William Thomas Walsh
One of the strangest and most beautiful stories I have ever heard was enacted from 1916 to 1920 in the hill country called the Serra da Aire, in the geographical center of Portugal. Three shepherd children, the oldest ten, the youngest seven, reported six times in 1917 that they had seen a Lady made wholly of light, who stood on a small tree, spoke to them, and vanished. On the last occasion, in the presence of 70,000 people, she performed a startling miracle to prove the truth of what the children said. Two of the litde shepherds died in childhood, as she had foretold. Tíme has verified her other prophecies thus far: the Bolshevik Revolution, which began soon after; the horrors of World War II; the menace that Marxism offers to the en tire world at this moment. The Lady said that if her wishes were obeyed, she would convert Russia and there would be peace. If not, every country in the world would be scourged and enslaved.
The third shepherd is still living. She is Sister Maria das Dores (Mary of the Sorrows), a lay sister of the Institute of Saint Dorothy, just forty years of age. I had a long conversa- tion with her last summer. This book is based principally upon her four written but unpublished memoirs, in the light of that con versa tion.
The message she has lived to reveal is that of no ordinary lady. It comes, I am convjnced, from the Queen of heaven and earth, whose beauty, power and goodness have been the theme of prophets and saints for thousands of years. She is that máiden of whom Isaías wrote, “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son . . .” the one of whom King Solomon asked, “Who is she that cometh forth as the moming rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in arrayí” It was to her that the ángel Gabriel said, “Hail, ful! of grace! The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women!” and she replied “Be it done to me according to thy word.”
This Lady has often changed the course of history. Her Rosary, preached by Saint Dominic, overthrew the Mani- chean heresy that would have destroyed European society. It kept both faith and the love of freedom alive in Eire for centuries. It won the battle of Lepanto, where Christendom was saved from Moslem domination. It was under her special protection that Columbus set out to discover our western world, changing the ñame of his flagship from Mariagalante to Santa María; and every night, as dusk carne over the un- charted and terrifying waste of the Sargasso Sea, his sailors would assemble on the decks to sing her vesper hymn:
"Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy,
Our life, our sweetness and our hope,
Hail! . .
American Catholics followed this tradition in placing their country under the protection of her Immaculate Conception. And let no one imagine that any sort of Brave New World will be able to efface her memory! For at the end of time, before the consummation of this world, there will appear in heaven—or has it already appeared?—the sign foretold by Saint John in his Apocalypse:
“A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”