She’s beautiful but never uses beauty to impress anyone except perhaps to make one aware of one’s own beauty. Whenever I catch the sweet scent of roses, I remember her. It makes me wonder whether she’s having a nice day as she works ever so gently to make afflictions easier to bear.
Meet Mary, daughter of Joachim and Anne, cousin to Elizabeth, auntie to John, wife to Joseph, mother to Jesus, and ours, too. Through her many apparitions and icons, she strengthens our faith to trust in her Son. Mary is:
Our Lady Of Czestochowa, Poland: The icon of the Black Madonna is enshrined since 1382 on the Jasna Gora (hill of light), a monastery run by Pauline fathers in Poland. The painting was damaged with a sword by thieves. The marks can still be seen on Mary’s face to this day. In the years under the Communist rule, the shrine became a rallying point for the Polish people who were persecuted for their faith.
Our Lady Of Guadalupe, Mexico: On 9 December 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Juan Diego, a native Indian convert, on the Tepeyec Hill, three miles outside of Mexico City. She asked for a shrine to be built there. When Juan relayed this message to Bishop de Zumárraga, he didn’t believe Juan, instead he asked for a sign. The Virgin appeared before Juan again and told him to gather roses with his tilma or cloak even if December was not the season for roses. The bishop was astounded. Juan’s tilma was not only filled with roses but also bore the image of the Lady. Pope Pius XII declared the Lady of Guadalupe as the Patroness of the Americas.
Our Lady Of The Miraculous Medal, France: This devotion was begun by Catherine Laboure, a French sister of the Daughters of Charity in the 1820s. In one of her apparitions, Catherine saw a picture of Mary standing on a globe with light streaming from her hands. Around the Virgin were the words ‘O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.’ Mary asked Catherine to strike a medal made with this picture. As people begun wearing the medal, miracles started happening. The medal soon was called The Miraculous Medal.
Our Lady of Knock, Ireland: The apparition at the small village of Knock, County Mayo, took place on 21 August 1879. Mary McLoughlin and Mary Beirne were walking in the rain and took the backside route past the town church. There, against the wall of the church, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared with St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, and an altar with a lamb and a cross on it. Flying around the altar were several angels. Many more witnesses saw the beautiful woman garbed in white and wearing a large brilliant crown. Her hands were raised in prayer. There were reports of inexplicable healings associated with visits to the church.
Knock gradually gained official support from the Church culminating in the 1979 Papal visit. The symbolism of the lamb, cross and altar has been seen as pointing to the sacrificial death of Christ and the holy Mass, with Mary as our mediator.
Our Lady Of Fatima, Portugal: Mary appeared in May 1917 to three peasant children Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta Marta near Fatima. They saw the figure of a lady brighter than the sun, standing on a cloud in an evergreen tree. They were granted six apparitions. When Lucia asked the Lady who she was and what she wanted, she replied, “I am our Lady of the Rosary. I wish to have a chapel in my honor on this spot. Continue to recite the Rosary every day.”
Our Lady Of Perpetual Help, Rome: This title is connected with a Byzantine icon which was stolen from Crete, brought to Rome and according to tradition – upon the instructions of the Lady – was placed in the Augustinian Church of Saint Matthew. After the destruction of the church in 1798, the image was given to the Redemptorists and placed in the church of Sant’Alfonso di Liguori built on the same site. The inscription in Greek above our Lady means, Mother of God; above the child, Jesus Christ; above the angels with the instrument of the Passion of Christ, Michael and Gabriel. The Child Jesus looks with fear at the instruments of his future passion while tightly holding on to the hand of His Mother.
Mary understands our wishes and dreams, even the pain and loneliness of the heart. When you talk to her today, ask her to stay near and to hold your hand, “Intercede and pray with me, Mama Mary. Never let go.”
Our Lady Of Vladimir is one of the more beautiful icons where Mary is shown with the Christ Child snuggling up to her, cheek to cheek, symbolizing the tenderness exchanged between Mother and Child.
It was first seen in Kiev in 1155 in the city of Vladimir. It became famous for miracles and was venerated as Russia’s most sacred image.
