Our Lady of Siluva, Siluva, Lithuania, 1608

“Our Lady of Siluva”   SILUVA, LITHUANIA   (1608) 

When the Protestant Reformation swept over Europe, the little town of Siluva in Lithuania saw their Catholic lands seized and the Lutheran faith dominated in 1532.  By 1551 that gave way to Calvinism, and the Catholic following died out over the following decades.  So, when Mary appeared in 1608, it was in a completely un-Catholic atmosphere.  One summer day in 1608, a number of children were tending their sheep in a field on the outskirts of the village of Siluva.  They were playing near a large rock, close to a wooded section of the field, shouting merrily to one another in carefree fun.  Suddenly, one after another stood transfixed, staring in the direction of the rock.  In the silence there could be heard the sound of loud sobbing.  Then the children beheld a beautiful young woman standing on the rock holding a baby in her arms and weeping bitterly.  Her overwhelming grief was only too evident.  She did not speak, but looked at them sadly as she stood there, weeping as though her heart was breaking.  So profuse were her tears that they ran down her cheeks, and some of them splashed on the rock.  The woman was dressed in flowing blue and white robes, unlike any costume with which the children were familiar.  Her long, light brown hair fell softly over her shoulders.  A strange light surrounded both the woman and child.  When the children went home that evening, they told their parents and neighbors about the weeping woman.

A group of curious people are stunned by the appearance of the Virgin Mary.
A group of curious people are stunned by the appearance of the Virgin Mary.

Word spread rapidly, and the next day, a large number of people went to the place where she had appeared, impressed by the children’s tearful insistence that they were telling the truth.  When the children were questioned, either separately or together, each told the same identical story, even to the smallest detail.  The Calvinist catechist was also present, along with the rector of the Calvinist seminary. The Catechist dismissed the events as nothing but the work of the devil.  But, as he was speaking, the woman again appeared on the rock, very sorrowful with tears in her eyes, holding a child in her arms.  The assembled people became very frightened and did not dare to say a word.  The Catechist finally got enough courage to ask, “Why are you crying?”  Mary replied,

“Formerly in this place, my Son was honored and adored, but now, all that the  people do is seed and cultivate the land.”

The basilica in Siluva, Lithuania.
The basilica in Siluva, Lithuania.

Then she disappeared in front of everyone present.  They were confused, dumbfounded, and stunned.  They did not really believe that it was the work of the devil as the Calvinists had insisted. A blind man, more than a hundred years old, heard about the apparitions from a nearby village.  He recalled a night, eighty years ago, that he helped Father Holubka bury an ironclad chest, filled with church treasures, next to a large rock.  The villagers led the blind man to the field where Mary had appeared to see if he might be able to locate the place where the treasures had been buried.  No sooner had he reached the spot, when his sight was miraculously restored.  Falling to his knees with joy and gratitude, he pointed to the exact spot where the chest had been buried.  The ironclad chest was dug out of the ground, and when it was opened, there – perfectly preserved – was the large painting of the Madonna and Child, several gold chalices, vestments, church deeds, and other documents.  The painting was enshrined in the Basilica of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Many miracles have been recorded over the years.  The apparition was authenticated by a Papal Decree by Pope Pius VI on August 17, 1775.

Our Lady of Good Health, Vailankanni, India, 1580-1620

“Our Lady of Good Health”

VAILANKANNI, INDIA   (1580-1620) 

First Apparition:   Vailankanni was a small fishing village on the coast of India with only a few dozen residents around 1580.  While the men went fishing every day, the women and children tended the fields and animals.  Along the main road was a favorite rest stop for many travelers – a fresh water pond with a large shady banyan tree to rest under.  Every day, a poor milk delivery boy would take his pot full of milk door to door, making deliveries.  At one point he grew weary and decided to rest under the favorite banyan tree by the pond.  Suddenly he was bathed in a brilliant light – out of which appeared a beautiful woman holding an infant in her arms.  She asked him if he would spare some milk for her child.  Without hesitation he handed the pot to the lady.  She fed her baby, thanked him, and handed the pot back.  Then she quickly vanished before his eyes.  But when he looked at his pot, it was completely empty – and he knew his master would be angry.

The boy offers his pot of buttermilk to the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
The boy offers his pot of buttermilk to the Virgin Mary and Jesus.

Despite his fears, he chose to be truthful with his master.  The master was indeed angry, but then they both noticed that the empty pot was now overflowing with milk! Recognizing it as miraculous, the master was certain that the boy must have met a divine being – and asked the boy to take him to the spot of the apparition.  They both went to the banyan tree and knelt in prayer.  The Lady appeared again and, this time, identified herself as Mary, Mother of Jesus.  Residents of the local Catholic community were ecstatic and renamed the pond, Matha Kulam – Our Lady’s Pond.  Miraculous cures were attributed to the water from this pond.  Later, a building was constructed over it, and it became known as “Our Lady’s Tank”.

Blessed Mary gives Jesus a drink of the boy's buttermilk.
Blessed Mary gives Jesus a drink of the boy’s buttermilk.

Second Apparition:   A lame boy had been helping his mother in Vailankanni by selling her daily pot of buttermilk to travelers along the main road.  Buttermilk was a real treat, and he had no problem selling all of it by the end of each day.  One day, as he sat along the side of the road, a strange and brilliant light surrounded him.  A beautiful lady appeared in the light, holding an infant in her arms.  She asked if she could have some buttermilk for her child.  Without hesitation he poured her a cup, and she gave it to her child.  Then she asked the lame boy if he would deliver a message for her to a certain Catholic gentleman in nearby Nagapattinam.  The boy replied that he wanted to do her the favor but could not because of being so lame.  She smiled and told him to stand up.  Immediately, he was surprised that he could walk, jump, and run – for the first time in his life!  She again commanded the boy to contact the Catholic gentleman in the nearby town of Nagapattinam to build a church in her honor.  He was so excited that he ran down the road, thrilling the villagers who knew he had been unable to walk.  The gentleman had no trouble believing the young boy because he had had a dream in which Blessed Mary had told him to do the same thing.  He asked the boy to take him to the spot of this apparition.  The first thatched church was built on that very spot by this Catholic gentleman.

