Marian Apparitions, the Bible,
and the Modern World
Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World
Published by Gracewing Publishers
This book investigates the major Marian apparitions that have occurred during the last five centuries or so, and which the Catholic Church has decided to accept as authentic. It relates them to secular happenings, exploring the idea that they parallel important revolutionary events in modern Western history, such as the Reformation, the French and Russian Revolutions, and the rise of Nazism.
It is argued that the major modern apparitions of the Mother of Jesus, as approved by the Catholic Church, and particularly Fatima, are not random or historically inconsequential events, but actually seem to follow a preordained plan. Thus they have a crucial importance if we are to understand the events of the last five hundred years, which have so shaped the modern world. The cumulative effect of all this has been the development of the present immoral and unjust world-wide civilization, which has been aptly described by Pope John Paul II as a "culture of death."
In answer to the threat to God's plan for mankind, represented by aspects of these successive revolutions, Mary has repeatedly appeared and asked for repentance, a turning away from sin, if the most terrible disasters are to be avoided. As the spiritual Mother of mankind, she cannot stand idly by and watch humanity destroy itself through sin and selfishness. As the Pope said in his famous 1982 homily at Fatima:
Can the Mother who, with all the force of the love that she fosters in the Holy Spirit, desires everyone's salvation, keep silence on what undermines the very bases of their salvation? No, she cannot. And so, while the message of Our Lady of Fatima is a motherly one, it is also strong and decisive. It sounds severe. It sounds like John the Baptist speaking on the banks of the Jordan. It invites to repentance. It gives a warning. It calls to prayer. It recommends the Rosary. The message is addressed to every human being. The love of the Savior's Mother reaches every place touched by the work of salvation. Her care extends to every individual of our time, and to all the societies, nations and peoples. Societies menaced by apostasy, threatened by moral degradation. The collapse of morality involves the collapse of societies.
In addition, this book also explores some intriguing typological affinities between the Marian apparitions and incidents found in the Bible. That is, it looks at the idea that each of the recognized apparitions has a biblical type, a symbolic representation, in the same way that many of the incidents in the Gospel accounts of Jesus have an Old Testament type to which they correspond. An example of this is the typological identification made between Abraham's son Isaac, who carried the wood for his own sacrificial fire on his back, and Christ, who carried the cross on his back to Calvary (Gen 22:1-19; Jn 19:17).
These typologies mainly concern biblical types of Mary, as identified by the Church Fathers, and are found between the books of Genesis and Revelation. Hence, it is argued that the Marian apparitions do seem to follow a definite pattern, laid down, apparently, in the Old Testament, and thus they apparently have a greater significance for both the Church and the world than has generally been acknowledged. However, having said that, the historical and typological arguments put forward here are really secondary in relation to Church approval. The main thing is to be guided by the Church in its acceptance of the major Marian apparitions.
For a variety of reasons, which are detailed below, there was a gradual decline in Christendom, the Medieval Christian civilization, culminating in the Reformation, the first great modern revolution. The Protestant Reformation represented a fateful weakening in the ideal and unity of Christendom, and one of the most serious effects of this was the secularization of Western Culture, which in turn led to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Since that time the world has been further convulsed by communism and two world wars, as civilization enters the twenty-first century in a state of increasing economic progress, but moral and cultural decline.
The Marian apparitions generally seem to have happened as a sort of prelude (or response) to one of these particular revolutionary episodes. The first example of this is the series of apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which occurred in Mexico at the height of the Reformation, in 1531. This is also the case with the apparitions at the Rue du Bac, in 1830, which coincided with the revolution in Paris that year, and similarly, the apparition at La Salette in 1846 happened just before the European revolutionary outbursts of 1848, and during that generally troubled era.
The apparitions at Pontmain and Knock took place during the 1870s, a distressing time for the Church, with the Kulturkampf in Germany, a persecution of Catholics in that country, providing a repressive model for other European states. In the same way, the events at Fatima, in 1917, with their strong warning about Russia's future errors and the general spirit of godlessness spreading through the world, occurred just before the Russian Revolution. The apparitions at Banneux and Beauraing came in 1932-33, at the crucial time when neighboring Germany was turning towards Nazism.
The apparitions at Tre Fontane, in Italy, and L'Ile Bouchard, in France, both in 1947, although not officially approved by the Church, do seem to be authentic, and were apparently in response to the threat from communism which both of these countries faced in the late 1940s. Even though there were no particular revolutionary events associated with Lourdes in 1858, it also appears to follow this pattern, in that the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species in 1859, in its promotion of materialistic evolution, represents the real beginning of the modern atheistic intellectual revolution.
The above major apparitions, which are generally recognized as the most important of Mary's appearances during the modern era, have all enjoyed various degrees of Church recognition. In most cases this has included Episcopal sanction, liturgical grants, the building of a basilica and Papal approval, as well as continuing large scale Pilgrimages.
Thus while the Marian apparitions have their own innate spiritual importance, we can also see them as responses to particular revolutionary events and not just as disconnected incidents. It would be wrong, though, to pretend that the apparitions represent the totality of the heavenly response to these various revolutions. Rather they seem to have acted as catalysts in the work of renewing the Church, although to have their full effect they depended upon an adequate response from the faithful. Certainly in the case of France, for example, it is hard to deny that the nineteenth century revival in the fortunes of the French Church was intimately linked to the major Marian apparitions that took place there, and particularly Lourdes.
