Tag Archives: Apparitions

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.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Aylesford, England

AYLESFORD, ENGLAND  (1251, 1322)  “Our Lady of Mt. Carmel”

For the noble task of giving us Her Scapular, Mary selected the great Carmelite Order of contemplative religious, whose sacred tradition of devotion to Her goes back to the Old Testament Prophet Elias – and to the holy Mount Carmel on which he and his followers dwelt, by the sea, not far from Mary’s home in Nazareth.  In the Bible, the third book of Kings describes a terrible drought afflicting Palestine.  On Mount Carmel, Elias prayed seven times for rain, and finally “a little cloud arose out of the seas the heavens grew dark with clouds and wind, and there fell a great rain and the hand of the Lord was upon Elias.”  Elias was also shown a mystical vision – a prophetic vision of the Virgin who was destined to give to the world the Messiah, who would save men from the drought of sin.  Elias therefore instructed his disciples to pray for the coming of this Virgin Mother.  During her life, Mary did visit this holy mountain.  Our Lord has called the Carmelites “The Order of My Mother.”

Even as a child, Simon Stock had an unusually intense devotion to Mary.  While still in his teens, he became a hermit and lived in the hollow trunk of a great tree.  A small dog used to bring him crusts of bread.  Simon would compose poems to Mary and carve her name on trees.  He would make pilgrimages to shrines of Our Lady.  Often she appeared to him in visions, guiding and advising him.  On one occasion, the Blessed Virgin revealed to him that some holy hermits would come from Mt. Carmel in a few years, and that he should join their Order, which was especially dedicated to Her service.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

St. Simon Stock became ordained as a priest at age forty.  Having met some of the Brothers of Carmel, he lived their strict penitential lifestyle for several years.  He left his homeland of England for the Holy Land, but he returned when Muslims invaded.  Upon his return, he joined the Carmelite Order and was eventually elected Prior General.  He found the task of organizing a group of contemplative hermits into an order of friars in Europe almost beyond his capacities.  When disruption and ruin threatened his beloved Order in the summer of 1251, the aged St. Simon withdrew to his monastic cell.  He appealed to the patroness of the Order, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, on July 16, 1251, with this prayer that is still recited frequently by members of the Order:

“Flower of Carmel, Blossom-laden Vine, Splendor of Heaven, Mother Divine, none like to thee, peerless and fair, to Thy Children of Carmel, grant favors, O Star of the Sea.”

Suddenly, a great flood of supernatural light filled his cell.  In the company of many bright angels, the Blessed Virgin appeared with the Child Jesus on her arm, living and moving in dazzling splendor.  She presented the Brown Scapular to him with this promise:

“Receive, my beloved son, this habit of thy Order.  This shall be the privilege for you and for all Carmelites — that whoever dies piously wearing this scapular, shall not suffer eternal flames.”

As Blessed Mary and the Child Jesus vanished, the Saint was filled with joy and gratitude on seeing himself clothed in the Scapular which Our Lady had just given him.  He thanked her profusely for this garment of grace and her marvelous promise.  He hastened to assemble his brethren and tell them what had happened.  The scapular consisted of two lengths of fabric, joined at the shoulders, with a hole in the center for the head, so that the scapular lies front and back.  With this recognition given by the Queen of Heaven, this Scapular or monastic apron became a permanent and much respected addition to the Carmelite habit.  A smaller form of this exists today and is more familiar to Catholics as two small panels of cloth joined by string and worn over the shoulders.  The Church considers the Scapular a miniature religious habit and a highly indulgenced sacramental.

After this apparition, and after numerous appeals for protection against the Order’s antagonists, Pope Innocent IV sent a letter of protection that secured the Order from the problems they encountered.  The King of England also issued letters of protection and favor for the Carmelite Order.  The Scapular was also officially adopted as the regular habit of the White Friars.

Some years later, when St. Peter Thomas was engaged with important missions of the papal court, Our Lady of Mount Carmel again favored Her Order.  Concerned about the Order, he heard these words:

“Have confidence, Peter, for the Carmelite Order will last until the end of the world.  Elijah, its founder, obtained it a long time ago from My Son.”

Many were attracted to this Order during the fourteenth century and became members by way of confraternities.  They then participated in the graces, benefits, and observances of the Order, and were properly enrolled in the Third Order.

