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!”
“The Mystical Rose”
MONTICHIARI / FONTANELLE, ITALY (1947-1966)
Not far from the picturesque Lake Garda, surrounded by mountains, is the little town of Montichiari with 14,000 inhabitants. In the spring of 1947, while praying in the hospital chapel, nurse Pierina Gilli encountered Our Holy Mother. Mary appeared in a wonderful vision and magnificent light, dressed in mauve, but very sad with tears in her eyes. Her heart was pierced by three swords – one was for the unworthy celebration of Mass and Communion received unworthily; the second was for unfaithful priests and other religious ones giving up; the third was for “betrayal of the Faith.” Our Lady asked for Prayer, Penance, and Sacrifice. Those were her only words.
Second Apparition (July 13, 1947) – Our Lady appeared to Pierina in a white dress adorned with three roses of white, red, and yellow colors (in place of 3 swords). The white rose symbolized the spirit of prayer. The red rose represented the spirit of sacrifice, and the yellow rose was for the spirit of penance and conversion. But Pierina had not yet recognized who this lady in white truly was, so she asked her. Mary replied,
“I am the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of you. Our Lord sends me to bring a new Marian Devotion to all religious orders and institutes, male and female, and to the priests of this world. I promise to protect these religious orders and institutes who will venerate me in this special way, increase their vocations, and achieve a greater striving for saintliness among the servants of God. I wish that the 13th day of each month be celebrated as a Marian Day. Special prayers are to be said during the preceding twelve days. On this day I shall pour out vocational holiness and abundant graces on those religious orders and spiritual institutes who have honored me especially. I wish that the 13th of July be celebrated every year in honor of the Rosa Mystica.”
Pierina asked if a miracle would follow. Mary said that the miracle would be the return of wayward, offending priests to the original spirit of their saintly founders. Pierina translated the term Mystical Rose to mean, “Mary is the master teacher of the innermost mystical life and the Mother of the mystical body of Christ – the Mother of the Church.” This interpretation was magnificently confirmed by Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964.
Third Apparition (October 22, 1947) – Our Lady again appeared to Pierina in the hospital chapel in the presence of many staff members, doctors, and religious from the town. A statue of Mary came to life, and blood started dripping from the side of Christ. Pierina took a purificator and wiped the drops of blood. Blessed Mary said,
“I have placed myself as the Mediatrix between my Divine Son and mankind, especially for the soul consecrated to God. Tired of the continuous offenses, He already wants to dispense His justice. … Live out of Love! For the last time I come to ask for the devotion already registered at other times. My Divine Son wanted to leave traces of his blood to witness how great is his love for the people from whom he is countered with serious offenses. Get the purificator and show it to those present. Here are the drops of the blood of the Lord!”
Fourth Apparition (November 16, 1947) – Mary appeared in the Basilica of Montichiari in the presence of some people, including several priests. The Virgin said,
“Our Lord can no longer watch the many grievous sins against purity. He wants to send a flood of punishments. I have interceded that He may be merciful once more! Therefore, I ask for prayer and penance to atone for these sins.”
Fifth Apparition (November 22, 1947) – When Mary appeared to Pierina again in the Basilica, Mary asked her to make the Sign of the Cross four times with her tongue on the tiles in the center of the church. Our Lady descended onto that spot and said,
“I descend on this place — for many great conversions will happen here. The Christians of your Italian nation belong to those who most offend my Divine Son Jesus through their sins of unchastity. Our Lord demands PRAYER, generous SACRIFICES, and PENANCE. … Penance means to accept, every day, all the little crosses and the duties, too, in the spirit of penance. On the 8th of December, at noon, I shall appear again here in the Basilica. IT WILL BE THE HOUR OF GRACE. This will produce great and numerous conversions. Hardened and cold hearts resembling this marble will be touched by divine Grace, and they will become faithful to Our Lord in loyal love.”
Sixth Apparition (December 7th, 1947) – The Blessed Virgin appeared again in the Basilica to Pierina along with three people. Mary wore a white cloak – held on the right by a young boy and held on the left by a small girl. Mary then stated,
“I shall show my Heart tomorrow of which the people know so little. In Fatima I asked that the devotion to my Heart be spread. (sweetly:) I wanted to bring my Heart into Christian families in Bonate. (Ghiaie di Bonate!) (after a pause) Here, in Montichiari, I wish to be venerated as The Rosa Mystica”
Pierina was given a secret that Mary would allow her to reveal to the public at a later date. Pierina asked who the boy and girl were that appeared on either side of Mary. Our Lady replied that they were Francisco and Jacinta (from Fatima). With that revelation, Mary spread her arms outward, lifted her eyes to Heaven, and vanished, saying, “Praised be the Lord!”
