Friday October 13th commemorates the 100th anniversary of what is commonly known as the “Miracle of the Sun.” On that Saturday afternoon the three peasant children seers – Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco – stood in the pouring rain in Fatima, Portugal, along with an estimated crowd of 70,000 people. Reports vary as to what happened and why, but believers, atheists, and agnostics are among those who believed that once the rain stopped the sun spun like a disc and then plummeted towards the earth before moving back to its normal positon in the sky.
This event, along with the “Third Secret,” which many people believe tell of the tribulations that will occur just prior to the end of the world, give the apparitions at Fatima an apocalyptic feel that is lacking in those at Lourdes. Yet both are united through the importance that Our Lady places upon the recitation of the rosary. On the Domain at Lourdes stands the Rosary Basilica while at Fatima stands the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Stories in the Catholic press have focused recently on the upcoming 100th anniversary of the “Day the Sun Danced” but another rosary-related story has been stealing some headlines as well. I am not all that tuned in to social media outlets, but my wife Ann made me aware that Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta has posted on her Instagram account a picture of herself praying the rosary, and it probably shocked many of her fans, a group of people who might have thought that they had seen pretty much everything from Ms. Germanotta, AKA Lady Gaga.
I am of an age such that I know that Reginald Dwight is Elton John, Gordon Sumner is Sting, and Paul Hewson is Bono, but I had to ask Google to tell me the real name of Lady Gaga. I am familiar enough with her that I knew that she was raised in a Catholic home and attended an ultra-exclusive (the alma mater to Kennedys, Vanderbilts, and Hiltons) Catholic all-girls school in Manhattan. I am also familiar enough with Lady Gaga to know that she, unlike most of her musical peers, has a really good voice, as well as that, like most of her musical peers, if she is being pictured with a rosary it might not be a photo of which Our Lady would approve.
And yet, just as I once wrote an article for a Catholic magazine where I noted that Sting might have left the Church, but the Church never left him, so can I now see Lady Gaga in that same light. Her recent Instagram post described the physical and mental health struggles that led her to cancel her upcoming European tour, but those words were only given context by the accompanying photo: her head bowed in prayer, a rosary wrapped around her hands, its crucifix more prominently displayed than the tattoo on her upper arm.
In another Instagram post she was pictured with Fr. John Duffell of New York’s Church of the Blessed Sacrament and she wrote: “I was so moved today when you said [at Mass] ‘The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but the food that God gives us.’” So the rosary and the Mass, the two mainstays of our Faith, are also Catholic touchstones for Lady Gaga. It seems that for all of her “out there” behavior, when life gets overwhelming, Lady Gaga still knows where she can turn to find strength and hope.
Once in an interview she was quoted as stating that she is “quite a religious woman but very confused about religion.” One obvious response to that statement might be: “Indeed, she is definitely confused about religion.” But more importantly, that confusion puts her in close theological proximity to the millions of young fans around the world who buy her music and see her as a cultural icon.
If some of her fans look at that rosary photo or that Eucharist quote and decide that they want to be like Lady Gaga in a way more lasting and meaningful than wearing a dress made out of meat, then the message of Fatima would be spread in a way that could never have been imagined, and in a way that would be no less surprising than the events of October 13, 1917.