Rollicking Times On Apparition Beat As New 'Messages' Flow And Church Reacts
Already, it has been an interesting season on the apparition beat -- an unusual one. In the space of just a few days last week, it was announced that the revelations of a seer in Britain have been rejected by the Vatican. That was a case of a woman in Surrey who has been claiming to see Mary as "Our Lady of Surbiton" for two decades. Her most noted revelation: that the Church should declare aborted babies as formal martyrs. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith labeled her messages "exaggerated" and "hysterical."
At the same time, headlines were made even in the secular press over the excommunication of six nuns for following a cult in Quebec called the Army of Mary or Lady of All Nations based on the "revelations" to Marie-Paule Giguère, an 86-year-old mystic who claims to be a reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, or at least "possessed" by her. The Church announced two weeks earlier that members of the cult had likewise been excommunicated.
Founded as a prayer group in 1971, and recognized by the Archbishop of Quebec four years later, noted the press, the Army of Mary has been a "headache" for Canadian Catholic bishops ever since -- most recently, allowing a priest to ordain new priests.
They were two bizarre circumstances that never had been part of the mainstream Marian movement and were largely unknown even to those who closely follow reputed apparitions. But the crackdown by the Vatican was news, as it was too when the Archdiocese of Miami and the pastor of a church called St. Brendan's issued a statement declaring that "miraculous" images cast by a light in a Blessed Sacrament chapel there and also making headlines were not a direct miracle but "natural" -- the result of the sanctuary lamp.
Nonetheless, the pastor said that "it is not surprising that natural events should reflect Divine realities." Such images are being reported with increased frequency across the U.S. and in other nations.
All of these stirrings were joined by rumors that a new bishop in Santander, Spain, may now be more open to apparitions that reputedly occurred during the 1960s in the small mountain hamlet of Garabandal, apparitions that had been rejected by the previous three bishops on the advice -- claimed the last bishop -- of the Vatican.
The situation is closely watched, having as it does a large following, dramatic prophecies of coming events, and far more recognition than the Canadian or British circumstances.
The hopes were raised when the Archbishop of Oviedo, Carlos Sierra, who served as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Santander before installation of a new bishop, responded to a query by a U.S. follower of the apparitions by saying that he was "open" to matters concerning the events and that the next bishop would no doubt continue to study the matter. That new bishop is now Vicente Jiménez Zamora. He was installed on September 9 and attempts to elicit a comment from him about the apparitions thus far have not met with success.
Meantime, rumors have circulated that a new message has come from a seer in Japan named Sister Agnes Sasagawa, associated with the famous case of a statue that wept 101 times at her convent in Akita in 1973.
During those events, the nun, who belonged to the Institute of the Handmaids of the Eucharist, said she heard a voice warn of a great coming chastisement (also prophesied at Garabandal) and that "the work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres... churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord." That message was given on October 13, 1973.
According to an expert on the events, Rosalie Turton of the 101 Foundation in New Jersey, Sister Sasagawa spoke in Japanese except for the second use of the word "cardinals" -- which she enunciated in English, even though she was not conversant in that language. What the significance might be of "cardinals" first in a foreign language and then "cardinals" in English is anyone's guess, if significance there is.
The alleged new message was
supposedly given to Sister Sasagawa on June 19 of this year and in its own words
"concerns the the Church and what is shortly to befall it.
"When I appeared at Fatima and Akita I forewarned the world that punishments would come if it did not repent," it says. "Those punishments have been realized. Now I warn you that the greatest punishment ever to befall mankind is at your doorstep. This is a division of my Son's Church."
The message goes on to prophesy "open rebellion" against Rome, with priests, bishops, and cardinals against each other." It blames "secret societies" and predicts a "remnant" that will have to flee. "What my Son's Church is to experience is unlike any crisis it has ever known," says the new message. "Prepare my children for when you hear these words, 'The Sacrifice is dead, there is no sacrifice only a remembrance.' Then you will know that my words of warning are being fulfilled. Remain loyal to the one that sits on the Chair of Peter; he is your Shepherd; he is your Father..."
Turton, who is regularly in touch with Sister Sasagawa, says that while there is always a chance that a message was issued without her knowing, she does not believe the latest message is authentic.
Initially the nun's claims were rejected by an archbishop, then accepted by the bishop of her actual diocese, Most Reverend John Shojiro Ito of Niigata, who on April 22, 1984, after years of extensive investigation, declared the tears to be of supernatural origin and authorized veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita. Bishop Ito was apprehensive over the reaction of the Vatican to his pastoral letter, but when he brought his letter to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger -- now Pope Benedict XVI -- in 1988, the cardinal, who was initially disinclined toward the revelation, allowed the pastoral letter and its dissemination to the faithful. The Vatican has never issued a formal statement.
Turton says a subsequent bishop, Francis Assisi Keiichi Sato, was much less welcoming, that Sister Sasagawa was asked to leave the convent and now lives in a private home with two other religious near Tokyo, and that the events are hardly even known among younger nuns now at Akita. Turton has asked that the exact location of the nun remain undisclosed to protect the nun's privacy. She said she is not certain if Sister Sasagawa remains in habit.
[resources: The Final Hour]
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