Next Monday the night-sky over the beach in Biarritz will be lit up with fireworks. The scintillating pyrotechnic display happens twice a year – to celebrate the French Revolution on July 14, and, a month later, August 15, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. The first is an undisputed historical fact, regretted however by some, including an illustrious reader and commentator of this Blog, “Lumen de lumine”, for whom the birth of Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité was an infamous attack on Holy Mother Church in the country formerly known as its Eldest Daughter. The second, according to the same reader/commentator, and hundreds of millions of his fellow-Catholics, is also an historical fact. Of this he never has had any doubt, especially after its solemn declaration by the Pope in 1950.
So, as we have often said in this Blog, Mary had Lift-Off. If you google the Net, you’ll find that Rome was careful not to define as dogma whether Mary actually died before her Assumption. Theologians speak of her “Dormition” rather than death. (Ask anyone you meet in the street what “Dormition”, “Assumption”, not to say “Transubstantiation” mean, and you’ll find they haven’t got a clue. The Church has a special talent for obfuscation which it is pleased not to eschew.) Dead or alive, Mary, without a space-suit or rockets in her sandals, took off for Somewhere Over the Rainbow to reign forever as the Queen of Heaven. You better believe it !
But every now and again she comes back. There have been thousands of claims for her “apparitions” around the world. Only seventeen of them have been, to date, officially recognized by the Church – which means that they, like the Assumption, are considered historical facts. Lumen keeps reminding us of some of the most famous of them – Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe – but sometimes even of Medjugorje. He has never mentioned Gietrzwald in Poland, site of the 1877 sighting of Mary, who called herself “the Most Holy Virgin Mary Immaculate”. She said this to two young girls, aged 13 and 12, to whom she gave an important message :”I want you to recite the Rosary every day”. Lumen-Jim would find this perfectly credible, especially as the “apparition” is listed as No.7 in the official list of seventeen.
I personally find it a bit hard to swallow that the Mother of God would call herself “Most Holy”. Can you imagine the heir to the British throne introducing himself as “My Royal Highness the Prince of Wales” ? But it is just as – literally – incredible that Mary would risk reentering the Earth’s atmosphere (hopefully followed by a soft landing) just to tell two kids to recite prayers praising her and asking her, in turn, to pray for them, saying 53 or 153 times every day : “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Lumen-Jim’s favorite apparition, though, is Guadalupe, in the 16th century. When the Bishop asked Juan Diego to produce a sign guaranteeing the reality of the Marian apparition which he claimed to have experienced, he went back up the mountain and filled his cloak (his “tilma”) with (miraculous) flowers, which apparently Mary herself arranged daintily if not with professional prowess. When Juan Diego tumbled them out of his tilma in front of the Bishop, a painted image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was revealed on the inside of the tilma ! What I find most interesting is what the newspaper “Crux. Taking the Catholic Pulse”, says about this new “miracle” : “Experts in infrared photography studying the tilma in the late 1970s, determined that there were no brush strokes, as if the image were slapped onto the surface all at once.”
And Jim-Lumen wonders why I wonder about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin !
That about wraps it up, folks.