During this month of May, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Veritatis Publishing looks at some of the historical Marian apparitions around the world. Various appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary are now established pilgrimage sites attracting hundreds and thousands of Catholics each year.
Our Lady of Fatima – Portugal
In 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary made several appearances to three shepherd children, siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and their cousin Lucia Santos in Fatima, Portugal. The apparition culminated with the miracle of the dancing sun, witnessed by 70,000 people, and the event was photographed and reported by journalists.
One witness, Antonio de Oliveiro, who was a farmer, said: “I looked at the sun and saw it spinning like a disc, rolling on itself… The sun seemed to fall from the sky… the people said the world was going to end… they were afraid and screaming.”
In an American TV interview in 1960, witness Dominic Reis explained that he saw the sun changing colour. “The sun started to roll from one place to another and changed to blue, yellow – all colors. Then we see the sun coming towards the children. Everyone was crying out,’’ he said.
Before the miracle of the dancing sun, Mary showed the children a vision of hell to ask them to make personal sacrifices to save souls from entering it. The Blessed Virgin also revealed her prediction of WWII and the means to end it by consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The final secret revealed to the children was the vision of a pope along with other clergy being killed by soldiers. In 1981, an attempted assassination on Pope John Paul II took place in St Peter’s Square in Vatican City. St John Paul II survived the gun shot wound and attributed his survival to Our Lady of Fatima. The bullet can be found in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, where a shrine has been established in honour of the apparition.
Our Lady of Guadalupe – Mexico
The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to 57-year-old widower, Juan Diego, on a hill called Tepeyac in Mexico on Sunday at dawn on December 9, 1531. The peasant farmer was on his way to early Mass when he saw a woman dressed like an Aztec princess, who was Mother Mary.
She told Juan to have a church built in her honour on the site of the apparition. Juan told the Archbishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumarraga, of his vision and the Blessed Virgin’s request, which was met with doubt and rejected.
The Virgin Mary appeared to Juan a second time and reassured him to try again. The Archbishop requested a sign. One day, Diego returned to the hill and found Spanish Castilian roses had bloomed when the flowers did not originate from Mexico and were not in season. Juan bundled the roses in his tilma and showed them to the Archbishop, who sank to his knees in reverence.
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe had been miraculously imprinted on Juan’s cloak. It can be seen today at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The cactus fibre fabric on the cloak generally lasts for 30 years but has not disintegrated or faded for over 500 years.
Our Lady of Knock – Ireland
A group of roughly 20 witnesses saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, along with Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist at the south gable end of the church of Saint John the Baptist on a rainy Thursday evening on August 21, 1979.
Mary Byrne was the first witness to see the life-sized figures. One farmer saw a large golden globe of light from less than 2 kilometers away, before he approached the apparition.
The apparition of the Blessed Virgin was described to be standing a few feet above the ground with her eyes raised to heaven and was “deep in prayer”.
The Knock Shrine was completed in 1976.
Our Lady of Lourdes – France
Mary appeared to a 14-year-old shepherd girl now known as St Bernadette Soubirous as she was gathering firewood in the countryside. The young girl saw the Blessed Virgin appear from a grotto. Bernadette described Mary to be praying the Rosary.
Mary identified herself as the ‘’Immaculate Conception’’ and told Bernadette of a spring of miraculous water. Several appearances later, Mary asked for a chapel to be built where she had appeared as place to pray for the conversion of sinners and so that others could drink and immerse themselves in the miraculous springs.
More than 60 medical cures have been attributed to the waters at Lourdes since 1862. Lourdes is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for Catholics with the healing springs attracting long lines each day.