Mary, Mother of God, week 5

Mary, the Mother of God is an Advent study presented by Brother James Dennis during November and December 2015 at Church of the Holy Spirit in Dripping Springs, TX.

This week has a bonus: sermon preached by Brother James on December 20Listen the sermon here. 

Or read the text of the sermon on Brother James’ blog.

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Mary’s Continuing Ministry

5 45Marian Apparitions






5 3What is an apparition?

St. Augustine describes three types of apparitions: corporeal, imaginative and intellectual.


In the corporeal vision, a person or object is supernaturally manifested to the eyes. The vision either really is there, or creates a sensation in the visual organ of the presence.


In the imaginative vision, the imagination alone (without the sensory organ) perceives the representation of a person or object. We know they come from God by their lights and graces of sincere sanctity, and the subject’s inability to determine or fix the elements of the vision.

5 5In the intellectual visions, one perceives the object without a sensory image. Here, the object perceived exceeds the natural range of understanding: the essence of the soul, the intimate nature of the Trinity. St. Teresa said these might last for more than a year. They are generally recognized by effects: persistent light, Divine love, peace, and an inclination towards the things of God.



Common threads of Marian apparitions

5 6Often occur during times of great strife (personal, national, cultural).

Frequently involve appearances to children, social outcasts.

Generally, met with suspicion or disbelief by the local clergy.



5 7Often, Mary conveys some sort of message to those to whom she appears.

Often associated with healings, either at the time or later.

Mary often directs the creation of a shrine.

Site becomes a place of devotion; the lives of those sharing the vision are changed.




5 8The Holy See has studied 295 reported apparitions: 12 have been approved.

Physical contact is rarely reported, although sometimes an artifact is reported (Juan Diego’s cloak).

Generally, revealed to a few, with the exception of Zeitoun, where thousands claim to have seen her over a three year period.



Our Lady of the Pillar

5 9The first reported apparition is our Lady of the Pillar, in which Mary appeared to St. James the Great in Zaragoza, Spain.

This occurred while Mary was alive, and resulted in the first church dedicated to Mary.


James was struggling with his ministry, until her appearance.

5 10James was discouraged until Mary appeared to him, giving him a column of jasper wood.

James returned to Jerusalem, where he was executed by Herod Agrippa in c. 44 A.D., the first apostle martyred for the faith.






Our Lady of the Snows

5 12aIn 352, A patrician named John and his wife were childless, and vowed to leave their possessions to Mary. They prayed that Mary tell them what to do.

On August 5th, Mary appeared to them and to Pope Liberius, telling them to build a church and she would mark the location with snow.

5 12bThat night, snow fell on the Esquiline Hill. The shape of the snow outlined the church that was built there.

To commemorate the miracle, the locals drop white rose petals from the dome of the basilica on the day of the feast.


The Virgin of Guadalupe

5 13On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was walking to mass 15 miles from his home in Cuauhtitlan.

He lived a simple life as a weaver, farmer and laborer. He was, in short, a humble illiterate Aztec campesino.




Hernan Cortez arrived in Tenochtitlan in 1519.

5 14It was arguably the most advanced city in the world (population c. 200,000).

Cortez systematically destroyed and leveled the city.

Population decimated by smallpox and other diseases. By 1600, only 1 in 25 will survive.


As he crossed a barren hill called Tepeyac, he saw a blinding light and heard heavenly music. A beautiful brown-skinned girl, about 14 years old, appeared to him.

5 15She spoke to him in his native Nahuatl language and identified herself as the Virgin Mary.

She called him “my son” and asked to have a church built on Tepeyac hill and asked him to tell the bishop. “All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother’s Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace.”

Somehow, he got an audience with the bishop, who was skeptical and demanded proof of the encounter.


Juan Diego avoided Tepeyac hill for several days, but on December 12 he had to cross there to find a priest to attend to his uncle who was dying.

5 17The Virgin appeared again and said: “Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not within my fold? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”






5 18In the dead of winter, the Virgin told him to pick roses from Tepeyac hill and give them to the bishop as the sign.

He gathered the roses in his cloak (tilma), which to everyone’s surprise bore the Virgin’s image.





5 19His uncle was healed; the bishop built the church.

The cloak still survives and the image still remains.

The name she called herself by, Guadalupe, remains mysterious.







The name Guadalupe is Spanish; there is a statue of our Lady of Guadalupe in Spain.

5 20But the Nahuatl word of coatlaxopeuh which is pronounced “quatlasupe“and sounds remarkably like the Spanish word Guadalupe.

Coatlaxopeuh means the one who crushes the serpent.


The feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12th.



5 21The Guadalupe event “meant the beginning of evangelization with a vitality that surpassed all expectations.”

The Psalms tell us, “The Lord looks down from heaven and sees all the sons of men.” What sort of man was Juan Diego?






5 22When appointed for this mission, he told the Blessed Virgin Mary, “I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf.”

He was canonized in 2002. John Paul II performed the beatification ceremony at the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.





5 23In 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla inaugurated his bid for Mexican independence with the Grito de Delores, shouting “Death to the Spaniards and long live the Virgin of Guadalupe!”

Upon independence, Morelos inscribed the Virgin’s feast day (December 12th) into the constitution.





5 24In 1914, when Emiliano Zapata’s peasant army rode north in rebellion against the government of Porfirio Diaz seeking land reform, they carried the banners of Our Lady of Guadalupe.






5 25The novelist Carlos Fuentes once said, “one may no longer consider himself a Christian, but you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

Octavio Paz wrote that “the Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery.”




Our Lady of Fatima

5 26May 13, 1917

Continues on the 13th day of the month for 6 months.

