Tuesday, 28 September 2010

History of Marian Appearances

History of Marian Appearances

Mary's appearances began in 40 AD, probably before she died, to James the Apostle in Saragossa, Spain. She has been appearing to others at irregular intervals throughout the two thousand years since she gave birth to Jesus. The characteristics of her apparitions has remained fairly consistent. She usually appears in a globe of pure white light, dressed in a long dress and head cover which vary in color depending on the content of her messages. Her feet are usually surrounded by a mist or cloud and she occasionally is seen holding her Son in her arms. A number of her appearances are preceded by unusual phenomena such as observations of lightning and thunder from a clear sky, apparitions of angelic beings or clouds of unusual shapes and religious significance such as a cross or a doorway as well as other inexplicable events.

The following is a brief overview of Mary's appearances throughout Christian history. It's meant to be representative of her apparitions and the events surrounding them but is not an all-inclusive listing:

Our Lady of the Pillar - Saragossa, Spain (ca. 40 AD)
After the crucifixion , resurrection and ascension of Jesus, his Apostles began to spread the message he left throughout Israel and shortly thereafter, through the Roman empire. One of these Apostles, James (the Greater), reportedly travelled as far west as Spain to the village of Saragossa in northeast Spain. While James was there, he became disheartened because of the failure of his mission. Tradition holds that while he was deep in prayer Jesus' Blessed Mother appeared to him and gave him a small wooden statue of herself and a column of jasper wood and instructed him to build a church in her honor:
"This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple that you shall build."
The jasper column and the wooden statue can still be seen on special occasions at a church that houses them. About a year after the apparition James arranged to build a small chapel in Mary's honor, the first Church ever dedicated to the honor of the Virgin Mary. After James returned to Jerusalem, he was executed by Herod Agrippa in about 44 AD, the first apostle to be martyred for his faith. Several of his disciples took his body and returned it for final burial in Spain. The local queen, observing several of the miracles performed by James' disciples, converted to Christianity and permitted James' body to be buried in a local field. Eight centuries later, a cathedral in honor of St. James was erected after his gravesite was rediscovered by a local hermit. The hermit found the burial site after noticing an unusual star formation. The site for the cathedral was called Compostella (starry field) and it is a major pilgrimage site to this day.

Saint Mary Major - Rome, Italy (ca. 352 AD)
With much of the Roman empire converted to Christianity, a number of pious Romans began to dedicate their wealth to honoring Mary and the Apostles by building shrines and churches dedicated to them. One such nobleman, John of Rome, and his wife decided to honor Mary in whatever way they could. In early August, John and his wife both had an unusual dream where Mary appeared to them and asked them to have a church built on one of Rome's seven hills - the Esquiline. John decided to tell the Pope, Liberius, about his dream and when he did the Pope told him that he, too, had a similar dream. On August 5th, they both went to Esquiline hill which they found covered with snow in a contour matching the outline of a church. Construction on a church conforming to the outline left by the snow was started immediately. The Bascilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, one of the largest churches on earth, celebrates its birth to this day on August 5th.

Walsingham, England (ca. 1061)
Mary's presence in England began with three visions received by Lady Richeldis de Faverches, a widow who lived in a manor in Walsingham. In these visions, Mary showed Lady de Faverches the house in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to the Son of the Most High. The Blessed Mother asked Lady de Faverches to build a replica of her house in Nazareth dedicated as a memorial to the Annunciation to Mary and the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. 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 succor."
In the Middle Ages, Walsingham became one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in all of Europe. A church was constructed around the house to protect it from the elements. Many English kings conducted pilgrimages to Walsingham. The last of these was Henry VIII, who made three pilgrimages to the site before breaking with the Catholic Church in 1534 and forming the Church of England. Henry ordered the destruction of all Catholic shrines and places of religious worship. The Walsingham church and house were destroyed in the rampage of destruction that occurred. The statue of Mary that resided in the house was burned several years later.
It was not until the 1920's that Walsingham' Holy House was rebuilt at the direction of Alfred Patten, an Anglican priest. The Slipper Chapel, named in honor of those who - in the Middle Ages - removed their shoes to walk barefoot to the Holy House, a small Catholic chapel located near the Holy House had managed to escape the destruction of the Reformation. This chapel became the Catholic Shrine of Our Lady in England. Both sites have become active pilgrimage sites once again.

