The Word on the Week

Marian Activity

This is the 25th Anniversary of the moving statue of the Blessed Virgin at Ballinspittle. That was a year when we had many moving statues but few, if any, interpretations. Sightings and messages from the Blessed Virgin are not uncommon – indeed they are to be expected by Marian devotees at the various Marian shrines. One of these places, our own Knock got a bit of publicity recently when Dublin faith healer, Joe Coleman claimed that Mary would appear at Knock and named the day and the hour. After several of these predictions, all of which attract crowds, RTE did a programme this week entitled “Apparitions”. This explored, in a somewhat sceptical way, the events at Knock with contributions from journalists, medical people, priests and devotees. Apparently Mary appears in the sun which makes her hard to see and she is also hard to hear. However Joe both sees and hears her and many of his followers confirm that the sun “danced” in the sky. There is a hunger for the supernatural and Joe is meeting this need to the best of his ability. Folk Catholicism provides a fertile ground for the paranormal to flourish. Knock shrine itself was founded on such activities. What has the Bible to say about all this? It’s hard to find in it any supernatural appearance which did not say something sensible. The prophets prophesied and their prophesies were fulfilled mainly with the coming of Christ. Those surrounding his birth involve Mary, a virgin from the remnant of the peasant stock of Israel and were very explicit and clearly understood. Indeed they had been predicted in the past and were eagerly expected. References to Mary in Scripture are rather sparse but this is more than made up for by the body of theology built around her over the centuries. This in turn has created something of a parallel universe to that of the life and work of Christ. Out of it has come a climate for “folk driven” experiences and this partly explains the popularity of Joe’s channelling of Mary. People without the Bible want an authoritative word and one way or another they get it. The existing authorities are caught in a bind. If they say Mary has not spoken the people will react against them. If they say Mary has spoken, Joe would be perfectly entitled to ask why they do not support him. As Jesus would say it’s all a matter of where the authority comes from. (See Saint Matthew Chapter 21 verses 24 to 27.) I think it best to follow the One who has the authority. “Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Saint Matthew chapter 28 verses 18 to 20.