Nick-named “The Black Madonna,” Our Lady of Czestochowa was reputedly painted by St. Luke. Legend suggests that he painted it on a cedar table top from the house of the Holy Family. However, it was centuries of soot from votive candles in front of the painting that caused it to slowly turn black. It is said that St. Helena discovered it in Jerusalem in the year 326. She took it to Constantinople to present it to her son, Constantine the Great. It was then displayed for veneration by the public. Known also as the Queen of Poland, this great icon has preserved the faith of the Polish people and is believed to be responsible for miraculous interventions in the history of Poland.
In 1382, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Wladyslaw Opolczyk, Duke of Opole, advisor to Louis of Anjou, King of Poland and Hungary (who now possessed the painting), asking him to place it in the mountaintop monastery of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa. The prince did exactly as the beautiful Virgin Mary asked. The icon soon became the source of numerous miracles recorded in a book at the monastery.
In 1430, the Tatars took control over Jasna Gora. The Hussites stormed the monastery in 1430 and plundered the sanctuary. They stole the treasured painting and carried it away. But when the Hussites placed it in their wagon, the horses refused to move. Frustrated, one man threw the painting to the ground and struck it with his sword. He inflicted two deep slashes on the face of the Madonna. When he tried to strike the painting a third time, he fell down in unusual agony and writhed in pain until he died.
Artists have tried to paint over the slashes and fix the appearance of Blessed Mary, but the slashes refuse to be covered over with each attempt. After awhile they would strangely reappear.
During the religious wars of the 17th century, the Protestant and Catholic powers vied for dominance in Europe. In 1655, King Charles X Gustav of Sweden launched an invasion known as the Deluge. Protestant Swedish soldiers soon overran Catholic Poland, desecrating churches and plundering the countryside. The monastery of Jasna Gora (Polish for “Bright Mountain”) stood like a bastion in the medieval city of Czestochowa, the last remaining holdout. The King of Sweden ordered General Burchard Miller to take over 2,250 soldiers and 19 cannons to take this last fortress. Jasna Gora only had 70 religious, a handful of nobles and their servants, plus 160 infantrymen.
But they also had Our Lady of Czestochowa – the “Black Madonna” painting.
Father Augustyn Kordecki struck the thick table with his clenched fist, “We must NOT let them take her!” Others agreed and stood firm to defend her with their lives. The monks unanimously approved, “It is better to die worthily than to live impiously.” Father Kordecki encouraged everyone to believe that the Blessed Virgin “who in such an extreme necessity would not fail them with her help.” He ordered that the Blessed Sacrament be carried in procession along the walls and bastions. Father Kordecki personally blessed the cannons, cannonballs, bullets, and barrels of powder.
General Burchard Miller sent a written peace proposal to “avoid unnecessary bloodshed” but Jasna Gora answered with fierce cannonfire. The General sent another delegate to plead for a truce because the Polish resistance was foolish since the rest of the country had already surrendered. After taking time to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady that Sunday, Jasna Gora again responded with an emphatic “No!”
Infuriated, the Swedish Protestant army began a furious assault for three days on Jasna Gora. Yet, in the midst of the noisy bombardment, a pious and sacred hymn was mysteriously heard coming from the height of the tower of the sanctuary. None of the religious were responsible for this supernatural music. This encouraged the defenders to fight even harder! From that time on, it was typical to hear the beautiful hymns emanating from the majestic tower during fierce battles.
A bomb was launched by the Swedes toward that tower and chapel where the miraculous painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa hung. But the bomb was “turned back toward the enemy as if it had been touched by an invisible force, spreading a terrible fire through the air.”
Frustrated by failed efforts to acquire a treaty or surrender, General Miller stepped up the attack with a brutal bombardment of the monastery. It was like “hell itself was vomiting against the sacred icon.” Meanwhile, the monks carried the Holy Eucharist in a procession along the walls with cannoballs flying right past their heads. With winter coming on harshly now, the Swedes had to light bonfires at night to stay warm – making them easy lit-up targets for cannonfire to strike from Jasna Gora. Their movements also showed up easily against the white snow, adding to their vulnerability to be targeted. At one point a fog helped the Swedes to secretly advance. But a monk chose to “cry out for help from the powers of God against the spells of the enemy.” This tactic cleared the fog away and exposed the Swedes again.
Some of the nobles in Jasna Gora began thinking they should make peace while they were still able to. But Father Kordecki replied,
“But the enemy will not concede all that we demand. We desire that the place consecrated to the Virgin Most Pure never be stained by the impious feet of the heretics. You, dear sirs, overcome by adversities, desire to reach an accord so that, relieving yourselves of the unhappiness of the siege and the discomforts of the war, you will then be able to enjoy an agreeable peace … Do you think that, if we surrender, you will be free? The capitulation will become for you, then, a spring of misfortunes and defeats. But if, on the contrary, bearing the slight inconveniences, we overcome the obstinacy of our enemies with the help of God, then we should surely win a certain stable peace.”
With the Swedes getting some reinforcements and bigger guns from Krakow, the attack became fiercer on Christmas Day. Cannonballs actually broke through the walls and bounced around the corridors and stairways, creating must debris and dust. By sundown the biggest gun was mysteriously silenced. An eyewitness reported that the last shot from the cannon had bounced back from the wall, hitting the cannon and destroying it as well as killing the gunner. The celebration of Christmas was never interrupted by war.
The Swedes finally retreated, stating that Jasna Gora had been defended “miraculously.” General Miller revealed later that what convinced him to withdraw was a strange visit by a noble lady. Her words and menacing face severely warned him. This was undoubtedly the Blessed Virgin’s visit to him.
Other stories surfaced from the Swedes of sightings of the Virgin Mary.
“What witch is this that is to be found in your cloister of Czestochowa, who, covered with a blue mantle, sallies from the cloister and walks the walls, resting from time to time on the bastions – and whose sight makes our people drop with terror?”
Father Kordecki writes,
“The Swedes affirmed that some of them saw a Lady on the walls, pointing the cannons and furnishing with her own hands the necessary arms to the defenders who were in the trenches.”
Another reliable source offered this account:
“General Miller observed with great attention, here in the church, the picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa, and since his interpreter asked us to give him a small copy of the image, we gave it to him, and Miller took it from his hands. Thus it became clear to us that General Miller wanted to find out if the vision he had seen that night was similar to the picture”.
Upon viewing the picture, General Miller said,
“It is absolutely not comparable to that virgin who appeared to me – for it is not possible to see anything comparable on earth. Something of the celestial and divine, which frightened me from the beginning, shone in her face.”
The King of Poland then proclaimed the Blessed Virgin to be the Queen and Mother of Poland in an elegant and emotional declaration.
On September 14, 1920, the Russian army was camping on the banks of the River Vistula and was on the verge of attacking Warsaw. It is believed that the Russians changed their plans and withdrew when they encountered a vision of the Blessed Virgin in the skies over Warsaw. And when the Germans left Poland in 1945, they tried to blow up Jasna Gora and its precious icon – but without any success for some unknown reason.
Claude Newman was a twenty-year old African American who was sitting on Death Row in a Mississippi prison in 1943. His crime was that of ambushing and shooting a man named Sid Cook – the abusive and horrible second husband of his beloved grandmother. Although the murder may have felt emotionally justified, Claude found himself, nevertheless, awaiting execution in this Mississippi prison near Vicksburg.
One day, he noticed a medal hanging around the neck of a fellow prisoner. Claude asked the young man what it was. The other prisoner responded by cursing and throwing the medal to the ground. “Take it,” he said. The medal was a Miraculous Medal of Our Lady of Graces. Claude knew nothing about it, who was actually pictured on it, or what it represented. Nevertheless, Claude picked up the oval trinket and hung it around his neck.
During that night, Claude was awakened by a touch on his wrist. Looking around he beheld a glowing supernatural vision – “the most beautiful woman that God ever created.” The lady calmed the frightened prisoner and said,
“If you would like me to be your Mother, and you My child, send for a priest of the Catholic Church.”
Then the “beautiful woman” simply vanished. “A ghost! A ghost!” screamed Claude. He begged and pleaded for a Catholic priest to come see him.
The next morning, Father Robert O’Leary, SVD, was summoned (This priest was the one who preserved these details and documented these events.) After listening to the extraordinary experience that Claude described, the priest discovered that Claude was illiterate and knew nearly nothing about religion. So, the priest began to slowly and carefully teach him about the Catholic faith. Four other prisoners, who were deeply impressed by Claude’s experience and details, joined into the teachings of Catholicism. Occasionally, two sisters from Father O’Leary’s church joined the catechetical team to teach these inmates.
