By Sarah Richthammer
As Catholics, we give Mary a place of high honor. We do not worship her, because worship is for God alone. However, as Jesus’ mother, Mary has a unique relationship with God. By following her example, we can become closer to Christ. Catholics have been bringing their needs to Mary for centuries. Even though we bring our needs to God, we also realize the significance of going to Jesus through Mary. In ancient Israelite culture the queen was not the wife of the king, but the mother of the king. When the people came to the king’s residence they would bow in respect to the king. They would bring their petitions to the queen, who in turn brought these intercessions to the king.
Mary is the queen of heaven and earth and we can bring our petitions to her. When we entrust ourselves to the care of our queen and mother, we have faith that she will bring our needs and desires to God on our behalf. When we bring our needs to Mary, we are not worshipping Mary or giving her a higher place than God. Rather, we are acknowledging her special relationship with God. Christ listens to his mother because of the respect he has for her. Christ gave Mary to us as our mother at the foot of the cross. As our queen and mother, we should not be shy in going to Mary, knowing that she can bring us closer to God.
There have been various testimonies of people who have received visions from Mary over the years. In 1917, three shepherd children living in Portugal received a vision of Mary on the 13th of every month from May to October. Lucia and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco were given many messages from Mary asking them to pray the rosary for the conversion of sinners and the end of WWI. She also asked for Saturday devotion to Mary by praying and meditating on the mysteries of the rosary, assisting at Mass and going to confession. The children were able to spread devotion to Mary by promoting her messages and revealing her secrets when the time was right. There is fascinating information about Fatima that I encourage you to read in more detail.
Another appearance of Mary was in Knock, Ireland. On August 21, 1879, on a rainy day, Mary appeared to fifteen people outside the chapel with St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph. There was also an image of an altar surrounded by angels, with a lamb and a cross above it. The light surrounding the lamb was much brighter than the light surrounding the three people. The lamb was facing in the direction of Mary. Unlike other approved apparitions, Mary did not speak to the witnesses. However, the apparition was a reminder to the Irish people that God is with them through all of their trials. This apparition also showed the importance of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. The lamb at the altar represented the people, coming to Mass with conviction in their belief. Mary and the lamb were facing each other in the vision. This image captures the idea that Jesus wants us to go to his mother; Mary will lead us to Jesus in a more perfect way than if we try to bypass her.
The power of this vision has brought Irish people and people all around the world, closer to Jesus. This little town in Ireland has become a big pilgrimage site. When one journeys there, they can see an image of what the people saw that night. Pilgrims have the chance to pray at a site where heaven touched earth for a moment and brought the light of Christ into the darkness.
Apparitions have come at troubled times to point people to the glory of God and continue to grow in relationship with him. Private revelations allow people to come to a closer love for God. Since Mary always brings us to her son, coming to have a deeper love for God’s mother allows people to have a deeper love for God and the desire to get to know him better. Private revelation is not on the same level as public revelation, so Catholics are not required to believe in approved apparitions. However, the Church has approved these apparitions because they do not contradict Church teaching. Marian apparitions lead people to God. The miracles associated with Fatima, Knock, and other apparition sites show the love God has for his people and his desire for them to hold on to hope during trying circumstances.
Edited by Christopher Centrella