Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- How did your own religious beliefs influence the way you read The Third
Secret? Can non-Catholics appreciate the novel?
- Fatima is one of many sites around the world where people believe the
Virgin Mary has appeared and imparted a message to humanity. Why do you think
there have been, and continue to be, reports of visitations by the Virgin? Is it
a spiritual phenomenon or a psychological one?
- In the course of the novel, all the major characters wrestle with the
question of faith. Some lose their faith; others find it anew. How would you
define faith? How do Berry's characters manifest this quality? Is it always a
good thing to have faith?
- What do you think about the message Mary gives to Michenerthe "third
secret" of the novel's title? If it were truly the third secret of Fatima, would
the church actively suppress it, as it does in the novel? What might the effect
of its public revelation be on the church?
- Given what you know about the church and the religious teachings of Jesus
as contained in the New Testament, is Berry's take on the Virgin's third secret
a plausible one? If not, do you believe the church has fully revealed the true
secret? And why did it wait so long to release it?
- Do you think the portrait Berry paints of a Vatican rife with intrigue is
fair or accurate? Is he guilty of using stereotypes and prejudices about the
Catholic Church and its leaders?
- Does the Virgin Mary really appear to Michener, or is his vision a
hallucination brought on by the injuries he suffered in the lightning strike?
How might the meaning of the novel change depending on how readers answer this
- Does the Catholic Church need to change in order to thrive in the future?
Why is the church seen by so many as being averse to change? Is it an
understandable position or something the church needs to improve?
- Michener is a priest who has never served a parish, he has broken his vows
of celibacy, doubts his own faith. Despite his position as papal secretary, he
remains an innocent, out of his depth when it comes to the machinations of
Cardinal Valendrea. Why do you suppose Berry made his hero such a flawed man?
- Katerina Lew begins the novel as a self-centered opportunist with a habit
of rationalizing her betrayals. Does she really change over the course of the
novel, or is her talk of working side by side with Michener in the orphanage
just the latest in a long line of self-deceptions?
- Is Cardinal Valendrea acting for himself or for what he genuinely
believes is the good of the church?
- Imagine that a year has passed since the end of the novel. What effect
has the revelation of the third secret had on the church? On the world? Are
Michener and Katerina still together? What are they doing?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ballantine Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.