Takes place against the backdrop of World War I and the Russian Revolution.



5 27Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto were three shepherd children.

A woman appeared to them, “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.”



The woman instructed them to do penance and make sacrifices to save sinners.

5 28She told them that the Rosary was the key to personal and world peace.

She confided to them three secrets, known as the Three Secrets of Fatima.





5 29After reports of visions and miracles, thousands of people went to Fatima in the ensuing months.

In 1917, the provincial administrator (a freemason) jailed the children and threatened to torture them unless they revealed the secrets, but the children refused.

The Lady of the Rosary promised a miracle on October 3, her final apparition.


5 30On October 13, the sun appeared to change colors and rotate . Others saw the sun appear to fall from the sky and others reported it zig-zagged.

The event was reported in newspapers across Portugal, including many hostile to the Church.

Some observers saw the event from miles away.


The Three Secrets of Fatima

5 31“Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire…plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form . . . .”

The heavenly Mother had already promised she would take the children to heaven and this vision lasted only an instant.


2ndSecret: To save the souls from hell, God wants you to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart.

“The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI.”

5 33a“God is about to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, famine, persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart…”




5 33b“If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.”





5 343rdSecret (2000): The third secret dealt with the predicted assassination of a bishop dressed in white, who they believed to be the Holy Father.





Interestingly, the apparitions at LaSallette, Fatima, and Lourdes, all involved children.

Our Lady of Lourdes

5 36On February 11, 1958, Bernadette Soubirous was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend.

She saw “a lady” in the cave of Massabielle.

There were 17 other appearances that year.




5 37She took off her shoes to walk through the water near the grotto, and heard the wind, but the trees and bushes didn’t move.

She saw a light in the grotto and a little girl, dressed all in white, with a blue belt around her waist and golden yellow roses on each foot.




5 38Three days later, she returned with two other girls, who became afraid when she became ecstatic.

On February 18, the lady told her: “I promise to make you happy not in this world but in the next.”

The lady asked for a chapel on the site.




She returned on February 25, despite her parents’ prohibition.

5 39The lady told her to drink from the water, which was muddy at first but became increasingly clean.

As the word spread, the waters were given to all sorts of medical patients, many of whom reported miracle cures.






On March 25, the lady told Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

5 40On Easter Sunday, her doctor examined Bernadette, who was in ecstasy, and held her hand over a candle without being burned.

The Church was highly critical during this process.






5 41The apparitions continued and thousands reported seeing Our Lady of Lourdes.

In 1933, Pius XI canonized Bernadette during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.





5 42Millions of pilgrims travel to Lourdes each year.

About 7,000 people have reported miraculous cures from the waters of Lourdes, of which 68 have been declared scientifically inexplicable by the Lourdes Medical Bureau (under medical and not ecclesiastical control).




5 43Why Mary Matters to Anglicans

On September 24, 2008, (the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham) a Welsh priest gave a sermon at Lourdes.

Mary appears to us at the Annunciation “as the first missionary, the first messenger of the Gospel.”




5 44aMary was the “first human to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to another; and she does it simply by carrying Christ within her.”


5 44b“She reminds us that mission begins not in delivering a message in words but in the journey towards another person with Jesus in your heart.”





5 45“The believer comes with Christ dwelling in them by faith, and God makes that current come alive, and a response begins, not yet in words or commitments, but simply in recognizing that here is life.”




5 46“When Mary came to Bernadette, she came at first as an anonymous figure, a beautiful lady, a mysterious ‘thing’, not yet identified as the Lord’s spotless Mother. And Bernadette—uneducated, uninstructed in doctrine —leapt with joy, recognizing that here was life, here was healing.”




5 47There is a gospel here for all of us who seek to answer Jesus’ call to follow Him and good news for those who find their efforts slow and seemingly pointless.


“Our first and overarching task is to carry Jesus, gratefully and faithfully, with us in all our doings.”



5 48“And if we are faithful in thus carrying Christ with us, something will happen, some current will stir and those we are with will feel, perhaps well below the conscious surface, a movement of life and joy which they may not understand at all….because Jesus speaks always to what is buried in the heart of men and women, the destiny they were made for.”



5 49The story of Mary and Elizabeth teaches “that the Incarnate Word of God is always already on the way to us, hidden in voices and faces and bodies familiar and unfamiliar. Silently, Jesus is constantly at work, and he is seeking out what is deepest in us, to touch the heart of our joy and hope.”



5 50“Mary’s mission tells us there is always a deeper dimension, grounded in the Christ who is at work unknown and silent, reaching out to the deeply buried heart of each person and making the connection; living faithfully at the heart of the Church itself, in the middle of its disasters and betrayals and confusions, still giving himself without reserve.”


“True mission is ready to be surprised by God.”

5 51“Bernadette’s neighbors and teachers and parish clergy knew all they thought they needed to know about the Mother of God —and they needed to be surprised by this inarticulate, powerless, marginal teenager who leapt up in the joy of recognition to meet Mary as her mother, her sister, bearer of her Lord and Redeemer.”




5 52“Here today, with Elizabeth and Bernadette, we say, in thankful amazement, ‘Why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’ And we recognize that our heart’s desire is met and the very depth of our being stirred into new life.”




r williamsThe Welsh priest who gave the sermon was, of course, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.






5 53

And those of course, are some of the reasons why Mary matters so very deeply.








james dennis

About Brother James:

James R. Dennis, O.P. is a member of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio and of the Anglican Order of Preachers. He frequently writes, preaches and teaches around the Diocese of West Texas on spiritual matters. He lives in San Antonio with his two silly dogs.

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