On March 3, 1322, another apparition occurred – this time to Pope John XXII.  Now known as the Sabbatine Privilege, Our Lady revealed,

“I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend into Purgatory on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I shall find in Purgatory, I shall free.”

St. Robert Bellarmine explains the promise to mean “that anyone dying in Mary’s family will receive from Her, at the hour of death, either grace of perseverance in the state of grace or the grace of final contrition.”  On learning of this vision, Pope Benedict XV encouraged all to wear this “common armor which enjoys the singular privilege of protection – even after death.”

Sixteen popes have given their approval to this Privilege, including Pope Paul V, who issued a decree on its behalf.  Many saints have also added their approval.

Six hundred years after the apparition with Pope John XXII in which the Sabbatine Privilege was revealed, Pope Pius XI observed the occasion by writing in 1922:

“It surely ought to be sufficient to merely exhort all the members of the confraternities and third orders to persevere in the holy exercises which have been prescribed for the gaining of indulgences to which they are entitled and particularly for the gaining of the indulgence which is the principal and the greatest of them all, namely, that called the Sabbatine.”

Many saints have spoken highly of the Scapular, including St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Claude de la Colombiere, who announced:

“I aver without a moment’s hesitation that the Scapular is the most favored of all.”

It is regarded as the most indulgenced of all sacramentals.  It is of interest to realize that the scapulars of St. Alphonsus and St. John Bosco were found intact during their exhumations and are still preserved in reliquaries today.  Pope Saint John Paul II joined the Third Order of Mount Carmel as a young man and always wore the scapular – even when in the hospital after the attempt on his life.  Pope John Paul II said,

“Through the Scapular, those devoted to Our Lady of Mount Carmel express their desire to mold their existence on the example of our Mother, Patroness, Sister, Most Pure Virgin, to accept God’s word with a purified heart and devote themselves to the zealous service of others.”

We wear Our Lady’s Scapular as a loving “yes” to her desire that we keep Jesus as the center of our lives and bring Him to others.  At the First Communion, we usually add a “new cloak” – that of Our Lady’s Brown Scapular.  The beautiful custom of enrolling children in the Scapular puts them, in their innocence, under the tender care of their Heavenly Mother.  Mary wants to draw all of humanity under her protecting and sanctifying mantle by means of her Brown Scapular.  She has solemnly promised us that if we sincerely fulfill the conditions of this beautiful devotion, we shall not only be saved, but she will see to it that we do not remain long in Purgatory before joining her in Heaven!

Pope Pius X concluded, “Can anyone fail to see that there is no more direct or surer way than Mary to unite all mankind in Christ?”  And the Catholic Encyclopedia states, “Like the Rosary, this Scapular has become the badge of the devout Catholic and the true servant of Blessed Mary.”

The Birth of the Rosary, 1214 AD

SPAIN / SOUTHERN FRANCE  1214  “The Birth of the Rosary”

Found in the very well-known book, De Dignitate Psalterii, by Blessed Alan de la Roche, is the account of how Saint Dominic acquired the Rosary in the year 1214.  St. Dominic, seeing that the gravity of people’s sins was hindering the conversion of the Albigensians, withdrew into a forest near Toulouse, where he prayed continuously for three days and three nights.  During this time he did nothing but weep and do harsh penances in order to appease the anger of God.  He used his discipline so much that his body became lacerated, and, finally, he fell into a coma.  Our Lady appeared to him, accompanied by three angels, and said,

“Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?”

“Oh, My Lady,” answered Saint Dominic, “you know far better than I do, because next to your Son Jesus Christ you have always been the chief instrument of our salvation.”

Our Lady replied, “I want you to know that, in this kind of warfare, the principal weapon has always been the Angelic Psalter, which is the foundation-stone of the New Testament.  Therefore, if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter.”

So he arose, comforted, and burning with zeal for the conversion of the people in that district, he made straight for the cathedral.  At once, unseen angels rang the bells to gather the people together, and Saint Dominic began to preach.  At the very beginning of his sermon, an appalling storm broke out, the earth shook, the sun was darkened, and there was so much thunder and lightning that all were very much afraid.  Even greater was their fear when, looking at a picture of our Lady positioned in a prominent place, they saw her raise her arms to heaven three times to call down God’s vengeance upon them if they failed to be converted, to amend their lives, and seek the protection of the Holy Mother of God.  God wished, by means of these supernatural phenomena, to spread the new devotion of the holy Rosary and to make it more widely known.

