"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, June 16, 2017

Lines I Wished I’d Written: The Trip to the Chapel of the Apparitions, from Vision of Fatima by Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P.

I’ve mentioned I participate at the Catholic Thought book club on Goodreads.  For those that don’t know, Goodreads is a “social catalogue” website for books. It’s a place to catalogue the books you’ve read, provide a rating or review for others to read, and discuss books.  I didn’t know it was owned by Amazon until now, but that makes sense.  In addition people can gather themselves into book clubs of whatever shared interest you may have.  There are all sorts of classics book clubs, history book clubs, romance novel book clubs, and whatever book genre you can imagine, and some you’ve never imagined.  There are several Catholic oriented book clubs and for the last few years I’ve belonged to Catholic Thought.  It’s really the only book club I participate in, and now I’ve become one of the moderators. 

Goodreads is free to participate in, and I’m always looking for new members for the Catholic Thought club.  Some of the books we have recently read (and I have not participated in all the reads) are “The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola,” The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis, Treatise on the Love of God by St. Francis de Sales, The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church by John Allen, Silence by Shūsaku Endō, and Learning the Virtues: That Lead You to God by Romano Guardini.  If you want to build an intellectual basis for your faith, then come join us.  Here’s our book club mission statement:

This group is dedicated to the great enjoyment derived from Catholic theological and spiritual reading when combined with the outlooks and opinions of many friends. We are not an apologetics group. Our goal is to find comfort in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Currently we are reading Vision of Fatima by Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P.   Fr. McGlynn (1906-77) was a Dominican priest, sculptor, professor at Providence College, and writer.  /  He sculpted many saints and Popes, and in 1947 was commissioned to make a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.  After building a prototype, he decided he would bring it to the one remaining, living child of the famed Fatima Apparitions of 1917, Lúcia de Jesus dos Santos, at the time a Carmelite nun, to get her approval and possible revisal for the large scale sculpture he intends to create.  This book recounts his journey to Lucy, as he refers to her at the beginning of the book (later he refers to her as Irmã Dores, her name at the convent), Lucy’s rejection of the prototype statue, and the recreation of the new statue based on her vision.  To be clear, this is not the more renown Our Lady of Fatima statue carved by José Thedim that is more familiar.  Sister Lucy did not approve of that statue either; it did not fit the apparition.  Fr. McGlynn intended to make a statue to correspond with Lucy’s perspective, her vision.  And that is what this book is about, as well as filling in the complex messages of the apparition as Fr. McGlynn learns about them.

As it turns out, EWTN’s show Bookmarks with Doug Keck recently broadcast an episode discussing this very book.  Typically Doug on his show discusses the book with the author, but in this case he will not be calling Fr. McGlynn back from the dead. ;) He discusses the book with Fr. Gabriel Gillen O.P.  Fr. Gillen had researched the history of how Fr. McGlynn had sculpted the various statues that he discusses in the book.  You can watch this episode on youtube, here.  

The lines from Vision of Fatima I wish to highlight come from Chapter 4, simply titled, “Fatima.”  Fr. McGlynn and his interpreter and traveling companion in Portugal, Fr. Gardiner, here drive out from Lisbon to the town of Fatima for the first time.  Along the journey they stop at the Dominican Monastery in Batlahla, and then to the shrine at the south rim of the Cova, which is the actual location of the apparitions.  They settle in at a near-by hostel, all the while trying to understand the perplexing details of the Fatima apparitions, and the directives that were given by the Blessed Mother.  Finally they reach their goal, the Chapel of the Apparitions. 

We stopped at a green wooden building near the edge of the village, an inn called Pousada de Nossa Senhora do Rosário da Fátima.  Mr. Petracchi, the proprietor, welcomed us.  I tried speaking to him in Italian, but learned that despite his name and appearance he was English and about as familiar with Italian as I was with Gaelic.  He showed us through the dining room, which occupied the front of the building, to our rooms, off the narrow hall that divided the remainder of the one-story structure.  There was no heating.  The cold, the unpainted woodwork, and the springless beds confirmed the reputation of severe simplicity that visitors remark of Fatima.  There were no luxuries and few comforts at this shrine of penance. 

The few peasants along the road, as others I had seen on the way from Leiria, were short and sturdy of stature, with firm, regular features.  They were poorly and somberly clothed.  Women wore black dresses and veils, and, along with their children, were generally barefoot; the men had well-worn suits, usually brown or grey, collarless shirts, and nearly always the bone, a long, black stocking cap that falls to the shoulder. 

Gathering impressions of the people in the vicinity of Fatima, I found that curiosity was unilateral.  This might have been because they were accustomed to visitors from many lands; but my feeling, bourne out of future contacts, was that, beyond their black eyes, there are self-assured and independent personalities.  They have wrested a living from the stubborn soil of the Serra, and in the process they seemed to have acquired a strange likeness to their surroundings: austere, solid, and uncommunicative.  They were always courteous but never obsequious; friendly, but reserved. 

The panorama of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima fans out to the north at the west end of the village.  It is dominated by the graceful spire of the basilica, which rises more than two hundred feet on the hill, about a quarter of a mile from the road.  The church is made of cream-colored stone, lighter than the other buildings, and stands as on a pedestal on a great stairway that leads down to the saucer-shaped hallow.  Beneath the cross, a dark-green bronze crown tops the mounting movement of the tower.  There is an empty niche over the doorway.  Scaffoldings made of rough logs were leaning against the sides of the huge nave.  The tower was standing against a magnificent billowing cloud that had been turned a red-gold in the light of the setting sun.

We went through the gateway, down a wide gravel walk, toward the fountain, which is the hub of the Cova.  To the right and left of the walk, retaining walls drop down to irregular depressions, which are sprinkled with small trees and rough rock formations.  These quarter segments of the circle are the only unaltered remains of the original Cova. 

The fountain in the center is a gray circular stone structure, surrounded by arches, from whose roof a column rises to sustain a gilded statue of the Sacred Heart.  Between the fountain and the basilica is the expansive semicircle of sandy, graded fill, where the hundred thousands gather on the days of pilgrimage. 

On the right, the shell of a new hospital was rising; the old hospital is on the ridge to the left.  Beyond it, and not seen from the Cova, is the hospice, which is used for retreatants and for the offices of the Sanctuary.

However, I took note of the hospital, at first, only as the yellow background for a deep-red tile roof of a small structure about twenty yards up the slope of the fountain.  The roof, at the far end, covers a tiny white-walled chapel with room enough for only the celebrant and a few worshippers; but most of the roof is over a porch of rough cement.  This is the goal of every pilgrim’s journey—the Chapel of the Apparitions.  Outside and a little to the left of the doorway of the chapel, a stone column, seven feet high, marks the spot where the Blessed Virgin appeared to the children.

As we arrived at the steps in front of the chapel the great bells of the basilica were ringing out the Angelus.

I find that such an engaging passage.  Even though this is from personal experience, and therefore non-fiction, Fr. McGlynn has a keen creative and organizing eye as he brings the reader to the climatic monument—the Chapel of the Apparitions—to the end of chapter.  And then he provides the lovely touch of the ringing bells of the Angelus, the mid-day prayer to the Blessed Virgin.

Here’s how the Chapel looks in more recent times. 

And here is the basilica:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Manny for this interesting post, and book review.

    I joined Goodreads some time ago. But to be honest, never had the time to participate fully. I'm not as well-read as you.

    God bless.