For the faithful, Virgin Mary sightings bring comfort and promises of graces. Skeptics look for signs of deceit or psychosis when breaking down these stories. Both believers and nonbelievers can’t help but to be intrigued by the idea that Mary would appear to deliver messages of hope and warning to specific people throughout history. The spots where the Virgin Mary has appeared have gone on to become pilgrimage sites. Millions gather each year in search of hope, comfort and healing. Take a look at six Virgin Mary sightings that bring both comfort and questions.
6. Our Lady of Lourdes
Date: February to July of 1858
Location: Near Lourdes, France
In February 1858, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous encountered a beautiful woman at a grotto located just outside of Lourdes, France.
Bernadette reported having a total of 18 encounters with the lady between February and July. It wasn’t until the third apparition that the beautiful woman with a white veil and golden roses on each foot spoke to Bernadette. The girl was asked to return to the grotto every day for a number weeks. During the visits, the woman asked Bernadette to complete a number of tasks. Bernadette was to have a chapel built at the site of the apparition and pray for the conversion of souls. Most curious of all was a request for Bernadette to drink from a spring at the grotto – there was no spring to be found.
For Bernadette, these encounters didn’t make her life easy. She was viewed with suspicion before ultimately being detained and interrogated by local authorities. However, many people in the town came to her defense. More believers were won over when Bernadette unearthed a beautiful spring in the dirt exactly where the Virgin Mary said it would be. People soon began reporting miracles after consuming or bathing in the waters from the spring.
“I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other,” Our Lady of Lourdes told Bernadette. Young Bernadette suffered from both physical and emotional pain of jealousy and accusations following her miraculous encounter. She was ultimately declared a saint of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius XI in 1933. Her body has remained incorrupt since her death at the age of 35 in 1879. The apparition at Lourdes has gone on to gain Church approval and become one of the largest pilgrimage sites for Christians.
5.Virgin Mary Sightings: Our Lady of La Salette
Date: September of 1846
Location: La Salette-Fallavaux, France
Did Mother Mary foretell of the European Potato Failure that sparked mass hunger during meetings with two children in the French countryside?
Two children named Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat in a small French hamlet called Salette claimed they received messages from the Virgin Mary. These warned of sorrowful punishments if her words were not heeded. Weeping bitterly, Mary urged the children to invite humanity to respect the command to rest on the seventh day out of love for God. She also warned that a chastisement in the form of a potato scarcity would be brought forth if people did not change their ways. Curiously, these apparitions occurred just prior to the major potato blight spanning the winter of 1846/1847.
Maximin and Mélanie described the woman they saw as being clothed in a white robe dotted with pearls. She was also adorned with a headdress, roses at her feet and a crucifix around her neck. The apparition of Our Lady of La Salette was investigated for five years before receiving Church approval. In addition to the warnings shared during the apparition, two secrets were given to the children that have never been revealed.
4. Our Lady of Guadalupe
Date: December of 1581
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Using dye not known in this world, the Virgin Mary left a man named Juan Diego with a beautiful cloak. It was inscribed with her image and scientists still can’t recreate it today. The site of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world today.
In December 1531, young Juan Diego encountered a young woman at a spot called the Hill of Tepeyac. This is just outside of Mexico City. She would appear to him during a series of Virgin Mary sightings. Speaking in Diego’s native language, the woman asked for a church to be built at the spot where they stood. Few believed Diego’s account at first. However, the Virgin Mary left Diego with a relic of their encounter that would silence all doubters.
Mary asked Juan Diego to gather roses for her at the top of Tepeyac Hill. This was odd for two reasons. The first was that nothing was in bloom because it was the middle of December. The second was that the roses the lady asked for were not native to Mexico. However, Juan found lovely, non-native Castilian roses blooming up there on the mountain. The Virgin Mary then arranged the flowers Diego had picked inside his cloak before departing. When Diego later opened his clock in front of his bishop, there remained a detailed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that still cannot be explained after decades of scientific examination.
3.Virgin Mary Sightings: Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Date: July 1830
Location: Rue du Bac, France
Worn around the necks of devoted Catholics around the world, the Miraculous Medal brings with it promises of graces and protection. The design of this familiar medal was given to Saint Catherine Labouré following her personal Virgin Mary sightings.