The boy's empty pot magically refills with buttermilk on its own.
The boy’s empty pot magically refills with buttermilk on its own.

Third Apparition:  Sailing from Macau, China to Colombo, Sri Lanka, a Portuguese merchant vessel got caught in a tempest in the Bay of Bengal.  When the sailors reached the point of absolute despair, they began praying to the Virgin Mary.  They promised that if they would live, they would build a chapel in her name wherever they could find safety and land.  The stormy sea soon became quiet, the clouds parted, and land was spotted nearby.  Their ship reached the shore of Vailankanni safely on the 8th of September, Blessed Mary’s birthday.  Holding to their promise, the Portuguese sailors returned two weeks later and built a church right there on the beach where they had landed.

The three apparition stories of Vailankanni, India.
The three apparition stories of Vailankanni, India.

September 8th is now the feast day for Our Lady of Good Health.  Every year a procession begins on August 30, and people come from all over India – some walking as much as 200 miles on foot, because of their devotion and sacrifice to Mary.  As many as 500,000 pilgrims visit every day during this week long celebration.  Ironically, very few are Christians – most are Hindu, Muslim, Parsee, Egyptian, etc.  The little church on the beach is now a magnificent basilica with at least eight million visitors every year.

The beautiful Catholic basilica in Vailankanni, India.
The beautiful Catholic basilica in Vailankanni, India.

After Vatican II, Pope John XXIII officially recognized this pilgrimage site as the “Lourdes of the East” due to the healing waters of the pond.  Adjacent to this basilica is a museum of “offerings” left behind by hundreds of pilgrims – often with their personal stories of miraculous healings.  There are many shrines around India now, dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health.

The festive lights of the Vailankanni grand church.
The festive lights of the Vailankanni grand church.

 

 

Our Lady of Kazan, Kazan, Russia, 1579

“Our Lady of Kazan” KAZAN, RUSSIA  (1579) 

Some time after 988 A.D., when Grand Prince Vladimir I married a Byzantine princess and consequently became a Christian, the painting of Our Lady of Kazan was treasured and revered by the Russian people.  The icon’s origins are rooted in the early founding days of the church of the apostles.  It was brought from Constantinople, across the Black Sea, up the Volga River to a monastery in Kazan, deep in the interior of the former Mongolian Empire.  By 1101, pilgrims were traveling vast distances on foot to pray before this icon.  In 1209, the city of Kazan was overrun and conquered.  Angry mobs destroyed the city and the monastery – the icon being lost in the rubble, apparently lost forever.

Three hundred and seventy years later, on July 8, 1579, a small, nine-year old girl named Matrona was suddenly startled by an immense flash of light.  She fell to her knees in amazement at the beauty, holiness, and eternal kindness of the Mother of God – who was standing on a cloud and clothed in the brilliance of God’s love. The “beautiful lady” asked the child to rescue the ancient and holy icon of Our Lady of Kazan from the burned-out ruins of the old monastery near Matrona’s home.  She was to give certain directions and specific instructions to the people so that they could locate it.

The painting of Our Lady of Kazan 1579
The painting of Our Lady of Kazan 1579

Word spread quickly, and many people gathered at the ruins.  Matrona quietly repeated the instructions that she had heard from Mary.  The others sang folk songs with joy and great anticipation.  In no time at all, digging right where Mary said to look, they uncovered the miraculous icon.  Suddenly, there was total silence.  People had fallen to their knees in astonishment and awe as they experienced the sacred Presence in the icon.  People spoke of a divine light that radiated forth from the painting of Our Lady of Kazan.

Thousands upon thousands gathered at the site of the apparition.  Even high-ranking clergy and aristocrats wept with amazement.  Almost immediately, miracles and healings occurred in the lives of those who gazed with reverence upon the holy icon.

The church in Kazan, Russia
The church in Kazan, Russia

It was safely housed in a convent especially constructed for it – and known throughout the Russian Empire as the Liberatrix and Protectress of Holy Mother Russia.  Peter the Great proudly carried it as his banner as he marched into battle against Russia’s enemies. During the reign of Alexander II, a magnificent basilica was constructed in Moscow (at Red Square) which housed the sacred icon.  Miracles and healings proliferated from its presence there.  But the Bolsheviks saw it as a threat to their philosophy and revolution, so on October 13, 1917 (the day of the Fatima Miracle!), they destroyed the Basilica of Our Lady of Kazan.  That same day at Fatima, Mary was telling the visionaries,

“If humanity does not turn back to God, Russia will spread errors and terrors worldwide.”

Somehow, the sacred icon had been saved and mysteriously removed from Russia — and discovered years later in a castle in England!  Seventy-five years after its destruction, the great basilica was reconstructed at Red Square.  The sacred icon has been housed at Fatima in a beautiful Byzantine-style Shrine, constructed especially for its time in exile.  On October 13, 1992, His Holiness Aleksey II announced that Russia looks forward to the “peace and abundance” that its anticipated return shall bring eventually.

 

Our Lady of Montallegro, Rapallo, Italy 1557

“Our Lady of Montallegro” RAPALLO, ITALY  (1557) 

On July 2, 1557, a farmer named Giovanni Chichizola was walking on a donkey trail on a wooded hill overlooking the city of Rapallo.  Coming upon a cool, shady spot, he paused for his noonday rest.  The sound of a sweet voice calling his name startled him to alertness.  There, standing close beside him, was a beautiful lady surrounded by an intense light.  The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him and reassured him by saying,

“Do not fear, Giovanni.  I am the Mother of God.  I have chosen you to be a messenger of my motherly will.  Visit the ecclesiastics of Rapallo and let them know that the Mother of God has chosen this place as her perpetual dwelling place and would like a church to be erected here.  I leave here a pledge of my love.”

The vision then directed his attention to a small picture propped against one of the rocks where he had been resting.

“Tell the people that this picture was brought here from Greece by the angels. I leave it here as a token of my love for them. Fast on Saturday.”

Virgin Mary leaves a painting with the visionary.
Virgin Mary leaves a painting with the visionary.

