Apparitions and Miracles Associated with the Virgin Mary

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Our Lady of Guadalupe

An apparition is “a ghost or ghostlike image of a person” or “a remarkable or unexpected appearance of someone or something”. Maureen Orth wrote in National Geographic:““Her reported appearances, visions experienced often by very poor children living in remote or conflict-wracked areas, have intensified her mystery and aura. And when the children can’t be shaken from their stories — especially if the accounts are accompanied by inexplicable “signs” such as spinning suns or gushing springs — her wonder grows.[Source: Maureen Orth, National Geographic, December 2015]

Describing an apparition on the slopes of Mt. Etna, a Sicilian woman told journalist John McLaughlin, " Yes, the Madonna appears once a month, on the third...She always comes at the same time...three o'clock in the afternoon...Me, I've never seen her myself, but who knows. There are some people who are meant to see her, and other's who aren't. They say there have been miracles here, that people have been cured.”

Following the many paths of Mary, I learned that she has often appeared to people in crisis zones, such as Kibeho and Bosnia and Herzegovina, seeking to warn of danger or to serve as a symbol of healing. In her aftermath come physical cures said to be miraculous, as at Medjugorje, and spiritual healings too numerous to count.

Mary has many forms. In Haiti she’s been merged with Ezili Dantò — the Black Madonna. A fierce mother figure as well as a voodoo goddess of love, a revered in Haiti since the Haitian 1791-1804. Ezili Dantò is said to have appeared on a palm tree at sacred Saut d’Eau falls in 1849.Father Johann Roten, a Marian scholar, told National Geographic thatMary’s presence in the Caribbean can be traced to the merging of two cultures — Spanish Catholics and pre-Christian Africans — that began in the early 1500s. Periodically dancers perform a midnight ceremony in Mary’s honor at the falls. . [Source: National Geographic, December 2015]

Websites and Resources Holy See ; Catholic Online ; Catholic Encyclopedia ; Lives of the Saints: ; BBC on Christianity ; Candida Moss at the Daily Beast Daily Beast Christian Answers ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library ; Sacred Texts website ; Internet Sourcebook ;

Miracles in Catholicism

A miracle is defined by the Catholic Church as an "inexplicable recovery" that is "sudden, complete and lasting." Peter Stanford wrote for the BBC: “At various Marian shrines around the world, for instance, the Catholic Church believes that a small number of miracle cures of illness have been effected. [Source: Peter Stanford, BBC, June 29, 2011 |::|]

Miracles have always played a big part in winning converts to Christianity. They have come in the form of bleeding paintings of the Virgin Mary, talking images, miracle-working icons and saint's bones and frescoes that have been scraped off the wall and mixed with water and oils poured through the coffins of dead saints and drunk as a medicine.

British historian Robin Cormack wrote in the New York Times, "What could better demonstrate Christ's life on earth than a picture that shared all his powers of healing? Who needed to listen to theological quibbling over the nature of Christ if an icon could speak a thousand words?" In the early church miracles were performed by saints while they were alive. Later on, beginning in medieval times, most miracles were attributed to saints and others after they died.

Mary Apparitions Recognized and Not Recognized by the Catholic Church

Apparitions of the Virgin Mary that have been recognized by the Catholic church include: 1) In Paris in 1830 a novice nun named Catherine Laboure saw an image of the Virgin in a chapel and the image transformed into a “Miraculous Medal” used to worship Mary; 2) In Pontamain France in 1871 the Virgin appeared to four children who were urged to pray for Prussian troops to turn back. 3) In Knock Ireland in 1870 Mary, Joseph, John the Apostle and a lamb was seen by more than 15 people as they stood in the rain. 4) In 1933 in Beauraing, Belgium Mary appeared 33 times to five children, aged 9 to 15, in a garden. 5) In Banneaux, Belgium in 1933 a 12-year-old girl saw Mary eight times in a family garden.

Other apparition of the Virgin Mary that have been not been recognized by the Catholic church include: 1) in Amsterdam in 1945-59, Mary appeared many times to Ida Peerdeman promising world peace and asking for the titles "Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate”: 2) in Kibeho, Rwanda in 1981-89, visionaries saw images of genocide followed by an image of Mary calling for prayer; 3) in Medjurgorhe, Bosnia, a small town of 250 families in a Croatian enclave of Bosnia, where beginning in 1981, six children there have were said the had visions of Mary.

