Mary Elizabeth Catherine O’Sullivan was typical teenager girl who lived in County Mayo, Ireland. She enjoyed talking on the phone to her friends, eating pizza and shopping.
Pouring a cup of hot tea and late to school one day Mary remarked to her mother, “No breakfast for me. I’ve been gaining weight.”
A week later Mary’s father noticed her weight gain and mentioned it to his wife; quickly they feared for their daughter and her delicate condition. That night they sat down after supper to discuss her weight gain.
Her father started. “How have you been feeling lately, Mary?”
“I feel great. Something has come over me. Like a glow within, if you can believe that?”
Mary’s parents looked at each other.
“Now Mary, we love you more than Ireland itself. You’re our only daughter.” Her mother smiled and took Mary’s hand.
Mary’s father was more direct. “Are you in trouble, Mary?”
“What trouble?” Mary asked with her face scrunched up.
Mary felt confused and leaned back in her chair.
“It’s not shame darling.” Her mother said.
“Mother and father, what are you talking about?”
Mary’s mother rubbed her hand, “Well now, you’ve been gaining weight and there might be another reason.”
Mary pulled her hand away from her mother. “I’m not pregnant.” Then she laughed and said, “That’s impossible. It would have to be an Immaculate Conception. And before you ask that too, I haven’t been visited by an angel.”
Both parents leaned forward like they were in a heavy wind. Mary’s mother swallowed and tired to smile. She looked sheepishly at her husband. “Mary, did you miss, ah, your period?”
“I’ve missed a period or two before. I thought it was because of my dieting or something like that.”
“Or something like that!?” Her father shouted and then tried to compose himself.
Mary stood and began to cry, “I’m not pregnant.” She stormed out of the room.
Her parents sat by the fireplace and finished their tea in silence.
Finally her Father broke the silence and said, “I trust our daughter and believe her. If she said she is not pregnant, then she is not pregnant. ”
Mary’s mother knew better. Some things you can’t hide from a woman.
Weeks later Mary got heavier and heavier. To satisfy her parent’s grave concerns she wasn’t pregnant and it wasn’t a giant tumor growing in her stomach, they went to see Doctor O’Malley, the family physician. Some tests were done and, with her parents at her side, Mary was pronounced pregnant. Mary sat there flabbergasted. She just couldn’t be pregnant. When she asked for another test, the doctor looked to her parents, who nodded and said, “To be totally sure.” The doctor would have the tests sent out. Next day the second test came back: Pregnant. Then Mary went into a deep depression. It just wasn’t possible. She knew she was a virgin.
When Mary appeared in the doctor’s office with her parents yet again, she asked to have an examination to see if her hymen had been broken. The poor doctor shook his head and reluctantly agreed. The doctor counseled Mary that she was in denial and she was indeed pregnant and there was nothing she could do. He said maybe she was ashamed of her condition and she could always give the child up for adoption. Mary listened, but kept insisting that she never had sex. She was absolutely, positively sure she was a virgin.
Mary’s mother in tears said. “It is all right. We love you dear. We’ll stand by you.”
Mary’s mother and father sat in the doctor’s office ashamed and sad how their daughter had gone to this extreme to pursue something that was obviously impossible. After the examination Mary and her parents met with Doctor O’Malley. He said, after pausing to rub his chin, her hymen was intact. Mary was a virgin.
Mary’s parents looked confused.
“So you’re saying she is not pregnant?’ Mary’s father asked.
“No, Mary is pregnant.” Doctor O’Malley said.
“Well now, how is that possible, doctor?
Doctor O’Malley immediately started talking in medical terms and Latin words finally concluded with the word ‘parthenogenesis.’”
Mary and her parents drove home is silence. She was still expecting a child and her parents were happy for that. Mary was terrified. She was pregnant and didn’t know how. Maybe she had been given a drug and raped while she was unconscious? Maybe she had been impregnated by space aliens. So in the days to follow, Mary had some explaining to do to her girlfriends and relatives who either thought she was blessed, unlucky or – – – most didn’t know what to think.
While Mary was still at school several curious things happened. Word got around that if you rubbed her stomach you got higher scores on exams. She thought it was a crazy idea but let the “believers” rub her stomach. It seemed harmless enough. It was not that the believers scored 100%, but their marks did improve.
But the real turning point came weeks later when Mary was at home, too pregnant to go to school. Her mother answered the door and a poor woman stood in rags clutching two children in shabby clothes. The woman and children looked like refugees from the Famine. When Mary’s mother asked what they wanted, the woman said, “I want to touch the hem of her garment.”
