Christians should stand with Black Lives Matter!
I'm sure you are aware of what is happening in this world, whether you support the Black Lives Matter movement or not. I sure am.. We can't look at anything now and not see the pain of this world. But that is a good thing. Hear me out. The reason it is a good thing is because we are finally talking about it heavily in our society today. Change is happening!
I have heard people tell me that protesting is fine and all, but once you start looting and damaging property then that's the problem. Yet the people who are protesting are not looting. The correct statement would be that LOOTERS are TAKING ADVANTAGE of the protests. I want to be angry at those who don't see why these protests are so important. It is very difficult for me to understand how anyone can look at these protests and get defensive and threaten them.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) are fighting a battle, a war that has been going on for over 400 years. Do you realize that the last slave in the United States was only TWO generations ago? Look it up! Do you know when desegregation ACTUALLY happened? The legal ruling happened in 1954 but was fought and people found loop holes. Desegregation took decades to be fully realized in the United States. Did you know that white parents got around the desegregation of schools by pulling their kids out of public and putting them into "segregated academies"? Yeah that happened. Do you know what gerrymandering is? According to the dictionary it is, "manipulating the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class." This happened to school districts. The leaders rearranged the school districts to keep children of color out of their zones and keep the white ones in. Technically black kids could attend the white schools, but because of zones it was rare.
The segregation by communities caused them to be incredibly impoverished because no one would hire black people at a reasonable pay rate. Public schools rely heavily on property values/taxes, and thus the schools were impoverished as well. According to EquitableGrowth.org, "There is evidence that some school districts have purposefully gerrymandered district lines to segregate low-income students. A piece from Vox points out that since 2000, more than 70 communities have made attempts to secede from their school districts, two-thirds of which have been successful. As an example, organizers in Gardendale, Alabama seceded from the Jefferson County school district 6 years ago. These organizers made the argument that schools were already overcrowded and underfunded, and that by better controlling the geographic composition of the student body, they would be able to reallocate school resources. As a consequence, they were systematically carving out affluent school districts, leaving low-income students to be redirected to underperforming schools in the area."
Why should Christians care? In response, I want to leave you with a speech given by Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
"Somebody once remarked that we learn from history that in fact we do not learn from history. It is quite staggering that we should read of attacks by louts on foreign workers in Germany simply because they are of a different race. One would have thought that with the memory of the Holocaust fresh in their minds the last thing Germans would want to be guilty of is a resurgence of racism. Unfortunately, neo-Nazism has indeed reared its ugly head with the vicious attacks on Gastarbeiters by youths who have no compunction about evoking the memory of Adolf Hitler. We should be careful though that we do not become hysterical and my formulations earlier would be perilously close to the kind of generalization that can easily evoke a panic-stricken reaction. We should in soberness give thanks for the fact that tens of thousands of decent Germans have marched in massive demonstrations to protest against this new socio-pathological phenomenon. But we have sadly to admit that there is a new xenophobia abroad. It is a characteristic of periods of transition when familiar landmarks have been shifted or removed, landmarks that have served to help people find their bearings, that almost inevitably there is a nostalgia for the security that comes from having simplistic answers to complex questions and a desire for an absolute certainty.
No wonder there is a growth in fundamentalism, epically religious fundamentalism, especially among Christians and Muslims. These persons are upset that there are often no straightforward answers to the many ambivalences and ambiguities that characterize life as most people experience it. They are impatient with the diversity to be found as in a plurality of ideologies, political options, religious faiths, cultures and ethnic groups. They hanker after homogeneity. They spew forth intolerant views about issues relating to, for example, human sexuality and particularly homosexuality, about abortion, about interfaith dialogue, about morality, etc. Some of the more horrendous manifestations of this intolerance of diversity are being seen in what has euphemistically been called 'ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia and the awful genocide in Rwanda.
The circumstances obtaining today provide fertile ground for the growth of racism. When the economy is not doing too well and people are competing for scarce jobs in a time of high unemployment and recession and therefore of an increase in crime, then they start looking for scapegoats. Foreigners and those who do not resemble the majority in one way or another become ready-made candidates for bearing the blame for whatever is going wrong. Hitler was cunning in using the prevailing difficult economic situation of the day to blame the Jews for the misery that the true Aryan Germans were experiencing. He was on an unbeatable ticket. Nazism, which we all today condemn as so obviously evil and immoral, spread like wildfire, much to the surprise and chagrin of many of us.
We must be ever vigilant because racism is again on the rise and there are those who don’t think it is such a bad thing because it can be made to seem innocuous, dressed in the garb of ethnic pride and a legitimate self-determination, it has been possible for a Mr. Duke, known to have been a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan, to be quite unbelievably a credible candidate running for the Governorship of Louisiana. His racist antecedents did not rule him out automatically and categorically as one might have expected. He put up a very good show at the time. And that is quite, quite scandalous, because my dear friends, racism can never be benign. It can never be respectable. It was racism that blotted the world’s copybook by giving us slavery-doing commerce in fellow human being.
