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MARY MOTHER OF JESUS, MOTHER OF GOD Part Seven: VIIa Apparitions and Messages of Mary “Blessed are those who have not seen but believed. ” (John 20: 29)
The Catholic Catechism 66 “The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. ” Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.
The Catholic Catechism 67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.
Responsibility of the Faithful Today there a myriad of alleged private revelations and apparitions vying for the attention of the faithful. Some have been definitively judged by the Holy See, some have been approved by local authority (e. g. , Akita, Betania), others have been found lacking in supernaturality (e. g. , Medjugorje, Garabandal), some few have been condemned (e. g. , Necedah, Bayside) and finally, the vast majority have received no attention from Church authorities whatsoever. The first responsibility of the faithful is to remain firmly established in the faith, in the sacraments and in communion with the Pope and bishops. Any Catholic who gives their primary attention to alleged private revelation at the expense of Sacred Scripture, the teaching of the Church (especially the Catechism), sacramental practice, prayer and fidelity to Church authority is off course. The running after spiritual phenomena, such as alleged revelations, is condemned by St. John of the Cross as spiritual avarice. This means that pious souls who would be repulsed by crude materialistic greed think nothing of being greedy to know revelations and prophecies.
An exclusive, or even a predominant attention to these matters (especially apocalyptic ones), cannot help but produce an unbalanced spirituality. Should the Church condemn some favorite alleged revelation such a person may find themselves believing more in it than in the supernatural authority of the Church. The devil will have succeeded in what he had set out to do. The second responsibility is to have regard, in the first place, for those private revelations and apparitions approved by the Church. Within a balanced practice of the faith the edifying content of approved private revelations can be a motive for deeper piety and fidelity to the Gospel. God has chosen to give guidance to the Church in particular eras in this way and we would, as I noted above, be imprudent to disregard altogether what are credibly His prophetic interventions in the life of His Church.
Finally, there are many other private revelations that have not received Church approval. The Second Vatican Council urges us to discern the Spirit in the case of such extraordinary graces [Lumen gentium 12], which means being neither gullible or incredulous, but subjecting them to all relevant theological and human tests of credibility. Clearly, in this the judgment of the local bishop is the key element of such a discernment. Often enough, unfortunately, the laity are left to make this determination themselves, relying on the testimony of the events, the judgment of holy and orthodox priests and common sense. It must always be kept in mind that however credible and reasonable such revelations seem to be, God would never ask one to separate oneself from the faith and discipline of the Church to follow it.
Apparitions of Mary Catholic Christians are attracted to the reported appearance of Mary, throughout history, but especially in the past 300 years. The term “appearance” has been used in different apparitions within a wide range of contexts and experiences. And its use has been different with respect to Marian apparitions and visions of Jesus and Mary. Since the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Calvary until today, a number of people have claimed to have had visions with Him and with the Blessed Virgin Mary in person. An apparition occurs when an actual vision is reported, fully resembling that of a person being present.
In some of these reports the viewers (at times children) do not initially report that they saw the Virgin Mary, but that they saw “a Lady” (quite often dressed in white) and had a conversation with her. In these cases the viewers report experiences that resemble the visual and verbal interaction with a person present at the site of the apparition. In most cases, there are no clear indications as to the auditory nature of the experience, i. e. , whether the viewers heard the voices via airwaves or other miraculous methods.
The 1973 messages of Our Lady of Akita is the title of Marian apparitions reported by Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa in the remote area of Yuzawadai, near the city of Akita, in Japan, which were approved at the Holy Office in 1988 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI). Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa had been totally deaf before 1973 (and remained deaf until 1982 when she was cured during Sunday Mass as foretold in her messages), suggesting means of communication beyond airwaves.
