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MARIAN APPARITIONS


Definition

"Throughout the ages, there have been so-called 'private' revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the [collective sense of the faithful] knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept 'revelations' that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such 'revelations'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 67).

"It is not obligatory nor even possible to give them (private revelations) the assent of Catholic faith, but only of human faith, in conformity with the dictates of prudence, which presents them to us as probable and worthy of pius belief)" (Benedict XIV, De canon., III, liii, xxii, II).

How This Teaching Exalts Christ

All authentic messages from Heaven ultimately exalt Our Lord Jesus Christ and uphold the truths taught by His Mystical Body, the Church.

Biblical Basis

"Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world . . . Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." (1 John 4 1-6)

Early Christian Witness

Hermas

"The vision which I saw, my brethren, was of the following nature . . . [An] old woman approached, accompanied by six young men . . . [And] she said to me . . . 'Lo! do you not see opposite to you a great tower, built upon the waters, of splendid square stones?' For the tower was built square by the six young men who had come with her. But myriads of men were carrying stones to it, some dragging them from the depths, others removing them from the land, and they handed them to these six young men. . . . [And the woman said:] 'The tower which you see building is myself, the Church . . . the tower is built upon the waters . . . because your life has been and will be "saved through water" [1 Pet. 3:20-21] . . . the six young men . . . are the holy angels of God . . . the other persons who are engaged in carrying the stones . . . also are holy angels of the Lord . . . [And] when the tower is finished and built, then comes the end" (The Shepherd 1:3:1-8 [A.D. 80]).

Justin Martyr

"For the prophetical gifts remain with us [Christians], even to the present time. And hence you [Jews] ought to understand that [the gifts] formerly among your nation have been transferred to us" (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 82 [A.D. 155]).

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

"While he [Polycarp] was thus at his prayers, three days before his arrest, he had a vision in which he saw flames reducing his pillow to ashes; whereupon he turned to his companions and said, 'I must be going to be burnt alive.' . . . [After his arrest, the crowd called] loud demands for the Asiarch Philip to let loose a lion at Polycarp. However, he told them that the rules would not allow him to do so since he had already declared the beast-fighting closed; whereupon they decided to set up a unanimous outcry that he should have Polycarp burnt alive" (Martyrdom of Polycarp 5, 12 [A.D. 155]).

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

"Polycarp was . . . bishop of the Catholic Church at Smyrna, and a teacher in our own day who combined both apostle and prophet in his own person. For indeed, every word that ever fell from his lips either has had or will have its fulfillment" (ibid., 16).

Irenaeus of Lyons

"In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church who possess prophetic gifts and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages and who bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God" (Against Heresies 5:6:1 [A.D. 189]).

Pionius

"I, Pionius, have made a fresh transcript of [The Martyrdom of Polycarp]. I found them after Polycarp the Blessed had revealed there whereabouts in a vision, as I will explain hereafter. Time had reduced them almost to tatters, but I gathered them carefully together in the holy that the Lord Jesus may likewise gather myself amongst his elect into his heavenly kingdom. To him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory forever and ever. Amen" (Martyrdom of Polycarp, copyist note 2 [A.D. 250]).

Objections

  1. All "Marian appartions" are of the devil; a deceiving spirit appears in the form of Mary.

    Granted, some alleged "Marian" apparitions may be demonic in origin, particularly New Age ones and seemingly "Catholic" ones which the Church has condemned (though many of these could also be fraudulent or products of mental instability).  Yet the Bible nowhere says, "The Mother of Jesus never appears to Christians, and any such apparitions are of the devil", so this a priori rejection of all Marian apparitions arises out of a personal prejudice against them, not out of a teaching of Scripture.

  2. The Bible says that Satan can appear as an "angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14); that's what Marian apparitions are.

    Just because the devil can so appear to people does not mean that every apparition is really him in disguise.  1 John 4:1-4 tells us that we should test the spirits to see whether or not they are of God; the implication being that some supernatural revelations are authentic.  Again, this verse does not say, "All Marian apparitions are really the devil appearing as an angel of light", so you can't use that verse against all Marian apparitions, either.

  3. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 fortold that all prophecies would cease when the Bible was completed. So ever since the Apostle John wrote the last book of the Bible, God has only spoken to us through His holy Word.

    "That which is perfect" refers to the coming of Christ, not the completion of Sacred Scripture.  Verse 12 says "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:  now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known".  Even though Sacred Scripture is now complete, we still do not yet see God "face-to-face" or know as we are known, so St. Paul is clearly referring to the Second Coming, not the completion of the Bible.

  4. Though God once spoke to us through prophets and angelic messages, He now speaks to us only through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:2; Galatians 3:19).  So since Christ came, God doesn't even allow angels to appear to us, let alone Mary or another saint!

    That passage does not mean that God only speaks through His Son now, and never through angels.  After all, the Book of Revelation, which was written after Hebrews, was transmitted by a series of angelic visions!  The book of Hebrews begins with an argument for the superiority of Christ over the angels, and part of that argument is that the revelation of Christ in the Incarnation is superior to the Old Testament revelations which were mediated by prophets and angels.  This does not at all imply that angels (or other heavenly personages) will no longer appear to believers on earth.  After all, verse 14 says the angels still minister to Christians, and Hebrews 12:22-24 indicates that we have communion with them, as well as with "the spirits of just men made perfect", that is, Christians in heaven.

  5. God has forbidden contact with the dead (Dt. 18:1011; Is. 8:19), which is what Marian apparitions are!

    God has forbidden necromancy, the attempt to conjure up a spirit by occult practices, such as occurs in a seance.  On the other hand, true apparitions of Jesus, Mary, etc., occur by the will and power of God, not by the initiative of man!

