It was reported this week that a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was left untouched by a fire that gutted a military base near Madrid. Reading about this reminded me of something similar that happened in my own life.
Seven years ago this summer, I had a bad house fire where my bedroom was charred by flames. All my religious statues, rosaries and prayer cards were burned to dust. When the toxic fumes evaporated and things cooled down, it was safe to go in there again. There was a pungent smell of burnt plastic.
Almost everything that was made from plastic had melted and become fuel for the bonfire – I say “almost”, because when I searched through the rubble I was astonished to find that a piece of earth from Fatima, encased in a little plastic bubble, had survived the flames.
I had the plastic, which looked no thicker than cling film, examined and I was told that it should have combusted or exploded in the heat. I believe that the raging flames were prevented from destroying a tiny part of the ground that Our Lady had personally visited.
In the same way, the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, which was untouched by fire, is an icon of Our Lady’s miraculous appearances at Lourdes, when the Queen of Heaven paid a visit to our home here on earth.
These are not isolated instances – and not every holy object that mysteriously survives a conflagration is of Our Lady or related to a Marian apparition.
I have always been struck by case histories of statues of the Divine Infant of Prague that have survived devastation and/or fire.
For example, there is the astounding story of how a rural church in Syston, Leicestershire, came to be dedicated to the Divine Infant of Prague. During the 1940s, a ruinous fire destroyed the meeting rooms around the church. A statue of the Divine Infant of Prague was found among the rubble by a Fr Horgan, who had a strong personal devotion to the Divine Infant. The statue was broken but had not been burnt to dust or reduced to rubble.
According to this account by Helen Harwood: “Fr Horgan was so amazed at the discovery in a secular building that he took it as a sign and decided that this would be the dedication of the new Syston church: the Divine Infant of Prague.”