What Do the Apparitions of Our Lady Teach Us Today?

Painting of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes to St Bernadette by Virgilio Tojett in 1877
Painting of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes to St Bernadette by Virgilio Tojett in 1877

An apparition from Our Lady is a major spiritual event for a good reason. The Gospels record just a handful of times that Mary speaks – like the Annunciation, Visitation, Finding of Jesus in the Temple, and Wedding at Cana. When you think about Mary’s low-key persona in the Bible, it is pretty amazing that there are over a dozen officially approved Marian apparitions. Let’s consider that Mary and Jesus walked the earth over 2000 years ago. These officially approved apparitions have been recognized starting back in 1531 with Our Lady of Guadalupe up until as late as 1989 with Our Lady of Kibeho in Africa.

Ascension Press published a great online resource about Marian Apparitions that explains in depth all of the past and present apparitions. You can see that Mary has consistently appeared at least once every hundred years, starting in the 1500s. Obviously she feels that the modern world needs her motherly guidance and wisdom, today more than ever.

Here are a few timeless life lessons that we can take from some of the apparitions of Our Lady that could apply to our lives today.

Shrine of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes

When Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to St Bernadette in 1858, she spoke of many different topics, especially prayer, penance, the love of God and the Immaculate Conception. St Bernadette shared her experiences with Mary over and over again in writings and to witnesses. This courageous little girl was determined to share the message of Mary with the world.

One of the conclusions that St Bernadette came to later in her life was that we need to make the most out of this life. We only have one shot to become saints here on earth. Each day and every moment matters. St Bernadette wrote, “For the few years we still have to live in this world, we must do our best to spend our time as well as possible.” Our Lady of Lourdes’ message was about prayer and personal holiness. It was an apparition to challenge us all to make the most out of our lives. Challenging us to do what we can for God and our neighbor.

Basilica and Shrine of the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Lesson #2 – Let Go of Anxiety and Fear

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St Juan Diego in the 1500s. She asked him for a few favors and gave him directions and he was afraid. Mary recognized the fear and anxiety that Juan Diego had in his heart. Like a true mother, she comforted him and told him to trust in her. She asked him to let go of the anxiety and fear and try to take just one step at a time. Juan Diego was worried about the Bishop, his uncle who was sick, and all of the other things that a farmer in the 1500’s would be worried about. Mary calmed him and gave him the confidence to let go of his worry and fear. She replaced it with confidence in her presence alongside him.

Her words still ring true today to all of us who worry and are anxious about so many things in life…“Let nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Am I not here, who am your Mother.”

Statues of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lasalette

Lesson #3 – Life is Busy, But We Need to Make Time for Prayer

When Our Lady of LaSalette appeared to two children in a small village in France in 1846, she had a message that was very simple – pray and follow God’s commandments. She had a beautiful motherly conversation with these two children. She asked them, “Do you pray?” and they honestly responded, ” Not really.”

Our Lady encouraged them by saying, “My children, you must pray, morning and evening. When you can do no more, say a Pater and an Ave Maria… and when you have the time to do better, you will say more.” Nothing replaces prayer. Mary did not ask them for lengthy devotions or hours of adoration. She simply asked that they remember God in the morning and at night, and pray more when possible. This is a realistic message for both children and adults alike. If life is too busy to pray an Our Father and Hail Mary every day, something is just not right.

Chapel of the Apparition of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Lesson #4 – Believe in God’s Power and Mercy

When Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal appeared in 1830 to St Catherine Laboure in Paris, she had a very specific message. She gave instructions to design the Miraculous Medal. She also said that God would protect those who would wear it with faith. This apparition came during a time in history when the deeply rooted Catholic culture that was a cornerstone in society was being challenged. Revolutions and a growing New World left so many unknowns. Mary chose this time to speak a simple message – wear this medal and trust that God will protect you. It was an invitation of faith. Believe that this little mustard seed can really move a mountain… your faith will be rewarded.

Our Lady said to St Catherine, ” Graces will be abundantly bestowed upon those who have confidence.” Today that message is no less relevant or true. We need to have confidence in God’s power and his mercy. He is bigger than all of this… and he conquered death on the Cross. We need to believe that we are not alone on this journey.

Statue of the Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima

Lesson #5 – The Rosary is Possible for Everyone

When Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the three shepherd children in Portugal, she spoke often about the need to pray the Rosary. So much so, that one of the children, St Lucia, once wrote, “Since we all need to pray, God gives us a prayer which is within our reach: the Rosary, which can be recited either in common or in private, either in church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament or at home, either with the rest of the family or alone, either when traveling or while walking quietly in the fields. A mother of a family can say the Rosary while she rocks her baby’s cradle or does the housework. Our day has 24 hours in it. It is not asking a great deal to set aside a quarter of an hour for the spiritual life, for our intimate and familiar conversation with God.”

This quote is just so perfect for our lives today. St Lucia is realistic and blunt. We can all find 15 minutes of the day, anywhere at anytime, while doing any activity, to pray the Rosary. It is a simple prayer of repetition that allows our minds and hearts to reflect on the Life of Christ with his Mother.

Shrine of the Apparition of Our Lady of Knock

Lesson #6 – Sometimes Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

In 1879, Our Lady appeared in a small parish in Ireland to a small group of 15 people. St Joseph, St John, and the Lamb with the Cross appeared with her. The apparition lasted two full hours for all fifteen witnesses. Not one word was spoken by Our Blessed Mother or any of her holy guests. They were silent….for two hours. Why? Isn’t the whole purpose of an apparition to send a message? The message was loud and clear for those who witnessed the apparition and the millions of Catholics who have visited the Shrine at Knock over the years…God is all powerful and can do anything. Just like the apostles with Jesus and just like all of us when we do adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, silence speaks volumes.

The word ‘knock’ essentially means hill, and the name of the apparition came from the location of the Parish being on a hill. Many comparisons have been made to that significance – of Jesus dying on the hill of Golgotha, of the apostles seeing Jesus transfigured on a hill or mountain. There are so many theories about what the apparition of Knock means. That is what it makes it so unique and powerful. It was a silent apparition of personal prayer. It’s a reminder to all of us to take time to be silent with God and pray. Being in God’s presence is enough. It can also be applied to loving our neighbor. Sometimes words are not needed. Just being there for another person can make all the difference in the world.

Written by Couple to Couple League staff member.