Saint Dominic and the Rosary
Saint Dominic and the Rosary

At last, at the prayer of Saint Dominic, the storm came to an end, and he went on preaching. So fervently and compellingly did he explain the importance and value of the Rosary that almost all the people of Toulouse embraced it and renounced their false beliefs.  In a very short time a great improvement was seen in the town; people began leading Christian lives and gave up their former bad habits.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, instructed by the Blessed Virgin — as well as by his own experience, Saint Dominic preached the Rosary for the rest of his life.  He preached it by his example as well as by his sermons, in cities and in rural places, to people of high station and low, before scholars and the uneducated, to Catholics and to heretics.  The Rosary, which he said every day, was his preparation for every sermon and his little tryst with our Lady immediately after preaching.

One day he had to preach at Notre Dame in Paris on the Feast of St. John the Evangelist. He was in a little chapel behind the high altar, prayerfully preparing his sermon by saying the Rosary as he always did, when Our Lady appeared to him and said,

“Dominic, even though what you have planned to say may be very good, I am bringing you a much better sermon.”

Saint Dominic took in his hands the book Our Lady offered, read the sermon carefully and, when he had understood it and meditated on it, he gave thanks to Her.  When the time came, he went up into the pulpit and, in spite of the feast day, made no mention of Saint John other than to say that he had been found worthy to be the guardian of the Queen of Heaven.  The congregation was made up of theologians and other eminent people, who were used to hearing unusual and polished discourses; but Saint Dominic told them that it was not his desire to give them a learned discourse, wise in the eyes of the world, but that he would speak in the simplicity of the Holy Spirit and with his forcefulness.  So he began preaching the Rosary and explained the Hail Mary word by word as he would to a group of children, and used the very simple illustrations which were in the book given him by Our Lady.

St. Dominic and the Virgin
St. Dominic and the Virgin

Blessed Alan, according to Carthagena, mentioned several other occasions when Our Lord and Our Lady appeared to Saint Dominic to urge him and inspire him to preach the Rosary more and more in order to wipe out sin and convert sinners and heretics.  In another passage, Our Lady revealed that after she had appeared to Saint Dominic, Her blessed Son appeared to him also and said,

“Dominic, I rejoice to see that you are not relying on your own wisdom and that, rather than seek the empty praise of men, you are working with great humility for the salvation of souls.  But many priests want to preach thunderously against the worst kinds of sin at the very outset, failing to realize that before a sick person is given bitter medicine, he needs to be prepared by being put into the right frame of mind to really benefit by it.  That is why, before doing anything else, priests should try to kindle a love of prayer in people’s hearts and especially a love of my Angelic Psalter.  If only they would all start saying it and would really persevere, God in his mercy could hardly refuse to give them his grace. So I want you to preach My Rosary.”

All things, even the holiest, are subject to change, especially when they are dependent on man’s free will. It is hardly to be wondered at, then, that the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary only retained its first fervour for a century after it was instituted by Saint Dominic. After this it was like a thing buried and forgotten.  Doubtless, too, the wicked scheming and jealousy of the devil were largely responsible for getting people to neglect the Rosary, and thus block the flow of God’s grace which it had drawn upon the world.

Carlow Cathedral, St. Dominic
Carlow Cathedral, St. Dominic

Thus, in 1349, God punished the whole of Europe with the most terrible plague that had ever been known.  Starting in the east, it spread throughout Italy, Germany, France, Poland and Hungary, bringing desolation wherever it went, for out of a hundred men hardly one lived to tell the tale.  Big cities, towns, villages and monasteries were almost completely deserted during the three years that the epidemic lasted.  This scourge of God was quickly followed by two others: the heresy of the Flagellants and a tragic schism in 1376.

Later, when these trials were over, thanks to the Mercy of God, Our Lady told Blessed Alan to revive the former Confraternity of the Holy Rosary.  Blessed Alan was one of the Dominican Fathers at the monastery at Dinan, in Brittany.  He was an eminent theologian and a famous preacher.  Our Lady chose him because, since the Confraternity had originally been started in that province, it was fitting that a Dominican from the same province should have the honor of re-establishing it.

Blessed Alan began this great work in 1460, after a special warning from our Lord. This is how he received that urgent message, as he himself tells it.  One day, when he was offering Mass, Our Lord, who wished to spur him on to preach the Holy Rosary, spoke to him in the Sacred Host:

“How can you crucify Me again so soon?”

