Do Not Despise Prophetic Utterances (1 Thess 5: 20)

Author: Teresa Tyszkiewicz

The number of documented Marian interventions occurring in our times is staggering—over sixty significant ones in the twentieth century alone. Of these the Church has approved thirteen. Some the Church has not approved, but in a great number of cases she has refrained from stating an opinion, either awaiting their conclusion or gathering evidence in order to evaluate them

 

Our Lady appears, speaks, heals, teaches, admonishes, and weeps—often shedding tears of blood. The number and urgency of her earthly apparitions and messages ought to evoke lively echoes in the hearts and deeds of those who consider themselves believers and devotees of our Blessed Mother. Is this the case? Or do the Marian messages lose their resonance after a brief period of interest that is driven more by a hunger for novelty than real devotion?

Would that Jesus’ words did not apply to our times: the words He addressed to His beloved city of Jerusalem, “You did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Luke 14: 19).

Pope John Paul II—a great votary Our Blessed Mother—showed us how seriously we ought to take Mary’s revelations. His life and pontificate frequently accented the extraordinary link between events and the signs given us by Mary in her apparitions. Let us then examine some these great signs, which took place during the pontificate of the Servant of God. All of them bear a similar message, and the tears of blood that accompany many of them testify to the urgency of the times we live in.

 

Akita

In 1973—i.e. five years before Karol Wojtyła’s election to the Seat of Peter—an extraordinary series of events took place in the Convent of the Institute of the Handmaids of the Eucharist in Akita, Japan. The convent chapel had in its possession a wooden statue of Our Lady of All Nations, which had been fashioned according to the vision (now officially approved by the diocesan curia of Haarlem) experienced on February 11, 1951 by Ida Peerdeman of Amsterdam.

Living in the convent was a novice, Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa, who had been stricken with deafness. In June of 1973, Bishop John Shojiro Ito, founder of the Institute of the Handmaid of the Eucharist, visited Akita and gave Agnes permission to make her first vows, despite her disability. A few days later a bloody and painful stigma appeared on the novice’s right hand. A similar wound appeared a few days later on the hand of Our Lady’s statue. Later the statue began to shed tears of blood. In addition to the sisters of the convent, the faithful present in the chapel and Bishop Ito himself witnessed the event—and this several times. Between 1973 and 1981 Mary’s statue wept 101 times.

Sister Agnes also received messages from her guardian angel: “Do not be surprised to see the Blessed Mother crying. She weeps because she desires to see more people converting.” Another time he told her: “The blood shed by Mary has deep meaning. This priceless blood is being shed for the sake of your conversion, for the sake of peace, and as satisfaction for the ingratitude shown to the Lord and offenses done to Him.” Our Lady also spoke to the novice. When she did so, the statue seemed to come alive: “Many people in the world cause God suffering. To soften the wrath of the Heavenly Father, I desire souls who will console Him. My Son and I desire souls who by their suffering and poverty will make amends for the sinners and 
the ungrateful.”

In 1984, Bishop Ito formally acknowledged the supernatural character of the Akita revelations. Our Lady’s tears began to flow three years before John Paul II’s election. They accompanied him throughout 1979—seventy-four times. In 1980, they stopped, but began to flow again for a few days before the attempt on his life, and again for a few days after the attempt.

Assassination attempt won   the life of the Holy Father

 

Although Our Lady’s role in this dramatic event is well known, it bears mentioning here, if only to complete the picture. At 5:13 in the afternoon on May 13, 1981 (i.e. on the day of the sixty-first anniversary of Our Lady’s first apparition at Fatima), Ali Agca, a hired killer in the pay of “unknown” principals (but clearly linked to principals in the communist block) fired several shots at the defenseless Pope. The Holy Father would always insist it was She, the Madonna of Fatima, who had deflected the trajectory of those bullets, even though they wounded him seriously. At the hospital he had the text of the third Fatima secret brought to him, so as to better understand what God meant to tell him by those Marian signs. A year later, after recuperating, he made a pilgrimage to Fatima to thank Mary for saving his life, and to present her with the gift of the bullet that had struck him.

To the chosen son, who had devoted himself to her totally, Our Blessed Mother always gave special signs of her closeness to him throughout his pontificate.

 

Medjugorie

 

On June 24, 1981, while the Pope was still convalescing from his injuries, there began the most extraordinary revelations of the Blessed Mother in the vicinity of the Croatian village of Medjugorie. These revelations have continued without cease for thirty years. Here there is no miraculous weeping statue, but the Blessed Mother herself imparting to six chosen “visionaries” messages intended for them personally and for the world at large. As Mary herself states, she is continuing the message of Fatima, calling for fasting, reconciliation, penance, and above all prayer—unceasing prayer for the salvation of the world. The call to prayer is repeated in every message coming from Medjugorie. Today, after thirty years, the site has become one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, a place of prayer, conversion, spiritual transformation, pilgrimage, and penance. The Church cannot yet state her formal opinion on the Medjugorie revelations, for they are still on-going; however we do know how seriously John Paul II took these revelations and the fruits that flowed from them. In 1987, during an audience with one of the visionaries, the Holy Father observed: “If I were not Pope, I would long ago have gone to Medjugorie. But even though 
I cannot go there, I know everything and follow everything that goes on there. Treasure Medjugorie! It is the hope of the world.” In 1993, while summoning the visionaries and all people to prayer and repentance, Our Lady of Medjugorie conveyed the following characteristic message: “Each and every one of you has an important role in my saving plan. I call upon you to be bearers of good and peace. God will give you peace only when you have converted and returned to the practice of prayer.” Another time she said: “Through prayer you can prevent war.” In 1991 she announced: “Today I call on you to pray as never before. Satan is strong and wants to destroy not only human life, but also nature and the planet on which you live….God has sent me to help you.”

