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As far as reputed apparitions, the news of late has been erratic.

There is Ireland:

Once more, an alleged seer named Joe Coleman who "channels" the Blessed Mother at the venerable old site of Knock (much to the dislike of the shrine itself) appeared there for a well-publicized apparition (this time, though, with a much smaller crowd). He said he saw and heard her, but the signs in the sky promised to onlookers did not seem to materialize.

Noted the Mayo News: "Around 1.30 p.m. (May 11), Coleman and some followers gathered outside the Apparition Chapel and soon afterwards commenced the Rosary. They relied entirely on their voices; they were given no access to a PA system. At the end of each decade, a chant of some well-known hymns like Golden Rose and Queen of the May arose from the assembled small crowd.

"At 2 p.m., the voice of a priest came across the main PA system which can be heard throughout the church grounds. He welcomed all the pilgrims to Knock and informed them that the official ceremonies were about to get underway. But this did not deter Coleman and his followers who continued to recite the Rosary even as the Stations of the Cross appeared to drown them out at times. The battle for hearts and minds of the devout followers intensified further sometime later after Coleman and his supporters decided to leave the gable end and move hundred yards or so to the area close to the Chapel of Reconciliation."

Coleman, who hails from Dublin, and announces himself as a healer, cut his "apparition" short when he suddenly became sick, clutching his side -- or so reported a newspaper. He had said the Virgin would appear in the sky but then left after a couple of hours. "No Blessed Virgin Mary at Knock as 'visionary' falls ill," said a headline.

Last October, five pilgrims staring at the sun during his event were later treated for optical damage. (This time, some of the three hundred who attended wore sunglasses.) The highly controversial faith healer reportedly predicted tsunamis ready to hit both sides of the Atlantic on May 9, at least according to Irish news reports, an event that of course did not occur. His latest message claims that the Pope is under great attack from Satan, the Church is crumbling, and that the Second Coming is imminent.

In Brazil, another reputed seer up for discernment named Pedro Régis, who has seemed uncannily accurate with some predictions (including the Haitian quake and Gulf of Mexico crisis), has presented more messages and perhaps another direct "hit." It is difficult to keep up with his many messages (six in the first two weeks of May alone).

"Dear Sons and Daughters, an extraordinary phenomenon will happen in the Land of the Holy Cross (Brazil)," is a very recent one. "In the presence of various Church authorities the Lord will permit this Grace which will be for the good of the Church in your nation. The phenomenon will happen by means of a image of Saint Peter. It will happen in a monastery and will get the attention of the world."

In the days before this, Pedro, who asserts that he has seen Mary since 1987, quoted a message to the effect that "famous islands of your Brazil will be completely destroyed. A giant will come from the north to torment." He also foresaw "a frightening phenomenon" in the Sea of Galilee and disaster in Italy.

Thus far no disaster in Italy -- but could the thing about Galilee be related to news just a week after the message that fishing will now be banned due to overexploitation on this body of water where fishing goes back to Peter?

Could the depletion of fish be described as a "frightening phenomenon"? It was reported that "there are a few mullet and catfish -- but alarmingly few of the large St Peter's Fish, for which the Galilee is famous."

A sign of the times?

Meanwhile, the River Jordan is so polluted that officials say it's dangerous to hold baptisms there. And worldwide, officials warn that at current rates of depletion, the oceans themselves will be without fish in five decades.

Mostly, Régis has been warning of persecution and that Catholicism has been penetrated by a "false church" that will now fall away. "The angels of The Lord will come from Heaven and His chosen ones will not experience physical pains," he quoted Mary as saying a month ago. "In the great and final tribulation people will see the powerful hand of God in action. Forward without fear." The most recent message: "The terrorists will attack the Church. They will attempt to destroy a temple and my poor children will carry a heavy cross. Italy will be shaken by this sad event."

May is Mary's month. Is it Mary who speaks?

From Rome comes a letter from Archbishop Raymond L. Burke -- prefect of the Vatican's Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura -- to Nancy Goggin (from Stoughton, Massachusetts), who is working to promote the reputed apparitions of Mary under the title "Our Lady of America" to a Precious Blood nun named Sister Mary Mildred Neuzil about whom we extensively reported years ago [see first article in 2001].

"Please be assured of my continued support for the devotion to Our Lady of America," Archbishop Burke wrote on April 27. "May God reward you for all that you are doing to promote Our Lady of America, especially in your work as a youth minister."

