Red Foley: Our Lady Of Fatima
[Out of print]
Some Catholic saints have more than one feast day, operating under several titles. None has more than Mary, the mother of Jesus. There are those that celebrate milestones, including the Immaculate Conception (which, trivia fans, refers to Mary’s own conception, not that of Jesus), others that mark her various ecclesiastical titles (Queen of Heaven), and others yet her apparitions to assorted people all over the place. The Catholic Church is reluctant to recognise most alleged apparitions, but can’t undo those that already have been approved and attract a massive following.
One of these is the alleged apparition of Mary to three shepherd children in the Portuguese village of Fatima in the 1910s. It was big news, and the deal was sealed when tens of thousands of people came to Fatima for the last of the scheduled apparitions, and saw the sun “dance”. Previously the shepherd kids, by now a national story, had said that the apparition would perform a miracle at an appointed time. Bang on time, the sun did all kinds of odd things, like swirling and zig-zagging towards the earth. Some witnesses, however, reported seeing nothing. Scientists explain the phenomenon as optical effects or mass hysteria.
Catholics are not required to believe in apparitions, but Pope John Paul II did. He credited his survival in the 1981 assassination attempt to Our Lady of Fatima, whose feast day it happened to be that day. The apparition allegedly gave the shepherd children three secrets. Two of them were boring, it seems, but the third was closely guarded. It was finally revealed in 2000 and was also boring. Catholic fanatics believe the Vatican released a fake secret and are withholding the real secret.
I don’t think country legend Red Foley was a Catholic, but his paean to the apparition at Fatima, released in 1950, is supreme kitsch, capturing the post-war American Catholicism of Bishop Fulton Sheen, that crook Cardinal Spellman, Going My Way and The Bells of St Mary's. Our Lady of Fatima was recorded with the Anita Kerr Singers, whose voices backed something like half of all RCA numbers recorded in Nashville in the 1950s; Elvis’ pals, The Jordanaires, appeared on the other half. Red Foley was Elvis’ childhood idol: his Old Shep was the first song Elvis Presley ever performed in public, at the age of 10.