The Marian Visitations: What's Their Significance?

In the Roman Catholic tradition, Mary (the mother of Jesus) is accorded special reverence. Several papl dogmas apply to her (The Immaculate Conception, Virgin Birth, etc.), and images of Mary are common in RC art. I have done a bit of research, and there have been about 6 Marian visitations since about AD 1000. These ahve usually been appearences to one person, or a small group of people. Usually (but not always) a message is left for mankind as well.
My question is: why are these visits necessary? According to the New Testament, Jesus is complete (“I am the Alpha and the Omega”)…nothing more is required for Man’s salvation. So why the side visits from his mom?
I beive there have been 4 visistations in the past two centuries:
-Lourdes (France)
-Knock (Ireland)
The last (I believe) has not been authenticated by the Church.
How come Mary drops in from time to time…and what has been the results of these communications…has the church revised any doctrines as a result of them? :confused:

According to my friend, who is a well known Catholic author, the last visitation is denied by the church. He wrote to the Vatican and asked for clarification. Their response was that they believe nothing miraculous happened at Medjugorge.

If the mods don’t mind, here’s a link to his book which exactly answers your question.


I read the OP as “Martian Visitations” - I was gettin’ out my tinfoil hit, and cleansing my auora and then - wha ? Mary? Jesus? WTF?

Ah bollix.

First of all, the Virgin Birth is not “papal dogma.” That’s an essential part of orthodox Christianity in all its forms and denominations, including Protestants as well as Catholics and the Orthodox Church.

Secondly, Mary’s apparitions, like her intercession in general, are not performed without God’s “approval,” and indeed the Catholic Church considers her actions and apparitions to be Christ-centered. Mary is not usurping Christ’s unique role as savior–indeed the Church would argue that Christ is acting through Mary.

This site provides a good overview of the Catholic Church’s teachings on Mary and her roles within the Church. It might answer some of your other questions as well.

As far as I can understand it, the deal is Jesus sends his Mama down once in a very long while on special assignment, when a more feminine/maternal touch may be more effective, e.g. if you want to deliver some Earth-shaking message to illiterate shepherd children. And considering the usual stereotype of Jewish Mothers, so she can feel useful every now and then :wink: But the key is, as you noticed, that this is supposed to happen only very, very rarely in extraordinary situations. As to why JC himself stays back and sends Mary, or ocassionally a couple of saints (as reported by Joan of Arc), ya gotta remember that he is to come back and reveal himself only in the End Time, at which time he’s expected to Kick You-know-what and Take Names.

Catholic christianity (including both RCC and Orthodox) has always been big on Mary and the saints. It’s a way of putting a friendly human face on the whole construct. Looking at it from the present day it may look as if during the Middle Ages it got out of control, but that was more of a situation of how as various pagan cultures were assimilated, aspects of their spirituality were incorporated into Christianity by syncretism. Still, the historic churches have held that salvation came only through Jesus, and that He alone is to be worshipped. If you’re going to believe the churches, the Catholic traditions agree with the Protestants that the usual and customary form of “communication” from God is the guidance of the Holy Spirit – which was promised by Jesus – in the deeds and words of those who pray for such guidance.

Allegations of local appearances of Mary (or some favorite saint) are such that almost every place that’s historically Catholic has one or more and in the vast majority of cases the upper hierarchy either takes no position (but lets the locals have their event, after all, smaller dioceses out in the boonies need to raise funds too) or flat-out rejects the allegations, unless they’ve got some miracles to back them up. The modern RCC position seems to be that a majority of “apparitions” are at best the result of faithful but confused devotees misinterpreting some explainable phenomenon (e.g. Mary-on-an-oil-slick), or at worst fabrications designed to bilk the faithful or to build up a particular church-leader’s power base.

But why are the visitations in such out-of-the way places? I think that Knock (Ireland) probably had a population of a few hundred at the time. Lourdes wasn’t all that big either.
One would think that the USA or Russia would merit a visit.
Anyway, anybody know what was imparted at Fatima? It wasn’t anything earth-shaking, was it?

