It is an undisputed fact that the most Blessed Virgin Mary is to play a unique part in the end times. On the one hand, one can perceive the extraordinary development of Catholic doctrine as to her person and mission (Mariology) and on the other, she manifests herself ever more frequently in various apparitions rigorously examined and approved by the Church. At the same time holy personages arise, whose life, writings, and activity indicate a particular intervention of the Mother of God, who uses them as her instruments in realizing the most astounding ventures in the history of the Church. The cult of Our Lady among the faithful has steadily grown and as a consequence lives have overflowed with holiness as well as a resolute resistance against all forms of evil, i.e., heresies, immorality, or governments bereft of religion.
The Development of Mariology
In the first centuries of the Church the cult of the most Blessed Virgin Mary was very vigorous as attested to by countless texts of the Fathers of the Church. Already in the second century, St. Justin l and St. Irenaeus2 taught that she was the “New Eve” cooperating with the New Adam, Jesus Christ, for the redemption of souls. By then, SS. Ephraim, Ambrose, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, German of Constantinople, and John Damascene extol her immaculate conception.
The greatest veneration was paid to Mary as the “God-bearing one” Theotokos). The Church Fathers are nearly unanimous on this. The Council of Ephesus (431) proclaimed the first Marian dogma that Mary is truly the Mother of God:
If anyone does not profess that Emmanuel is truly God and therefore the Most Blessed Virgin is the Mother of God (because the Word of God became flesh in her womb) let him be anathema!3
The Marian spirituality of the Fathers of the Church is particularly manifested by the sacred liturgy of the East in its magnificent composition Hymnos Akathistos, a long litany in honor of the Mother of God which presents her various lofty aspects and grandeurs.
In the Middle Ages
The Marian cult evolved in the 12th century particularly through the recitation of the Holy Rosary. According to tradition, St. Dominic received the rosary from the hands of Our Lady while in the year 1251, .Simon Stock, reformer of the Carmel monastery, received from her what is known as the Scapular of Carmel (popularly known as the “Brown Scapular”), a miniature habit, the wearing of which bestows many graces, not the least of which is: “Whoever dies clothed in this garment shall not suffer eternal fire.” The Franciscan theological tradition endeavored to elucidate, as well as propagate, the teaching on the immaculate conception.
From the 19th Century
It was not until the 19th century that Mariology was once more revived through the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary4 by Pope Pius IX (1854) in his Bull Ineffabilis Deus. On the foundation of this dogma, the teaching on the spiritual motherhood of Mary evolved. Pope St. Pius X, in his encyclical Ad Diem Mum Laetissimum wrote:
Hence nobody ever knew Christ so profoundly as she did, and nobody can ever be more competent as a guide and teacher of the knowledge of Christ….Hence it follows, as We have already pointed out, that the Virgin is more powerful than all others as a means for uniting mankind with Christ ….For is not Mary the Mother of Christ? Then she is our Mother also. And we must in truth hold that Christ, the Word made Flesh, is also the Savior of mankind, He had a physical body like that of any other man: and again as Savior of the human family, He had a spiritual and mystical body, the society, namely, of those who believe in Christ….Therefore all we who are united to Christ, and as the Apostle says are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (Eph. 5:30), have issued from the womb of Mary like a body united to its head. Hence, though in a spiritual and mystical fashion, we are all children of Mary, and she is Mother of us all.
Another consequence of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not only did Pope Pius XII insert this Feast within the liturgical cycle as a holy day of higher rank (II Class) but also in closing his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, he consecrated the people of the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In his encyclical Octobri Mense6, Pope Leo XIII spoke of the Mother of God as Mediatrix of All Graces. Likewise, so did Pope St. Pius X in Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum7 and Pius XII in his encyclical on the universal Queenship of Mary, Ad Coeli Regina.8
By his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus (Nov. 1, 1959), Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, body and soul.9 In the preparatory work for the Second Vatican Council, the central committee received approximately 600 requests from the bishops who asked that the upcoming general council elaborate on the doctrine concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary. Amongst this number 311 insisted on the proclamation of the dogma “Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace” and 127 on the proclamation of other definitions, as for example, “Mary, Co-Redemptrix.”10
After the Second Vatican Council
The new ecumenical orientation within the Church together with the Council’s reforms sounded the death knell for theological development regarding the Mother of God. In the interreligious dialogue with non-Christian denominations there is no room for Mary, and among Protestants, Marian dogmas are an affront. It is incorrect to presume that contacts with the Orthodox Church regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary would not constitute a “problem.” Even here, however, impediments are encountered because the Orthodox do not recognize the dogmas proclaimed in the Catholic Church after the seventh or eighth General Councils. These factors have brought about a danger that the piety of the faithful is at risk to sever itself from its dogmatic base and therefore lose itself in subjective sentimentality or credulous attachment to false and heretical visions.