Several weeks later, when Father introduced the sacrament of Confession, Claude unexpectedly blurted out,
“Oh, I know about that! The Lady told me that when we go to Confession, we are kneeling down not before a priest, but before the cross of Her Son. And that when we are truly sorry for our sins, and we confess our sins, the Blood He shed flows down over us and washes us free from all sins.”
The priest and nuns were stunned at this new revelation coming out of Claude’s mouth. Seeing their shock and surprise, Claude heartily apologized,
“Oh, don’t be angry – don’t be angry. I didn’t mean to blurt it out!”
Assuring Claude that he was far from angry, Father O’Leary asked Claude if he had seen the Lady again. Taking the priest aside, Claude admitted that he had.
“She told me that if you doubted me or showed hesitancy, I was to remind you that lying in a ditch in Holland (during the war) in 1940, you made a vow to Her which She’s still waiting for you to keep.”
This truth of this amazing revelation firmly convinced Father O’Leary of the authenticity of Claude’s experiences. In fact, during the war, Father O’Leary had prayed through Blessed Mary’s intercession for his own survival – promising to build a church in honor of the Immaculate Conception if he lived to do so. There was no way that this prisoner on Death Row could have known about that priest’s prayerful promise in 1940. And the Virgin Mary – through Claude – was correct. Father O’Leary had not built that promised church yet. With new inspiration and determination, this priest made sure that the church was finally built. His promise was fulfilled with its completion in 1947, and it is still standing today in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
As Father O’Leary and Claude Newman returned to the class on Confession, Claude told his classmates,
“You should not be afraid of Confession. You’re really telling God your sins, not the priest. You know, the Lady said that Confession is something like a telephone. We talk through the priest to God, and God talks back to us through the priest.”
About a week later, when Father O’Leary and the sisters were preparing to teach on the Blessed Sacrament, Claude asked if he could share what the Lady had told him about the Eucharist. The catechist joyfully acquiesced, and Claude shared with everyone,
“The Lady told me that in Communion, I will only see what looks like a piece of bread. But she told me that it is really and truly Her Son, and that He will be with me just as He was with Her before He was born in Bethlehem. She told me that I should spend my time like She did during Her lifetime with Him, in loving Him, adoring Him, thanking Him, praising Him, and asking Him for blessings. I shouldn’t be distracted or bothered by anybody else or anything else, but I should spend those few minutes in my thoughts alone with Him.”
Finally, the catechumens (inmates) were received into the Church. The baptismal records of St. Mary’s parish in Vicksburg record Claude’s baptismal day as January 16, 1944. He was actually scheduled for execution just four days later on January 20th.
As Sheriff Williamson asked Claude Newman if he had any last requests, he could not believe what the young prisoner told him:
“Well, all my friends are all shook up. The jailor is all shook up. But you don’t understand. I’m not going to die – only this body is. I’m going to be with Her. So, then I would like to have a party.”
And so, Claude Newman had his party with cake and ice cream, and his fellow inmates were allowed to attend.
On the morning of his execution, Claude was full of joy. As he prepared with Father O’Leary, Sheriff Williamson rushed in, shouting that the governor had granted a two-week reprieve. To the sheriff’s amazement, Claude broke down in tears, sobbing and crying inconsolably. Through his tears he said,
“But you don’t understand! If you ever saw Her face and looked into Her eyes, you wouldn’t want to live another day (without Her)! What have I done wrong these past weeks that God would refuse me my going home? Why must I still remain here for two weeks?”
Then Father O’Leary had an inspiration – and perhaps a reason why. There was another prisoner, James Hughs, also on death row for murder. Despite having been raised Catholic, he had led a horribly immoral life. Furthermore, James had a particular hatred for Claude and all priests as well.
Father O’Leary proposed to Claude that he offer his disappointment on not being executed that day for the conversion of James Hughs. Claude spent his final two weeks generously offering his prayers for the salvation of his troubled fellow inmate.
Finally, Claude Newman was executed on February 4, 1944. Father O’Leary testified,
“I have never seen anybody go to his death as joyfully and as happily. Even the official witnesses and the newspaper reporters were amazed. They said they couldn’t understand how anyone could sit in the electric chair beaming with happiness.”
When the time came for James Hughs to be executed, he violently refused all spiritual assistance, cursing and blaspheming – even while seated on the electric chair. Had Claude’s prayerful efforts all been in vain? The sheriff asked James if he had any last words. Suddenly, looking to a corner of the room, there was a surprised – then horrified, look on his face. James suddenly shouted, “Get me a priest!”
Father O’Leary was in the room, so he approached James and heard his full confession. Then, Sheriff Williamson, who could not bear his own curiosity, asked the condemned man what was in the corner. James explained that he had seen Claude Newman with the Blessed Virgin standing behind him with her hands on his shoulders. Claude had obtained from Our Lady that James be given a glimpse of his place in hell — where he was about to go! What James saw filled him with such horror that he screamed for the priest. Having confessed his sins, he could now die in peace.
Once again, the simple wearing of the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady of Graces called down Our Lady’s maternal gaze, saving not just the soul of Claude Newman, but of many souls in that Mississippi prison.
In Loreto, Italy, a small house enclosed in a grand basilica is believed to be the house where the Virgin Mary lived and raised Jesus. On May 12th of 1291, the angels moved the house to a small town named Tersatto in Croatia. Very early in the morning the neighbors discovered it, and they were astonished to see this house without a foundation. They could not explain how it arrived there. Some days later, the Virgin Mary appeared to a priest of that place and explained to him where the house came from. She said,
“You should know that the house that was recently brought to your land is the same house in which I was born and grew up. Here, in the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel, I conceived the Creator of all things. Here, the Word became flesh. The altar that was moved with the house was consecrated by Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. This house has come from Nazareth to your land by the power of God for whom nothing is impossible. Now, so that you can give a testimony of this, be healed. Your unexpected and sudden healing will confirm the truth that I have declared to you today.”
The priest who had been sick for a long time was healed immediately and announced to the people about the miracle that had occurred. Pilgrimages to the Holy House began. The residents of this small town built a simple building over the Holy House to protect it from the elements of nature.
After the three years and seven months, the house disappeared from Tersatto on the night of December 10, 1294 — never to return again. On that same day of December 10, some shepherds in the region of Loreto, Italy reported to have seen a house flying over the ocean, held by angels. There was an angel dressed with a red cape (St. Michael) who directed the others; the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus were seated on the house. The angels lowered the house on the place named Banderuola. Many arrived to visit this holy house, but there were also some who went to mug the pilgrims. For this reason, people stopped going there, and the house was again moved by the angels to a hill in the middle of a farm. The Holy House would not remain there for much longer either. The farm belonged to two brothers who began to argue over who was the owner of the house.
For a third time the house was moved to another hill, placing it in the middle of the path. This is the place that it has occupied for 700 years. The residents of Recanati and Loreto truly did not know the story of the Holy House; they only knew of the miracles that took place there. Two years later, the Virgin Mary appeared to a hermit named Paul, and she told him the origin and the history of the Holy House:
“It was kept in the city of Nazareth until — with the permission of God — those who honored this house were thrown out by the enemies. Since it was no longer honored and it was in danger of being profaned, my Son wanted to transfer it from Nazareth to Yugoslavia and from there to your land.”
Paul then told this story to the townspeople and they began a process to verify the authenticity of the house. They first went to Tersatto and later to Nazareth. All of the descriptions of the interior elements and other details correlated. In Nazareth they discovered that it truly was the house of the Virgin Mary. The measurements of its foundation (left behind) were exactly the same as those of the little house in Loreto.
A story recounts that the Bishop of Portugal visited the Holy House and wanted to take a stone to build a church in honor of the Virgin of Loreto. The Pope gave him permission, so the Bishop sent his secretary to remove the stone and take it back with him. The Bishop suddenly became sick — and when his secretary arrived, the Bishop was almost dead. The Bishop asked a few religious sisters to pray for him and, some days later, he received this message, “Our Lady says: ‘If the Bishop wants to recover, he should return to the Virgin Mary what he has taken from her’.” The secretary and Bishop were astonished about this since no one had known about the stone being taken from the Holy House. The secretary departed immediately to Loreto with the stone. When the secretary returned, the Bishop had been completely healed. For this reason, over the centuries, the Popes have prohibited the removal of any part of the Holy House under threat of ex-communication. (127)(128)
In 1920, Pope Benedict XV declared Our Lady of Loreto as patroness of pilots. Seven years later, her medal hung on board Charles Lindbergh’s plane on his famous flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He stated that the medal’s rapping against the control panel woke him when he fell asleep at the controls – thus saving his life. (67:20)
With the death of the last great Albanian leader in January of 1467, the Turkish army poured into Albania, occupying all its fortresses, cities and provinces with the exception of Scutari, in the north of the country. However, the city’s capacity to resist was limited, and its capture was expected at any moment. With its fall, Christian Albania would be defeated. Faced with this prospect, those who wished to practice their faith in Christian lands began a sad exodus. Two men named Giorgio and De Sclavis also studied the possibility of fleeing, but something kept them in Scutari, near the church with the miraculous painting. In this church the faithful Christians venerated an eggshell-thin fresco of Our Lady which had mysteriously descended from the heavens two hundred years before. According to tradition, it had come from the east. Having poured out innumerable graces over the whole population, its church became the principal center of pilgrimage in Albania. Their great Albanian leader, himself, had visited this shrine more than once to ardently ask Our Lady for victory in battle. Now the shrine was threatened with imminent destruction and profanation.
