Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Since the establishment of the Catholic religion, Mary, the Mother of God, has appeared to a number of people as an apparition — an image imprinted on the senses. Most accounts of apparitions of Mary are made by children and simple, humble people of faith. She asks them to pray to her son, pray for sinners, do penance, pray the Rosary daily for world peace, and live holy lives in obedience to God.
Some famous apparition sites that the Church has sanctioned include:
*Our Lady of the Snows, Rome, Italy: In A.D. 352, several prayerful folks had the same dream: Mary told them that she would indicate the site on which to build a church in her honor by a miraculous snowfall. Now known as St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore in Italian), it’s one of the churches where the pope says Mass.
*Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico: Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531, leaving her image on his cloak. Today, a famous basilica in Mexico City now hosts her picture.The famous depiction of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
*Our Lady of La Vang, Vietnam: In 1798, a fierce persecution aimed at Catholics forced some to take refuge in the forest. Clustered together, praying the Rosary nightly, these Vietnamese faithful see a consoling apparition of the Mother of God. A church is later built on the spot.
*Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Paris, France: Our Lady appears to St. Catherine Laboure, a member of the order called the Sisters of Charity, in 1830. Communicating the exact design, Our Lady asks St. Catherine that a medal be struck in her honor.
*Our Lady of La Salette, France: Tending their cows in a pasture, a young girl named Melanie and a young boy named Maximin, both born into poverty, see a tall lady who never stops weeping in 1846. Our Lady tells them, in a nutshell, that folks need to straighten up their act and start praying or else. A beautiful Alpine shrine now marks the spot.
*Our Lady of Lourdes, France: In 1858, asking that a chapel be built and identifying herself as the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady appears to another poverty-stricken child of God, St. Bernadette, on 18 different occasions. Today’s pilgrims bring containers to fill with miraculous Lourdes water. In 1943, 20th Century Fox produced Hollywood’s version of the event; The Song of Bernadette won four Academy Awards.
*Our Lady of Knock, Ireland: Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist appear to 15 humble, hardworking Catholics of various ages in 1879. Many pilgrims experienced healings, and a shrine was built.
*Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal: In 1917, asking everybody to pray the Rosary daily for world peace, a beautiful lady clothed in white appears to three young children.
Even if the Church determines that an apparition is worthy of belief, Catholics aren’t obligated to believe it because they aren’t considered revealed truth. The Church carefully investigates claims of alleged apparitions and determines the validity of an apparition only after rigorous scrutiny. Many saints and recent popes have given full support to all apparition places and shrines deemed legitimate and authentic.