Our Lady of the Rosary - Prouille, France (1208)
Domingo de Guzman was a Spanish preacher who went to southern France to oppose the Albegesian heresy which was spreading rapidly. In 1208, while he was praying at a chapel in Prouille, Mary appeared to him and gave him the Rosary and urged him to preach the Rosary to all people as a remedy against heresy and sin. The factual basis for this series of events is questionable. Nonetheless, Domingo (Dominic) founded an order of preaching friars who went on to halt the Albegesian heresy and establish monasteries all over the world. The order is commonly referred to as the Dominicans.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel - Aylesford, England (1251)
Mary's continuing influence on the development of Christianity in England becomes apparent again with her appearance to Simon Stock, who became a member of the religious order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel while on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In her appearance to Friar Stock, Mary entrusted him with the brown scapular (two pieces of brown woolen cloth, usually embroidered with an outline of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and tied together by string and worn over the shoulders) :

"My beloved son receive this scapular for your Order.
It is the special sign of a privilege which I have obtained for you and for all God's children who honor me as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Those who die devotedly clothed with this scapular shall be preserved from eternal fire.
The brown scapular is a badge of salvation. The brown scapular is a shield in time of danger. The brown scapular ia a pledge of peace and special protection, until the end of time."

After this apparition, Friar Stock went on to establish Carmelite communities near university towns in England, France and Italy. He became the Superior-General of his order several years after the apparition. Until very recently, the brown scapular was one of the most widely used religious symbols of personal dedication to the mission of Mary found in her last recorded words in the Bible (John 2:5). The promotion and use of all types of Marian devotional symbols has declined dramatically since the 1960's.

The Black Madonna - Czestochowa, Poland (1382)
The Black Madonna is a painting of the Madonna and Christ Child which legend states was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist. St. Luke is believed to have used a tabletop from a table built by the carpenter Jesus. It was while Luke was painting Mary that she told him about the events in the life of Jesus that he eventually incorporated in his gospel. The painting shows up again in 326 AD when St. Helen located it in Jerusalem while on a pilgrimage there. She gave the painting to her son, Constantine, who had a shrine built in Constantinople to house it. In a critical battle with the Saracens, the portrait was displayed from the walls of the city and the Saracens were subsequently routed. The portrait was credited with saving the city.
The painting was eventually owned by Charlemagne who subsequently presented it to Prince Leo of Ruthenia (northwest Hungary). It remained at the royal palace in Ruthenia until an invasion occurred in the eleventh century. The king prayed to Our Lady to aid his small army and as a rsult of his prayers a darkness descended on the enemy troops who, in their confusion, began attacking one another. Ruthenia was saved as a result of this intervention. In the fourteenth century, it was transferred to the Mount of Light (Jasna Gora) in Poland in response to a request made ina dream of Prince Ladislaus of Opola.
This legendary history becomes better documented with the painting's ownership by Prince Ladislaus. In 1382 invading Tartars attacked the Prince's fortress at Belz. In this attack one of the Tartar arrows hit the painting and lodged in the throat of the Madonna. The Prince, fearing that he and the famous painting might fall to the Tartars, fled in the night finally stopping in the town of Czestochowa, where the painting was installed in a small church. The Prince subsequently had a Pauline monastery and church built to ensure the painting's safety. In 1430, the Hussites overran the monastery and attempted to take the portrait. One of the looters twice struck the painting with his sword but before he could strike another blow he fell to the floor writhing in agony and died. Both the sword cuts and the arrow wound are still visible in the painting.
Later, in 1655, Poland was almost entirely overrun by the forces of Sweden's King Charles X. Only the area around the monastery remained unconquered. Somehow, the monks of the monastery successfully defended the portrait against a forty day siege and eventually all of Poland was able to drive out the invaders. After this remarkable turn of events, the Lady of Czestochowa became the symbol of Polish national unity and was crowned Queen of Poland. The King of Poland placed the country under the protection of the Blessed Mother. A more recent legend surrounding the painting involves the threat of a Russian invasion. In 1920, the Russian army was seen massing on the banks of the Vistula river, threatening Warsaw, when an image of the Virgin was seen in the clouds over the city. The Russian troops withdrew on seeing the image.
There have been reports for centuries of miraculous events such as spontaneous healings occurring to those who made a pilgrimage to the portrait. It is known as the 'Black Madonna" because of the soot residue that discolors the painting. The soot is the result of centuries of votive lights and candles burning in front of the painting. With the decline of communism in Poland, pilgrimages to the Black Madonna have increased dramatically.