The vision then disappeared as if carried away in a cloud.  The farmer Giovanni studied the icon on the rock.  The picture depicts Our Blessed Mary lying on a bier at the time of her passing from this world on to the Heavenly Kingdom.  The Holy Trinity is represented by the figures in the central part of the icon.  Surrounding the Virgin in a mournful attitude are several saints and two angels.  Giovanni attempted to pick the icon up off the rock, but he could not budge it at all.  Much to his surprise, a spring had begun flowing from the dry ground by the rock – the exact spot where the Blessed Virgin had appeared.

He went to the village and told the people what had happened.  The priests to whom he told his story were skeptical, but because of Giovanni’s excitement they reluctantly followed him to the place of the apparition. There they saw the picture which none of the peasants could lift, and the spring which had mysteriously appeared.  One of the priests raised the portrait without difficulty and carried it in procession to the parish church, where it was carefully locked up pending further investigation.  But, the next morning, the icon had disappeared from the church – only to be found back on the rock up on the wooded hill.

Once again, the villagers brought the icon back down the hill and to the church where it was displayed all day to the veneration of many.  The people were impressed with the details of Giovanni’s experience.  At the end of that day the icon was locked away for safekeeping.  But they were surprised the next morning to find that it had disappeared again!  After a long search, the icon was discovered to be back up on the rock on the hill overlooking Rapallo.

All agreed that these supernatural journeys of the icon were a clear sign and indication that the Blessed Mother wished for the icon to remain in that particular place.  They believed that they should build her requested church on that spot so that it could house and protect the treasured icon.

The very next year in 1558, the Archbishop of Turin authorized the building of a church on the “Hill of Joy” where Mary’s visit had taken place.  Construction began immediately and during the following year the church opened and was dedicated to Our Blessed Mother.  For seventeen quiet years the precious icon was loved and venerated on the Hill of Joy.

The picture: Mary's passing on to heaven
The picture: Mary’s passing on to heaven

In 1574, a group of Greek sailors, sailing from Ragusa, experienced a bad storm while crossing the Gulf of Tigullio.  The ship’s captain, Nicholas de Allegretis, together with the crew, promised Our Lady that if they were saved, they would make a pilgrimage to the nearest sanctuary dedicated to her.  Upon safely reaching land, they climbed the hill to the sanctuary to fulfill their vow of thanksgiving.  It was then that they noticed the treasured icon, recognizing it and declaring that it was formerly venerated in Ragusa – but that it had mysteriously disappeared from there in 1557.  The Greeks claimed ownership, which resulted in court proceedings before the magistrate of Genoa.  Eventually, the icon was given back to the Greeks for safe transport to its original location in Ragusa.

The icon was taken to the port, boarded on the ship, and placed in a secure location.  The ship was well out to sea when the icon suddenly disappeared!  Eventually, the captain and his crew learned that the icon had reappeared back in the church on the hill where Our Lady had wanted it to stay.  All agreed this time that it should remain there out of respect for Blessed Mary’s wishes.

The Greeks reclaim the painting the angels borrowed
The Greeks reclaim the painting the angels borrowed

Every year, the 2nd of July is celebrated as “Apparition Day.”  The people of Rapallo travel to the Hill of Joy in a grand procession, carrying an ancient wooden crucifix and a silver shrine with the Mother’s statue.  Upon reaching the sanctuary, the first-time pilgrim is amazed by the huge collection of votive offerings and ex-votos, some of them in silver, which decorate the walls, giving proof of prayers answered and miracles worked through the Virgin’s intercession.  Records reveal that Our Lady’s intervention brought about deliverance from the plague in 1579, 1590 and 1630.  On these and other occasions, the people saw to it that Our Lady was thanked by means of votive plaques, hundreds of which still hang in the basilica.  The ex-votos became so numerous that galleries were built to accommodate them.  These additions to the sanctuary soon proved inadequate, since the plaques multiplied to such an extent that even the cloister and sacristy were covered with them.

The Sacred Congregation of Rites, in 1739, granted the plea of the city of Rapallo to name Our Lady of Montallegro as its patroness. Once again the shrine found acceptance with the Vatican when Our Lady of Montallegro was crowned in solemn ceremonies on July 7, 1767 by the Bishop of Ajaccio, Corsica.

In the chapel of St. Joseph can be found the spring that began flowing from the time of the apparition.  It is said to originate from the rock where the icon was originally found.  Today, the rock is found almost concealed at one side of the altar.  And what of the water from the miraculous spring?  A white marble trough with a faucet is provided for those who want to drink the water or collect it in bottles.  Just above the faucet is a small door through which the rock is visible.

Pilgrims can approach the site on foot by way of an old mule track or by cable car from Rapallo.  Pilgrims are intrigued with the beauty of the sanctuary and the treasured, miraculous icon – called Our Lady of Montallegro.  In the basilica which replaced the original chapel, the celebrated picture is enshrined in a pavilion behind the high altar.

Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of the State of the Vatican, joined in the celebration for the 450th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Montallegro in 2007.  The feast day of Our Lady is celebrated with great joy on the first three days of July each year.

Our Lady of Ocotlan, Tlaxcala, Mexico 1541

“Our Lady of Ocotlan” TLAXCALA, MEXICO  (1541) 

 Just ten years after Juan Diego was given the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, another Juan Diego in Tlaxcala, Mexico had a similar experience.  His full name was Juan Diego Bernardino.  Tlaxcala, once the most populous and largest city in the country, was suffering an epidemic of smallpox.  Estimates claim that nine out of every ten Indians died as a result of the infection.

To help Juan’s relatives who had been stricken with the disease in the village of Xiloxostla, Juan walked to the River Zahuapan to collect water that was thought to have medicinal properties.  After filling his jug with water, he made his way to the village through a thick grove of ocote trees.  He abruptly halted at the sight of a “beautiful woman” of regal bearing standing among the trees.  The reassuring smile of the Lady gave him the courage to draw closer to her.  With a heavenly voice she greeted him,

“May God preserve you, my son.  Where are you going?”

