The crystal Virgin
On June 23,1905, the first Newfoundland-born bishop, the Most Reverend Michael Francis Howley, had been invested with the Sacred Pallium as first Archbishop of St. John’s, Newfoundland. On the very next day, Sunday, June 24, which was the feast of Saint John the Baptist, and also the 408th anniversary of the discovery of Newfoundland, by John Cabot, a majestic iceberg appeared off the coast The Narrows of St John’s.
The figure of the Blessed Virgin seemed clearly discernible in its shape. Mr. Hayward a St. John’s artist and photographer pointed his camera in the direction of a mysterious iceberg off the Narrows, and snapped a picture of it. The Catholic Archbishop, in St. John’s, Archbishop Howley, who saw the iceberg from the steps of the Basilica Cathedral, was so impressed by the extraordinary iceberg that he wrote an article published in The Tablet, the Catholic Diocesan newspaper for Boston, describing the iceberg as the “Crystal Lady.” He also supported the sale of postcards and photographs that were produced by Hayward for mass production. The sonnet was published in the Newfoundland Quarterly in 1909.
Archbishop Howley, who perceived the iceberg to be a sacred sign of protection, was so moved by the sight that he composed a sonnet in honor of the frozen statue entitled “Our Lady of the Fjords.” In the sonnet, he refers to her as our bright Atlantic Lourdes, since the figure of Mary looked a lot like Our Lady of Lourdes. Soon after, many people will use the melted water of the iceberg to bless their home and families.
Poem composed by Bishop Michael Francis Howley
Our Lady of the Fjords
Hail Crystal Virgin, from the frozen fjords
Where far-off Greenland’s gelid glaciers gleen
O’er Oceans bosom soaring, cool, serene
Not famed Carrara’s purest vein affords
Such sparkling brilliance, as mid countless hordes
Of spotless glistning bergs thou reignest Queen
In all the glory of thy opal sheen
A Shimmering Shrine; Our bright Atlantic Lourdes.
We hail thee, dual patron, with acclaim,
Thou standest guardian o’er our Island home.
To-day, four cycles since, our rock-bound strand.
First Cabot saw: and gave the Baptist’s name:
To-day we clothe with Pallium from Rome,
The first Archbishop of our Newfoundland!
Salut, Vierge de Cristal des fjords gelés
Où loin du Groenland, des glaciers gelés…
Flamboyant, frais, serein, aux seins des Océans
Les plus pures veines de Carrare ne vantent pas
Un tel éclat étincelant, parmi d’innombrables hordes
d’icebergs brillants et immaculés vous régnez en Reine
Dans toute la gloire de votre opale éclat
Un sanctuaire scintillant ; Notre lumineux Lourdes d’Atlantique.
Nous vous saluons, patron secondaire, avec de grandes clameurs,
Vous êtes la gardienne de notre Île.
Premièrement Cabot vit : et donna le nom du Baptiste :
Qu’aujourd’hui, l’on revêt du Pallium de Rome,
Le premier Archevêque de notre Terre-Neuve!