Apparitions of the Mother of God
Parallel with the unfolding of Catholic teaching regarding the Mother of God, Our Lady deigns to appear solemnly and more often to her children. In her past apparitions, it appears that their main purpose was the personal relationship between the visionary and the Mother of God herself or were directed for a particular monastery, a designated group of people, or to a specific country. Prominent apparitions of consequence for the whole world began only at the onset of the modern era. It seems that as the battle against God and His Church heats up and the Masonic spirit of materialism and liberalism flourishes unabated, the Mother of God personally intervenes ever more frequently in order to confirm Catholics in the Faith as well as to convey the appropriate remedies.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
When in Western Europe around eight million faithful were severed from the Catholic Church through the Protestant heresies, in Mexico the Mother of God appeared to Bl. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill (Dec. 9,10,12). The Immaculata requested that on the spot of the apparitions a church be constructed where “I will show the people all my love, mercy, compassion, help and protection.” When the bishop insisted upon a sign from her as an affirmation of authenticity, there appeared a miraculous image of Mary on the tilma (work apron) of Juan Diego, which he used to carry the roses off to the bishop.11 Around the miraculous image developed the cult of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In the archives of the Cathedral in Mexico are preserved testimonies and declarations of thousands of miracles which were obtained through the mediation of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Despite the heroic efforts of Catholic missionaries before the apparitions conversions were minimal, but as a result of the devotion that grew around this miraculous image, by which the Indians understood the triumph of the Mother of God over their gods, 10 million people embraced Catholicism,12 and South America converted as a result. By the middle of the 20th century, 17 congregations bore the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.13
Painting depicting the miracle crowning the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Juan Diego unfolds his mantle to show Bishop Zumarraga winter roses picked on Tepayac Hill, unaware of the image.
Miraculous Medal (1830)
The aftermath of the French Revolution saw the gradual destruction of the whole Christian social order in the European countries. In 1830, a new revolution erupted in Paris, France, a portent of the birth of Socialism and Communism. Precisely at that moment, also in Paris, in the convent church of the Sisters of Mercy, the Mother of God appeared to Catherine Labouré, a novice. Our Lady requested prayer and penance as reparation for the sins of those who were godless and steeped in impurity. During the second apparition Catherine beheld a frame of light forming around the Blessed Virgin and above her head in a semi-circle, in letters of gold, the words: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.” The Blessed Virgin Mary requested Sr. Catherine Labouré to “have a medal struck according to this model. All those who wear it shall receive many graces; those who shall wear it with confidence will obtain singular graces!” After many obstacles the first medals were ready by the year 1832. It came to be known as the “miraculous medal” through the innumerable miracles which were realized and continue to be granted through its instrumentality throughout the whole world: conversions, healings and supernatural help.14
La Salette (1846)
“Lock the church up in the sacristy.” It is under this slogan that society is systematically laicized, in other words, this quip infers that Jesus Christ is no longer to reign in public and national institutions. The emerging constitutions of various nations are to be no longer based on the law of God, but rather on the “rights of man” which were broadcast during the French Revolution. This secularization, for the average individual, is a clear sign of the violation of Church law which has a direct bearing on the social life of Catholics: for example, the prohibition of working on Sunday or that of publishing atheistic or immoral literature, etc. Within the bosom of the Church, especially in France, the spirit of liberal Catholicism began to manifest itself in the clergy which desired to reconcile the principles of revolution with the Church. Despite the condemnation of the principles of liberal Catholicism by Pope Gregory XVI in his Bull Mirari Vos, this spirit quickly diffused throughout Europe. This heralded the beginning of Modernism. During this period (and again in France), the Mother of God was to appear again. She visited the little mountain village of La Salette. Here she appeared to two shepherds, Melanie and Maximin. Her message came to be known as “the apocalypse of the Mother of God,” wherein she treated of the end times and of Antichrist. In a frightful manner, she described the fall of the clergy and the apostasy of nations, and called for prayer and penance.
