WASHINGTON, N.J.—One of single most valuable sacred articles ever given by private individuals to the Catholic Church, a 3-foot-6-inch eucharistic monstrance bejeweled with more than 1,750 precious stones and gems — including 650 diamonds — is on its way around the world. Its schedule, not yet formalized, includes an extended tour of the United States, perhaps as long as four months, likely beginning in December.
The monstrance, which belongs to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, began its excursion on Oct. 13, in a Mass at Fatima commemorating the 50th anniversary of its presentation to the shrine. Prior to the Mass, the monstrance was carried in procession along with a statue of the Blessed Mother; this will accompany the monstrance throughout the tour.
According to a release from the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima USA in Washington, N.J., the monstrance and the statue have an intriguing history. In 1938, an Irish couple named Kathleen and Kieran Conroy saw an unusual reddish light in the sky. Several years later, they learned that, among the messages Mary had given the three child seers of Fatima earlier in the century was a prayer of eucharistic adoration. They also came to believe that the strange red light had been referred to by Mary when she spoke to the children of “a night illuminated by an unknown light” as a warning of God's impending judgment.
Kathleen began praying to Our Lady of Fatima for help with a special intention, and later said she had been granted a favor. Shortly thereafter, while adoring the Blessed Sacrament, she was inspired to show her gratitude. This she did by commissioning Gunning and Son, a well-known Dublin manufacturer of sacred vessels, to create the magnificent monstrance.
A Catholic newspaper picked up the story and, within eight months, the Conroys had received more than 10,000 packages from all over the world. People donated wedding and engagement rings, along with diamonds, sapphires, gold and silver.
To accommodate the flood of donated jewels, the monstrance design changed several times.
On Oct. 6, 1949, the eve of the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, the monstrance was presented to Dom Jose Alves Correira da Silva, the bishop of Leiria, who had approved the Fatima apparitions.
The bishop was so astonished by the beauty of the monstrance that he offered a statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the Conroy family in gratitude. The statue, a replica of the official Fatima statue, and carved by the same artist, disembarked at the Dublin docks on Aug. 21, 1951, and arrived at the Conroy home the next day, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Initially, public veneration of the statue was not allowed in Ireland. It wasn't until 1982, on the feast of Corpus Christi, that Bishops' approval was granted for public veneration.
On Oct. 13, 1989, the 40th anniversary of its presentation, the statue was solemnly crowned in Fatima. Pope John Paul II blessed the statue in 1992 during a general audience at the Vatican, where the statue was enthroned on the Papal dais.
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Dates become available in late November.
Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima USA PO Box 976 Mountain View Road Washington, N.J. 07882 (908) 213-2223 www.BlueArmy.com/monstrance