Mary is Not Just Food for Thought, She is an Entire Banquet!
I consider myself fortunate to have gone on a pilgrimage to some of the Marian apparition sites during my recent sojourn in Europe. For indeed, “Mary is the one chosen from all eternity to bring God’s Son into the world. She is the perfect believer who teaches us to love her Son.” (Manual for Marian Devotion)
And the experience can best be summed up in Wordsworth’s words: ‘The music in my heart I bore, long after it was heard no more.’
Fatima, in Portugal, took my breath away
A brief background….Our Lady appeared every month, on the 13th, from May until October 1917, to three shepherd children; Lucia (age 10), Jacinta (age 7), and Francisco (age 9)
Historically, as the entire world was in turmoil, Our Lady's most prominent message during this time was to pray for world peace. The “Little Chapel of the Apparitions” is built on the site of the apparitions, with a single white column inside marking the exact spot where the Virgin Mary first appeared on May 13th, 1917.
The stunning neoclassical ‘Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary” contains the tombs of St. Francisco, St. Jacinta, and Sister Lucia. Due to Our Lady's consistency in her messages to pray the Rosary, this Basilica also features fifteen altars, dedicated to the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. The evening Rosary in several languages amidst a huge crowd of devotees and the candlelight procession, is unforgettable.
Lourdes, in France - a quaint town nestled within the Pyrenees Mountains
Our Lady first appeared here to Bernadette in 1858, and announced herself as "The Immaculate Conception", near the Grotto of Massabielle.
During the first two apparitions, little Bernadette prayed the Rosary with Our Lady and left without any exchange of words. During the following apparitions, Our Lady emphasized God's love for us and the necessity of performing acts of penance for sinners.
In Lourdes, we had the opportunity to attend Mass at the Grotto of the Apparitions; a chance to drink water from the miraculous spring that has healed many, and to partake of the healing baths. People with a burning faith, processing in serpentine queues, are miraculously healed. Additionally, we chanced upon an opportunity to meditate on the "life size" “Stations of the Cross” that overlook the Grotto of Massabielle.
Our visit to Boly Mill, the birthplace of St. Bernadette, and the "Cachot," an abandoned prison where Bernadette's impoverished family lived, unfolded the story in actuality.
The candlelight procession and recitation of the Rosary conducted on the day we visited remain etched in the mind’s eye! Forever!
Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
While walking through a street named Rue Du Baccame, in the beautiful city of Paris, I had the opportunity to see the chapel where Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine of Laboure and instructed her to have a medal made.
Mary confirmed that all who wear this medal will receive her graces. At this Shrine, we viewed the incorrupt body of the saint whose guardian angel led her to the chapel, where the Blessed Virgin Mary repeatedly emphasized that those who wear the Miraculous Medal and scapular would receive special protection and abundant graces.
At this elegant chapel the image of Saint Vincent de Paul is also enthroned, his incorrupt heart still beating for the love of the less fortunate – a testimony of his generosity!
Medjugorje (Bosnia & Herzegovina): site of the 1981 Marian Apparition.
An overnight cruise from Anacona to Split, and a 5-hour drive up the steep uphill road to Medjugorje, atop the “Apparition Hill” was breathtaking – the site on which six children witnessed the Blessed Virgin Mary on June 24th 1981.
The apparition has a message of peace for the world, as well as a call to conversion through prayer, penance and fasting. Mary appeared with an infant in her arms and confided ten secrets to the children, who, now, as adults, continue to see her often.
Our Lady, “Rosa Mystica”, appeared to nurse, Pierina Gilli, in the small town of Montichiari
Near the Italian Alps in Northern Italy, in the small town of Montichiari, our Blessed Mother started appearing to a hospital nurse, named Pierina Gilli, in the spring of 1947, She introduced herself as ‘The Mystical Rose’ and requested that an hour of grace be observed on Dec 8th , in all Catholic Churches in the world.
Pierina noticed that the Blessed Mother’s heart was pierced by 3 swords: the first sword meaning the “unworthy celebration of Holy Mass and Communion”, the second sword meaning “giving up the vocation as a priest or religious”, and the third sword meaning “betrayal of faith”.
She appeared to Pierina a total of eleven times and said: “prayer .. penitence .. expiation”. She also urged that the 13th of every month be celebrated as” Marian Day” and that July 13th be celebrated each year in honour of the ‘Rosa Mystica’.
And so Our Lady continues through the ages to remind us through her apparitions that prayer, fasting and repentance can still earn a place for us with her Divine Son.