It was racism that produced the awful ghastliness of the Holocaust in which millions of Jews were killed after being subjected to the most appalling suffering and degradation. There was nothing benign and nice about putting children into gas ovens after transporting them in inhuman conditions in cattle trucks.
It was racism which produced the awful excesses of the Ku Klux Klan whose emblem was a flaming cross – almost the ultimate blasphemy and sacrilege – when they made life a sheer hell for blacks through their lynchings. There was nothing benign or respectable about that.
It was racism that gave the world apartheid where people in the land of their birth did not vote just because of the colour of their skin; where children were stunted psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, and physically, not accidentally, but by deliberate government policy; where to oppose such a system earned you a banning order that consigned you to a twilight existence as a prisoner at your own expense, or detention without trial, where you might undergo unspeakable torture, or you died mysteriously in detention, as did Steve Biko. Or you served an unconscionably long prison sentence for having the audacity to claim that you too were human: that you had fundamental inalienable rights: that you had a dignity that should not so callously be trodden underfoot and rubbed in the dust – as had Nelson Mandela, spending 27 years in incarceration, and many others. Or to have to go into exile as happened to Oliver Tambo who, like so many others, was in exile for over 30 years. Or you were the target of sinister hit-squads.
No, my friends, there has been nothing nice and benign and respectable about the racism that was called apartheid. It was accompanied by harassment of innocent people, by their vilification and denigration in the State-controlled electronic media and in some of what were sycophantic lick-spittle newspapers which were the apartheid Government’s lap dogs. Let me add that there were undoubtedly courageous journalists and newspapers which helped to keep the torch of freedom flickering. But the point I want to stress is that there is a growing racism abroad and it must be opposed with all the vehemence and determination at our disposal, because racism can ultimately never be benign, nice and respectable. It is always evil, immoral and ultimately vicious and not to be tolerated by Christians and people of goodwill as well as those of other faiths. I want now to show that racism on all scores is immoral, evil, unbiblical and unchristian."
Read the full speech the second source linked below!
Written by Alexander M. Burchnell
Edited by Christopher J. Burchnell
1) EquitableGrowth.org https://equitablegrowth.org/gerrymandered-school-districts-perpetuate-segregation-by-keeping-low-income-students-out-which-is-bad-for-economic-growth/#:~:text=Gerrymandered%20school%20districts%20perpetuate%20segregation%20by%20keeping%20low%2Dincome%20students,of%20children%20in%20public%20schools.
2) Speech by Archbishop Desmond Tutu https://www.epicenter.org/why-as-christians-we-must-oppose-racism/
Holy Appearances: Thesis on Apparitions of the Mother of God
A Marian apparition is a supernatural sighting of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Catholic Church regards the continuing appearance of Mary as a sign of her love for humanity. Believers view these supernatural sightings as real and objective cases of divine intervention on Earth. The Catholic Church is extremely critical of these reported sightings; however, and the Holy See has complex investigative protocol for verifying these sightings. However, much of this process is a mystery to laypeople, but with diligent reading and research, it can be better understood. The best way to understand these supernatural occurrences is by looking through a historical, cultural, and theological lens.
Apparitions of religious figures have been reported and studied since the earliest days of the Christian Church. In the New Testament, the risen Christ appears as an apparition after he is crucified to the apostle Mary Magdalen. The first recorded Marian apparition in church history is Our Lady of the Pillar, who appeared in 39 AD in Zaragoza, Spain where she was seen by St. James (Varghese 34). Our Lady of the Pillar is the oldest Marian apparition. After the Pentecost, one of Jesus’s twelve apostles, St.James, went to preach in the Iberian Peninsula (modern day Spain). While there, he had a difficult time finding converts and felt like his mission had been a failure. To comfort him, the Virgin Mary appeared to St.James on top of a stone pillar, carried by angels. What is unique about this appearance is that, unlike all of the Marian apparitions that occurred after, Mary appeared to St.James before her bodily assumption into heaven, also known as the “Annunciation”. The Annunciation is a theological concept stating that immediately upon her death, Mary was taken immediately into heaven, skipping Purgatory. It is still debated whether or not Mary actually died, or if she was taken into heaven while living. This means that Mary was still alive, living in Jerusalem, when she came to St. James in Spain (Varghese 67-68). Although St. James was concerned that he would be unable to find any converts to Christianity, the Virgin Mary assured him that he would indeed be successful. She gifted St. James the pillar she was standing on, which she said was as strong as his faith. She requested that he build a church in her honor, saying,
“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… and the people of this land will honor greatly my Son Jesus. It will stand from that moment until the end of time in order that God may work miracles and wonders through my intercession for all those who place themselves under my patronage.“
Following this message, St. James built a church in her honor, creating the first ever Marian shrine in history. This occurrence set the precedent for centuries of Marian apparitions. Since then, many appearances of the Virgin Mary have been reported, but very few of those appearances have been deemed trustworthy and worthy of belief by the Vatican.
