What are Marian Apparitions?

A Marian apparition is a supernatural appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a message for the world. Marian apparitions have led to conversions to Catholicism, a spread of devotions to Mary, and worldwide trips by millions of pilgrims to holy sites.

Many have claimed to be visited by Mary, but only a few have been fully approved by the Catholic Church (so far):

Our Lady of Guadalupe

1531 A.D.
Mexico City, Mexico

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a Native American man, St. Juan Diego, in December 1531. She requested that a shrine be built at the spot of her apparition, on the outskirts of Mexico City. Willing to obey, Juan Diego went to the bishop.

Image of Our Lady Of Guadalupe
Image of Our Lady Of Guadalupe

The bishop did not believe him, wanting a sign to know that the apparition was real. Upon his return, Mary told Juan Diego to gather the flowers at the top of the hill and bring them to the bishop. Despite the winter, Juan found flowers in full bloom and gathered them in his tilma, a traditional outer garment worn by men in Central America.

Returning to the bishop, he released the flowers to the floor—revealing a beautiful image of Mary impressed upon his tilma.

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

Revelations 12:1 (ESV)

Our Lady of Guadalupe is both the patroness of Mexico and all of the Americas. Her intercession continues to power the Catholic faith in Latin America and beyond. Before a crowd of 12 million, St. John Paul II canonized Juan Diego as a saint in 2002. 1

Our Lady of Laus

1664 – 1718 A.D.
Laus, France

Our Lady of Laus first appeared to a poor, uneducated shepherdess named Benoîte Rencurel in May 1664. For the next four months, this mysterious lady educated Benoîte about Catholicism, strengthening her spiritual life. Finally on August 29th, the lady revealed her identity: Mary, the Mother of God.

Our Lady Of Laus
The Virgin Mary and Benoîte Rencurel – Wikimedia Commons

After an absence of a month, Mary appeared to her once more. She asked Benoîte to go to the neighboring village of Laus to find a chapel with a sweet odor. Finding the chapel of Bon-Rencontre in Laus the next day, Mary appeared on the altar asking that a church be built there for the conversion of sinners.

Between 1666 and 1669, the new church was built on top of the chapel. From 1665 onwards, tens of thousands of pilgrims flocked to Laus with Benoîte taking care of them. The new shrine led to numerous healings and conversions.

Mary continued to appear to Benoîte for the next 54 years, supporting and teaching her. In addition, she saw angels, saints, and even visions of Jesus crucified on the cross. She was declared “Venerable” in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI, a step towards canonized sainthood. The Marian apparitions themselves were approved by the Catholic Church in 2008. 2

Our Lady of The Miraculous Medal

1830 A.D.
Rue de Bac – Paris, France

On July 18th, 1830 Sister Catherine Labouré heard the voice of a child calling out to her. After finally getting out of bed, the child said:

“Come to the chapel. The Blessed Virgin awaits you.”

Heading to the convent’s chapel, Catherine sat and waited anxiously. Suddenly, Mary appeared. After a pause, Catherine could not hold back. She rushed over to Mary and rested her head on her lap. Then, she looked up into Mary’s eyes describing it as “the sweetest moment of her life.”

“My child,” said Our Lady, “the good God wishes to charge you with a mission.”

She explained to Catherine that Catherine would be tormented and contradicted. Evil and sorrows would overcome France, with the whole world being overcome by miseries. But, there was still hope:

“Come to the foot of the altar. There graces will be shed upon all, great and little, who ask for them. Graces will be especially shed upon those who ask for them.”

Our Lady continued to tell of the sorrows: Christ’s cross will be treated with contempt—hurled to the ground, the streets will stream with blood, and while she began to stream tears:

“My child, the whole world will be in sadness.”

Forty years later, her prediction would come true with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War leaving France destroyed.
Despite the sorrows, Mary assured Catherine personal protection against the coming evils through her intercession. Four months later, the Blessed Virgin returned in the image shown on this Miraculous Medal:

The Miraculous Medal - Wikimedia Commons
The Miraculous Medal – Wikimedia Commons

Mary began to explain the meaning. Standing in an oval frame, she wore rings of different colors, shining rays that represent her graces for those who ask. The frame revealed a phrase in French: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

“Have a Medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for persons who wear it with confidence.”

The scene rotated, revealing the back. A large M, topped with a cross adorns the image. Below show the hearts of Jesus and Mary, one with crowns and the other pierced by a sword.