The two Albanians were torn by the idea of leaving the great treasure of Albania in the hands of the enemy in order to flee the Turkish terror. In their perplexity, they went to the old church to ask their Blessed Mother for the good counsel they needed. That night, the Virgin Mary inspired both of them in their sleep. She commanded them to prepare to leave their country, adding that the miraculous fresco was also going to leave Scutari for another country to escape profanation at the hands of the Turks. Finally, she ordered them to follow the painting wherever it went.
The next morning, the two friends went to the shrine. Suddenly, they saw the picture detach itself from the wall on which it had hung. Leaving its niche, it hovered for a moment and was then suddenly wrapped in a white cloud through which the image continued to be visible. The painting left the church and floated out of Scutari. It traveled slowly through the air at a considerable altitude and advanced in the direction of the Adriatic Sea at a speed that allowed the two walkers to follow. After covering some twenty-four miles, they reached the coast.
Without stopping, the picture left the land and advanced over the waters of the Adriatic Sea while the faithful Giorgio and De Sclavis continued to follow, walking on the waves. When night would fall, the mysterious cloud, which had protected them with its shade from the heat of the sun during the day, guided them by night with light, like the column of fire in the desert that guided the Jews in their exodus from Egypt.
They traveled day and night until they reached the Italian coast. There, they continued following the miraculous picture, climbing mountains, fording rivers and passing through valleys. Finally, they reached the vast plain of Lazio from where they could see the towers and domes of Rome. Upon reaching the gates of the city, the cloud suddenly disappeared before their disappointed eyes. Giorgio and De Sclavis began to search the city, going from church to church, asking if the painting had descended there. All their attempts to find the painting failed, and the Romans disregarded these two foreigners with their strange and incredible tale.
Meanwhile, in Genazzano, a charming medieval town about thirty miles south of Rome, financial difficulties had prevented the necessary and urgent restoration of the ancient temple there. Petruccia de Nocera had been left a modest fortune following the death of her husband in 1436. Living alone, she dedicated most of her time to prayer and services in the church of the Mother of Good Counsel. It grieved her to see the deplorable state of the sacred premises of the attached ancient chapel, and she prayed fervently that they would be restored. Finally, she resolved to take the initiative. After obtaining permission from the friars, she donated her goods to initiate the restoration in the hope that others would help complete it once it was commenced.
Petruccia, who was already eighty years old, found that her generous offering was scarcely enough to complete the first phase of the new construction of the chapel. To make matters worse, no one came forth to help. To her dismay, the building had hardly risen three feet when construction came to a halt due to lack of resources.
On April 25, 1467, the feast day of the city’s patron, Saint Mark, a solemn celebration began with Mass. It was Saturday, and the crowd began to gather in front of the church of the Mother of Good Counsel. The only discrepant note in the celebration was the unfinished work of Petruccia’s ancient chapel. At about four in the afternoon, everyone heard the chords of a beautiful melody that seemed to come from heaven. The people looked up toward the towers of the churches and saw a white cloud that shone with a thousand luminous rays; it gradually neared the stupefied crowd to the sound of an exceptionally beautiful melody. The cloud descended on the church of the Mother of Good Counsel and poised over the wall of the unfinished chapel of Saint Biagio, which Petruccia had started.
Suddenly, the bells of the old tower began to ring by themselves, and the other bells of the town rang miraculously in unison. The rays that emanated from the little cloud faded away, and the cloud itself gradually vanished, revealing a beautiful object to the enchanted gaze of the spectators. It was a painting that represented Our Lady tenderly holding her Divine Son in her arms. Almost immediately, the Virgin Mary began to cure the sick and grant countless consolations, the memory of which was recorded for posterity by the local ecclesiastical authority.
Shortly thereafter, amazing news came to Rome: a picture of Our Lady had appeared in the skies of Genazzano to the sound of beautiful music and had come to rest over the wall of a church that was being rebuilt. The two Albanians rushed to find their country’s beloved treasure miraculously suspended in the air next to the wall of the chapel where it remains to this day. Although some inhabitants found the strangers’ story difficult to believe, careful investigation later proved that the two were telling the truth, and that the image was indeed the same one that had graced the shrine in Scutari for two hundred years. This miraculous painting had made the incredible journey, carried by the angels, upon the request and direction of the Blessed Virgin as foretold to these two devoted gentlemen.
Rosa Quattrini was born January 26, 1909, in Santominto, Italy. Her parents were very devout and pious – especially the father, who had an intense devotion to the Rosary. If he came home late at night, he would wake the children in order to recite the Rosary as a family. The father was a poor farmer and died when she was just two years old. Her three sisters entered religious life into three different Orders. One was a missionary in Brazil; another worked with lepers in Ceylon; the third was a Carmelite. Rosa’s husband, Joseph, was a helpful, good-natured, and courteous man who made sure things kept running smoothly when the apparitions began happening on their property.
After becoming the mother of three children, Rosa developed ill health over ten years and felt like she was going to die one day. She was rushed to the hospital but doctors discovered that she had tumors that were “too far advanced” and had caused other serious complications. They told the family just to take her home to die.
While very ill and awaiting death at home, Rosa was visited by a peasant lady whom her Aunt Adele had allowed to come into the house. This youthful and beautiful visitor, wearing a multi-colored skirt, blouse, and a kerchief over her head, asked for alms for Padre Pio for three candles to light in the church. The aunt replied that they were short in funds to do this and also had a sick relative, but the visitor then insisted upon meeting Rosa. Rosa replied that she had great faith in Padre Pio.
When the church bells began ringing the Angelus, the beautiful female visitor asked Rosa to recite it with her. Then she invited her to recite five Our Father’s, five Hail Mary’s, and five Gloria’s in honor of the five wounds of Our Lord and to include Padre Pio in the intentions. After finishing these prayers, the youthful visitor asked Rosa to stand up. Rosa replied that she was too ill to do so – but the lady visitor took her by the hand and Rosa was surprised that she could stand. The visitor then placed her hand on the ailing part of Rosa’s body — and Rosa was instantly cured of all illness.
The mysterious visitor then instructed Aunt Adele to get a glass of water — to which the visitor added three grams of earth from the Holy Land, three dried olive leaves, and a small portion of a blessed candle – and instructed Rosa to drink this at 5:00 a.m. the next morning, coinciding with the beginning of Padre Pio’s Mass. This miraculous cure took
Place on Friday, September 29, 1961, the feast day of St. Michael, the Archangel.
After this, Rosa had a strong desire to visit Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo. A friend helped her to afford nice clothes and some trip money; she hooked up with a pilgrim group to go. Upon arriving at the plaza in front of the church, a lady called out Rosa’s name. Rosa recognized the lady as the same visitor who had called upon her and brought about her healing. The beautiful lady responded, “Yes, I am the Madonna of Consolation of the Afflicted.”
During confession, Padre Pio told Rosa to prepare herself for an important mission; he ordered her to help the sick in a hospital in nearby Piacenza, a city of 100,000 people. Rosa did as he asked and stayed there, helping the sick – even visiting their homes for two years. After that, Padre Pio told Rosa to go home and await a mission from the Blessed Virgin.
On Friday, October 16, 1964, Rosa had a friend visiting her when she got the funny sensation that something was about to happen. Then a voice told her to “go out of the room.” Rosa obeyed and went outside, drawn toward the pear tree near the vineyard. She began reciting the Rosary with her friend. After completing the first decade, a blinding light enveloped the pear tree. In Her first appearance to Rosa, Blessed Mary appeared just over the pear tree. Our Lady indicated that she has made herself known to many but few have heard or heeded Her. She asked for Rosa’s help. However, Rosa insisted that she was too plain, simple, and ignorant – and nobody would believe her anyway!