Several times, the invading Tartars were beaten back under its inspiration and it was carried to critical places in times of distress, the last being at the battlefront during World War I. Until the Russian revolutions, all the tsars were crowned and patriarchs installed in the presence of this image.
The latest representation of this icon also known as Theotokos, is found at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. (A trivia: film producer Mel Gibson used a detail of the Virgin’s left eye and nose for his company’s Icon Productions).
The Russian calendar commemorates the feast of our Lady of Vladimir on 21 May.
Our Lady Of Lourdes, France: The Virgin appeared 18 times to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous, in a cave on the edge of a mountain stream. On the ninth apparition, the Lady asked Bernadette to drink from a spring; none was visible so she scooped away sand at the back of the cave, knelt and drank of the water that welled up. The next day, a spring was flowing that produced abundant supply of water to this day. Mary asked for prayers and penance for the conversion of sinners. A chapel was built at the Grotto in 1862 fulfilling Mary’s request. Many miraculous cures were attributed to the spring water from Lourdes.
Our Lady of Lasalette, French Alps: On 19th September 1846, the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Virgin Mary appeared in a small village at LaSalette, located 1800 metres above sea level, about 35 kilometres from Grenoble in France. Melanie Calvat and Maximin Giraud were at the Mont sous-les-Baisses, urging four cows up the mountain, “Our cows were lying down placidly chewing cud,” she said. “Suddenly I saw a beautiful light, much brighter than the sun and felt full of tremendous wonder and respect. In that light I saw a very beautiful woman with her head resting in her hands. The lady stood up and said, ‘Come nearer children, do not be afraid, I am here to tell you great news.’ She looked very sad and had tears streaming down her cheeks. She folded her arms over her breast and said, ‘If My people do not obey God, I shall be forced to let go of My Son’s Hand.’ This statement points to the end of the world.
The children were moved by the Lady’s tears and her sad expression, “She asked for prayers to save the world, to confess our sins, turn away from our evil ways, and to do penance. She pointed out the great blessings and mercy of the holy rosary and begged us: ‘Be reconciled with God’.”
Lady of Akita, Japan: The extraordinary events began on 12 June 1973 when a frail and deaf nun, Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa, saw brilliant mysterious rays emanating suddenly from the tabernacle. Shortly afterwards, a cross-shaped wound appeared on Sister Agnes’ left hand that bled profusely and caused her much pain. When she was praying, Sister Agnes heard a voice coming from the 3-feet tall statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the chapel. (The statue was carved from a single block of wood from a Katsura tree). On the same day, a few of the sisters noticed drops of blood flowing from the statue’s right hand. On four occasions, this act of bleeding was repeated. The wound in the statue’s hand remained until 29 September, when it disappeared. The sisters noticed the statue had now begun to sweat on the forehead and neck.
In June 1988, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (eventually elected as Pope Benedict XVI), declared that the apparition in Akita was reliable and worthy of belief.
The church of the Lady of Akita was built in typical Japanese design, with scented wood, sliding doors and green surroundings. In this idyllic setting, Father Jerry Orbos celebrated mass for our small group of pilgrims, “Do you remember the image of our Lady with her head slightly tilted to one side? That’s because one ear was listening to you while the other ear was attuned to God.” I thought it was nice to be reminded that our Lady calls each one of us her irreplaceable daughter (and son).
In all the apparitions of the Virgin Mother, it is to be understood that the Virgin Mary is not God. “She has no power of her own, but she is (and always) the mother of the most powerful Person who ever walked the earth.” When she was assumed body and soul to heaven, she was crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth and of all Angels and Saints. Sometimes, she comes to earth as a heavenly messenger, sent by her Son.
“She brings no new messages, nothing that is not contained in the biblical teachings of her Son, Jesus. She calls on us to avoid sin, to repent and return to God.”
To our heavenly mother, we pray: Dearest Mama Mary, Strengthen our faith on the mercy and love of God and His promise of our own resurrection made possible by the precious blood that His Son, Christ Jesus spilled for us. Amen.
These are just a few of the known Marian apparitions. Online reference material was used for this article as well as the author’s personal notes. Some parts were lifted from an article originally published at Philippine Star