In honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, we are making available Visions of Mary book. Click on link below.
The Roman Catholic love and respect for the Virgin Mary divides it from other sects of Christianity. Mary is not only revered as the Mother of God but also as the Mother of all Humanity, and her image continually watches over every aspect in the daily life of Catholic countries. She is credited with working miracles through pictures, statues, and sacred earthly places. She is the inspiration of much of the world’s greatest music, art, and architectural works. Her spiritual gifts are recognized in the East and both Hindus and Buddhists refer to her as Mother Mary. Muslims revere her as the mother of a great prophet and she is the only woman with her own chapter in the Koran. As a human being Mary is able to relate directly to the major and minor sufferings of mankind. For this reason she is not prayed to as a goddess, but rather, called on by Catholics to aid them in their prayers. It is thought that she shares her constant flow of grace with those who ask, bringing them closer to God. Thomas Merton wrote, “Mary does not rule us from without, but from within. She does not change us by changing the world around us, but she changes the world around us by first changing our own inner lives.”
In chapter 2 of John’s Gospel is the story of the Wedding at Cana: On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish
ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the
beginning of his signs in Cana in Galiliee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.
It was at His mother’s request that Jesus performed His first great miracle. To Him, as a divine spiritual being, running out of wine at a wedding was no great shame. Mary, being human, realized how embarrassing such an event could be for the bride and groom. Because He so respected His mother, Jesus changed the water at the wedding into wine. As a result of this act, His disciples became true believers. The story of the wedding at Cana is frequently cited to illustrate why Catholics have such fervent love for the Virgin Mary. It is also proof of her place in God’s divine plan for mankind. Through her prodding, the first miracle of Christ was performed and because of this first miracle, those who might have doubted Christ’s teachings became believers.
For Catholics, Mary sets an example of a human being who accepts all that God wills without questioning. When Mary was a young girl, the Archangel Gabriel came to her with the announcement, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” Though she was a virgin, she accepted and gave her consent to the Incarnation of Christ. For this reason she is considered one who collaborates with the work of God. Because she is the mother of Christ and He is part of the Holy Trinity, she is given the title Theotokos or “Mother of God.” It is believed that Mary had full knowledge of the terrible fate that awaited her Son on Earth. Yet she also had the faith to withstand His torments because she knew that He would never die. After His Ascension into heaven, she worked with the Apostles, serving as the highest example of an advanced spiritual being who lived by Christ’s teachings while on Earth. Because of this, Catholics
believe that she herself did not die, but was assumed into
heaven. The first sighting of Mary after her Assumption occurred in Puy, France in a.d. 47. She has been appearing to humanity ever since, offering unconditional love, healing, moral support, and in the last two centuries, warnings over the fate of mankind.
On the site of what is now Chartres Cathedral in France, the druids had a shrine devoted to the “Virgin who gives birth” one hundred years before Christ. The coming of Mary was predicted by the prophet Elijah, who led a small community devoted to her on what is now Mount Carmel in Israel eight hundred years before her birth. The oldest proved artistic images of Mary were wall paintings done in the Catacombs of Rome in the late first century. Pagans who were accustomed to worshipping both male and female deities felt comfortable with images of Mary. They related her to the earth and to their own mothers. Statues and paintings of her holding the Christ child illustrated the basic bond between Christ and humanity, and served to bring many into the Christian fold. By the Middle Ages, a time when art, religious worship, and daily life were completely harmonious, the cult of Mary was a mainstay of both the Roman and Orthodox Churches.
The mystical writer and doctor of the Churches, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux insisted in the power of Mary’s grace. He saw her as the messenger of original spiritual values and the ultimate mediator, always pleading the cause of the human race. Catholic art, which is believed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, abounded with images of her, and the world’s greatest cathedrals were erected in her honor. When the founders of the Reformation sought to stem the tide of Papal excess by bringing Christian worship back to its biblical roots, Mary’s role in Christian worship was reassessed.
Since there are few mentions of Mary in the Bible, reverence for her as a heavenly mediator was looked upon as superstition. She was considered to be a holy woman, long dead and buried. Visual art was considered a distraction to spiritual worship and images of Mary were considered idolatrous; many of the great Marian shrines of Germany
and England were summarily destroyed. Because of this, the Virgin Mary became an important symbol of the Counter-Reformation. To Catholics, her denigration by the newly formed Protestant sects was equal to the denigration of her Son. The belief in her place as the most exalted human was expounded with a new force. Religious orders such as the Jesuits and the Carmelites spread devotions centered around the gifts of the rosary to Saint Dominic and the scapular to Saint Simon Stock. The baroque art movement was embraced in Catholic countries as a fervid symbol of their belief in art as a religiousexperience and as a direct reaction against the perceived dourness of Protestant churches. As visual representations of the Virgin Mary became more dramatic, so did stories of her rescuing or advising humanity. Most of these tales center on Mary acting through statues, paintings, or dreams.
The cult of Mary has remained strong in the Mediterranean and in Latin America. These are places where women traditionally hold the family
together. Popular depictions of Mary vary from country to country and she seems to adapt the persona of the culture in which she appears. Italy and Latin America welcome the sweeter, long suffering, human, and maternal Mary. In France the Virgin Mary takes on a more ethereal and graceful persona. Spain, Portugal, and eastern Europe all have apparitions made by Mary that are more stern and serious.
It is said that the modern age of Mary was ushered in with the visits paid to Saint Catherine Laboure in 1831. Since then, the Blessed Mother has been seen steadily by seers in almost every country in the world. In this book we relate some of the Marian apparitions that are sanctioned by the Catholic Church; there are thousands more that are well known but unofficial. When Mary visits, she appears in the race of and speaking the language of the person who sees her. She can be sweet and kind or angry and insistent. The visionaries who see her enjoy no great material reward. They are often
people who have little religious belief. They are usually mocked and harassed by their own community. Many have died young, not having been spared by the parameters of the lives they were born into. Some are honored in their lifetime, some choose to retire from the world, others continue on with their lives, never again experiencing any supernatural or spiritual events. The messages they relay from Mary for the human race are all basically the same, “Do whatever He tells you.”