Exploring Marian Apparitions
We Redemptorists follow the example of our founder, St. Alphonsus Liguori, in his love for Mary, as we continue to preach and provide resources on the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Catholic tradition. Since the 1950s, those who devote their life to teaching about Mary in Catholic practice and speak on Marian spirituality have become known as Mariologists.
Since 2011, I have written about the depth of spirituality that is present in praying and reading the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. As we begin this new year, let us dedicate ourselves to expanding our understanding and love for Mary as we explore different topics related to our Blessed Mother.
This column alternates between Carol Monaco and myself. I contribute to the January, March, May-June, September, and November editions of Liguorian. Beginning in March, my columns will reflect on apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, starting with Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared to Juan Diego in 1531, and continuing through the present-day appearances of Mary in Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia.
Devotion to the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help gives us the special blessing of Marian spirituality, which is living the gospel of Jesus Christ in union with the Blessed Virgin Mary. As we know from reading and praying the elements of iconography, we are always led to a deeper union within the mystery of Jesus.
Just as the devotions with the icon bless us spiritually, exploring Mary’s appearances will give us the opportunity to move beyond the historical context of the apparitions to a personal application in our own spirituality. Previous reflections in this column that focused on the symbols in the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help have given us insights into the meaning of the gospel of Jesus present in the icon. We can apply the same method of symbolism that we have employed in “reading” an icon in reflecting on and gaining a deeper understanding of the image of Mary in her apparitions.
For example, “holy light” is common in all Marian apparitions. What is the meaning of this phenomenon? The importance of light is seen often throughout the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. Its importance is also emphasized in the manifestations of the Blessed Virgin Mary to us.
The light we read and hear about in her apparitions is the presence of the Holy Trinity shining through Mary. This same light of God was given to us in our baptism. Reflection on these appearances of Mary to others can awaken in us that same light.
Let us pray: Our Lady of Light, spouse of the Holy Spirit, obtain for us an intimate union with your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.