What about Marian Apparitions?

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2005
Mary herself is believed to appear regularly to souls in purgatory to console their suffering and pro¬vide relief, particularly for those who have been especially devoted to her. What else does “Mary” teach Catholics through visions?

What about Marian Apparitions?

Perhaps not surprisingly, Mary herself is believed to appear regularly to souls in purgatory to console their suffering and provide relief, particularly for those who have been especially devoted to her.[1] In one visit to a Catholic, Mary told her, “I am the Mother of Mercy for my dear children in Purgatory as well as for those still living upon the earth.”[2] In another revelation Mary said, “I am the Mother of all those who are in the place of expiation; my prayers mitigate the chastisements inflicted upon them for their faults.”[3] For example, consider the revelations given to one Catholic sister while in a state of mystical ecstasy:

Being rapt in ecstasy one Saturday, and transported in spirit to purgatory,… she perceived the Queen of Heaven [Mary] surrounding by a multitude of angels, to whom she gave orders to liberate those souls who had honored her in a special manner, and conduct them Heaven…. St. Peter Damian tells us that each year, on the day of the Assumption, the Blessed Virgin delivers several thousands of souls…. [A Catholic is speaking to an apparition] “and how comes it that I find you among the living, since you have been dead more than a year?” “Until this day I have been plunged in a dreadful fire, on account of the many sins of vanity which I committed in my youth, but during this great salinity the Queen of Heaven descended into the midst of the Purgatorial flames and delivered me, together with a large number of other souls, that we might enter Heaven on the Feast of her Assumption. She exercises this great act of clemency each year; and, on this occasion alone, the number of those whom she has delivered equals the population of Rome.”[4]

Yet, even some Catholics today are aware of the problems of such Catholic Mariology. “Today they are more likely to admit that in fact popular piety has indeed intended to let Mary overshadow the mediatorship of Christ” because “Her entire life is bound up with that of her Son. She participates, as God wills, in the mystery, not merely by way of helping in the applying of salvation to men’s lives, but in the objective achieving of it for men…. She is mediatrix.”[5]

Other Apparitions and Visits of Mary

Throughout Catholic history, Mary has allegedly appeared to men, women and children giving messages that are to be communicated to the faithful. In harmony with a good portion of occult tradition, most of these appearances have occurred to children (usually girls) and the illiterate poor. The Church has officially accepted many of these visitation including those at Guadalupe, Mexico (1531), Paris (1830), La Salette, France (1846), Lourdes, France (1858), Knock, Ireland (1879), Fatima, Portugal (1917), Beauraing, Belgium (1932-1933), and Banneaux, Belgium (1933).

Recent dramatic appearances in several places throughout the U.S. (New York, California, Texas, Georgia, etc.) and Medjugorje, Yugoslavia have not yet been officially accepted by Rome despite their collective influence on literally millions of people. Over a thousand messages from Mary have been given at Medjugorje alone and hundreds more from Bayside, New York and other U.S. locations. In fact, apparitions or phenomena have occurred in almost all of the 50 states and dozens of countries.

Nevertheless, what Mary says is not biblical, revealing that the apparitions could not be the Mary of Scripture. Leading Catholic Mariologist Father John Lozano declares that for these apparitions in general “the devotion to the Immaculate Heart appears as a means of salvation.”[6] For example, in the visitations recorded in Mary vs. Lucifer we are told that it was through Mary that the salvation of the world was begun “and it is through Mary that it must be consummated.”[7] Mary claimed it was her prayers for sinners that would earn them salvation: “By the infinite merits of His [Jesus’] most Holy Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg for the conversion of all poor sinners.”[8] Thus, “Jesus will use you to make me better known and more loved. He wishes to establish throughout the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart…. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”[9]

Further, Satan allegedly fears Mary “more than God Himself” and Mary commands that “here there be raised to me a temple… for those who love and seek me, and for all who implore my protection,…”[10]

Mary also emphasized that Catholics “must say the Rosary, and say it properly” for it must be said daily to earn world peace.[11]

The apparition at La Salette, France (1846) gave its core message as: “Unless you do penance you will perish.” It also happened to communicate that the Pope should be considered infallible.[12] Perhaps as a result, 24 years later, in 1870, the dogma of papal infallibility was officially proclaimed.