  6. The Bible nowhere says or even implies that a dead believer can appear to the living on earth.

    Moses appeared on the mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8), and many deceased righteous people appeared in Jerusalem after Jesus' resurrection (Matt. 27:52-53).  Apparitions are definitely biblical!

  7. Jesus said: "An wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign" (Mt 12:38); yet Catholics seek signs and wonders all the time.

    Not all Catholics seek signs and wonders, and the Church as a whole does not seek them either.  When one occurs, the Church's first attitude toward it is skepticism.  Church authorities will do everything they can to try to prove it wrong; only if it passes every test will the Church declare it worthy of belief.  So one can hardly accuse Catholicism as a whole of "seeking" signs and wonders.

  8. The Guadalupe apparition in 1531 occurred near the ruins of an ancient temple to an Aztec goddess; and the apparition demanded that a temple be built there in her honor.  The devil was obviously trying to revive pagan goddess worship on that site!

    If that were so, then Satan failed miserably, since eight million Indians converted to Christianity because of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  That heavenly apparition did not revive paganism, it decimated it!

  9. What about apparitions like La Salette, which made statements unflattering to the Catholic Church such as "Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of the Antichrist".

    You are quoting the alleged "Secret of La Salette", printed many decades after the fact.  It is not part of the original account of the alleged apparition, and the Church does not accept it as genuine.

  10. The Fatima apparition requested that people pray rosaries in reparation for sins commited against her.  Yet sin, by definition, is an offense against God, so how could one sin against Mary?

    Every sin is indeed an offense against God, but it can also be a sin against another person, or even against ourselves (see 1 Cor 6:18).  This is why Jesus told us to pray: "Forgive us our trespasses (sins), as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us." (Mt 6:14).  See also Matthew 18:15, 21 and 1 Corinthians 8:12.

    People sin against Mary by putting her down, denying her holiness and purity, refusing to love her, making fun of her, depicting her in sacrilegious "art", etc..  These are ultimately sins against her Maker, of course, but they are also sins against the person of Mary. Such sins are especially bad because they are very offensive to Jesus; would you not be offended if someone treated your mother like that?

  11. She also stated:  "continue to recite the Rosary every day to our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace in the world and the end of the war, because only She will be able to aid you."  Only Mary can bring peace to the world?  What about Jesus, the Prince of Peace!

    Our Lady was not denying that Jesus could bring peace to Russia. She was just saying that He willed to do so through her, and so wanted people to ask for her intercession in that matter.  Mary does nothing of herself; she asks God to accomplish things.

  12. What about this statement:  "To save souls God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If people do what I tell you, many souls will be saved."  Devotion to Mary can't save souls; only Jesus can save souls.

    The document "The Message of Fatima", promulgated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), contains a commentary on the Fatima revelations including the following explanation of this statement of Our Lady:

    In biblical language, the "heart" indicates the centre of human life, the point where reason, will, temperament and sensitivity converge, where the person finds his unity and his interior orientation.  According to Matthew 5:8, the "immaculate heart" is a heart which, with God's grace, has come to perfect interior unity and therefore "sees God".  To be "devoted" to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means therefore to embrace this attitude of heart, which makes the fiat - "your will be done" - the defining centre of one's whole life.  It might be objected that we should not place a human being between ourselves and Christ.  But then we remember that Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities:  "imitate me" (1 Cor 4:16; Phil 3:17; 1 Th 1:6; 2 Th 3:7, 9).  In the Apostle they could see concretely what it meant to follow Christ. But from whom might we better learn in every age than from the Mother of the Lord?1
    So the essence of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is to be "pure of heart" oneself and to imitate her loving obedience to God's will.  This is what God wants us to do.

  13. The apparition also told Lucia:  "Don't be discouraged, I will never abandon you.  My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way which will lead you to God."  This clearly substitutes Mary for Jesus, the One Way to God; no one comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6)!

    Our Lady of Fatima was not asking Lucia or anyone else to ignore or try to bypass Jesus.  She never says "I, alone, will be your way to God, rather than Jesus".  She takes for granted the fact that Catholics come to the Father through Jesus, since we are all members of the Body of Christ.  Mary is simply promising to help Lucia grow closer to God the Son, and through Him come to God the Father.

  14. A miracle was also promised at Fatima, "so that all can see and believe".  This is inconsistent with the attitude of Christ, Who refused to perform miracles to prove His Messiahship (Matthew 16:14). God wants us to believe without seeing (John 20:29-30)

    Though Our Lord did refuse to perform a spectacular miracle on command for His adversaries, He also told them that His Resurrection (the "sign of Jonah") would be a miraculous sign for them.  So He did in fact promise a miracle to prove His Messiahship, just not the one they expected!

    When St. John the Baptizer sent his followers to ask Jesus whether He was the Messiah, Our Lord healed and exorcized many people in their presence and told them that His miracles were proof of His Messiahship (Luke 7:19-23).  St. John' Gospel tells us that Jesus' miracles proved who He was and caused many to believe (John 2:10; 20:30-31).

    Though Our Lord did tell St. Thomas that those who believe without seeing are blessed, He still accomodated the doubting apostle's desire to see and touch His wounds (John 20:27).  God can certainly choose to prove something by a miracle, as He did with Gideon's fleece (Judges 6:36-40) and the miracles of Moses (Exodus 4:1-9).  Even so, He chose to provide a sign to prove the validity of Fatima.

  15. The so-called "miracle of the sun" does not prove Fatima to be of God; the devil can perform miracles, too, even causing fire to fall from the sky to the earth (Rev 13:13)!

    God can also cause fire to fall to earth, as He did for the Prophet Elijah (1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:12) and Kings David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chron 7:1).  So Revelation 13:13 hardly proves that the miracle of the sun was demonic in origin, either.

WORKS CITED

1The Message of Fatima (CDF Document)


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