Our Lady Of Conversion

by Geoffrey Lawman

Readers who know Rome may already be familiar with the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Revelation in the Via Laurentina. In Il Tempo of April 18, 1986, according to which a "miracle" of the sun had taken place there FOR THE SECOND TIME IN 6 YEARS and that this had been recorded by a telecamera and was to be shown on Italian television.

Background material supplied by our Roman correspondent, in particular the circumstances of Our Lady's first apparition at the grotto and Her reported message, reinforce the parallel between Fatima and Tre Fontane in important respects. It seems that the "Virgin of Revelation" phenomenon has a lesson for us today. The prayer-card distributed at the Sanctuary carries an episcopal nihil obstat.

Here first of all is the early story of the events at the Grotto:

The grotto of Tre Fontane

Rome - Via Laurentina - April 12, 1947 - it's Saturday, a spring afternoon.

Bruno Cornacchiola, a Roman tram driver, 34 years old, Protestant, was sitting in the shade of a eucalyptus tree making notes in preparation for a speech he was to make the following day.

He was born in one of the poorer and hunger-stricken quarters of Rome, of poor and not very exemplary parents. During his stay in Spain, where he went as a volunteer during the Civil War of 1936-39, he came under the influence of a German Protestant. He then entered the Adventist church and became an avowed enemy of all things Catholic, especially the Blessed Virgin and the Pope.

While his three children, Gianfranco, Carlo and Isola, aged 4, 7 and 10 respectively, were playing ball, Cornacchiola searched in his Protestant version of the Bible for proofs to use in that part of his forthcoming speech in which he would try to refute the dogmas on the Mother of God. However, an answer was on its way from the Mother of God and men to this man who for so long had acknowledged Her only to denigrate Her. The children lost their ball and were unable to find it, so they asked their father to help. Bruno stopped preparing his talk and left his notebook on the ground under the eucalyptus while he went to help his children. The notebook was to remain on the ground: he would no longer need it, because his talk would never be delivered. The Virgin would soon, in that foul-smelling grotto, convert him, transforming him into Her faithful servant and a precious instrument of evangelization.

It was nearly 3:30. "The Beautiful Lady" appeared in the grotto above a mass of tufa rock, first to the three children and then, after an intense odor of flowers, to the man who up to that moment had attacked devotion to the Mother of God and the Marian privileges.

The Virgin Mary was clothed in a long and splendid white dress held in place by a pink band around Her waist. Over Her dark hair was a green mantle that fell to Her bare feet.

The Holy Mother of God revealed to Her persecutor these words: "I am She who is in the Divine Trinity - I am the Virgin of Revelation - you are persecuting Me. Now enough! Enter into the sheepfold, the holy court of heaven on earth. Submit yourself to the authority of the Pope."

The Virgin held to Her breast a dark-covered book, the Bible, the book containing Revelation. She spoke for a long time that April afternoon. Among other things She spoke of Her Assumption into Heaven: "My body could not undergo corruption, and did not." She also indicated to the visionary how She would help him be reconciled to God and the Pope, whom he had wished to murder.

One of the promises of the Virgin was this: "With this sinful earth I will perform great miracles for the conversion of unbelievers."

Like the water of Lourdes, the earth of the Grotto of Tre Fontane, sanctified by the presence of Mary, will work wonders.

The Lady's insistence in this message on Her bodily incorrupt Assumption can be seen as addressed personally to Bruno Cornacchiola to wean him away from his Protestant and anti-Marian prejudices, but also, more widely, as an affirmation of traditional Catholic teaching. (This tenet has been widely believed since the early days of the Faith, but, interestingly, was not officially defined by the Church until 1950, three years after this apparition.)

But above all we note that for the "Virgin of Revelation" the "unity of believers in Christ" (to quote the prayer-card mentioned above) is to come about through the "conversion of unbelievers". She makes no attempt to find common ground between Cornacchiola's Adventism and the True faith, but summons him to "be reconciled to God and the Pope". Even the cures She promises to perform "with this sinful earth" are directed primarily to the "conversion of unbelievers" (author's emphasis). No false ecumenism here.

From the first apparition in 1947, signs and marvels are said to have continued over the years, particularly on successive April 12ths, the anniversaries of the first apparition. Many miraculous cures have been claimed by touching the earth of the grotto, and in 1980 the first "miracle of the sun" took place, to be repeated in 1986 as reported in Il Tempo (A large daily newspaper in Rome, Italy). That account is given in the following section.

"Miracle" On Television: It Has Happened Again at Tre Fontane

At the Sanctuary, the sun's "pulsations" are recorded by telecamera. But the church remains extremely cautious. So many eyes saw it, but only the TV camera was able to record it in an apparently objective and incontestable manner: on the 12th of April last, at the Sanctuary of the Three Fountains on the Via Laurentina, the sun pulsated for a considerable time like a heart subject to violent emotion.

At the same time other incredible changes were observed on the sun's surface, all of them faithfully filmed by the machine of an amateur camera-man who happened to be on the spot at the time. As though in a surrealist vision, the sun at one moment turned bright red and at another emerald green. Its colors glowed and its rays were projected outwards so that gigantic shafts of light shone down from the sky onto the thousands of witnesses who had flocked to the hill.

