Priest And Indian Chief Both Claimed To Have Seen Virgin Mary Near Camp David
By Michael H. Brown
Photo taken by Roberta Ann Marziani, a photo editor at TV Guide who took this photo on September 8, 2002 at the grotto on Mount St. Mary and reports it was "a clear, blue sky day. I did not see this ball of light when I took this picture. There is a cross in the center of it."
Apparitions and visions associated with the site of Mount St. Mary's just south of Gettysburg in northern Maryland extended from Colonial times at least through 1971, we have learned. As we related last week, reports of appearances by the Blessed Mother date back 300 years on this holy mountain near Camp David -- where legend records a Maryland colonist who had taken to the mountain as a hermit and experienced a prophetic apparition around the time Indians were leaving the vicinity. The recluse claimed to have seen a dazzling light. In the middle of it was "a Lady transcendently beautiful" who allegedly predicted that a temple bearing her name would be built there, along with an "institution."
Around the same time, an Indian named Ottawanta is alleged to have experienced a similar apparition in a nearby town called Emmitsburg (where, as we shall see next week, phenomena are still reported). "In the 1600s, back in Canada, this Piscataway Indian chief embraced the faith and the rest of his tribe didn't, so he and his family were ostracized, driven, out, and so they moved south and settled near Toms Creek, which is in present-day Emmitsburg," we're told by Father Paul Richardson of Great Falls, Virginia, who extensively researched the history of the area. "I believe he had seven daughters and three sons. One by one the daughters and sons died off, and his wife as well, and he buried them nearby, planting oak trees over their graves. If you look back there today, there's a whole grove of them now. For years he lived there by himself. He would receive the sacraments from the missionaries when they traveled through, but it wasn't possible to go to Mass regularly, so he kept his faith by reciting the Rosary."
Around 1710, Mary appeared to Ottawanta and said, "This place will forever bear testimony to your love and fidelity." According to Father Richardson, "she pointed to the mountain, where Mount St. Mary's [a seminary along with a grotto] is now built, and said, 'There on the mountain a shrine to my name will crown the mountain's brow and from the foot of the mountain will go scores of Levites and mitered heads who will bring the Gospel to the corners of the world.' And then she said, 'On this spot, a holy sisterhood will arise and many will repair here to repeat Aves that will be answered by a thousand voices.' She added, 'The first blossoms of spring will crown my head, and the first fruits of the harvest will be laid at my feet. And I will be revered as the Flower of the Field and the Lily of the Valley.' Ottawanta apparently told this to a missionary afterwards."
There is question about whether it was a message similar to that given the colonial hermit, or whether the legends have interwoven in the retelling (for the hermit, if these are separate cases, had also mentioned "Levites"). Whatever the case, "mitered heads" certainly did come from the mountain, starting with Father John DuBois, who had come to America to escape the French Revolution and founded Mount St. Mary's in 1808. According to the archives, Father DuBois built a church to replace a smaller chapel, which was soon joined by a college and seminary that stand to this day (in a vicinity soon frequented by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton -- who indeed founded a sisterhood). Father DuBois later became Bishop of New York.
But that's not all. On July 29, 1971, a newspaper reported that "fifty members of the John Timon Reily Historical Society stood in silent awe at the National Shrine of the Grotto of Lourdes [on Mount St. Mary's] as Monsignor High Phillips speculated that there had been an apparition there. He told them of Monsignor George Mulcahy's last visit to the shrine, which the two were instrumental in developing."
According to the account, Mulcahy, pastor of a cathedral in Harrisburg, pleaded with an ambulance driver to take him to the grotto on a trip from Harrisburg to Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, where he died that spring.
"Monsignor Mulcahy prayed five minutes at the cave which is the focal point of the grotto, and is repository for a statue of the Blessed Virgin," said the newspaper. "He later remarked to his niece Rita that "the Blessed Mother is more beautiful than ever."
Monsignor Phillips then visited Monsignor Mulcahy at Georgetown, "and in their conversation the monsignor," said the newspaper, "the former president of Mount St. Mary's College, said, 'George, I heard you took a detour on your way here?'
"Yes," answered Monsignor Mulcahy, "and the Blessed Mother was more beautiful than ever."
When Monsignor Phillips pointed out that the statue of the Blessed Mother, usually standing at the grotto, was in the paint shop, the dying monsignor insisted, "She was there. I saw her." Commented the newspaper: "Monsignor Phillips firmly believes that Monsignor Mulcahy truly saw a vision of the Blessed Mother."
Some say the grotto's founder, Father DuBois, himself later appeared in apparition to a troubled youth. Meanwhile, music and voices are indeed heard near the grotto. There are miracles of the sun. It's where Jackie Onassis sometimes came to pray when she and her husband were at Camp David.
As we shall see next week, the phenomena continue....