Monday, February 14, 2005

Farewell, Sister Lucia

A small item in my local paper -- not even a bona fide obituary -- notes that Sister Lucia Marto, the last survivor among the three children who saw visions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, has died.
I have long found the Fatima visions to be among the most interesting religious events of recent history. This is mostly because of the controversy over the third prediction given to the children by the Virgin. The Catholic Church long refused to divulge this last prediction (the first two had prophecied the World Wars and the re-emergence of Christianity in Russia) and when it did finally reveal it in 2000 there was widespread skepticism about it.
Here's a pretty good summary of the controversy:
I love a good religious controversy -- not because I am anti-religion, but because I believe that mainstream, orthodox churches have suppressed much interesting history. Now that The Da Vinci Code has become a global phenomenon, I know that I am not alone in this interest. Maybe a little too far from alone.
Anyway, back to Fatima. When Sister Lucia wrote down the prophecies in the 1940s and gave them to her local bishop, she said that the Virgin had instructed that the third prediction be revealed in 1960. When that year arrived, the Vatican refused to release the text of the prophecy, saying the world was not ready for it.
On May 13, 2000, the 19th anniversary of the attempt on his life by Mohammed Ali Agca, Pope John Paul II visited Fatima and revealed the text, part of which reads,

"...the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half
with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed
the souls of
the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top
of the
mountain, on his
knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed
by a group
of soldiers who
fired bullets and arrows at him..."
The Pope said that this text related to the assassination attempt. But many
have doubted that connection -- the setting and circumstances are far
-- and even that this is the real text of the final prophecy.

When I was in high school or college, the sister of a friend was collaborating on a suspense novel about the third prophecy. To my knowledge, that novel never appeared. But it was a great idea, I think.

The other aspect of my interest in the Fatima story is what I perceive as the
sincerity of Sister Lucia's faith. She devoted her life to the Church, and died
yesterday as a nun at the age of 97. She spent her life cloistered and with
little communication outside the church. She believed.

I scoured The New York Times for mention of her passing, and could find
nothing in the National Edition, which is what I receive at home. I'm assuming
this was just due to deadlines and that this event will be covered tomorrow.

Sister Lucia deserves to be remembered by the world. Those of us who know
something about her story are fascinated and want to know more.