16 Mar Transcribed talks on Mother Mary – Apparitions of Mother Mary – Fr Joseph Edattu VC
Apparitions of Mother Mary – Talk by Fr Joseph
“Am I not here, I who am your mother?”
At the cross, Jesus said to St John the Apostle, “Behold your mother.” St John represents each and every beloved disciple of Jesus even to this day. Mother Mary not only intercedes for us at God’s kingdom but runs to each and every person who calls for her help here on earth. The apparitions of Mother Mary throughout the ages prove that the Virgin Mother is ever present to those individuals and societies in need of her help. One of the well-known apparitions in Mexico voices her concern for her children on earth.
Juan Diego and his wife were among the first converts to Christianity among the Mexican indigenous community in 1524. Born in 1474, Juan Diego and his wife Maria Lucia were pious Christians and committed to God. Juan Diego was very fond of Mother Mary and said his daily rosary. He also used to go to church for Mass every day, in spite of the long and arduous journey, crossing hills and forests. His routine was supernaturally interrupted on the morning of December 9, 1531. On the hill of Tepeyac that fell on his daily route, Juan Diego beheld a beautiful lady shining like the sun. Juan was surprised to see a lady this early in the morning. She spoke to Juan Diego and revealed herself as the Virgin Mary. She instructed him to ask the Bishop to build a church on the very spot. Juan Diego did as he was told. However, the Archbishop of Mexico City did not believe him. Mother Mary was waiting at the same spot to meet the disappointed Diego returning home. Citing his simple origin and unimportant role in the society, Juan Diego asked the Virgin Mother to delegate the task to someone who has with more influence. Mother Mary insisted that the mission to build a church in this spot was his. She asked him to meet the Bishop again.
On 10th December, the next day, Juan Diego once again went to the Bishop to convey Mother Mary’s message. The Bishop told him to ask the lady for a sign to ascertain divine intervention. The Virgin Mother again appeared during Diego’s return. Juan Diego told Mother Mary of the Bishop’s request. Mother Mary asked him to return to the same place on the hill and promised to reveal the sign on the next day, 11th of December.
Juan Diego’s uncle Juan Bernadino lived with Diego. This uncle became seriously ill that night. So Diego could not leave his uncle’s side the whole of next day. He couldn’t keep his appointment with the heavenly visitor. By the 12th of December, that fell on a Tuesday, Bernadino’s condition grew worse. So Diego rushed to find a priest to hear his uncle’s confession. As he had not met Mother Mary as promised and as he had to get the priest to his uncle before it was too late, Juan Diego took another route. He went around the hill where the apparitions took place. Mother Mary, however, appeared to him during this journey and asked him as to where he was going. Juan Diego apologised for not meeting her the previous day. He explained urgently that he needed to bring a priest to his uncle’s death bed. Mother Mary replied, “Am I not here, I who am your mother?”
This reply is engraved at the entrance of the Basilica of Guadalupe which stands on the Tepeyac hill this day. It reminds each and every person of the presence of a Mother by our side at all times, especially during times of trial. Every human being should remember that we have the Virgin Mary, our Mother during times of anxiety and pain. During helpless situations where we run for solutions from pillar to post, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s words are a reminder of the recourse we have in Mother Mary. We have consolation and support in her prayers and intervention in our lives.
Mother Mary, reminding Juan Diego of this ever present succour available to him, said that his uncle has become well again. She asked him to go the Tepeyac hill. There he found roses in full bloom in the middle of December. It was not only unusual for the flowers to grow in winter, but the Castilian roses were not found in this part of the world. Mother Mary asked him to carry these roses on his cloak or tilma and arranged it for him. A tilma is a long cloak that is a part of a native Mexican’s attire. Juan Diego ran to the Bishop with the flowers. When the Bishop saw these rare flowers found in full bloom in December he was shocked. As Juan Diego opened his cloak to show theses roses, the Bishop knelt in reverence in front of the tilma. This was because, on this ordinary cloak was imprinted a miraculous image of Mother Mary. Initially kept at the Bishop’s chapel, this picture is venerated to this day at the Basilica of Guadalupe. The fabric nor paint has worn out after centuries. Scientists and researchers, after conducting many investigations, are quite at a loss to explain this phenomenon.