In some apparitions just an image is reported, often with no verbal interaction, and no conversation. An example is the reported apparitions at Our Lady of Assiut. The reported Marian apparitions at Our Lady of Assiut in 2000 and 2001 in Assiut, Egypt , were witnessed by many thousands of people and were approved by the Coptic Church in which many people reported a bright image atop a building, accompanied by photographs of the image. The photographs at times suggest the silhouette of a statue of the Virgin Mary but the images are usually subject to varying interpretations, and critics suggest that they may just be due to various visual effects of unknown origin. However, such Image-like appearances are hardly ever reported for visions of Jesus and Mary.
And apparitions should be distinguished from interior locutions in which no visual contact is claimed. One such case of reported interior locutions is that of Father Stefano Gobbi is a Roman Catholic priest. He is best known for founding the worldwide Catholic movement, the Marian Movement of Priests following an interior locution that he reported in 1972 at the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. In inner locution a large amount of text is produced, but no visual contact is claimed. Interior locutions usually do not include an auditory component, but consist of inner voices. Interior locutions are generally not classified as apparitions.
Physical contact is hardly ever reported as part of Marian apparitions, unlike in cases of interaction with Jesus Christ. In rare cases a physical artifact is reported in apparitions. A well known example is the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a celebrated 16 th-century icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ. The image, also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe represents a famous Marian apparition which is reported to have been miraculously imprinted on the cloak of Saint Juan Diego.
An authentic apparition is believed not to be a subjective experience, but a real and objective intervention of divine power. The purpose of such apparitions is to recall and emphasize some aspect of the Christian message. The church states that cures and other miraculous events are not the purpose of Marian apparitions, but exist primarily to validate and draw attention to the message. Apparitions of Mary are held to be evidence of her continuing active presence in the life of the church, through which she cares for he brethren of her son who still journey on earth.
Stages in Church Approval of Apparitions The decision as to the authenticity of particular apparitions rests in the first place with the local bishop, who is the leader of his own diocese. If, after sufficient study, there is solid evidence to support the apparition, in terms of the facts surrounding it and the activities of the seer or seers, and also regarding such matters as miraculous healings, then the bishop is empowered to issue some form of edict declaring the authenticity of a particular apparition. “Discernment about the veracity” of alleged apparitions “falls to the diocesan bishop or archbishop--and in recent times to the episcopal conference in question--and to the Pope. ” Over time the Pope may grant special privileges to particular shrines, and these are a sign of further approval by the Church as a whole. One such liturgical sign is the granting of a feast day, as for example that of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11 th. In recent times Popes such as Paul VI and John Paul II have visited a number of Marian shrines, thus giving them the highest possible level of approval. These are the elements then that we have to bear in mind when considering the authenticity of the Marian apparitions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith drafted an internal document on February 25, 1978, after four years of study. For an investigation to proceed, “precise information” should be gathered about the various aspects of the alleged apparitions such as testimonies of conversions, theological analysis of the message of the apparitions, a medical and psychological review of the seer or visionary, including his or her educational level, an examination of his or her spiritual life, his or her level of communion with the Church, miraculous healings and occurrences, and other factors. The Church has approved a total of 11 apparitions out of 295 that have been studied--including now the 12 th, which are those of Our Lady of Laus, approved on May 4, 2008.
Once verified and authenticated by Church authorities, the extraordinary manifestations may be freely embraced, as faith is reserved only to the public Revelation of God which ended with the death of the last Apostle. The apparitions approved by the Church only manifest the evangelical mission of Mary throughout the history of the Church, which has been to point the way to the Father’s house through faith in the Lord Jesus. Such revelations, while they help to increase faith, do not add to the Revelation given to the Church in Sacred Scripture, but rather they help to make it current during a specific period in history. In the same way the Marian apparitions have a significance that goes far beyond their surface importance as a reiteration of the Gospel message of prayer and repentance. They can also be seen as the first presentiments of the certain fact that Christ will come again at the Last Day. Mary was an intimate part of Christ's first coming, and similarly, she has an important role in preparing the way for His Second Coming, principally, it would seem, by means of her apparitions.
