“Know and understand well, you the most humble of my sons, that I am the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God, for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth.”— Our Lady of Guadalupe
Jesus listened to Mary throughout His childhood. We hear this in Luke’s Gospel when Jesus’ parents find Him in the Temple. His parents ask a question. Jesus listens and responds. Then we are told that He returns to Nazareth and is obedient to Mary and Joseph, learning from them and growing in age and wisdom (see Luke 2:41–52).
Mary is our mother too. And she teaches us. Just as Jesus listened to and was obedient to Mary, we should now listen to and obey her. Through many apparitions, Our Lady has spoken to various visionaries and imparted her motherly advice and counsel, not only for them but for the entire world. The messages Mary spoke are meant for all believers.
The counsel our mothers gave us was meant for our good. Sometimes what they told us we already knew. Other things we didn’t want to hear because they were difficult and challenging. And maybe, years later, we look back and are grateful for our mothers’ advice. The same is true about Mary’s apparitions and messages. Sometimes she challenges us and tells us things we don’t want to hear, but she does so for our benefit.
We’ll encounter many messages throughout our Lenten pilgrimage. Here are a few things to know about each of Mary’s apparitions:
The Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in December 1531. She taught Juan Diego that she was the Mother of the true, living God and instructed him to go to the bishop and ask for a church to be built. The bishop requested a sign, and Our Lady showed Juan where to find roses, miraculously growing in the winter, which he gathered and brought to the bishop, unveiling the miraculous image of Our Lady still venerated by pilgrims today.
In this series of apparitions, received over several decades (1664–1718) by Benoîte Rencurel , Mary is honored under the title Refuge of Sinners. Her message here focused on conversion of life, emphasizing respect for God’s name. The apparitions received Church approval on May 5, 2008.
Rue du Bac, France
Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Laboure here in 1830. During these apparitions, Our Lady requested the creation of the Miraculous Medal, bearing the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
La Salette, France
Two children in the French Alps, Maxi-min and Melanie, along with their dog, witnessed three stages of Mary’s appearance on September 19, 1846. A popular image associated with the apparition is Our Lady, in a sitting posture, with her face in her hands, crying. Mary spoke about sorrow for sin, especially regarding the Lord’s name and keeping holy the Sabbath.
The young St. Bernadette Soubirous happened to go with her sisters to collect wood on a fateful day in 1858 and received the first of eighteen apparitions of Our Lady. Mary identified herself as the Immaculate Conception and encouraged Bernadette to do penance for sinners. A healing spring of water was discovered, and, to this day, pilgrims drink and bathe in the healing waters.
In 1859, the Belgian immigrant Adele Brise received three apparitions of the Queen of Heaven. The first two were silent apparitions. During the final apparition, Adele received her marching orders to pray for the conversion of sinners, especially by offering her Holy Communions for that intention and gathering the children and teaching them what they needed to know for salvation.
Our Lady appeared on January 17, 1871, during the Franco-Prussian War , revealing herself only to children gathered in the area. The apparition had three phases, and in the final phase, the words “But pray, my children. God will hear you in time. My Son allows Himself to be touched” appeared in the sky above Our Lady, who was dressed in blue, with stars on her dress, and wearing a crown. In this apparition, Mary is honored under the title Our Lady of Hope.
On August 21, 1879, about twenty-five people witnessed the silent apparition of Our Lady, accompanied by St. Joseph, St. John, and a lamb on the altar. The apparition lasted nearly two hours.
Three shepherd children, Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia, received a series of apparitions. In 1916, they were visited by the Angel of Portugal, who prepared them for the 1917 Marian apparitions on the thirteenth of each month, from May through October, with the exception of August, when the children were imprisoned. Our Lady requested the daily recitation of the Rosary and desired peace in the world. She revealed three secrets to the children and allowed them to see Hell. On October 13, 1917, Mary told the children that she was Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and revealed herself also as the Sorrowful Mother and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. St. Joseph with the Christ Child appeared beside the Blessed Mother.
Our Lady appeared a total of thirty-three times to three Voisin children and two Degeimbre children. The first apparition occurred on November 29, 1932, and the last one took place on January 3, 1933. Mary encouraged the children to pray often and be good. During the apparition, Our Lady identified herself with a few traditional titles, such as the Immaculate Virgin, and she revealed her golden heart, making the apparition better known as Our Lady of the Golden Heart.
The appellation of Mary associated with the apparitions in Banneux is Our Lady of the Poor. Mary appeared to a young girl name Mariette Beco. The first apparition was on January 15, 1933, on the heels of the Beauraing apparition. Many people believed Mariette was just imitating what happened in Beauraing and did not take her seriously. Mary showed Mariette the way to a spring of water (one that already existed) and told her that through the spring she would relieve suffering. The final apparition took place on March 2, 1933.
Kibeho, South Rwanda
Rwandan genocide survivor, author, and popular speaker Immaculée Ilibagiza popularized these apparitions through her devotion and authorship of a book retelling the accounts of the happenings, in addition to a devotional on the Seven Sorrows Rosary. The apparitions occurred in 1981 and prophesied the forthcoming Rwandan genocide if hearts did not change.
Together we are on a pilgrimage this Lent. We will meet Our Lady and listen to her words. She has the best advice for us. Let’s listen and live it in our lives.
Mother Mary, during this Lenten pilgrimage, help me to listen to your words and motherly counsel and, in so doing, realize how much you love me and want what is best for me.
Think about your childhood and all the many things your parents taught you. Is there one thing your mother said, or an instruction or counsel she gave, that you cling to even to this very day? Spend a few moments thanking God for your mother, for the gift of life, for her love and concern. You might even wish to call your mother today and check in with her and tell her that you were thinking about her. Or, if she has passed on to eternal life, offer a prayer for her soul.
Also check out Fr. Looney’s new book, Meditations After Holy Communion: Guided Meditations for Every Sunday and Other Holy Days.