‘Beyond words.’ The pilgrim from Hamsphire, one of an estimated two million worshippers in the town of Fatima, had entered a state of grace. Or else it was all too much for her – the Pope, the crowds, the Portuguese sun, and the little shepherds whose visions of the Virgin Mary have finally brought them to sainthood, a hundred years after the Madonna first appeared to them.
A hundred years of people striving, warring, winning, losing, dying; now colonised for Catholicism by the Holy Father. Make no mistake, besides claiming for itself the presumed innocence of Francisco and Jacinta, who died in the global flu epidemic before they had a chance to grow up, this was the Holy Apostolic Church taking back a whole heap of time, amending what times past are remembered for.
See how it’s done. Not faultlessly, for that would be in error – perfection has no need of prayer. Instead let the faithful glimpse the feet of clay – this Pope’s jug ears, his Mr Potato Head, so to see themselves making the difficult ascent alongside him.
At the open air altar, in the midst of the sacrament, a flash of calculation in the Pope’s typically humble countenance – perhaps something in his line of sight that wasn’t quite right.
It’s ‘artisanal’, this ecstasy; as he himself might say, ‘you work on it every day’. So how to work the myth and reality, folding each into the other like eggs and flour?
Take two thousand years of practice and as many of belief, moderately sincere……