Juan Bernardino gets miraculous water from the Virgin
Juan Bernardino gets miraculous water from the Virgin

Overcome by the woman’s beauty and surprised at seeing her among the trees, Juan hesitated before he was able to reply,

“I was taking water from the river to my sick ones who are dying.”

“Come with me,” the Lady said, “and I will give you water to cure the disease.  It will cure not only your family, but all who will drink of it.  My heart is ever ready to help  those who are ill, for I cannot bear to see their misfortune.”

Anxious to obtain miraculous water that would cure his relatives, Juan followed the lady with happy anticipation.  When they came to a depression in the ground, the lady indicated a spring of fresh water.  In her soft, almost musical voice, she told Juan,

“Take as much of this water as you wish, and know that those who are touched by even   the smallest drop will obtain, not merely relief from their illness, but perfect health.”

Villagers find statue inside burned Ocote tree
Villagers find statue inside burned Ocote tree

Juan emptied his jug of the river water and filled it with the clear water of the spring.  Wanting to express his gratitude, he turned to the Lady, who then entrusted him with a message for the Franciscans at the Monastery of San Lorenzo where Juan was employed.

“Tell the religious for me that in this place they will find my image.  It will not only  manifest my perfections, but through it I shall generously bestow favors and kindness.
When they find the image, they are to place it in the chapel of San Lorenzo.”

When the Lady disappeared among the trees, Juan hurried to the village with his precious water.  Upon reaching the bedside of his afflicted relatives, he told them about the Lady and the miraculous spring, as well as her promise of health through use of the water.  Juan watched in amazement as the Lady’s word was realized when each was restored to health after drinking the miraculous water.

People parade the new statue to their church
People parade the new statue to their church

The next day, Juan returned to the monastery and told the friars of his experience.  After questioning him during the day, they decided that his story had merit and planned on visiting the place with Juan at night so as to avoid the curious.

Before reaching the place, they noticed a glow in the distance, and when they arrived, the grove of ocote trees was on fire.  The largest tree in the grove – and ONLY this one – was burning along its entire length.  Since nothing could be done, they left, but planned on returning after Holy Mass the next morning.  With the addition of some of the parishioners, they set out and found a puzzling situation.  The fire had destroyed only the lower branches of the surrounding trees.  The tallest tree, which had burned its entire length, was indeed blackened.  Why the dry summer heat had not destroyed the other trees in a similar manner remained a mystery.

One of the friars had fortunately brought an ax with him and was instructed by the abbot to chop down the trunk of the large tree.  A Mexican writer of that time left this report:

“A new marvel met their eyes.  Within the trunk of the fallen tree was visible the image   (statue) of the Holy Mother of God, representing the mystery of her Immaculate Conception – which can be seen today in the temple lovingly erected later by her      children …”

San Lorenzo church in Tlaxcala
San Lorenzo church in Tlaxcala

Thus, the tale of Juan Diego Bernardino was fully verified in the presence of many witnesses.  They agreed that the apparition of the Virgin Mary to her servant Juan Diego was a happy reality on the day that she showed him the medicinal water and sent him to advise the religious where they would find her sacred image.

With the singing of hymns, the statue was brought to the chapel in a grand procession.  The abbot removed the present statue of San Lorenzo and replaced it with the miraculous image of the Mother of God.  The Indian sacristan resented the removal of the statue of San Lorenzo and secretly transferred Our Lady’s statue to another location in the middle of the night.  But, the next morning, the statue of the Virgin Mary was found back on the altar where the abbot had originally placed it.  Determined to not be stopped, the sacristan again removed the statue of Mary the next night – and actually took it home with him.  But to his shock, the statue disappeared from his home and reappeared back on the altar in the church by the next morning.  Stubbornly, the sacristan was even more determined to stop this mischief.  On a third night, he hid the statue of Mary at the church in a cabinet with vestments – and then slept in front of it in order to catch the mischievous ones!  Once again, the beautiful God-given image of Our Lady escaped through supernatural means and appeared back on the altar where Blessed Mary had desired it to be placed.  The sacristan was now convinced that Our Lady’s wish to be placed on the altar should be respected.

Actual statue of Virgin Mary from inside the tree
Actual statue of Virgin Mary from inside the tree

Today, the original 58-inch tall statue of Our Lady is now found in a magnificent niche or Camarin above and behind the altar in the Basilica of the Virgin of Ocotlan.  From the earliest days the statue was called Nuestra Senora de Ocatlatia – which means Our Lady of the Burning Ocote (tree).  Now, it is simply called Our Lady of Ocotlan – Ocotlan being the Nahuatl word for “place of the pine tree.”  The beautiful statue of Our Lady is always dressed in costly vestments.  She wears a splendid golden crown which is surrounded by a halo of stars. The crown represents Our Lady’s coronation by the pope in the year 1906.

Among the persons of distinction who visited the miraculous statue was the Archbishop of Puebla, Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, who visited it in 1644, and Archbishop Diego de Osoria de Escobar, who honored the statue in 1670.

Additionally, the shrine of Our Lady was recognized by Pope Clement XII – who authorized a feast day for Our Lady of Ocotlan, and Benedict XIV — who raised the shrine to the status of a basilica and granted indulgences and Apostolic indults to the faithful who venerate the image.  Other popes who also recognized the apparition were Pius VI, Pius X, and Pius XII.

One of the most beautiful churches in Mexico enshrines the statue of Our Lady of Ocotlan.  Also of interest to visiting pilgrims is the place of the miraculous spring and the small chapel that stands in the ancient ocote grove where Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego Bernardino.

 

Our Lady of Mercy, Savona, Italy 1536

“Our Lady of Mercy” SAVONA, ITALY  (1536) 

 An elderly farmer named Antonio Botta was surprised to receive a visit from the Queen of Heaven on March 18, 1536.  The farmer described the Virgin Mary as being dressed in white and surrounded by a dazzling light.  The Blessed Virgin stood on a large rock overlooking a stream near the river Letimbro.  As he knelt reverently before Our Lady, Blessed Mary directed Antonio to go to his priest with the request that three Saturdays of fasting be observed, and that three processions be organized in honor of God and the Mother of Jesus.  Then Mary asked the farmer to return to this same place on the fourth Saturday to receive another message meant for the Curia and the people of Savona. When she vanished from his sight, a sweet fragrance of flowers lingered for some time.

