How many times has Mary appeared in history and where?

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The church considers Marian apparitions open for selective acceptance and devotion.

This is a loaded question. The Vatican supplies no exact number of Marian apparitions. The current spokesperson for the Marianum Pontifical Institute in Rome, Father Salvatore Perrella, reports that nine apparitions have been declared worthy of belief in the last century. This doesn’t imply they occurred in the past century, only that they were examined in that period. The lists of bona fide Mary sightings are generally confined to less than a dozen, including: Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico, 1531), Laus (France, 1664), Rue du Bac/Miraculous Medal (France, 1830), La Salette (France, 1846), Lourdes (France, 1858), Pontmain (France, 1871), Knock (Ireland, 1879), Fatima (Portugal, 1917), Beauraing (Belgium, 1932), and Banneux (Belgium, 1933). Recently, Green Bay, Wisconsin’s own Our Lady of Good Help (1859) was granted local devotional approval.

No doubt some will be concerned that Medjugorje isn’t on that list, but the inquiry into these apparitions hasn’t been concluded. In fact, about 300 Marian sightings from the 20th century alone have been or are being considered in Syria, Japan, Korea, and Rwanda, as well as across Latin America and Europe. How frequently have such claims have been made in the past? Estimates careen widely between 1,500 and 21,000 apparitions, including eight sightings in the United States and six in Canada. Whichever number is more credible, the vast majority of these claims received only limited or local interest.

When did Mary start showing up? According to tradition, the apostle James first encountered Our Lady in Zaragoza, Spain in the year 40. Saint Gregory of Nyssa avowed a personal experience of Mary, and the construction of St. Mary Major Basilica was prompted by an apparition—both in the 4th century. Marian apparitions remained rare until the second millennium. Since then, sightings have multiplied. Still, the messages received have been fairly uniform. Our Lady encourages conversion, prayer, penance, and reconciliation. She offers rosaries, medals, scapulars, and healings. She prevents invasions and ends wars. The recipients of these apparitions are most often poor children or humble adults.

What are we to make of all this? The church considers Marian apparitions open for selective acceptance and devotion. These private revelations “do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith” and “it is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation.” (CCC 67) This is church-speak for: belief in apparitions isn’t required, and must not contradict the faith of Christians.


Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations, by Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1978

Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, by Hilda Graef (Ave Maria Press, 2009)

Reprinted with permission from ©TrueQuest Communications.

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