Famous Apparitions of Mary

Apparition of Mary on a coconiut tree in Silay, Negros, The Philippines

Our Lady of Guadalupe: In 1531 a peasant named Juan Diego claimed to see an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a the fields in Guadalupe near Mexico City. She asked that a church be built in her honor and for Juan Diego to gather flowers on a hillside, which he did. He placed the flowers in his cloak and afterwards an imprint of the Virgin Mary appeared on it.. There have not been any thorough scientific analyses of the so-called Our Lady of Guadalupe miracle and no one has provided a convincing explanation of how the painting-like image got there and how it has been preserved so well. [Source: Tia Ghose, Live Science, July 9, 2013 /+/]

Fatima: In 1917 in the fields near Fatima, Portugal, three shepherd children said the Virgin Mary appeared to them, telling them a miracle would occur on October 13 that year. Thousands came to witness the event. Around Noon on a rainy day, the sun appeared to turn into a spinning disk that spiraled toward the Earth. Newspaper reporters onsite reported the event. The church added the miracle to its list of officially-recognized miracles in 1930. Skeptics have point outed that the effect could have been a sundog — a patch of light that appears near the sun — or noted that not everyone there that day saw the miracle. /+/

Medjugorje; Tia Ghose of Live Science wrote: ““In 1981 in the small town of Medjugorje in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina, six children reported seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary. For years they claimed to receive daily messages and so far have allegedly received thousands of prophecies. "One is a prediction that there are 10 secrets that will reveal the end of the world," said Michael O'Neill, who runs the website Though the Vatican has never officially weighed in, the site has attracted millions of pilgrims over the years. In 2010, the Vatican agreed to investigate this event and said its findings would be ready in 2013. /+/

St. Mary’s Church in Cairo: ,“In 1968, people at St. Mary’s Church in Zaytun, a neighborhood in Old Cairo, reported seeing an apparition of an illuminated woman walking on the roof of the Coptic church. Many considered this to be an apparition of the Virgin Mary. The event was seen by many people and even photographed. Thus far, no evidence has turned up that those photos were tampered with. The head of the Coptic Church in Alexandria declared the event was a legitimate miracle. Maureen Orth wrote in National Geographic: “ At St. Mary’s church in Zaytun a silent Madonna bathed in white light is said to have appeared at night above the domes of the church for three years, from 1968 to 1971. Glowing white doves sometimes accompanied the apparitions.

“In 1973, a statue in a little church in Akita, Japan, allegedly began to bleed soon after Sister Agnes Sasagawa at the church had an apparition of the Virgin Mary. The statue continued to cry, sweat and bleed for several years and was even captured on national television. The Sister Agnes, who was deaf prior to the apparition, also regained her hearing about a decade later.” /+/

Mathew Schmalz wrote: The most recent Marian apparition that a Catholic bishop has declared “worthy of belief” was in Buenos Aires province, Argentina, in 2016. A local Catholic woman told her priest that visions had begun with rosary prayer beads glowing in multiple homes and progressed to Mary warning her of humanity’s “self-destruction.” [Source: Mathew Schmalz, Professor of Religious Studies, College of the Holy Cross, The Conversation, April 21, 2023]

Apparition in Rwanda

in Kibeho, Rwanda in 1981-89, visionaries saw images of genocide followed by an image of Mary calling for prayer. Maureen Orth wrote in National Geographic: ““Kibeho, a small town in southern Rwanda, is remembered as the place where the Virgin Mary appeared to three young girls and foretold of the blood and horror of the genocide that would traumatize the country in 1994, when the majority Hutu attacked the minority Tutsi and in three months more than 800,000 people were slaughtered. [Source: Maureen Orth, National Geographic, December 2015]

“In March 1982 the local bishop asked Venant Ntabomvura, a doctor, to go to a girls boarding school on a hillside in Kibeho. He was to investigate three students who had reported visions and conversations with the Virgin Mary. Ntabomvura, a kindly ear, nose, and throat specialist who, at 89, is still practicing, says Alphonsine Mumureke had first told of visits by apparitions the previous November. When they occurred, he says, “she was talking to someone exactly as if she were talking on the phone.”