Obeying the words of the Virgin Mary, Antonio went immediately to inform his local priest, Monsignor Bartholomew Zabreri, who then shared the message with the bishop of the diocese.  Although they were receptive to the requests of the Blessed Virgin based on the sincerity and humility of the elderly farmer, the mayor of the area, Genoese Doria, was not convinced.  He promptly summoned the farmer to the castle for questioning about the circumstances of Mary’s visit.  Legend states that during the interrogation of Antonio, some fishermen just off the coast of Savona saw three flames that rose high into the sky above the cathedral and the castle.

Antonio Botta stunned by Virgin Mary in 1536
Antonio Botta stunned by Virgin Mary in 1536

The second visit by the Blessed Virgin Mary happened as predicted on April 8, 1536, the fourth Saturday after the first appearance of Our Lady.  She appeared with the same brilliant illumination on the exact same location as in the first visit.  The elderly farmer, Antonio, recalled that she stood with outstretched hands extended downward in a gesture of mercy.  Once again, Our Lady asked him for the three Saturdays of fasting and the processions.  She praised the local fraternities and brotherhoods for their dissemination of the Word of God.  She urged Antonio and his countrymen to follow the Creed and disappeared after saying these words,

“Mercy, my son, not justice.”

News of this apparition spread quickly.  There was such an influx of pilgrims that a committee was formed to handle the increase in numbers.  Large sums of money donated by pilgrims resulted in plans being developed for the building of a place of worship.  Soon, a chapel at the site of the apparitions was authorized by Bishop Bartholomew Chiabrers on April 21, 1536.  Plans for the new church were also approved by the city council of Savona and Cardinal Spinola Horace on July 24 of that same year.  By August 11, 1536, the construction of the church was begun.

Four years later in 1540, Savona decreed that March 18 would be observed as an annual festival with a candle votive procession to the shrine.  Pope Pius VII was exiled to Savona by Napoleon from 1809-1812.  During those years he vowed that if he were released, he would crown the statue of Our Lady of Mercy.  The pope kept his promise, placing a royal diadem on the statue on May 10, 1815.  Pope Benedict XVI honored Savona and the church with a papal visit on May 17, 2008.

Our Lady Of The Three Ears, Orbey, France 1491

“Our Lady of the Three Ears” ORBEY, FRANCE  (1491) 

 Thierry Schoere was a blacksmith who lived in the village of Orbey.  On May 3, 1491, he was on his way to market when he stopped by an oak tree.  A fatal accident had occurred at that location, and the family had placed a crucifix on the tree where he had fallen.  Getting off his horse, Thierry knelt down to pray for the repose of the victim’s soul.

Suddenly, he was dazzled by a bright light.  In the brilliant light he could distinguish the figure of the Blessed Mother dressed in a long white veil.  She was holding three ears of corn in her right hand while the other hand held a clump of ice.  Without identifying herself, she began to speak,

“Arise, brave man.  See these ears?  These are the symbols of fine harvests that will reward virtuous and generous people and bring peace and contentment in the homes of faithful Christians.  As to the ice, it means hail, frost, flood, famine and all its attendant misery and desolation that will punish disbelievers with the gravity of their sins which tire the Divine Mercy.  Go down to the village and announce to all the people the meaning of these prophecies.”

Statue of Our Lady of Three Ears
Statue of Our Lady of Three Ears

When the vision disappeared, the blacksmith became terribly frightened, and, upon reaching the village, he said nothing – in disobedience of Our Lady’s wishes.  He went inside the market, purchased a sack of wheat, and started to prepare it for placement on his horse.

But the sack of wheat became uncommonly heavy and could not be lifted.  Even with the help of others, the sack could not be moved.  The villagers wondered if witchcraft was involved!  It was then that he remembered the words of the Virgin, and realizing the weight of the sack was a signal to him, he loudly shared the message that had been entrusted to him by Our Lady.  Many people heard the message spoken with sincerity and took it to heart, resolving to do better in the future.  When he had finished telling of his experience and the message given to him, he easily lifted the sack of wheat and secured it onto his horse, and left for home.

During the summer of that same year, a wooden chapel was built on the site of the apparition.  Pilgrims made their way there, and miracles were reported.  Eventually, this little church was enlarged with the addition of other buildings.  For many years, various religious Orders conducted services for the many pilgrims who came from all parts of the country, especially on May 3, the anniversary of the apparition.

For the 519th anniversary in 2010, special services were held, during which many ears of corn were blessed by several priests.  These priests, the Redemptorists, have cared for the shrine since 1911.  Four years after the original apparition, in 1495, after careful investigations were conducted, the bishop of Basel authorized worship at the shrine and all demonstrations of faith.

Madonna of Mount Berico, Vicenza, Italy (1426, 1428)

VICENZA, ITALY  (1426, 1428)  “Madonna of Mount Berico”

 There was so much pestilence and sickness between 1404 and 1428 in the region of Vicenza, Italy, that the population declined drastically from death or fleeing the area.  In those difficult years, Vincenza Passini (age 70) went up the hill each morning to bring food to her husband who worked in his small vineyard.  She led a simple, honest life with a heartfelt devotion to Blessed Mary.  She attended church regularly and was mindful of the poor.

Vincenza is stunned by Virgin Mary's appearance
Vincenza is stunned by Virgin Mary’s appearance

On March 7, 1426, at 9:00 a.m., Vincenza encountered a beautiful woman on her path up the hill.  She had “the likeness of a most beautiful queen with garments more resplendent than the sun, wreathed in a fragrance of a thousand scents.”  Overcome by the beauty of the woman, she fell to the ground.  The beautiful woman spoke:

“I am the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ who died on the Cross for the salvation of men.  I beg you to go and say in my name to the people of Vicenza that they must build in this place a church in my honor if they want to recover their health.  Otherwise, the plague will not cease.”

Vincenza wept with joy, kneeling in front of the Madonna.  But then she asked her,

“But the people will not believe me.  And where, O glorious Mother, will we find the money to do these things?”

