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It is interesting that two crises, in Ukraine and Venezuela, have erupted at the same time and both are associated with well-known, now-deceased Catholic mystics (Maria Esperanza of Caracas and Ukrainian activist Josyp Terelya, who after twenty years in the gulag spent his final years in the Toronto area).

The major story, here, for now, is Ukraine -- where a clash between protesters and a Russian-backed president (now deposed, but under Russian protection) has raised the specter of civil war and in a worst-case scenario, an explosion between Ukraine and Russia, which might drag other nations, including the U.S., into the conflict (America warned Russia this week not to interfere with internal Ukrainian matters, as Russian troops have lined near the border).

The crisis has not yet reached a boiling point, and may soon even out. It's certainly too early to think the worst will come.

But antagonisms between Ukraine -- once part of the Soviet Union -- and Russia have simmered for a century (peaking before and during World War Two when the U.S.S.R. persecuted Christians, especially Catholics, and starved Ukraine, causing millions of deaths). Ukraine split from the Soviet bloc during the incredible break up of the Soviet Union, gaining its independence several years after the apparitions.

Along with thousands of others, Terelya was witness to this manifestation of the Blessed Mother in the rural hamlet of Hrushiw south of Lviv, where Mary first appeared on April 26, 1987, to an eleven-year-old peasant, Maria Kizyn -- a girl who had absolutely no guile and who never contradicted her testimony of first seeing Mary on the balcony of a domed wood chapel called Blessed Trinity, dressed in black.

It was exactly the first anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear-plant disaster, whereby radiation badly contaminated a large swatch near Kiev and sent a plume of radiation that has been blamed for cancers in various parts of eastern and northern Europe.

Was that date a coincidence and if not, what did it signify -- the Blessed Mother simply commemorating those who lost their lives or soon would due to the plant meltdown or warning of a future nuclear event? Were the apparitions (for they would continue) simply there at a church that was poised to reawaken after a deep dark slumber under Communism?

The events were first reported in America by The New York Times on October 13, 1987 -- a major feast day of the Fatima apparitions, which bore "secrets" (again "coincidentally") focusing on Russia, atheism, and the possibility (in the vaunted third secret) of an angel "torching" the world.

"I got scared and went to my parents and neighbors and they came to the church," Maria told me through a translator, when I visited Hrushiw. "My parents and neighbors also saw the figure. It was as if she had something white in her hand. It appeared like a handkerchief. She didn't say anything. The face I cannot describe. A young woman. I saw her afterward a few times, but not as clear. She was there a short time. I'm not sure how long it was. My mother, father, and uncle were there. When my parents went closer to it, it disappeared. The church was closed [due to Communism] and after a while my parents went to a church that was open and prayed."

Maria's mother Miroslova, a matronly farm woman with kerchief, maroon sweater, muddy blue boots, and sharp blue eyes, said they had knelt before the inexplicable woman, whispering in awe and disbelief. "I was so shocked I don't remember things," she said, in a farmhouse where one of the rooms served as a stable during cold weather. Despite discouragement from the militia and KGB, soon hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands (an estimated 52,000 one night) were surrounding the small chapel, many claiming to see silhouettes or images of the Virgin in a subtle light that seemed to surround the cupola like an aurora.

"There was an unusual glow around the whole church," said Maria's mother, while a local official added that the roads were lined with autos for thirty kilometers. Occasionally, reportedly, Mary materialized near the cupola in a luminous globe of light, surrounded by tongues of fire, or wearing fiery robes. She was said to be between 18 and 21, smiling through tears and looking lovingly down upon the masses, who sang hymns and recited the Rosary. According to Ivan Hel', who was deputy chairman of the Lviv Regional Council of People's Deputies, police tried (and failed) to drown out the luminosity with searchlights.

The globe of light put me in mind of how Mary appeared at LaSalette, France, in 1846 and the silhouette of well-documented, Church-approved phenomena on the roof of a church near Cairo, Egypt, in the 1960s.

Similar events were soon reported across Ukraine.

Among the thousands at Hrushiw was Terelya, newly out of Soviet captivity and witness, he asserted, to messages from the Virgin Mary, including a prophecy of great disturbances in Ukraine -- fiery disturbances. He said he was shown a map of the country with flames across it. "I see fire," he quoted Mary as telling him. "The villages are burning. Water is burning. The very air is on fire. Everything is in flames. If people do not convert to Christ, there will be war. There will be a great conflagration." He also got a sense of famine and quakes. He felt events would begin to unfold around 2015.

Has Russia sufficiently returned to Christ to avoid such a calamity?

This prevalent notion of fire was also warned about at the Church-approved apparitions at Kibeho, Rwanda (for our individual reckoning) and at Akita, Japan, which occurred on Fatima feast days.

Lucifer, it was said (according to Terelya), was "losing strength" and preparing, in his desperation, for "a great deception for all of God's Creation and especially for the people of God."

We take it all to discernment, noting along the way a final coincidence: At Fatima the Blessed Mother said a second world war would be announced by a "great sign," which one seer, Sister Lucia dos Santos, said indeed occurred twenty-one years later in the way of an extraordinary aurora borealis which as mentioned a few days ago had an electromagnetic "signature" that one Catholic scientist claimed was identical to the electromagnetic characteristics of a nuclear burst.

[resources: Witness: to Apparitions and Persecution in the U.S.S.R.]

--Michael H. Brown, 2/28/14

[Note also: Michael Brown retreats: Richmond, Virgina]

[See too: That civil strife in Venezuela and Northern lights illuminate UK]

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