Seventh Apparition (December 8th, 1947) – Countless priests were present for this anticipated event – so many that Pierina had trouble getting into the church! Pierina knelt in the center of the church, praying the Rosary, when Our Lady appeared on a large white staircase decorated with a white, red, and yellow rose. She said, with a smile,
“I am the Immaculate Conception … (took a few more steps) … I am Mary, full of grace, Mother of My Divine Son Jesus Christ… (a few more steps) … Through my coming to Montichiari I wish to be known as the Rosa Mystica. It is my wish that every year, on the 8th of December, at noon, the Hour of Grace for the World be celebrated. Many divine and bodily graces will be received through this devotion. Jesus will send His overflowing mercy if good people will pray continuously for their sinful brother. One should very soon notify the Holy Father of the Church, Pope Pius XII, that it is my wish that the HOUR OF GRACE FOR THE WORLD be made known and spread throughout the world. If anyone is unable to visit his church, yet will pray at noon at home, he will also receive graces through me. Whoever prays on these tiles and weeps tears of penance will find a secure, heavenly ladder and receive protection and grace through my motherly heart. … The Lord is still protecting the good and is holding back a great punishment because of my intercession. Soon, one will recognize the greatness of this Hour of Grace.
Pierina says: “On Her chest stood Her Heart, in which the stakes were three roses, white, red and yellow. A light so bright, radiant and penetrating was emerging from Her Heart. I was dazzled and almost blinded, to the point that Mary disappeared from my sight. The light was so strong when it came out of Her Heart and so pervasive into my interior, which filled me with immense joy, that I could not help but cry with excitement: Oh! The Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
That was the description of the apparition that Pierina wrote in her diary. She adds the words of the Virgin Mary:
“Behold the Heart that so loves men, while most of them return it with insults. When good and evil are united in prayer, one will obtain mercy, and peace from this Heart. For now, the good by me have obtained the Lord’s mercy that stopped a great plague “
Pierina saw that Our Lady was about to depart and said, “Dear Lady, I thank you! Bless my homeland, Italy, and the whole world, but especially the Holy Father, the priest, the religious, and the sinners.” Mary smiled and replied,
“I have already prepared a flood of graces for all the children who listen to my words and keep them in their hearts. I will return at a suitable time when the Secret entrusted to you will be made public through the Ecclesiastical authority. Good-bye.”
Pierina withdrew from the world into a convent where she served in the kitchen. She waited in silence for the hour which, as promised, cameafter 19 years on April 17, 1966, the Sunday after Easter in Fontanelle, a small settlement just outside of Montichiari. The Blessed Virgin said to Pierina,
“My Divine Son is total Love, and he is sending me to give miraculous powers to this spring. As a sign of penance and purification, kiss the top step … Descend a few steps and kiss the stone again. (Mary follows behind her) Now, for a third time, kiss the bottom step and have a crucifix placed there (with Her left hand, She indicated the spot) The sick and all my children must kiss the crucifix and ask my Divine Son for forgiveness before they take the water or drink from it. (She approaches the spring.) Take mud into your hands. Wash yourself with water! This is to teach the sinners that sin makes the soul dirty, yet the soul will be cleansed again through the water of grace.”
Our Lady bowed down and touched the water of the spring in two places. She repeated her wish for the sick to come to this miraculous spring along with many of her children.
Second Apparition (May 13, 1966) – In the presence of about 20 people Blessed Mary again appeared at the spring. She wanted her appearance to be made known. She suggested that “the world is walking the road to perdition” but She has obtained mercy. She insisted again on Prayer, Sacrifice, and Penance “to save mankind.” She pointed to the right side of the spring and insisted that a comfortable basin be constructed to immerse the sick, while on the left side, the water there would be for drinking. It would be named the Spring of Grace. Spreading her arms and opening her wide cloak, she smiled and said,
“I have come to bring love, unity, and peace to the souls of my children. I ask you, do not throw any mud on the love for your fellow man. … Do acts of charity for the sick who will come here.”