Mary’s mother laughed thinking it was a marvelous hoax, but the woman’s tattered clothes and the children’s dirty faces were too real to be anything else. When she summoned Mary, the poor woman fell to her knees and began reciting the “Hail Mary.” Then the woman asked to be blessed and to be delivered up from her poverty. Mary didn’t know what to do; she just felt sad for her and the children. She laid hands on the woman’s shoulders and said her misery would be relieved. From her pocket, Mary gave some coins to the poor woman…and that was Mary’s biggest mistake.
Mary and her mother sat at the kitchen table and felt sorry for the woman. Her mother agreed that compassion for the poor was all Mary could really do. Maybe because of her pregnancy she felt more compassion and had to help people in need.
The poor woman went down into the village, bought a lottery ticket with money that Mary gave her and won 10,000 Euros. The woman ran screaming down the street claiming it was a miracle. The very next day people began to stop by and see Mary and ask for everything under the sun. Mary’s parents became scared and called in the parish priest for advice and understanding.
Father White was a man grounded in common sense. He had never seen a miracle and reserved such capability to the saints and the Almighty.
“Now Mary, your pregnancy is not your fault. Uh, I mean to say, you have to tell people you cannot do miracles.”
“But Father, I feel I must help people.”
“Mary, now, now.” It is natural the state you’re in to feel more kindness toward mankind. A woman with child is a marvelous feeling I am told. But you can’t do miracles and you must tell people.”
“I’ve tried. People won’t listen.”
“Yes, I know darling. Sometimes it is the fertile imagination of the Irish people to blame.”
“What can I do when they won’t listen?”
“It’s the same problem I have as a priest.”
“How’s that Father?”
“Uh, yes, as I said the fertile imagination. The Irish people, some Irish people, still believed in fairies, leprechauns and unicorns. And no matter what you tell them they want to believe otherwise.”
“Father, what can I do?”
“As I said, denounce any miracles and after the child is born all this will become a distant memory.” He then hugged Mary and touched her stomach and said, “How along are you?”
When Father White got back to the church there was an anonymous gift of 1000 Euros taped to the church door in an envelope. A note mentioned a horse in at 50 to 1 long shot at Killarney and thanking Mary O’Sullivan. And Sunday’s collection was unusually large. But Father White was too much of a realist and saw only coincidence. That night Father White had a wild dream about rampaging crowds in his little church, bleeding stigmata, virgin births and the end of the world. He awoke sweating, breathing heavy, and dazed from his wild dream. The next night the same dream came back. Three days later after much prayer and fasting Father White phoned the Bishop in Dublin and told him of Mary O’Sullivan, his dreams and his fears.
“So Father White, this girl, this Mary O’Connell.”
“Mary O’Sullivan, your Excellency.”
“Yes, O’Sullivan… Tell me about her? You met with the girl?”
“Yes. She is a normal young woman. That is, she is pregnant.”
“And we don’t know who the father is?”
“No. She claims she is a virgin.”
“Don’t they all? And there are miracles?”
“Well, I’d call them co-incidents.”
“Have you seen any other signs?”
“I saw a full rainbow in the sky before Mass last Sunday.”
“No, more biblical. Perhaps there is something in the water causing all this?”
“Perhaps mass hysteria. A virulent yeast in the bread everyone is eating?”
“Maybe the beer has gone bad at the pub. Maybe it came in contact with some copper. Then the metal leaches an acid residue. Have you noticed any foul beer at the pub?”
“I wouldn’t know your Excellency.”
“Well Father, keep me informed. We want to keep this whole affair localized, if you know what I mean. You and I both know the Irish imagination and to what great lengths it can grow to. A grand lot of poets we Irish are, but sometimes our speculations come before common sense.”
Father White hung up and felt relieved he had told the Bishop. The next day he heard people in her little village believing all unexplainable luck like finding lost keys, a man taking the pledge or another lottery winner as a Mary O’Sullivan miracle. In quick time Mary and her parents and their house were besieged by people from around Ireland. They stole any “relic” to include the welcoming mat, the garden hose, an old broom and mop, even the white picket fence around their house. They tried to dig up their front lawn grass. Some of the items showed up for sale on EBay. Their telephone line was cut and sold for a 100 Euros a meter. Finally the police had to stand by and watch the house for fear zealots would take it apart board by board.
Mary and her parents were petrified at what was happening. Again they called Father White for help. In the dark of night he arranged to pick up Mary and her parents and drive them to safety.As the car drove away in the darkness, Mary cried in the backseat as her parents tried to calm her.
Father White said, “This is all for the best. This whole insane matter is out of control. People around here will believe anything. No matter how outrageous or outlandish. If you ask me they’re all paranoid.”
Mary started to say something.
“Quiet, the car might be bugged.” Father White said in a loud whisper.
“But where are you taking us?” Mary’s mother asked.
