Mary, Our Lady of Ephesus

Our Ephesus Story
By Mary Fraser Tarinelli

In 1959 my father was a pilot in the United States Air Force and our family was stationed in Athens, Greece. The first time my parents, Paul and Elizabeth (Moore) Fraser, heard about Saint John bringing the Blessed Mother to Ephesus, Turkey with him was through the base Chaplin, Father Oberman. Father would tell everyone not to return to the States without going over to Turkey and visiting Our Blessed Mother's last home in Ephesus. My father had taken some troops over to Izmir one day and had to wait until the end of the day to return them to Greece so he took the opportunity to go to Ephesus to visit Mary's last home. When he returned home he told my mother how beautiful it was and that she should go before we got stationed back to the States.

Because Father Oberman was the only Catholic Chaplin stationed in Athens who spoke English, he invited a priest friend by the name of Father Deutsch to come and help him on holidays. Father Deutsch was studying in Rome at the time and had his holidays free. When Fr. Oberman was transferred back to the United States he asked Fr. Deutsch if he would continue to come and help the new Chaplin. By then he had become good friends with our family and agreed to come if he could stay with our family.  It happened that he was staying with us when my father suggested to my mother she go to Ephesus. Father Deutsch said he would also like to go there. He told my parents he was not aware that Saint John had taken the Blessed Mother to Ephesus. So on April 2, 1959, Father and my mother flew to Turkey and stayed with friends of my parent's who were stationed in Izmir.

The day my mother and Father Deutsch were to fly to Turkey, my mother received a phone call from my Aunt Mary Margaret Audette. She was my mother's older sister whose husband was also in the Air Force. My Aunt and Uncle had four children. The first two were healthy but the third child, Tony, had severe cerebral palsy and they had just learned their forth child, Danny, had Down Syndrome. I point this out because my Aunt and her family played an important part in my mother's story.

When Father Deutsch and my mother arrived in Turkey, my mother's friend, Dot asked what in Turkey they would like to see first. My mother told her they were hoping to go to Ephesus to see the Blessed Mothers House. She had heard so much about it. Dot and her little boy took Father Deutsch and my mother up the mountain to the Blessed Mothers last home in Ephesus for the first time on Friday, April 3. The priest that was living there and taking care of Mary's House invited Father Deutsch to say Mass in Mary's little house. Father said Mass in the small room off to the right side, which is believed to have been Mary's bedroom. Shortly after Mass, Dot's little boy, who had a cold already, had fallen in a puddle as he got out of the car. The little guy got fussy and they had to leave and get him home.

The next morning Dot and her husband, (who was a doctor at the base), their little boy, Father Deutsch and my mother packed a lunch and were planning to go back to Mary's House and then on to the old city of Ephesus for a nice picnic. Just as they were leaving, Dot's husband got an emergency call from the hospital and was not able to go. The little boy still was not feeling very well so Dot suggested Father Deutsch and my mother take their car and go ahead without them. When Father and my mother arrived at Mary's House the resident priest asked Father if he would like to say Mass again, this time in the main part of Mary's House. Naturally Father said yes.  At this point I think it is best to hear about the rest of the day in my mother's own words.

It was a fresh spring day and so quiet and peaceful up there on the mountain, I stood outside Mary's house and looked all over to enjoy the same scenery that She must have enjoyed, especially at that time of year, with daisies scattered over the mountainside, a little olive grove beside the house, the view of the blue sea below and the mountain top not far above, There were many clouds in the sky and they kept passing in front of the sun, creating problems for taking pictures.

Before long it was time to enter Mary's house for Mass. Right away I wanted to be sure I prayed for everyone who couldn't have the privilege of visiting there. I think I mentioned everyone by name or group, and especially those who suffer. As I stood for the Gospel, I thought, “How beautiful it is here with the sun shining in and Mass being celebrated!”

