dinner

1:30 p.m. "The Assumption and Queenship in Complementarity"
Fr. George F. Kirwin, O.M.I. (Buffalo, NY)
Moderator: Fr. Bert Buby, S.M.

3:00 p.m. "Survey of Recent Mariology 2005"
Fr. Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm. (Nokomis, FL)
Moderator: Fr. Thomas Thompson, S.M.

5:45 p.m. Supper

7:30 Open Forum (List of participants will be posted)

8:45 p.m. Marian Devotion/Evening Prayer

Friday, May 20, 2005


7:30 a.m. Morning Prayer
8:00 a.m. Eucharist (followed by breakfast)

9:30 a.m. "Making Mary's Fiat Our Own: A Theological Study of Personhood"
Ronald Novotny, Ph.D., S.T.L. (Clearwater, FL)
Moderator: Fr. Johann G. Roten, S.M.

10:45 a.m. "Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary's Queenship"
Ted Sri, S.T.D. (St. Benedict College/Atchison, KS)
Moderator: Sr. M. Catherine Nolan, O.P.


12:00 p.m. Dinner

1:3 p.m. "Eschatology and the Church in the Light of the Assumption"
Fr. Paul Duggan, S.T.D. (Boyes Hot Springs, CA)
Moderator: Fr. Francois Rossier, S.M.

3:00 p.m. "The Fourth Gospel's Icon of Mary"
Fr. Bert Buby, S.M. (Dayton, OH)
Moderator: Ron Novotny, Ph.D., S.T.L.

4:00 p.m. Business Meeting


5:15 p.m. Reception/Festive Dinner
Presentation of MSA Awards

8:30 p.m. Marian Hour in Memory of Fr. Ignacio Calabuig, O.S.M.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


7:30 a.m. Morning Prayer
8:00 a.m. Eucharist

9:00 a.m. Excursion [Maine Seacoast Sampler] to 2:00 p.m.

12:00 p.m. Dinner (for those not on the excursion)

General Information

Attendance open to all. You need not be a member to register.

For attendees residing at the Marie Joseph Spiritual Center:
MSA Registration Fee (3-day pkg.) $30.00

Room and Board Package:
Lodging and meals--Wed. evening (5:45 p.m.) to Sat. noon $155.00

For Commuters:
MSA Registration: $10.00 a day

Breakfast $5.00
Dinner $8.00
Supper $7.00

Meals must be "reserved" on the Registration Form.

Early arrivals? Late departures?--Contact the MSA Secretariat at 937-229-4294 for information about possibilities, rates.

Payment may be made now or at the time of the meeting. Make check payable to the Mariological Society of America. Note: No refunds possible after May 13, 2005

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International Marian Research Institute Course Schedule

IMRI courses for the Spring 2005 semester concluded on March 18.  The course schedule through Fall 2005 is now available.

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Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary (ESBVM-USA)

Next Meeting: Saturday May 7, 2005 at St. Dominic's Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.

The meting will begin at 9:30 AM. After ESBVM prayer and announcements, there will be a brief presentation by Rev. Don Lacy on ecumenical reports in the media and other recent ecumenical activity. There will be two presentations:

The Rev. Dr. J. Gentle (Anglican) will speak on "The Eucharist and Mary"
Dr. S. Roy  (Coptic Orthodox Church) will speak on "Symbolism of St. Mary in the Old Testament"

For more information click into ESBVM-USA.

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

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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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Mary Garden planted by UD volunteers takes root
by Deborah McCarty Smith
 University of Dayton Campus Report [April 1, 2005]

The daffodil shoots pushing up in the courtyard between St. Mary Hall and the Chapel are the first promise of beautiful things to come.  Planted last November by faculty and staff members and spouses, the 1,200 daffodil and tulip bubls are the beginnings of a Mary garden taking root in what UD staffers are calling "Mary's Courtyard."