Guadalupe, Mexico (1531)
The opening of the New World brought with it both fortune-seekers and religous preachers desiring to convert the native populations to the Christian faith. One of the converts was a poor Aztec indian named Juan Diego. On one of his trips to the chapel, Juan was walking through the Tepayac hill country in central Mexico. Near Tepayac Hill he encountered a beautiful woman surrounded by a ball of light as bright as the sun. Speaking in his native tongue, the beautiful lady identified herself:
"My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother's Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace. So run now to Tenochtitlan and tell the Bishop all that you have seen and heard."
Juan, age 57, and who had never been to Tenochtitlan, nonetheless immediately responded to Mary's request. He went to the palace of the Bishop-elect Fray Juan de Zumarraga and requested to meet immediatly with the bishop. The bishop's servants, who were suspicious of the rural peasant, kept him waiting for hours. The bishop-elect told Juan that he would consider the request of the Lady and told him he could visit him again if he so desired. Juan was disappointed by the bishop's response and felt himself unworthy to persuade someone as important as a bishop. He returned to the hill where he had first met Mary and found her there waiting for him. Imploring her to send someone else, she responded:
"My little son, there are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen."
She then told him to return the next day to the bishop and repeat the request. On Sunday, after again waiting for hours, Juan met with the bishop who, on re-hearing his story, asked him to ask the Lady to provide a sign as a proof of who she was. Juan dutifully returned to the hill and told Mary, who was again waiting for him there, of the bishop's request. Mary responded:
"My little son, am I not your Mother? Do not fear. The Bishop shall have his sign. Come back to this place tomorrow. Only peace, my little son."
Unfortunately, Juan was not able to return to the hill the next day. His uncle had become mortally ill and Juan stayed with him to care for him. After two days, with his uncle near death, Juan left his side to find a priest. Juan had to pass Tepayac Hill to get to the priest. As he was passing, he found Mary waiting for him. She spoke:

"Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you who am your Mother? Are you not under myshadow and protection? Your uncle will not die at this time. There is no reason for you to engage a priest, for his health is restored at this moment. He is quite well. Go to the top of the hill and cut the flowers that are growing there. Bring them then to me."
While it was freezing on the hillside, Juan obeyed Mary's instructions and went to the top of the hill where he found a full bloom of Castilian roses. Removing his tilma, a poncho-like cape made of cactus fiber, he cut the roses and carried them back to Mary. She rearranged the roses and told him:
"My little son, this is the sign I am sending to the Bishop. Tell him that with this sign I request his greatest efforts to complete the church I desire in this place. Show these flowers to no one else but the Bishop. You are my trusted ambassador. This time the Bishop will believe all you tell him."
At the palace, Juan once again came before the bishop and several of his advisors. He told the bishop his story and opened the tilma letting the flowers fall out. But it wasn't the beautiful roses that caused the bishop and his advisors to fall to their knees; for there, on the tilma, was a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary precisely as Juan had described her. The next day, after showing the Tilma at the Cathedral, Juan took the bishop to the spot where he first met Mary. He then returned to his village where he met his uncle who was completely cured. His uncle told him he had met a young woman, surrounded by a soft light, who told him that she had just sent his nephew to Tenochtitlan with a picture of herself. She told his uncle:
"Call me and call my image Santa Maria de Guadalupe".
It's believed that the word Guadalupe was actually a Spanish mis-translation of the local Aztec dialect. The word that Mary probably used was Coatlallope which means "one who treads on snakes"! Within six years of this apparition, six million Aztecs had converted to Catholicism. The tilma shows Mary as the God-bearer - she is pregnant with her Divine Son. Since the time the tilma was first impressed with a picture of the Mother of God, it has been subject to a variety of environmental hazards including smoke from fires and candles, water from floods and torrential downpours and, in 1921, a bomb which was planted by anti-clerical forces on an altar under it. There was also a cast-iron cross next to the tilma and when the bomb exploded, the cross was twisted out of shape, the marble altar rail was heavily damaged and the tilma was...untouched! Indeed, no one was injured in the Church despite the damage that occurred to a large part of the altar structure.
In 1977, the tilma was examined using infrared photography and digital enhancement techniques. Unlike any painting, the tilma shows no sketching or any sign of outline drawn to permit an artist to produce a painting. Further, the very method used to create the image is still unknown. The image is inexplicable in its longevity and method of production. It can be seen today in a large cathedral built to house up to ten thousand worshipers. It is, by far, the most popular religious pilgrimage site in the Western Hemisphere.

