The following are the presentation notes from Fr. Allan MacDondald's, CC presentation “The World the Woman Loves”. The presentation took place at St. Maurice Parish, Ottawa, ON during the Marian Retreat day on October 14, 2017.
“The key to understanding Mary is this – We do not start with Mary – We start with Christ, the Son of the Living God … The less we think of Him, the less we think of her; the more we think of Him, the more we think of her – The less we adore His Divinity, the less reason we have for respecting her …We did not make her different, we found her different.” (Fulton Sheen, The World’s First Love, p. 67-68)
Why We Love Mary
- As Companions of the Cross we have as one of the 4 pillars of our spirituality a great love of Mary – She is our Mother, given to us by Jesus Himself as He hung on the Cross = The “First Companion of the Cross”
We pray the Rosary daily and know she is with us as we celebrate the Eucharist.
- My relationship with Mary comes from the example of my father – depressed for many years – but always prayed the Rosary and trusted in Mary’s powerful intercession.
He died 19 years ago “alone”, but I know he was not alone because Mary was there with him – “… pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death” – why I always pray for those who will die alone.
- My father was 19 years older than my mother – it was easier for me and my siblings to relate to my mother than to my father – Maybe this has something to do with my love of Mary (and my mother’s name is Marie)
When we would ask our father for something he would always give us the same answer – “Go and ask your mother!”
I have always known of Mary’s love for me and her role as an intercessor in my life.
She got me back on track as a young priest after I first went to Medjugorje in 1995.
Many of my CC brothers will tell you of how Mary played an important part in their vocation.
Praying for Peace
- We stand here today in a world torn apart by wars/violence and threats of wars/violence – Mary calls us to join together in storming heaven for peace – She has been calling us to this for a long time – Are we listening?
- This peace will only come about when we have peace in our own hearts FIRST = Meditate on Christ, the Prince of Peace = Be quiet and still.
“If we have a box in which we keep our money, we know that one thing we must always give attention to is to the key … without the key we cannot get to the money … Mary is the key to Jesus.” (Ibid, p. 77)
- Let’s take a look at some of the key appearances of Mary around the world – some popular/known and other not so – But in all of them she’s been calling us to conversion to her Son, Jesus – She been warning us too of the consequences of not doing so.
Various Apparition Sites Around the World – What is Mary Saying to the World?
- Mary is a missionary disciple (the preeminent one!) = Calling all of us to join with her in proclaiming the name of Jesus, calling the world to repentance (beginning with ourselves), and speaking of God’s universal call for our lives = To be saints with Him forever in heaven!
Saint Bernadette’s encounters with Our Lady began on Thursday February 11, 1858 – when Bernadette was 14 years old – you can read for yourself the whole story of the 18 apparitions of Mary to Bernadette.
- Mary’s messages to Bernadette are ageless and apply to all of us today – both because of where they were given and their content:
First, “Where” = Mary appeared in the Grotto at Massabielle = A dirty, hidden, damp and cold place - Called the "pigs' shelter" because that was where the pigs feeding in the area usually took shelter.
The Virgin Mary – “The Immaculate Conception” (she revealed herself to Bernadette by this title) – appears dressed in white, a sign of total purity.
The “where” of this apparition reminds us of the Gospel: the meeting of the wealth and goodness of God with the poverty of the human person.
Where do I meet God? – In my poverty (God’s grace is like water, it settles at the lowest place)
God is not afraid, embarrassed or uncomfortable to join us where we are = In the midst of our poverty and failures.
He sends Mary to the “sheep shelter” to tell us that he loves us - This is the heart of the Message of Lourdes = He loves us as we are = With our successes but also with our wounds, our weaknesses and our limitations.
He meets us where we are so He can take to where He wishes us to be!
- We serve a God who wishes to relate to us a person = 3 of Mary’s words to Bernadette:
"What I have to say to you does not have to be written down"
Mary speaks to us at the level of the heart = The very centre of the person = Bernadette was invited to open the depths of her heart to this Message of Love = Words that strike the heart are always remembered – They do not need to be written down.
"Would you do me the kindness of coming here for 15 days?"
The first time anyone had addressed Bernadette in a formal way - The Virgin looked at her as one person looks at another person = Bernadette felt that she was being respected and loved = We are all worthy of our dignity in the eyes of God - Because each of us is loved by God.
