June 19, 2020

Sight Unseen / Brandon A. Evans

The Virgin Mary’s greatest miracle?

Brandon A. EvansThirty-nine years ago something happened that very well shouldn’t have.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, by the power of her Son, did something so profound and so powerful that it makes one to rethink the limits of miracles.

It was a sunny day in 1981 when an assassin’s bullets tore into the body of Pope John Paul II, who was not even three years into his papacy.

The shots that gravely wounded and should’ve killed him didn’t, and against significant odds, internal damage and blood loss, he survived, attributing it as a miracle from the hands of Mary.

What makes it more of note is that John Paul did not just have a reprieve of a few months, nor the time to write one more encyclical or make a single important decision: he went on to reign for another 24 years, helping to end the scourge of western Communism, producing mountains of theological writings, choosing the bishop for nearly every diocese and leading the Catholic Church into the third millennium of Christianity.

Still, even with all that, what Mary may have really done on that day is far more significant.

The assassination attempt happened on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and as soon as he was well enough, the pope asked to see something that only a few living souls ever had—something written down just once by the last living seer of the famed apparitions.

When the Blessed Virgin showed herself to three children in Fatima in 1917, she told them three secrets. The first two contained warnings of World War II, the spread of Communism and the need for repentance on the part of wayward mankind.

The last secret was revealed only two decades ago, by a then-aged John Paul. The famed “Third Secret” contains a vision, among other things, of “a bishop dressed in white” being martyred by gunfire, and the interpretation of the pope (and many others) was that it referred to him.

How can that be, though, if he wasn’t actually killed? It is possible that the vision was entirely symbolic, or that it refers to someone else, or has simply been misinterpreted. In fact, many people hoping for something more apocalyptic and grand were disappointed.

But there is another possibility hidden in the meaning of the Third Secret, and it is there that a truly extraordinary miracle lies.

Existing outside of time and space with God in heaven, it is possible that what the Virgin said in 1917 was not a prediction. Rather, she saw the events of the future with the certainty that we see those of the past. What if Pope John Paul II was martyred on May 13, 1981? What if the world did mourn him, and did wonder what would have come from the papacy that never was?

More startlingly, what if, knowing how events happened, the Mother of God changed them anyway?

As John Paul later said, “It was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path and in his throes the Pope halted at the threshold of death.”

A bullet recovered from the scene now sits in the middle of the crown atop a statue of Our Lady at the site of her 1917 apparitions as a constant testament to her intercession.

That day, we may dare to think that Mary did not just save the pope’s life, nor merely affect the fate of nations, but acted in such a way to make her voice reach each person, as if to say:

“My child, there is no ruin you can bring to your own story that I cannot fix. There is no distance from God you can travel, no embarrassment you can suffer, no prison you can make of your own choices, no destruction you can wreak, no despair or loneliness or sorrow or pain or heartache you can endure that I cannot reach and mend. No matter what you have done and how powerless you are and how lonely and wretched and broken you’ve become, healing is still mine to give. No knot you make can bind my hands, no sin distract my loving gaze. Turn to me and know what it means that nothing will be impossible for God.”

All creation once waited in hallowed silence for Mary to freely choose to become the Mother of God. In her ability to say no, as Eve once had, the salvation of every soul to ever live depended on her answer. And it is that same woman, entrusted as the mother of all, who holds each person’s history in her hands.

If that most kind and merciful of mothers can step into time from eternity to alter the events that she herself announced would happen, then there is nothing—nothing—she cannot do, if God wills it, for you.

(Sight Unseen is an occasional column that explores God and the world. Brandon A. Evans is the online editor and graphic designer of The Criterion and a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield.)

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