In the December issue of National Geography, award winning journalist Maureen Orth wrote a 13-page article headlined, “How the Virgin Mary Became the World’s Most Powerful Woman.”
It’s highly educational for all, regardless of one’s religion. For the first time in my life, I learned that Muslims in earlier days of history considered Mary to be holy above all women, and that her name “Maryam” in Muslim appears in Koran more often than “Mary” in the Bible. How interesting!
With her keen eye and her in-depth knowledge of scriptures about Marian worship, Orth leads readers through many places she visited in 2014, the places the Blessed Virgin appeared and delivered her repeated messages of repentance, prayer for troubled souls and world peace.
I, too, have been to Lourdes, France, where “the Lady” appeared in 1858 to a 14-year old peasant girl named Bernadette, who obediently drank the muddy water that had sprung from bare dirt when she dug it as the Lady had told her, and washed her face, too, as the sign of her faith. Since 1860, hundreds of millions of pilgrims have flocked in Lourdes to “drink” and “wash” from the spring, as Bernadette had done, and of those, the Roman Catholic Church has officially declared that 67 people were miraculous healed from the power of the water.
Six decades later, on May 13, 1917, in Fatima, Portugal, Mary appeared to three shepherd children — Lucia, 10, and her two cousins, Francisco 9, and Jacinta, 6. The Lady gave messages similar to what she told Bernadette, emphasizing fasting and making sacrifices as reparations for the sinners.
Her prediction of Russia abandoning Christianity was one of her secrets told to the children. The word spread around the world, and on October 13th of that year, about 7,000 people from all over the world watched what’s known as the Miracle of the Sun, during which “the silver sun enveloped in gauzy purple light,whirled and turned in the circle of broken clouds and spread itself over people who knelt with out stretched hands…” according to The Lisbon Daily.
Orth also talks about Medjugorje, a village in Bosnia near the border of Croatia, where Mary first appeared in 1981 to six shepherd children aged 10 to 16 and is supposedly still appearing regularly to the same children of 36 years ago.
Unlike Orth’s report, National Geography’s TV documentary “Cult of Mary” caused me doubt about the groups that sprang from Medjugorje. Claiming that he heard Mary’s call to begin a community in his farm in the outskirts of Birmingham, Ala., Terry Colafrancesco created a community called “Caritas of Birmingham and A Friend of Medjugorje” more than 30 years ago after his pilgrimage there.
In reality, however, he held the people hostages for years, not allowing them to have contact with their families. An online post written by a Franciscan friar, Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic, who works at Medjugorje, reads, “…I express my deep concerns for the organization called CARITAS of Birmingham, Alabama. … We are afraid that there might be lack of respect for family relationships, mutual respect, respect for the church authority… (and) respect for property of family members who are there now and (who) left the community.”
In Naju, South Korea, a mother of four children named Julia Kim has been in the news since 1982 — first with her vision of Jesus with His bleeding heart and asking her to suffer for him as the reparation for the conversion of sinners, and then, three years later, her Marian statue shedding tears of blood, which she interpreted as the signs of Mary’s pain and sorrow for the unborn Korean children exterminated in their mother’s womb. The abortion rate is much higher in Korea than anywhere in the world.
Another claim — the Eucharist turning bloody human flesh in her mouth — is yet another phenomenon, which was witnessed by the leaders of the church, both local and visiting bishops from abroad. Bishop Roman Danylak of Toronto made a sworn testimony on this matter, saying that on Sept. 22, 1995, at 5 p.m. in an open-air celebration on the grounds where a new church was to be erected, he and two other priests celebrating with him saw the Sacred Host received by Julia Kim changed to living flesh and blood!
Julia Kim and a Korean priest, Julia’s longtime supporter, were excommunicated in 2008 by the bishop of their diocese. But instead of diminishing, the number of her supporters is growing steadily.
Believing is a tricky business for all. While no one should blindly believe anything without thorough examination, the truth is that life is full of mysteries.
This year is passing and a new year will be here shortly. Rather than trying to figure out something I can’t, I want to dwell on certain facts as Christmas will be here shortly and all my three daughters and their families are coming to spend holidays with my husband and me!
Happy holidays for all!
Retired musician and freelance columnist Therese Park has written three novels about Korea’s modern history. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.