Third Apparition (June 9, 1966) – About a hundred people were present at the spring on this feast day of Corpus Christi. Pierina asked everyone present to recite the Rosary. Suddenly, in the middle of the Rosary, Pierina said, “Look up to the sky!” Our Lady was appearing about 5 or 6 meters above the spring over a wheat field. Those present noticed that, in the direction of the seer’s eyes, Our Lady seemed to touch the ears of the wheat with her feet. Mary said,
“I should like very much that this wheat be transformed into Eucharistic bread, into countless penitential communions. (lifting eyes toward Heaven) It is my wish that the Hosts made of this wheat be taken to Rome – and to Fatima for the 13th of October (the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun in Fatima). I wish that a chapel be built here with a statue facing the spring. The statue is to be carried here in a procession on October 13th. Prior to this, I want the people of Montichiari to consecrate themselves to my heart.”
Fourth Apparition (August 6, 1966) – At the spring on this day about 200 people had gathered. Our Lady appeared again during the reciting of the Rosary. Mary said,
“My Divine Son, Jesus, has sent me again, in order to request the World League of Penitential Communion – and this to be done on the 13th of October throughout the world. It will first be held in 1966, and then repeated every year. The priests and faithful who will spread this devotion will be given the wealth of my graces. One should take the wheat to my beloved Son, Pope Paul VI, with the instruction that it has been blessed by Our Presence.”
Pierina was told to make small bread rolls of the remaining wheat which would be distributed in Fontanelle in memory of Her visits and as “a sign of gratitude to my sons who till the soil.”
“After my ascension into Heaven, I have always acted as Mediatrix between my Son Jesus and the whole of mankind. How many graces I have been able to obtain in all these centuries! How many graces were shown. How much punishment was prevented. How many dialogues did I hold with souls. How often have I visited Earth to bring my messages to the people – but people continue to offend Our Lord. I have chosen this place of Montichiari because there is still the humility of poor Bethlehem among my sons who till the soil. Because so many prayers are said continuously, this place will be transformed into a source of rich blessings.”
In an appearance on May 15, 1969, Our Lady confirms the value of obedience to Pierina saying:
“I joined the obedience you’ve done to your Bishop Luigi Morstabilini, to imitate the example you were given. First, the Divine Son, Jesus Christ, humbled himself and became obedient unto death on a cross. Daughter, obedience is humility, so often sacrifice, but God our Lord knows then to give the soul peace and docility, which is the true love of Him!”
The meaning of the three roses: White Rose: a spirit of prayer for reparation — for the offenses by the Lord’s consecrated people who do not live consistently their vocation. Red Rose: a spirit of sacrifice for the offenses committed by the men who live in mortal sin. Pink Yellow-gold: a spirit of sacrifice for the offenses to the Lord committed by the priests who betray their vocation and, in particular, to get their sanctification. These three roses offered for love, with the spirit of reparation required by Rosa Mistica, drop the three swords from the Heart of Our Lady.
May 19, 1970 apparition: The Virgin shows two round gold medals in the palms of Her hands. On the right palm Pierina sees the engraved image of Mary, standing at the top of a ladder with her hands folded and head bowed forward, surrounded by roses. Many roses were scattered at Her feet. Encircling this image was written: “Rosa” and “Mystica.” On the back of one of the medals Pierina sees a beautiful domed church with three large doors. On it was the inscription: Mary Mother of the Church. Pierina wrote in her diary that the Blessed Mother “expresses the wish that I make a medal like this with the two inscriptions,” and says,
“The Lord sent me to this place chosen by Him to bring the gift of his love, the source of the gift of thanks and the medal of My Motherly Love. I’m here today to let people know that this medal, the gift of universal love will be carried by the children in their hearts wherever they go. I promise to these my children My protection, My motherly grace . The medal of my motherly love will let my children know I am always carried with them. I am the Mother of the Lord, the Mother of humanity. You will be the triumph of universal love! The blessing of the Lord, with my love, will always accompany all children who take refuge in me.”
Every 13th of the month is devoted to special acts of devotion to Mary, with a preparation of prayer in the 12 previous days.
Second Sunday of Easter – Anniversary of Rosa Mistica Fontanelle in Montichiari.
On July 13 of each year is celebrated in honor of Mary ” Mystical Rose . “
On October 13 of each year (second Sunday of the month) is sanctified by the Holy Communion of Reparation preceded by confession. The message speaks of “World Union of Holy Communion of Reparation.” Under this designation may be set up prayer groups or congregations.
Every year on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, at noon you enjoy the Hour of Grace, waiting for the special graces of conversion and sanctification promised for that hour.
