Little Ana

The mystery of Fatima and its relationship with John Paul II continues to impress us. Juan Ignacio Izquierdo writes an account that blends the natural and supernatural dimensions, the external and internal senses, to help us better understand the enormous power of these episodes.

Juan Ignacio Izquierdo Hübner-May 12, 2022-Reading time: 7 minutes

On the cloudy and cold night of May 12, 2022, in Fatima, Anita sat on the wet ground of the esplanade of the Shrine. There, submerged among thousands of pilgrims like a backpack thrown into a cornfield, she sighed hugging her wrist. The chorus of pilgrims was so massive and moving, "Aveee, ave; Ave Mariaaa"The angels opened the windows of heaven and brought out their lanterns to light up the night. 

Arantxa stood on tiptoe to follow the procession. When she was about to pass in front of the place where they were, she bent her legs until she was on her heels and was at the level of the little blue-eyed blonde she had adopted two months ago. She lit the candle with the fire she had in her own and explained with gestures that she should get up to watch the Virgin pass by. Anita, however, remained so calm, blew out her newly lit candle with an innocent puff and continued to play with her doll on the floor. 

When Arantxa decided to take charge of the little Ukrainian girl, it was not easy for her: her husband and children were quite skeptical and tried to dissuade her with all kinds of protests. But she insisted that they had a duty to take her in "as if Our Lady herself had sent them to her", and with that argument she more or less convinced them. They knew little about the girl: only her name, that her father was missing and little else. During this time, Arantxa, her husband and their four children had tried to be hospitable: they had tried to discover the little girl's tastes in food, bought her new clothes to match her little blue eyes, tried all kinds of grimaces to get a smile out of her... but Anita kept shuffling around the house. As a last resort before throwing in the towel, Arantxa had taken her to Fatima. 

After the night of candlelight, while the little girl slept in the Fatima lodge, Arantxa lay awake thinking about the next day: it was the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady to the little shepherds and, as important as that, also of the assassination attempt on John Paul II in the Vatican, 41 years ago, as old as she was. She asked Our Lady to comfort the little one and to intercede for her. With that confidence she fell asleep. 

The morning of May 13 was splendid: an enthusiastic sun, few clouds, a refreshing breeze and smiles everywhere among the thousands of pilgrims who wanted to pray the rosary and participate in the Mass. Anita, however, sat back down on the ground as soon as she reached her place on the esplanade and let her melancholy gaze fall on her wrist: on those eyes made of buttons, on her blue-yellow dress and on something she kept inside the kangaroo pocket of that dress. 

- Do you know who she is? -asked Arantxa, in good spirits, pointing to the image of the Virgin they could see in the distance among the people, "No? Of course... if you don't understand my Spanish either. Don't worry.

Time passed quietly, the ceremony ended, people began to leave and Arantxa took a deep breath to postpone the disappointment. She had a lump in her throat. She had given her maximum, but the fog that overshadowed Anita's gaze seemed even denser than before. "Well, nothing, I did what I could," he said to himself. "I'll talk to Caritas. Maybe in another environment, with another family... yes, with other people she'll do better."

- Hello? -A lady with a tanned and cordial face, with a stooped but determined gait and covered by a shawl, turned to them, "I saw that the girl's doll has Ukrainian colors. 

- I beg your pardon? -Arantxa felt a little confused by the intrusion.

- Yes, I mean, that doll caught my eye. Is the girl, you know... Ukrainian? -asked the lady, in the frail tone of a loving grandmother.

- Well... yes, it is, why do you ask? -answered Arantxa more confidently. 

- Because I am too. Although I've been in Spain for a while now...

- Oysters!

They conversed and understood each other very well. At the end, when Arantxa asked the lady to explain to the little girl who the Virgin was, most of the pilgrims had dispersed. So they approached the Capelinha and they were at a better distance to contemplate the image of Our Lady. They sat down on good chairs, the girl remained in the middle of the two, and the old woman began the story, in Ukrainian: 

- A few years before you were born, my heart, we had a Slavic pope. Polish, and his name was John Paul II. He was handsome, indeed he was, strong, and he loved children very much. But he had powerful enemies, among them, the bosses of Russia.

The girl opened her eyes, and the old woman continued:

- On a day like today, but 41 years ago, the Pope went for a ride in his roofless jeep around St. Peter's Square in the Vatican; you see, it's a space almost as big as this one. The Pope was what, 60 years old? Around there, and he wanted to greet people up close. He didn't mind exposing himself to danger, because he didn't fear death. Another man was driving and he was standing there waving to the thousands of people who were smiling and cheering for him. When he had finished his turn, the Pope wanted to repeat the turn around the Plaza. Ah, why did he do it? -Perhaps it was because he saw a mother raise her baby on her head and wanted to make the sign of the cross on her forehead. He did so, went on his way and, at the next turn, a young 23-year-old Turk hired by the Russians put down his camera and raised a pistol instead.... 

