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Blessed Virgin Mary sightings
Question from L. Schumacher on 5/6/2005:

What sightings of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been officially accepted by the Catholic Church and when and where did they occur?

Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL on 7/12/2005:

That's an unusual way of putting it.

The Church speaks of mysticism and apparitions. Mystics are those persons in whose highly developed prayer life the Lord, the Blessed Mother, and other saints, appear with private revelations for their spiritual benefit, and sometimes for the benefit of the whole Church. Our Blessed Mother may have appeared thousands of times in history to individual mystics, and may be appearing to many today. We only hear about those appearances when the person is asked to reveal them for the good of the Church (e.g. St. Catherine Labore and the miraculous medal) or the mystic's evident sanctity brings their mysticism to the fore (e.g. Padre Pio). We can say, however, that such occasions of mysticism are accepted by the Church when she acknowledges the heroic virtures of the person during the canonization process. So any Saint, Blessed or Venerable to whom Our Lady has appeared would fall into this category. These would be many.

Apparitions, on the other hand, have a public purpose. The seer may go on to become holy, and be a mystic, but the apparition stands on its own. Lourdes was an apparition to Bernadette, Fatima to the three little shepherds. In the case of Lourdes, Bernadette went on to become a saint, and in the case of Fatima, Sr. Lucia went on to become a recognized mystic, receiving revelations about the Immaculate Heart and the First Saturday devotion, revelations the Church has deemed credible, even though Sister Lucia's canonization has not begun. In that she has been quite unusual in the credibility the Church has accorded her.

So, without any claim to be exhaustive, here are the more important appearances of Our Lady to mystics accepted by the Church, and approved apparitions to seers.

44 AD Our Lady to St. James the Great, Zaragoza, Spain. A bilocation while the Virgin was still alive to encourage and comfort St. James, who was having little success in converting the people of the Iberian peninsula. The vision goes under the title of Our Lady of Pilar, after the pillar on the top of which she appeared to say that these peoples (we call them Spanish and Portuguese today) would become pillars of the Church. Please pray to Our Lady of Pilar for Spain, which today is in the process of abandonning its Catholic heritage (e.g. by approving homosexual marriage).

early 1200s St. Dominic received a vision of Our Lady who promised that through the rosary, which she showed him, he would convert heretics. She also promised that some day she would save the world through the rosary and the scapular.

c.1251 St. Simon Stock, General of the Carmelites, receives a revelation regarding the scapular "Whosoever dies clothed in this (scapular) shall not suffer eternal fire." He establishes a confraternity for the promotion of the scapular.

1531 St. Juan Diego, Mexico. Our Lady of Guadalupe.

1600s Venerable Mary of Agreda, Agreda, Spain. The Church does not assert the veracity of the writings attributed to her, because of concerns about the editorial process.

1812 Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, Westphalia, Germany. Like Mary of Agreda, some concerns about the editing of her manuscripts has prevented the Church's full endorsement of them.

1830 St. Catherine Laboure, Rue Du Bac, Paris, France. Medal of the Immaculate Conception (a.k.a. Miraculous Medal).

1842 Alphonse Ratisbonne, Church of San Andrea delle Fratte, Rome. Our Lady of the Miracle. A Jew is converted on the spot by an apparition of Our Lady. He, and his brother, will become priests and found two religious institutes.

1846 Melanie Calvat and Maximin Giraud, La Salette, France. Our Lady of La Sallette.

1858 St. Bernadette Soubirous, Lourdes, France. Our Lady of Lourdes.

1871 Eugene and Joseph Barbadette, Pontmain, France. Our Lady of Pontmain, and, Our Lady of Hope.

1879 Knock, Ireland. 15 people people saw the apparition. Our Lady of Knock.

1917 Lucia Santos, Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto, Fatima, Portugal. Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima.

1932 Seen by 5 children of the Voisin and Degeimbre families, Beauraing, Belgium. Our Lady of Beauraing.

1933 Mariette Beco, Banneaux, Belgium. Virgin of the Poor.

1937 St. Faustina Kowalska, Krakow, Poland. Predominately the revelations of Our Lord regarding the Divine Mercy, but also some revelations of Our Lady.

The following more recent events, while having local approval, and in Akita's case the consent of then Cardinal Ratzinger, are still capable of a more definitive judgment by the Church.

1973 Sr. Agnes Sasagawa, Akita, Japan.

1980 Bernardo Martinez, Cuapa, Nicaragua.

1981 Seen by 6 girls and a boy. Kibeho, Rwanda, Africa.

As I said, this may not be an exhaustive list. Among the notable alledged apparitions not approved by the Church are: Rosa Mystica (Montichiari, Italy), Necedah, Wis (the faithful are forbidden by successive bishops to go there), Bayside ("completely lacked authenticity"), Garabandal ("no supernatural validity"), Medjugorje ("it cannot be confirmed that supernatural apparitions or revelations are occurring"), Conyers (no investigation to date).


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