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REV. ROBERT FOX
Many astonishing miracles have taken place within the context of approved Marian apparitions. With these miracles there is always a message from Our Lady that each of us is invited to incorporate into our own spirituality. For this purpose we shall examine Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima.
The Bible, God's own Word, informs us that there were prophecies and incidents that happened to God's people and foreshadowed the birth of Jesus Christ, when God first came to this earth as man to save us. What many do not know is that there were many incidents in ancient Mexican history foreshadowing the coming of Christ through His holy Mother to this new Western continent.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our concern, however, is not with the foreshadowings in Mexican history but the actual miracle itself which goes on even today, and which brought Mexico to the true faith. The miracle of the miraculous portrait of the Mother of God was given to us through one of the first converts to Christianity in Mexico.
St. Juan Diego (1473-1548), given the name "Cuauhtlatoatzin" ("the talking eagle") at birth, was baptized at the age of 50. On the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1531, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, in the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. The Blessed Mother asked him to go to the bishop and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac. There the heavenly Lady promised to pour out her grace upon those who invoked her. The bishop asked for a sign to prove that the apparition was true.
When Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac the Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick flowers he would find in bloom. He obeyed. Although it was wintertime, he found Castilian roses that normally grew in Spain, not Mexico, and for which the bishop had prayed as a sign. Mary told him to take the roses to the bishop as "proof." When Juan opened his mantle before the bishop, the roses fell to the floor. There remained impressed on Juan's tilma, in place of the flowers, an image of the Blessed Mother, the very apparition he had seen at Tepeyac.
Juan Diego's mantel or tilma was made of cactus fiber which should have turned to dust within 15 to 20 years under normal conditions. It should have disintegrated even sooner, as the miraculous image was in an open-air chapel, before which thousands of candles burned and the simple people touched it for the first hundred years. Yet, 470 years later, the image of the Mother of God remains as bright and beautiful as ever. The cactus fiber tilma with its image remains intact. There is no backing to the material, no paint brush marks, and the rough cactus fiber would have been an impossible material for an earthly artist to paint on.
Books have been written to describe the miraculous features of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. While the many symbols in the image were mysterious to others, they were most meaningful to the native Indian people of Mexico-as Our Lady spoke to them in the hieroglyphics of her image. The miracle was the occasion of bringing a pagan people to the one, true God and to know by faith that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross won their redemption. They turned from false gods to true worship of the true God.
The message and miracle of Guadalupe go on. Even in more recent times discoveries continue to be made. These include images of people, believed to be the bishop of Mexico at the time and Juan Diego, reflected in the pupils of the Virgin's eyes. Our Lady's eyes have even revealed the reflection of a family. Often, the eyes appear alive to doctors examining them.
On his first pilgrimage outside of Italy after beginning his pontificate, the Marian pope, John Paul II, went to Guadalupe and declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the "Star of Evangelization."
At Juan Diego's canonization, Pope John Paul II said: "The Guadalupe event meant the beginning of evangelization with a vitality that surpassed all expectations. Christ's message, through His Mother, took up the central elements of the indigenous culture, purified them, and gave them the definitive sense of salvation."
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is an ongoing miracle now into a fifth century of visible testimony. Pope John Paul II has mandated that henceforth each December 12, the liturgical feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, be observed not only in Mexico, but throughout all the Americas and the Western Hemisphere.
We are all called to evangelize and share the fullness of the true faith. Our Lady of Guadalupe calls us as she called St. Juan Diego to evangelize. St. Juan Diego spent the remainder of his life after receiving the miraculous image evangelizing all who came to view it and pray before the miraculous image. St. Juan Diego has even been suggested as a patron saint for lay evangelists. The image speaks of the Catholic faith and has a powerful pro-life message.
Our Lady of Lourdes
St. Bernadette Soubirous was 14 years old when in 1858 our Blessed Mother appeared to her 18 times at Massabielle at a grotto near Lourdes, France. A spring of water appeared there on February 25 when Bernadette, at the Lady's bidding, dug into the soil. The water that came forth developed into a steady, strong stream giving forth thousands of gallons each day to the present time.
