We are big fans of the Weird New England and Weird Massachusetts books from Weird US. We're always trying to find new places out of one of those books that we can go to when we're feeling bored. So we were flipping through Weird Massachusetts today and started ruling out different places because they weren't cool, they were too far away, we could get in trouble if we went there, we needed more people to go to that one, etc. until we found the Our Lady of Fatima Community Shrine in Pepperell, MA. It was only about an hour away and seemed just crazy enough to be kind of interesting.
We read that this old guy had a vision from the Virgin Mary in 1982 and she told him that he needed to build a shrine for her in the community to help make her and the rosary more well known. Apparently, 4,000 people a year travel to the shrine to see the 24 foot illuminated cross and huge murals of various Bible scenes. Even though we are not religious we thought that 4,000 people a year couldn't be wrong and that it must be kind of cool.
We had no idea that it was in this man's front yard. We pulled up and felt weird almost immediately. We were just pulling into a personal driveway as if we had been asked to dinner one night but we didn't know these people and didn't necessarily want to talk to them. Even though the sign had "welcomed" us, we weren't sure if we should be driving up to this guy's house at 5 in the afternoon. But then again, the cross and pictures of Jesus reminded us that this guy had to be nice...right? We only had a quick glimpse of him as he walked from his car into his home and had a few minutes of awkwardness as we tried to figure out if we knocked on their door? or asked them if it was ok that we were there? or just pretended like we never saw a man or a house and just did what we wanted to do?
Of course we did the last option.
We tried to take on a somber, religious tone - the kind that we pull on when we have to go to a funeral. For some reason we figured that if we walked slower it would look like we were contemplating each mural and its' significance to the Catholic faith. We didn't want to look like jerks who were just there to see some crazy guy and his crazy hobby (even if that was closer to the truth than us being there on some sort of religious pilgrimage) - we still wanted to respect this guy whom we assumed was extremely nice and welcoming.
And then we saw the "Homosexuality is evil", "Fight for traditional marriage" and "Abortion is murder" pamphlets and realized that maybe these people weren't so loving and welcoming after all.