On March 22, 1888, the day before the Feast of the Compassion of Our Blessed Lady, two peasant women were shepherding their sheep on the hills in Southern Italy near the village of Castelpetroso. Fabiana Cicchino (35-year old virgin) and Serafina Valentino (34-year old married woman) belonged to Pastine, a hamlet in the diocese of Bojano. One of their sheep had strayed onto a hill nearest Castelpetroso. Fabiana found the lost sheep in a ravine near some rocks. But a strange light was coming from a crack in the rocks. The rays of the bright light formed a clear image of Our Blessed Virgin on her knees with her eyes gazing toward heaven. Her arms were outstretched in an act of imploring and offering of her Son, full of wounds and lying dead beneath her. It was the image of the Pieta.
Mary appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows, wearing a deep red dress and a dark mantle. She was a very beautiful, fair-skinned, young woman with disheveled hair and bleeding from wounds received from seven swords. The Blessed Virgin never spoke. When Serafina caught up to Fabiana, she could not see anything.
They returned home, crying, sobbing, trembling, and terrified. People naturally inquired as to the cause of their emotions. But very few believed them, and nobody paid much attention to their statements.
During the Solemnity of Easter on April 1, 1888, the same vision occurred again to these two women in the same location. This time, Serafina also witnessed the apparition. More people became curious after this encounter and began to believe that something was truly happening there. People began to go to the mountain and visit the spot of the alleged apparitions, some 2,600 feet above sea level. First, a child saw Mary; then an avowed heretic witnessed her also. Others affirmed that they saw Our Blessed Virgin bearing her dead Son in her arms.
Pilgrimages began, and within a few days, some four thousand persons visited the spot – which was double the number of those living there. Soon, this place which had been generally unknown, suddenly became the center of attraction to countless crowds from the neighboring countryside. Of those who went, some testified that they saw the Blessed Virgin as Our Lady of Carmel, Our Lady of Grace, and also Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. But most of the time, she appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows. She was usually alone but was also accompanied at times by St. Michael, St. Anthony, or St. Sebastian. Among those who testified to these apparitions was a well-known disbeliever, who received the grace of seeing Our Lady four times in half an hour.
The apparitions were accompanied by another phenomenon; in May of 1888 the body of water at the foot of the mountain began bestowing miracles. Soon, believers from other countries came in masses to behold and experience the extraordinary events and the fountain of miracles. Angelo Verna, a six-year old mute boy, was given a drink of this water by his father and was completely healed by receiving the gift of speech.
The priest in the diocese treated the whole affair as delusional and preached against it. A second priest, Don Luigi Ferrara, was also a disbeliever – until he saw her, too!
“I had many times derided those who visited the mountain on which these wonderful apparitions took place. On May 16, 1888, however, I felt a desire to visit the place. When I arrived, I began to look into one of the fissures, and I saw with great clearness Our Lady, like a statuette, with a little Child in her arms. After a short interval I looked again at the same spot, and, in place of the Most Holy Virgin I saw, quite clearly, the dead Savior bearing the crown of thorns and all covered in blood. Whenever I think of these visions on this mountain, I am moved to tears and cannot speak.”
News of the occurrences reached Msr. Francesco Macarone-Palmieri, Bishop of the diocese of Bojano. While in Rome on business, he updated Pope Leo XIII on the events near Castelpetroso, adding that he should have liked the apparitions to have been confirmed by “some clear sign.” The Pope replied by asking the Bishop if he did not think the apparitions in themselves were signs. Pope Leo XIII asked the bishop to return to the site of the apparitions and make a further investigation.
On the morning of September 26, 1888, the Bishop returned to the site and had the privilege of witnessing the vision of Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows – just as Fabiana and Serafina had described. After observing Our Lady on three occasions, he proceeded to file his official report:
“The Blessed Virgin appeared daily more frequently as the Mother of Sorrows, and, at other times, as Our Lady of Mount Carmel or the Queen of the Holy Rosary. A number of persons affirmed that they saw apparitions of St. Michael, St. Anthony, St. Joseph, St. Sebastian, together with the Blessed Virgin, and also the Holy Face of Jesus surrounded by angels.
As the event became more widely known and acquired a high degree of credibility, I deemed it expedient to have an account reduced to writing and certified to by the depositions, under oath, of those who had been eye-witnesses of the prodigy. The preparation of this report occupied several months. When it was completed, I took it in person to Rome to submit it to the Sovereign Pontiff that the Holy See might pronounce authoritatively and definitely in the matter.