"Go to the spring, drink of it and wash yourself there"
Mary asked Bernadette to scrape the ground, at the back of this "pigs’ shelter" - At first this water is muddy and dirty then, little by little, it becomes clear.
The mystery of the heart of Jesus is revealed for us:
The grass and the mud signify the human heart, wounded by sin - But in the bottom of this heart, there is the life of God, as signified by the spring = Are we willing to dig away the grass and the mud surrounding our hearts to discover God’s grace?
Our Lady of Knock (1879)
This visitation of Mary is best understood in the context of a Scripture passage:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
- On the evening of August 21, 1879 two women from the village of Knock were walking back to their home in the rain when they passed by the back of the village church - It was then that they saw the apparition.
But first, what was the historical context?
The years preceding the apparitions were the most tragic years in the history of Ireland = Famine and unimagined misery engulfed the entire Catholic country - Priests often anointed as many as 40 parishioners a day as they faced death - The magnitude of such suffering was unimaginable.
In 1879, the potato crop was threatened once again – Land rents rose - Money was borrowed - Evictions occurred daily - People became desperate.
The pastor of Knock had begun a series of 100 consecutive Masses for the repose of the souls of those who had died.
Mary's apparition took place on the evening of the day when the 100th Mass was celebrated = August 21, 1879.
It was into this time of sorrow and distress that our Lady came, but not alone.
Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist appeared at the South gable of the church.
- It is recorded that Mary said nothing at all during these apparitions – She came to be with the people in their hour of need.
In the midst of Ireland's agony, the mother of the Lord came to her people to be with them, to be present to them, to share their fate in silence.
My first pastor gave me some good advice = “Allan, at the end of the day, people may not remember the things you said … but they will remember that you were there.” = “Father came to the house … the hospital … the funeral home.”
- Mary comes again to be with us – To comfort us and to strengthen us in our times of trial, weakness and distress – She is the Queen of Peace and wants to be bring us to Christ so we can experience His peace.
- The story begins in the village of Fatima, Portugal, on May 13, 1917 – Mary appeared to three young children (note the appearance of Mary to children): Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia; ages 10, 9 and 7 – You can read for yourself the details of the apparitions of Mary from May through October 1917 (save August, when imprisonment by the anti-clerical authorities prevented it),
Mary promised that God would grant peace to the entire world if Her three requests were heard and obeyed.
She announced herself = “I am the Lady of the Rosary. Pray the Rosary every day.”
She also asked for prayers for the Holy Father = “the Bishop clothed in white” – The children saw a vision of him making his way with great difficulty towards the Cross amid the corpses of those who were martyred - He too falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a hail of gunfire.
[It is possible that the vision predicted the 1981 attack on Pope John Paul II’s life. The Pope has always credited the Virgin for his survival.]
The children were shown a frightening vision of hell, “where the souls of poor sinners go” – Mary asked for acts of prayer and sacrifice to save souls, with particular emphasis on devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Mary spoke of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communists’ totalitarianism.
Our Lady asked that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart so its errors and evils would not spread throughout the world.
- Mary visited the children for the last time on October 13, 1917 – She had promised a sign that would convince the world she had appeared = We know this as the “miracle of the Sun” (you can read more about it yourself) = Every single person who was there testified to seeing the sun dance - Non- believers dropped onto their knees and begged for forgiveness.
= Their eyes of their hearts were opened to “see” their need for God’s mercy!
- Our Lady of Fatima promised that the world would be in peace, and many souls would go to Heaven if Her requests were listened to and obeyed.
At Lourdes Mary reminds us that we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness – God comes to us where we are and invites us to drink of the fountain of His mercy where we find healing and strength.
At Fatima we hear the anguished appeal of our Heavenly Mother = She sees us in great danger and comes to offer us Her help and advice.
Mary loves us and calls us to return to Her Son.
“Are we willing to let Jesus show us our spiritual blindness?”
How? = Let us call out to Jesus for mercy with the words that we learned in Fatima:
“Oh my, Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy. Amen.”
Another prayer is the one taught to the children by the angel who appeared to them in 1916 ahead of Mary’s apparition – A prayer we can say in reparation = Ask for assistance for ourselves and our contemporaries who need grace to convert and change:
"My God I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you. I ask pardon of you for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you." (3X)
Our Lady of Akita (1973)
- This apparition of Mary involves Sister Agnes Sasagawa of the Handmaids of the Eucharist in Akita, Japan.