Like most good gardens, this one is the result of people working together, contributing ideas, talent and time, said Pat Detzel, director of institutional studies.  Detzel credits Tom Burkhardt, UD vice president for finance and administrative services, with championing the project, and facilities management staff with providing support and expertise.


When completed, the garden will feature a mosaic of Mary, created by Br. Don Smith, S.M., that emphasizes flowers associated with the Blessed Mother.  Plans call for the mosaic to be installed in a brick-surrounded, arched niche on the wall between St. Mary's and the Chapel.  The Madonna lily, oxeye daisy, rose, tulip and carnation are some of the flowers that Smith is working into his design.

A landscape architect will be hired to design the garden and the niche.  Detzel hopes to have a design plan and preliminary planting done by May, so that the garden can get started this summer.  The gardening group also wants to display garden plans and photos of the mosaic in progress when a new exhibit opens in The Marian Library in May.

The exhibit of 54 paintings of Mary on loan from Poland runs May 17 through Sept. 9.

"Almost every painting features beautiful flowers, and many have flowers in their title--Madonna of the Roses, of the Lilies, of the Nasturtiums, of the Gladioli, of the Chrysanthemums, of the Carnations, of the Dying Flowers, Litany of Flowers, the Green Madonna and Madonna covered with Cherry Blossoms," Detzel said.  "Each painting is based upon a Polish poem or folk story about Mary.  If all goes well, perhaps we can have a dedication of the garden on or before September 9, when the exhibit closes.

From Zenit

Pope Entrusted Poland to Black Madonna
Sent a Letter to Shrine of Jasna Gora
Vatican City, April 5, 2005

Before dying, John Paul II sent a letter to the religious of the Shrine of Jasna Gora, in Czestochowa, and gave two gold crowns as a gift for the icon of the Black Madonna.

"I entrust our Homeland, the whole Church and myself to her maternal protection," said the Pope in his letter, addressed to Izydor Matuszewski, prior general of the monks of St. Paul the Hermit, of the monastery of Jasna Gora.

And, at the end, he added, "Totus tuus!" (All yours!), the motto in Latin with which he placed his pontificate in Mary's hands.

In the letter, whose contents were revealed by Vatican Radio, the Pope recalled all that God has done in his great mercy over the last 350 years for Poland through the Blessed Virgin, granting victory in defense of the monastery and the country, against a Swedish invasion.

"May these providential events be a call to unity in the building of the common good for the future of Poland and of all Poles," he wrote.

"May it be a call to care for the treasure of eternal values, so that the exercise of freedom will lead to building, and not to collapse," the Pope stated.

"I entrust to her maternal protection the Church on Polish soil so that, through the testimony of holiness and humility, hope for a better world will always be reinforced in the hearts of all believers," the Pontiff added.

Finally, John Paul II prayed "for those responsible for Poland's future, so that they will have the courage to defend every good for the benefit of the Republic."


John Paul II's Posthumous Message for Divine Mercy Sunday
"The Risen Lord Offers as a Gift His Love That Forgives"
Vatican City, April 3, 2005

Here is the message John Paul II had prepared to be read at the gathering of pilgrims to pray the Regina Caeli today, Divine Mercy Sunday. It was read by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Vatican Secretariat of State, following the Mass for the eternal repose of John Paul II.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. The joyful Easter Alleluia resounds also today. Today's Gospel page of St. John underlines that the Risen One, on the night of that day, appeared to the Apostles and "showed them his hands and his side" (John 20:20), that is, the signs of the painful Passion printed indelibly on his body also after his Resurrection. Those glorious wounds, which eight days later he made the incredulous Thomas touch, reveal the mercy of God "for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (John 3:16).

This mystery of love is at the heart of today's liturgy, Sunday "in Albis," dedicated to the worship of Divine Mercy.

2. To humanity, which at times seems to be lost and dominated by the power of evil, egoism and fear, the risen Lord offers as a gift his love that forgives, reconciles and reopens the spirit to hope. It is love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much need the world has to understand and accept Divine Mercy!

