In the last several days, the Church has celebrated both the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8) and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12). This makes it particularly fitting to consider the times God has sent the Queen of Heaven to Earth to warn, guide, and help us. True, not every alleged Marian apparition is authentic; in fact, most are not. The Catholic Church upholds stringent norms in investigating of such matters, and only a small percentage of the hundreds of claimed Marian apparition gain Church approval. (See my 2017 Fatima centenary article in Catholic World Report.)
There are varying degrees of Church approval of apparations; they are:
- partial: allowance for the devotion (e.g., prayers, medals, Masses at the site) after determining that the purported messages are not contrary to the faith;
- full: usually when the local bishop officially declares the apparition “worthy of belief”; and
- extraordinary: the Holy See is not usually involved, but rarely, various forms of Vatican recognition are also given.
However, the faithful are not obliged to believe fully- or even Vatican-approved apparitions, since they are “private revelations,” rather than Church doctrines—the latter being based on the public revelation of Jesus Christ passed on by the Apostles.
While approved visits from the Mother of God differ from each other, they also have certain commonalities, particularly the fact that they always directs mankind to God: Mary implores us to honor the Father and imitate her Son by relying on the Holy Spirit.
Appearances particularly relevant to our day
There are several private Marian revelations with partial or full ecclesiastical approval that speak amazingly to our times. First a brief chronological overview of these apparitions and their credibility, with links to more information.
Our Lady of Guadalupe (1531)
One of the most powerful and convincing of all Marian apparitions is that of Our Lady of Guadalupe, when the Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego, one of the few Aztec Catholic converts in newly conquered Mexico. She requested a chapel to be built; to convince the bishop that the apparition was authentic, she asked Juan Diego to cut roses that were miraculously growing at the site, in a season and place where they never grew. She arranged the gathered roses in his tilma—an Aztec-style cloak with swaths of cloth front and back. When he unfurled the tilma to display the roses, a bigger miracle was revealed—the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on the tilma.
Read more at Catholic World Report.