Our Lady of Lavang - La'Vang, Vietnam (1798)
During much of the 18th century, the nation of Vietnam was embattled in various struggles for power and domination. The northern regions of the kingdom fell under the authority of the lords of the Trinh family, while in the southern realm the Nguyen lords took power. As the eighteenth century drew toward its close, both of their rules were shaken and threatened by peasant uprisings and emerging rebel forces.
The strongest among the many uprisings was led by the three brothers from Tay Son. In short order, they overthrew the Nguyen lords and defeated the Trinh lords to restore national unity for the first time since the decline of the Le dynasty. A Tay Son brother was enthroned to be King Quang Trung. In 1792 he passed away and left the throne to his son who became King Canh Thinh.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Anh continued his insurgency in trying to reclaim his throne. Earlier in his run from the Tay Son rebels in 1777, he found refuge on Phu Quoc Island, where Monsignor Pierre Pigneau de Behaine of the Society of Foreign Missions directed a seminary for youths from neighboring countries. The bishop persuaded him to seek help from King Louis XVI of France.
King Canh Thinh knew that Nguyen Anh received support from the French missionary and worried that the Vietnamese Catholics would also endorse his reign. He began to restrict the practice of Catholicism in the country. On August 17, 1798, King Canh Thinh issued an anti-Catholic edict and an order to destroy all Catholic churches and seminaries. A most grievous persecution of Vietnamese Catholics and missionaries began and lasted until 1886. Even after Nguyen Anh succeeded in reclaiming his throne as King Gia Long (1802-1820), his successors, King Minh Mang (1820-1840), King Thieu Tri (1841-1847) and King Tu Duc (1847-1884), the last Nguyen emperor, continued the vehement campaign against Catholics, ordering punishments that ranged from branding their faces to death by various cruel methods for Vietnamese Catholics and missionary priests.
It was amidst this great suffering that the Lady of Lavang came to the people of Vietnam. The name Lavang was believed to be originated in the name of the deep forest in the central region of Vietnam (now known as Quang Tri City) where there was an abundance of a kind of trees named La' Vang. It was also said that its name came from the Vietnamese meaning of the word "Crying Out" to denote the cries for help of people being persecuted.
The first apparition of the Lady of Lavang was noted in 1798, when the persecution of Vietnamese Catholics began. Many Catholics from the nearby town of Quang Tri sought refuge in the deep forest of Lavang. A great number of these people suffered from the bitter cold weather, lurking wild beasts, jungle sickness and starvation. At night, they often gathered in small groups to say the rosary and to pray. Unexpectedly, one night they were visited by an apparition of a beautiful Lady in a long cape, holding a child in her arms, with two angels at her sides. The people recognized the Lady as Our Blessed Mother.
Our Blessed Mother comforted them and told them to boil the leaves from the surrounding trees to use as medicine. She also told them that from that day on, all those who came to this place to pray, would get their prayers heard and answered. This took place on the grass area near the big ancient banyan tree where the refugees were praying. All those who were present witnessed this miracle. After this first apparition, the Blessed Mother continued to appear to the people in this same place many times throughout the period of nearly one hundred years of religious persecution. Among many groups of Vietnamese Catholics that were burnt alive because of their faith was a group of 30 people who were seized after they came out of their hiding place in the forest of Lavang. At their request, they were taken back to the little chapel of Lavang and were immolated there on its ground.
From the time the Lady of Lavang first appeared, the people who took refuge there erected a small and desolate chapel in her honor. During the following years, her name was spread among the people in the region to other places. Despite its isolated location in the high mountains, groups of people continued to find ways to penetrate the deep and dangerous jungle to pray to the Lady of Lavang. Gradually, the pilgrims that came with axes, spears, canes, and drums to scare away wild animals were replaced by those holding flying flags, flowers and rosaries. The pilgrimages went on every year despite the continuous persecution campaigns.
In 1886, after the persecution had officially ended, Bishop Gaspar ordered a church to be built in honor of the Lady of Lavang. Because of its precarious location and limited funding, it took 15 years for the completion of the church of Lavang. It was inaugurated by Bishop Gaspar in a solemn ceremony that participated by over 12,000 people and lasted from August 6th to 8th, 1901. The bishop proclaimed the Lady of Lavang as the Protectorate of the Catholics. In 1928, a larger church was built to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims. This church was destroyed in the summer of 1972 during the Vietnam war.
The history of the Lady of Lavang continues to gain greater significance as more claims from people whose prayers were answered were validated. In April of 1961, the Council of Vietnamese Bishops selected the holy church of Lavang as the National Sacred Marian Center . In August of 1962, Pope John XXIII elevated the church of Lavang to The Basilica of Lavang. On June 19, 1988, Pope John Paul II in the canonizing ceremony of the 117 Vietnamese martyrs, publicly and repeatedly recognized the importance and significance of the Lady of Lavang and expressed a desire for the rebuilding of the Lavang Basilica to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first apparition of the Lady of Lavang in August of 1998.

