But there have never been as many Marian apparitions as in the 20th century. The blessed Mother is doing everything, it seems, to draw her children to Jesus’ Sacred Heart and her Immaculate Heart. This is her way of responding to the horrors of totalitarianism, concentration camps, genocides, legalized abortion, widespread atheism, and the break-down of the family, to name a few modern evils. This might seem a feeble attempt to counter the Goliath-like structures of evil and to combat the many-headed beast arising from the sea described in the Apocalypse. But her humility and compassionate heart filled with grace are enough to topple the greatest and most wicked Empires. Mary’s heel crushes seemingly effortlessly the serpent’s head, previously the highest of the angels, as already announced in Genesis to Adam and Eve, predicting the fall of his reign. As humiliating as it is for him to be thus defeated, the Virgin still needs to move Heaven and earth to save us – for what is easy to her, is difficult for us.
As such her apparition to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal in 1917 was the Virgin Mother’s way of preparing the world for the rise of Communism, World War II and the eventual Fall of the Soviet Union. Another World War could have been avoided, had people heeded her pleas for conversion, reparation and prayer. [Her message in Fatima was heard loud and clear, despite the officials’ attempt to shut it down, even to the point of threatening the children with execution. It ended with the dramatic miracle of the sun circling in the sky, appearing to fall to earth and drying the soaked clothes of the people as well as the muddy soil within ten minutes.
The Blessed Mother could have left it at that, but her compassion didn’t stop there. In December 1947, she appeared to four children at l’Île Bouchard, asking the French to pray and fast to prevent an imminent Communist take-over. During the German occupation in France, God revealed to victim-souls like Marie-Yvonne de Malestroit and Marthe Robin that their sufferings prevented things from getting worse; their prayers and sufferings assured a free zone that allowed for the escape of many (while all those in the resistance who obeyed the instructions of Marie-Yvonne remained alive). In October 1949, the Virgin appeared in the little town of Heroldsbach in Germany to eight children, asking them to pray for the conversion of sinners and to prevent an invasion by Communist Russia.
In Kibeho, Rwanda, she showed herself from 1981 to 1989 to a number of children, warning them of the genocide that would happen about ten years later. By 1973 in Akita, Japan, she had given Sister Agnes three messages; as a sign for all, a statue of Mary wept 101 times. In Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina (then Yugoslavia) she has been appearing since 1981, working many miracles of conversion and healing, and calling for repentance and prayer.
How many of these apparitions will be authenticated by the Church is difficult to know; the local bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith mostly avoid difficult decisions by allowing people to pray at sites without recognizing the supernatural character of the events. As then Cardinal Ratzinger said: “Our decisive criteria is to separate the aspect of the true or presumed ‘supernaturality’ of the apparition from that of its spiritual fruit”. One thing is certain: the fruits are often tremendous. The Blessed Mother has begged us through apparitions, miracles of the sun, sudden healings, conversions of the heart, statues weeping tears of blood, etc. to change our ways – and many have listened.
If the Queen of Heaven gives us the honor to come to us, wouldn’t it be the least of courtesies to return the favor, to visit her or at least listen to her? After all, Lourdes and Fatima would never have become such important sites of pilgrimage, nor would they have been recognized, if people had not responded quickly with such fervor. Even if the motivations of pilgrims might not always be the purest – ranging from idle curiosity to the desire to mock – God turns the water of our sins into the wine of His holiness, and many have walked away with a changed heart. Only in eternity will we know fully what graces the world has received through these apparitions, how many people converted as a result, and what evils have been averted.
To a century of skepticism, Heaven has answered with an abundance of visible, supernatural signs. Make of it what you may, but who are we to question its wisdom?
Apparitions, supernatural events and miraculous images are covered in this part. What apparitions are and how they are different from various other kinds of revelations is dealt with in the beginning, before looking at the history of supernatural manifestations. The distinction is drawn between those apparitions that haven’t received any official recognition yet of which are looked at individually and those that have been condemned. How are we to respond to the blessed Mother and what is the main gist of her messages are further questions that are answered here.