Lord, who with [your] Death and Resurrection reveal the love of the Father, we believe in you and with confidence repeat to you today: Jesus, I trust in you, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

3. The liturgical solemnity of the Annunciation, which we celebrate tomorrow, leads us to contemplate with Mary's eyes the enormous mystery of this merciful love that arises from Christ's heart. With her help, we can understand the true meaning of paschal joy, which is based on this certainty: The One whom the Virgin carried in her womb, who suffered and died for us, has truly risen. Alleluia!

Prioress of Convent Remembers Sister Lucia
Fatima Visionary Lived Humbly, Says Superior
Coimbra, Portugal, February 21, 2005

Sister Lucia was the "jewel" of the Carmelite convent of Coimbra, but within its walls she lived exactly like the other women religious, says the prioress.

"Age had made her very frail and the doctor advised her not to catch cold, so she heard Mass from her cell and we took her Communion," said the prioress, Sister Maria Celina of Jesus Crucified, in an interview on the program "Ecclesia" broadcasted by the agency of the same name.

Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart, the last witness of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, died Feb. 13 in St. Teresa's Carmelite convent in Coimbra, where she had lived since 1948. She was 97.

According to the prioress, "In these last days, especially since June 15, one of us was always with her, 24 hours a day. She became much more intimate, from this point of view," something that "occurs with all sisters who are dying, because -- none has yet died suddenly--when they are in need of our help, there is a greater bond."

"Since November 21, when her health conditions worsened, she became more dependent on us," continued the prioress.

Sister Maria Celina noted Sister Lucia's simplicity, saying that not even the "burden" of the Fatima secret, which the visionary kept for decades, affected her humility.

The prioress, who lived in the same convent with Sister Lucia for 28 years, also recalled the "normality" of her conversations, adding that the other nuns "did not ask questions."

The visionary's lack of prominence was such that when Sister Maria Celina arrived at the Carmel convent, she went "eight days without knowing that it was Lucia of Fatima."

With the passing of the years a close bond was established between them, so much so that the prioress said she saw Sister Lucia "as a niece."

The death of the witness of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin caused great sadness among the religious of her community, the prioress said. "She was part of our lives and, as you can well understand, in a Carmelite convent, in a cloistered life, one is in contact 24 hours a day."

Regarding the mission entrusted to the then little shepherdess of Fatima, the prioress said: "It was not Sister Lucia who wanted to give that message; she was entrusted with giving it to others."

Speaking about the future without the visionary's presence, Sister Maria Celina expressed the certainty that "she is with us in another way."

"Passing by her cell, one feels like going in, but she is no longer there," she said. She is "not there at the sensible level understood by our nature, but we know in faith that she is with us."

The prioress sees as possible an eventual flowering of vocations to the contemplative life, motivated by the example of the little shepherdess' life. "It might happen. God makes use of everything. It is he who calls.

"It was no accident that my vocation was born when I heard talk about the house where the little shepherdess lived only to pray, and I said: "I also want to be like that."


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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.

Woman Has Faith EBay Can Sell Virgin Mary Photo
[Source: Tampa Tribune (Florida), 2/12/2005]

LAND O' LAKES--Alma Menendez said she never thought of parting with her prized Polaroid, a snapshot of a Chicago-area tree on which many people said they saw an image of the Virgin Mary.  Since taking the picture in the early to mid-1990s, Menendez said she kept it in her Bible.  That changed this week, when The "Auction It" Store on U.S. 41, south of State Road 54, agreed to sell it online.

The store is in the Lake Francisco Plaza shopping center. "My sister was visiting from Chicago and I showed her the picture, and she said, "Why don't you put it on eBay?' " said Menendez, 61, a Chicago native who moved to Land O' Lakes in 2000.  "I didn't really want to part with it, but I went into the [auction] store and they thought it would be good," she said.