Miraculous healings were soon reported from those who had been immersed in the water. In 1862 the apparitions received the Church's approval. Millions of people have visited the shrine at Lourdes. A medical bureau has been established to investigate the character or the cures. Hundreds of cures have been fully authenticated by medical specialists.
The healings at Lourdes usually take place after people have bathed in the waters of the spring, and especially during the blessing with the Most Blessed Sacrament carried in procession. Not all cures are physical. There are many reported conversions and special graces given to intensify one's spiritual life.
At Lourdes Our Lady reaffirmed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception that was solemnly defined four years earlier. She chose March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, to declare who she is: "I am the Immaculate Conception." Mary was conceived sinless and kept sinless from the first instant of her creation because she was chosen from all eternity to become the Mother of the Most High.
Lourdes, with its reaffirmation of faith in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, calls us to love Mary and to be sure of the power of her intercession in all our needs, physical and spiritual. Lourdes also calls us to loyalty to the teachings of the Church under the authority of the Pope. What Pope Pius IX declared a dogma, four years later the Mother of God confirmed with a miracle that continues yet today in the gushing forth of water, the very sign by which we are baptized into the Church.
Our Lady of Fatima
At Fatima, the Mother of God appeared at noon on the 13th of the months of May through October. When asked by Lucia to "work a miracle so everybody will believe that you are appearing to us," Our Lady answered: "In October I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe."
What we have then is a promise from heaven, made at least three months in advance, to perform a miracle at a precise day, hour, and place so that all may believe. Tens of thousands came to the top of the mountain near Fatima in 1917. Secular newspapers of Lisbon, which were anti-religion, had reporters there. To their credit they reported objectively what they saw.
The miracle of the spinning of the sun was of striking proportions and reminds us of the great biblical miracles. There was the sudden stopping of the heavy rain and disappearance of the clouds which momentarily swept back from east to west and totally disappeared, revealing the blue sky. There was also the sudden drying of people's clothing and the land upon which the thousands of pilgrims stood.
What happened then, on October 13, 1917, was not simply one miracle, but several. Since I have been at Fatima annually for the past three decades I was able to meet and interview witnesses to the various phenomena who were still living during the early years of my many pilgrimages there. These witnesses saw many things, including the spinning of the sun.
The well-known miracle of the sun took place at the promised hour of noon in the Cova da Iria. While no astronomical equipment reported disturbances in the solar system, the sun the pilgrims witnessed seemed to come down in three phases so close to them that they could have reached up and touched it. It threw off multiple colors and transformed the appearances of the landscape and the people themselves.
The miracle of the sun was "an explosion of the supernatural" and as it were a new Pentecost. Agnostics and atheists converted on the spot. Tens of thousands in Portugal who witnessed the miracle for 32 miles around were also converted.
In answer to the question, "If it was not the sun what was it?" I answer, "The Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire at the first Pentecost. Pope Leo XIII dedicated the 20th century to the Holy Spirit and we've witnessed much phenomena associated with the Holy Spirit the past century. Those pessimistic about the crisis of faith today should remember that at any moment, in God's time and providence, He can say "enough is enough" and perform a miracle to call all of goodwill back to true faith. In the meantime, it is rather shortsighted for some who have never studied Fatima in depth or responded in faith to the Gospels which Fatima reaffirms to continue to ignore Fatima.
An in-depth study of the Fatima message reveals that Our Lady was a catechist at Fatima, reaffirming all the basic doctrines of Catholicism. Fatima is a call for us to respond to Our Lord in faith, hope, and charity. It is a call to loyalty to the Church, especially to the teachings of the Pope, and to Eucharistic reparation. Fatima begins and ends with the Holy Eucharist.
Fr. Robert Fox. "Marian Miracles." Lay Witness (March/April 2004).
This article is reprinted with permission from Lay Witness magazine. Lay Witness is a publication of Catholic United for the Faith, Inc., an international lay apostolate founded in 1968 to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.
Fr. Robert Fox is the founder-director of the Fatima Family Apostolate International. He is also editor of the Immaculate Heart Messenger. For 20 years, Fr. Fox conducted youth retreat-pilgrimages to Fatima. For more information visit www.fatimafamily.org or call toll-free (800) 213-5541.
Copyright © 2004 LayWitness