It has become a long-established habit for Romans to gather here each April 12th. The crowd at Tre Fontane included both highly-placed ecclesiastics and personalities from the worlds of politics and the arts. Mass was celebrated, prayers were said, and people waited. Among them was that same Bruno Cornacchiola who with his three children, long ago in 1947, had had a vision of Our Lady that he had certainly not expected. At that time the grotto of the apparition had been foul-smelling, a place of ill-repute, and the hill itself a wilderness of stones and brambles. Today it is a pleasant place with smooth paths, flowering hedges, electric light and drinkable water as well, of course, as the votive tablets and other adornments of the devotion.

These are human manifestations, of course. But at Tre Fontane there have been in addition no lack of heavenly "signs", and these still continue. There have been miraculous cures, often occurring when the "holy" earth has been applied to the affected part of the sufferer's body. There has been a notable improvement in the morality of the "drop-outs" of the neighborhood, and, to top it all, the miracles of the sun, in accordance with a prophecy made in 1979 by Our Lady to the ex-tram-driver and former unbeliever Cornacchiola. Starting from the 33rd anniversary of Her own first apparition, there were to be - precisely as the Virgin of Revelation had prophesied - "many manifestations and graces, both inward and external".

We have to admit that this promise, great and binding as it was, was very precisely carried out. On the 12th of April, 1980, more than 3,000 persons saw, during the Mass and, more precisely, at the moment of the consecration, the solar disc change in shape and color and present the most extraordinary pictures.

"A few days before this year's repetition", said Pompeo Santorelli, the man who pointed his telecamera lens at the sun," some friends had invited me to go with them to Tre Fontane to shoot some film. It wasn't easy to free myself of family commitments, but I managed to do so. I loaded my TV camera and went to the Sanctuary. I had already filmed some shots of the crowd when, during the Mass, when people were beginning to call out that there was a miracle, I decided to swing the lens upwards. In doing this I was afraid of burning out the cathode tube of the camera, but I reasoned that if, in such circumstances, human eyes could focus on the sun without injury, then the camera would probably not be damaged either.

"So I began to film the sun, but to start with on a slant. Then I focused directly on it, and while I was shooting there began the most extraordinary of all extraordinary phenomena: that of the pulsation of the shining sphere."

Signs and portents are, it is said, an alphabet in cipher behind which a message lies concealed. On the eve of dramatic events, the spasms of the sun will seem to many to have a prophetic significance, just as certain dreams have had. The difference this time is that this has been no "dream" - the whole phenomenon has been filmed by a TV camera - even if (and it is important to remember this) the attitude of the Church remains marked by the utmost reticence. - Il Tempo article by A.M. Turi

I have already suggested that there are parallels between this Roman devotion and the Fatima message - the insistence on conversion and the "miracle of the sun". These parallels are reinforced by the wording of the prayer-card distributed at the grotto (and to which is attached a little earth from the grotto):

A Brief Prayer to the Virgin of Revelation to Obtain Any Grace

Holy Virgin of Revelation, You who are in the divine Trinity, deign, we pray, to reveal to us Your merciful and kind countenance. O Mary! You are our powerful advocate before God who with this sinful earth(1) promised to obtain graces and miracles for the conversion of unbelievers and sinners. Grant that we may obtain from Your Son Jesus salvation of our souls, perfect health of body, and the particular graces that we need.

Grant to the Church and its Chief Pastor, the Roman Pontiff, the joy of seeing the conversion of its enemies, the spread of the Kingdom of God throughout the earth, the unity of believers in Christ, and peace among nations, that we may better be able to love and serve You in this life and come one day to see and thank You eternally in Heaven. Amen.

Nihil obstat + Ilario - Vescovo 
(author's emphasis)

We must bear in mind that this prayer is a human compilation, and thus not comparable to a direct divine or Marian revelation such as the Message of Fatima (though it does repeat a number of phrases from Our Lady's reported words of 1947). Other differences are the absence of any reference to Russia or to the calamities to be expected if Communism is allowed to spread its influence. The first paragraph is personal rather than public in its scope.

Yet it does, like Fatima, seek the conversion of the Church's enemies and peace among nations. It sees peace as dependent on the spread of Christ's Kingdom worldwide through the conversion not just of individual sinners but of the Church's enemies, just as Fatima makes it dependent on the conversion of Russia. It prays, too, for the unity of believers in Christ, but the case of Bruno Cornacchiola is evidence that the unity sought for is one of conversion to the one True Faith.

I am not in possession of any message from the grotto since 1947, nor any explanation of the significance of the two "sun miracles". But it is clear from the information on hand that the phenomena of Tre Fontane, in their insistence on conversion, stand in marked contrast to the current oecumania fashionable at all levels in our suffering Church. The Virgin of Revelation, I am sure, would never say to Muslims: "We believe in the same God"; She would not join Cardinal Willebrands in urging us to "co-operate with the Jews to prepare the coming of the Messiah", and I am morally certain that She would never approve the "Congress Of World Religions" convened for October 1986 at Assisi.

In such a climate, can we expect the Church to make a fair and objective assessment of the manifestations at Tre Fontane, let alone approve them? At a time when our spiritual leaders, seem to be toppling over into material indifferentism, the Church's most likely official response will be a continuance of Il Tempo's "utmost reticence" - in other words an embarrassed silence.

Editor’s Note: The Shrine of Our Lady of Tre Fontane with the Statue of Our Lady of Revelations as She appeared to Bruno Cornacchiola in 1947 is in fact a place which the Diocese of Rome (under the care of the Cardinal Vicar of Rome) has a public chapel where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is publicly offered. So it is not without some official recognition.

A reference to the evil purposes to which the grotto had been put prior to 1947.