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spells out the way evil spirits manifest, where they come from, how they
magnify, and provides instruction and specific prayers!
MYSTERY STILL HOVERS OVER MASSIVE FIRE THAT SWEPT ACROSS WISCONSIN AFTER AN APPARITION
Word from a shrine in Wisconsin just over two hours north of Milwaukee is that the diocese is going to make a statement about the authenticity of an apparition a century and a half ago will not be in October, as some expected, but "sometime this year."
We think of this because we are getting ready for a retreat in Wisconsin and because just last week, a Fox local television station in Green Bay reported on the real possibility that the apparition, in Robinsonville, to a young Belgian immigrant, Adèle Brisé, on October 9, 1859, would win official sanction -- making it the first to do so in the United States (if a full pastoral letter is issued, with approval by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).
The apparition is doubly interesting because during the appearance to "Sister Adele" (a highly devout woman who lived the life of a religious, but was without a local order to join), the Blessed Mother reputedly predicted a chastisement, as we have reported. "I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same," she had said. "You received Holy Communion this morning and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them." [See our original article]
Virtually twelve years later to the date, on October 7-8, 1871, the worst wildfire in American history erupted over a massive swath of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, killing at least 1,500 to 2,500 people and destroying 1.2 million acres (nearly twice the size of Rhode Island).
Even those who sought refuge under wet blankets on meadows or in chilly ponds and lakes succumbed as towers and twisters of fire burned with incredible rapidity at temperatures higher than those found in a crematorium -- what was described in one part as "a wall of flame, a mile high, five miles wide, traveling 90 to 100 miles an hour, turning sand into glass."
There were mysteries within mysteries. "Much has been said of the intense heat of the fires which destroyed Peshtigo, Menekaune, Williamsonville, etcetera, but all that has been said can give the stranger but a faint conception of the reality," said a spectator. "The heat has been compared to that engendered by a flame concentrated on an object by a blow-pipe; but even that would not account for some of the phenomena. For instance, we have in our possession a copper cent taken from the pocket of a dead man in the Peshtigo Sugar Bush, which will illustrate our point. This cent has been partially fused, but still retains its round form, and the inscription upon it is legible. Others, in the same pocket, were partially melted, and yet the clothing and the body of the man were not even singed. We do not know in what way to account for this, unless, as is asserted by some, the tornado and fire were accompanied by electrical phenomena. "
Adele and others seeking refuge in a chapel built to commemorate her apparition miraculously survived, despite roaring flames on all sides. "All Hades broke loose," in the words of locals and preachers, some of whom saw the end of the world, and so it seemed.
As fascinating as the prophecy and Adele's survival is the fact that to this day, and despite plentiful data, with modern means of computer models, no one can explain where or how the holocaust erupted.
So widespread and severe were the flames that some have speculated a long season of dry weather and fallen leaves caused the eruption of fires in a number of places, spontaneous breakouts that suddenly converged into a monster.
Others say it was lightning. Some point to camp fires used by loggers or hunters or even fragments from the Comet Biela, which disintegrated in the mid 1800s (around this very time, perhaps in the 1850s; indeed, in 1846, the comet made an appearance in two pieces) and is thought to have rained down meteors for years afterwards. Meteors were seen at the time of the blaze. The very day of the Peshtigo outbreak was also when the Great Chicago Fire two hundred miles to the south occurred.
What caused the Chicago fire (that's still in dispute)? And what caused the mystery of Peshtigo -- those "hurricane heat winds," those fire tornadoes? "The fire arrived not as a wave or a surge of flame," said another witness, "but as though it suddenly dropped from the sky." And added a third: "'It came in great sheeted flames from heaven. The atmosphere was all afire."
[see also: Peace greets those to Wisconsin shrine and Did comet caused great Midwest fires?]
[resources: The Last Secret and Michael Brown retreat, Wisconsin and Retreat in Connecticut]
[Drawing of the split comet Biela, from Amedee Guillemin's The Heavens (1868)]
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