Menendez captured the image on a tree in the Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, Ill., west of Chicago.  In the picture, several people are looking at the tree, which appears to show the image of a woman wearing a long dress.  According to Menendez, the tree was near a cross on which visitors claimed to have seen Mary's image on Jesus' chest.  Eventually, the image was noticed on the tree, which later was cut down.  Menendez said that many of her friends and neighbors immediately noticed the image of Mary when she showed them the picture.  She said that her husband, John Menendez, was skeptical until she showed him where to look.

The couple have two adult daughters.  Chris and Janet Vener, who own the "Auction It" store, said they immediately noticed the image.  "I'm not religious or anything, but it gave me chills when she brought it in," Chris Vener said.  Janet Vener described the picture as "probably the most unusual item we've seen."

Menendez's picture is the latest Virgin Mary-like image to make headlines.  In Clearwater last year, an office building on which many people believed they saw the Virgin Mary's image was vandalized.  The image was mostly destroyed by a teenager with a slingshot.  Also last year, a Fort Lauderdale woman sold a 10- year-old grilled cheese sandwich that she said featured a grill mark in the shape of the Virgin Mary.  The winning eBay bid: $28,000.  Chris Vener wouldn't predict how much someone might pay for Menendez's picture, but he is confident that it will sell within a week to 10 days.  Bidding on the photo was to open at $1.  "I have no idea how people are going to look at it," Menendez said. "I would hope that whatever happens is for the best," she said.

What Happened at Fatima
[Source: The Weekly Standard, 3/7/2005]

HERE'S A CURIOUS THOUGHT.  Maybe the single most important person in the 20th century's long struggle against communism wasn't Ronald Reagan.  Maybe it wasn't Karol Wojtyla or Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa or Vaclav Havel, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Mikhail Gorbachev.  Maybe it wasn't anyone whose name might leap to a cold warrior's mind--for the most important figure in that long, dark struggle might have been a 10-year-old girl named Lucia dos Santos.

You remember her, of course.  It was Lucia who went out one day in 1917 with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Martos to tend the family's sheep--and ended up having a talk about Godless Russia with the Blessed Virgin Mary near a little place in northern Portugal called Fatima.  Or do you remember her?  Lucia dos Santos died on Sunday, February 13, at age 97.  And for much of her life, cloistered in her Carmelite convent in Portugal, she seemed, well, what?  An embarrassment, perhaps: an open invitation for mockery from nonbelievers, a creaky medievalism, a throwback to the kind of peasant superstition modern Catholics hoped would no longer be held against them.

There were certainly waves of enthusiasm about Fatima in Europe and the United States in the years following World War I.  But gradually after World War II, and increasingly after the modernizing changes of Vatican II, the cult of Fatima seemed to have lived on too long, like mold in an abandoned crypt--a final catacomb for the bitter and the disaffected: the orphaned throne-and-altar royalists, the bypassed ultramontanists, the rejecters of Vatican II, and all the dark, unhappy people who thought the Catholic church had abandoned them, in one way or another, for a mess of pottage at the modern world's table.  Fatima's continued existence was annoying, more or less, for educated American Catholics, who believed they had made a good-faith effort to reconcile their religion and the twentieth century.  This was their grandmothers' Catholicism, which they thought they had escaped.  It was an embarrassing spirituality of scapulars and rosaries, miracles and visions--an outdated religion of pilgrimages and prayers for the conversion of Russia, of hushed speculation about the "third secret of Fatima" and angry disputation about whether or not the pope had actually dedicated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as Our Lady demanded of those three little children in Portugal.

Worse, there was something not just pre-modern, but consciously anti-modern about all of it.  A day in which you can pack up your Polaroid and fly to Europe in a jumbo jet to see a visitation of the Blessed Virgin--surely that's supposed to be a day in which we don't have visitations of the Blessed Virgin anymore.  AND THEN THERE WAS the anticommunism of Fatima.  "Russia will spread its 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 Blessed Virgin warned in 1917.  The world was going to suffer "by means of war, hunger, and persecution," and Russia was the "instrument of chastisement." 