Sister Agnes had a great love for Jesus in the Eucharist - When she went to visit Jesus in the Tabernacle, it was just Him and her = She could hear Him, not with her ears, but with her heart – Sister Agnes was deaf
She told him all that was in her heart – Then she remained silent, while He spoke to her
On Tuesday, June 26, 1973 the Lord had a special plan for her = He was to bestow upon her a blessing which would remain with her for the rest of her life.
- In her own words, Sister Agnes tells us:
"When I approached to open the Tabernacle...an overwhelming, unknown light suddenly shone forth. Seized with emotion, I prostrated myself immediately with my face to the floor...I remained perhaps an hour in this position, subjugated by a power which overwhelmed me."
The next day, she went towards the Tabernacle, her heart pounding, and again, was overcome by a great light, which blinded her.
She immediately went down on her knees and prostrated herself before the Tabernacle.
On Thursday, June 28 = Eve of the Feast of the Sacred Heart - Sister Agnes felt as though something pierced the palm of her left hand = In the centre of her palm, were two red scratches in the form of a cross.
This phenomenon lasted the whole month of July = On Thursday evenings, the wound began to swell up - On Friday mornings, blood flowed - On Saturday mornings, the wound stopped bleeding and became dry again.
On July 6, her Guardian Angel appeared to Sister Agnes, and said:
“Do not fear - I am the one who is with you and watches over you - Pray with fervour not only because of your sins, but in reparation for those of the whole world.
“The world today wounds the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord by its ingratitude and injuries - The wounds of Mary are much deeper and sorrowful than yours - Let us go and pray together in the chapel.”
- The Statue of Mary
It was there the statue of Mary became alive = Over the course of a few years it spoke and shed tears & blood.
A voice of indescribable beauty struck Sister’s totally-deaf ears.
This statue, from which the voice came, wept 101 times over a course of several years, from January 4, 1975, to September 15, 1981, the Feast of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.
Unlike other cases the entire nation of Japan was able to view the tears of the statue of the Virgin Mary on national television.
It also perspired abundantly, sending out a sweet perfume.
Sister Agnes reported that she heard the statue calling her and giving her messages for the whole world.
- Three Messages of Akita:
- The First Message “Spoken” to Sister Agnes
“My daughter, my novice, you have obeyed Me well in abandoning all to follow Me - Is the infirmity of your ears painful? - Your deafness will be healed, be sure - Be patient - It is the last trial - Does the wound of your hand cause you to suffer? Pray in reparation for the sins of men.”
- The Second Message “Spoken” to Sister Agnes
On August 3, 1973, the First Friday of the month, Sister Agnes received the second Message from Mary:
“Many men in this world afflict the Lord - I desire souls to console Him.
“The Heavenly Father is preparing to inflict a great chastisement on all mankind - With My Son, I have intervened so many times to appease the wrath of the Father - I have prevented the coming of calamities by offering Him the sufferings of the Son on the Cross - His Precious Blood, and beloved souls who console Him and form a cohort of victim souls.
“Prayer, penance, and courageous sacrifices can soften the Father's anger.
“Be faithful and fervent in prayer to console the Master.”
- The Third Message “Spoken” to Sister Agnes
It was on Saturday, October 13th = The anniversary day of the last Apparition of the Virgin Mary to the three children of Fatima = the most important and serious one:
“If men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity - It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before - Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful.
“The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. “Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the Bishops and the priests.
“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see Cardinals opposing Cardinals, Bishops against other Bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by other priests.
“Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises, and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.
“The demon will be especially ruthless against the souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness.
“...Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved.”
On the last Sunday of May, 1982, during the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Sister Agnes was completely cured from her deafness.
At Akita Our Lady stressed the importance of
- Praying the Rosary
- Accepting from God whatever He may send in the course of each day
- Offer it up in reparation for so many sins committed throughout the world at this time.
Our Lady begged especially for prayers for bishops, priests, and religious, and for reparation before the Blessed Sacrament that they be strong and not “sifted like wheat” (G).
The impending chastisement can be averted if enough people pray the Rosary daily and do penance which Our Lady requested at Fatima in 1917.
Akita is really a repeat of the Messages of Fatima.
Our Lady of Kibeho (1981)
The Message of Kibeho:
An urgent call to repentance and to the conversion of hearts: “Repent, repent, repent! … Convert your heart while there is still time.”
