(Contents include Afterword, Acknowledgements, English Reader's Guide to Russian and Other Foreign Names, Bibliography and the Discography)
In or about the year 2000 I received from Father Nicholas Gruner of The Fatima Center two tiny first-class relics of Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco, two of the three shepherd children to whom Our Lady of Fatima appeared in 1917. They have resided in a small gold-plated reliquary in a place of honor on our living room mantle, next to a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Having been with us so many times during our family Rosary, I believe they have obtained grace for me to explore the message of Fatima in depth, and to imagine what could actually happen if specific obedience to Our Lady's requests brought forth fulfillment of the associated promises in our modern world.
But there is a story of historical artifacts as well. In 2004 my wife and I happened upon an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico that profoundly captured my imagination: Nicholas and Alexandra: At Home with the Last Tsar and His Family. Treasures from the Alexander Palace. Sponsored by The American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation of Washington, D.C., the exhibit included a wide array of personal belongings of the last Russian Tsar and his family. Furniture, clothing, toys, photographs, paintings, decorative artworks, and handwritten diaries and letters (many in English, the Romanov family's private household language) all spoke to me of a lost world of elegance, grandeur, and faith under-girding everything else.
On the day when I toured the Santa Fe exhibit, surrounded by hundreds of personal belongings of these royal Russian Orthodox daily communicants, I felt profoundly moved that someday I must do what little I could to further the cause of Russia's healing. It occurred to me that there could be a certain symbolism in the very location where I was touring these Russian royal artifacts: in a city named by the Roman Catholic Spanish empire in honor of the Holy Faith. Our Lady of Fatima promised that it would be that Holy Catholic Faith that would someday bring Russia the healing that follows conversion.
Now six years have passed, and my study of the traditional Catholic Faith and of Russian history has continued. This novel represents a compilation of my current understanding, of what things we may hope will yet come to pass in Russia, and in our deeply troubled post-Christian world. Perhaps this labor of love — this effort to ponder, through fiction, what future blessings can be extrapolated from the whole truth about Fatima — has helped to fulfill that sense of urgency, to do what little I can to promote the cause of Russia's healing.