“What did you say, Lord?” (Alan was horrified)

“You crucified Me once before by your sins, and I would willingly be crucified again rather than have My Father offended by the sins you used to commit.  You are crucifying Me again now because you have all the learning and understanding that you need to preach My Mother’s Rosary, and you are not doing it.  If you only did that, you could teach many souls the right path and lead them away from sin.  But you are not doing it, and so you, yourself, are guilty of the sins that they commit.”

This terrible reproach made Blessed Alan solemnly resolve to preach the Rosary unceasingly.  To inspire him to preach the Rosary more, Our Lady said to him one day,

“You were a great sinner in your youth, but I obtained the grace of your conversion from My Son. Had such a thing been possible, I would have liked to have gone through all kinds of suffering to save you, because converted sinners are a glory to me. And I would have done that also to make you worthy of preaching my Rosary far and wide.”

Ever since Blessed Alan de la Roche re-established this devotion in 1460, the voice of the people, which is the voice of God, gave it the name of the Rosary, which means “crown of roses.”  That is to say that every time people say the Rosary devoutly they place on the heads of Jesus and Mary 153 white roses and sixteen red roses.  Being heavenly flowers, these roses will never fade or lose their beauty.

St. Dominic
St. Dominic

Our Lady has approved and confirmed this name of the Rosary; she has revealed to several people that each time they say a Hail Mary they are giving her a beautiful rose, and that each complete Rosary makes her a crown of roses.  So the complete Rosary is a large crown of roses and each chaplet of five decades is a little wreath of flowers or a little crown of heavenly roses which we place on the heads of Jesus and Mary.  The rose is the queen of flowers; the Rosary is the rose or “queen” of devotions, thus becoming the most important one.

The Virgin by the Sea, Walsingham, 1061AD

WALSINGHAM, ENGLAND   1061  “The Virgin by the Sea”

In a small village in North Norfolk, England, in 1061, lived a devout young widow, Richeldis de Faverches, Lady of the Manor of Walsingham.  Our Lady appeared to her three times in a vision, and each time showed her the house in which the Holy Family had dwelt in Nazareth.  Mary led Richeldis “in spirit” to Nazareth to show her the place where the Archangel Gabriel had greeted her, and directed the widow to take measurements of the house so that she could build one like it at Walsingham.  In this spot, the Virgin Mary explained, the people would celebrate the Annunciation, “the root of mankind’s gracious redemption.”

“Do all this unto my special praise and honor.  And all who are in any way distressed or in need, let them seek me here in that little house you have made at Walsingham.  To all that seek me there shall be given succor.  And there at Walsingham in this little house shall be held in remembrance the great joy of my salutation when Saint Gabriel told me I should through humility become the Mother of God’s Son.”

Three times Richeldis experienced this vision and request.  This confirmed her desire to have the replica constructed, but the directions about the exact location were unclear to her and the carpenters.  Richeldis gave instructions for the building to commence but nothing seemed to go right.

When the carpenters could make no progress in building, Richeldis found it difficult to go to sleep.  She spent the night in prayer, asking for guidance.  There was an energy in the air that “made the night seem almost alive.”  She heard singing that seemed “not of this world” and went out into her garden to investigate.  She noted that the “heavenly singing” was coming from the direction of the unfinished construction.  As she approached the site she was amazed to see that the little house had been completed – but had been moved about two hundred yards from the site of the original construction!  She then saw what appeared to be angels leaving the now completed house.  When the carpenters returned to the site, they, too, reported hearing strange sounds and were amazed to see that the house had been moved and completed.  They pronounced the craftsmanship of the completed construction to be far superior to their own.

Our Lady of Walsingham
Our Lady of Walsingham

The Holy House had been miraculously built, and very soon pilgrims began to arrive.
During the Middle Ages, Walsingham became one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in all of Europe.  It became widely known as “England’s Nazareth.”  A church was constructed around the house to protect it from the elements.  All walks of life came there – peasant, king, rich and poor.  At the Holy House, all were equal.  From the time of Henry III in 1226 almost every king and queen of England as well as Queen Isabella of France and King Robert Bruce of Scotland visited the shrine.  For almost 500 years, Walsingham continued to draw thousands.  Many miracles were attributed to Our Lady of Walsingham, including one in which King Edward I was saved from a piece of falling masonry.