Now there were thoughts coming to me as though Mary herself was speaking to me: “We love them, dear. Why, the reward for suffering is so great that even if you were told you wouldn't know. Your minds aren't meant to know. This life is no more than a short wave of the hand with no more than a veil between.” These and other ideas were like wonderful news to me, although I knew I had always believed them. I felt I could hardly wait to go to my sister and tell her. How happy she would be to know how truly blessed are children who are handicapped.

Then I thought I should say the rosary-surely a rosary in Mary's house, of all places. As I recited the Apostles' Creed, each truth was so real to me, and the following prayers so meaningful! After a few Hail Marys of the first decade, with the realization that Mass was proceeding, I tried to make myself more conscious of the precise part and moment of the Mass. Despite my attempt to do this I could not, because the rays of the sun, shining in on the Gospel side of the altar, were too distracting, The fact that they were not constant, but kept going off and on as though little clouds were quickly passing before the sun, was the main source of distraction.

I looked at the light and mentally answered as in reply to a wish of the Blessed Mother: “All right, Mary! How do you look in your little house?” Then, without knowing why and with a strong impression of “statue” in the back of my mind, I looked to the other side of the altar. At first she wasn't there-then she was.

There was no surprise in all of this except that the Blessed Mother didn't look as I had always pictured her. Her hair was black instead of light. And because of this I said to her in my mind: “Of course you look like this; you were Jewish.” Then I looked at her eyes. Because of having heard that Mary's smile was the most beautiful thing about her appearance, I continued: "They're wrong. It's your eyes that are most beautiful! So this is how love and happiness look-it's all in your eyes!" Then, looking at her cheek: "No, it's your cheek that is most beautiful!" I looked at her mouth Her lips were parted as if she were about to speak. "No", I said, "It's your mouth that is most beautiful." Mary then smiled broadly. “Oh yes, they are right! It is your smile that is most beautiful.” Mary looked toward the altar, and I said to her: “Oh, you are so pleased that we came to visit and that Mass is being said in your little house.” I was so happy that she was pleased. I wish that more could be said about this moment, but there just aren't words.

Mary's hair was loose around her forehead. She wore a sheer veil, pale in color, which seemed to be folded back on her head and to fall longer than her shoulders. And I remember so well thinking of those beautiful amber eyes, so very round and full that all creation could be seen in them. I simply couldn't take my eyes from her face and, therefore, am unable to describe anything else Mary wore—I really don't know.

While I was admiring her beauty, there were still thoughts coming from Mary such as these: “Don't worry so, dear. You aren't meant to understand. We know! And we know that you don't know, that is why God is so merciful. Everything is as it should be according to God's plan. We are with them.” 

I was looking at Mary, her cheek especially because I could see all her face that way, when the Sanctus announced the beginning of the Consecration. I looked away from Mary and thought not more about her until I went up to Communion.

I thought I'd look at the beautiful statue now that I was at the altar, and when I did I was looking at the old statue up in back of the altar. It was black metal; the nose was broken off, and the arms were broken at the wrists. The statue looked so ugly to me after expecting to see such beauty that I couldn't look away and put it out of my mind fast enough.

It wasn't until the Last Gospel that I looked back at the same statue above the altar. The sun was shining in once more, and in place of the ugly black statue I saw Mary once again. At the time I wondered how the statue could be so ugly from up close and so beautiful from the kneeling bench.

After Mass I picked up my belongings and walked up to the altar. I was ready to remark how pretty it was with the sun shining in, and at the same instant I looked up to see the window through which the sunshine should have been coming. There was no window-just a blank wall!

I asked the priest, who had just finished Mass, where the light had been shining from, and he answered that the only places where any light could enter were the miniature skylight of the chapel itself or a window of an adjoining room, all of which were too far removed from the spot whence the light should have come. I realized that none of the sources could have possibly produced the direct rays that I saw!

There were many things I wanted to know about Mary's house, and the priests who lived on the grounds were most informative. Father Joseph was so hospitable! He showed and explained everything he thought would be of interest, and answered my questions about Mary's sojourn in Ephesus.