Blessed Mary said, “Do not fear. I will give signs (so that others may believe). I will give you messages, and you must make them known to the world.” She further reassured Rosa that the Virgin would “do everything” as long as Rosa agreed to this mission. The first miraculous sign came in the early fall of that year with the sudden bursting into blossom of that same pear tree where Blessed Mary had appeared. The large mass of white blossoms produced a very strong and sweet fragrance. On September 29, 1967, on the feast day of St. Michael, the pear tree again burst into blossom, and the pilgrims took many pictures. The flowers remained on the tree for many days without hardly any sign of deterioration.
Exactly three years after Blessed Mary’s promise to provide “signs,” she permitted her own image to be photographed over the pear tree. She confirmed this with the following words in her own message given on May 30, 1968:
“Now I will tell you a secret. I will tell you who took the photograph in which My image came out, despite the fact that you do not believe …”
During many of the apparitions the sun would begin to spin or whirl in its orbit and throw out multi-colored shafts of light. At times it would be dimmed to such a degree that gazing at it would not have any ill effect in the least on the eyes. This might last throughout the entire length of time of the apparition. On one occasion it was shaded so much that only a thin ridge of light on the outer section of the sun could be visible, giving the appearance of a glowing ring. The Blessed Virgin requested that photographs be taken during the apparitions. Rosa would sometimes stop the praying of the Rosary for a moment to announce, “Start taking pictures.” Rosa was even told at times which person was to take the pictures.
Many different “signs” were captured in these different photographs (both color and black and white): white glowing crosses in the sky, spinning sun at the intersection of some of these crosses, perfect circles comprised of little light rays or “icicles,” a circle of ten beads, various rays of light, triangles in the sky, horizontal bars or vertical columns of light, image of a monk suspended in the air, or a double sun, etc. Doctor Pierre Weber, a research engineer at the National Office for Study and Research in Air and Space in Paris, together with specialists in different fields of research into space and meteorology, “diligently and very seriously examined the photographs.” After days of examination and debate, they lapsed into silence without a single good explanation for any of them.
Miracle were reported as well. People have been cured of blindness, deafness, paralysis, and other ailments. Others have been converted; thousands have been strengthened in their faith and their resolutions to live more in conformity with the teachings of our Lord. A well next to the pear tree was known to have water with miraculous healing properties. Our Lady had instructed that the well be dug in that spot after the first apparition on October 16, 1964.
Strong and exquisite fragrances — similar to the aromas that Padre Pio encountered in his church – occurred in Rosa’s chapel and in the waiting room. Sometimes this sweet perfume could be smelled all the way from the house of Rosa to the local church by those on their way to Mass.
The first foreign visitors that arrived on the scene were three cousins of Sister Lucia, the Fatima visionary. However, nobody understood how they could have known about these manifestations or even found this little town of 150 inhabitants about 70 kilometers from Milan.
One should ponder how Rosa could possibly reply so eloquently to the large amount of mail received every day. Considering Rosa’s education and background, it was humanly impossible for her to reply so adequately, quickly, and intelligently to the many complex issues raised by those writing the letters. Rosa would do so by sitting or praying in front of a beautiful statue of Our Lady while listening to her secretary Margherita read each letter. Rosa states that the Blessed Mother would give her the answer, stating it slowly for her secretary so that she could write each “heavenly response” precisely as Rosa heard it given to her.
When observed during an apparition, Rosa appears to be in a trance with her head gazing upward and slow to react to things around her. She only blinks her eyes occasionally. Sometimes Rosa will utter a few words like, “St. Michael has appeared” or “Our Lady has a message for everyone.”
On December 8, 1967, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, about 2,000 persons were present for this apparition. At least half were from the foreign countries of France, Switzerland, Germany, Yugoslavia, Austria, Ecuador, Canada, and the United States. The sun was seen spinning for over an hour and throwing out multi-colored rays. It was completely darkened with only an outer rim of the sun visible – like during an eclipse. Exactly one year later on the same date, an estimated 10,000 people were now in attendance. Miss Turner from New York was fortunate to see an outline of Our Lady.
February 11, 1967
“Say the Rosary often. Here at my feet promise to say the Rosary. I promise you the glory of heaven. Go often to receive Jesus.”
June 2, 1967
“Use your prayers and the Holy Rosary – which is such a powerful weapon, my children. Say the Rosary and leave all other works which are so useless. The important thing is to save the world.”
June 30, 1967
“Your Heavenly Father loves you and wants to be loved with the recitation of the Holy Rosary. The rosary is the most available weapon you have to save yourselves. Mothers, get your children to pray.”
March 22, 1968
“Make holy hours and say the Rosary a lot because it is a most powerful weapon for salvation.”
October 27, 1968 (from Jesus)
“The Heart of My Mother will triumph, and My reign will come into the entire world. If you listen, you will have an abundance of graces, but if you do not listen to My word, great chastisements will come. … Do not preoccupy yourselves so with material affairs! Time passes quickly – and death approaches. The chastisements are drawing near.”
March 21, 1969
“I cry so much. I have tears of blood which have been brought out by the sight of so many of my children on the brink of the pit. … Pray, my dear children, in these times that are so terrible. Make hours of adoration and of reparation for the serious sins that humanity is committing. In silence you will understand. I am the Mother of Sorrow who goes about so much to console my children.”
April 25, 1969
“Jesus is all Love, Jesus is all Mercy. Pray, pray, so that Jesus will have pity. Jesus will console your heart because the times are sad, my dear children. The demon is carrying on a great battle; he is free to do all that he wants up to the point to which the Eternal Father gives him permission. … I am the Mother; I am the Queen; I am the Advocate; I am the Dispenser of Graces; I am the Mother of the Afflicted; I am the Mother of Consolation, and I can give everything to those who come to Me, to all of them.”
May 8, 1969
“I want you to hold your Rosary beads in your hands. This Rosary is the secure port of your salvation. For this I have come upon the earth: I want everyone to recite the Holy Rosary which is the most powerful weapon for saving yourselves, for receiving graces, and for obtaining comfort during the sad hours. Hold the Holy Rosary beads tightly in your hands. Put them around your neck and don’t forget them!”
August 2, 1969
“Often come to me with the recital of the Rosary. Don’t abandon the weapon of the Rosary but keep it tight in your hands since it will bring you safety in every danger.”
August 6, 1969
“If you have Jesus in your hearts and your weapon, the Rosary, in your hands, I will not abandon you. I will always help you and I will give you strength to win every battle.”
August 15, 1969
“Here, near you, I am surrounded by angels, the saints, and with all your guardian angels … Be serene, my dear children, pray, pray, pray and be quiet because the enemy is working havoc. The fights are becoming hard, but you will obtain the victory in everything and through everything because I am the Mother and Co-Redemptrix of everyone. … Pray for all young people so they can blossom in the world and be the model, the example like Jesus was when He was on this earth. I love young people very much. Even My Son, Jesus, was surrounded by young people whom He loved very much. Upon them I am showering many graces, many blessings, and much love and peace for their hearts. Young people, young people, come under My mantle. Draw near to Me because I am the Mother of everyone, the Mother of Love and of Counsel. I am the Advocate, the dispenser of Graces, and I love you very much.”
August 16, 1969
“Promise Me, My children – promise Me to deliver the souls most forsaken from purgatory! You can achieve this by your prayers, by your sacrifices, by reciting the holy Rosary with Jesus in your hearts. … You shall thus deliver many souls! Listen to Me, because they pray for you, they help you and assist you all along your way!”
September 12, 1969
“Pray for everyone, for those that do not believe, for those that do not love Me, and for those that do not want to know Me … that I am the Mother of God … your Mother … that I can save you. Yes, my dear children, always be prepared, always keep your eyes on Heaven and ask for mercy for everyone, for those that offend Me a lot. With prayer and penance you will receive everything. Do not get tired, my dear children. Throw yourselves at My feet and ask for graces. Stay under My mantle where you will always be protected. I call all the world to My feet. I inspire everyone, and I send my guardian angels of Heaven to everyone of the world because I want you all to be saved.”
October 24, 1969
“My dear children, I am here in your midst with many angels and saints. … The Archangel Raphael is the one who stands by Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament along with three cherubim and three seraphim. They stand vigil night and day, and they adore Him, they thank Him, and they love Him. You, too, my children, should go often to the foot of the tabernacle where Jesus really and truly is in the Blessed Sacrament. Knock at the door of the tabernacle so that Jesus will open it, and so He will open your hearts and set them on fire with love for Him. Knock, knock – because Jesus can give you everything, many material and spiritual gifts because Jesus is the source of graces. He is merciful, and He can give you much love, and He can even purify your hearts with love for Him. Go often – go to the feet of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. … Many, many souls are being lost because they do not listen to my motherly word, and because they no longer practice the Holy Rosary.”