I, myself, can bear witness that I visited the sacred spot, and, after some time spent in prayer, saw the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin. At first the image of Our Lady appeared faint and indistinct, but at length she appeared in the attitude and proportions of the representation of the Mother of Sorrows published in one of the numbers of the Servo di Maria. Besides myself and the very large number of persons whose names are recorded in the official report, there are the Vicar-General of the diocese, the Archpriest of the Cathedral, and many other ecclesiastics, who also beheld the miraculous Apparitions. With joyful heart, I affirm that the wonders happening in Castelpetroso are the last touches of the Divine Mercy, to call those who have gone far from the right way.”
In November of 1888, Count Charles Aquaderni, director of the magazine, Servo di Maria, went to the blessed rocks with his son, Augusto, who was sick with a serious bone tuberculosis. Miraculously, the boy was healed at the site!
On December 18, 1889, Father Joseph Lais, a physicist, medical doctor, and sub-director of the Vatican Observatory, examined everything and was convinced that no optical illusion could be responsible for what people had been seeing.
“The observations I made of the character of the people lead me to recognize that they are profoundly convinced of the event having taken place. Their simple and ingenuous demeanor does not suggest the suspicion that the fact should be, to some extent, fanciful or the effect of imagination. The natural formation of the rocks excludes the theory of trickery.”
The Bishop of Bojano formed a committee in 1889 to begin collecting funds for a church to be built on the site of the apparitions. Pope Leo XIII blessed their work, imparting the Apostolic Blessing to the members of the committee and to all those who contributed to the fund. The cornerstone for a beautiful Gothic church was laid in May of 1890 in front of 30,000 faithful. The layout symbolizes a heart with seven chapels at its center representing the seven sorrows of Mary, the seven swords piercing her heart.
On December 6, 1973, Pope Paul VI proclaimed the Blessed and Sorrowful Virgin Mary as Patroness of the region – upon a request by the Bishop of Molise. Pope John Paul II visited the sanctuary as a pilgrim on March 19, 1995. A community of friars and sisters has been established since 1993 — called the Franciscans of the Immaculate.
On May 12, 1874, two young shepherds, Angela Berruti (12) and Vincent Scossiera (13), were leading their flock up the hill Pra` when, suddenly, to the east, appeared a lady high in the air. But she was supported by the cloud that she stood on. She wore a coffee-colored outfit, and her head was covered by a veil. She stood with a child in her arms. Frightened, Angela ran to her boss and reported what she had seen, but she was disbelieved and derided for “acting stupid.”
Vincent managed his feelings better and calmly viewed the scene. Something white like a sheet was behind the figure of the beautiful lady. Two others were with her — one on each side – but were not identified at this time. Her hands were at her sides. On her head she wore a gold crown. Her dress was a blue and white color. There was a brightness about her, and she stared at the young boy. It caused him to cry out in awe and shock. A very loud cry startled him, and he ran all the way home, crying.
A man, Olivieri Magdalene, was praying in the little wooded valley when he encountered the same appearance of the Virgin Mary that Angela had. On May 16, Teresa Burnengo (36) was praying at the site of the first apparition. She saw the Madonna at a short height above the ground and almost in a niche. She described the same coffee-colored outfit, veil covering her head, and baby Jesus in her arms.
On October 25, a thirteen year old and her friend, Maria Valley Pegollo visited the site of the apparitions and saw the Virgin Mary dressed in black. They lowered their eyes and prayed. After a while, they saw angels surrounding the Blessed Mother, who now wore a blue cape, fastened on her chest with a shining star. Her hands were folded on a cross upon her breast. Two people were at her sides, benign and friendly. The girls began asking questions. The Virgin stated that she was “the Immaculate Conception.” The two people with her were Saint Clare and Saint Elizabeth. The angels were reported as having come to assess the innocence of the girls. Mary explained that the star on her chest which served as a clasp for her cape was given by Her Son, Jesus, to recognize his mother as the “Queen of Heaven and Earth.”
After this encounter, the parents of a blind boy and a girl with a paralyzed left arm asked the two girls to help present their two suffering children to the Virgin Mary for hopeful healing. The two visionary girls took a hand of each of the suffering youths and led them to the apparition site. As they approached the youthful image of Mary all decorated in white, who had reappeared at the door of a large chapel, Maria Pegollo held back and allowed her friend to approach Mary.
A pardon was requested for the two. Our Lady said that the blind person must first receive Holy Communion and learn well the truth of the faith. The girl with paralysis only needed to come to this place and her hand would heal. Then Our Lady requested that a church be built in this place. Despite the opposition of the authorities of Feglino, the church was finally built.