“Mary appeared first to Alphonsine, then to Anathalie Mukamazimpaka, followed by Marie Claire Mukangango. The girls said they spent countless hours in conversations with the Virgin, who called herself Nyina wa Jambo, Mother of the Word. Mary spoke to the girls so often that they called her Mama. I found Anathalie at dusk one evening in her modest home near her old school, surrounded by rosaries and statues of the Virgin.

“The first time she appeared,” Anathalie said, “I was reciting the rosary, and she called me by my name. I heard her say, ‘Nathalie, my child.’ She looked very beautiful indeed, between 20 and 30 years old. She spoke in Kinyarwanda in a very calm and soft voice. She was in a blue veil and white dress. She never told me why she chose me. She said she appears to anyone she wants, anytime she wants, anywhere she wants.” She never mentioned any particular religion, Anathalie said. “She only asks us to love her as much as she loves us.”

“Mary’s dire prophecy came on a day in 1982 everyone expected to be especially happy: August 15, the Feast of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. Ntabomvura was there, and Gaspard Garuka, who lived nearby. The girls were crying because, they reported, the Virgin was in tears too, Garuka says. He remembers that Alphonsine “fell down many times, because what she watched was very terrible. One time she even asked, ‘Please, hide this from my eyes.’”

“Anathalie said that what Mary predicted “is exactly what I saw” during the genocide 12 years later. “People killing others using spears, burning fire, people’s skulls and heads cut off. I saw mass graves surrounded by so much darkness, blood running all over like rivers. All of this had been predicted.” Anathalie was able to flee Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and then Kenya. Alphonsine became a monastic sister in Italy. Marie Claire was killed in the genocide. On June 29, 2001, nearly 20 years after Alphonsine had first reported her apparition, Rwanda’s Bishop Augustin Misago and the Vatican declared that, yes, the Virgin Mary had appeared at Kibeho.

Mexico’s Virgin of the Metro

On June 1, 1997, the 15-year-old daughter of a subway janitor working at the Hidalgo subway station in Mexico City discovered a tile bearing an image of what she believed was the Virgin Mary. Soon word got out that a miracle had taken place and hordes of Mexicans descended on the already busy subway station to pay their respects and say prayers and make offerings to the 12-inch image, a stain in the tile created by leaking water that looked like postcard pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

When the image was first notice newspapers ran headlines that screamed, "Metro Miracle" and "Curiosity and Fervor in the Metro." The Catholic Church did not recognize the image as a true miracle but it did say it was pleased about the interest in religion that it generated. [Source: Molly Moore, Washington Post, June 9, 1997]

Virgin in the Mexico City Metro

The image became so popular that 25 guards were called into to keep order. Pilgrims were allowed to spend a minute in front of the image and then had to move. About 30 pilgrims a minute visited these site on weekdays, 50 a minute on the weekends. Visitors touched the image, kissed it, and left flowers, coins and candles.

After seeing the image one tearful 76-year-old believer fell to her knees and cried, "This is nothing less than a miracle. It's a sign by the Virgin of Guadalupe to show us her love in rough times." An elementary schoolteacher insisted, "It's not just water, it's real. I touched her. I felt her. She didn't wipe away."

To relieve the congestion $3,800 was raised by government and private donations to move the tile outside to a street corner near the subway station. Mariachi bands played during the inauguration ceremony and people shouted, "Long live the Virgin! Long live Christ the king!" The tile was treated with silicon and placed in a glass case to prevent the image from disappearing when it dried out, a fate that befell a virgin image discovered on a tile in southern Mexico City 20 years earlier.

Apparitions at Marpingen, Germany

Stanford historian James Sheehan wrote in the New York Times: "On July, 13, 1876, a company of heavily armed infantry was dispatched to Marpingen, a village nestled in hilly country on Germany's western border. It was not sent to combat foreign invader or social revolutionaries, but to disperse a group of pilgrims who had gathered to pray at the site where the Virgin Mary was believed to have recently appeared... [Source: "Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the Nineteenth Century Germany" by David Blackbourn, Alfred Knopf]

"The first apparition occurred on July 3, when three 8-year-old girls, returning to the village from picking berries, saw—or thought they saw, or said they saw—a figure in white, whom they identified as the Virgin Mary." At first family members and villagers were skeptical, but later were several more appearance and woman in the vision identified herself as "the Immaculately Conceived."

