The Third Secret of Fatima

A Cousin in Portugal

A Cousin in Portugal

   Catherine Patricia Obrien was an irish american history teacher at St Louis  University. Her nickname from childhood was Cap. In August 2016 she visited a cousin in Dublin. While Cap was visiting, the dublin cousin received notice that a great aunt had died in lisbon portugal. Cap and the cousin attended the funeral. After the wake, the family discussed what to do with the aunts papers and letters. In the chest were photos of family, many of the oldest they did not know. Letters to and from friends and relatives. And a large bundle of letters from Sister Mary Lucy of Jesus of the Immaculate Heart. Her aunt who had been a nun but illness had forced her to live outside the convent. One of the cousins knew that the aunt had had a connection with the apparition of Mary at a place called Fatima. Cap had never heard of Fatima. 

   It was decided that since the american cousin was actually the nearest relative most likely to read the letters, the papers should go to her. No one else was interested in them. Out of respect for the dead, someone had to wade through the papers. As the scholar of the group, the lot fell to her. She didn’t mind. Old papers held an allure for her. They belonged to a different realm. Old letters were doors to the past. Old letters were the pathway of historical understandings. Important issues sometimes hinged on a single letter.  Old letters embodied the spirit of patience. In a world where so much had to be done by deadline, old papers didn’t mind waiting another year or another decade. 

    The rest of the family were urban professionals who like just about everybody else in europe had left the faith behind. It was still practiced in the countryside but the old churches in the cities were mostly empty, Relics of a departed era.

   Back in Dublin, she took a walking tour of the city. She came across a picturesque little bookstore. Being a scholar, she loved the smell of old books. They had a perfume which spoke of the dignity and romance of learning. The nobility of the mind. While browsing its aisles, she turned a corner and at the edge of her vision a book called to her. For a moment, it seemed like the title glowed and then withdrew. She excused her excited dancing imagination. On a second trip down the aisle, she saw it again. The title stood out clearly. The letters spelled Fatima. She remembered the name. She purchased it a price which indicated that it was not much sought after. But it had a sturdy leather binding and yellow pages.  On the inside flap, were written kind words of endearment from a giver to a recipient. It had been a gift of lover. Both parties were probably long departed. It was a good beginning.

    On the flight back, Cap had a chance to reflect on her family history. She looked out her window at the crimson edge of the receding western coast of Ireland. It was easy to think of it as a tapestry with all of the history of centuries written upon. So many pages that could be turned back in time. 

   In the early 1800‘s, one John Obrien had met a dark haired Portuguese beauty named Maria Iago and married her. She and her father had left Portugal to escape the turmoil of one of Portugal’s revolutionary episodes. A number of jews were prominent in the anti monarchist movement. In the aftermath, Portugal had become unpleasant place for her father. He had lost property and was happy not to have lost his life. He wanted to get as far away from the trouble as reasonably possible. He sailed for Ireland and for the nearest port, which was Cork. 

   Cork had a history of being a landing spot for windswept sailors. Situated in the south east corner of Ireland, it was the nearest port to southern europe and the Mediterranean. Here and there in the many sheltered inlets among the rocky coast could be found welcome patches of sand. In a violent storm, his boat steered for one of the many protected inlets south of cork. His boat was thrown by the surf upon the shore near a small village called Ross Carberry. The locals had a long history of harboring sailors. He liked the little village. He fit in and as he learned the language. Cork held the second highest concentration of Jews in Ireland. Dublin held the most. But he didn’t want to go upriver to Dublin. He was born near the coast and he wanted to stay near the coast. Also, he wanted to be able to leave easily if needed. The people of Cork had been treated among the worst by the british. There was an underlying sympathy for others who had been treated badly. Rebel Cork, as it had been called, could welcome a rebel as one of their own.

    John’s son Patrick attended the local school as his fathers had before him for more than a thousand years. Rich in antiquity, the area had a history which stretched back to the sixth century. Rosscarberry had been a university town when Ross priory was founded by St Fachnan. It had been one of the great european centers of learning.  There Patrick learned the classics and reveled in the local folklore. He took Sunday trips to Clíodhna's rock. Here, he heard many a wonderful tale of Cliodhna's enchantments, of wrecks and perils, and drownings and treasure. The wind was filled with stories.

   Cliodhna was queen of the fairy women of the hills. It is said that the wails of the banshee can be heard echoing the valleys and glens at night, amid the wind in the rocks of the coast. Many a soul had shivered at the sound of a wail carried in the wind. She had been a Danaan maiden once living in the Land of Youth beyond the sea. She landed on the coast with her mortal lover, Keevan of the Curling Locks. When Keevan went off to hunt in the woods, she stayed on the beach. She was lulled to sleep by fairy music. A great wave swept her up and carried her back to Fairyland, leaving her lover desolate. Hence the place is called the Strand of Clíodhna's Wave. In this harbor, the sea will sometimes use the wind and the waves to utter a deep, sad, otherworldly wail among the caverns of the cliffs. The locals say that the wail is Cliodhna and her sheoques come to look for Keevan. Sheoques are fairy women for whom the howling winds on the coastal rocks will sometimes play a sad lament which will open the door to the fairy world. Men will shudder deep in their bones when they hear those notes because sometimes the sheoques want to take back one of the children of men.

      A couple generations later, Michael Collins, whose mother was one of the O’Briens, would attend the same school and soak up the same stories. Michael had often been called the man who won the war for Irish independence.

   When Patrick was a young man, had helped a couple friends break out of jail. In the scuffle, a black and tan officer had been killed. He soon had a price on his head. As he skipped from one place to another, the locals affectionately nicknamed him Jack the leaper. It was fun for a while, but living on the run ages a person two years for every actual year. Under an assumed name, he took flight across the ocean highway, one of a million irish to do so in the mid century. In New England, he became an itinerant school teacher and later with the great mass of irish moved west to help build the canals and factories of western New York and then Ohio.

   Eventually, as the Irish and Germans moved west, they passed through Indiana. In the middle 1800’s, the Know Nothing party was popular in Indiana. The party was anti immigration and anti catholic. Immigrants were told to keep moving west. For this reason, in St Louis, the word hoosier is a derogatory term meaning low class person. One of those Irish was Patrick, Caps great grandfather.

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A Cousin in Portugal

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