In the early 1500’s, Henry VIII visited the Holy House of Walsingham more than once as a pilgrim.  On one such occasion he walked barefoot twice the usual distance traversed by penitents.  But Henry’s ways changed as the years passed.  In an effort to be rid of one of his wives, Queen Catherine, and marry another, the king broke with the Pope and had himself declared by his parliament to be head of the English Church.  Then, in 1538, in order to move against all religious orders in his domain, Henry confiscated and burned to the ground the Holy House of Our Lady of Walsingham.  Only a portion of the massive east wall is visible today.

A wealthy Anglican woman, Charlotte Boyd, bought and restored it in 1863.  In 1864, Pope Leo XIII re-founded the ancient shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and pilgrimages were permitted to resume.  In 1954, the image of Our Lady of Walsingham was solemnly crowned at the direction of Pope Pius XII.

A chapel devoted to Saint Catherine of Alexandria, about a mile before the shrine, became nicknamed the “Slipper Chapel” because visitors would leave their footwear there, out of respect, and walk the last mile barefoot or in slippers.

The Slipper Chapel
The Slipper Chapel

Our Lady of Walsingham is also known as “The Virgin by the Sea.”  The medieval ballad told that she helps mariners in distress.  The Anglican pilgrim hostel displays the name “Stella Maris” or “Star of the Sea,” one of Mary’s more ancient titles.  Just a few miles from the Norfolk coast, Walsingham is a sanctuary of prayer and healing, a metaphor of salvation from storm and shipwreck, offering calm waters and safe harbor for all in trouble.

Our Lady of the Snows, Rome, 352AD

A wealthy aristocrat and devout Christian known by tradition as John lived in Rome with his wife in the fourth century.  They had no children and feared that lack of an heir would end their family’s long prominence in the government of the city.  They had often prayed for a child but without success.  One day John’s wife said, “Let’s pray to the Blessed Virgin to nominate an heir.”

In August of that year, John had a dream that the Virgin Mary wanted a church built in her honor in Rome.  He was told that they would know where to build it because snow would fall on that spot.  Amazingly, Pope Liberius had the same dream on the same night.  Despite it being a very hot summer in Rome, snow fell the next day on Mount Esquiline, one of the famous Seven Hills.  However, it fell into a precise rectangular pattern – as if outlining the boundaries of the church Mary desired to have built.

When Pope Liberius showed up on Mount Esquiline to witness the miraculous snowfall, he found John and his wife already there, kneeling in prayer to the Virgin.  People crowded to see the rectangular patch of snow, which would not melt despite the hot summer heat of August.  John was convinced that its shape and size indicated that a church should be built on that precise spot.  As soon as the plot for the building had been staked out, the snow melted.

Basilica of St. Mary Major
Basilica of St. Mary Major

John met the costs of building this church, which was completed in 354 A.D.  It was dedicated as the Basilica Liberiana after Pope Liberius.  Seventy years later, it was rebuilt on a grander scale by Pope Sixtus III, who added decorations and ornaments of silver.  It was renamed the Basilica Sixti at that time.  Today, it is called the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major) and is one of the largest basilicas in the world.  They celebrate the Miracle of the Snow every year on August 5th.

Pope Liberius provided a special painting of Madonna and Child from St. Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine, to be housed in this new basilica.  Many miracles are attributed to this wonderful painting.  When Gregory I was Pope (590-604 A.D.), Rome was ravaged by a plague.  Pope Gregory carried the image of the Holy Mother in a procession from the basilica as far as Hadrian’s Mausoleum.  When the procession arrived, they heard an invisible heavenly choir singing Regina Coeli.  When the Pope asked the Virgin to pray for the city, he saw an apparition of St. Michael replacing the sword of vengeance into its scabbard.  And the plague ended.

Basilica of St. Mary Major, side altar
Basilica of St. Mary Major, side altar

The magnificent Basilica of St. Mary Major, still stands today as the seat of devotion to Our Lady of the Snows.  Father Paul Schulte, of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, introduced a shrine in her honor in the Midwest in 1941, which stands today in Belleville, Illinois.

Our Lady of the Snows
Our Lady of the Snows


Damascus, Syria, 1982-1990

Myrna (Maria) Al Akharas was just 18 years old when she married her husband Nicholas in 1982. In November of that year her sister-in-law, Layla, became quite ill. While praying fervently for her on November 22, 1982, without any warning, her hands began to exude oil. Two other ladies present insisted that she place her hands on Layla, and when she did, Layla was instantly healed. Myrna was totally confused.