The Mexican society was under a great distress during the time of the apparition. Three major earthquakes hit the country in 1530, a year before Marian apparition. Many died and the country was devastated. Internal strife between Spaniards and the local population increased tensions within the area. Human sacrifice was prevalent. The native Mexican population believed that the fourth earthquake would destroy the planet. They were waiting for the end of the world. The apparition of Mother Mary in 1531 changed things. Millions of people turned to faith in a few years of the apparition. The image of Mother Mary on the tilma spoke volumes to the Mexican people. On the miraculous image, Mother Mary surrounded by the rays of the sun, stands on a black moon. For Aztecs, this signified a lady superior to their sun and moon gods. In this image, Mother Mary looks like a beautiful Aztec woman wearing the attire of a princess in their culture. The black ribbon around her waist indicates that she is pregnant. A four petal jasmine flower over her womb, signifies the true God to be born of her. She brought the message of Jesus among those most in need of her Son’s love. She brought in the message of hope among the distressed. As this image remains undistorted even today, it is the visual reminder of Our Lady’s words to Juan Diego, “Am I not here, I who am your mother?”
The Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City has now become a famous pilgrim centre. It has been the centre of faith in the American continents. Millions from around the world flock to the Basilica where miracles and graces lead them closer to God. Pope John Paul II canonised Juan Diego, the humble messenger chosen by Mother Mary, in 2002. His consistent faith is an inspiration to many. Through his prayerful obedience and trust, he is a role model to the faithful. St Juan Diego’s feast day is celebrated on December 9 – the first day of the apparitions.
It was during another such time when Europe was facing the crisis of the First World War, Mother Mary appeared to three children in a small village in Portugal. On May 13, 1917, Mother Mary appeared to three cousins – two girls and a boy – tending to their sheep in Fatima. On the 13th of every month there on till October, Mother Mary appeared to Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia. She asked them to recite the rosary every day to bring about peace. She imparted the need for penance and repentance from sins in her messages to the children. An important message given by our Lady during the Fatima apparitions was the consecration of the Soviet Union to her Immaculate Heart.
The children initially faced a number of challenges in order to prove that this was a divine intervention. They were rigorously questioned by the Church and civil authorities. In face of severe adversities, they stood for the truth. As a confirmation, on October 13, 1917, Mother Mary promised a public miracle. More than 80 thousand people were standing on the hill waiting for the apparition. Non-believers, sceptics and atheists were among those gathered. Army was deployed for crowd control. It was raining heavily during this day. People braved inclement weather and rough roads with puddles and swamps, to witness the event. Towards the end of the apparition, Mother Mary asked the children to look at the sun. As they were watching, the sun appeared to dance. It seemed to come close to the earth. People gathered there were amazed. Some, seeing the sun hurtling towards the earth, thought that it was the end of the world. Media covered this event too. It was in the headlines the next day. Soon after this Miracle of the sun, the land dried completely. There was no trace of the rain. The puddles had disappeared completely. Even those people who were standing quite far from the place of apparition, witnessed this miracle. Those with doubts started believing. The church held numerous investigations before declaring the Fatima apparitions as authentic.
However, no one took the Consecration of Russia seriously. The Soviet Union broke into revolution during October, 1917. The communist takeover of the Soviet Union was a violent one. Many were killed. A number of churches were destroyed and religion became a taboo in communist Russia. People were not able to freely go to church. Those who did so were severely persecuted and at times killed. The iron curtain government also ensured that the violence and killings were screened from the outside world. Following the Second World War, Russia was soon developing into a powerful nation and centre of Communism. Communism denied the existence of God and attacked the church. Russia continued to influence other countries around the world. Many were not able to follow their religion freely due to fear of torture and death.