On August 2, a bright summer morning, four shepherdesses push their herd of cows at daybreak out onto the road that climbs the mountain. Maria Pittavino (12), Margherita Pittavino (12), Maria Chiotti (12), and Maria Boschero (10) were out of breath when they came to a beautiful basin at an altitude of 1,378 meters. Some testify that Margherita’s younger brother Chiaffredo (8) may have been with them that day, also. In the middle of the green valley of Chiotti, there is a large rough stone where they like to stop and rest.
Suddenly, they were astonished to see before them, standing on the stone slab, a beautiful lady of majestic appearance. She was a young woman of ordinary stature about twenty years old. She wore a long dress with a reddish belt tied to the sides. From the head draped a long, celestial blue veil, held to her neck with a bright yellow button. It covered her head, hair, forehead, and sides of her head, only leaving her face and neck uncovered. Under the mantle is a dark red color all over with a beautiful yellow belt encircling her hips. Her feet fit into simple sandals. On her head is a crown of beautiful high-gloss gems adorned in dazzling beauty.
She does not speak, but her eyes are rich with expression, shedding tears that flow down her cheeks and fall to the ground. She alternates her tearful gaze from one shepherdess to the next. Her arms were outstretched with open hands, a traditional pose of the Virgin Mary. But they were not sure who she was – maybe Saint Anna, perhaps the Madonna. The only words they recall hearing were a request for a chapel to be built on this site.
The four young girls fell into an ecstasy, partly from fear, and remained silent. The Lady disappeared as quickly as she had appeared. The girls returned home – too upset to talk about what they had seen. Despite their reluctance to return to that area, their parents urged them to fulfill their duties with the herd.
The girls admitted that they too fearful to return to that area “because every now and then the same great Lady – who always cries – appears before the four of us.” Mary Pittavino’s father, Joseph, knowing the innocence and honesty of his daughter, decided to accompany the girls to see about this matter, personally.
On August 6 at 10:00 a.m., the four girls, the father, and other people from the village climb the mountain to the Chiotti basin or valley. As they approach the rock boulder, the four milkmaids cry out together, full of wonder,
“There she is, standing on the stone – the beautiful lady. She keeps crying, wears the same clothes and has the same features as all the other times.”
But the people all around them see nothing. One of the girls approaches the boulder, takes one hand and raises the hem of the coat of Blessed Mary. The spectators see the girl’s hand with fingers closed as if she is grasping something – but see nothing else. Joseph Pittavino invites all to kneel and pray. He vows that if he could learn the apparition’s identity, he would build a chapel in that place.
However, one of the villagers present, Bartholomew Valmala Chiotti, turns with confidence toward the invisible Madonna and offers a promise. If she will heal him from his two-year ailment of acute kidney pain, he promises Mary a “gift.” The pain had caused him to walk with great difficulty, hunched over, and with his forehead toward the ground. Instantly, he receives that grace and is able to walk upright with no pain and no further ailment! Everyone observes this miracle! (And he kept his promise to Mary …)
On August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, Joseph Pittavino feels inwardly compelled to return to the site of the apparition. He joined other people who had the similar desire to possibly see her and confirm her identity as the Blessed Virgin. As the party of people arrive at the stone in Chiotti, the four shepherdesses all exclaim,
“Here, here she is – the Lady! She is more beautiful than ever! The same crown!”
Although still invisible to the others, they are more certain from the girls’ description that this is most likely the Blessed Virgin Mary. Without speaking, they all kneel. Joseph lights a blessed candle, makes the sign of the Holy Cross, and prays the Holy Rosary. During the fervent recitation of the Rosary, the four shepherdesses are enraptured in ecstasy, holding their gaze upon the boulder and just above it (where she stands). Bystanders witness the illuminating joy and happiness upon their faces, transfigured by their heavenly experience.
After the recitation of the Rosary, Joseph asks the shepherd girls if they still see the Lady. They are amazed that others cannot see her. They respond that the Lady is still there, standing where she always does, her eyes dripping with tears that glisten on her face. Then the girls add some new details,
“We hear voices singing religious songs … what beautiful voices! … I sing pretty … a song that resembles that of the Solemn Mass of the Dead …”
They describe seeing “people moving in the blue sky, passing across the sun” which casts such large shadows that the whole cowherd is in darkness. Then they state that the “beautiful Lady” has gone from the rock.
Appearances of the Blessed Virgin continued for fifty days. Our Lady would appear either standing on the rock, sitting on the rock, or walking on the ground surrounding the rock. But she would always have tears in her eyes. She would make “amorous glances” toward the girls as she walked to and fro over the surface of the rock. Then she actually spoke to Mary Pittavino in the dialect of Occitan during one appearance:
“When returning home tonight, tell your father (Joseph) that I want him to erect a mast in this place where I am. Tell him that under these clods where you and your classmates have seen me walking, he will find sand and stones in abundance, a quantity not only to erect the mast, but enough for still other factories.”
