December 5, 2014

The Doves

In 1946, a great procession travelled, on foot, the almost 90-mile distance from Cova da Ira, Portugal to Lisbon. It carried a statue of the Blessed Virgin from the site where she appeared in 1917, more commonly known as Fatima, to the capital of the country. The reason was to commemorate the declaration by King John IV, 300 years earlier, of Mary as the patroness of his country.

As the statue was carried into Lisbon, a priest by the name of Father Oliveira was walking close enough alongside to touch it. A short while later, he wrote of an event that all the newspapers of the time carried with much attention and which was “on the lips of every person in the nation.”

On its way to Lisbon, the statue stopped in a town called Bombarral. While it was there, someone freed four doves into the air. Three of them flew down and perched themselves at the feet of the statue. They then proceeded to stay there, for almost two whole weeks afterwards. The procession with the statue moved from town to town, amid bands playing, fireworks exploding and flowers being thrown right at the statue. Day and night, however, the doves remained.

The culmination of the proceedings was a Solemn Mass with a general communion for the throng of people that had gathered. As the Mass progressed, the doves remained at the feet of the statue as before. When the bell sounded to announce the consecration, two of the doves left the statue. One flew to the Epistle side of the altar and one to the Gospel side. When the bishop raised the consecrated Host, they “alighted and folded their wings, one on each side, as though in adoration.”

As the time for communion arrived, the third dove took to flight as well. It placed itself atop the golden crown on the head of the Madonna. As the celebrant elevated the Host, saying “Ecce Agnus Dei” (“Behold the Lamb of God”), it “spread its white wings and held them open.”

It may of course be that two of the doves independently decided to occupy one side of the altar at the same time as the other, that they both folded their wings when the Presence was raised due to some coincidence, and that the third dove flew to a high point and spread its wings at the time for universal adoration of the Eucharist because it needed room to stretch. It may also be, as so many of the faithful then believed, that He was truly present and a few of his creations could sense it.



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