The Virgin Mary replied,

“You will insist so that my people do my will, otherwise they will never be rid of the plague – and, until they obey, they will see My Son angry with them.  As proof of what I say, let them dig here, and from the rock, living water will spring.  As soon as the building begins, money will not lack.”

After saying this, Blessed Mary took a twig, and with a graceful movement, traced the Sign of the Cross on the ground.  Then she also drew the shape of the church to be built.  Finally, she planted the twig in the ground where the high altar of the shrine stands today.

“All those who visit this church with devotion on My feast days and on every first Sunday of the month, will be given an abundance of grace and the Mercy of God and the blessing of My Motherly hands.”

Vincenza immediately obeyed the beautiful woman and began telling everyone that she met.  But, she soon realized that nobody believed her!  The plague was foremost on everybody’s minds.  Even Bishop Pietro Emiliani gave little credence to her story.  So, as Mary predicted, the plague raged on.  Vincenza resumed her work, performed deeds of charity, and climbed the hill on feast days to pray on the spot where Madonna had appeared.

Our Lady of Mt. Berico
Our Lady of Mt. Berico

On August 1, 1428, the Virgin Mary appeared again to Vincenza.  She repeated her previous warning and recommendation for the health of the people.  Because of the horrific conditions of the ongoing plague, the people chose to believe her this time.  The Hall of Government decided to build a church on Mount Berico, beginning construction just 24 hours after this last apparition!  As soon as the church was completed, the plague disappeared, and the region no longer suffered from it.

The Lady had spoken of water that would spring from a rock at the place where the shrine was to be built.  While digging in the ground, “a wonderful and incredible quantity of water welled out like a spring … overflowing like an abundant river that ran down the hill with great noise.”

Virgin's statue behind altar in church
Virgin’s statue behind altar in church

A beautiful statue of the Madonna of Mount Berico is enthroned in the shrine.  It is “an imperious image in marble, painted with skill in various and precious colors.”  It depicts the Madonna with an open smile.  Her head is framed by curls, and she wears a gold-decorated veil, a gold-colored dress with a greenish, gold-edged mantle.  Figures of children, women, and men are huddled beneath the mantle that drapes over the Virgin’s extended arms.  She also wears necklaces and a golden crown that was placed there by Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto, the Patriarch of Venice – who later became Pope Pius X.

During the First World War, the city of Vicenza was behind enemy lines.  Thoroughly frightened, the people made a solemn vow to the Madonna of Mount Berico, promising that if they and their lands remained safe, they would observe the birthday of the Madonna every year in a special way.  She granted their prayers, so every year on September 8, great crowds visit the sanctuary to offer their gratitude.  People also honored her wish for devotion on First Sundays of every month, so two large chapels were added to this grand basilica in 1972 along with thirty additional confessionals.  The Servants of Mary took possession of the shrine in 1435 and are still ministering to pilgrims today, almost 600 years later.

On his visit on January 11, 1978, Pope Paul VI announced:

“We decree that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary be honored with the name of Madonna of Mount Berico, and that from now on truly be the principal patron, next to God, of the city and diocese of Vicenza.”

On August 22, 2000, Pope John Paul II sent a message to the Patriarch of Venice, recounting his own visit to the Madonna of Mount Berico:

“I, too, had the joy of making a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Mount Berico on 7-8 September, 1991, to ask the Blessed Virgin to bless the people of the area and to show herself to be the tender and provident Mother of those who suffer and those who long for justice and peace.”

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City, 1531

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (1531) “Our Lady of Guadalupe”

Juan Diego (57) was a farm worker and mat maker who had lost his beloved wife and had only one surviving relative, an uncle, Juan Bernardino. He was one of 15 million Aztec Indians who had new freedoms after the Spanish conquistadors had overrun the ruthless Aztec chieftains. On December 9, 1531, he was traveling his daily route past the hill of Tepeyac when he saw a cloud encircled with a rainbow of colors and heard strange music. A woman’s voice was calling above the music. Ascending the crest of the hill he encountered a strikingly beautiful woman standing there, beckoning to him. She radiated such light and joy that he dropped to his knees and smiled at her in wonderment. The leaves of plants were aglow; the bushes and trees shone like polished gold. She spoke seriously yet lovingly with him:

“You must know and be very certain in your heart, my son, that I am truly the perpetual and perfect Virgin Mary, holy Mother of the true God through whom everything lives,the Creator and Master of Heaven and Earth. I wish and intensely desire that in this place my sanctuary be erected so that in it I may show and make known and give all my love, my compassion, my help, and my protection to the people. I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have     confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate their suffering, necessities, and misfortunes. And so that my intention may be made known, you must go to the house of the bishop of Mexico and tell him that I sent you, and that it is my desire to have a sanctuary built here.”

Virgin Mary appears to Juan Diego
Virgin Mary appears to Juan Diego

He immediately went at that early hour of dawn to the bishop’s house and was reluctantly received. The bishop, Don Zumarraga, listened respectfully but did not really believe him and told him to return in a few days after he thought about it. Juan Diego could sense his disbelief and became disillusioned when he left. But on the road home, the Lady appeared a second time. He was ashamed and suggested that she get somebody more influential for this job. But she smiled and reassured him that he would be successful. Holding his trembling hands in hers, she said,

“My little son, there are many that I could send to the Bishop. But you are the one whom I have chosen for this assignment. One day all will know my love for you and all my little children. Tomorrow morning you must return to the Bishop and express again my great desire for a church in this place.”

On the next day after Mass, he returned to the bishop’s house but was told to now provide proof that this was indeed the Virgin Mary and that she really wanted a church built on Tepeyac Hill. The bishop sent two servants to secretly follow him but they said he disappeared into thin air before their eyes. Juan Diego had actually entered the mystical realm of Mary as she appeared to him a third time and agreed to give him that desired “proof” on the next day.

“My little son, am I not your Mother? Do not fear. The Bishop shall have his sign. Come back to this place tomorrow. Only peace, my little son.”

