The Mysticism of Mary:
The Ancient Feminine Force of the Catholic Faith
A stained glass depiction of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
The 2nd part of this series focused on the stylized art forms which have traditionally presented the Virgin Mary as the “Universal Mother” as part of her mystique as Catholicism’s force of the ancient feminine. As mentioned at the end of Part II in the modern day the Virgin Mary is associated with two other predominant images, neither of which make any kind of reference to the Bible nor even to the Blessed Mother’s actual life.
The images both Christian and non-Christian alike have commonly associated most with the Mother of Christ throughout the 20th and into the 21st century are of a purely mystical nature, since Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal are part of a long list of locations where a specific event has occurred that can best be described in layman’s terms as “supernatural”. Each location is said to have had a “Marian Apparition” take place there.
Marian Apparition – a supernatural event in which the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to one or more persons regardless of their religious faith.
According to Wikipedia, each apparition “is often named after the town where it is reported”, such as Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, , etc. and is said to “recur at the same site over an extended period of time” with either one or a small handful of people witnessing the apparition at the time of its original occurrence.
The first Marian Apparition according to Catholic legend is believed to have taken place in 1214 when the Blessed Mother appeared before a monk and gave to him a prayer tool specifically designed for devotion to her.
This monk would not only become the founder of a religious order which would bear his name as well as eventually be canonized, the man who became St. Dominic is credited with introducing his order of Dominican monks and the Catholic Faith overall to the prayer tool the Blessed Mother gave him known today as the Rosary.
It’s believed the Catholic prayer beads of devotion to the Blessed Mother known as the “Rosary” or “Rosary Beads” were a gift to the world from the Blessed Mother herself when they were presented to St. Dominic with the first supposed Marian Apparition in 1214.
Apparitions of the Virgin Mary are much more than simply the Blessed Mother making her passive presence known to a choice few. Many of the locales Our Lady appears in seem to consistently be at a pivotal or crucial turning point in History at the time of the original sighting with unforeseen strife, disaster, or war soon to descend upon the area, as in the case of Our Lady of Rwanda with Mary appearing in 1981, a few years before the attempted genocide of the Tutsi population and that same year the Blessed Mother also appearing in Medjugorje not long before the Bosnian War took place which brought about an end to the former Yugoslavia.
Many times Our Lady has appeared to children who are close to approaching adolescence as with St. Bernadette of Lourdes being 14 when the Blessed Mother first appeared to her in 1858, along with the three cousin children of Fatima who were 9 and 10 years old when Mary appeared to them in 1917, as well as the visionaries of Medjugorje being between the ages of 10 – 16 when Our Lady first appeared to them in 1981.
With every apparition, Mary comes bearing warning for the world at large. The Blessed Mother will show those she appears before prophetic visions of what is to come, especially if humanity should turn more and more away from prayer or if we as a society actively forsake making good intentions for ourselves and our neighbor.
Besides prophetic visions, the Blessed Mother has also been known to provide those she appears before with various “secrets” concerning the world at large. Many of these secrets deal with world events that have yet to come to pass and are told with the intent of being revealed to the world at large at some point in the future. Sometimes the person is meant to relay their secret to a person of prominent importance like a world leader and other times the secret is given for only the recipient to hear.
Each Apparition of Mary has taken place at various points in History and in various locations around the globe, however nearly all of them feature some variation or another of the above mentioned parameters.
