It was not unusual to see the Deadheads outside concerts pushing through the crowd with a single finger aloft chanting “I need a miracle!” In Dead jargon, that meant a free ticket. In the reality-challenged world of Shakedown Street, Deadheads who were kind (that meant stoned). The gift passed as a miracle, but it wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of the Catholic church, which has only acknowledged a handful of them in all these years.
We are coming up on the 102nd anniversary of the last, and one of the only legitimate miracles to happen on Earth, and this is not a joke.
In the spring of 1917, the Virgin Mary began appearing to children in Portugal. When they asked for proof she was indeed the “Lady of the Rosary,” she told them she would stage an event of non-believers. It was unequivocal.
On October 13, 1913, at least 30,000 — and as many as 100,000 — skeptics, politicians, and the press gathered to see Mary put on a show that convinced even the most jaded attendee.
Using the sky like a canvas, the sun, in the words of witnesses, “at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple . . . it seemed to be in an exceedingly swift and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat,” said Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, writing for the Catholic newspaper Ordem.
“The silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds . . .” another scholar reported.
This is psychedelic stuff, not unlike a Grateful Dead concert, I can only wonder if Deadheads trapped in a time warp were walking around in tie-dye with a finger up: “I need a miracle — to get back to the 21st Century!” I have only one question to ask all those people who saw the sun turn on its axis, become a wheel, and come shooting toward them spewing multiple colors: “Were you kind?”
Bishop José da Silva declared the miracle “worthy of belief” on October 13, 1930, permitting “officially the cult of Our Lady of Fatima” within the Catholic church.
At a gathering exactly 21 years later at Fátima, the papal legate, Cardinal Federico Tedeschini, told the million people attending that on October 30 and 31, and November 1 and 8, 1950, Pope Pius XII himself witnessed the miracle of the sun from the Vatican gardens and wanted to change his name to Ram Das.
Mary only appeared publicly a half-dozen or so times, often with Seals and Croft and Hot Tuna opening for her. She closed out each appearance with an incendiary version of “Free Bird.”
Not unlike a Grateful Dead concert, I can only wonder if Deadheads trapped in a time warp were walking around in tie-dye with a finger up: “I need a miracle — to get back to the 21st Century!”
OK, I made that up.
Of course, by 1917, the world had forgotten what it was like to see Jesus in all his splendor. Suffice it to say in the year 22, he put together three performances that rocked the show biz world, “Loaves into Fishes,” “Water into Wine,” and his seminal classic “Walks on Water,” which wowed critics and established Jesus as the go-to guy in the religious circuit. I say those three alone get him in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, not to mention his greatest hits compilation, “Drinking Wine, Making Bread, and Water Walking: The Very Best of the Miracles.”
Only Jesus could top those by coming back from the dead. That’s almost as amazing as Tiger Woods winning the Masters again.
The church is very careful who gets elevated to sainthood. The process can take up to a century (I’m still waiting), although Mother Teresa was fast-tracked: She died in 1997 and is already recognized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
This is the equivalent of getting a scholarship to an Ivy League school. I bet the #MeToo movement had something to do with that.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, on the other hand, has low admission standards. The Crickets are members. They were Buddy Holly’s back-up band. That’s like putting the Pips or the Imperials in. What’s next, the Roaches? Black Sabbath is in the Hall of Fame. That’s Ozzy Osbourne. He ate the heads off bats (the kind that hang upside down) in concert. That’s a skill? Hell, anyone can do that, right? The Red Hot Chili Peppers are in the hall. The lead singer wears a skirt — that only works if it’s a bagpipe band.
Look up in the sky October 13 if you dare . . . Remember, there is an alternate universe out there where time is suspended and music maybe, just maybe, can open the portal. You gotta believe.