Depends on how you interpret them. Three secrets were imparted, and the first two were made public by one of the surviving children while the third was communicated secretly to the Pope. A few years ago, Pope John Paul II “revealed the third secret of Fatima”, which was kind of anticlimactic:

I strongly object to your opinion on a religious matter being included in GQ. In point of fact, I am a Christian and in no way believe anything at all regarding a virgin birth whatsoever. Large numbers of Christians who adhere to only the Bible (or a subset thereof) also believe so. The virigin birth is declared so within the RC church due to non-Biblical traditions. While “papal dogma” may be a strong term, it is clear that the RC dogma on this issue derives largely from non-Biblical authority.

The discussion of a virgin birth has been a contentious issue within Christianity from day 1 and anyone with a basic knowledge of the history of Christianity would be aware of the long debate over this matter.

So whatever you do, don’t ever start a sentence with:
“As a Christian I believe…” since the rest of that sentence will contradict some other Christian’s beliefs.

You want to debate this point, start a new thread in GD.

You forgot to mention La Virgen de Guadalupe, who appeared to the poor Indian boy in Mexico.

I don’t believe in any of this, either, but I like the Mexican Guadalupe image with the roses falling out of her robe.

ftg I don’t really want to hijack this into a Virgin Birth debate, but are you sure you’re not conflating Virgin Birth with Immaculate Conception? Immaculate Conception (Mary was preserved free from the taint of Original Sin that all other humans were marked by) is Catholic dogma, relying on mostly non-scriptural support, much as you described virgin birth. Virgin Birth, OTOH, is directly from the Gospels, and is accepted by most Christian denominations, as far back as the Lateran Council and the Nicean Creed:

Not debating, just clarifying.
And it’s nice to see you back again, JillGat.

In Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven the author goes on to explain that Virgin Birth to Catholics means more than either Immaculate Conception (Mary carried no sin) or virgin conception (Mary had “lain with” no man when she conceived), but virgin birth - Mary’s hymen was unchanged by the birth of Jesus. Its been a long time since I read the book, and the author may be wrong, but I seem to remember that Jesus’ birth itself was miraculous, according to Catholic dogma.

There is a difference between Catholic dogma of Virgin Birth and other denominations. In Catholic dogma, Mary was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus. This is why the scriptural references to Jesus’s brothers provoke some contortions.

The Nicene Creed’s language is “…was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man…” which seems pretty clear that Mary was virgin before Jesus’s birth. The Nicene creed is a core profession of Christian beliefs from the 4th century AD, and is shared by Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestant churches.

So are there specific criteria for having an event being designated an “official” Marian Visit as opposed to a run-of-the-mill BVM sighting?

[continued hijack]

This matter of Catholic faith is the aeiparthenos, or ‘Ever-Virgin’ attribute of Mary (Council of Friuli, AD 796).

This however does not mean, contrary to popular belief, that Jesus teleported from inside Mary to the manger (Though that theory was popularized by many church writers). Nothing I can find in the current Catechism prevents a Catholic from concluding Mary broke water and dilated and bore forth Jesus like any other woman. Just that, miraculously, the event was neither physically nor emotionally traumatic.

“Virginity”, in any case, means the condition of having “known no man”, hymens being incidental and inconclusive as proof; and in this case refers further to a combination of that condition with a spiritual state of unbesmirched purity. Heck, we’re already dealing with a miracle to begin with, why stop there?

[/continued hijack]

Nope, I mean “virgin birth is not accepted by all Christians.” People on this very message board regularly get into debates about the term that sometimes gets translated into “virgin” in English. More than a few panels of Biblical scholars have gotten into hot water for pointing out how virgin birth stories are associated with a lot of legendary characters. Your standard analysis of the New Testament indicates that many such stories about Jesus were later add-ons.

Christianity is a very broad term. Just because you believe X and say you are a Christian in no way shape or form should be used to judge others who don’t believe X. Many Christian groups over the years have believed quite a few different things about important matters concerning Jesus’s end. Some think he didn’t die but was secreted away, others believe he really died-no resurrection, etc. Major branches disagree completely about the Jesus Man and/or God issue. The virgin birth story is peanuts compared to those issues.

Just to remind folks, I don’t want to start a debate. I just though it was quite inflammatory to someone to post an “all forms and denominations” rebuttal that is just not true to GQ.

(It’s also amazingly ineffective to cite Luke to non-Pauline Christians.)