Marian Apparitions have occurred throughout the world and seeing them displayed together on the same global map is worth noting:
Over the centuries some sources say there have been over 2,500 claims of Marian Apparitions made in total, with approximately 380 of those claims made during the 20th century alone. Of the 2500, the Vatican has only confirmed a handful as being authentic with sources ranging from 8 Vatican approved Marian Apparitions to 16. The Marian locations that have officially been given “supernatural” status by the Vatican whose shrines draw the most crowds in the modern day are as follows:
– Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico, 1531
– Our Lady of Laus, France, 1664
– Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Paris, France, 1830
– Our Lady of La Salette, France, 1846
– Our Lady of Lourdes, France, 1858
– Our Lady of Gietzrwald, Poland, 1877
– Our Lady of Knock, Ireland, 1879
– Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal, 1917
– Our Lady of Beauraing, Belgium, 1932
– Our Lady of Rwanda, Rwanda, 1981
A Marian location that is active with Apparitions of the Blessed Mother right through to the present day (the most recent being June 2, 2018) that is still under Vatican investigation is in the small Bosnian village of Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia. Located in the general vicinity of the city of Mostar, considered a bridge between the Christian West and the Ottoman or Muslim East, Our Lady of Medjugorje first appeared in the same year as Our Lady of Rwanda, 1981 to 6 teenagers ranging in age from 16 – 10. All of the former teenagers are still alive today with each visionary still receiving yearly visits from the Blessed Mother while others like Mirjana receiving visions from Mary on a monthly basis. It must be mentioned Our Lady of Medjugorje first appeared to the six young people on June 24th, 1981 during the Zodiacal time of Cancer, the sign euphemistically called “the sign of the Mother”.
We will look further into the Mysteries of Medjugorje after first focusing on two “official” Marian Apparitions and their mystical images a bit further: Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
On the morning of December 9th,1531 the Virgin Mary appeared before a 57 year old Aztec shepherd named Juan Diego in Mexico. She appeared to him on top of a hill telling him to seek out the local bishop and explain what he had seen so a church could be built in her honor at that site. Juan Diego found the bishop later that day and did exactly what Mary had instructed of him. When hearing what had occurred, the bishop of Mexico City promptly turned Juan Diego away. After chastising him for making up fantastical tall tales, while dismissing Juan Diego the bishop then mentions he would need visual proof if any kind of church was to be built, of which he certainly had none. Dejected, Juan Diego is visited by the Virgin Mary for a second time that same day where She inquires how he fared with the bishop. Upon telling the Blessed Mother that the bishop requires visual proof, Mary then tells Juan Diego to fetch her some flowers which he must return to the bishop and suddenly the barren hill in the December cold is covered in Castilian roses which are not native to Mexico.
Juan Diego carries as many roses as he can using his cloak and unloads them before the bishop’s feet upon his return. But the Aztec man is then stunned to discover the roses weren’t his only form of visual proof he carried on his person. Etched within the fabric of his cloak or “tilda” is the image (seen above) that is known the world over today as “Our Lady of Guadalupe”.
This of course results in a shrine being immediately built and St. Juan Diego becoming the first indigenous person from the Americas to be canonized by the Catholic Church.
Of the many astounding factors associated with this Marian Apparition, four things must be mentioned.
– When the Blessed Mother appeared before Juan Diego, she spoke to him in his native Aztec language of Nahuatl, not Spanish as many presume.
– The “tilda” or cloak of St. Juan Diego still exists today and has been put through modern scientific testing. The results are nothing short of miraculous.
Richard Kuhn who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry has stated the colors used in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe are neither man made nor are they even part of the natural world since they are colorings that are neither animal nor mineral based along with the fact synthetic colors did not exist in the year 1531.
– The cloak which is made of cactus fiber was put under infrared investigation and scientists could not explain how the tilda shows no signs of paint brush strokes nor of any paint for that matter.
-In 2001, digital testing of the tilda revealed that Mary’s eyes reflect an image. Microscopic images can be seen reflected in the Virgin’s irises and pupils showing a native man standing directly above with an older man in robes with a white beard seated nearby and another man standing behind him. In other words, the image reflected in Mary’s eyes are from her perspective while IN the cloak when it was first unfurled with the native man being Juan Diego, the man with the white beard being the bishop and it is theorized the man standing behind him being an interpreter for the two.
– Additional digital testing affirmed the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was not made “by human hand” and that its colors changed depending on the angle of where a person was while looking at it, a phenomenon which is not possible to be of human making, most especially in the year 1531. Scientists were further baffled upon observing that the center of the Virgin’s pupils have not one but two additional imprinted images separate from the above mentioned scene, a different image for each eye.
The right pupil reflects an indigenous Aztec family of a mother, father, and several children.
The left pupil reflects a woman with her arms outstretched and what appears to be many children behind her.
The miraculous mysticism associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe could be the main reason why the Shrine is the most visited Catholic site in the world and the third most visited site globally, religious or otherwise.
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
or Our Lady of Grace
On the parish grounds of the church I attended growing up in rural Connecticut called St. Lawrence, a life-sized alabaster sculpture of the Blessed Mother stood outside just beyond the grammar school’s gymnasium that was identical to the picture below:
Little did I know the statue was a classic reproduction of the iconic image of the Blessed Mother known as “Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal” or its other title of equal veneration, “Our Lady of Grace”.
This version of the Blessed Mother’s image is by far the representation people in the modern day associate most with the Virgin Mary. Go to any given Italian, Polish, or Latino neighborhood and you’re bound to find Our Lady of Grace in a bathtub sticking halfway out of the ground in someone’s back yard as a garden sculpture much like the picture below which many refer to as “Our Lady of the Bathtub”:
Despite being so commonly well known, the iconic images of both the Virgin of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal are thoroughly mystical and both are believed to have been provided by the apparition of the Blessed Mother, herself.
Mary as the force of the Catholic Faith’s ancient feminine is truly astounding with Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal when considering the life of the woman whom the Blessed Mother appeared before….along with her “post-life” as well.
How the iconic image of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal came to be…
In 1830 Paris, Catherine Laboure was a novitiate after just entering the order of nuns who served as nurses known as the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
Catherine chose that particular religious order due to encountering what she believed was the ghost of St. Vincent de Paul as a girl. She claimed an elderly priest appeared before her while walking home from Mass one day. She stared the old man down while walking backwards not taking her eyes off of him, since at first she thought he was demonic.
The next time she walked home from Mass she chose a different route but the aged priest appeared before her yet again saying, “You run away from me now, but one day you will gladly come to me. God has designs for you. Do not forget that.”
When Catherine was a teenager she went to visit a sick friend who was in a hospital run by the Sisters of Charity. She was shocked to discover the reception area having a portrait of the old priest who appeared before her as a girl. When she asked who he was she was informed “That’s our founder, St. Vincent de Paul.”
Around 1130 PM, on July 18th the eve of St. Vincent’s Feast Day in 1830 Catherine the novitiate was awoken by a 4 year old child dressed all in white who said to her “Get up and go inside the chapel, Catherine. The Blessed Virgin waits for you there.”
With the child whom Catherine believed was her guardian angel leading her by the hand, she entered an empty chapel that strangely had every candle lit inside as if it were Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Catherine then heard a sound from a corner and seated before her was a woman in glittering white robes and a blue veil. Catherine couldn’t help but kneel at the woman’s feet and place her head on her lap in what she would come to remember as “the happiest moment of my life”.
Our Lady said to her that night, “My child, the good God wishes to give you a mission. Later I shall let you know what it is. You will have much to suffer. But do not be afraid.”
Like St. Juan Diego Mary came a second time to Catherine in the chapel, this time 4 months later on the evening of November 27th, 1830.
It was on that night the Blessed Mother gave Catherine a vision of what she would later describe as “living paintings”. A frame appeared above and around Mary whose hands were now covered in numerous jewel encrusted rings. Rays of rainbow colored light emanated from most, but not all of the rings. Our Lady stood upon a globe and under her feet was a fanged serpent encircled underneath. Mary’s heel slowly crushed the head of the serpent as she said:
“These rays symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them. The gems from which rays do not fall are the graces for which souls forget to ask.”