On May 13, 1917, a group of three shepherd children, Lúcia dos Santos, Francisco Marto, and Jacinta Marto, witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary in Fátima, Portugal. She would come to be known as Our Lady of Fatima. The children reportedly saw, “a lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun, radiating a light more clear and intense than a crystal cup filled with sparkling water, lit by burning sunlight” (Mary #3). Mary had two requests for the children. First, she told them, “I have come to ask you to come here for six months on the 13th day of the month, at this same hour. Later I shall say who I am and what I desire. And I shall return here yet a seventh time.” Second, she told them, “Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.” At this time, one of the children, Lùcia, asked Mary if she could go to heaven with her (Mary #3). This would essentially equal Lùcia’s death, in exchange for an afterlife in heaven with Mary. This request could be an indication of Lùcia’s great faith, but it also sheds light on how much Lùcia, and other Portuguese people, were struggling during this time. She was asking Mary not for death, but for a better life in heaven away from the difficult life she was living as a child in poverty. Mary responded to Lùcia’s request that she be taken up into heaven by saying, “I will take Jacinta and Francisco shortly; but you will stay here for some time to come. Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne” (Mary #3) In this dialogue, Mary is telling the three children that Jacinta and Francisco will soon die and join her in heaven, while Lúcia will stay alive for “some time to come” in order to evangelize. Though the children were faithful and honored Mary’s request that they meet her on the 13th of each following month, they were met with disbelief and ridicule from the rest of their community. The Virgin Mary continued to appeared to the three children on the 13th of the month every month following May and until October (Mary #3).
October 13, 1917 was when Mary appeared to the children for the last time. By this time, 70,0000 people in Fátima had heard about the apparitions and gathered around the children on this day in anticipation. Lúcia, who referred to her vision of Mary as the “Lady in white”, asked her to perform a miracle for the crowd so that they too would believe that her presence was real. Thousands watched as the sun appeared to change colors, spin, and then plunged towards the Earth. Following this event, there were many conversions into the Catholic Church (Mary #3).
Over the course of several months, between May and October of that year, Mary appeared to the children on the 13th of each month and showed them several different things. She taught them the Fátima Prayer, and asked that they continue saying to Rosary, with that prayer now included. She assured them that they would be going to heaven and showed them a vision of Hell. Additionally, the children saw the Immaculate Heart of Mary resting in her palm, a heart pierced by thorns that represented the pain sin caused Mary’s heart and her desire for reparation (Mary #3).
Strangely, the apparition told the children things that they would not have known otherwise in the form of three secrets. The first secret was the vision of Hell, which the children described with horrific detail thought to be outside of a child’s imagination. The second secret was a prediction of the end of the First World War, and the beginning of the Second World War (Cruz 80) . The third secret is the most controversial. Lúcia had chosen not to reveal the third secret until 1944, when she began seriously sick with influenza and wrote the secret down on a piece of paper and sealed it in an envelope. The envelope was not opened until June 26, 2000, and the secret turned out to be cryptic and difficult to interpret with any certainty. The apparition’s prediction about the children’s deaths turned out to be true. Francisco and Jacinta died from two separate illnesses both within three years of the last apparition on October 13, 1917. Lúcia became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She died at the age of 97, on the 13th of the month, February, 2005 (Mary #3).
There are many political aspects to the appearance of Our Lady of Fátima. In her message, she explicitly mentioned World War I and predicted when it will end. She expressed her disdain for war and her desire for peace. Besides World War I, Portugal was experiencing other political difficulties. The recently secularized government was anti-catholic, and there was a strong pushback among the Catholic Portuguese people. The Republican government passed laws suppressing the existing religious institutions, and the Jesuits (a form of Catholic priest) were forced to give up their Portuguese citizenship. Not only that, but the perceived threat of communism was looming on the horizon. Our Lady of Fatima’s first appearance was six months before the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. When Lúcia later published a memoir after World War II had begun, she wrote that Mary had warned her about the dangers of anti-clerical countries like Russia, and that other countries may follow in its footsteps (Mary #3).
Our Lady of Lourdes is another well-known venerated Marian apparition. On March 25, 1858, she appeared to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France. Mary identified her self as the “Immaculate Conception”, which is the concept that the Virgin Mary was born with without original sin. The young Bernadette did not understand the meaning of this title, prompting the Church’s belief that she could not have made up the apparition. The idea that Mary was born free from original sin has been a core catholic belief from the earliest days of the Church. However, it was only four years before Bernadette’s sighting of the apparition that the doctrine of Immaculate Conception was defined by Pope Prius IX. Because she came from a small, impoverished village and was completely illiterate, it is extremely unlikely that Bernadette could have known of this new official doctrine without Divine Intervention. Mary, whom Bernadette called the “little lady in white” asked the world for penance, prayer, and repentance (Mary #3). Bernadette became a Sister of Charity and saw the apparition of Mary 18 different times throughout her short life. Oddly, during one of these times, Bernadette was seen eating dirt and grass near the grotto where she had seen the apparition, claiming that the Virgin Mary had requested this of her. For this strange act, she was heavily ridiculed by those who witnessed her. The next day, a beautiful, fresh spring of water sprung forth from that very same spot. The water from this spring is said to have caused thousands of miraculous cures from illness. Bernadette died at the age of 35 from a case of tuberculosis (Mary #3). During the period of time that these apparitions took place, France was an unstable country filled with political strife. Coming off of the end of World War II, France experienced unprecedented economic growth as different political parties fought for power over the expanding country. It can be said that many French people were experiencing an identity crisis as their country started to change rapidly. The appearance of Our Lady of Lourdes served as a renewal of faith, and perhaps, as a comforting presence that filled Catholics all across France with a feeling of hope and security. This is further supported by the numerous reports of the miraculous healing powers of the spring that appeared at the site of this apparition. While the reports are of cures from physical ailments and disease, Our Lady of Lourdes also healed the French people in a spiritual and metaphorical sense. She was a beacon of hope that provided a sense of community and identity among French Catholics during a divided time (Mary #3). When it comes to the cultural implications of Marian apparitions, Our Lady of Lourdes is far from the only apparition with a far-reaching influence on the region in which she appears.
