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EDINBURGH (LifeSiteNews) — The news from Rome hit like a bomb, obliterating any other news coming from or written about the Francis pontificate yesterday.  

In short, Pope Francis is going to consecrate Russia and Ukraine — which, in 1917, was part of Russia — to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25. He is presumably doing this at the behest of the Roman Catholic bishops in Ukraine, who asked him to do it “as requested by the Blessed Virgin of Fatima” – a surprise to some, as the last surviving Fatima seer, Sister Lucia dos Santos, said that St. John Paul II had fulfilled Our Lady’s instructions in 1984.  

Now that could be a cue to start fighting in the comments box about Sister Lucia, “Lucy II,” the Third Secret of Fatima, and all the lore that has grown up around the miracles and prophecies that occurred near that little Portuguese village in 1917, but please don’t. I have read and heard enough squabbling and theorizing on the topic already. I’ve even heard that the beautiful lady who appeared at Fatima was not Our Lady but, um, the Earth Mother, i.e., Pachamama, lonely and looking for attention. Yeah, that was disturbing.  

But also disturbing are stories of what will happen if Our Lady’s instructions to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart are not fulfilled to the letter. According to the seers, Our Lady said that if her requests are not granted “Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will suffer much, and various nations will be annihilated.”   

This last prophecy scared me to death as a child in the 1980s, and it was emphasized a lot more than Our Lady’s soothing promise that “in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” 

The last apparition of Fatima was the Miracle of Sun, which took place on October 13, 1917. According to accounts, the three seers of Fatima, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta – three children under the age of 10 – and a crowd of 70,000 people witnessed a rain shower, then the wet ground under their feet instantly drying, and then the sun “dancing” or zigzagging across the sky. One hundred years later, some of us were expecting something just as – or more – dramatic to happen on October 13, 2017.  

I didn’t have much time to speculate about what that might be because, as long-term readers might remember, my husband was very ill that summer. In March he had been suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor and operated on the next day. The operation was not to remove the tumor — deemed too close to his brainstem — but to unblock the fluid trapped on his brain. The surgeons pronounced the surgery a success, which is why we couldn’t understand it when Mark began hallucinating, making mistakes at work and, ultimately, losing so much weight he looked like Gollum.   

It was a bad time, so bad that it was a relief when a surgeon finally had a look and admitted that the surgery had been “a failure.” More operations were needed. 

What the surgeon absolutely did not want to do, however, was remove the tumor. That would be very dangerous, he assured us. It could result in Mark’s death. It could result in Mark spending the rest of his life in a minimally conscious state. In his opinion, it was too big of a risk — until Mark was sliding into a coma, and suddenly it wasn’t. As Mark’s signature on the paperwork was just one long squiggle across the page, the assistant surgeon next handed me the pen.  

There followed a sort of deathbed scene — with delirious Mark sitting up in bed, terribly excited and beating his bony chest when the priest arrived with the Blessed Sacrament, my mother-in-law arriving and going away again, the sad parade of well-wishers — and then I went home to pray and cry. I got the call later that night: my husband was alive, but how he had come through the surgery would not be clear until the morning.  

Thus, the morning of October 13, 2017, I went back to the hospital — by bus, as usual — and I prayed a whole 15-decade Rosary on the way. My thoughts were very much with Our Lady of Fatima and the online rumors that something Big and Awful were likely to happen that day. 

I don’t remember my exact prayer, but I do remember explicitly asking Our Lady that instead of doing (or asking her Son to do, to be theologically accurate) something Big and Awful to mark the anniversary, to bring about a little, gentle miracle — that Mark be made entirely well. At the time, I did not know if he would ever recognize me again.  

But he did. When I found him in the intensive care unit with a ventilator tube stuffed down his throat, he mouthed, “I love you.” 

“I love you, too,” I said and then, inaccurately, “It’s the Feast of the Holy Rosary today.”  

And this might be the reason — I don’t discount it — that after Mark’s tube was removed by a team of doctors and I was called back in to calm him down, he shouted, “Darling, darling, they’re trying to kill me — and her Immaculate Heart will triumph! 

For three days, my husband assured me and the ICU that the Immaculate Heart will triumph. The first day, he was extremely loud about it: the world’s noisiest and most fervent missionary of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The second day, he didn’t yell as much or repeat it as often. The third day, he said it only occasionally, in a conversational sort of way.  

“And you know, in the end, her Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

“Yes. Yes, it will.”

Was he made entirely well? Not entirely — the last, untouchable bit of the tumor, the part on the brainstem, asserted itself a year later and had to be radiated into submission — but well enough for the surgeon to be extremely pleased. What seemed to impress him most was that Mark didn’t suffer any facial paralysis.  

“It’s pretty miraculous,” he said.  

It’s entirely miraculous. And what is more, it is entirely appropriate for, as I didn’t know at the time, Mark was born on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart. And it is the reason I myself now have a devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and believe, in the end, it will triumph. 

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Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian journalist, essayist, and novelist. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and an M.Div./S.T.B. from Toronto’s Regis College. She was a columnist for the Toronto Catholic Register for nine years and has contributed to Catholic World Report. Her first book, Seraphic Singles,  was published by Novalis (2010) in Canada, Liguori in the USA, and Homo Dei in Poland. Her second, Ceremony of Innocence, was published by Ignatius Press (2013). Dorothy lives near Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband.