DAILY CATHOLIC WEDNESDAY July 10-19, 1998 vol. 9, no. 137-139
THE AGE OF MARIAN APPARITIONS
Century of Mystics
After the apparitions at Guadalupe and the resulting fruits, the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary took on a renewed significance within Holy Mother Church, especially during and following the Council of Trent where, in 1547, the consilium fathers affirmed that Mary be regarded as immune from every actual fault, even the slightest. Three years later Francis Suarez established the first systematic Mariology with Volume IX of his Opera Omnia. In 1555, Pope Paul IV attested to Mary's perpetual virginity in the Constitution Cum Quorumdam and three years later the Litany of Loreto, honoring Our Lady, was first published; 50 some years after pilgrimages to the shrine of Loreto had been approved by Pope Julius II. In 1563 the Hail Mary was formally introduced into the Divine Office and Pope Saint Pius V reaffirmed the Blessed Mother's sinlessness in 1567.
The Feast of Our Lady of Victory, recognizing the power of the Rosary, was established in 1573 after the miraculous battle of Lepanto. In 1577 Saint Peter Canisius wrote the first important post-Reformation work on Mariology entitled "Incomparable Virgin Mary."
With this we leave the "Century of Saints" and enter the 17th which was the era of reform within the Church - the "Century of Mystics" with such renowned visionaries as Blessed Mary of Agreda, Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres, Jean Jacques Olier,Benoite Rencurel and, of course, Saint Margaret Mary Alacocque to name a few.
Affirming and encouraging a new commitment to Holy Mother Church was the Mother of the Church, Our Blessed Mother and the turn of the century ushered in the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows as an official feast; a year later the Litany of the Blessed Virgin was prescribed by Pope Clement VIII for the universal Church. From 1600 to 1700 Our Lady made fourteen recorded appearances with eleven in the first thirty years of the century, mostly in the new world and Europe.
Her first appearance at the turn of the century came in Chile where Our Lady appeared to the Araucani tribe in the village of Concepcion. It is recorded that a statue of Mary came alive and they renamed the town after the Immaculate Conception. Four years later Our Lady appeared as Our Lady of Cobre on the island of Cuba. This apparition had a lasting effect on this tiny island converting totally to Catholicism. In 1609 the Mother of God appeared in Chiavari, Italy and again in 1612 at Siluvia in Lithuania.
Eight years later in 1620 Our Lady not only appeared to Blessed Mary of Agreda in Spain, but manifested her entire life as the Virgin Mother of God to Mary of Agreda in the work "Cuidad de Dios". This is contained in the book "The Mystical City of God" - a mystical account that was recorded by the visionary after periods of ecstacy in which Our Lady imparted accounts of the creation of the world, the meaning of the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse), lucifer's rebellion, the location of hell, and intimate details about the hidden life of her Divine Son, her beloved and chaste earthly spouse Saint Joseph, and about her own feelings. Like almost any work of private revelation, it at first came under fierce scrutiny and denouncement when first published after Mary of Agreda's death in 1666, but Pope Innocent XI at the end of the 17th Century officially issued a "breve" allowing the book to be read. This four-volume work went on to be acclaimed by Popes, saints, cardinals and theologians and inspired countless lay and religious for over years. It was finally translated from Spanish to English three centuries later by Father George J. Blatter in 1902. He had first read the book in German and was so impressed that he learned Spanish so he could properly translate the entire work into English so more people could share in this wondrous, miraculous tome. In 1912 Father Blattner's first edition in English was released but drew a limited response because of low circulation. In 1929 another effort was made to publish the four volumes but again the results were far from overwhelming. It wasn't until 1949, during the reign of Pope Pius XII, that Harry D. Corcoran of Albuquerque, New Mexico undertook the universal task of publishing this work. The results were astonishing as this beautiful book finally caught on and spread like wildfire throughout America. It is interesting to note that the Imprimatur for this book was granted by Bishop Edwin V. Byrne, D.D., the Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico because five years after Our Lady's first appearance to Mary of Agreda, the Blessed Mother made her very first appearance in what is today the United States. The site she first visited: Santa Fe, New Mexico! There she announced herself to the Indians as Our Lady of the Conquest.
Five years after her visit to New Mexico she returned to Old Mexico at San Juan, appearing to the bishop there along with a group of other faithful as the Pilgrim Virgin of San Juan de Los Dos Lagos. That same year she visited Argentina as Our Lady of Lujan where the processioners tried to carry her statue through the streets and she would not move, speaking to them to be reverent and ever vigilant and to carry in a solemn procession her Divine Son present in the Blessed Sacrament instead. A year after this miraculous occurrence, the Blessed Mother appeared in Naples, Italy to several Jesuits with the prophecy of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius near Pompeii. Three years later she returned to the new world with an appearance at Quito, Ecuador where she appeared to Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres there and proclaimed herself Our Lady of Good Success. A year later the Virgin Mary appeared as Our Lady of the Angels in Costa Rica. It would be fifteen years before she would appear again, this time in Venezuela as Our Lady of Coromoto while in 1644 Pope Urban VIII established the Feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary. In 1657 the founder of the Sulpicians Jean Jacques Olier applied mystical language to Marian concepts in a novel way, no doubt aided by locutions from Our Lady herself. Laus in France was the site of over 600 visits from Our Lady to visionary Benoite Rencurel between 1660 and 1665.
A few years later both Jesus and Mary visited Saint Margaret Mary Alacocque in the convent at Paray Le Monial, France where They conveyed to her the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a resolve to commit to the Nine First Fridays devotion. This devoted saint had always had an acute aversion to sin and agonized over the fact so many were offending Our Lord and His Own Mother as well. She joined the Visitation nuns at Paray le Monial at the age of 24 and after a period of purification through multiple trials which she willingly submitted to, Jesus appeared to this mystic numerous times while she knelt in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. There He imparted the twelve promises as well as bestowing many ecstatic visions of His Sacred Heart - sometimes burning as a furnace of Love, other times as a bleeding or broken Heart because of the hardened hearts of mankind and their sins. In 1675 she was told by Jesus that she, along with her Jesuit spiritual director Father Claude de la Colombiere, were to be the instruments for promulgating this special devotion to His Sacred Heart and establishing a special feast for this in the universal Church.
Devotion to the Immaculate Heart was also in the forefront when, in 1680, Saint John Eudes composed the first full-length book on the Heart of Our Lady: "The Admirable Heart of Mary." Three years later Pope Blessed Innocent XI established the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary as an official feast for the entire Church. Seven years later his successor Pope Alexander VIII reconfirmed Pope St. Pius V's affirmation of Mary's perfect sinlessness, though stopped short of proclaiming the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception infallible. That would be accomplished by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854.
The final apparition of the 17th Century occurred in Quito, Ecuador where, for the second time in this particular century, Our Lady came - this time appearing as the Queen of Heaven and reportedly curing the Bishop there who had doubted the apparitions to Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres.
In the next installment we will investigate the 18th Century which recorded only five known apparitions. Yet it was the calm before the storm of apparitions that would occur in the ensuing two centuries as we shall see in future issues.
NEXT WEEK: The eighteenth century: a century of calm before the storm of apparitions that were to follow.
THE AGE OF MARIAN APPARITIONS