Apparitions of Mary Roman Catholic Christians are attracted to the reported appearance of Mary, throughout history, but especially in the past century or more. One often hears of the appearance of Mary at Lourdes, France (in 1858), in Fatima, Portugal (in 1917), in Guadalupe, Mexico (in 1530), in Medjugorja, Bosnia-Herzegovina (today). It must first be recalled that the Catholic Church does not teach that these visits of Mary are a matter of either faith or morals for Catholics. These fall in the class of private devotion. The Church does permit these devotions when it is sure nothing said or believed about the visits of Mary is contrary to Divine Revelation--the Bible or the constant faith of the Church. The Catholic Church also teaches that there is no new public revelation possible after the death of the Evangelist John. Anything else approximating new messages would be private revelation only.
The Catholic Church applies the teaching of the Bible to her judgment of such private apparitions. 1 John 4: 1 Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Matthew 7: 17 -18, 20 Every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. . So by their fruits you will know them. James 3: 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can salt water yield fresh.
The tests of such apparitions of Mary have shown that nothing in her messages and consequent devotion contradicts the word of God and the constant teaching of the Church. The fruit of the shrines of Mary speak for themselves: repentance, revival, healings, renewed faith, return to the church, Bible reading, fruits of the Spirit, etc. The Church has made and continues to follow the Biblical tests of the spirits and approves some such apparitions as of the Spirit. It remains for all Christians of a renewed mind and of the Spirit of the Lord to follow the Biblical mandates of testing spirits and the fruit of the tree as the Catholic Church has done.
APPARITIONS OF MARY OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, Mexico (1531)
Guadalupe, Mexico 1531 Title: Our Lady of Guadalupe Investigated: December 12, 1531; the Bishop prostrated himself in veneration and began the building of the shrine on the top of Mount Tepeyac. First Apparition: Tepeyac Hill, Saturday, December 9, 1531 Approved: Franciscan Bishop Fray Juan Zumarraga Last Apparition: December 12, 1531 Visionary: Aztec Indian, Juan Diego (55), widower. Number of Apparitions: 3 Miracles & Signs: Juan Diego’s tilma was opened and flowers fell to the floor. Juan was surprised when everyone in the room fell to the floor on their knees. The image of Our Lady had miraculously appeared on Juan's tilma. Summary: 10 million+ were baptized and converted to the Jesus Christ. Pope John Paul II canonized Saint Juan Diego on July 31, 2002 calling him the greatest evangelist of all times.
Message of Guadeloupe “My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother's Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace. So run now to Tenochtitlan and tell the Bishop all that you have seen and heard. ” “My little son, there are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen. ” “Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Your uncle will not die at this time. There is no reason for you to engage a priest, for his health is restored at this moment. He is quite well. Go to the top of the hill and cut the flowers that are growing there. Bring them then to me. ”
“My little son, this is the sign I am sending to the Bishop. Tell him that with this sign I request his greatest efforts to complete the church I desire in this place. Show these flowers to no one else but the Bishop. You are my trusted ambassador. This time the Bishop will believe all you tell him. ” “Call me and call my image Santa Maria de Guadalupe. ” It’s believed that the word Guadalupe was actually a Spanish mis-translation of the local Aztec dialect. The word that Mary probably used was Coatlallope which means “one who treads on snakes”. In 1977, the tilma was examined using infrared photography and digital enhancement techniques. Unlike any painting, the tilma shows no sketching or any sign of outline drawn to permit an artist to produce a painting. Further, the very method used to create the image is still unknown. The image is inexplicable in its longevity and method of production. It can be seen today in a large cathedral built to house up to ten thousand worshipers. It is, by far, the most popular religious pilgrimage site in the Western Hemisphere.