But it seems the apparitions also sometimes wish to confirm previous Catholic pronouncements. Thus, four years after the Catholic Church officially proclaimed the dogma of Mary’s immaculate conception in 1854, the apparition at Lourdes in 1858 dramatically identified itself in the following terms, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”[13]

The message of Mary at Fatima (1917) is summarized by The Catholic Encyclopedia: “The message of Fatima as declared by the Blessed Mother of God is that there is need for: the performance of penance, the frequent recitation of the Rosary, the practice of prayer and mortification for the conversion of sinners, prayers for priests, devotion of all peoples of the world to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Mother, and the offering of Holy Communion for reparation on the first Saturday of each month.”[14]

Given the fact that there are some 200-300 different sites of Marian apparitions around the world, no one can doubt that Marian apparitions within Catholicism provide a very powerful and persuasive spiritual force.[15]

Consider a few illustrations of Marian power.

Because of the apparitions at Banneux, over 2 million Catholics around the world belong to the International Union of Prayer, an organization founded to honor Mary.[16]

In addition, “The Marian Union of Beauraing” was formed in America and now has hundreds of thousands of members world-wide who are devoted to praying to Mary for her to convert sinners.[17]

As a prominent feature of the Fatima apparitions, the “Immaculate Heart of Mary” (offering devotion to the person of Mary as God’s Mother) “has been greatly increased.”[18]

Because of apparitions in 1830, a “Miraculous Medal” was later minted with the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”[19]

In effect, the many apparition-generated shrines of Mary have drawn literally hundreds of millions of people over the years.[20] They pilgrimage to these shrines with the purpose of worshipping Mary and beseeching her for many divine favors. Each year alone, some 6 million people make pilgrimages to the chapel at Lourdes[21]—a chapel constructed in obedience to the request of the apparition.[22]

Consider again the divine honors accorded to Mary in the following Catholic sentiments. “Mary,… as much as was possible for a creature, was deified“;[23] “She is full of grace, the reservoir of sanctity, the Masterpiece of the Trinity“;[24] “In order to choose her as Daughter, Mother and Spouse, the uncreated Trinity must have loved her better than any one created person, and more than all other creatures. Our love for her is but a pale shadow compared to the love [for her] of the Blessed Trinity.”[25] Further, “…no salvation exists without Mary.”[26] “From that moment [of incarnation] on, Mary acquired a kind of jurisdiction over every temporal outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Thus, no one receives grace except through Mary.”[27]No one has ever been saved except through your intercession, O Mary Mother of God. No one receives the gift of God if not through you, O Love full of Grace.”[28]

But if Roman Catholic teaching on Mary borders on idolatry, is it surprising to anyone that what Jesus termed “unclean spirits” might be behind such apparitions? Is it not logical to think they might seek to detract from the honor and glory due God alone through such idolatry?

Now consider the teachings of Mary in her most recent and ongoing visitations at Medjugorje, Yugoslavia. These revelations continue to underscore the unbiblical nature of such apparitions.[29]

  1. Penance—“Penance… is the fundamental Medjugorjian theme…. Penance has been continually stressed throughout the apparitions in Medjugorje.” [30]
  2. Marian Devotion—Messages stress absolute devotion to Mary. “Consecrate yourself totally to the Immaculate Heart. Abandon yourselves totally. I will protect you….”[31]
  3. Purgatory—Mary warns that all in purgatory “are waiting for your prayers and sacrifices.” [32]
  4. The Mass—Concerning the Mass, Mary speaks of her own omnipresence: “Go to it… because Jesus Christ Himself gives Himself to you during Mass,” and “Adore continually the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. I am always present when the faithful are in adoration. Then special graces are being received.”[33] And, “Dear children, I am calling you to more attentive prayer and participation in the Mass. I wish you to experience God within yourselves during Mass.”[34]
  5. The Rosary—Concerning the Rosary we discover, “The Rosary is unquestionably the fundamental form of devotional prayer requested in the Medjugorjian message. Mary often requested that the rosary be prayed more frequently…. ‘Dear children, I ask you to ask everyone to pray the Rosary.’”[35]

