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Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Apparitions at Tepeyac in Mexico 1531

Juan Diego, the seer of Guadalupe, was a recently baptized adult convert, aged 57, when Mary appeared to him in 1531 at Tepeyac hill, near Mexico city, formerly the site of a pagan temple. He was a widower, his wife having died in 1529. On his way to Mass on 9 December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception at the time, he saw an apparition of a beautiful young girl surrounded by light. She told him of her love for the people of Mexico, and asked that the local Bishop, Juan de Zumárraga, build a temple or church on that spot. Juan Diego presented himself before the Bishop and explained Mary's request. But the result was that he was initially rebuffed by the perplexed bishop, who said he would really need a sign from heaven in order to comply. On her next meeting with Juan Diego, however, the Lady promised a sign that would convince the bishop, but when he returned to his village he found that his uncle, who he lived with, was seriously ill, in fact dying, and in need of the last sacraments. He met Mary again on his way back to Mexico city to fetch a priest, and she told him that he was free to visit the Bishop, because even now his uncle was well again.

Mary then asked Juan Diego to gather some miraculous, out-of-season, flowers, which he would find at the top of the hill and carry them in his rough cactus fibre outer garment, his tilma, to the Bishop. She strictly ordered him not to show the contents of the tilma to anyone on the way. Once there he began to tell his story while unfolding the tilma, as the Bishop, and some important guests who happened to be present, saw the wonderful Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. This, rather than the flowers, was the real sign for Bishop Zumárraga.

News of the prodigy spread quickly and the result was that the Aztecs, who had been reluctant to get involved in Christianity, as the religion of their conquerors, the Spanish, flocked into the Church. The title "Guadalupe" is probably the phonetic equivalent of the title, "She who breaks, stamps or crushes the serpent," a perfect image of the way devotion to Mary was able to destroy the vestiges of the satanically inspired Aztec religion which involved human sacrifice. Snake symbolism was very prevalent in this religion.

The miraculous Image has been preserved in Mexico now for over four and half centuries, although such fibre garments usually disintegrate within twenty years. It has defied all attempts to give it a natural explanation and thus we can have full confidence in the historicity of accounts of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Sources: A Handbook on Guadalupe, New Bedford, 1997; Johnston, The Wonder of Guadalupe, Devon, 1981; Carroll, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness, Front Royal, 1983; Theotokos.org

Marian Media

The Miraculous Medal

The Apparitions at Rue du Bac 1830

Catherine Labouré was a twenty-four year old novice sister when she was privileged to see Mary, late at night, on 18 July 1830, in the chapel at the convent at Rue du Bac in Paris. She was escorted by a figure she later took to be her guardian angel and saw Mary descend the altar steps and sit in the spiritual director's chair.

She told Catherine that she had a mission for her and of the bad times which were to come, but promised help and grace for those who prayed. In particular she spoke of the religious persecution which would break out in Paris later in the century, while also foretelling the coming events in the capital. Catherine repeated all this to her spiritual director, Fr Aladel, who was sceptical, but this scepticism disappeared when the revolution in Paris began just over a week later on 27 July 1830.

Later in the same year, on 27 November, Catherine again saw Mary in the chapel, during community meditation. She was dressed in white, standing on a globe and holding a golden ball, with rings on her fingers flashing with light. An inner voice told her that the ball represented the whole world and that the rays coming from Mary's fingers represented graces for individuals.
The golden ball then vanished as this apparition changed to represent Mary with her arms outstretched, inside an oval frame with golden lettering: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Again, an interior voice spoke, telling her to have a medal struck on this model. It would be a source of great graces and should be worn around the neck.
Then she was shown the reverse of the medal, consisting of a large "M" surmounted by a bar and cross, with two hearts, representing the hearts of Jesus and Mary, all encircled by twelve stars. Again Fr Aladel was reluctant to act, but once the medal was struck and distributed, it rapidly earned the title of the "Miraculous" medal.
A canonical inquiry was initiated by Archbishop de Quelen and this concluded that Catherine was of good character, that the apparitions she had reported were to be accepted, and that the Miraculous Medal was supernaturally inspired and responsible for genuine miracles.

It was an important element in reviving catholic belief in France, as well as in preparing the way for the proclamation of the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854. As foretold the Paris revolution of 1871 had very anti-religious elements, but fortunately the power of the Commune was defeated. Catherine worked in a hostel for old men for forty years and was eventually canonised as St. Catherine Labour.

Sources: Dirvin, Saint Catherine Labouré of the Miraculous Medal, Rockford, 1984; Laurentin, The Life of Catherine Labouré, London, 1983.é, in 1947, Theotokos.org.