The little girl listened to the story with her eyes so wide open that you could see the storm in them. Her emotions were mixed and, as she listened, she was recreating the scenes in her little head. She imagined a handsome, strong man who loved children very much, that is, someone like her father, but with a white cassock. The man could see the crowd cheering him from under the jeep, but not the hundreds of angels cheering him from above and from the sides. In the curve of death there was a concentration of darkness, clouds of smoke and fire, a darkness full of moaning, as it happens in a hospital after a bombing. Suddenly, in the middle of that hellish zone, a shadow with red eyes raised a heavy pistol andpam, pam, pam! He fired three bullets: one missed, another damaged the finger that had drawn the most crosses on the children's foreheads, and the third hit the stomach of their father, sorry, the Pope.... 

The darkness spread across the Square like a powerful shock wave, the angels covered themselves with their wings and all living beings on the planet felt a pang in their hearts. However, at the instant the bullet began to pierce the Pope's skin, he preempted death with an invocation uttered in Polish: "Maryjo, moja matko"(Mary, my Mother)

Those words stopped time.

The clouds moved to open a rectangular space and an invisible elevator descended through it, as if from an air building that scraped the sky. Inside came a luminous lady with a most serene countenance, dressed in blue, beautiful as a lily, with a majestic demeanor like a swan of Paradise. When they were about two meters above the Pope, the Lady looked up and called out: 

 Jesus, do you see this bullet?

Then, through another rectangle that opened between the clouds, Jesus descended, also with his glorious body, accompanied by two children dressed as shepherds and praying the rosary on their knees. The youngest one, Anita's age, repeated sadly: "!Coitadinho Holy Father(Poor Holy Father!). They had not yet reached Mary's side when Jesus answered:

- Mother, it is time for Karol to come and rest with us.

- So soon? But if he wants to suffer a few more years for the conversion of sinners," said the Queen of Heaven, her voice sweeter than honey. But tell me what you think, I will do what you want.

Jesus hesitated at first, then smiled. It was his mother who was asking him....

- Good. He will be wounded, because that is what men have willed, but let him not die. 

The Virgin descended like lightning, leaving an aromatic trail in the air, and embraced the Pope with tenderness. The darkness dispersed like a pack of terrified wolves. Then, as St. Mary held her son, she touched the back of the bullet with her slender finger. Just enough to deflect its course and prevent it from damaging any vital organ. 

Time resumed its natural rhythm, Our Lady left the Pope in the arms of the monsignor who accompanied him and rose again to stand beside her Son and the little shepherds. Jesus commented, with a hand on his chin: "A motherly hand guided the trajectory of the projectile and the dying Pope stopped on the threshold of death". 

- So the Pope was saved? -asked the girl in Ukrainian. Those were the first words Arantxa had heard. 

- Yes. The bullet went through him, but it remained on the floor of the jeep without killing him. In fact the Pope gave it to the shrine a few years later and here they decided to put it in the crown of the Virgin. Look closely, you will see it if you get closer. 

The girl got up from her seat with her doll. With trembling steps she walked the distance that separated her from Our Lady. Arantxa and the grandmother followed her with their eyes from their seats. The little girl raised her hand to touch the glass. The security guard who was there let her do it, perhaps because he felt sorry to see a little girl crying as old women cry, and also because the girl was looking at the Virgin with an intensity more typical of a hypnotized person. After a few minutes of mysterious connection, Anita suddenly became angry and shouted at Our Lady: 

– Егоїст(Selfish!)

The guard and the ladies were startled. Ana bent over her little doll and took a photograph from the front pocket of her blue-yellow dress. She spread it out on her palm to smooth it out, kissed it three times and laid it in the middle of the flowers closest to the Virgin's feet. Then she went back to her seat, self-absorbed, and with an unexpected movement offered her wrist to Arantxa. She did not understand anything, but accepted it.

- What did the Virgin tell you? -asked the grandmother in her own language, sensing something.

- Now Our Lady has him all to herself, she is so selfish! John Paul II is also there, and he wanted to make the sign of the cross on my forehead, but I told him no, because it might hurt his finger. That's why I left Dad's photo among the flowers, so that Our Lady won't forget to give him kisses from me - She seemed to want to cry, but she had no more tears for that; instead, she approached Arantxa and in front of her her lips trembled.

- Tell me, don't be ashamed..." she implored him.

An unsettling tremor ran across the girl's features, as if deliberating on how to say something important. Suddenly, she jumped headfirst into Arantxa's lap and there she remained for the next half hour, abandoned and collected, repeating many times a heartbroken word that, in time, would become softer and softer every day: 

- Mom.

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