“Before long the word got out and pilgrims from all over Germany were converging on Marpingen. realizing the commercial potential of the event, an innkeeper telegraphed his supplier for 150 gallons of beer, "Marian miracle in Marpingen. Enormous pilgrimage. Send several hecto [liters]...immediately."

“In an attempt to find out what was really going the German government sealed off Marpingen and sent in police agents disguised as an Irish journalist because the Protestant German government was currently locked in cultural war with the Catholic Church over their influence on the German people. The three children who had the visions were taken to an orphanage and interrogated and several villagers, including a parish priest, were arrested for fraud. A government report dismissed the apparitions as the result of female hysteria, peasant superstitions and possibly a French conspiracy. Many pilgrims still visit Marpingen and there was another set of apparitions in the 1950s.

Crying Statues of the Virgin Mary

Our Lady of the Grotto shedding plood tears for the first time in May 1999

Reports of statues of the Virgin Mary shedding tears, perfumed oils and blood have been reported in Ireland, Japan, Belgium, Zaire, Korea, Vietnam, Italy, the United States, Mexico and other places. Her statues have inexplicably wobbled and the Virgin Mary has been photographed in the sky and miraculously appear on windows and sidewalks. In September 1995, there were reports of the Hindu god Ganesh drinking milk in Calcutta and Jersey City within hours of each other. Not long after there reports of Virgin Mary statues drinking milk in Cheshire, England and Kuala Lumpur.

Mathew Schmalz wrote: There is also a long history of claims of weeping Mary statues. A well-known example is the Madonna of Syracuse, Sicily — a plaster statue that seemed to shed tears. Investigators appointed by the church said the liquid was chemically similar to human tears. The shrine now housing the image is shaped like a tear drop. Recently, weeping statues have been reported in places as distant from each other as Paszto, Hungary, and Hobbs, New Mexico. It is, however, rare for the Catholic Church to say that an apparently weeping statue has a supernatural cause. [Source: Mathew Schmalz, Professor of Religious Studies, College of the Holy Cross, The Conversation, April 21, 2023]

Mary’s tears have special significance for Catholics. She is often pictured as crying over the sins of the world and the pain she endured in her earthly life. Mary’s earthly sorrows are depicted by seven swords piercing her flaming heart. Given Mary’s religious and symbolic significance, it is not surprising for a supposed apparition site or a weeping statue to become an object of devotion. And when this happens, the local bishop sometimes decides to investigate.

In my hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts, statues and pictures have appeared to weep oil and blood at the home of the late Audrey Santo, who died in 2007 at the age of 23. As a child, “Little Audrey” was left mute and paralyzed after a swimming pool accident. In spite of her physical condition, pilgrims who came to see her believed that she was praying for them. After Santo’s death, a foundation was established to promote her cause for sainthood, believing that the statues and pictures in her home were signs that God has specially blessed her.

In my writings about the case of Santo, I was definitely tempted to focus on talk of the supernatural. And the claims surrounding Little Audrey are still debated among Catholics as her sainthood cause stalls. But what I found most interesting was listening to people share why weeping statues were so meaningful in their personal lives. At the Santo home, the people I talked to shared moving personal stories of pain and sadness, hope and healing. In the end, the sense of togetherness in and through suffering was far more important than talk of scientific proofs of the supernatural.

Weeping Mary Statue in Medjurgorhe, Bosnia

On February 2, 1995 a plaster statue of the Virgin Mary from Medjurgorhe, Bosnia reportedly began shedding tears of blood in the small Italian town of Pantano, near the port of Civitavecchia in southern Italy. The first person to see it was Jessica, the five-year-old daughter of a state employed electrician named Fabio Gregory. The girl told her father, "Daddy the Madonna is crying!" When Fabio touched the tears he said he felt "a great blast of fire from head to toe." [Source: Marina Werner, the New Yorker, April 8, 1996]

Later that day he told the priest and within 48 hours a mass of people had descended on Pantano. Over the next month and a half at least 50 witnesses claimed they saw the 16-inch high statue shed red tears. After that more people showed up and the mayor ordered portable toilets and had benches built in anticipation of his town becoming a major tourist attraction.