In 1531, fifty-five-year-old Juan Diego was running on Tepeyac Hill, which borders Mexico City, because he was late to Mass at a Franciscan mission. Suddenly, he heard the sound of birds, and the voice of a woman calling to him. She wasn’t calling him by his name, Juan, but was calling him by a diminutive of his name, “Juanito, Juan Deiguito” a term of endearment often used by mothers to address their children. The woman’s voice then asked, “Juan, smallest and dearest of my little children, where were you going?” He told her that he was on his way to attend a Catholic Mass. She responded to him by saying,
“Know for certain, dearest of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God, through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things, who is Master of Heaven and Earth. I ardently desire a temple be built here for me where I will show and offer all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping and their sorrows, and will remedy and alleviate their sufferings, necessities and misfortunes. Therefore, in order to realize my intentions, go to the house of the bishop of Mexico City and tell him that I sent you and that it is my desire to have a temple built here. Tell him all that you have seen and heard. Be assured that I shall be very grateful and will reward you for doing diligently what I have asked of you. Now that you have heard my words, my son, go and do everything as best as you can.” (Cruz, Our Lady of Guadalupe)
With this message, Our Lady foreshadowed a great miracle that she would soon manifest on behalf of Juan Diego, which is known as the Miracle of the Roses. This miracle is the climax of the events that occurred during her appearance (Cruz, Our Lady of Guadalupe).
After his experience with the apparition, Diego went to see Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, who did not believe a word of Diego’s story and dismissed him entirely. Dejected, he returned to Tepeyac Hill where he was visited by Mary again. He told her that he was not worthy to be her messenger and that she should find another. She responded to him saying, “Listen, little son. There are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen for this task. Tomorrow morning go back to the bishop. Tell him it is the ever holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God who sends you, and repeat to him my great desire for a church in this place.” Once again, Diego returned to the bishop. Upon his third visit to the bishop, the bishop asked Diego for a sign proving that his visions were true. He then reported back to the apparition of Mary (Cruz, Our Lady of Guadalupe).
The fourth vision of Mary appeared to Juan Diego on December 12, 1531. His uncle was extremely ill and Diego was desperately searching for a priest. Mary asked him where he was going, and when she heard his response, she replied,
“Listen and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son. Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need? Do not let the illness of your uncle worry you because he is not going to die of his sickness.” At this very moment he is cured (Cruz, Our Lady of Guadalupe).
Juan Diego was not only anxious and worried about his uncle’s illness, but he was going in the opposite direction of where he was supposed to meet Our Lady. He was worried that she would be angry with him for doing this, however, she asked him why he simply did not come to her for help, as she is his loving mother.
Juan Diego later learned from his uncle that Mary had appeared to him and healed him. This is the fifth vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After she told Diego that his uncle had been healed, she asked him to again walk up Tepeyac Hill. This time, she asked him to collect roses, which, despite the rocky terrain and freezing winter weather, were miraculously growing on the hill. He collected a great number of roses and hid them in his cloak. He was instructed by Mary to not let anyone see the roses except for the bishop. When he went to see the bishop for the last time, he opened his cloak to reveal a miraculous image of Mary among the roses, just as he had described her. The bishop instantly knew that what Juan Diego had been saying all along was true, and that he had indeed encountered the Virgin Mary on Earth (Cruz, Our Lady of Guadalupe). Some historians speculate that Juan Diego never existed, and that Our Lady of Guadalupe was a strategic hoax created to encourage indigenous Mexicans to convert to Catholicism. Evidence that supports this theory includes the fact that Juan Diego was a native Mexican. Additionally, Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to him in his native language, Nahuatl, which was the language of the Aztec Empire (Cruz, Our Lady of Guadalupe).
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Fatima, and Our Lady of Lourdes are all apparitions that are deemed worthy of belief and devotion by the Catholic Church and every Catholic is expected to believe in them. However, Catholics are not expected to believe in every apparition, only a certain few. This is because the Vatican investigates these occurrences and concluded that these specific apparitions are consistent with certain criteria. Father Jesus Castellano Cervera, a specialist in Mariology and a Spanish Discalced Carmelite, explained the criteria the Church looks for. The first criteria is a “cordial communion with the Church and her magisterium” (Guenois). This means that, first and foremost, the Catholic Church has the authority to determine the validity of a Marian apparition, and until that happens, faithful Catholics should view the alleged apparition with skepticism. If others try to use the alleged appearance of the apparition for their own personal gain or to grow their own spiritual influence, this is a likely sign that the apparition is invalid.