The same can be said of Fatima and Portugal, where after the First World War the Church enjoyed an astonishing revival, and, to a lesser extent, this is also true of Beauraing and Banneux in Belgium. Knock too undoubtedly strengthened the faith of ordinary Catholics in Ireland. So in this pattern we can see the apparitions initiating and encouraging movements of spiritual reform.
One of the most striking things about the history of the Church, as outlined briefly below, is the way that often the actions of one outstanding saint in a particular era seem, from a human point of view, to be responsible for setting the Church on the right path. The early Church would have been very different without the missionary endeavours of St Paul, and, after the persecutions, St Athanasius (c.296-373), was crucial in saving it from devastation at the hands of heresy. Without the influence of St Benedict's monastic rule, written during the sixth century, Europe would have been very different after the collapse of the Roman Empire, and St Bernard (c.1090-1153), was another saint whose influence for good on Christendom was vast.
The Reformation might well have happened earlier, and perhaps had more serious effects, without the work of Saints Francis and Dominic in the early thirteenth century; and similarly, in the pre-Reformation period, St Vincent Ferrer's preaching undoubtedly strengthened Catholicism in a large part of Europe, helping to prevent the Reformation, when it did happen, in the sixteenth century, from overwhelming the Church. And when the Protestant revolt had taken place, the great saints of the Catholic or Counter-Reformation, and particularly St Ignatius Loyola, as well as the Jesuit order he founded, were raised up to rebuild the Church.
But, as this book indicates, it is legitimate to regard the Protestant Reformation as a turning point, and since that time the influence of Catholicism on the world has been steadily waning. It is true that there have been great saints since the sixteenth century, such as St Vincent de Paul, but their field of action seems to have become more limited, in a world increasingly hostile to the truth.
It seems that we are witnessing the advent of more "hidden" saints in recent centuries, and also of a great number of unknown martyrs, particularly in the twentieth century under communism and Nazism. In fact we really have to go back to the nineteenth century, to men such as St John Vianney, the Curé d'Ars, or St John Bosco, to see anything like the phenomenon of the "miracle-working" saints of the middle ages, with Padre Pio being apparently one of the very few genuine exceptions to this.
What seems to have happened is that Mary, in her apparitions, has been playing a more important and "visible" role, as the influence of the Church generally, and thus of saintly figures, has lessened. This has been particularly the case in places such as Lourdes, which has been aptly described as a "miracle factory," although many other apparition sites have also been favored with miracles.
In the light of this, we can see Mary's apparitions as part of a broader plan in which she has come down from heaven as a genuine Mother, in order to strengthen the Church. Her Son, Jesus Christ, will one day return to earth in the glorious spendour of his Second Coming, but we do not know when that will be, and so as this book intends to demonstrate, for the time being we are still in the Age of Mary, and particularly the Age of Fatima.
There is also, too, the factor of the great "Marian" Popes from the time of Pius IX and the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, in 1854, and also Leo XIII, the Pope of the Rosary, and Pope St Pius X at the beginning of the twentieth century. Similarly, Benedict XV and Pius XI advocated Marian devotion, as did Pius XII, the Pope of the dogma of the Assumption (1950), and the "Pope" of Fatima itself, particularly since he was consecrated bishop on the very day of the first apparition, 13 May 1917.
More recently, Paul VI both visited Fatima and issued impressive Marian teaching, such as the Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus, and, of course, we have John Paul II, the Marian Pope par excellence, whose devotion to Mary is apparent in everything he does. These popes have had an incalculable influence for good on the Church over the last century and a half.
Thus Marian devotion generally, and the Marian apparitions in particular, even though they have been largely ignored by the secular world, have had a profound, though often hidden, effect on the Church, and so indirectly on society as a whole. When the teachings of the Catholic Church, after immense sufferings and struggles, were implemented in Europe in the building up of Christendom, a morally-based, if humanly imperfect, civilization was created. It was the undermining of this structure during the Reformation, and its subsequent further weakening during the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, to say nothing of the attacks of modern secularism, which have led to the present amoral and irreligious state of world society.
It is only when the teachings of Catholicism are again widely accepted and implemented that there will be any hope for genuine peace and progress in the world, that John Paul II's vision of a genuine "civilization of love" will replace the present spirit of corruption and godlessness. This is the essence of the appeal of Our Lady in the message of Fatima, and underlines why this is the most important series of Marian apparitions of our times, and indeed why Pope John Paul II has entrusted the Third Millennium to her.
In sum, Mary's apparitions have played a large part in the major Catholic renewals of recent centuries, and if her message given at Fatima is heeded by enough people then the Church can again experience a great renaissance. As Mary's specific requests during the Fatima apparitions make clear, this is not an option for mankind, but an absolute necessity if we are to have true peace in the world, and this is a theme that will be explored in the final section of this work.
It is hoped, too, that a further volume will be able to look at more recent alleged Marian apparitions, in the light of the problems facing both the Church and the world.
Meanwhile, the present work opens with the prelude to the dramatic intervention of Mary, as Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico. She chose to make her first major appearance of modern times in the New World of the Americas, which, five centuries ago, were strange and exotic lands which had only recently been discovered by European voyagers.
© Donal Anthony Foley
Theotokos Catholic Books - Theotokos Books Section - www.theotokos.org.uk