 

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Our Lady of Zion

Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne Apparition Rome 1842

Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne, an anti-Catholic Jew, befriended a baron in Rome and began wearing the Miraculous Medal as a simple test . On Jan 20, 1842 while waiting for the baron in the church Sant Andrea delle Fratte, Ratisbonne encountered a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He converted to Catholicism, joined the priesthood, and began a ministry for the conversion of Jews. Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne is born at Strasburg France. He was the son and heir of a wealthy, aristocratic family of Jewish bankers.
When Alphonse Ratisbonne was still a child his older brother, Theodor, converted to the Catholic faith and became a priest. The family reacted negatively and Alphonse resolved never to speak again with him, and developed a hatred of Catholic faith. At age 28, he becomes engaged to his own niece, Flore Ratisbonne, whom he plans to marry the following August. He decides to tour Europe and the East, partly for his health and partly for pleasure as he had planned to assume a partnership at his uncle's bank. Ratisbonne decided to go to Naples, to spend the winter in Malta, to strengthen his delicate heaDue to a travel mistake, he ended up up takingthe wrong road and then booked his passage on the steamer to Rome. He left Naples on the 5th and arrived in Rome on the 6th, the feast of the Three Kings and began to tour the city.

Ratisbonne encountered on the street his old Preotestant classmate from Strasburg, Gustavo de Bussières. In the process of rekindling their friendship, Alphonse meets Gustave's older brother, the Baron Theodore de Bussières, a convert to Catholicism and a close friend of
Alphonse's priest-brother. Alphonse feels instinctive abhorrence toward this zealous Catholic convert, but he knows the baron is an expert on Constantinople, which Alphonse plans to visit, so he agrees to call upon him for travel advice. De Bussières saw it as his mission to convert to Catholicism any unbeliever who crossed his path. He and Ratisbonne became friends, but not without difficulty.

The baron makes a proposition to Alphonse that he take a simple test: wear the Miraculous Medal and say every morning the Memorare, a prayer St. Bernard composed to the Virgin Mary.
So he consents, mocks the Faith, and quotes a line from The Tales of Hoffman: "If it does me no good, at least it will dome no harm." The baron's little daughter puts the miraculous medal around Alphonse's neck.

When the Baron was arranging the funeral of his friend Count Laferronays in the basilica of St. Andrea delle Fratte in Rome he asked Ratisbonne to wait for him in the church. When the Baron came back to the church he found Ratisbonne on his knees in prayer. This sight moved him to tears.

In Ratisbonne's own words: "I was scarcely in the church when a total confusion came over me. When I looked up, it seemed to me that the entire church had been swallowed up in shadow, except one chapel. It was as though all the light was concentrated in that single place. I looked over towards this chapel whence so much light shone, and above the altar was a living figure, tall, majestic, beautiful and full of mercy. It was the most holy Virgin Mary, resembling her figure on the Miraculous Medal. At this sight I fell on my knees right where I stood. Unable to look up because of the blinding light, I fixed my glance on her hands, and in them I could read the expression of mercy and pardon. In the presence of the Most Blessed Virgin, even though she did not speak a word to me, I understood the frightful situation I was in, my sins and the beauty of the Catholic Faith."

The baron helps Ratisbonne outside and into his carriage. He takes him to the Hotel Serny, where Alphonse is staying, and loosens his cravat so he can breathe. But Alphonse is still sobbing, clasping his Miraculous Medal, murmuring thanks to God. At last he turns to the baron, embraces him says: "Take me to a confessor! When can I receive baptism, without which I can no longer live?"

"What has happened?" exclaims the baron. "What have you seen?"

"That," says Alphonse, "I can reveal only on my knees and to a priest."

The baron takes him to the Gesu, the Jesuit mother-church, to see Father Villefort. There, Alphonse tries to explain himself, but he is still sobbing so hard that he is unintelligible. At last he calms down, takes the Miraculous Medal from his neck, holds it up, and cries: "I saw Her! I saw Her!" Alphonse Ratisbonne confessed and, for fear of ridicule, entered the convent of the Jesuits to make a retreat under the guidance of Father Villefort.

In Ratisbonne's own words: "I was scarcely in the church when a total confusion came over me. When I looked up, it seemed to me that the entire church had been swallowed up in shadow, except one chapel. It was as though all the light was concentrated in that single place. I looked over towards this chapel whence so much light shone, and above the altar was a living figure, tall, majestic, beautiful and full of mercy. It was the most holy Virgin Mary, resembling her figure on the Miraculous Medal. At this sight I fell on my knees right where I stood. Unable to look up because of the blinding light, I fixed my glance on her hands, and in them I could read the expression of mercy and pardon. In the presence of the Most Blessed Virgin, even though she did not speak a word to me, I understood the frightful situation I was in, my sins and the beauty of the Catholic Faith."

Sources:

Bussierre, Marie Théodore Renouard. An account of the recent conversion, at Rome of Alphonso Ratisbonne: A Jew of Strasburg. C. Dolman, [etc.,] (1842)

Bussierre, Marie Théodore Renouard.The conversion of M. Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne. Burns and Lambert (1855), Miraclehunter.com.

 

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