Many Catholics continue to wear the Miraculous Medal in devotion to Mary, desiring her special graces and intercession. 3

Our Lady of La Salette

1846 A.D.
La Salette, France

On September 19th, 1848, 11 year old Maximin Giraud and 14 year old Mélanie Calvat were minding cows in a small village in Southeast France. While returning home, they encountered a bright light. In the light was a sitting woman, weeping into her hands. Maximin would later say: “She was like a mama whom her own children had beaten and who had escaped to the mountain to weep.”

Statue of Our Lady Of La Salette
Our Lady Of La Salette – Photo by QFamily

The children approached. The unknown lady, while still crying, told the children about the trials of Her Son. She explained that she and Her Son are weary from the sufferings they have endured for humanity.

She lamented for those who work on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, rather than resting and praying. In addition, the cart drivers continued to swear with Her Son’s name. In the winters people attended Mass just to scoff at religion and in the summers ignored Mass altogether.

Our Lady explained that the potato famine across Europe the year before was a warning. If the people did not convert their hearts, more famine awaited them. If they do, then there will be an abundance of food. The famine never came, as many Catholics changed their ways after hearing of the apparition.

Our Lady of Salette’s message is for everyone, not just the townsfolk of La Salette. She makes it clear that she intercedes for us more than we could ever repay. Her words are a message of conversion to Jesus. 4

Our Lady of Lourdes

1858 A.D.
Lourdes, France

On February 11th, 1858 14 year old Bernadette Soubirous went out with her sister to fetch some firewood. After separating, she took her socks off to cross the stream. Suddenly she heard a sound like a gust of wind and looked up towards a grotto.

“I saw a lady dressed in white, she wore a white dress, an equally white veil, a blue belt and a yellow rose on each foot.” – St. Bernadette Soubirous

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto – Photo by Manuel González Olaechea

Bernadette prayed with her, and then the mysterious lady vanished. The next day, Bernadette returned and prayed. The lady appeared once again. Bernadette, wanting to make sure it was not a demon, sprinkled holy water on the apparition. The lady bent her head, smiled, and vanished at the end of the prayer.

After more days and apparitions, the lady began to speak to Bernadette. The lady demanded repentance for the sins of humanity. The crowd of witnesses grew by the hundreds, as Bernadette obeyed the lady by drinking muddy water and eating bitter herbs from the ground. She continued to kneel, pray, and kiss the ground out of humility while the crowds ridiculed her.

A girl named Catherine Latapie dipped her injured arm in the spring that Bernadette dug for the lady by the grotto. Her arm was instantly healed, the first of many miraculous healings to come. The lady requested that a church be built on the spot along with a prayer procession. A priest seeking to test Bernadette desired the lady’s name as proof.

23 days later came the reveal:

“She lifted up her eyes to heaven, joined her hands as though in prayer, that were held out and open towards the ground and said to me: Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou (I am the Immaculate Conception) .”

Speaking in Bernadette’s Occitan language, the lady revealed her identity. Bernadette had no idea what it meant, but she proclaimed it to all. The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s conception without original sin. The priests were troubled, as the Immaculate Conception was declared dogma by the Pope only four years earlier. A poor, uneducated girl in Southwest France could not known about this concept.

After rigorous examination by the Catholic Church and the French government, the apparitions received approval and a church was built on top of the grotto. Bernadette’s spring continues to be a source of healing. Of the thousands of proclaimed healings, 68 have been confirmed by the Lourdes Medical Bureau and the Catholic Church to be scientifically inexplicable miracles.

Millions of Catholics visit on pilgrimage each year, asking for Mary’s intercession for healing. 5

Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain

1871 A.D.
Pontmain, France

As predicted by Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, France fell into turmoil because of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). In 1871, the German states occupied two thirds of France and continued their surge. The small town of Pontmain in northwest France was next on the war path.

Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain
Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain

The local school teacher also could not see her, and called for two little girls: Françoise Richer and Jeanne-Marie Lebosse. They too could see her.

With the adults only able to see three stars forming a triangle, everyone prayed. As they also began to sing a hymn, the lady laughed and joined in. As they prayed to Jesus, sadness overcame the lady. A red crucifix appeared in her hands and she sorrowfully contemplated Her Son’s sacrifice. As the prayers came to a close, the lady vanished.

The Prussian forces inexplicably never came. 6 days later an armistice was signed, ending the war. 6

Our Lady of Knock

1879 A.D.
Knock, Ireland
Our Lady of Knock Shrine
Our Lady of Knock Shrine

On August 21st, 1879, at about 8 o’clock, at night apparitions appeared in the village of Knock. Fifteen people ages 5 to 75, men, women, and children saw a vision of St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Evangelist, and a lamb on an altar surrounded by angels.