Joseph Pittavino began construction at once – but he still wants to be certain to whom he is dedicating this structure. The girls reply that the Lady is “just an extraordinary beauty” who becomes more beautiful with each appearance and each recitation of the Rosary. Others still argue that this is St. Anna. However, the most common opinion is that this is really the Blessed Virgin.
To solve this mystery, Joseph Pittavino leads the four girls to explore many pictures and depictions of the saints and Madonna that are located in the district of Valmala. None of these images looks familiar to the girls. Finally, one day, in the marketplace of Venasca, there were many paintings on display from a stranger. All eyes of the four girls fixated upon one painting with wonder and joy, exclaiming,
“Here it is! Here is the image that resembles in all respects the Lady whom we have seen so many times on the rock of Chiotti.”
It is the Madonna as she appeared to Anthony Botta on March 18, 1536. This image hangs in the great shrine of Savona with the title, “Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy.” Joseph Pittavino immediately buys that image so that the painter Giuseppe Gauteri of Saluzzo can add it to the constructed pylon or mast.
From that day, the apparitions ceased entirely – as if to signify that Mary wanted to make sure that the right image and title, “Mother of Mercy” would be assigned before she departed. Buildings were added around the pylon “marker” – with a Sanctuary eventually added.
On the first Sunday of August in 1946, Our Lady Queen of Valmala was solemnly crowned by Archbishop Luigi Lanzo Gile, Bishop of Saluzzo in the Diocese. From March 19 to July 30, 1949, the statue of the Mother of Mercy, worshipped at the shrine, was chosen for the Pilgrimage of Mary, and brought into all the parishes of the diocese. In August of 1949, in memory of Pilgrimage, and artistic marble statue of the Heavenly Queen was placed in the forecourt of the Shrine.
An elderly farmer named Antonio Botta was surprised to receive a visit from the Queen of Heaven on March 18, 1536. The farmer described the Virgin Mary as being dressed in white and surrounded by a dazzling light. The Blessed Virgin stood on a large rock overlooking a stream near the river Letimbro. As he knelt reverently before Our Lady, Blessed Mary directed Antonio to go to his priest with the request that three Saturdays of fasting be observed, and that three processions be organized in honor of God and the Mother of Jesus. Then Mary asked the farmer to return to this same place on the fourth Saturday to receive another message meant for the Curia and the people of Savona. When she vanished from his sight, a sweet fragrance of flowers lingered for some time.
Obeying the words of the Virgin Mary, Antonio went immediately to inform his local priest, Monsignor Bartholomew Zabreri, who then shared the message with the bishop of the diocese. Although they were receptive to the requests of the Blessed Virgin based on the sincerity and humility of the elderly farmer, the mayor of the area, Genoese Doria, was not convinced. He promptly summoned the farmer to the castle for questioning about the circumstances of Mary’s visit. Legend states that during the interrogation of Antonio, some fishermen just off the coast of Savona saw three flames that rose high into the sky above the cathedral and the castle.
The second visit by the Blessed Virgin Mary happened as predicted on April 8, 1536, the fourth Saturday after the first appearance of Our Lady. She appeared with the same brilliant illumination on the exact same location as in the first visit. The elderly farmer, Antonio, recalled that she stood with outstretched hands extended downward in a gesture of mercy. Once again, Our Lady asked him for the three Saturdays of fasting and the processions. She praised the local fraternities and brotherhoods for their dissemination of the Word of God. She urged Antonio and his countrymen to follow the Creed and disappeared after saying these words,
“Mercy, my son, not justice.”
News of this apparition spread quickly. There was such an influx of pilgrims that a committee was formed to handle the increase in numbers. Large sums of money donated by pilgrims resulted in plans being developed for the building of a place of worship. Soon, a chapel at the site of the apparitions was authorized by Bishop Bartholomew Chiabrers on April 21, 1536. Plans for the new church were also approved by the city council of Savona and Cardinal Spinola Horace on July 24 of that same year. By August 11, 1536, the construction of the church was begun.
Four years later in 1540, Savona decreed that March 18 would be observed as an annual festival with a candle votive procession to the shrine. Pope Pius VII was exiled to Savona by Napoleon from 1809-1812. During those years he vowed that if he were released, he would crown the statue of Our Lady of Mercy. The pope kept his promise, placing a royal diadem on the statue on May 10, 1815. Pope Benedict XVI honored Savona and the church with a papal visit on May 17, 2008.