November 9, 1969
“I come to this place, my beloved children, to enrich you with graces, with love, with faith, and with great mercy, for I am the Mother of all. I call you night and day to this place, but few among listen to Me. Many mock Me, many joke about Me, many insult Me. … My dear children, I call you. I am here night and day to call you, for I am your Mother, Mother of all – Help of Christians – Help of the Poor – Help of the Needy – of the Afflicted. I come to console you. I am the Advocate – the Dispensatrix of all graces, to those who have recourse to Me. Do not ask for anything but faith and prayer. With faith and prayer you will conquer all and have all, for the Mercy of God will cover you and save you.”
November 28, 1969
“St. Michael will defend you from all danger, but stay united to Me and Jesus – with the Rosary – with Jesus in your hearts! I repeat, the Holy Rosary! Let the Holy Rosary be recited! I have repeated many times that with the Rosary you have the strength to overcome any temptation, every obstacle, or anything that is to come!”
December 6, 1969
“Why are things going so bad in the world? Because they have abandoned the Holy Rosary which I have always announced for centuries.”
January 16, 1970
“It is always the Rosary I present to you wherever I go. By the Rosary you receive so many graces, so much help, so much power. Recite it with faith and love.”
March 26, 1970 (from Jesus)
“May the Holy Spirit enlighten you with His love. That you may understand that My Mother and yours come to save you, that My Mother suffers much for you. She suffered much at the foot of the Cross when I was dying on the Cross. That My blood purifies you and sanctifies you for Heaven. I am the Living Jesus. I want to enter into your heart to inflame it. I want to enrich it with graces – spiritual and temporal graces. Come! Come to the Eucharistic Banquet! Come, and do not delay. I will pardon you. Make a good examination of conscience. Prepare your heart, pure as snow, and I will enter into your heart with much love. Do not think so much of the things of the world! Everything ends. I put you on this earth so that you would come anew into My arms above, where I await you with so much love. Everything passes here below! If you listen, I, beside My Heavenly Father, will lessen the chastisements.”
April 17, 1970
“Hold tightly to Me with your Rosary which is your strength, your sustenance, your defense on this earth, and, above all, at the hour of your death. The Rosary is your most powerful armor.”
May 16, 1970
“Don’t cease praying! Don’t cease. Pray with your Rosary – your armor! I ask you with such insistence. All families should recite the Rosary!”
In the small town of Perryville on the eastern side of Missouri, about an hour south of St. Louis, something inspirational has been happening every month since June of 2003. It began with a farmer and part-time construction worker named Neal. This humble, hard-working man in his late forties came from a family of eleven children; he had six brothers and four sisters. Neal has lived in Perryville all of his life, attending all 12 years of Catholic school. He has two children from a failed, “Godless” marriage and eight children from his present marriage of the past 17 years.
His mother was a devoted Catholic who constantly reminded him, “If you don’t have God in your life, you have nothing.” In second grade he wanted to become a priest – and “played Mass” in his basement by rolling out the bread to make the host and using a metallic shot glass of his father’s for the chalice. But, as he advanced into high school, he became distracted by sports, girls, partying, and activities with his friends. By his young adult years, he had strayed far from the Church and is not proud of those days. And his Mom kept reminding him that he did not have God in his life.
Then things began to happen. In 1995, his brother showed him a fascinating picture that he had taken of a nun in a parking lot – and in the sun was the image of a Miraculous Medal! Neal thought that this was amazing. About four months later, a Catholic prayers book appeared on the seat of his truck. Thumbing through it one day, its prayers started triggering memories of his devoted days, years ago, as a young Catholic. But when he came to the “Hail Mary,” he had a vivid flashback to his first Communion. He became overwhelmed, emotionally, realizing how far he had strayed from his Faith. At that moment he began praying the Rosary again on a regular basis.
Then, other things began happening. His mother’s religious friends from her prayer circle (whom he had called “Holy Rollers”) started running into him everywhere he went, often giving him a direct message or piece of information about prayer groups, parish missions, or religious presentations. August 11, 2000 will stick in his memory forever; a friend of his became adamant and persistent about his attending a special presentation on Mary at another parish, 12 miles away from his own, on the Feast Day of the Assumption. He had politely agreed to attend several times, knowing that he probably wouldn’t – until his friend took his arm, looked him in the eyes, and insisted one last time. Neal felt God in his actions at that moment – and sincerely agreed to attend. Much to his surprise, his wife easily agreed to attend the event with him at this distant parish.
Strange things began happening to Neal as the anticipated event began. As the speaker began, Neal felt a force pressing him forward and his emotions building within, until he could not hold back the tears any longer – fearing that he would disturb others around him. When he looked up at the speaker, the church appeared “smoke-filled” – and he could only see the speaker and his wife. They both had halos over their heads “just like you see in pictures of the saints.” The more the speaker talked about Mary, the brighter the halos became, until they were as bright as the sun! The light became a full image behind the speaker, and then the image of Mary in this bright light leaned her head forward for Neal to see for the first time in his life. She did not speak, but Neal said,
“She was dressed fully in white, enclosed like in the sun – bright as the sun, yet it didn’t hurt your eyes to look at her. She did not say one word, yet everything became infused and known to me in that moment. Our Lady wants us to know that God is real. And he loves each and every one of you. He has Mercy for each and every one of you, but we have to ask for His Mercy. We also have to live our life according to God’s Will. We have to give ourselves to God. We cannot sit idle. We have to always present ourselves in a charitable, meek gentleness towards each other and even to those we don’t even know. God wants others to see Christ in us.”
“St. Joseph was obedient in every way to God. The Blessed Mother wants you to know that Joseph is the role model for men. Wives, be submissive to your husbands in all things. Husbands, love your wives as Jesus loved the Church. God flourishes in such a marriage. The man must bring the church into the home. Honor and respect help keep a balance – along with including God in the marriage.”
In 2002, Neal had an opportunity to go to Medjugorje with a group, but his wife needed to stay home. He felt a great sense of being “homesick” after he arrived and wished that she had been able to come with him. Suddenly, he was calmed by this message,
“While you are here – and whatever I ask you to do from here on, you need to give it your best effort – and all of yourself to others …”
Around 7:00 p.m. on the last night there, Neal and a few others decided to make one last trek on the long, rugged path up Cross Mountain, stopping at the various Stations of the Cross along the way. At the fourth station (where Jesus sees his Mother), Neal suddenly was overwhelmed by a strong scent of roses – “so intense that you could almost taste them!” He fell down on the large rocks as if unconscious, but suffered no cuts, bruises, or injuries. He had an intense desire at that moment to be with Mary and Jesus in heaven. He felt like “a million bits of information were being dispersed all at once.” Then he heard Blessed Mary say to him,
“I have much for you to do … Never waste a moment to serve God.”
Back in Missouri, in June of 2003, Neal was working in the fields when he again experienced a strong scent of roses and felt that Blessed Mary was nearby. She asked him to begin praying at the Grotto on the 13th of every month for the next 13 months. The grotto that she was referring to happened to be on the grounds of the National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal – right there in Perryville! The Vincentian community of priests resides there – one of whom is Father Oscar Lukefahr, a well-known writer of Catholic educational materials. The church, St. Mary’s of the Barrens, was founded in 1818. The Shrine was built in 1929 to honor Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. The Grotto was built on the beautiful grounds by seminarians during World War I with completion in 1920. The statue of Mary, for a niche high in the rock wall of the Grotto, arrived on August 5 (Mary’s actual birth date!) of that same year.
Neal prayed the Rosary at the Grotto for three months by himself. He placed some of her messages to him, anonymously, in the local paper, potentially for anyone’s inspiration. After the three months, Mary asked him to bring five friends – and stated that a television station would eventually be involved later on. By June of 2004, Neal made it public about what was happening at the Grotto. Sure enough, Channel 12 TV from Cape Girardeau appeared during December of 2004 to do a story about the events at the Grotto for their 10:00 p.m. newscast. When that first 13 months had passed, Mary indicated to Neal that she was pleased with the devotions and prayers taking place at the Grotto – and asked him to keep coming on the 13th of every month, indefinitely.
In June of 2013, ten years later, Neal has never missed a month and still receives a message from Our Lady on each occasion. He continues to be faithful and devoted to her requests, never knowing if there will be an endpoint to it all. When asked if it is hard to keep this dedication going, he replied,
“When the Mother of God asks you to do something, you feel compelled to listen!”