John, the author of the Book of John and the Book of Revelation, calls Jesus the “Lamb of God.” Examples include: John 1:29, John 1:36, Revelation 5:1-7, Revelation 21:14. In the Catholic Mass the priest holds the Eucharist, which is Jesus Christ’s body, saying “Behold the lamb of God.” 7

Our Lady of Fátima

1917 A.D.
Fátima, Portugal

On May 13th, 1917 three children were shepherding their flock: Lucia (10) and her cousins Francisco (9) and Jacinta (7). Suddenly a bright light flashed the area. Thinking it was lightning, the children headed home. Then on top of a holly oak, “a Lady more brilliant than the sun” appeared to the children.

Our Lady of Fátima
Our Lady of Fátima – Photo by Paolo Porsia

On the day of the last apparition, October 13th, about 70,000 were present. The Lady had promised a great miracle. The Lady called herself “Our Lady of the Rosary” and asked that a chapel be built there in Fátima. Then came the “Miracle of the Sun.”

The crowd witnessed the sun begin to change colors and spin like a wheel. They described the sun as dancing around beyond all laws of physics. People up to 40 kilometers away who had no knowledge of the miracle also saw the phenomenon. Some people, including believers, did not see it.

Our Lady also gave the children secrets. The first secret was a brief, horrifying vision of hell. The second secret predicted the end of World War I, the beginning of World War II, and the emergence of the Soviet Union. The third and final secret predicted the assassination attempt on St. John Paul II’s life.

The shrine of Our Lady of Fátima continues to receive millions of pilgrims every year. 8

Our Lady of Beauraing

1932 – 1933 A.D.
Beauraing, Belgium

On November 29th, 1932 five children ages 9-15 witnessed a lady dressed in a long white robe. Until January 3rd, 1933 the children would go on to see Our Lady 32 more times. Identifying herself as the “Immaculate Virgin,” During the apparitions, Our Lady would open her arms exposing her Immaculate Heart, golden and radiating bright rays.

Our Lady requested goodness, continuous prayer, and that a chapel be built for the conversion of sinners. Talking to one of the children, Fernande, Our Lady asked: “Do you love My Son?”

Our Lady of Beauraing - Parc du Castel, Belgium
Our Lady of Beauraing – Parc du Castel, Belgium

“Yes.”

“Do you love me?”

“Yes.”

“Then, sacrifice yourself for me.”

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th) a large crowd of about 15,000 gathered to witness the children. The five went into an ecstasy, only able to see and behold the glory of Our Lady. Doctors and psychologists examined the children, trying to get a reaction by pinching them, slapping them, and shining a flashlight in their eyes. They got no reaction. The children were wrapped up completely in the beauty of Our Lady.

Since the apparitions, many cures and conversions have taken place at Beauraing, leading to an official approval by the Vatican. Millions of pilgrims journey to Beauraing every year, asking for Our Lady’s prayers. 9

Our Lady of Banneux

1933 A.D.
Banneux, Belgium

On January 15th, 1933, 11 year old Mariette Beco was in the kitchen when a lady appeared in the garden, beckoning her to come outside. Her mother would not let her.

Three days later, after praying in the garden Mariette went up the road. She heard the lady’s voice calling for her. Arriving at a pool of water from a spring, the lady told her to dip her hands into the water. Then the lady told her “This spring is reserved for me. Goodnight, goodbye.”

Our Lady of Banneux
Our Lady of Banneux – Wikimedia Commons

The next day, the weather was brutally cold as Mariette walked up the road. Our Lady appeared to her, identifying herself as “The Virgin of the Poor.” Again at the spring, the Virgin said, “This spring is reserved for all nations . . . for the sick.”

Over the next few weeks, Our Lady asked for a chapel to be built and told Mariette that she comes to relieve suffering, that people should believe in her, and that people should pray constantly. Since the apparitions, many miraculous cures have been attributed to the spring.

Despite being ridiculed by even her aunt and grandmother, Mariette maintained her story about the apparitions. She passed away on December 2nd, 2011 at the age of 90. 10  Her final words regarding the apparition: “I was no more than a postman who delivers the mail. Once this has been done, the postman is of no importance any more.” 11

Notes:

  1. Vatican’s Official Biography of St. Juan Diego: Link
  2. Our Lady of Laus Sanctuary: Link
  3. Saint Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal: Link
  4. La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas: Link
  5. Our Lady of Lourdes Sanctuary: Link
  6. Our Lady of Pontmain Sanctuary: Link
  7. Knock Shrine: Link
  8. Fátima Sanctuary: Link
  9. “I Will Convert Sinners”: Link
  10. Shrine of Our Lady of Banneux: Link
  11. Catholic Herald: Link
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Trevor is a senior at the University of Tulsa, majoring in Political Science and Management Information Systems.