Oftentimes after such supernatural events take place, messages are heard or interpreted surrounding the event. The second criteria the Church seeks is that these messages are not “contrary to the faith” (Guenois). If any ideas or practices are encouraged by the alleged apparition of Mary, or by the person who claimed to have seen her, that are in opposition with Church teachings, they should be rejected. The canonization of the alleged sighting is then refused. Father Castellano continues on to say, “I fear…that all these phenomena be due to economic reasons or other reasons of a social or pseudo-religious nature, as a way of exercising a certain influence on people. The end would be to make use of the masses as a way to make money or bring them under political submission.” Delete this inside period here (Guenois). Essentially, the Catholic Church makes its decisions on the validity of a sighting of Mary based on the fruits of that sighting. The message must be one that is theologically sound, and the sighting must bring about positive and God-honoring, and not negative or self-serving, consequences.
Unlike those of Fátima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes, there are apparitions that are considered out of the ordinary. Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of La Salette, and Our Lady of Knock are three such examples of these atypical sightings of the Virgin Mary. Instead of appearing to especially humble or poor people, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal appeared in 1830 to a young French novice named Catherine Labouré while she was living in convent in Paris, France. What is also unusual about this apparition is that the Virgin Mary did not ask Labouré for a church to be built in her name. She instead asked that a medal be created in her honor. The medal, she said, was meant to be worn by Catholics everywhere as a reminder of her. She also promised good favor to anyone who wore it (Mary #5). In the case of Lourdes, Guadalupe and Fátima, the sites of the apparitions became pilgrimage sites after the appearance of the Virgin Mary. They became holy ground where Christians around the world would come to visit in search of a divine presence. Strangely, Labouré did not want the location of the apparition she encountered to be known. She wanted the name of her covenant, as well as her own name, to be considered unimportant (Mary #5). The Miraculous Medal is not a location, but an object that can be taken anywhere. This is why the appearance of this apparition is considered unusual. It is encouraged, but not required, for faithful Catholics to believe in it. During the 1830s, the time these apparitions took place, France was experiencing a severe cholera epidemic. Additionally, the July Revolution took place in France in the year 1830 which caused the overthrow of King Charles X (Mary #5). For the French people, this was a time of extreme anxiety, political strife, and illness. The fact that Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal does not have a specific location, but instead embodies an object that can be worn and taken anywhere, reflects the instability of the times.
Another town in France, La Salette, was reportedly visited by the Virgin Mary in 1846. She appeared to two children, Melanie Calvert, age 15, and Maximin Giraud, aged 11. She only appeared to them once and cried while expressing her sorrow for the lack of faith in the world. Thousands took this message to heart and Our Lady of La Salette caused a widespread revival of Catholicism in the region. What is unusual about this event is that, unlike the visionaries of Lourdes, Guadalupe, and Fatima, the visionaries who witnessed Our Lady of La Salette went on to have difficult and troubled lives. They despised their own fame and resented the intense criticism they got from the public. The visionaries reportedly wandered for the rest of their lives, achieving very little since their vision of Mary (Mary #5).
In 1879, a church in Knock, Ireland became the site of yet another unusual Marian Apparition. 22 people claimed to see not only the Virgin Mary, but her husband St. Joseph and the apostle St. John. Additionally, all 22 people claimed to see the same thing. Typically, and canonically, the Virgin Mary appears alone. Another atypical aspect to this event that is unlike any others is that Our Lady of Knock did not speak a single word to anyone (Mary #5). Judging the validity of this appearance was an obvious challenge for the Catholic Church. There was no message to judge theologically, Mary hadn’t said a single word. However, despite her silence, the people in Knock who saw her that day were greatly moved by the experience. Ireland at this time was experiencing a great deal of hardship. In addition to widespread famine, Catholics were facing persecution due to the English Reformation under Henry VIII. Ireland was under British control at this time, which was majority Anglican and Protestant, and Irish Catholics became oppressed under British rule (Mary #5). It is for this reason that Our Lady of Knock had such a profound influence on the faithful Catholics of Ireland. She gave them hope and provided a renewal of faith.
The historical context for the appearance of this apparition provides a speculative explanation as for why St. Joseph and St. John appeared alongside the Virgin Mary. St. John was reportedly dressed as a bishop and holding a Bible. The symbolism was clear to those who saw him that day. The people of Knock believed this to be a sign that they should be strong in their faith and as a reminder to observe all holy sacraments. St. Joseph is a husband and father, and to the people of Knock, he represented a protector and guide during difficult times (Mary #5).
It is important to note that just because a message is unspoken, does not mean it isn’t clear. Our Lady of Guadalupe, for example, spoke verbally to St.Juan Diego. However, she also created an image out of roses that Juan Diego used to convince Bishop Juan de Zumárraga (and consequently millions around the world) that the Virgin Mary has indeed appeared to him. It was not what Mary said to Juan Diego that convinced other faithful Catholics, it was the miraculous image in the roses that did.