Text provided courtesy of Kim-Oanh Nguyen-Lam

Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal - Paris, France (1830)
In the summer of 1830, a 24 year old novice of the Sisters of Charity was awakened by a young child, about five years old, dressed in white who called to her:
"Catherine, Catherine, wake up. Come to the chapel; the Blessed Virgin is waiting for you."
Catherine Laboure, who had expressed a strong desire to meet the Blessed Virgin, decided to follow the child down to the chapel. The candles were burning as if at a midnight Mass. About a half-hour later, at midnight, she heard a noise that sounded like the rustle of a silk dress. When she looked up she saw a beautiful young woman surrounded by a blaze of white light sitting in the Father Director's chair. The child who brought her to the chapel told her: "Here is the Blessed Virgin!" Catherine fell to her knees and placed her hands on Mary's lap. Mary tod her:
"My child, the good God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will have much to suffer, but you will rise above these sufferings by reflecting that what you do is for the glory of God. You will know what the good God wants. You will be tormented until you have told him who is in charged with directing you. You will be contradicted, but do not fear, you will have grace. Tell with confidence all that passes within you. Tell it with simplicity. Have confidence. Do not be afraid."
During this discourse with the Blessed Mother, Catherine was warned of dire future occurrences. Mary told her:
"The times are very evil. Sorrows will befall France; the throne will be overturned. The whole world will be plunged into every kind of misery."
After this apparition Catherine had written down "in forty years" when referring to this prophecy. Five months later, in November, Catherine experienced another apparition. In this event Mary appeared dressed entirely in white holding a ball topped with a little golden cross. The ball, she was told, represented the whole world, especially France, and each person in particular. Mary stood on a white globe with a green serpent under her feet on the globe. After a moment, an oval shape formed around the Blessed Virgin, and on it were written these words in gold: `O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.' Upon seeing this vision, Catherine heard a voice say: "Have a medal struck after this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces; abundant graces will be given to those who have confidence." At this point, the oval seemed to turn and Catherine saw the reverse of the medal: the letter M surmounted by a cross, and below it two hearts, one crowned with a crown of thorns, and the other pierced by a sword.
After hearing all of her accounts of these apparitions, her spiritual director, Father Aladel, still had doubts as to their veracity. He met with the local archbishop and after due deliberation the archbishop authorized that the medals be struck since he found nothing contrary to the Faith in anything Catherine said or experienced. Within months there were a flood of reported cures and spiritual conversions attributed to the medal; so much so that it came to be called the Miraculous Medal. Catherine went back to a life of obscurity in the Sisters of Charity once the medal had been fashioned and died in 1876. By the time of her death there were millions of Miraculous Medals being worn by the devout all over the world.