The whole day continued to be just wonderful. After the visit at Mary's house I walked through the ruins of the old city of Ephesus. At one point beyond the edge of the ruins there was a shepherd with his flock standing under a flowering tree on a hillside. He was singing and it carried over Ephesus. I couldn't help but say aloud: “I am so happy!”

It wasn't until I knelt to say my night prayers and thought of my day at Ephesus that the full realization of it all came to me-everything that happened, just as I've told you. It will always be my wish that everyone might have the opportunity to visit Mary's house at Ephesus. One cannot help but feel at home there with the gracious welcome which I'm certain Mary extends to everyone who comes to her house. (Our Lady of Ephesus, pages 127-129)

On the way back to Athens Father  said to my mother “I guess you have something to tell your women's group.” My mother said she was not going to say anything to anyone. Father asked if she was going to tell my father to which my mother replied, she would certainly tell him, but asked Father Deutsch not to ever tell anyone. When they returned home my mother did tell my father. She could not stop the tears from flowing and my father asked her why? He thought it sounded like a wonderful experience. She explained they were happy tears. She just wanted to sit and think about what had happened and how happy she was to know that children who suffer are truly blessed and that everything is as it should be according to God's plan.

Meanwhile my three brothers and I were running wild. This was great! My mother was so happy, we could do just about anything. As it turned out, my father had to fly to Germany and was not sure when he would return. He couldn't leave us alone with my mother the way she was, so Father Deutsch called Rome and got permission from the school to stay a little longer. A few days later we were having a picnic across the street from where we lived. It was right on the Mediterranean and my mother said to Father she didn't know why one little miracle that happened to her should affect her the way it did. She said “look at those beautiful poppies growing out of nothing but gravel and rocks. Look how tall they are and how the wind can blow so hard and yet they still stay in the ground. There are miracles in front of us everyday if we would just stop and look around”. Father said Whoo! She's back!

Father Deutsch went back to Rome and was latter sent to Catholic University in Washington, D.C. where he taught the history of Cannon Law. My father was stationed back in the United States and was sent to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. So there we were, all together again. Father Deutsch wanted to know more about the history of the Blessed Mother being in Ephesus and decided to write a book about it. During his research he was introduced to the American Society of Ephesus located in Lima, Ohio.

In 1955, a successful American business man and electrical engineer, George B. Quatman (1890-1964), the man who gave America its first workable telephone dial system between cities, visited Ephesus. He made the trip to Ephesus to investigate for himself the reported neglect of the tomb of St. John, as well as to visit Mary's home. It caused him great concern to find the once magnificent Basilica to be uncared for rubble, heavily covered by dirt and overrun by farm animals. The same condition prevailed at the Church of St. Mary. While Mary's home was owned and attended by a devoted local group of Christians, very little attention was being given to developing and publicizing it. That evening, looking out from his hotel balcony in the nearby port city of Izmir, he unexpectedly saw a vision of the Virgin Mary, much larger then life, hovering over a distant hillside in the direction of Ephesus. She moved three times and each time the figure stopped, he received a mental image of the three sacred shrines of Ephesus that he had just visited, namely, Mary's home, the double Church of St. Mary, and finally, the Basilica of St. John. These images were accompanied by the strong impression that he was charged with providing for their care. Having been adopted at an early age and raised by Father Francis Quatman, a Catholic priest (who also had two brothers who were priests). George Quatman was well schooled in his religion and had a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The following year he returned with his lawyer son and former appellate court judge, Joseph B. Quatman, and in cooperation with the Turkish government, founded The American Society of Ephesus as a nonprofit corporation.

Our Lady of Ephesus by Bernard F. Deutsch was published in 1965, and reprinted in 2002. For several years Father had wished many times for a manual wherein references and sources for all the salient points of Panaya, Mary's home, could be found. This was the first attempt at one in English.

My mother's story was in the last chapter of Fathers book. She remained anonymous for the next 22 years. In 1976 she received a call from Father Deutsch explaining he had received a letter from the American Society of Ephesus. They had asked him if he would ask the person who had the vision of the Blessed Mother to consider describing it to an artist so that holy cards could be made of Our Lady of Ephesus. Father suggested she speak to them directly, after all it had been over fifteen years. My mother did get in touch with them and explained there was no possible way she could ever describe to anyone how beautiful She was. They were very understanding but insisted she think about it and if there was ever the right opportunity to please try.