Neal describes Our Lady as coming to him in a vision, surrounded by clouds and mist. She wears a long white gown with gold trim and a gold sash. There appear to be stars on her gown, but Neal says that they are actually floating just above her dress and all around her. She has long, wavy, brown hair with a gold crown on top of her head. The crown appears to have dark green emeralds encircling it and twelve little crosses around the top, representing the twelve apostles. She has a blue mantle over her white gown. Neal feels disconnected from everything and everyone else around him when she comes – “I only see Mary.” Sometimes, there are saints or angels with her.
Neal states that when she comes, he can see her and know exactly where she is without looking around for her. “I don’t know how heaven does that, but that’s what I see.” He says that she will often walk through the praying crowd, blessing them, and hearing their thoughts. At times, she will tell him, “A woman in the crowd is wondering about …(some issue); tell her …(Mary’s reply).” Blessed Mary told Neal this:
“Darkness has filled the earth. If the prayer of St. Gertrude is prayed between each decade in union with the Rosary, a thousand souls will be released from Purgatory for each Hail Mary.”
I had the opportunity to personally visit this Grotto to pray with the group and talk with Neal on May 13 (first Fatima apparition) and October 13 (Fatima’s Miracle of the Sun) in 2013. As a psychiatric therapist, I can attest to Neal’s grounded, sane, and humble manner – free of any obvious disorder or delusions. Some members of the Marian Association attend the Shrine every month. We all have had the experience of “smelling the roses that are not present” and feeling a great peace and unity while praying the Rosary there. Some have captured some fascinating photos of the sun with doves, crosses, and especially rose petals appearing in the photographs.
Perryville is in the diocese of St. Louis; the archbishop and area priests are aware of Neal allegedly receiving messages from Our Blessed Mother. They are accepting of the activities going on at the Grotto but have neither condemned nor officially approved of them at this point in time. Decide for yourself what is happening in Perryville – as it is within driving distance for most of us. Here are just a few of the messages from those visits:
May 13, 2013:
“Our world is full of much darkness. It seems that Evil is prevailing. My people, for those who are faithful to God, who hold true to His Word, those are devoted to my Immaculate Heart, St. Joseph’s Most Chaste Heart, and Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart, you will prevail in everything. Evil will not succumb you. We must remain true to God in all things, living our everyday life for God. You are to be that Torch of Light to others in a world of darkness. You have nothing to fear if you keep your eyes on Christ at all times. You are to reflect the Holy Family. I am calling on all of you to carry that torch of Christ’s light to the whole world.”
“So many wonder what tomorrow may bring. Tomorrow will take care of itself. You just need to live in the present of each and every day. Never deny Jesus. Men, devote yourself to St. Joseph. He was obedient to God in all things; learn this obedience so that you can be good priests of your households. As a good mother I come here each and every month to encourage you, to guide you in wisdom and truth. Learn the true faith of the Church. God will never fail you. God is in control of all things, and He knows all things. He sees the hearts and minds and souls of all of you.”
“God sees good here. If you saw what your prayers are doing – and the power of your prayers, you would never cease praying.”
Warraq al-Hadar is a small island in the Nile River in the Giza governorate, a part of Greater Cairo. This is a very poor district. December is a Marian month and Nativity Fast on the Coptic Calendar. During this month the Coptic Church celebrates a special Midnight Praise dedicated to the Holy Virgin and the Incarnation.
The apparitions began at the Church of the Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael in Al-Warraq. Hassan, a Muslim neighbor, was sitting at his local coffee shop across the street when he saw a strong light coming from the church around 8:30 p.m. More people on the street began to notice the light and saw a bird circling above the church. Around 2:00 a.m., a vision of the Virgin Mary appeared in her blue and white robes.
Father Dawoud of this same church reports how that first night developed after neighbors began calling the church, worried about why the large crowds were suddenly gathering:
“The phone calls poured in; many people said that they had just seen an apparition of Virgin Mary on the right dome of the church.”
Muslim neighbors were among the callers. A dear friend of Father Dawoud, Haj Rashad, the neighborhood distributor of gas cylinders, filed this report:
“What are you doing here (inside the church), Father? I have just seen Our Lady Mary with my own eyes! Go and see for yourself.”
“At first we thought that a little kid was playing with a flashlight, but then the light intensified and moved from the tree in front of the church entrance up to the right dome. An embodiment of the Virgin Mary could be easily recognized. It stayed there for a while. I have captured the scene with my mobile phone.”
Anba Theodosius, Bishop of Giza, issued this statement:
“On Friday, December 11, 2009, at 1:00 a.m. the Holy Virgin appeared in her full height in luminous robes above the middle dome of church named after her – Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church in Al-Warraq. She was described as wearing a pure white dress with a royal blue belt. She had a crown on her head, above which appeared the cross on top of the dome. The crosses on top of the church’s domes and towers glowed brightly with light. Blessed Mary moved between the domes and on to the top of the church gate between its two twin towers. All of the local residents saw her! The apparition lasted from 1:00 a.m. until 4:00 a.m. on Friday. Many cameras and cell phones took pictures. Some 3,000 people from the neighborhood, surrounding areas, and passers-by gathered in the street in front of the church to see the apparition.
Since Friday, the huge crowds gathered in the vicinity of the church have been seeing luminous white pigeons soaring above the church during various times of the night. They also saw a star emerge suddenly in the night sky and travel some 200 meters across the sky and disappear. The huge crowds never stopped singing hymns and praises for the Holy Virgin.”
The scene, as described, along with photos and videos, was broadcast on Amr Adib’s talk show, “Cairo Today” on December 13, 2009. The news spread like wildfire; crowds flocked to Giza to catch a glimpse of Our Lady.
Bishop Theodosius adds that it is important to investigate the event fully:
“I stayed up all night on Sunday. I saw doves appear suddenly in the sky. They flew in circles in front of the church before they vanished into thin air. They were floating rather like hovering with their wings. It is uncommon for doves to fly at night.”
The event had a different dimension for security forces. Selim, a policeman, pointed out that he had been on duty at the site for seven hours already and did not expect to be relieved for another five hours. Father Dawoud said that the police were exerting a tremendous effort and were being very cooperative. Father Dawoud also praised church neighbors, many of whom allowed visitors to view the church from the roofs of their buildings.
For several weeks, a silent crowd running in the thousands gathered in front of the church, gazing up into the sky in the early morning hours. Whenever the mysterious light appeared over the church tower, the crowd was jolted into a frenzy of astonished cries.
Many of the local Muslims did not deny the sightings, but claimed they were hoaxed with laser beams – although no evidence or proof of those claims ever surfaced.
For the Muslim named Rami, it was a different reaction:
“It was her! – with her blue and white clothes.”
Kawkab Munir Shehata, age 39, is convinced of what she saw. In fact, the mother of two says that the Virgin Mary restored the sight that she had lost in her left eye.
“It was about 3:40 a.m. I felt immense pain, which lasted about a quarter of an hour. Then I was ecstatic to find out that I could see clearly. Now, my left eye is even better than my right one.”
By December 22 of 2009, more than 200,000 Christians and Muslims had witnessed the apparitions on the domes of this church in Warraq al-Hadar. Apparition lights in the night sky could be seen several kilometers away from the church. The full silhouette of the Blessed Holy Virgin dressed in a light blue gown could be clearly seen over the domes and between the church crosses. People used their mobile phones to make videos of the apparitions and share them via Bluetooth and on YouTube. These events received wide media coverage in Egyptian newspapers and Arabic TV channels.
For some, the apparition of the Virgin Mary is a response to a recent article that appeared in a periodical published by Al-Azhar University that questioned the foundations of Christianity. Father Fishay comments:
“Maybe her appearance is to bring people closer together. Maybe it will bring about the end of the state of tensions between Muslims and Christians – and an end to extremism. Maybe it will bring back forgiveness like there once used to be in Egypt.”
Maybe it was a sign of hope for Egypt’s Copts, who are 10 percent of the country’s population, and have lived far too long on the margins of society – often victims of violence.
Bishop Theodosius concludes, talking to Al-Ahram Weekly:
“If the sightings continue, a fact-finding committee will be formed to investigate the matter, and they will submit their report to Pope Shenouda III, on which basis he may issue a papal declaration.”
According to the International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio, these apparitions were indeed investigated and officially approved by the Coptic Pope, Shenouda III.
Apparitions in the Ukraine have taken place in recent times and are similar to other apparitions in the sense that they call us to prayer and conversion and talk about punishment for sins. The apparitions emphasize the great importance of suffering and present interesting information about prophets, who are “created from the Heart of the Lord Jesus and are sent to people in the end times.”