VICENZA, ITALY (1426, 1428) “Madonna of Mount Berico”
There was so much pestilence and sickness between 1404 and 1428 in the region of Vicenza, Italy, that the population declined drastically from death or fleeing the area. In those difficult years, Vincenza Passini (age 70) went up the hill each morning to bring food to her husband who worked in his small vineyard. She led a simple, honest life with a heartfelt devotion to Blessed Mary. She attended church regularly and was mindful of the poor.
On March 7, 1426, at 9:00 a.m., Vincenza encountered a beautiful woman on her path up the hill. She had “the likeness of a most beautiful queen with garments more resplendent than the sun, wreathed in a fragrance of a thousand scents.” Overcome by the beauty of the woman, she fell to the ground. The beautiful woman spoke:
“I am the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ who died on the Cross for the salvation of men. I beg you to go and say in my name to the people of Vicenza that they must build in this place a church in my honor if they want to recover their health. Otherwise, the plague will not cease.”
Vincenza wept with joy, kneeling in front of the Madonna. But then she asked her,
“But the people will not believe me. And where, O glorious Mother, will we find the money to do these things?”
The Virgin Mary replied,
“You will insist so that my people do my will, otherwise they will never be rid of the plague – and, until they obey, they will see My Son angry with them. As proof of what I say, let them dig here, and from the rock, living water will spring. As soon as the building begins, money will not lack.”
After saying this, Blessed Mary took a twig, and with a graceful movement, traced the Sign of the Cross on the ground. Then she also drew the shape of the church to be built. Finally, she planted the twig in the ground where the high altar of the shrine stands today.
“All those who visit this church with devotion on My feast days and on every first Sunday of the month, will be given an abundance of grace and the Mercy of God and the blessing of My Motherly hands.”
Vincenza immediately obeyed the beautiful woman and began telling everyone that she met. But, she soon realized that nobody believed her! The plague was foremost on everybody’s minds. Even Bishop Pietro Emiliani gave little credence to her story. So, as Mary predicted, the plague raged on. Vincenza resumed her work, performed deeds of charity, and climbed the hill on feast days to pray on the spot where Madonna had appeared.
On August 1, 1428, the Virgin Mary appeared again to Vincenza. She repeated her previous warning and recommendation for the health of the people. Because of the horrific conditions of the ongoing plague, the people chose to believe her this time. The Hall of Government decided to build a church on Mount Berico, beginning construction just 24 hours after this last apparition! As soon as the church was completed, the plague disappeared, and the region no longer suffered from it.
The Lady had spoken of water that would spring from a rock at the place where the shrine was to be built. While digging in the ground, “a wonderful and incredible quantity of water welled out like a spring … overflowing like an abundant river that ran down the hill with great noise.”
A beautiful statue of the Madonna of Mount Berico is enthroned in the shrine. It is “an imperious image in marble, painted with skill in various and precious colors.” It depicts the Madonna with an open smile. Her head is framed by curls, and she wears a gold-decorated veil, a gold-colored dress with a greenish, gold-edged mantle. Figures of children, women, and men are huddled beneath the mantle that drapes over the Virgin’s extended arms. She also wears necklaces and a golden crown that was placed there by Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto, the Patriarch of Venice – who later became Pope Pius X.
During the First World War, the city of Vicenza was behind enemy lines. Thoroughly frightened, the people made a solemn vow to the Madonna of Mount Berico, promising that if they and their lands remained safe, they would observe the birthday of the Madonna every year in a special way. She granted their prayers, so every year on September 8, great crowds visit the sanctuary to offer their gratitude. People also honored her wish for devotion on First Sundays of every month, so two large chapels were added to this grand basilica in 1972 along with thirty additional confessionals. The Servants of Mary took possession of the shrine in 1435 and are still ministering to pilgrims today, almost 600 years later.
On his visit on January 11, 1978, Pope Paul VI announced:
“We decree that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary be honored with the name of Madonna of Mount Berico, and that from now on truly be the principal patron, next to God, of the city and diocese of Vicenza.”
On August 22, 2000, Pope John Paul II sent a message to the Patriarch of Venice, recounting his own visit to the Madonna of Mount Berico:
“I, too, had the joy of making a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Mount Berico on 7-8 September, 1991, to ask the Blessed Virgin to bless the people of the area and to show herself to be the tender and provident Mother of those who suffer and those who long for justice and peace.”
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.
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.
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.