In essence, for this Mary, biblical Christianity and the true Christian Gospel are rejected and reinterpreted as equivalent to Roman Catholic theology and practice. This proves such visions cannot be of the biblical Mary. Unfortunately, “acceptance of the apparitions [at Medjugorje] has crossed denominational boundaries and found its way into mainline evangelical churches.”[36]

The Medjugorjian Mary not infrequently teaches that souls who pray fervently in purgatory are allowed to communicate with people on earth—but again, our only response can be to say this borders on (or is) necromancy. She also teaches that in order to prevent attacks from Satan, we should have our houses “blessed” regularly and also keep at least one “sacred object” handy. Finally, in harmony with Vatican II, Mary teaches that while conflicting religions may be separated on earth, her Son Jesus accepts people of all religions, whatever their beliefs.[37]

But unbiblical messages are not the only legacy of Catholic Mariology. Throughout the history of Catholicism “Jesus” or “Mary” have performed a number of alleged miracles, among them geophysical phenomena, physical healings, apportations, materializations, statues and icons that shed tears or change form, crosses that glow or change color, alleged phenomena in the sky, etc. Some of these have been accepted by the Church as authentic.

In accessing the nature of these miracles it is important to realize they may indeed constitute truly supernatural phenomena, but invariably they provide additional support for specific Roman Catholic doctrine and practice. As noted, one result of such miraculous phenomena is that shrines are frequently built for devotion/veneration/worship of Mary.

In essence, the Marian apparitions, revelations and other miracles tend to focus attention on the importance of accepting supernatural phenomena especially as it relates to the cult of Mary. In practice, Mary is honored above Jesus because it is she, not He, who cares enough about the faithful to visibly appear before them and encourage them in Catholic living.

Mary continually asks that endless prayers and sacrifices be made to her alone, presenting herself as a source of spiritual guidance or even leadership.[38] Mary may indeed speak of Jesus—but usually it is as a relative who is not even present. Apparently, these apparitions have never specifically referred to Jesus as God. Even if they did, it would hardly matter.

Thus, who can deny that “these apparitions do nothing but confirm distinctly Catholic beliefs about Mary,” as well as other unique Catholic teachings?[39]
Or that the end result is the very problem raised in that “anyone who wishes to accept these apparitions as truly from God must abandon Scripture and accept Catholic tradition”?[40]

We saw earlier that the acceptance of Catholic Mariology tends to undermine the acceptance of biblical Christology. For example, the Mariology of the Catholic Church undermines the uniqueness of Christ’s person and subtracts from the full sufficiency of His salvation. Notice again how Catholic Mariology parallels biblical Christology:

  1. both were born without sin
  2. both were sinless
  3. both ascended into heaven
  4. both are mediators
  5. both are redeemers
  6. Jesus is the new Adam; Mary is the new Eve
  7. Jesus is the King of heaven; Mary is the Queen of heaven, etc.[41]

Continuing on, today there are also apparitions of “Jesus” supporting Catholic dogma.[42] There is also the stigmata which remains a frequent occurrence among Catholic saints. The stigmata often happens in association with Mary and, apparently, using the bloody wounds of Jesus in confirmation, supposedly validates Catholic belief.[43]

Once again we are faced with the question of the source of such phenomena in that deceptive apparitions of Jesus and the stigmata both occur in the world of the occult as well. As noted psychoanalyst and parapsychologist Dr. Nandor Fodor observes in his An Encyclopedia of Psychic Science, “As a mediumistic phenomenon it [stigmata] was reported by many experimenters.”[44]

