Review: Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World by Michael Davies

Marian Apparitions, the Bible and the Modern World by Donal Anthony Foley, pb, Gracewing, £19.99.

Michael Davies reviews a new book which reveals a connection between appearances of Our Lady and the formative events of modern history.

This is a book which is essential reading for every Catholic who loves Our Lady and who believes that on very rare occasion she has manifested herself among us.

The reference to rare occasions is of great importance. Claims are being made that the Blessed Virgin has appeared in well over 700 locations throughout the world in 2003, but not one of this vast number possesses a degree of credibility: Medjugorje, in particular, could rightly be described as “the fraud of the second millennium”.

Donal Foley does not waste so much as a sentence referring to these fraudulent apparitions, but concentrates on the major apparitions which have been approved by the Church – Guadalupe, Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal, La Salette, The Immaculate Conception and Lourdes, Pontmain, Pompeii, Knock, Fatima, Beauraing and Banneux. I am sure that every reader of Mass of Ages would learn an immense amount from the in depth accounts of these apparitions given by Mr Foley.

There is also a speculative side to the book. Mr Foley argues that Our Lady has not appeared among us on a purely random basis. He puts forward a thesis that in every case the approved apparitions are a response to important revolutionary events in Western history, including the Reformation, the French and Russian Revolutions, and Nazism.

He goes even further and demonstrates why he is certain that the major apparitions follow a preordained plan, one intimately linked with the biblical Marian typology explored by the Church Fathers. The apparitions therefore have a crucial importance if we are to understand the events of the last five hundred years which have so shaped the modem world.

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 which happened just before the European revolutionary outbursts of 1848.

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 1932-3, at the crucial time when neighbouring Germany was turning towards Nazism. It will be for the reader to decide whether or not Mr Foley’s thesis in this respect is convincing.

One point on which I definitely disagree with the author is his belief that the 1984 consecration of the world to Our Lady by Pope John Paul II fulfilled the requirements stipulated by Our Lady for the consecration of Russia. Mr Foley is open-minded on this question and accepts that there are those who insist that the Fatima consecration has not been made.

This important book is 453 pages long and includes a comprehensive index. It warrants a place in the library of every serious Catholic.

Reviewed in “Mass of Ages,” the magazine of the Latin Mass Society