Friday, November 16, 2012

Chapter 11: Marian Apparitions

Kate stared at the computer screen, unsure of where to begin looking. She decided to begin with the Apparitions folder. She wasn’t even sure what an apparition was, but since A was the first letter in the alphabet it seemed as good a place as any to begin. She wasn’t prepared for what she found there.

The first apparition occurred to St. James in the year A.D. 40. He had just arrived in Spain and was feeling deeply discouraged at the progress he was making in his ministry when she appeared to him flanked by angels. She handed him a statue of herself and a pillar of Jasper wood and provided instructions on how both were to be used. According to James, the Virgin Mary told him, “This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple you shall build.” Shortly after the visitation, James began work on a small chapel in honor of the Virgin Mary. It was through this apparition that the Virgin Mary informed him that God had requested that he return to Jerusalem after finishing the chapel. Four years later, he was martyred in Jerusalem.

The second apparition in the folder occurred in the year 238 A.D. The file stated that this time it was St. John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary who together appeared to St. Gregory the Wonderworker. St. Gregory, the article stated, was wrestling with the doctrine of the trinity. He was trying to understand how one god could be both one god and three persons at the same time. St. John, at the request of the Virgin, explained it to St. Gregory and ended the explanation with these words, he concluded with these words, “There is therefore nothing created, nothing greater or less in the Trinity … The Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Spirit; and the same Trinity is immutable and forever unalterable.”

The third apparition in the folder occurred in the year 352 A.D. to a wealthy, childless couple who were trying to decide how to best use their money so as to please God. On August 4th, the Virgin Mary appeared to the couple, instructing them to begin construction on a church located on one of Rome’s hills. She promised to send snow to cover the hill on the exact spot where the church was to be built in the exact dimensions the couple was to build it. Pope Liberius received a parallel message, thus providing a third point of verification for the apparition.

The next morning, the couple and the Pope were astounded to discover a portion of the Esquiline hill covered in snow and had just enough time to take its measurements before the snow melted in the heat of the August sun. Within 8 years, the world’s largest church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin – the Church of St. Mary Major - was constructed and still stands today.

Kate made a mental note to see what she could dig up regarding the historical accuracy of the events surrounding the building of that church. If snow had appeared and remained on a hill in Rome for hours, perhaps more than just the Church had documented it. This apparition provided her at least the potential for something solid and concrete to use as evidence of God’s existence.

The third apparition would occur in Walsingham, England in 1061, when the Virgin Mary appeared to a wealthy widow by the name of Lady Richeldis de Faverches. Like the couple from Rome, the Lady was struggling to decide how God wanted her to use her fortune. The Virgin informed the lady that she was to construct a replica of the home in which the Annunciation had occurred. To ensure that the lady was able to get it precisely right, The virgin transported the lady through time and space to the Virgin’s original home in Nazareth so that she could take measurements. A year afterward, the house was completed and a chapel built a mile up the road. The chapel was called the Slipper Chapel as it was the place where pilgrims would leave their shoes so that they could make the remainder of the pilgrimage barefoot.

Mary promised: "Let all who are in any way distressed or in need seek me there in that small house that you maintain for me at Walsingham. To all that seek me there shall be given succour." 

Aftereward, Walsingham became the most popular pilgrimage spot during the Middle Ages and the house stood until King Henry VIII destroyed it during the Protestant Reformation, she read.

She made another notation in her journal to study the history of the Walsingham site. She thought it probably wouldn’t be too difficult if it really was as popular as the material suggested. Perhaps she could even find a description of it.

The fourth apparition occurred in 1206 A.D. in Prouille, France to St. Dominic, presenting to him the rosary as an aid in fighting the heresies which were then threatening the Church. According to the article, “St. Dominic had retreated into the forest to pray for the conversion of the Albigensians, a heretical sect in the Catholic Church, when a vision of Our Lady appeared to him. She was accompanied by angels and the Blessed Virgin said to him, “Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?” Saint Dominic replied that he could not possibly know such a thing and only she could enlighten him on the matter.

“I want you to know that, in this kind of warfare, the battering ram has been the Angelic Psalter which is the foundation stone of the New Testament. Therefore if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them over to God, preach my Psalter. “ 

Arising from the ground and ready to go, invisible angels gathered the people from around the countryside to listen to St. Dominic preach. Many miracles and wonders occurred during this sermon.” She then taught him to pray the fifteen mysteries of the rosary, separated into Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious.