The Catholic Church was never in much danger of becoming actively pro-Communist.  As early as 1846, Pius IX condemned "that infamous doctrine of so-called communism which is absolutely contrary to the natural law itself, and if once adopted would utterly destroy the rights, property, and possessions of all men, and even society itself."  In 1878, the prolific Leo XIII named communism a "fatal plague which insinuates itself into the very marrow of human society only to bring about its ruin."  And in 1937, Pius XI issued an entire encyclical, Divini Redemptoris, in an effort to educate Catholics and non-Catholics alike about the dangers of "a world organization as vast as Russian communism."  Still, by the later part of the 20th century, such talk had come to seem a little dated for enlightened people--or even dangerous, for those who believed the world was threatened most of all by the U.S. commitment to nuclear deterrence against the Soviet Union.

When the bishops of South America met in Colombia in 1968 and defined a "preferential option for the poor," they did not intend a full embrace of Marxism.  Indeed, they imagined they were developing an answer to the conditions that drew people to communism.  But Latin American theologians and radicalized Catholic missionaries from the United States quickly seized upon the notion to announce a new "Theology of Liberation," born from the essential unity of Catholicism and Marxism--a declaration that Communists were merely Christians in a hurry and that scientific atheism was a disposable element in Karl Marx's writing.  With the collapse of the Soviet bloc after 1989, liberation theology finally lost the fight to capture Catholic theological and intellectual circles.  But there were moments in the 1970s when the liberationists looked ready to triumph, and against them stood what?  A church hierarchy gradually weakening its official opposition to communism, a handful of Catholic cold warriors in the United States, a young anti-Communist archbishop in Poland who would become Pope John Paul II in 1978--and the embarrassingly dated visions of a little Portuguese nun named Sister Lucia.

WHEN THE 93-YEAR-OLD Sister Lucia met with a messenger from the pope in 2000, she repeated, one last time, her conviction that the visions of Fatima concerned "above all the struggle of atheistic communism against the Church and against Christians."  Those visions began in the spring of 1916, according to the children's report, when Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta were visited three times by an angel, who told them he was the guardian angel of Portugal and urged them to pray and prepare themselves.  The next spring, eight months after the angel's final visit, the Virgin Mary herself began to speak to them.  Lucia had just had her tenth birthday, Francisco would turn 9 in June, and Jacinta was 7, when, on May 13, 1917, they took their sheep to a small hollow known as a Cova da Iria, the "Cove of Irene."  And there, around noon, a beautiful lady appeared near an oak tree, telling them to say the Rosary every day, "to bring peace to the world and an end to the war," and promising to visit them again "on the thirteenth of each month" for the next five months.  The children agreed they wouldn't tell anyone about the lady, but Jacinta couldn't keep the news to herself, and she told her parents what had happened in the cove.

By all accounts, her father tended to believe her, while her mother thought she was imagining things.  But they told their neighbors about the girl's story, and those neighbors told their neighbors, and those neighbors told theirs, and within a few months all of Portugal was in an uproar.  Perhaps 70 people came to the cove on June 13 to watch the children receive the second visit, in which Lucia was told that Francisco and Jacinta would not live long.  Several hundred attended the third visit in July, when the children received what came to be known as the "great vision," in which the beautiful lady predicted another great war, the spread of Russia's errors, and, yes, something else--the third secret the children were ordered not to tell, the prediction sealed in the Vatican's vaults, the great mystery that dominated discussions of Fatima for the next 70 years.

Portugal at the time was a republic led by a strongly anticlerical party, and the government in Lisbon apparently feared a nascent peasant revolt was brewing in the religious revival emerging from Fatima.  On the morning of August 13, the local civil administrator arrested the children and hauled them away to the district headquarters in Vila Nova de Ourem--where, by several accounts, he locked them in cells with "criminals" and threatened them with "boiling in oil."  It didn't have the effect for which the government had hoped.  The children refused to recant, the crowds grew larger, and, under enormous public pressure, the frightened administrator returned the children, unceremoniously pushing them out of his car in front of the rectory in Fatima two days later, and driving away as fast as he could before the townspeople caught him.  The delayed apparition came on Sunday, August 19, when the children were alone.