Lourdes, France (1858)
Mary appeared to an impovershed, emaciated fourteen year old girl who lived in the Pyrenees at a time of turmoil in France. On Thursday, February 11th, Bernadette Soubirous, her sister Marie and another friend had gone to a nearby river to gather firewood. While Marie and her friend crossed the river to search the other side, Bernadette stayed on dry land. While searching for wood she heard a loud noise like the sound of a storm coming from a nearby grotto known as Massabielle. At the mouth of the grotto was a rosebush which was moving as if it were windy, which it was not. From the interior of the grotto she saw a golden-colored cloud, and soon after a Lady, young and beautiful who came and placed herself at the entrance of the opening above the rosebush. The Lady smiled at Bernadette and motioned for her to advance. Bernadette lost any fear she may have had and fell to her knees to pray the Rosary. After both she and the Lady completed these prayers (with the Lady only said the Lord's prayer and the Gloria), the Lady slowly withdrew to the interior of the grotto and disappeared.
Bernadette experienced eighteen visitations from Mary over a six month period never knowing who the Lady was until the last apparition. During the apparitions, Mary instructed Bernadette to dig a hole in the ground and drink and bathe in it. The hole later turned into a spring of water which Mary promised would be a healing spring for all who came to use its waters. Mary also asked Bernadette to tell the local pastor, Cure Peyramale to have a chapel built in honor of her appearances there. The Cure accused Bernadette of lying about the apparitions and told her to find out from the Lady just who she was and demanded from her that she perform a miracle by making the rosebush in the grotto bloom. On March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation, Mary answered the Cure's request when she told Bernadette, who had only received a rudimentary religious education, "Que soy era Immaculado Conceptiou" (I am the Immaculate Conception). Mary, with these words, confirmed what the Pope had declared as official Catholic Church doctrine just four years earlier - a highly unlikely fact to be known by an uneducated fourteen year old in rural France.
The apparitions were declared authentic in 1862 and Lourdes rapidly became one of the world's major pilgrimage sites. Thousands have been cured from a variety of illnesses, both physical and spiritual, and a clinic to support the millions of pilgrims who come to Lourdes operates to this day. Bernadette returned to a life of obscurity. She became one of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Nevers and died there in 1879 after a long and painful illness. She was declared a saint in 1933, not because of the apparitions, but because of her dedication to a life of simplicity and service.


Knock, Ireland (1879)
County Mayo was in the center of a region of Ireland that had suffered great distress in the 1870's. Various famines and economic dislocations produced by forced evictions had created yet another wave of Irish immigration. It was into this environment that the Lord again sent His Mother to visit with His oppressed children.
August 21st, 1879 was another rain-swept day in County Mayo. As evening arrived, Margaret Beirne, a resident of the village of Cnoc Mhuire, was sent by her brother to lock up the local church for the evening. After she had completed this task, as she was returning home she noticed a strange brightness covering the church. However, preoccupied with other thoughts, she mentioned this to no one else. At about this time, another member of the Beirne family, Mary, had just completed a visit with the church's housekeeper, Mary McLoughlin. As they were walking down the road they came to a location where they could clearly see the church and its gables, at which time Mary O'Beirne turned to her companion and said, "O look at the statues! Why didn't you tell me the priest had got new statues for the chapel?" Her companion responded that she had heard nothing about new statues but she decided to look more closely. As they approached the church, Mary Beirne remarked, "But they are not statues, they're moving. It's the Blessed Virgin."
What they and thirteen others saw in the still-bright day was a beautiful woman, clothed in white garments, wearing a large brilliant crown. Her hands were raised as if in prayer. This woman was understood by all who saw her to be Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Queen of the Angels.
On her right stood St. Joseph, his head inclined towards her. On her left stood St. John the Evangelist, dressed as a bishop. To the left of St. John was an altar on which stood a lamb and a cross surrounded by angels. All of this was seen on the gable wall of the church in a cloud of light and lasted for about two hours. Other villagers, who were not involved with the apparition, nonetheless reported seeing a very bright light illuminating the area around where the church was located. There were subsequent reports of inexplicable healings associated with visits to the church at Knock.
The Church response to this series of events was typically circumspect. A commission was formed to gather testimonies of those claiming to see the apparition and then a record of purported cures and devotional material was maintained until 1936. At that time, the head of the diocese of Tuam, Archbishop Gilmartin, authorized the publication of a pamphlet supporting devotion to the apparition at Knock.

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