My Travels With a Queen
Austria: July ????
TFP Student Action Vice President Thomas McKenna flew to Austria with the Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima aboard a Northwest flight. The crew could not have been happier to receive such a grace.
by Thomas McKenna
Throughout my life with the TFP, I have had the privilege of accompanying the International Pilgrim Statue several times. Because of the miraculous aspect of this statue and out of reverence for her, we always buy her a seat on the plane. She always travels on a seat next to the custodian in a soft padded cloth case so that she is well secured.
Wherever she goes she attracts attention and inspires respect, devotion and, at times, real changes of heart. Often, as the crew finds out who she is, they insist she travel first class, an episode that is moving to witness.
During my most recent trip with her, I accompanied the statue to Austria. This was an international TFP conference for university students from twelve countries. Having Our Blessed Mother’s pilgrim statue there was a great blessing.
On the way over, I had a connection in Detroit. As I looked for my gate, two women asked if I could show them the statue. Though not Catholic, they were both very touched, and one of them asked me if it would be okay to say a prayer before the statue since she was trying to have a child. I told her this was a very special statue and to ask anything she wanted.
In Amsterdam there was a two-hour wait, so I took the statue out of the case to say my prayers by her. When it was time to board, a question arose about the statue having a seat, so I entered the airplane last. The plane was full. As I made my way up the isle, I saw two empty seats by a businessman, and realized they were mine.
Something about his demeanor told me he might be annoyed at being asked to move. But, as I drew near, his face broke out into a grin, then a huge smile. “The Madonna!” he exclaimed delighted as he jumped out of his seat. “How can I help you? This is fantastic! I can’t believe this, the Madonna is next to me here!”
He then proceeded to tell me how he had noticed her in the airport and had been struck and moved. “Then I get on the airplane, and the Madonna is in the seat next to me!” he said, “I don’t think anything is a mere coincidence.” He said he was a Catholic, though not practicing regularly, and spent the rest of the trip telling me all about his life and asking questions about the Faith.
Before landing in Vienna, two ladies in the seats in front of us turned around and apologized for eavesdropping and asked if they could have a picture of the statue. In the end, my friend also asked for a picture and expressed his wish to return to the Faith.
Many times Mary leads us out of trials but allows us to bear hardships.
In my experience, whenever I escort the miraculous statue, things don’t always go smoothly, though everything works out in the end. The return flight from Austria to the States was such a trip.
As I checked in, the European airlines were unfamiliar with the “extra seat” deal and some chaos ensued. What should have taken five minutes took almost an hour. Finally, things were squared away and I boarded the plane to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam there were more complications involving seating and a lot of lost time, but in the end it was all settled.
On boarding, I was surprised as the stewardess directed the statue and me to the first class cabin. I hadn’t realized that they had booked the seats in first class.
As I strapped the statue in, a stewardess asked, “Is that a cello?” “No,” I answered, “it is a statue of the Blessed Mother.” She was surprised and interested so I continued, “This is one of the most famous statues of the Roman Catholic Church and is here on pilgrimage. It’s a miraculous statue.” As I related the story, she was obviously touched and asked to see it. As opened the case, she was overwhelmed. She called five other stewardesses over and they were all very impressed. They asked all kinds of questions about the statue, Fatima and the apparitions, and noted what a blessing it was to have her on board.
At one point, a seat was needed for an extra passenger. Seeing the statue, one of the ground managers said, “Let’s move this statue and put her in the closet so we can use that seat for the passenger.” Before I had time to say anything, three of the stewardesses converged on the man saying they would give up their seats for her and sit on the jump seats.
As the flight was delayed for about an hour, most of the crew came over to see the statue. At one point, nine of them crammed in the small area asking questions. I asked for a flashlight, and as I shone it on the face of the statue, the beauty of her physiognomy struck them all. They all wanted pictures of her. They told me their stories and affirmed they felt consoled at seeing her. They said they wanted to help our Fatima campaign. The head of the crew told me he says his Rosary with his grandmother daily when he is home.
Throughout the flight, the crew often stopped by to visit and check if everything was all right. I told them if they wanted we could take a picture with the statue upon arrival and I would send them a copy. After the passengers disembarked, the captain, co-pilot and engineer also came back to see the statue. I took Our Lady to the front of the plane and removed her from the case for the picture. They couldn’t thank me enough for bringing the Pilgrim Statue on their airline and giving them the occasion and blessing to accompany her.
As we bid farewell, they gave me a list with all their names and addresses and said they were looking forward to receiving information. A week after arriving home, I received this email from the captain which I think sums up Our Lady’s grace:
I just returned home from my trip with Northwest and showed my wife and boys the picture of Our Lady. I want to say thank you on behalf of my crew. Thank you again for staying after the flight to show us the statue. I have never seen anything that can compare to it and her face is still visible to me in my mind. The large photo was slightly damaged during my travel but it will be framed and placed in a prominent place in my home. I would be very interested in any info about how to have the statue in our parish. Thanks so much for the memory of this.