Mary's Earthly appearances remind us that she always points us towards her son.
Our Lady has blessed us with her earthly presence many times since she was assumed into Heaven, and she continues to do so. She has appeared in Knock, Lourdes, Mexico City, Fatima, Paris, and Wisconsin - and continues to appear in Medjugorje, spreading her messages of prayer, love, & the importance of the rosary. This is a beautiful phenomena of our faith, and a gift we may often take for granted. Yesterday we celebrated the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar - the first Marian apparition to ever take place. This story pre-dates the Gospels, taking place during the earthly life of our holy mother.
The First Apparition
The story of Our Lady of the Pillar is the only story of a Marian apparition that pre-dates her death. It is also the only case of Mary bilocating that we know of. The story begins in the year 40 A.D. Our Lady, who was living in Nazareth at the time, had promised Saint James that she would appear to him when he needed it most during his difficult mission to Spain, evangelizing the pagans. One night while James was praying on the Tobrt bank of the river Ebro in Saragossa, Spain, the Virgin Mother appeared to him and his disciples, holding the Child Jesus in her arms. Standing atop a pillar, she asked the group to build a church on the site, promising them,
“It will stand from that moment until the end of time in order that God may work miracles and wonders through my intercession for all those who place themselves under my patronage.”
It is said that Mother Mary also gave a small, wooden statue of the image of herself and the Child Jesus to Saint James, which now stands on a pillar within the church that was constructed on the site. This church (Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza) is the first church ever to be dedicated to Mary, and remains standing to this day - despite multiple invasions and wars, including three bombs that failed to detonate when dropped on top of it in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. Today Our Lady of the Pillar, better known as Nuestra Señora del Pilar, has been declared the patron saint of Spain and all Hispanic peoples.
Value of Mary’s Messages
Marian apparitions are one of the greatest indications of the communion of saints. Our earthly lives are connected to those of the divine, and when Mary appears to us here on Earth, she reminds us that not only are our prayers heard, but she is offering prayers for us to God as well. Her appearances also remind us that she always points us towards her son. Just as she asked the servants at the Wedding at Cana, “do whatever he tells you,” she asks us during these visions to strive to do the will of God. As Saint Louis de Montfort once said, Mary,
“is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus.”
Think about it. If you needed to know something about your friend, you would most likely turn to someone who you considered closer to them than you are: perhaps their best friend, or maybe one of their parents. When we desire to be closer to or know more about what Jesus wants, it makes the most sense that we should turn to Mary. After all, Mary spent the most time out of anyone on Earth with Jesus. She raised him, joined in his ministry, and stood at the foot of the cross as he died. The only being that knows him better than herself is his heavenly father, God.
This is why we need to listen to her messages and begin taking them to heart: pray the rosary, pray for sinners, respect the dynamic of the family, love one another - the list goes on. I have been lucky enough to spend the day in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina on an apparition day. Her message to the visionary Mirjana that day was as follows,
“Dear children, according to the will of the merciful Father, I have given you, and will still give you, evident signs of my motherly presence. My children, this is a motherly desire for the healing of souls. This is a desire that every child of mine may have true faith, to live to see wondrous experiences, drinking from the spring of the words of my Son-the words of life.
My children, my Son, by His love and sacrifice, brought the light of faith into the world and showed you the way of faith. Because, my children, faith elevates pain and suffering. True faith makes prayer more sensitive, and does acts of mercy-a conversation, a gift of alms. Those of my children who have faith-true faith-are happy despite everything because they live the beginning of heavenly happiness on earth. Therefore, my children, apostles of my love, I am calling you to give an example of true faith, to bring light where there is darkness, to live my Son.
My children, as a mother I am telling you: you cannot go on the way of faith and follow my Son without your shepherds. Pray that they may have the strength and the love to lead you. May your prayers always be alongside them. Thank you. ”
In all of her messages Mary calls us back to our faith. She asks us to pray, to stand strong in the face of societal ideas that challenge what God has asked of us, and above all she calls us to love. She never contradicts the authority of the church or the words of the Gospel. Below is a short (but not complete) list of different apparitions that have been approved by the church. I encourage you to spend some time this week reading the words that Our Heavenly Mother has spoken to us. Our Lady desires that you grow close to her son, and just like our earthly mothers, wants what is best for you. She has given us so much to follow and take to heart, now it is time for us to listen and to act.
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal - Paris, France
Our Lady of Lourdes - Lourdes, France
Our Lady of Knock - Knock, Ireland
Our Lady of Fatima - Fatima, Portugal
Our Lady of Good Help - Champion, Wisconsin
Our Lady of Akita - Akita, Japan