At the September apparition, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta were surrounded by 30,000 people, an enormous crowd for rural Portugal in 1917.  And when the news spread that Mary had promised a visible sign, the witnesses swelled to 70,000 on October 13 to watch "the miracle of the sun."  Amidst all the enthusiasm and mass hysteria, the ecstatic stories of the sun breaking through the clouds and dancing across the sky, there are some surprisingly sober accounts--mostly by reporters from anticlerical newspapers and skeptical academics who had come to watch the crowd.  "The sun's disc did not remain immobile.  This was not the sparkling of a heavenly body, for it spun round on itself in a mad whirl," wrote a professor from the University of Coimbra.  "Then, suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people.  The sun, whirling wildly, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight.  The sensation during those moments was terrible."  As the beautiful lady predicted, two of the children died young--Francisco in 1919, a few months before his eleventh birthday, and Jacinta in 1920, at age 10--both carried away in the influenza epidemic that followed World War I.

The Catholic Church waited until 1930 before cautiously approving prayer at Fatima as "not necessarily contrary to the faith."  The cult of Our Lady of Fatima survived through the twentieth century, but seemed to be a declining devotion, particularly among educated Americans.  Sermons and catechism classes as late as the 1950s were filled with references to the visions of Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta.  Yet a child who passed through Catholic education in the second half of the century would emerge with little more than a vague memory of having once or twice heard the word Fatima.

BUT THEN, on May 13, 1991, Pope John Paul II made a visit to Portugal and drew again to the cove the huge crowds he always attracted.  And while there, he did something curious and, at the time, inexplicable: He took the bullet with which he had been shot 10 years before and placed it in the crown of the statue of Mary at the site of the original apparitions.  It wasn't till 2000, when Francisco and Jacinta were finally beatified, that the Vatican offered an explanation--and, along the way, revealed Sister Lucia's text of the third secret of Fatima, locked in the Vatican archives since 1957.  The hidden part of the vision of July 13 predicted the persecution of the Church and the shooting of a pope.  John Paul II had come to the conclusion that the prophecy was fulfilled by the murder attempt of May 13, 1981, when the Turkish assassin Mehmet Ali Agca shot him in St. Peter's Square.  Indeed, for the pope, it all comes together: the repeated thirteens in the dates, the vision of a gun aimed at a pope, even the anticommunism.

His latest book, Memory and Identity--a collection of philosophical conversations published last week in Italian and due out in English at the end of April--insists upon the centrality of Fatima.  The assassination attempt was "not [Agca's] initiative, someone else masterminded it, and someone else commissioned it," he declares, blaming the Soviet bloc for the shooting.  It was a "last convulsion" of communism, trying vainly to hold back the tide that had turned against it.  And the cause for that turn against the Soviet system?  In part, at least--in large part, perhaps--the prayers and the attitudes inspired by the visions of Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta at Fatima.

In many ways, John Paul II seems simultaneously far behind and far ahead of the rest of the world--as though he had rediscovered the past not by retreating but by advancing, coming out at the far end of modern times, smiling and secure.  He was the one who saw nothing anti-modern, or even un-modern, in going to pray at the sites of ancient faith--and nothing contradictory in using a jet to do it.  He was the one who thought it perfectly possible that the Blessed Virgin Mary might appear in the modern age: in 1917 to a group of children in Portugal, or today, for that matter, to someone else.  And most of all, John Paul II was the one who saw that the anti-Communist visions of Fatima weren't some withdrawal into a reactionary past, but an accurate prediction of the direction modern times should take--a path by which a very old form of Catholic spirituality had taught the common people to resist the Marxism their educated coreligionists had come to assume was the inevitable shape of the future.  When the 97-year-old Lucia dos Santos slipped away on February 13--again, that thirteenth day--she received innumerable tributes from around the world.  But she was little praised for the thing she may have done best: bringing an end to the Soviet Union.

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