 

Civitavecchia

 

In early 1995, Fr. Pablo Martini, pastor of the village of Pontano (Civitavecchia), which is situated north of Rome, made a pilgrimage to Medjugorie. He brought back with him a plaster statue of Our Lady and presented it to a family of his parishioners—the Gregoris.

On February 2, at 4:30 in the afternoon, the family’s eldest daughter, five-year-old Jessica, entered the room with the statue in it only to notice a red drop in the corner of both of the statue’s eyes. She called her father at once. Before long the room was crowded with family members and neighbors. Tears of blood were now streaming from both eyes of the statue. The phenomenon repeated itself over the next few days. News spread like wildfire, evoking various reactions.

The most skeptical of these was that of Civitavecchia’s bishop, Girolamo Grillo. He took the statue away with the intention of destroying it. For the time being, he locked it in a cupboard in the chancery. “What an awful business with these weeping Madonnas,” he noted in his diary. “You will always find some huckster who preys on the faithful with holy objects.”

On March 15, the bishop’s sister convinced him to remove the statue from the cupboard. Together with his sister, brother-in-law, and the chancery nuns, he began to pray the Hail Holy Queen. At the words, “Turn thine eyes of mercy towards us,” the statue began to weep blood. Deeply moved, the bishop understood that he had witnessed a miracle. “The experience transformed me,” he later observed.

When news of the events at Civitavecchia first broke, John Paul II’s reaction was swift and decisive. Though used to receiving news of supernatural phenomena, he expressed instant interest, as if he had read in it a sign that concerned him personally.

John Paul II never discussed his spiritual life with anyone. But those who were close to him noticed several things. Karol Wojtyła had had mystical experiences since he was a twenty-six-year-old man. When he prayed, he was so focused that the world around him seemed no longer to exist. While praying, he often talked with some unseen person. At times he had knowledge of events before they occurred. Here lies the source of his reaction to the news that Our Lady was weeping tears of blood in Civitavecchia.

The Holy Father prevailed on Bishop Grillo to pay special attention to the miraculous statue. After a while, he asked him to bring it to the Vatican, so that he might pay it homage. And so it happened; clearly, the Holy Father was convinced of the supernatural character of the tears flowing from Our Lady’s statue.

In time all the documentation and studies carried out in the laboratories of the Gemelli Clinic would confirm that the tears of blood flowing from the statue were real human tears. There was no question of any hoax; the laboratory results clearly pointed to a miracle.

Conversions and answered graces began to multiply in Civitavecchia. Placed on public display in the parish church, the statue began immediately to draw throngs of pilgrims—300 000 in 1996 alone. In the following years pilgrims would come not only from Italy and Europe, but also from Asia, Africa, and both the Americas.

Numerous instances of conversions and miraculous healings have been recorded. Hardened atheists, people of other religions, and members of sects have been restored to faith in God and returned to the Church. As early as 1996, an entire local group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, numbering 120 people, experienced an extraordinary conversion and returned to the Catholic Church. A theological commission studying the weeping statue of Civitavecchia confirmed this fact. (Jehovah’s Witnesses do not recognize Mary as the Mother of God or Jesus Christ as the Son of God.)

In the Jubilee Year of 2000 the Holy Father decided to publish the third Fatima secret. The vision described in it contains yet another urgent call for repentance. Thus, the great Marian revelations of the twentieth century—those of Fatima, Akita, Medjugorie, and Civitavecchia—tend to a common purpose. They are tools in God’s economy of salvation. Mary plays a vital part in the struggle with Satan and his final defeat, as is foretold in the Book of Genesis: 
“I shall place enmity between you and the Woman.”

Mary never ceases to assure us that she is with us. She is with all those who call on her help. She was also with the Pope at the close of his life. The statue of Civitavecchia wept then as well, but not with tears of blood. Christ also wept over the death of his friend Lazarus, even though He knew that in a few hours He would be raising him from the tomb. These were very human tears of grief and mourning, but they did not flow from the Divine pain caused by evil and man’s baseness; those would be tears of blood. Even as he had done throughout his life so did John Paul II worship the Heavenly Father in the final stages of death. A few hours before the Pope’s died, Ivan Dragicević, one of the Medjugorie visionaries, saw Our Blessed Mother with John Paul II at her side. He looked joyous, rejuvenated, and was clad in a gold robe. They were smiling to each other, and Mary said, “My dear son is now with me.”

On earth the struggle with Satan continues. In a message given to a pious soul, the Archangel Michael spoke of the present times: “all of hell’s forces stand arrayed against the earth. Satan is mounting a determined struggle for every soul.” On his deathbed, Poland’s former primate, the Servant of God August Hlond, uttered these prophetic words, “The victory, when it comes, will be Mary’s victory.” The point is that Mary expects us to play our part in this struggle and victory. In each of her messages, she calls on us all, reminding us to pray with confidence and perseverance. Every evil wrings tears from Our Blessed Mother. All too often these are tears of blood. Thus she looks to our conversion, repentance, and living in sanctifying grace. She also asks us to pray for our priests, her dearest sons, for Satan seeks to destroy them.

It is possible to offer our lives to Mary. John Paul II and Padre Pio did so, just as do hundreds of thousands of anonymous “friends of God.” They entrust to the mercy of God their gray, humdrum lives, illnesses, physical disabilities, poverty, persecution, daily hardships, and painstaking attempts at moral growth—all this for the salvation of the world. We can all follow their example. The most wretched of lives can be transformed into a treasure when entrusted to Jesus through Mary, and He will incorporate it into His salvific work. Suffering, when freely accepted and offered up, is especially valuable. With Mary we can save the world—while there is still time.

 

Teresa Tyszkiewicz

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