Skopo’s original phrase was “an essential part of orthodox Christianity in all its forms and denominations.” I recognize that there’s a problem here, in that “orthodox” could be understood as meaning simply “right-thinking”; but I don’t think that’s what Skopo has in mind. The term is more often used to describe a (rather large) cluster of faith communities which share an adherence to the Nicene Creed, the whole Biblical canon (with some fussing about the Apocrypha), etc.

Under this definition, I would say Skopo is right. An “orthodox” denomination affirms “born of the Virgin Mary,” and also accepts Luke and Paul as both canonical and normative. A form of faith which rejects the Creed and only a “subset” of the Bible (your phrase) would be better described by some word other than “orthodox.”

I should have said “rejects the creed and accepts only a “subset” of the Bible.” My apologies.

Well, many reolies but no real anwers…my question was: have ANY of the Marian Visitations resulted in any MAJOR change in Catholic doctrine or practice? It seem (to me) that none of them have…so why were they necessary?
Also, in none of these cases (from what I have read) did these apparitions describe themselves as the “mother of god”. In the case of Lourdes, Bernadette Soubarous daid that the apparition was that odf a “white lady”.At Fatima (1917), the three children again descibed the apparations as that of a beautiful white lady, who seemed to shine with light.
The last child at fatima…is she still alive? has she ever given an interview? :confused:

I’m not a Roman Catholic, and have no firm conviction on the reality of the Marian Visitations; response by a traditionalist Roman Catholic would be more helpful to you. But I think I have enough intellectual sympathy for such a position to at least attempt an answer.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the Marian Visitations have resulted in any change in Roman Catholic doctrine or practice. Neither major nor minor. You’re right, I think, in concluding that.

So why were they necessary? In a very real sense, you’d need an answer from God on that. Making the assumption that the Marian Visitations were real (and that is not, in fact, an assumption I could state with commitment), then I think one would need to suppose that the visitations advanced some Divine purpose; but I wouldn’t be confident I knew what that purpose was. Nor would there be any clear reason why I should know. In general, I don’t claim a detailed understanding of the work of God in the world; so it wouldn’t surprise me if I didn’t get the point of this one.

But, trying to probe further: it’s my understanding (and I’d welcome correction) that those who said they’d experienced Marian Visitations sometimes also seem to have believed that society and the Church were in a state of confusion, and needed some moral support. If I’m reading this correctly, then on that set of assumptions the Marian Visitations might be a way of saying: “I’m here. You haven’t been abandoned. Hang in there.”

Nothing we shouldn’t have known already. Such visitations, if real, could have a useful function without resulting in any one specific change.

No, but that’s not and has never been the point of Marian apparitions/visitations. “Major change in doctrine or practice”, according to most mainstream christianities, is generated by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit acting within the collective body of the Church (e.g. according to whichever your position or church may be, the HS inspires the Vat-2 Council to adopt vernacular masses; or inspires Luther to nail a document to the cathedral door; or inspires Miller to interpret the Bible as calling for a Rapture; or inspires the Episcopalian Church of the US to OK Bishop Robinson; etc.)

Apparitions/visitations, be they Marian, saintly or Angelic, are “signs”, commonly adscribed the purpose of strengthening faith through a message about the need for repentance, or prayer, or a special display of God’s favor. e.g. Joan of Arc claims apparitions of saints and angels to tell her how to save France. The children at Fatima claim a Marian apparition to deliver a message about how dangerous the 20th century is going to be for the faith. Those at Lourdes claimed a message of healing through renewed faith. (And yes, sometimes the “sign” conveniently shows up in the timeliest manner as to make a point that Catholicism is the right answer; e.g. Guadalupe)

The charismatic Protestant (and some fringe catholic) churches prefer to have these sorts of signs and messages come through as “Words of…” Wisdom, Prophecy, Healing, etc., where the HS channels directly through the preacher or a member of the congregation and gives the faithful a Sign right there in the middle of their meeting on any given Sunday.

So either Our Lady shows up every other century to tell people that they should pray those rosaries and convert the heathens, and maybe get better from their ailments by a pilgrimage to the site; or a blowdried evangelist shows up every Sunday to tell people that the rapture’s imminent and we should say the “under God” bit of the Pledge, and maybe you’ll get better from your ailments if you let him slap your face and knock you on the floor.
What, me, cynical? :smiley: