Magazine article The Spectator

Hot Lines to Heaven

Magazine article The Spectator

Hot Lines to Heaven

Article excerpt

In the children's nursery, I have two unusual-looking statues of the Virgin Mary. They were a gift from a man who told me they had been made to a description of the Virgin given to him by a housewife living in Surbiton. This woman, Patricia Menezes, claims to see Mary on a regular basis. Curious, I tracked her down and wrote about her in the Sunday Telegraph. Since then, I've had letters from people who follow other London women who claim to see the Virgin, and others horrified by the number of phoney visionaries there are around.

Before I met Patricia, or 'mother' as she likes to be known, I had assumed she was a bit nutty. However, after watching her have her visions and explain the divine messages she supposedly received, I decided that she wasn't so much a raving lunatic as a slightly creepy attention-seeker. But, whatever I wrote, I'm sure her followers will go on believing she has a hot line to heaven. After all, the local Archbishop of Southwark has been telling them for some time that the Surbiton visions are not of divine origin.

Catholics are brought up on the stories of the visions at Fatima and Lourdes, and they begin with the children who claimed to see the Virgin not being believed. It is now seen to be a part of the format. Twenty million Catholics have visited Medjugorje without the official blessing of the Church, because, like the followers of the Surbiton visionary, they believe that this will come and that eventually there will be an official feast day for Our Lady of Medjugorje as there is for Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Lourdes.

Personally, I'm as unimpressed with the messages delivered by the Virgin in Medjugorje as I am with those delivered in Surbiton. But what surprised me was that, when I confided this to one monsignor, I discovered his cynicism extended to what must be the most famous of the Marian messages: the third secret of Fatima. …

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