Myrna (Maria) Al Akharas
Myrna (Maria) Al Akharas

Five days later, a small, three-inch tall picture of Mary with the Christ child in their bedroom began oozing enough oil to fill a saucer! Confused, family members were summoned – and they all began praying. Within one hour, four more dishes of oil came from the small icon. Suddenly, Myrna could not hear any sounds around her – as if mysteriously blocked by some presence. Then a most beautiful voice said to her,

Mary (Myrna), do not be frightened. I am with you. Open the doors and do not deprive anyone from seeing me. Light a candle for me.

Then she could hear sounds around her again. The icon poured forth oil for the next four days. The clergy and civil authorities all investigated for any evidence of a fraud or trick. They could only conclude that oil was indeed coming from the picture. When they asked Myrna to pray in front of them, having washed her hands well, the oil would flow from her palms again. They were impressed that she was not more religious than most others. She prayed very little, only went to church once a week, and loved to dance, swim, and laugh like other young people.

One day a priest was kneeling near Myrna while she was praying, and he heard her say, “Father, I feel like the Virgin has entered into me!” Then he saw a “brilliant liquid” flowing abundantly from her palms. A bishop who was also present in the room noted that the oil had the scent of myron – or holy oil. Medical doctors and scientists gathered to decipher the origin of the healing oil that continued to exude from Myrna’s hands when she prayed. Thousands of people began to visit the icon in her home. The sick gathered in her courtyard, asking to be anointed with the healing oil. Phenomenal cures resulted for many of them.

Home of Mirna and Nicolas Nazour
Home of Mirna and Nicolas Nazour

On December 15, 1982, at 11:37 p.m., while a huge crowd of people were praying in front of Myrna’s little picture, she felt an invisible being tug at her arm and firmly escort her to the roof garden. She was afraid and knelt on the tile floor. When she looked up, she saw the Virgin Mary in front of her! “She shined as if she were covered with diamonds. I was afraid, and I ran away screaming.” Her husband and family were overwhelmed and confused. What was going on?

On December 18, 1982, Myrna was once again mysteriously escorted by an invisible being to the roof garden. But this time her husband and nine others followed. From the roof Myrna observed something strange across the street in the upper part of a tree.

“There was a large, luminous, white globe – like a large diamond ball – sitting on a tree limb. The ball opened, splitting from the top and dividing into two half-moons. As the halves opened, a bow of light appeared over the top, and inside was the same Beautiful Lady. As the ball disappeared, the Lady seemed to be standing on the branch of the tree. She had a white veil that covered her hair. The veil was a part of her dress. Over her right shoulder was a sky-blue cape that wrapped around her back and over her left side. The white dress covered her feet, and only her hands could be seen. The dress and cape seemed to be made of white and blue light. From her right hand hung a long Rosary.”

Holy Face
Holy Face

The vision floated toward Myrna along a stream of pure light that formed like a path through the sky from the tree. The Virgin passed right through the railing of the terrace, stopping just two feet away from where Myrna knelt. Then Mary spoke,

My children, be mindful of God because God is with us. You know much, but you really know nothing. Your knowledge is incomplete. One day you will know everything as God knows me. Do good to evil-doers. Do not mistreat anyone. I have given you oil, more than you have asked for. I give you something stronger than oil. Repent and believe! Be mindful of me in your joy. Announce my Son Emmanuel. He who announces Him is saved. He who does not … his faith is in vain. Love one another.

I do not ask you to give money to churches. I ask you to love. Those who give money to the poor and to the churches but yet have not love, have lives of no value. I will visit the homes of my children more frequently, because those who go to church do not always go there to pray. I do not ask you to build a church for me but rather a shrine. Give. Do not deprive anyone who asks for help. Be humble, my children. Do not insult the proud. Forgive them. Then you will be forgiven.”

Then Mary raised her right hand (which held the Rosary). A brightness enveloped her as she disappeared into the dazzling light. The Virgin continued to appear to Myrna after this, frequently emphasizing church unity and humility.

On December 19, 1982, a man carried his paralyzed nine-year old son into Myrna’s bedroom where the icon was kept. Oil poured from Myrna’s hands while she and the boy’s father prayed over him. As she anointed his legs, the twisted limbs straightened out, and the boy stated excitedly that he could feel his legs for the first time in his life! The father screamed praises for the miracle, and his son ran and jumped and danced with great joy and many tears.