Authorities ordered an investigation and had samples of blood from the statue tested for hormones, vaccines and other things to determine the sex and age of blood's owner. Preliminary tests indicated that the blood shed by the virgin belonged to a male who had been vaccinated.

Some skeptics believe the statue contained blood-filled syringe that was activated with a battery triggered by a remote control device. By the time authorities came to examine the statue, it had been replaced with a similar statue (there are thousand if not millions of 19-inch-high Madonna statues from Medjurgorhe, Bosnia scattered around the world).

Bosnia’s Virgin of Medjugorje

In 1981, four girls and two boys in Medjugorje, Croatia reported daily visits from the Virgin Mary. She identified herself to the six children as the “Queen of Peace” and gave them the first of thousands of messages admonishing the faithful to pray more often and asking sinners to repent. The apparitions were never authenticated by the Catholic Church. Even so, as of 2000, more than 20 million pilgrims had visited Medjugorje. When Ivan Dragucevic, one of the grown-up children, spoke at churches in the United States, he drew huge crowds.

Virgin of Medjugorje

Tia Ghose of Live Science wrote: For years the children claimed to receive daily messages and so far have allegedly received thousands of prophecies. "One is a prediction that there are 10 secrets that will reveal the end of the world," said Michael O'Neill, who runs the website Though the Vatican has never officially weighed in, it agreed to investigate this event and said its findings would be ready in 2013. [Source: Tia Ghose, Live Science, July 9, 2013 /+/]

Medjurgorhe is a small town of 250 families in a Croatian enclave of Bosnia. Though the apparitions of the Virgin Mary there have never been recognized by the Catholic church, Medjugorje became a major tourist sight. Criticizing the commercialism there, an Australian pilgrim said, "I didn't come here to buy a T shirt. I came here for the Holy Mother."

Medjurgorhe is now one of the most visited Catholic shrines in the world. An estimated 30 million pilgrims had visited the site as of 2015. For a while a “White Lady” reportedly appeared to the former children everyday at certain times and told them to pray for the sons of the world to avert catastrophe. Croatians are Catholic and Serbs and Bosnians live nearby. One guide in Medjurgorhe told Newsweek, "The Serbs! They breed like rabbits. You see where Mary appeared? On our side of the mountain, the Croatian side. The Serbs don't see her."

Maureen Orth wrote in National Geographic in 2015: “It’s apparition time: 5:40 p.m. In a small Roman Catholic chapel in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the village of Medjugorje, Ivan Dragicevic walks down the aisle, kneels in front of the altar, bows his head for a moment, and then, smiling, lifts his gaze heavenward. He begins to whisper, listens intently, whispers again, and doesn’t blink for ten minutes. His daily conversation with the Virgin Mary has begun. “Dragicevic was one of six poor shepherd children who first reported visions of the Virgin Mary in 1981.. Dragicevic was 16 years old, and Medjugorje, then in communist-controlled Yugoslavia, had yet to emerge as a hub of miracle cures and spiritual conversions. [Source: Maureen Orth, National Geographic, December 2015]

Medjugorje Miracle?

Maureen Orth wrote in National Geographic: ““I’m in Medjugorje with a group of Americans, mostly hockey dads from the Boston area, plus two men and two women with stage 4 cancer. We’re led by 59-year-old Arthur Boyle, a father of 13, who first came here on Labor Day weekend in 2000, riddled with cancer and given months to live. He felt broken and dejected and wouldn’t have made the trip had not two friends forced him into it. But that first night, after he went to confession at St. James the Apostle church, psychological relief came rapidly. “The anxiety and depression were gone,” he told me. “You know when you’re carrying someone on your shoulders in a swimming pool water fight — they come off, and you feel light and free? I was like, Wait a minute, what just happened to me? Why is that?” [Source: Maureen Orth, National Geographic, December 2015]

“The next morning, with his friends Rob and Kevin, he met another of the “visionaries,” Vicka Ivankovic-Mijatovic, in a jewelry shop and asked for her help. Gripping his head with one hand, she appealed to the Virgin Mary to ask God to cure him. Boyle said he experienced an unusual sensation right there in the store. “She starts to pray over me. Rob and Kevin put their hands on me, and the heat that went through my body from her praying was causing them to sweat.”