The most controversial Marian apparition is the one known as Our Lady of Medjugorje, or the Queen of Peace. Our Lady of Medjugorje is the name of a recent Marian apparition that reportedly appeared in Medjugorje, Bosnia, in 1981. The sighting of Our Lady of Medjugorje has not yet been canonized and is still pending approval from the Holy See. Official pilgrimages to Medjugorje have been discouraged in the past by the Vatican, and many faithful Catholics remain skeptical of the reported events (Guenois). Our Lady of Medjugorje was initially witnessed by two teenagers, Ivanka Ivankovic, fifteen, and Mirjana Dragicevic, sixteen as they were walking home on June 24, 1981. Both girls lived in the village of Medjugorje and were faithful Catholics. Ivanka was the first to see the apparition, who yelled out to her friend, “Look, it’s the Virgin Mary!” (Odell 211). Mirjana was initially skeptical, but when she turned to look at where Ivanka was pointing, she too saw what she thought to be some kind of human figure, illuminated by light. The two girls were initially frightened by the sight and ran into the house of their friends, Marija and Milka Pavlovic. The two girls, Ivanka and Mirjana, then brought Milka back to the same place they had been, and she too saw the apparition. Ivanka Ivankovich would later tell a priest, Father Svetozar Kraljevic, O.F.M., “I saw the Madonna, holding Jesus in her hands, and then Mirjana and Milka looked and saw her.” (Odell 212). The group of girls told several other friends what they had witnessed that day. On June 25th, the day after the initial appearance of the apparition, a second group of young people, Mirjana and Ivan Dragicevic, Ivanka and Vicka Ivankovic, Marija Pavlovic, and Jakov Colo, all returned to the hill where they had seen it. This is when the group witnessed the second appearance of the apparition. They ran up the hill and saw an image they claimed was impossible to describe and incredibly beautiful. The Virgin Mary stood before them, wearing a white veil and a cream colored gown. One of the young people reported, “She has black hair, a bit curly, blue eyes, rosy cheeks, slender, beautiful,” (Odell 216). The Virgin Mary told the group that she had come to their region because it was a place of great faith. Ivanka asked Mary if her mother was in heaven. Mary replied, in Croatian, that she was. Ivanka also asked if her mother had any messages for her. Mary told Ivanka that her mother said, “Obey your grandmother and be good to her because she is old and cannot work.” Mirjana spoke up after Ivanka, telling Mary that she was concerned that no one would believe that the group had actually witnessed an apparition. Mary told them all to pray seven Our Father prayers, seven Hail Mary prayers, and seven Glory Be prayers. She then levitated into the air and said, “Go in God’s peace.” and vanished (Odell 216-17). From this day forward, this same group witnessed almost daily apparitions (Odell 215).
Dozens, then hundreds, and then thousands of people began to hear of the alleged Marian apparitions taking place in Medjugorje. By the fifth day of apparitions, June 28, 15,000 people joined the group of young people in an attempt to witness the apparition for themselves. As a result of the attention they were getting, the six young people were brought in by the police and interrogated. The police were attempting to disprove their stories and even brought in a psychologist to examine them in an attempt to have them involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. However, their stories never wavered. Despite being only children and teenagers, the six people were causing great political upset. Yugoslavia is a communist country and the stories of these apparitions were exciting a newly heightened religious fervor among thousands of Yugoslavians. It is for this reason that the Yugoslavian government closed off Podbrdo Hill, the location in Medjugorje where the apparitions were taking place, and banned the public from visiting (Odell 218). This action only seemed to encourage the public who were undeterred from visiting the site, and protested. These protests enraged the government and the police, who arrested a priest, Father Jozo Zovko, O.F.M., in retaliation. Father Zovko spent over a year in prison for his part in organizing the protests (Odell 219). To make matters worse, the bishop of Mostar, Bishop Pavao Zanic, felt that these apparitions were a hoax, and the churches in the region, especially those around Medjugorje, became more divided with each passing day. In early 1982, the daily apparitions started appearing at the parish church, St. James, because the police had shut down Podbrdo Hill. Eventually, the police started cracking down on large outdoor gatherings as they became increasingly desperate to stop people from gathering to see the apparitions. Despite this attempt, Our Lady continued to give messages to the group of six. Notably, one of these messages, occurring on July 21, 1982, “Prayer and fasting can prevent even war,”. Like this message, many of Mary’s other messages referenced reconciliation for sin, praying, fasting, and the desire for peace. Before the message on July 21, Mary had again mentioned fasting, telling the group of six that eating only bread and water on Fridays was an ideal form of penance. Interestingly, on a separate day, she also mentioned Russia, stating her concern over the country’s growing communist influence. She said that Russia “is the people in which God will be most glorified. The West has advanced civilization, but without God, as though it were its own creator.” (Odell 219-20). In her additional messages, she urged priests and laypeople alike have a strong faith in God and to fight for peace.