On December 31, 1982, an official declaration was made by Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim, who had studied the supernatural events carefully. Recognition was spread throughout the Greek Orthodox churches in Damascus. Approval was granted by the Syrian Catholic Church.

Soufanieh smudgestick
Soufanieh smudgestick

On January 5, 1983, a Muslim woman, who was completely blind, was healed and recovered her eyesight completely. It is estimated that 100,000 people have witnessed these miracle healings from the oil with their own eyes. It is also estimated that over a million people have seen filmed documentation of these miracles. Even in 1988 as she traveled to speak about the apparitions and messages given to her, the healing oil continued to flow and heal others.

On June 18, 1990, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Damascus attested to being an eyewitness on several occasions to oil exuding from Myrna and her little icon.

Myrna has also bore the stigmata on the Fridays preceding Easter. One video clearly shows the bloody outline of an unseen crown of thorns on her forehead. Her hands exhibit gaping wounds in each palm. She is seen in the video, writhing in pain, on her bed. Her husband, mother, and clergy are with her for those three hours.

On May 31, 1984, at 3:00 p.m., oil began to flow from her forehead, face, neck, hands, and eyes. The pain in her eyes was excruciating. Then she went into an “ecstasy” and heard the voice of Jesus for the first time,

My daughter, I am the beginning and the end.”

On October 15, 1986, Myrna received a message for the world from Jesus:

My daughter, how beautiful is the earth. In this place I shall establish my Kingdom and My peace. I shall give you My Heart in order to have yours. Your sins are forgiven because you are looking for Me. He who looks for Me, I shall imprint My image in him. Tell My children to come for Me, for I am with them at all times.

Although Myrna has no idea why she was chosen for these spiritual gifts, she treasures them and accepts her “assignment.” She encourages others to take these messages given to her very seriously. It is not known if the oil ever stopped flowing from her palms, so she may be still offering the healing oil to this present day.

SOURCE:  “Meetings with Mary” by Janice Connell

Manila, Philippines, 1986

The events in the Philippines began in February, 1986, as the virtual twenty-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos came to an abrupt and unexpected end through a series of strange events. Corazon Aquino, the widow and reluctant political replacement of slain opposition leader, Ninoy Aquino, had won the presidential election in a stunning upset by an overwhelming margin. President Marcos had actually called for this election as a means to put an end to the efforts by the opposition, but it backfired! However, through illegal actions and total control of the media, Marcos, instead, flagrantly lied and declared himself as the winner.

The rigged election results were blatant and obvious to everyone, sending millions into the streets to protest and triggering an unexpected coup attempt by a dissatisfied faction of the military. The saga of EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue) culminated in a four-day tension-filled event when the rebel group in the Armed Forces of the Philippines was discovered by the Marcos troops and was ordered to be arrested. The Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, enjoined the people to go out in the streets to protect the rebel leaders. The Catholic faithful heeded the call and massed along EDSA, fronting Camp Crame where the rebel leaders — headed by then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos — were holed and thus escorted by the people against impending bombs from the Marcos loyal troops.

The people milled around the rebel leaders, bringing nothing with them but rosary beads, flowers, food and images of the Blessed Virgin. Hundreds and thousands of religious priests and sisters, parish priests and their parishioners including onlookers and curiosity seekers stayed on the whole of EDSA, immobilizing the tanks sent out to crush the rebel leaders and, according to reports, even the people. The masses of people in the streets continued to pray the Rosary endlessly. Some offered garlands of flowers to the soldiers who stood guard. Some brave nuns climbed up on the tanks that were approaching. Those who stayed in their homes sent supplies of food and drinks to the streets.

President Marcos had sent a full army — with tanks and armored vehicles — to Manila in order to control the seemingly unstoppable public demonstrations against his administration. He planned to stop at nothing in order to gain control – even if that meant massacring the crowds on the streets. The civilians continued their protests, notwithstanding the danger when they would lie down in front of the tanks to stop them from penetrating the crowd.

Tanks in the streets of Manila 1986
Tanks in the streets of Manila 1986

As the soldiers tried to advance, they saw up in the sky what appeared to be a cross-like figure, but this did not hinder them from pursuing their goal, and they continued to press on toward the crowd. The Rosary was recited continuously; the melody of Ave Maria sounded after each decade.