Catherine’s first encounter with the Blessed Virgin occurred after she was awakened by the voice of a child calling her to her chapel. It was there that Mary first spoke to her with a message of a special mission that God had for her.
Over the course of several visits, Mary appeared inside an oval frame with her feet balanced upon a globe. The rings on Mary’s fingers sprayed rays of light over the globe. The frame that the lady stood in appeared to rotate in a way that created a distinct circle of 12 stars. The letter M against a cross, an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and an image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a sword piercing it. Catherine was then instructed to go to her priest to let him know that the image was to be placed on medallions that would disperse graces to all who wore them. After two years of investigation, the images were finally created to these specifications.
Far from a fashion statement, the Miraculous Medal has been attributed to miracles and healings around the world. The list of miracles includes a death-row inmate being granted a stay of execution, a Belgium toddler having her sight restored, a young boy emerging from a coma and a worker surviving a fall into an elevator shaft. Many Catholics make pilgrimages to Rue du Bac today to visit the chapel where Saint Catherine Labouré’s incorrupt body rests.
2. Our Lady of Knock
Date: August of 1879
Location: Knock, Ireland
The story of our Lady of Knock begins with a village girl named Mary Byrne. She spotted what appeared to be three life-sized figures on the gable of the local church. Others in the town soon began to notice something strange occurring at the church. Witnesses in Knock claim that they could see images of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist. They could also see an altar adorned with a cross and lamb that symbolized Jesus.
Townspeople in Knock watched on for two hours. They prayed and stood in awe in the rain as the image stayed visible in the darkness of the night. Many claimed that the ground surrounding the apparition remained fully dry throughout the downpour. Unlike most Virgin Mary sightings, what happened at Knock didn’t come with any messages or instructions for those who saw it.
As a result, the direct message of Knock has never been fully understood. That hasn’t stopped thousands of believers from making pilgrimages to this Irish village every year for the past 150 years. In fact, there are rows of crutches and sticks left behind by the many who have come here in search of miraculous healing over the years. Having been visited by both Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II, Knock has gained approval from the Catholic Church.
1. Virgin Mary Sightings: Our Lady of Fátima
Date: October 1930
Location: Cova da Iria, in Fátima, Portugal
The “Miracle of the Sun” that took place in Fatima in October of 1930 remains one of the most mysterious Virgin Mary sightings on record. During a series of visits spanning from May to October of 1917, three children named Lúcia, Francisco and Jacinta Marto were asked to pray the rosary specifically for world peace, an end to World War I and the conversion of sinners.
The Virgin Mary promised the children that she would appear to perform a miracle on Oct. 13 to make her identify known. At the time, the children were facing much criticism and skepticism from people. Countless accounts claim that a supernatural event did happen that day.
A gentle rain had fallen all morning and the skies were still heavy with clouds. One of the children, Lucia, received her final prophecy from the Virgin Mary, who then lifted her hands to the sky. Suddenly the clouds parted, and the crowd witnessed what appeared to be the sun spiraling around in the sky while radiating vibrant colors. Many noticed that the soaked clothing on their backs suddenly became dry in an instant. At first, the crowd was thrilled with the spectacle, but when it seemed as if the sun was plummeting to the Earth, they grew frightened, with many kneeling in the mud to pray for mercy. Eventually the sun returned to its rightful place, leaving the crowd of onlookers stunned. According to news reports, the event lasted approximately ten minutes, but to some, it seemed much longer.
There has been much speculation about what really happened that day. Many believe that it was a legitimate miracle given to the people in order to restore their faith. Others believe that it was a type of mass hysteria or shared hypnosis. Some experts believe that because different people in the crowd had experiences unique to their perception, with some individuals seeing nothing at all, that the explanation is purely psychological. Regardless, the Church officially recognized the Miracle of the Sun as a legitimate miracle on October 13th, 1930.
Our Lady of Fatima continues to be one of the most controversial Virgin Mary sightings due to the three secrets that were revealed to the children. The first was a vision of hell that was given to Lúcia. The second secret involved a consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart with the establishment of the special First Saturdays Devotion.
At Lúcia’s insistence, the third secret was not to be revealed until 1960. However, the Vatican delayed publishing the secret until July of 2000.
The text of the secret contains imagery involving an angel with a flaming sword, a Bishop dressed in white and a city in ruins. This has left many to wonder if the third secret contains an apocalyptic vision or foretells of great trials for the Catholic Church.