My father retired from the Air Force in 1966 and returned home to Vermont. My parents  had good friends who were still living in Washington, D.C., John and Betty Connors. John was a Deacon at a parish there and Betty was a volunteer guide at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. One day while my mother was visiting them, she asked John if they had any catholic calendars left at their rectory. My mother was the catechism teacher for the confirmation class at Holy Cross Parish in Colchester, Vermont. It was late in the spring and she wanted it to help the children pick out their confirmation names and she was having a hard time finding one. Luckily John did have one. As my mother was packing to come home she noticed the back page of the calendar had a picture of Pope John the 23rd.  While we were still stationed in Athens my mother was fortunate enough to have had audience with Pope John. She had always felt bad because everyone who was at the audience, there were about fifteen, had received a photograph of that day but she didn't. The picture on the calendar was exactly the same position of everyone there the day she had her audience. She got so excited she thought she would have it framed. She went down to the Church Street mall in Burlington to the do it yourself frame shop and asked the man there if he would frame it for her. He asked her to look up and read the name of his shop.  DO IT YOURSELF FRAME SHOP. My mother said, “I know, but I'm not good at things like that.” The fellow at the shop looked at the picture and said it was a nice picture and the quality of the paper was pretty good so he would go ahead and do it for her. When he went out back to get some frames for her to look at, she noticed some paintings hanging on his walls. When he came out she asked him who the artist was that had done the paintings on his wall. He told her it was someone who was only going to be in the area for a short time. That he was a pilot in the Air Force and because he didn't know anyone, he let him put some of his paintings up. He said he was going to be at the shop on Saturday if she would like to meet him. When she got home she gathered together Fathers book and the letter from the American Society of Ephesus. The following Saturday she brought the book and the letter down to Church Street and gave it to the artist, Robert (Bob), Smith. She asked him to read it and if he was interested in it to give her a call. Several days passed and Bob finally was able to reach her. My mother was actually surprised when he said he was interested in talking to her about it. They set a date to meet and my mother told him the whole story. He said he would like to do the painting but wanted her to know he wasn't Catholic and he had no idea what the Blessed Mother looked like, to which my mother said “good.” He explained, because he was a pilot, he could go anywhere she wanted him to go to look at statues or paintings of the Blessed Mother, and my mother said “oh no! Don't go anywhere or look at any pictures of Her.” It had to come from my mother's description and she didn't want him to have any preconceived ideas. She told him the devil isn't going to like this! He told her not to worry. If she would just describe what the Blessed Mother looked like, he would take care of the devil.  After two and a half years and at least one major run in with the devil and several “coincidences” the Blessed Mother must have been ready for the portrait to be completed. One day when they were working on the portrait my mother asked Bob how in one sketch the nose could be so good and in another the mouth so good and yet another the eyes might be good, why was it he couldn't seem to put them all together? There were days Bob would be frustrated and wanted to quit and another day it was my mothers' turn to be frustrated and she would want to quit. That particular day Bob had an idea; he suggested they put all three of the sketches together and have my mother hold them against the window with a pencil and he would take a photograph of them with the sun light behind them and see what happens. They both laughed but thought what did they have loose. When Bob got the photos developed he called my mother right away. There She was. From the photograph Bob was able to finish the portrait. My mother always said it was as close as she could describe Her but it was not really as beautiful as the Blessed Mother was. She just could not truly relate what she saw to anyone but that was the best she could do.

Today the original painting is hanging in the office foyer at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. We are very proud that on April 4, 2003 there was the dedication of an oratory in honor of Our Lady of Ephesus. The Archbishop of Izmir, Turkey was there and Theodore Cardinal McCarrick was the main celebrant. If you are ever at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. please stop and say a little prayer for us. 

May Our Lady of Ephesus Keep You in Her Care

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