Kate found it interesting that the weapon the Lady recommended against the worst enemy facing the Church at the time was not a sword, dagger, or poison. It was a rosary, an instrument of prayer. The article mentioned that since that time the rosary has been recommended for the salvation of souls, as an instrument of peace, and a tool for conversion by every Pope and saint since then. Furthermore, she noted that the rosary has continued to be recommended in every apparition since that time. She decided to ask Kevin about the rosary.

The fifth apparition would occur in Czestochawa, Poland in the year 1382. The Virgin Mary appeared to Prince Ladislaus of Opolo. He possessed an icon which had been created by Saint Luke in the 1st century known as The Black Madonna. The Virgin Mary asked that the icon be moved to a mountaintop monastery by the name of Jasna Gora located in Czestochowa. According to the article, miracles began to occur after the icon was moved. Once, in 1430, a thief attempted to steal the icon but the further he got from the monastery the heavier the icon became until he became so frustrated that he slashed the cheeks of the Virgin and tossed the icon into the river. After the monks recovered the icon, numerous efforts were made to repair the damage but the wounds would always resurface.

There were pages and pages more of apparitions, but it was getting close to her bedtime and Kate didn’t have time to read through them all. She decided to skip to the very last apparition in the file, since they seemed to be going in chronological order. The very last entry was dated November 28, 1981-November 28, 1989. It was the first one Kate had read where the Virgin Mary appeared multiple times. It took place in Kibeho, Rwanda. There, she appeared to six young girls and one boy. During the apparitions, she implored the children to pray the rosary, to be chaste, and to prepare themselves and others for the final judgment which she told them would not be long in coming.

On August 19, 1982, the seers saw “a river of blood, people who were killing each other, abandoned corpses with no one to bury them, a tree all in flames, bodies without their heads.” The article noted that a dozen years later, this vision did take place. A massive civil war erupted in which a million people were beheaded by machetes and their bodies dumped into the Kagea River, which did run red with blood.

Kate was astounded both at the level of violence described as having taken place in Rwanda and at the prophecy that could have prevented it all. She wondered why, if people truly believed in God, they would not heed such things. Why would they simply ignore it, if they knew they could prevent the devastation that followed? She wondered why she had never heard of this event, why she had never been told about Rwanda. It was horrifying, but even more horrifying was that at least according to this article the Virgin was warning people that worse things were coming if the world did not repent and return to faith. In fact, she warned those children that the whole world would erupt into war.

Kate closed the files on the thumb drive and removed it from the laptop. She wrote a short journal entry under her notes. “I am becoming convinced that Kevin is right. There is a war to be fought, even if I don’t feel like I’m equipped to fight it. I know what they said, but I can’t see that I have the knowledge, the courage, or the skill required. I feel so small against an enemy so large. How can I fight this?

I am afraid of the fight, afraid of what will come ahead, but afraid even more of what will happen if I do not fight. Will our nation come to resemble Rwanda? Will our nation’s rivers run with blood? What if it comes to my mother, my school, my city? Will I be ready? I have no answers, but I fear that I will soon be called to give one.”

She headed upstairs, put her journal and the thumbdrive back where they belonged, and got ready for bed.  That night, for the first time in almost a week, she dreamed again. She stood on the field once again, her white dress flowing around her as she moved through the throngs of people gathered there.  They scarcely noticed her, so focused were they on the false King.  Though it seemed to take forever, she finally reached the edge of the platform where he stood.  He noticed her approaching and snarled at her.  “So, you’re that witch I’ve been hearing so much about.  You’ll never get it from me. You’ll never get my crown,” he said as he dove into the tent beside the platform.  The crown tumbled from his head, and quick as a cat she had pounced on it and seized it.  She began pushing her way back through the crowds, making her way to where she had last seen Peter and the others.
The crowd was still under his sway.  He spoke words of enchantment and they turned on her, grabbing at her hair and her dress, straining for the crown.  She struggled for every inch, clutching the crown to her so that she was unable to defend herself against them.  The way back was agonizingly difficult, but at last she arrived before a surprised St. Peter.  She was covered in filth, stripped naked and covered only in her long hair, yet she was not ashamed as she handed the crown to him.  “Do not lose it again,” she said as she woke up the next morning.

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