He was overjoyed — but that was short-lived as he found his uncle — his only living relative — gravely ill upon returning home. As he could not leave his uncle’s side the next day, he was forced to not show up for Mary to receive the sign of proof she had promised. He felt horrible, but when he did manage to get out on the following day, he took a different route, hoping to not run into her. However, he suddenly ran into her, face-to-face. He begged her forgiveness and told her about his sick uncle. She reassured him with these words:

“Listen and be sure, my dear son, that I will protect you. Do not be frightened or    grieved or let your heart be dismayed however great the illness may be that you speak of. Am I not here, I who am your Mother, and is not my help a refuge? Am I not of your kind? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Do not be concerned about your uncle’s illness, for he is not going to die. Be assured, he is already well. Is there anything else you need?”

Miraculous roses growing in Winter
Miraculous roses growing in Winter

She directed him to climb to the top of the barren Tepeyac Hill where he would find roses growing miraculously among the thistles and thornbush in the winter. There was a lush abundance of every color of rose. He picked them and carried them to the Blessed Mother, and she arranged them in his cloak, which he then folded shut for his journey to the bishop’s house.

“My little son, this is the sign I am sending to the Bishop. Tell him that with this sign I request his greatest efforts to complete the church I desire in this place. Show these flowers to no one else but the Bishop. You are my trusted Ambassador. This time the Bishop will believe all that you tell him.”

This was the fourth and last time he would see her. The bishop was actually eager to see what miracle had been brought to him, but not even Juan Diego was prepared for what was about to happen. As he unfolded his cloak to dump the multi-colored winter roses before the bishop, they were all stunned to see a beautiful image of the Virgin Mary imprinted on the rough cactus fiber of his cloak! The bishop fell to his knees in reverence and from that moment forth, all worshipped and adored this treasure.

When Juan Diego returned home, he found his uncle completely healed and telling of a visit that he had had with the Virgin Mary. She told of a temple that would be built on Tepeyac Hill and that her image should be called “Our Lady of Guadalupe” — although the uncle did not know yet what image she was talking about.

Ordinarily, the cloth of Juan Diego’s tilma or cloak should have deteriorated in twenty to thirty years. It is made from the maguey cactus plant and is something like burlap, rough and lattice-like. The material is called ayate and is ill-suited for use as a canvas for painting. It is actually made up of two pieces sewn together lengthwise and held together by a single cotton thread. An effort to make a replica of the cloth and image to test its true durability failed miserably — as it deteriorated badly within 15 years. The original cloth and image will be nearly 500 years old soon! And the image is as fresh as ever.

Cloak reveals miraculous image
Cloak reveals miraculous image

The Indians in Mexico saw something in the image of Our Lady that the Spaniards did not comprehend. In that period, the Indians did their writing in hieroglyphics, so to them the image was a “hieroglyphic letter.” The fact that the natives “read” the picture is most important in understanding the purpose of Our Lady’s apparition. To the Indians, the image depicted a beautiful Lady standing in front of the sun – a sign to them that she was greater than the sun god (Huitzilopochtli), whom they worshipped. The crescent beneath her feet showed that their moon god (Tezcatlipoca) was less than nothing since she was standing on it. The Indians noted that the Lady was not of this world, for a young child with wings was holding her aloft with his two arms. At her throat was a brooch with a small black cross in the center, reminding them that this was the emblem of the Spanish Friars – and there was One greater than she. The “reading” of this sacred image brought whole tribes from all over Mexico, led by their chiefs and rulers, to be received into the Faith. The significance of her words, the meaning of her garments, and her whole appearance on Juan Diego’s tilma were perfectly clear to the Indians. And so it happened that the worship of pagan idols was overcome.

The Spaniards were quick to notice that Our Lady was the woman of the Apocalypse – “clothed in the sun and the moon under her feet.” The Spanish word “Guadalupe” is similar in sound to Aztec words meaning “she who will crush the serpent.” “Coatl” means snake; “llope” means tread on – or “Who treads on the snake.”

Miguel Cabrera, a famous Mexican artist, was commissioned along with six other artists to examine it in 1750. After a very careful examination in great detail, they concluded that it had been created in a “miraculous” fashion – not by any human artist!

Original 1531 image on cloak today
Original 1531 image on cloak today

In 1754, Pope Benedict XIV wrote,

“In it everything is miraculous: an Image emanating from flowers gathered on completely barren soil on which only prickly shrubs can grow; an Image entrusted to a fabric so thin that through it the nave and the people can be seen as easily as through a trellis; an Image in no matter deteriorated, neither in her supreme loveliness, nor in its sparkling colors, by the niter or the neighboring lake, which however, corrodes silver, gold, and brass … God has not done likewise to any other nation.”

For the first 116 years, it was unprotected by glass. People freely kissed it, rubbed it, and touched objects to it. In 1753 it was removed from its glass protection for just two hours. But at least 500 people filed by and touched the frail cloth with many objects like sharp-edged crosses, medals, swords, and rosaries – yet no harm came to it.

In November of 1921, a bomb was secretly planted in a bouquet of flowers that was placed on the altar – just beneath the divine image hanging above it. The bomb exploded with such force that it blew out windows in the old Basilica, shattered the marble altar, and twisted a large bronze crucifix. Yet, the image of Our Lady and the glass enclosing this sacred treasure were completely unharmed and safe – despite its location right above the bomb.

Father James Meehan and Dr. Charles Wahlig examined the sacred image in 1975. They reported that the image does not impregnate the threads of the cloth, but lies on top – something like the emulsion of a photographic print. They state, “The picture defies human explanation. Its artistic source is outside human capabilities. It is a miracle.”

In 1979 — 448 years later — Dr. Philip Callahan, an infrared specialist and biophysicist, scientifically analyzed the Guadalupe image. He found the pigments to be authentic for that period in time but amazingly well preserved, whereas later added embellishments were fading, cracking, and deteriorating while the original image appears to have never aged at all. There were no preliminary sketched lines underneath the painting as could be expected in a hoax. Careful examination with a magnifying glass revealed NO brush marks and no deterioration or cracks in the coloring material.