Things in Medjugorje eventually quieted down, for the most part, though apparitions continue to appear in Medjugorje to this day, only in less frequency. Mary has told one of the young girls of the group, Vicka, “I stayed this long so that I could be of help to you in your trials,” which explains why apparitions are still seen, despite the fact that it has been almost four decades since the original apparition appeared (Odell 221). The region has been forever changed by the events that took place earlier that year. While the six young people who witnessed Our Lady of Medjugorje saw her on several more occasions, they eventually grew up and moved on, abandoned the religious lives they had once been so eager to pursue (Odell 221). A decade after the first sighting of Our Lady of Medjugorje, the bishops of Yugoslavia felt pressured to make a decision regarding the validity of these events. They would never get the chance, however, because the country broke out into a civil war and the investigation of the apparitions was put on indefinite hold. In the present day, it is clear that the Catholic Church is not ready to form a definitive opinion (Odell 222-24).
There are many interesting overlaps between Our Lady of Medjugorje and Our Lady of Fatima. In both instances, Our Lady appeared before or during war, and spoke of her desire for peace. In July of 1982, Our Lady of Medjugorje reportedly told the six young people, “Prayer and fasting can prevent even war,” (Odell 219). Additionally, just like Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Medjugorje gave a warning about the future of communist Russia. She said, “Russia is the people in which God will be most glorified. The West has advanced civilization, but without God, as though it were its own creator.” (Odell 220). However, these two apparitions are not the only ones to appear in the midst of political strife or other unstable circumstances.
Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Lourdes are two of the most well known and influential apparitions, and as such, they have impacted the faith of Catholics around the world. Both of these apparitions appeared during times of political uncertainty. For example, Our Lady of Lourdes appeared immediately following the end of World War II, when the French government was in the midst of a political power struggle. Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared during a time in Mexico’s history where there was tension between the government and the indigenous Mexicans. Similarly, apparitions like Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal appeared during a revolution and overthrow of the current power, King Charles X, which was also during a cholera epidemic. Our Lady of Knock appeared during widespread famine, while Catholics were also facing persecution due to the English Reformation under Henry VIII. The circumstances surround the appearance of these apparitions are certainly no coincidence. These observations help to shed light on why these apparitions appeared when they did. Where it is war, disease, famine, or political tension, the Virgin Mary appears in times of trouble and lends a guiding hand. Mary’s longevity at places like Medjugorje, where her presence is still considered controversial and socioeconomic tensions are still high, proves her willingness to guide and protect.
Because she is the mother of Jesus, the Catholic Church teaches that Mary has a higher level of saintly intercession. The Intersession of Saints is a Catholic doctrine that states that those who are in heaven can intercede on the behalf of mankind. Mary’s status as the Mother of God awards her the title, “Mediatrix”, meaning she is a mediator between God and man. Saint John Paul II explained this when he said, “Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself ‘in the middle’, that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she ‘has the right’ to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary ‘intercedes’ for mankind.” (“Redemptoris Mater (25 March 1987): John Paul II”) This means she intervenes on the behalf of mankind when she is most needed. In Fátima, Portugal, Mary was there to comfort a young girl during a world war. In Mexico, she was there to comfort a grieving man and reward him for his faith. In France, she appeared to children suffering from poverty and convinced them to lead faithful lives.
Mary has a “special love” for mankind, a love comparable to the love between a mother and her children. It is for this reason that she continues to provide hope and guidance through extraordinary appearances. Marialis Cultus is a Catholic Church document that provides details about approved devotions to Mary and the rationale behind them. This relates to liturgy, liturgical holidays, public expressions of Marian devotion, and Marian apparitions. In this document, Pope Paul VI explains that Mary is the figurehead of the Christian Church, and as such, she must remains involved in the Church as it exists on Earth. This is why she continues to appear to the faithful and guide them through challenging times (“Marialis Cultus (February 2, 1974): Paul VI.”). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, a theological teaching manual for Catholics, states that The Virgin Mary is the true mother of every living creature. She is also the most perfect realization of the Church, as she is the only fully human being to be without sin. Her exalted status among mankind is the result of her motherhood of Jesus Christ. Her continued presence on Earth is a reflection of the love she has for her son, and there for all of her children on Earth (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, translator, 501-507, 511).
In the Second Vatican Council encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, St. John Paul II uses Biblical text from Ephesians, written by the apostle St. Paul, to justify and articulate his views on the role of the Virgin Mary in the faith of Catholics.
Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word, is placed at the very center of that enmity, that struggle which accompanies the history of humanity on earth and the history of salvation itself. In this central place, she who belongs to the ‘weak and poor of the Lord’ bears in herself, like no other member of the human race, that ‘glory of grace’ which the Father ‘has bestowed on us in his beloved Son,’ and this grace determines the extraordinary greatness and beauty of her whole being. Mary thus remains before God, and also before the whole of humanity, as the unchangeable and inviolable sign of God’s election, spoken of in Paul’s letter: ‘in Christ…he chose us…before the foundation of the world,…he destined us…to be his sons’ (Eph. 1:4, 5). This election is more powerful than any experience of evil and sin, than all that ‘enmity’ which marks the history of man. In this history Mary remains a sign of sure hope (“Redemptoris Mater (25 March 1987): John Paul II.”)
