May 13, 2017 marked 100 years since the apparitions (appearances) of Mary to three peasant children, Jacinto, Francisco and Lucia in Fatima, Portugal.
From the time of early evangelisation, the presence of the Mother Mary has been strongly felt in the life of the church. She has, among creatures, been presented as the highest realisation of the gospel and a great sign of the closeness of God, with whom she invites us to enter into communion (Luke 1:27).
Marian apparitions have rotated around a warning about a coming war or disaster and the need for prayer and penance to avert them. For example, Mary told Sister Lucia de Santos that a Pope would be shot. This prophecy was verified on May 13, 1981, when Pope John Paul II was shot in Rome. The Fatima visions ended in October 1917 with a miracle that recalled the Book of Revelations 12: “A woman clothed with the Sun, and giving birth to a Son who will rule the nations with a sceptre of iron.”
In the 18th century Freemasonry set about de-Christianising Portugal. In 1936, the Church launched pilgrimages of the entire nation to Fatima. In 1940, Portugal signed a concord with the Vatican. Portugal has continued with its tranquil life under the protection of Mary.
There have been reports of apparitions since the earliest history of the Church. Of the 295 cases studied by the Vatican however, only 12 have been approved. An authentic apparition is different from illusions or hallucinations that result from pathological conditions or even diabolical intervention. It is a divine gift to an individual or group for the spiritual good of others and/or for the Church as a whole.
The purpose of such apparitions is to recall and emphasise some aspect of the Christian message, but without adding anything new to the traditional faith. Christians must acknowledge them as an assistance to nourish their faith in the central mysteries of the Incarnation, the Trinity and the Eucharist.
In the bible
According to the Catholic Church, the era of public revelation ended with the death of the last living Apostle. St Matthew’s account of the crucifixion is most outstanding: “But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”” (Matthew 27: 50-54).
Theologically and canonically, the bishop is entrusted with the role of “oversight” of the diocese, over public worship and doctrine. When an allegedly supernatural event has occurred, it is the responsibility of the local bishop to conduct an investigation, usually through a committee of experts. Christians must prudently obey the bishop in the matter of alleged apparitions.
How acceptable ?
There are four norms for evaluating miraculous events. There must be moral certainty. The visionary must be mentally sound, honest, sincere, of upright conduct, obedient to ecclesiastical authorities and able to return to the normal practices of the faith.
The revelation or message must be theologically acceptable and morally sound and free of error. The apparition must result in positive spiritual assets which endure (prayer, conversion and increase of charity). As nations continue to live under threat of violence, secularism and materialism, all faithful need to embrace devotion to Mary through the rosary prayer.