His greatest discovery came with the enlarged photos of her eyes, revealing the reflection of a man’s image — that resembling the image of Juan Diego! An esteemed opthalmologist, Dr. Javier Torella-Bueno, noted that this image is located and distorted in the precise position that such a real reflection would have occurred on the curvature of an eyeball. Dr. Rafael Torija-Lavoignet adds,

“It is impossible to attribute to chance, to a textile accident or the pictorial matter this extraordinary coincidence between the localization of the reflections in the Virgin’s eyes and the most elaborate and up-to-date laws of optical physiology…”

Over the years, many healing miracles have been documented regarding those who came before her image. The image has also been observed to have been weeping tears.

Pope John Paul II beatified Juan Diego in 1990 and raised him to sainthood in 2002. The great Basilica of Mexico City was built on Tepeyac Hill and houses the divine image today. Our Lady of Guadalupe inspired over nine million conversions in Mexico!

Our Lady of the Guard, Genoa, 1490

GENOA, ITALY  (1490)  “Our Lady of the Guard”

Just north of Genoa, Italy, is a tall mountain named Mount Figogna.  Numerous church buildings exist on top of this mountain whose history involves a peasant named Benedict Pareto.  On August 29, 1490, Benedict was grazing his flock on the mountain when his attention was drawn to a brilliant movement of light.  Within this heavenly glow was the image of a woman holding a child on her arm.  Although he did not know who she was, he felt compelled to kneel as she approached him.  Standing before him, the “beautiful lady” assured him with these words:

“Do not be afraid.  I am the Queen of Heaven and have come to you with My Divine Son for this reason:  You are to arrange for a church to be built on this spot, to be dedicated in My name.”

Poor Benedict protested that he had no money with which to build a church.  But the Lady calmed his confusion with these words:

“Trust me, Benedict.  The money will not be lacking.  Only your good will is needed. With My aid, all will be easy.”

Then Benedict watched as the apparition slowly faded.  After he recovered from the sweetness and beauty of the apparition, he felt a great urgency to tell others.  He ran back down the hill toward his home and met his wife on the way.  But she mocked him, disbelieving, and said that he must be suffering from sunstroke.  He continued running, excitedly, down the mountain path to tell the parish priest.  The priest and Benedict’s neighbors were all skeptical upon hearing his story.

The following day, Benedict climbed a fig tree to pick fruit, but the branch to which he was clinging snapped off, and he fell.  Friends carried him home where it was learned that he had broken a number of bones and suffered severe internal injuries.  Due to his serious condition, he was given the Last Sacraments or Last Rites by the priest.  Now he feared that he would be unable to spread Our Lady’s request to the proper individuals.  Grieving these circumstances, he promised that if the Blessed Virgin would help save his life, he would make certain that the church would be built.

Notre Dame De La Garde Statue
Notre Dame De La Garde Statue

Blessed Mary appeared to him again and repeated her request for a church to be built at the place of her first appearance on the mountain.  She scolded him for his lack of faith and indicated that his fall from the tree was punishment for allowing his wife to persuade him that his vision had only been an illusion.  Our Lady stretched out her hand towards him and then vanished.  When she left, he was instantly cured!

When his neighbors, who knew the severity of his injuries, observed his immediate cure, they replaced their doubts and skepticism with wholehearted belief.  With approval from the priest, they began collecting money for the building of a small chapel on Mount Figogna.  The church became popular so quickly that it had to be extended — and by 1530 it needed to be completely replaced by a bigger church.

In 1582 the shrine was visited by the Bishop of Novarra, who gave his approval for the apparitions, commended the people for their piety – and especially praised the high altar and the image of the Blessed Virgin carved on it.  In 1604 a commission of inquiry into the apparitions was opened by the Archbishop of Genoa.  The shrine was again authenticated and given the name Madonna della Guardia – Our Lady of the Guard-post.  The Confraternity of Our Lady of the Rosary was established there in 1598.  In 1614 a Company of the Glorious Virgin of Carmel was founded.

Of all the miracles attributed to Our Lady of the Guard, the most famous is that which took place in 1625.  Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, marched on Genoa with an army of 14,000 men.  Knowing that they were outnumbered, a saintly Capuchin lay brother, Fra Tomaso da Trebbiano, urged the people to pray to Our Lady of the Guard for protection.  The next day, when Charles’s huge army marched confidently towards the city, it was repulsed by a few hundred, poorly-armed, local peasants who had been sent into battle with religious fervor and the blessing of their priest.  It was seen as a miracle!

In gratitude, the people erected a bell tower at the shrine.  On the Feast of the Assumption in 1632, a marble statue of the Blessed Virgin was set up over the high altar in the chapel that marked the location of the first apparition.  In 1654 this became the first Marian shrine to institute the ritual of the Solemn Coronation of Our Lady – a joyful celebration in which thousands of pilgrims climbed to the top of the hill, sang and prayed as the crown was placed on the head of the marble statue.

Madonna della Guardia
Madonna della Guardia

Many miraculous cures associated with Our Lady della Guardia have been officially authenticated.  In 1727, for example, Father Giuseppe Maria Sabelli was dying of tuberculosis.  He was half paralyzed and highly feverish when he heard Our Lady call out to him with these words,

Come to me at della Guardia and I will restore you.”

On July 26, 1727, the Feast of St. Anne, his friends carried him up the mountain and laid him in the church to receive the Blessed Sacrament.  As he lay there, he heard a melodious voice call to him,

“Stand up!  I am the physician who has healed you.  Let everyone know you are well  again.”

Father Giuseppe stood up, and everyone saw that he was completely cured!

A second statue is found on the wayside chapel of St. Pantaleon on the mountainside.  A third and wooden statue is found in the church on Mount Figogna.  In 1894, Pope Leo XIII commanded that a formal coronation of that statue take place.  The basilica of della Guardia was built in 1923; the greatest day in its calendar is August 29 when there are colorful celebrations and torch-lit processions at night to commemorate Benedict Pareto’s original encounter.  The walls of the church are inlaid with marble with the perpetually-lit, crowned, marble statue of Mary in its niche near the high altar.  Six popes from Clement XVI to Benedict XVI have honored the shrine in various ways.