In the first two sentences, Saint John Paul II explains how Mary is unlike any other human being ever created, and that God has bestowed upon her great grace due to the fact that she gave birth to the son of God. It is for this reason, he explains, that Mary is like a mediator who stands before both man and God, and her presence on Earth is evidence of God’s continuing love for mankind. She is “God’s elected”, chosen to take on the roll of Mediatrix. Saint John Paul II’s claim that Mary is a remaining sign of hope throughout the history of mankind is solid rationale behind Mary’s continuous appearance on Earth in the form of different apparitions. In this segment of Redemptoris Mater, she is described as belonging to the “weak and poor”. In every apparition discussed, Mary appears exclusively to people in poverty or lower economic standing. She never appears to the rich or powerful, only to those who are humble, faithful, and in genuine need of her assistance.
All of the messages expressed by Mary through apparitions should be understood in a global context. It is better to try and understand what Mary means through her messages and appearances, rather than give too much attention to the controversy surrounding them. Regardless of whether or not every detail of an apparition’s appearance is true, the continuing dedication that Mary has towards the Earth and her children is extraordinary in itself. All over the world, during difficult times of illness, poverty, or war, Mary goes where she is needed.
Written by Felix Uberbacher
Cruz, Joan Carroll. See How She Loves Us: Fifty Approved Apparitions of Our Lady. TAN Books, an Imprint of Saint Benedict Press, LLC, 2012.
Guenois, Jean-Marie. “How the Vatican Sees Marian Apparitions.” EWTN, www.ewtn.com/ catholicism/library/how-the-vatican-sees-marian-apparitions-5922.
“Marialis Cultus (February 2, 1974): Paul VI.” Marialis Cultus (February 2, 1974) | Paul VI, www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_p- vi_exh_19740202_marialis-cultus.html.
“Mary #3: Lourdes and Fátima.” Catechism Class, Mariology, 2004. https:// www.catechismclass.com/reading.php?lesson_id=473&page_id=1.
“Mary #5: Miraculous Medal, Knock, and La Salette.” Catechism Class, Mariology, 2004. https://www.catechismclass.com/reading.php?lesson_id=473&page_id=1.
“All About Mary: Apparitions Statistics, Modern.” University of Dayton, Ohio, 17 Jan. 2020, udayton.edu/imri/mary/a/apparitions-statistics-modern.php.
Odell, Catherine. Those Who Saw Her: The Apparitions of Mary. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1986.
“Redemptoris Mater (25 March 1987): John Paul II.” Redemptoris Mater (25 March 1987) | John Paul II, www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp- ii_enc_25031987_redemptoris-mater.html.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, translator. Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 2006.
Varghese, Roy Abraham. God-Sent: A History of the Accredited Apparitions of Mary. Crossroad Pub. Co., 2011.
I teach Sunday school for elementary school students in my church. The ability to serve is one of the many joys of being a member of an affirming congregation, and as an out Christian, I don’t take it for granted.
Today’s message for the kids was a simple one: You can know Jesus even though you’ve never seen Him.
Between Covid-19’s world pandemic and the racial injustices that have sparked protests all across the country, it’s hard to see Jesus in the world or in our daily lives. With almost apocalyptic-style imagery on our television screens and computers, it’s all too easy to feel like God isn’t there, in our midst, walking alongside us through this crisis. After much prayer and contemplation, I have come to the revelation that actually, He’s right there in the midst of the protests and in the riots, defending the powerless and speaking truth to power. Jesus is here, and black lives matter to Him.
Sometimes we forget, but central to the Old Testament prophets, and to Jesus’ ministry that set the foundation of the New Testament, is the concept of social justice. Jesus echoed the teaching of the prophets, such as Jeremiah’s proclamation, “Thus says the Lord: Execute justice and righteousness, and deliver the robbed out of the hand of the oppressor. And do no wrong or violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place (Jeremiah 22:3, Modern English Version). We are commanded to execute justice for all of God’s people, regardless of race, gender, or status, and wealth. To those oppressed, we are commanded to do no harm, and instead, to help and aid in allyship.
As the prophet, Micah asks, “...And what does the Lord require of you, But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, English Standard Version). We are commanded to advocate for justice and to denounce the unfair and inequitable treatment of minorities as we see it in this country. As Christ-followers, we are called to vehemently oppose the injustices of others. So, in the midst of demonstrations and political action, Jesus is there, calling His congregation to stand up against the injustices of this world, and specifically, to say with Him that Black Lives Matter.
As queer Christians, it is our duty to follow Jesus and lean into this work. We must speak out against injustice and adopt anti-racist policies; we must work together as a congregation to fight racist policies and laws, in the name of He who created and loves us all. Our advocacy and our work should be intersectional and intentional, fueled by faith.
Central to our faith journey is hope, and I do have hope that America will bring justice and equity to those who have, for the duration of our country’s history, never known it. I believe that our congregations, no matter what denomination, will answer the call to stand in the face of injustice, just as Jesus instructs. And while these times may seem filled with unrest, I choose to look to them instead with hope and faithfulness, believing that Jesus is moving and bringing change in our midst.
Written by Desiree Raught