Perhaps none of us, Catholic or Protestant, should forget that even Satan can supply spiritual messages and perform genuine miracles (2 Thessalonians 2:9). The truth or falsehood of such Marian apparitions and phenomena must be measured by scriptural standards alone. They should not be measured by how powerful or meaningful the visions/messages/healings may be to individual recipients or even to the Catholic Church. Given their supernatural origin and overall impact, it is hardly difficult to argue we could be dealing with something other than divine manifestations. As one observer noted, “Satan’s purpose behind this phenomenon might be to divert Catholics in general, and evangelical Catholics in particular, from a faith centered in Christ and the biblical elements in Catholicism to an emphasis on the more unbiblical and even cultic aspects of Catholicism (Mariology in general, penance, purgatory, veneration of saints, etc.). All these cultic aspects are directly connected to the apparitions.”[45]


  1. Fr. F. X. Shouppe, S.J., Purgatory: Illustrated by the Lives and Legends of the Saints (Rockford, IL: Tan Books, 1973), p. 137.
  2. Ibid., p. 289.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid., pp. 137-139.
  5. G. C. Berkouwer, The Second Vatican Council and the New Catholicism, pp. 224-234.
  6. Thomas Petrisko, “The Significance of Fatima to Today’s Apparitions,” Our Lady Queen of Peace, Winter (Pittsburgh Center for Peace, 1993), p. 120.
  7. John Ireland Gallery, Mary vs. Lucifer: The Apparitions of Our Lady (Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing, 1960), p. 2.
  8. Ibid., pp. 105-107, emphasis added.
  9. Ibid., p. 113.
  10. Ibid., pp. 2, 8.
  11. Ibid., pp. 109-110.
  12. Robert C. Broderick, ed., The Catholic Encyclopedia, revised and updated (NY: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987), p. 340.
  13. Ibid., p. 359.
  14. Ibid., p. 218.
  15. E.g., Kevin McClure, The Evidence for Visions of the Virgin Mary (Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: Aquarian Press, 1985), p. 133.
  16. Broderick, ed., p. 64.
  17. Ibid., p. 70.
  18. Ibid., p. 256.
  19. Ibid., p. 392.
  20. E.g., pp. 327, 340, 442.
  21. Ibid., p. 359.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Igino Giordiana, Mary of Nazareth (Boston, MA: Daughters of St. Paul, 1965), p. 23.
  24. Ibid., p. 125, emphasis added.
  25. Ibid., p. 122, emphasis added.
  26. James Alberione, Mary, Queen of Apostles (Boston, MA: Daughters of St. Paul, 1976), p. 19, emphasis added.
  27. Ibid., p. 21.
  28. Ibid., p. 22.
  29. Mark Miravalle, The Heart of the Message of Medjugorje (Steubenville, OH: Franciscan University Press, 1988); Lucy Rooney, Robert Faricy, Mary, Queen of Peace (New York: Alba House, 1984); Rena Lawrentin, Eight Years: Reconciliation, Analysis, the Future (Milford, OH: Riehle Foundation, Number 8, July 1989); Rena Lawrentin, Ljudevit Rupcic, Is the Virgin Mary Appearing in Medjugorje (Gaithersburg. MD: The Word Among Us Press, 1984).
  30. Miravalle, p. 24.
  31. Ibid., p. 39.
  32. Ibid., p. 41.
  33. Ibid., p. 48, emphasis added.
  34. Ibid., emphasis added.
  35. Ibid., p. 52.
  36. Ibid., p. 35, emphasis added.
  37. Patty Weaver, “Visions and Messages: Mary in Medjugorje,” SCP Journal, vol. 9, no. 3, p. 35.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Kenneth R. Samples, “Apparitions of the Virgin Mary,” Part 2, Christian Research Journal, Spring, 1991, p. 25.
  40. Ibid.. p. 36.
  41. Ibid., p. 25.
  42. Broderick, ed., p. 536.
  43. Ibid., p. 564.
  44. Nandor Fodor, An Encyclopedia of Psychic Science (Secaucus, NJ: Citadel), p. 370.
  45. Samples, p. 26.

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