He looked around the interior of the car. In a loud fake voice he said, “I’m driving you to Dublin. Yea, Dublin. We’re going to Dublin.” Then he said in a hushed whisper, “Slago castle.”
But Father White’s midnight drive was found out and quickly people began accusing the church of hiding her and using all her miracles for their benefit. Just before Sunday Mass, Father White was called to the phone. It was the Bishop again.
“Father White, I called a higher authority and they will be in touch. Apparently this whole affair needs to be cornered and caged. I know the phone might be tapped so that is all.” He hung up.
After Mass, Father White got another phone call and it was the Vatican and they said the Jesuits, the priests called in by the Holy Sea in any case of insurrection of the faith or theology, were flying in to study the situation. That’s when Father White knew the whole affair was completely and hopelessly out of control and, he hated to say it, in the hands of God now. A day later a helicopter landed next to the church and a black robed Jesuit priest got out wearing sunglasses carrying a large suitcase with the Papal seal.
In due course a pagan group showed up and cursed the church and house where Mary lived and demanded it be burned down. They protested that it was all a giant hoax perpetuated by the Catholic Church to gain converts. There was no Mary, she was not pregnant and could do no miracles. Posters began showing up around the village declaring the child to be the Antichrist and should be killed. Then the dream merchants from Hollywood came calling throwing money around for an exclusive interview and pictures of the birth. In every pub in the village men were now bragging they were the father. The Irish Times ran a front page story, in second coming print of course titled: Is the rapture near?
All the while in hiding Mary and her parents read the papers, watched television and were horrified. In a quiet desperate moment Mary felt she should kill herself and the baby and end it all. How could she possible live a normal life after this? It was all too much. Why had God done all this to her? Why her?
The turmoil continued and went from the bizarre to the macabre. Word spread that Mary was going to be flown to Stonehenge to have the child in a Druid ceremony and the Pope was going to be there at the birth. There were rumors the Jesuit priest would be in the delivery room and if the boy looked like the devil he would be strangled to death with rosary beads.
In her ninth month the whole affair reached a fever pitch when Mary went into labor and was rushed to the hospital followed overhead by helicopters, airplanes, spy satellites and a caravan of vehicles. Soldiers were stationed along the route in case the antichrist forces tried to intercept the car and kill her. Outside the small hospital there were more cameras and satellite trucks then Ireland had ever seen. Every television station in Europe was there. Hundreds of people stood outside the hospital dressed in white sheets waiting for the Rapture and the end of the world. Hollywood came calling again throwing even more money at her with book offers, exclusive interviews and movie deals. Every woman movie star in Hollywood clamored for the part.
As Mary rested in her bed in the hospital waiting to give birth, around her were her parents, Father White, the Jesuit priest with sun glasses and a cell phone next to his ear in direct contact with the Vatican, an Irish public official ready to whisk the baby away to an undisclosed place. A law had been hurried thru the Irish Parliament giving them authority to take Mary and the child away for the, “peace and tranquility of the country and the world.”
The morning of the birth it was a misty day and when the sun rose there was a complete arching, marvelous rainbow that filled the sky. There was not a doubt in any person’s mind that soon the earth and the heavens would be forever changed with the birth of this child. The Second Coming was upon them.
It was an easy delivery and when the child was lifted from the womb and spanked, the Jesuit priest lowered his sunglasses, looked very closely at the child, smiled and whispered in the phone, “Girl.” In minutes his helicopter was in the air and he was flying to a little town in Croatia that purported a series of miracles from a bubbling spring.
Minutes later a hospital spokesperson came out and stood in front of a forest of microphones and cameras, flashes going nonstop, reporters and photographers pushing and shoving, shouting questions before anything was said. The spokesperson took a deep breath, the room hushed in silence waiting for the official word. Words everyone was sure would spiral the world out of control. Only the faint chanting of the sheet clad worshipers outside could be heard.
“At 7:11 a.m. Mary O’Sullivan gave birth to a baby… girl.”
A collective groan went up from the reporters and they began packing up. The Second Coming was over and done. The hospital spokesman wished everyone would now just go home and leave the family and mother alone so they could enjoy this happy event. In an hour the Second Coming was old news and forgotten.
Three years later Mary and her daughter Christie lived in complete obscurity again. Mary finished high school and did make some money by signing movie rights and book deals that, of course, never came to be written. She lived at home with her parents and all were happy. Mary’s mother made a scrap book of all the outlandish news stories, letters to the editors and copies of the Antichrist posters. She even saved the sonogram.
The day after her third birthday party, Mary found Christie on the floor scribbling on a piece of paper. The small girl smiled up at Mary and handed her the small paper.
“What is this darling?”
Mary looked closely at the note. It was addressed to the Pope and written in Latin.