- A diagnosis of the moral state of the world: “The world is very unwell.” “The world races to its loss, it risks falling into the abyss, which means it will be immersed in innumerable and unceasing tragedies. The world is in rebellion against God. Too many sins are committed in it. There is neither love nor peace.” “If you don’t repent and don’t convert your hearts, you will all fall into the abyss.”
- “The door was opened and you did not enter”.
The apparitions begin in 1981 – 13 years before the genocide in Rwanda of 1994 when 1 million people were killed over a one hundred day period. – in a small rural village of Kibeho.
Mary appeared first to 16 year old Alphonsine – She described Mary as, “Imagine how much you mother loves you, and then multiply that love a million times – the lady loves us a million times more than that.”
Mary then began to appear to Anathalie Mary, the most popular student in the school, then to 23 year old Marie-Claire (who challenged Mary to a fist fight when she appeared and called Marie-Claire by name).
Mary’s message to the girls was:
- Love God
- Be kind to one another.
- Read the Bible
- Follow God’s commandments
- Accept the love of Christ
- Repent of sin
- Be humble
- Seek and offer forgiveness.
- Live with a clear and open heart and clear conscience.
- Pray the Rosary daily.
Most significant day – August 15, 1982 – Mary was full of grief and crying unconsolably – Few people were responding to her messages.
The visionaries were given a glimpse of what was to come to Rwanda – They saw rivers of blood & dead bodies (too many to be counted)
Most people refused to soften their hearts – 12 years after the warning was given, Rwanda experienced one of the worst genocides ever – the Hutus took up machetes and slaughtered Tutsis.
In 2001 (after 20 years of rigorous investigation) the Church officially approved the apparitions of Kibeho as “worthy of belief”.
Kibeho is the one and only Marian apparition site in Africa that has Vatican approval.
What does our Lady say to us through Kibeho?
- We need to examine our hearts to see if there is any anger, resentment, self pity that needs to be rooted out.
God wants to heal our hearts! Will we let Him?
Medjugorje (1981 – present?)
- Here I speak of the alleged apparitions of our Blessed Mother in Medjugorje = I say “alleged” because they are still under investigation = They have not been declared by the Vatican to be “worthy of belief”
As Catholics, we are free to go there – and can expect to receive spiritual support while there.
In March, 2010, the Vatican confirmed that a Commission has been established to investigate Medjugorje, under the direct supervision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
This constitutes the first time in Church history wherein the highest office of the Holy See will investigate an ongoing apparition site.
Normally, it is custom for Church authorities to wait until the reported supernatural phenomenon concludes before passing judgment on the matter.
With this exception Vatican officials are recognizing what a significant and serious event Medjugorje is for the faithful on a global scale.
- On June 24th, 1981 this village was illuminated by a light seeming to come from above a nearby mountain - Two teenage girls, Mirjana Dragicevic from Sarajevo and her friend Ivanka Ivankovic from Mostar, saw what they described as a "beautiful woman holding a child surrounded by a brilliant white light" - As time progressed Mary appeared not only to Mirjana and Ivanka, but also to four other children: Jakov, Ivan, Vicka, and Marija.
- In the visions, Mary is said to convey messages to us that can be summarized into nine basic themes:
- God is revealing himself to man in order to help man prepare for the coming days.
- Faith: Without it, it is impossible to please God as you cannot love Him if you do not believe.
- Love God as love is the power behind our faith.
- Convert: Give your heart to God.
- Reconcile: Reconciliation is the way to open your heart to God's love.
- Pray: Through prayer you will come to know the greatest joy and the way out of every situation that seemingly has no way out.
- Fast: Fasting brings union of thought, spirit and body.
- Acceptance: Accept the will of God to bring you clarity of soul and peace in your heart.
- Peace: Peace in our hearts, peace in our family, peace in our community and finally peace in our world
Since 1981 between 20 and 30 million people of all races and creeds have visited this alleged apparition sight to decide for themselves.
The message of Medjugorje is a call to Conversion, back to God.
Our Lady's purpose for coming to earth is to guide each one of us back to her Son Jesus.
The time for decision is NOW!! Our Lady's call is URGENT!!
Our Lady’s Main Message throughout the World
- Our Lady's mission (wherever her appearances have been declared as “worthy of belief”) is one of peace and love.
- She comes to earth to re-educate us and to help us convert and center our lives back to God. Our Lady's role has always been one of guiding people to Her Son, Jesus.
- What an amazing opportunity we have before us! It is important that we understand both the magnitude and the urgency of Our Lady's call to conversion, and that we respond with all our hearts.