When the Ukraine was one of the 15 Soviet Republics, the Church of the Ukraine was persecuted and many people lost their faith. Before the Second World War, Ternopil belonged to Poland, which is the reason this beautiful town also has a Polish name, Tarnopol.
The first apparitions began on the 13th of June, 2003. A nine-year old girl named Yulia was the recipient of visits from Blessed Mary, Lord Jesus, and Archangel Gabriel over a three-year span. Because these events are so recent and remote, there are not many details yet. What have been passed on already are many of the messages from these alleged visits, still not yet approved by the Church.
Blessed Mary, Ternopil, April 5, 2004:
“I see your hearts. But not all who present flowers to this Holy Place have the same love in their hearts. Children, you have great envy – but why? The Mother of God and Her children cannot have envy. They should have only obedience and gladness for their neighbor or brother. Please, be frank in your heart so that your lips and heart speak together in the same manner – and then this child will be Mine. Arrogance, betrayal, debauchery, and unruliness prevent your spiritual ranks from praying with the intention of the Holy Spirit. All people seem to pray only in their own human intention.”
“My sweet children, use time for prayer in this Holy Place every day during the time of Holy Week. You should leave everything behind and be only in prayer in serving God. Children you should know that it is not the food on your tables, but your prayers that are waited on by Christ – only prayers with sacrifices in them.”
“When more than 2,500 true pilgrims come here, you will create a power for change in this Holy Land, which was chosen by God as Holy from the day of creating the World. And now it is chosen as a Holy Place for the saving of the whole world.”
Blessed Mary, Lishnya, April 18, 2004:
“Notify all the people in the world about the good news that Christ was resurrected! He gave us and all the people on the Earth eternal life, but only we must believe everything that is given from Heaven.”
Blessed Mary, Lishnya, August 7, 2004:
“You grow spiritually every day, my sweet children. Beginning with the first day of My appearance here, you have prayed every day in this Holy Place of Mine and My Son, your God Jesus Christ. Every day is like a brick with which you build a Spiritual temple in your hearts. I can be proud of you before the Heavenly Father.”
Blessed Mary, Ternopil, April 12, 2005 (ten days after the death of Pope John Paul II):
“I report to you: your Apostolic Vicar is alive, safe, and sound, in great calmness, in full consciousness, and in great sorrow for his human heart. He is in a great holy prayer for you, Faithful Remnant, which is the threaded stone of the Holy Christ’s Faith today – and for the salvation of all human beings on the Earth. You must understand – that place of concealment of Holy Father Pope John Paul II is in My Immaculate Heart – the Heart of the Mother of the Holy Church.”
Lord Jesus, Ternopil, June 8, 2004:
“God will never leave His innocent people – especially when people are roaming and looking for Truth. But God sees that it is really impossible to find it anywhere. But children, you have the Holy Book; there are all of the mysteries and laws in it – which are Holy in God.”
“God’s Truth is Holy through the ages from the time of creating the world. Truth, Honesty, and Holy Law. The Book of God is Holy – it is the Holy scriptures. My children, I announced through the ages that each Word in it is Holy. To add something to it or to take Holy from it is impossible, because sin is deathful and death is to each person.”
“All children of this world, you must be wise. Use this time for your salvation, because it is very short. Do not be amused by the kindness of those who are going to decline – who are sent to you by the devil in order to distract you from your salvation. You have so short a time. All of your savings, accumulated buildings and possessions, reserved for the future for your children – that you planned all for yourselves will be scattered by winds of fire on this sinful earth, which will be devastated by the people.”
“I shall give you the kindness of Grace. I shall give you the road of knowledge, the key to closed gates of the heart. I shall open all gates which are yet closed. I shall cheer up all souls. I shall open blind eyes; I shall open impaired hearing of your ears. I shall kindle by pity neglected souls to sincerely pity for your earthly sin. I shall open the mysteries of Holy spiritual life in Truth – which are not opened yet, to all who will come.”
Lord Jesus, Ternopil, March 19, 2005:
“Open the door in your heart in order that I may come and be there. The key to this door of your heart is Holy Confession and sincere repentance with a great pity of your heart for all the sins of your life on the Earth.”
“My Will is in sufferings for your earthly sins: back-biting, betrayal, your earthly glory, unnecessary self indulgences, the human powerless will, and non-productive life on Earth. You must suffer and ask God about the Grace of patience. That is My Will. But your will is to throw away sufferings and to be in Heaven.”
“For the people of the Earth — those who are in ranks and without ranks – the only way to God is salvation. The way without salvation leads to hell. But elected children have only the way to Heaven. They are children – prophets, who were created by God before the creation of the world. These children are Mine from My Heart. These children don’t have fear for truthful Faith. They are children of Love from My Heart. The luxury of life in this world is nothing for them.”
“A loss of mankind is that sign of Punishment from Heaven in the near future, my people. My children, whoever loves Me, carries his cross in suffering and does not complain, who is exhausted in dirty word from human word, who gives his glory to the Glorification of Great God, who suffers humiliations, who does not find relief – I am with you. I send you sufferings, but I also send you strength, grace, and the quiet in your soul.”
Lord Jesus, Ternopil, May 21, 2005:
“I entrust you from My Holy Heart, to which you consecrate your sweet heart in every coming day of God’s, to spread all over the world the Majesty of Holy Glory of Our Queen of Heaven and the Earth as Our Protectress and Co-redemptrix of the whole world.”
“People who are filled with the Power of My Holy Will are given the Spirit of My God’s Providence. They are filled with joy of the great Holy Glory of God the Father and of God the Son and of God the Holy Ghost. They are filled with the beautiful aroma of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
“Hurry to all Holy Places untouched by the devil’s power. Ask and beg for forgiveness.”
Lord Jesus, Lishnya, no date:
“Write this last warning! People will see a big cross. It will be seen by the whole world for seven days.”
Blessed Mary, Lishnya, no date:
“Write this, my golden daughter (Yulia), that the end of the era will begin on Easter after Holy Mass.”
Archangel Gabriel, Lishnya, no date:
“People will see their Guardian Angels and also devils. Those who listen to devils will explode in the atmosphere. But those who listen to their Guardians will be saved.”
Lord Jesus, Lishnya, no date:
“The end of the era will last 13 years. Two comets will fall down to the Earth, one of them to the southern part, and the other to the eastern hemisphere into the ocean. Thirty-seven earthquakes will take place. Sinners will explode in the atmosphere and righteous people will be saved in the Holy Places (where Our Lady appeared) in Lourdes, Fatima, Garabandal, Zakarpattya, and here in Prykarpattya – and also in their own houses. You must cover doors and windows with white material. During this time, electric power and clocks will not work. Simple candles will not give light. Only candles blessed on the Candlemas Day will give some light. After the end of the era, people will return and believe in God; they will also go to the Church. I Bless you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
Much more information needs to be gathered about these apparitions and their messages. At this time there has been no official disapproval or any official acceptance yet. But some of these final details from this nine-year old Yulia certainly do match specific details from other messages from Garabandal, El Escorial, and Medjugorje.
On August 27, 2002, two girls from the village of Nyzhne Bolotne (in Western Ukraine) went to a grove to get some water from the spring there. Olenka Kuruts was ten years old, and her friend, Mar’yanka Kobal, was nine years old. Olenka looked up to see a “beautiful lady” standing at some distance behind Mar’yanka. When Mar’yanka first turned around to look, she did not see her. But after she filled her bucket with water and looked around again, she did also see the “beautiful lady,” standing quietly several paces away. Because the lady did not say anything, they became frightened, thinking she might be a witch. The lady was standing on a small cloud adorned with all kinds of flowers, just above the ground. Mary was wearing a white dress with a blue belt and a white headscarf. As the girls took their filled buckets and headed back to the village, the lady on the cloud glided along behind them, escorting them home.
Olenka’s parents disbelieved her story and reprimanded her for wasting time on such foolishness. But Mar’yanka’s father was a priest, so he cautioned the girls to be careful and always make the sign of the cross.
Later that same day, the girls headed to pick up Olenka’s younger sister from kindergarten when they saw the lady on the little cloud again. When they made the sign of the cross to protect themselves, the lady was quite pleased and smiled radiantly. Mary then made the sign of the cross in return with her folded fingers. When the girls asked who she was, they were told that she was “The Most Pure Virgin.” On their way home from the kindergarten, the lady appeared again – this time with “two angels” with her. One “angel” was taller than the other. They later learned that these were “guardian angels.” A third angel which appeared in later encounters was identified as St. Michael.