Catherine’s vision then became multi-dimensional because she claimed seeing “the back” simultaneously which showed the letter “M” with a Cross above it and 2 hearts both pierced with swords beneath it. She then heard the Blessed Mother say:
“Have a medal made according to this model. For those who wear it with confidence, there will be abundant graces.”
Catherine relayed her vision to an artist who designed a medal to her instructions and thus emerged Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal:
Not long after that mystical evening, Catherine went from being a novitiate to a fully vested Sister of Charity. She was stationed at a Hospice Care Center in Paris where for over forty years she tended to the sick and dying. Sister, later to become Saint Catherine Laboure died on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 1876.
Brad’s very own, worn with total and complete “confidence” Miraculous Medal
But our mystical tale does not end with Saint Catherine’s death, my good readers! There’s more.
Let’s continue by adding a new term hitherto not discussed:
Incorruptibility – an inexplicable phenomenon where a human body avoids the normal process of decomposition after death. Bodies that undergo little or no decomposition, or delayed decomposition, are sometimes referred to as incorrupt or incorruptible.
Believe it or not boys and girls, not only is Saint Catherine Laboure’s dead body incorrupt but the corpse of the visionary who experienced the Blessed Mother at Lourdes, St. Bernadette, is also incorrupt and while we’re on the non-decaying subject, the dead body of the founder of the Sisters of Charity, Saint Vincent de Paul is also incorruptible as well. And the man died only a mere 460 years ago in 1660??!!
St. Catherine’s incorrupt body is on display in a glass coffin in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and St. Bernadette’s incorrupt body is on display at the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Don’t believe me? These incorruptible photos might propel any doubting Thomases of the modern day into better comprehending that which incomprehensible:
A drawing of St. Catherine Laboure while alive as a Sister of Charity (left) and while dead as an incorrupt corpse laid out at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (right).
A close up shot of the incorruptible corpse of St. Catherine Laboure on display at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (note the hands holding her rosary).
A photo of the incorrupt corpse of the visionary whom the Blessed Mother appeared to at Lourdes – St. Bernadette Soubirous.
It would seem the next best thing to having one’s own Assumption is having your lifeless corpse become incorruptible…..
Your author couldn’t make this stuff even if he tried! Cut my heart out and call me incorruptible!
She Who Brings Light to the Deepest of Darkness
A close up of the Blessed Mother’s foot crushing the head of the serpent of Evil.
One final mystical, ancient feminine thought. The icons of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal share a common visual thread – Both show the Blessed Mother standing on a globe as well as a Crescent Moon with her left heel crushing the head of a largely fanged serpent encircled beneath her.
As stated earlier, Mary as the Catholic Church’s force of the ancient feminine is not something to be seen as static, passive or just plain old, old. The Blessed Mother is Catholicism’s fiercest protector of the Faith as symbolized by Our Lady’s tranquil face all while slowly crushing the head of the serpent of Evil and Darkness with her left foot.
Similar to the intense authority of the Archangel Michael, the power Our Lady wields against the forces of Darkness is a force to be reckoned with and Heaven Help those who try to obstruct the Blessed Mother from protecting her children!
Case in point, while watching a video of the most recent Marian Apparition that appeared to the visionary Mirjana this past June 2nd in Medjugorje, as she is in a transfixed state and in direct communication with Our Lady one can hear in the background the blood curdling screams and spat cursing made by a person who cannot be called anything other than someone who is demonically possessed. To be sure, hearing this poor soul’s tortured wailings was unsettling, but it then occurred to me that when dealing with the Catholic Church’s force of the ancient feminine, anything associated with the darkness of Evil is forced to reveal its presence should it be even remotely near that most bountiful, beautiful, and benevolent source of loving light otherwise known as Our Blessed Mother.
Blessed Be & Ave Regina Coeli!
*Brad Kronen’s book “Love in the Stars” published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Inc. is available for purchase at your local book seller or online at amazon.com at the link listed below.