MARIAN APPARITIONS & THE CHASTISEMENT
Bryan J Walsh
Private revelations require patience and discernment before a complete assessment of them can occur. For example, after the Blessed Virgin's appearance at Lourdes, there were over 150 alleged Marian apparitions in the next five years in Europe alone! None of these were ever authorized after subsequent investigation and discernment.
No one is bound to accept anything contained in a private revelation.
Private revelations generally fall into four groupings:
Questionable ...every purported event starts in this category. The Church assumes that nothing unusual is occurring until a thorough evaluation takes place.
Falseafter evaluation, almost all questionable apparitions are determined to be "false alarms" even though the individuals involved are determined to be mentally-healthy and sincere in their statements.
Fraudulenta few alleged apparitions have been faked for monetary reasons or by individuals seeking attention. On other occasions, there has been an element of satanic involvement uncovered. The most famous case of this is Magdelaine of the Cross. She could levitate while "praying", foretell the future and heal the sick. Despite these phenomena, it turns out that on her death bed Magdelaine confessed that she had given herself to Satan while still a young girl in exchange for this period of "glory" on earth.
Authentica select few private revelations are determined to be authentic in that they appear to involve supernatural intervention and act to strengthen the faith of those who follow them.
Authentic apparitions and locutions (interior insights) usually evolve in four distinct phases:
After thorough evaluation by the local bishop, the bishop issues a statement of support for the event by stating that it contains nothing contrary to faith or morals, that it appears to be supernaturally inspired and that it is worthy of devotion by the faithful.
Once approved, a lengthy period of devotion by the faithful that results in a deepening of their faith and a return to a life of self-denial and prayer is then permitted to develop. If it develops, then the next stage becomes possible.
Papal acknowledgement. The Pope states publicly that he is favorably disposed to the events and contents of the apparition.
Liturgical recognition by recognizing the apparition officially on the Church liturgical calendar.
In the Twentieth Century, only the apparitions at Fatima, Portugal; Beauraing, Belgium and Banneux, Belgium have made it through all four stages of authentication.
However, a growing list of apparitions that have made it through the first two stages of authentication also have occurred. Among these are:
Akita, Japan Kibeho, Rwanda San Nicolas, Argentina Betania, Venezuela
The apparitions at Zeitun, Egypt were approved by the local Patriarch of the Coptic Church in 1968. However, the apparitions at both Garabandal, Spain and Medjugorje, Bosnia are both considered controversial, have not received local approval and are still being evaluated by local Church authorities. There have been over 500 reports of appearances of the Blessed Virgin in addition to those I just mentioned since 1980!! There has never been a period in which so many (7?) apparently valid apparitions have occurred in such a short time period in the history of the Church.
The apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima in 1917 are the most remarkable of these events in terms of extraordinary phenomena witnessed by tens of thousands. The local press of the time, which had a markedly anti-Catholic and anti-clerical bias, reported a spinning, multi-colored sun followed by the sun appearing to fall from the sky in a display that must have terrified the pilgrims at the site and, finally, completely dried clothing and grounds despite the fact that it had been raining heavily for several days right up to the time of the apparition (Scientists have estimated that it would take the energy equivalent to a two megaton nuclear explosion to completely vaporize the water accumulated at Fatima). Investigators discovered that the spinning sun had been seen by individuals up to 30 miles from the Cova at Fatima thus negating the "mass psychosis/hypnosis" explanation for these inexplicable events. The Church finally approved the apparitions in 1930. Further, one of the visionaries, Sister Lucia recorded in the 1930's and early '40's her recollections of the events of Fatima. It was at this time that the world became aware of the three "secrets" of Fatima, the third of which has never been disclosed. The first two "secrets" involved the reality of Hell and Satan and a series of events which must occur if humanity didn't change its behavior. Most of these events have since come to pass as the Blessed Virgin foretold. The most informed speculation about the third "Secret" is that it appears to involve a crisis in faith that will come to humanity because of our continuing failure to turn to Jesus and practice His teachings.
The "chastisement theme" becomes more evident in the apparitions at Akita where the visionary, Sister Sasagowa reported that the Blessed Virgin stated the following: "...if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge...Fire will fall from the sky and wipe out a great part of humanity..."
In addition to messages, a statue of the Blessed Virgin was observed "crying" and "bleeding" 101 times and one such occurrence was broadcast on Japanese TV. The "blood" observed was collected and a sample sent to a local biochemistry lab for analysis...the analysis reported the samples were samples of human blood. The other authenticated apparitions have remarkable events attendant to them also, including a consecrated host that began to bleed during a Mass (Betania).
For those interested and willing to investigate, these are indeed interesting times. If anyone wants a good overview of these apparitions and the issues involved in them, "Meetings with Mary" by Janice T. Connell (Ballantine Books) is probably the best on the market. The book has a foreword by Robert Faricy, S.J.Chair, Mystical Theology of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In terms of worrying about an impending chastisement, it appears the Blessed Virgin's advice today is the same as it was when she went to a wedding at Cana with her Son nearly two thousand years ago: "Do whatever He asks you". The time to do what He asks is now...just as it has always been!!