St. Bernadette Soubirous
The Basilica at Lourdes, France.Fatima (1917)
In these 18 apparitions the Mother of God imparted to the visionary, Bernadette Soubirous, the entire spiritual program by which each Catholic should direct himself in his own life. On Feb.18, she said, “I promise to make you happy, not in this life but the next.” On Feb. 21, “Pray for sinners.” “Penance, penance, penance!” (Feb. 24). “I am the Immaculate Conception!” (Mar. 25). This is the revelation of the deepest mystery of Our Lady’s interior life. On this subject, St. Maximilian Kolbe wrote:
And this privilege must be very dear to her if in Lourdes she declares: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” She does not say, “I am immaculately conceived,” but “I am the Immaculate Conception,” which infers that she is Immaculateness itself…Is there a difference between the expressions “Immaculate Conception” and “immaculately conceived”? The difference which exists is as in, for example, “white” and “whiteness.” If it is white, it can still get dirty, but whiteness does not undergo any alteration.15
At Lourdes, the Immaculata laid the spiritual and theological foundation for her role in the latter times:
The goal of each person is to belong to God through Jesus Christ, our Mediator with the Father, and to belong to Jesus Christ through the Immaculata, Mediatrix of all grace [St. Maximilian Kolbe].16
The hallmark of this auspicious year seems to have been the victory of the spirit of irreligion and the rise of atheistic Communism in Russia as well as the official anniversary of the rise of masonry and its triumph in Western Europe, but most significantly in Rome. The Fatima apparitions are the apex of the Marian movement of the latter times. Through the propagation of the devotion to her Immaculate Heart the Church has had to elucidate the importance of the Immaculata and advance authoritatively the definition of “Mediatrix of All Grace” to the world. On July 13, 1917, the seers of Fatima see a vision of Hell as well as countless souls on the road to eternal damnation. “In order to save them God wants to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world.”17
In the face of Satan’s victory in the world through the machinations of Communism and masonry, the Mother of God once more offers herself to the people “as the last rung of hope.” This last resort is her Immaculate Heart to which the whole world is to be consecrated, but particularly Russia. The Third Secret of Fatima was recently “revealed” by the Church authorities but their interpretation is suspect. Generally, the essence of the contents is calculated to speak of the victory of Satan within the Church through apostasy and Modernism. In this most difficult time of the mystical martyrdom of the Church our last resort is to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In order to confirm the importance of the Fatima message, heaven ordained that 70,000 pilgrims would witness the “Miracle of the Sun” (Oct. 13, 1917). In the following years the Fatima message, as well as the ensuing Marian devotion, exerted a great influence on the whole life of the Church.
There is no doubt that all the saints were zealous devotees of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If we speak here of “Marian saints” it means that these saints consecrated themselves and all their activities in a particular manner to the Mother of God. Some examples are St. Ephrem of Syria (5th c.), St. Bernard of Clairvaux (12th c.) and in the latter centuries, SS. Louis Maria Grignion de Montfort, John Berchmans, Alphonsus de Liguori, Catherine Labouré, Bernadette, and Maximilian Kolbe. To these maybe added a great number of blessed, as for example, Melanie Calvat, the visionary from La Salette; the servant of God, Fr. Chaminade, the founder of the Marianists; and Jacinta and Francisco Marto, the children of Fatima.
The common trait of these widely diversified saints is their unreserved consecration to the Mother of God: to become “a servant of Mary” (St. Alphonsus and St. John Berchmans), “a slave of Mary” (St. Louis), “possession of the Immaculate” (St. Maximilian), “property of Mary” (Fr. Chaminade). In the measure that they realize this goal, their life of virtue becomes more and more heroic. Love of Our Lady leads them to bear all sacrifices and sufferings for the glory of God and as recompense for the offenses committed against the majesty of God. At the same time the zeal for the salvation of souls grows stronger. Through this thirst for the salvation of souls from eternal perdition there arise great missionary activities, religious congregations, apostolic fraternities as well as concrete works such as churches, convents, pilgrimages, and means of mass communication in the service of the Mother of God.