What are Marian Apparitions?
Throughout history, people around the world have reported appearances of Mary, the Mother of God. She comes down from heaven to earth to encourage us in our Catholic faith. We hear messages of hope and healing, and, most importantly, messages calling us back to her son, Jesus. The Church evaluates these appearances and carefully approves ones believed to be true.
How Are Marian Apparitions Approved?
A Marian apparition is first evaluated by the Bishop of the diocese in which it appeared. The Vatican can also evaluate an apparition further. There is a set criteria the Vatican utilizes to determine whether or not an apparition is valid, including an evaluation of the character of the person who witnessed the apparition.
The most popular Marian apparitions are both Vatican and Bishop approved. This is not to say that Bishop approved apparitions are less important, simply that the Vatican has not specifically looked into them.
Popular Marian Apparitions
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Beginning in 1531, Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego and asked him to erect a church in her honor. The Archbishop did not believe Juan Diego. During the fourth apparition, Mary arranged flowers in Juan Diego’s cloak. When he once again petitioned the Archbishop to build a church, he opened his cloak, the flowers fell to the floor, and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was visible on the fabric. This image is still visible at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is a popular pilgrimage destination.
Our Lady of Lourdes
In 1858, Mary appeared to 14-year-old St. Bernadette in the small French town of Lourdes. Our Lady appeared 18 times, encouraging people to pray and return to God. She urged people to pray the rosary, and called herself the Immaculate Conception. Mary also helped St. Bernadette discover a miraculous spring with healing waters. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims travel to Lourdes annually to pray and experience healing.
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Our Lady of Fatima
Mary appeared six times to three young shepherd children in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal. Mary urgently called for people to return to God and to pray the Rosary. Read more about her appearance in Fatima here.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
The Carmelite monastic order, located in Israel, has a particular devotion to Mary. In the 1200s, it is said that St. Simon Stock received a vision of Mary and the Brown Scapular. A Scapular is worn around the neck, underneath clothing, and consists of two small pieces of brown wool connected by a cord. It signifies the wearer’s devotion to Mary and her pledge of protection. It’s a Catholic tradition still prominent today!
Our Lady of Grace
Mary appeared as Our Lady of Grace in 1830 to St. Catherine Labouré in Paris. She revealed the image of the Miraculous Medal, promising special graces to anyone who wears it. Mary also gave this prayer to be included on the medal, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Our Lady of Knock
In 1879, Mary appeared in the small town of Knock, Ireland with St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist. At least fifteen people witnessed her apparition while they stood in the rain and prayed the rosary. It’s the only Marian apparition without a verbal message, but her silent message of peace and comfort radiates on today.
Our Lady of Kibeho
To date, the only Vatican-approved Marian apparition on the continent of Africa was in Kibeho, Rwanda. Between 1981 and 1989 Mary appeared three times to three children. Her message was to pray the rosary daily. She also foretold of an impending tragedy. Many believe this tragedy was the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. While this may be true, it is important to remember that Mary said “If I am coming here it does not mean that my message is only for Rwanda, nor just Africa, but for the entire world.” Her message is not just for the people in a particular place at a particular time, but for all Catholics around the world.
Our Lady of Medjugorje
Mary first appeared to six children in 1981 in the town of Medjugorje in the Southeastern European country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She encourages us to return to God through prayer, fasting, reading the Bible, Confession, and the Eucharist.
Our Lady of Good Help
Champion, Wisconsin is the only Church-approved apparition site in the United States. Mary appeared to Adele Brise in 1859, asking her to pray for the conversion of sinners and to teach the nearby children of the Catholic faith.
Our Lady of Akita
On the fifth-sixth anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, in 1973, Mary appeared to Sister Agnes Sasagawa in Akita, Japan. Her message was for the world to repent and pray the rosary.
Mary appears to bring hope, healing, and to remind us to center our faith in life. It’s important to remember that Catholics don’t worship Mary. We honor her as our Mother and guide to her son, Jesus. There are many ways to focus our relationship with God. Love and devotion to Mary have been a part of Christianity that can be traced back to the very first Christians. Many holy men and women of monumental virtue considered Mary to be a sure path to a deep relationship with God. They have surrendered themselves completely to Mary’s protection and guidance, begging her to lead them ever closer to her son.
Popular devotions include:
- Wearing the Miraculous Medal
- Wearing a scapular
- Praying novenas (a nine-day set of prayers for a specific intention)
- Consecrating themselves to Jesus through Mary
- Praying the Rosary
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