As the children became more accustomed to seeing the Blessed Virgin, they became bolder, asking her many questions. Mary said that she came to promote the authority of the priests among the people, to unite the church, to bring together the Ukrainian people who were separated, and promote more prayer. Mary wanted the children’s parents to go to the spring in the woods to pray, but Mar’yanka’s father, the priest, was reluctant because it did not seem proper. Mary asked – through the children – for the priest to inform the local church authorities of her appearances by telling “the old Bishop Marhitych” first.
The bishop was informed and immediately came to their village to question the young girls closely. He wanted to know if she could confirm her identity in some manner to them. The girls replied that when people started praying at the spring in the woods that a confirmation would happen. Therefore, on August 31, 2002, Bishop Marhitych held a religious service at the spring in the woods (known as Jublyk).
Word spread, and soon many pilgrims from all over the Ukraine were coming to this area in hopes of seeing a miracle. A chapel was eventually built there and sightings of Mary happened with others at this place. Some reported that Mary was weeping; others saw the Holy Family. The cross standing in front of this chapel lost its gilding and blood appeared instead. A sample was sent to a laboratory, and tests revealed that it truly was blood (as reported in a May 12, 2004 newspaper). Many people reported that they could look directly at the sun without blinking or injury while at Jublyk. Miracles were reported occurring at the spring of water. Some people smelled incense or roses — despite neither being visibly present. Another reliable report claimed that the sun appeared completely different – “with a circle of different colors” around it.
Several weeks after these events first began, Olenka saw a man strangely appear next to the priest during a church service. She whispered to Mar’yanka next to her who noted only the silhouette of a man initially – which then developed into a visual appearance of a tall man with shoulder-length hair and a small beard. Mar’yanka then whispered to her Mom what she was seeing – “the man wore a blue garment with a red shirt underneath … his feet could not be seen as they were hidden by a small cloud.” She described wounds on his hands and that he was very good looking. The girls both reported that he was conducting the service along with priest, making all the same gestures. Wondering if this had been Jesus, they asked the Virgin Mary at her next appearance, and she confirmed that it had been Jesus whom they had seen! They also saw, on another occasion, a man in a brown robe holding a long stick in one hand and a lily in the other. They wondered if this might have been St. Joseph.
There remained many skeptics and doubters who thought the girls must be hallucinating, making it all up, or psychic in ability. But the girls not only were healthy, normal, and active in typical events for their age, but they had no history of any disorders, lying, or fabricating tall tales.
One day, accompanied by eight other children, they went to the spring in the woods where Mary appeared to them again. They invited the other children to kiss the Virgin’s hand or feet. Even though the other children could not see her, when they were guided to where her feet would be and kissed the area, they sensed “a strange warmth” there. On the way home, they all observed a mysterious light following them to their village.
On another occasion, Olenka kissed the feet of Christ when he appeared before her – but then felt a sharp pain stab her in the hands, feet, heart, and head. She collapsed to the ground, and the other children had difficulty raising her. She stretched on the ground, spreading her arms out, assuming the position of someone being crucified. Again, she could not be lifted from the ground. A young boy ran back to the village for help, returning with Reverend Atanasy Chiypesh and a watchman. They eventually got her to her home after sprinkling water from the spring on her face. Unable to speak yet, she wrote on paper for her parents that she would not be able to attend school during Lent due to her inability to walk. Rev. Atanasy interviewed her carefully, learning that she had accepted an offer to suffer along with Jesus and not be able to walk until Easter. In a dream at night, the Virgin Mary took her on a cloud, riding to Paradise, Purgatory, and Hell. She was surprised to see bishops and priests in all three places. Mary explained that they were in Hell because they did not really believe in God. Some priests were in Purgatory because they did not listen to the righteous bishops as they should have. The stigmata pains lasted for some time for Olenka, but they are all gone now.
Assiut, a city in the southern part of Egypt, was the farthest south that Mary and Joseph had travelled into Egypt. Since mid-August, 2000, the Egyptian city of Assiut has experienced unusual lights, glowing figures and doves over St. Mark’s church – a large Coptic church in the center of Old Town. Hundreds and sometimes thousands prayed, sang, and danced around the church. It was initially suspected that somebody was perpetrating a clever hoax with lasers or a light effects show. But, when the local government ordered the electricity for the entire area to be switched off for one night in order to uncover any deception, the unusual lights returned as bright as ever. Next, the officials evacuated the area from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. each night, but the spiritual lights were stronger and brighter than ever.
It began at 11:30 p.m. on August 17, 2000, while hundreds of thousands of Copts from all over Egypt were celebrating St. Mary’s Lent. Residents around St. Mark’s church of both Coptic and Muslim faith watched the apparition of the Virgin Mary above the dome and between the two towers until 3:00 a.m. Then again, from 4:00 a.m. until 6:00 a.m. she appeared along with blue-green flashes of heavenly lights and glowing doves. Thousands gathered as the news spread like wildfire. After the officials gave up trying to find any evidence of a hoax or clever light display, the figure of Mary along with incense, celestial lights, and flying luminous doves continued every night from 2:00 a.m. until 6:00 a.m. On one occasion, the shadow of a monk appeared next to Mary.
September 6, 2000: One woman told the BBC that she had seen the Virgin Mary with outstretched hands, and a light emanating from them, accompanied by a smell of incense and large numbers of glowing pigeons.
September 11, 2000: Marcelle Maurice witnessed the apparition of the Virgin Mary every night she came to the church. She saw her with the flashing lights and “big white doves.”
Sarwat Hani Marzouk said, “I saw Mary. She was so beautiful, wearing a blue veil. Light was emanating from her hands. Then doves started flying – they were as big as ducks.”
On September 15 – with thousands headed to rooftops for the best views – one eyewitness files this report from his position across from the south side of the church.
“The two church towers – especially the south one – were a festive theater of heavenly lights and flying doves for more than four hours! Very amazing! Very touching! Very impressive! Explosions of light come from each of the eight sides of the second level of the tower. Other flashes stem from the left tower, across the roof, ending in the main dome and illuminating the cross above it. Something like a spot of light could be seen inside the center of the cross above the tower – from which a storm of light burst forth. Lights vary in intensity … to a very bright shining light that is so intense that it illuminates the surrounding buildings and faces of the people!! The most touching feature that occurred many times was a burst of light coming forth from inside the dome, passing through the eight columns … From inside that light comes something like doves – seen at first still continuous with the light, then separated in a spark-like fashion to fly for a short distance – then disappear.”
“As for the doves, I could see them in many formations … flying above the church, between the towers – they don’t flap their wings. What is astonishing is that the chest of each dove is luminous like a lamp. They fly and then disappear after a while. Doves continued to fly with the bursts of light for a couple of hours. When you look around, you see the thousands of people over hundreds of roofs or hanging out windows – praying, singing hymns, or applauding.”
October 8, 2000: The dazzling apparition lights continue over the domes and towers of St. Mark’s church, accompanied with miracles of healings being reported.
Coptic Pope Shenouda III and His Grace Metropolitan Anba Michael of Assiut followed the apparition events closely with the Coptic Pope confirming the validity of these reports on a visit to the US and Canada that year.
“These apparitions are a message of comfort from heaven – and one of confirmation of the faith of Copts – that heaven is aware of their struggle and is pleased by their perseverance.”
Both British and Egyptian journalists have traveled to Assiut and have seen the amazing lights – but cannot find a source or reasonable explanation for their appearance. Father Labib from the nearby Orthodox Copt Dronka Monastery was excited about the sightings, claiming that when you look for the source of light, you cannot find it.
“This light is from heaven.”
March 29, 2001: At St. Michael’s Cathedral, strange events there began drawing thousands. It began in the sanctuary at 1:00 p.m. as the Eucharist was being celebrated. Bright lights illuminated the icons in the sanctuary and bathed the Holy Oblations on the altar. This occurred several more times before the Holy Mass concluded at 3:00 p.m. Several members of the congregation were able to photograph these unusual lights. Cell phones texted others and soon thousands were headed toward this church.
That evening, “heavenly lights illuminated the church dome and towers” followed by the appearance of “large glowing doves” flying around the dome. This lasted from 10:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. at dawn and was seen by thousands who had gathered around the church to watch and photograph the spectacle. The lights and doves appeared every night until a week later on Tuesday, April 4, 2001. As the luminous doves glided overhead, the sounds of thousands chanting prayers and praises filled the streets.
When King Herod had ordered the killing of all children in Bethlehem, the Holy Family had fled Israel and come into Egypt. Assiut is where they spent the longest period of time – six months – and the farthest south that they had travelled.
The Bishop of Assiut confirmed these stories officially on April 6, 2001.