The nun -- whose first apparition was near Rome City, Indiana, in the 1950s (and so the letter goes from Rome to Rome City) -- spent her last years in Fostoria, Ohio, after leaving the mother house during a dispute about the encroaching modernism and other matters. Sister Mildred, who died in 2000 at 83, had the support of a Cincinnati archbishop, who served for decades as her spiritual director and endorsed messages to her from Mary -- warning of great destruction coming to the U.S. if it did not stop corrupting its youth but on the other hand graces if it came back to its original morality and installed a statue representing Our Lady of America at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in D.C.

That installation has not yet occurred -- even though apparitions from many other parts of the world (India, China) are represented at the basilica.

(Meanwhile, why are so many bad things happening to America?)

There are also claims of apparitions on the island of Malta.


"The various manifestations of the Lady at Birzebbuga, started when a statue of the Immaculate Conception cried tears of blood for the first time on January 23, 2006," states a website. "The statue is found in the house of the Caruana family at Birzebbuga. Mary’s tears slowly started to change the life of the father of the Caruana family, Angelik. On April 21, Angelik experienced the first apparition of Mary, the Mother of God, in his home.  On December 1, 2006, the apparitions of the Lady also started taking place on the hill of Borg in-Nadur, Birzebbuga.  The Lady started Angelik’s formation, and brought together a Cenacle of twelve persons chosen and indicated by her during apparitions. This Cenacle is called Theotokos. In her apparitions, the Lady at times delivers messages connected with given signs. These help one to better understand the messages and touch the heart.


"When one looks at the messages and signs, taken together, one observes that the principal message that the Lady is insisting on is this:  her son Jesus is sending her among us because His and her hearts are hurt by the many sins of humanity.  


"Mary is manifesting her own and her Son’s pain by the tears of blood that appear on the statue of the Immaculate Conception and by her tears during the apparitions; by means of thorns that emerge from Angelik’s body;  by thorns that appear on the statue, and by a heart, pierced by a thorn, that appeared on the hand of the statue. This heart is also bleeding.  Some of the sins that the Lady is referring to are: abortion, euthanasia, pornography, child abuse, divorce, adultery, the bad use of sex and the internet, wars, and the wrongs perpetrated by priests and religious. The Lady’s cry in view of these sins is for the conversion of Malta, Gozo, and the whole world.  The Lady also states that by means of conversion, natural disasters, even here in Malta , and wars on an international level could be avoided.  In a special way, the Lady is asking for prayer for the conversion of five particular countries: Iran, Russia, America, China, and Australia ."


The remedy given: Eucharist, Confession, fasting, and penance.


But what is one to say when the exudations from a statue are unsightly? Do we toss it all out? What about thorns?


Discernment: usually not an easy task.


"One of the messages the Lady is emphasizing," it goes on, "is about radical conversion, even within the Church. She often laments that her heart and the heart of her Son Jesus are in pain because of the weaknesses of priests, and the collapse of families. She wants a renewal of the Church, in the same way as it was renewed in the time of St Francis of Assisi . The Lady wants Christians to feel for each other, to truly love one another, and to take notice of the poor around them. It is interesting to note that oil is materializing on a statue of St. Francis in Angelik’s house."

We must be cautious. Back in Ireland, just two months before the latest Knock event, a man who worked with the visionary died in a tragic car accident right after his wife had given birth. These are prayer needs: pray for folks like this, and test each spirit with much prayer, reading of Scripture, and regular fasting (or best to leave it alone). The greatest prophecies: events occurring around us.

[resources: The Medjugorje Fasting Book and Freed and Healed]

[see also: Irish 'seer' releases 'message' and Report: ocean fish could disappear in forty years]

[Michael Brown retreat in Pittsburgh: preparing for the afterlife, protecting ourselves now]

[Feedback: from John Schutzius: "Regarding Pedro’s Prophesies, I sense that they have more of an occult character to them than authentic prophecy. \First, mush of the language of individual prophesies can be interpreted in multiple ways – much like the Sybils of ancient Rome. Second, the sheer volume makes me suspect them. Contrast that to the brevity of the prophesies at Akita, Lourdes, Fatima and La Salette. It brings to my mind the woman with the clairvoyant spirit who followed St. Paul around until he exorcised her. Also, note the absolute (rather than contingent) character of many of his words, and the subsequent 'missed' predictions – those that do not come to pass. The acid test of any prophesy is the personal life of the prophet (no apparent problem there from public accounts), and whether or not the events predicted come to pass. Many of the prophesies I encountered (and gave) while in the charismatic movement were of this type, and often the words that I heard from 'anointed prophets' did not come to pass. For this reason, I avoid placing much credence in them. Fatima, Akita, and Lourdes on the other had, are different both in the nature and the veracity of the messages. In all three there were miracles or unmistakable signs that these were of Divine origin. Healings, prodigies, the changes noted in the personal lives of the visionaries – these point to the authenticity of the events."] 

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