So Pope John Paul II, in accordance with the Fatima message, consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, 1984. The following May, a number of people went to Portugal to commemorate the first Apparition in Fatima. On the same day May 13, 1984, there was a blast in an ammunition depot at a naval base in Russia. A number of weapons was destroyed. It was a severe setback to USSR during the cold war. It was a crippling blast to the Soviet Union. Soon after, in 1991, the Soviet Union was disintegrated. Many believe that what the rest of the world could not do in more than 40 years, was achieved by the intervention of Mother Mary.
Most of these Marian apparitions could be seen only by few people at a time. In Egypt’s Zeitoun, more than 250,000 people have witnessed the apparition of Mother Mary at the same time at a Coptic church. These apparitions continued for three years from 1968 to 1971. Mother Mary appeared in Egypt, a predominantly Muslim country, soon after it suffered from its loss from the Arab-Israeli war in 1967. The country was suffering from a severe economic crisis. Again this shows that Mary always stood by those in need of her motherly love and comfort. This apparition is not well known among the Catholic circles, as it took place in a Coptic Church. Though Vatican’s representative reported the apparition, the Coptic Church of Alexandria took a lead in the investigation and confirmed the apparitions. On April 2, 1968 Farooq Muhammad, a Muslim mechanic working near St Mary’s Coptic Church in Cairo’s Zeitoun district, saw something unusual. The church itself has a beautiful history. It is believed to be the place where Mary, Joseph and little Jesus stayed when they were in Egypt. Farooq saw a lady standing on top of the Church near the dome. Supposing that she was a woman trying to commit suicide, Farooq cried out to stop her from falling off the top. This caught the attention of those nearby. Eventually they realised that the vision was not an ordinary one. The supernatural figure of the lady resembled Virgin Mary, the patron of the church. People saw the lady hovering above the church roof. She smiled at the crowd and blessed the people looking on. The first apparition is said to have lasted for about 15 minutes. Mother Mary did not speak during these apparitions. The apparitions continued at regular intervals every week for about three years. Many witnessed the apparition of Mother Mary during this time. It was recorded by the media too. The then President of Egypt, Gamal Abdul Nasar is also believed to have witnessed this apparition. It was said that his attitude towards Christianity changed after this incident.
The Garabandal apparitions took place in Spain between 1961 and 1965. First Archangel Michael and then Mother Mary appeared to four children in the village of Garabandal in Northern Spain. Though the church has not officially authenticated these apparitions till now, many saints like Padre Pio, Mother Theresa and John Paul II believed in the supernatural visions and messages of Garabandal. The four children in Garabandal said that Mother Mary appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel carrying little Jesus. The visionaries were often in a trance during these apparitions. During these apparitions, Mother Mary once again stressed on the need for penance and prayers. The Virgin Mother specially called for prayers for her priests. Large crowds of people came to see the children witness the heavenly Mother. These people handed out their crucifixes and holy objects to the little girls, to be blessed by the Virgin. Mother Mary used to kiss these memorabilia and return it to them. One such day, a soldier gave the girls a compact powder tin to be blessed by Mother Mary. The girls were embarrassed to give this seemingly insignificant article to the Virgin Mother among other holy objects. Mama Mary, however, asked them to hand over the powder case, kissed it and said, “This belongs to my Son.” Later the girls found out from the soldier that the powder case belonged to his uncle who was an army chaplain. The priest used to carry the Eucharist in this tin. Nothing was too small or insignificant to Mother Mary. Her children’s concerns were her top priority.
A number of such miraculous events followed the apparitions of Mother Mary. Many were healed and delivered. Nonetheless, the greatest miracle was the conversion of souls. That was the goal of our divine mother. She wanted to direct all her children on earth to her son Jesus and his promised kingdom. The famous Lourdes apparition too happened at a time when France was losing its faith. Millions came back to Jesus after the apparitions. This was seen in Fatima too. When war and modern thoughts changed the way people looked at religion, Mother Mary came to remind us that this earth is just a temporary abode. When we encounter trouble, temptation, sickness and sin, in this world we know that we have recourse to our Mother appointed by our saviour, Jesus. She stands by us each time and says, “Am I not here, I who am your mother?”