All of a sudden, the soldiers were awestruck, stopping dead in their tracks. A “beautiful woman encased in immense bright light and dressed as a nun” became clearly visible, standing in front of the tanks. The light was dazzling as the crowds saw her appear. According to these soldiers, a beautiful woman dressed in blue with heavenly eyes appeared in front of them, extended her arms outward and spoke in a voice that was clearly audible to everyone,

Dear soldiers, stop! Do not proceed. Do not harm my children. I am the queen of this land.”

The soldiers then dropped their weapons, withdrew from pressing forward and joined the throngs of people to turn and fight with them against the Marcos regime.

The soldiers claimed that the woman who appeared to them was the Virgin Mary. A television station was covering the event which prompted thousands of residents of the Philippines to run out of their homes in celebration: “Mother Mary is with us!”

Crowd in Manila 1986
Crowd in Manila 1986

President Marcos and his family left for Hawaii that night.

Cardinal Jaime Sin vouches for the veracity of the apparition and said:

Yes, my heart was telling me that this was indeed Mary. And since they obeyed this woman who appeared to them – and did not follow orders to fire upon the people, then President Marcos had nobody to give him any power or support. This is when he fled from the Philippines. That was the end of him.

The Cardinal added that he did not know the soldiers – but that they came in tears to him, awestruck by the “beautiful heavenly lady.” The Cardinal also revealed that he met with Sister Lucia, the only living visionary from Fatima, just before he was to travel to the United States to first tell of the Virgin’s visit at a press conference. Although Sister Lucia had no access to newspapers, radio, television, or magazines, he was amazed that she knew and recounted every detail to him of what had happened. She then added that Corazon Aquino was a gift to the Philippines from God, and that if she could maintain peace and democracy there for at least two or more years, that nation would be influential in leading China to Christianity.

It was on a historic day, February 25, 1986 when the concept of a special shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived. On that date, the political dictatorship of the late President Ferdinand Marcos ended with him, family and close associates fleeing to Hawaii to escape the angry but peaceful uprising of the Filipino people who were tired of his one-man rule.

It was a shining moment for the faith of the people in a God who listens. It was also the people’s faith and trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, which gave the people persistence in patiently waiting for the end of this unlamented regime.

Our Lady of ESDA Shrine, Manilla
Our Lady of ESDA Shrine, Manilla

Ten years later, on the same site where the rebels were met by the protective group of political activists to safety, a church was built, aptly named Our Lady of EDSA Shrine, in commemoration of that glorious moment in the history of the Filipino people where love and faith towered over the might of guns and goons and propelled the Republic to continue its political history of freedom and respect for the constitution and the will of the people.

Mary, Queen of Peace, the Patroness of EDSA Shrine, stands guard as a large statue atop the beautifully crafted roof of the EDSA Church, fronting the busy crossroads of EDSA and Ortigas Avenue. It is a fitting place for Our Lady of Peace to look over her children and keep them hopeful of a more joyous and peaceful life now and in the future.

Apparitions Table of Contents


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Our Lady of the Pillar, Zaragoza, Spain, 40AD

Soon after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Saint James was preaching the Gospel in Spain. (This also would have been around 10 years after Mary was taken to heaven. Other sources say that Mary was still alive and living in Palestine – so she bilocated!?)  James was disheartened because of the failure of his mission in Spain.  On January 2nd, 40 A.D., while he was deep in prayer by the banks of the Ebro, the Mother of God appeared to him and gave him a small statue of her image holding Jesus and also a column of jasper.  (picture 1) She instructed him to build a church in her honor.

This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple that you shall build. The faith of the people will become as strong as this pillar

Zaragoza, picture 1
Zaragoza, picture 1

About a year after the apparition, James arranged to build a small chapel in Mary’s honor – the first church ever dedicated to the honor of the Virgin Mary.  After James returned to Jerusalem, he was executed by Herod Agrippa in about 44 A.D. – the first apostle to be martyred for his faith.  Several of his disciples took his body and returned it for final burial in Spain.

Although this first chapel was eventually destroyed along with various other Christian shrines, the statue and pillar stayed intact under the protection of the people of Zaragoza, Spain.  Today, a Baroque-style church, completed in 1686, exists on this site and houses the precious items given to James by the Virgin Mary in 40 A.D.

Zaragoza, picture 2
Zaragoza, picture 2

During the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, three bombs were dropped on the church, but none of them exploded.  Two of them are on display in the basilica today. (picture 2 and 3)

Zaragoza, picture 3
Zaragoza, picture 3