March 27, 1956, was Dr. Javier Torroella Bueno, MDS, a prestigious ophthalmologist. In what is the first report on the eyes of the image issued by a physician, he certifies what seems to be the presence of the triple reflection (Samson-Purkinje effect) characteristic of all live human eyes and states that the resulting images are located exactly where they are supposed to be according to such effect, and also that the distortion of the images agree with the curvature of the cornea. The same year another ophthalmologist, Dr. Rafael Torrija Lavoignet, examined the eyes of the image with an ophthalmoscope in great detail. He observed the apparent human figure in the corneas of both eyes, with the location and distortion of a normal human eye and specially noted a unique appearance of the eyes: they look strangely “alive” when examined. Many other examinations by ophthalmologists have been done of the eyes of the image on the tilma after these first ones. With more or less details all agree with the conclusions of the ones mentioned above. According to Dr. Tonsmann, from left to right we can see “the Indian. ” “bishop Zumarraga, ” the “translator, ” “Juan Diego showing the tilma” and below “the family. ”
A new and interesting kind of analysis of the eyes started in 1979, when Dr. Jose Aste Tonsmann, Ph D, graduated from Cornell University, while working in IBM scanned at very high resolutions a very good photograph, taken from the original, of the face on the tilma. After filtering and processing the digitized images of the eyes to eliminate “noise” and enhance them, he reports he made some astonishing discoveries: not only the "human bust" was clearly present in both eyes, but other human figures were seen as reflected in the eyes too.
APPARITIONS OF MARY OUR LADY OF THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL Paris, France (1830)
St. Louise de Marillac St. Catherine Zoe Laboure St. Catherine Laboure’s body was exhumed in 1933, fifty-seven years after her death, and was found in perfect condition. Her incorrupt body is now encased in glass underneath an altar, a spot where Our Lady once appeared to her.
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (1830) Title: Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Investigated: M. Aladel, the spiritual director of Sister Catherine. First Apparition: July 18, 1830 Approved: Mgr. de Quelen, Archbishop of Paris on June 30, 1832. Last Apparition: November 27, 1830 Visionary: Sister Catherine (baptized Zoe) Labouré, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul; Number of Apparitions: 3 Miracles & Signs: Countless healings from devotion to the Miraculous Medal. Summary: On June 6 the Lord appeared to the young (24) Daughter of Charity at Mass, and again on the nights of July 18 -19 when she was summoned to the chapel by a “child clothed in white” to converse with the Virgin Mary. Catherine was told prophecies and charged with “a mission” that manifested itself on November 27 in an early morning (5: 30 am) appearance of the Blessed Virgin who was “clothed in white” standing on a globe and “a serpent. ”
Rays of light issued forth from rings on her fingers and Catherine was told to commission a medal of what she was seeing. On the face of the medal an image of the Immaculate Conception surrounded by the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. ” Then, turning the medal, the letter “M surmounted by a bar and a cross” underneath which were the hearts of Jesus and Mary all surrounded by twelve stars. On November 27, 1830, Mary said, “Have a medal struck in this form” (which she described in detail). “All who wear it will have great graces. ” The medal was finally minted in 1832.
Message of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Mary warned Catherine that “Evil times are coming. France is going to suffer much. The throne will be overturned and the whole world will be upset by evils of every sort. ” She finished by saying, “The entire world will be in distress. ” And as she said these words, tears fell from her eyes and she could barely continue speaking. Nine days later, on 27 July 1830, a very unexpected revolution broke out in France, forcing King Charles X to abdicate; and the Archbishop of Paris was forced to flee the city. It was in large part because of Catherine's accurate predictions of these events that the Archbishop allowed the medal, which was originally called The Medal of the Immaculate Conception, to be minted. July 19, 1830: “Sorrows will befall France…” with “victims among the clergy of Paris” (including the Archbishop) in forty years. Forty years later on July 19, 1870 the Franco-Prussian War began which resulted in the siege of Paris with horror, famine and the Paris Commune which killed the Archbishop and many other clergy. November 27, 1830: “These (gems on fingers with rays of light) are the symbols of the graces I shed upon those who ask for them. The gems from which rays do not fall are the graces for which souls forget to ask. ”
End of Mary the Series, Her Apparitions, Part VIIa Go to Mary the Series, Her Apparitions, Part VIIb