“Back in Boston a week later, a CT scan at Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that his tumors had shrunk to almost nothing. “Since then, Boyle has been back to Medjugorje 13 times. “I’m a regular guy,” he said. “I like to play hockey and drink beer. I play golf.” But, he continued, “I had to change things in my life.” Today, Boyle said, he’s become “a sort of mouthpiece for Jesus Christ’s healing power and of course the Mother and the power of her intercession.”

In the medical profession what you and I might call a miracle is often referred to as “spontaneous remission” or “regression to mean.” Frank McGovern, the Boston urologic surgeon who had done all he could for Arthur Boyle, told me that the cancer’s virtual disappearance was a “rare” but statistically possible happening. But, he added, “I also believe there are times in human life when we are way beyond what we ever expect.”

“Did the intense heat Boyle experienced when Vicka Ivankovic-Mijatovic held his head in her hand play a part in his healing? According to the 2006 book Hyperthermia in Cancer Treatment: A Primer, “Spontaneous regression of some cancers has been demonstrated to be associated [with] the induction of fever and activation of immunity.”Boyle said that although he continued his tests after his return from Medjugorje, “it was faith that enabled me to get into a state of peace where my immune system rebooted itself and killed the cancer — that was all done through God.”

Investigating Apparitions

Maureen Orth wrote in National Geographic: ““Michael O’Neill, 39, a Stanford University graduate in mechanical engineering and product design, is the Virgin Mary’s big data numbers cruncher. On his website,, he has codified every known apparition of Mary back to A.D. 40. Systematic investigation and documentation of supernatural occurrences began with the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church’s ecumenical reaction to the Reformation, more than 450 years ago. Of the 2,000 apparitions reported since then, Miracle Hunter cites a mere 28 as approved by local bishops, who are the first to decide whether “seers” seem plausible. Sixteen of those have been recognized by the Vatican. [Source: Maureen Orth, National Geographic, December 2015]

“O’Neill, in his book, “Exploring the Miraculous”, details the Vatican’s painstaking process when deciding whether to endorse an apparition as miraculous — “truly extraordinary.” The “authenticity” and mental stability of the seer are prime, and anyone suspected of trying to gain fame or riches from contact with the Virgin Mary is ignored or condemned.

“Medjugorje is one of some two dozen sites in wait-and-see mode for Vatican approval. The local bishops with authority over Medjugorje have never given credence to the apparitions and have been at odds with the Franciscan priests who run the parish and are staunch believers. To resolve the impasse, a Vatican commission was appointed. It concluded its work in 2014.

“The Vatican would never approve an alleged apparition whose message contradicted church teachings, and the faithful aren’t required to believe in apparitions. Many, including priests, do not. “What is from Mary versus what is captured and interpreted by the seer is hard to distinguish,” says Father Johann Roten, director of research and special projects at the University of Dayton’s Marian Library, with more than a hundred thousand volumes on Mary. Ultimately the decision is based on faith. “Miracles transcend physical nature and physical laws,” says Robert Spitzer, a Jesuit priest who heads the Magis Center in California, which according to its website is dedicated to explaining faith, physics, and philosophy. As Spitzer says, “Science looks for physical laws in nature, so you’re up against a paradox. Can you get a scientific test for miracles? No. Science will only test for physical laws or physical results.”

“Nonetheless, over the years, as part of the church’s investigative process, seers have been subjected to batteries of tests. There have been attempts to get the visionaries in Medjugorje to blink or react to loud noises while they experience apparitions. In 2001 the peer-reviewed Journal of Scientific Exploration reported on the visionaries’ “partial and variable disconnection from the outside world at the time of the apparitional experience.” The extreme sound and light sensations traveled normally to their brains, but “the cerebral cortex does not perceive the transmission of the auditory and visual neuronal stimuli.” So far, science has no explanation.

Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis and Fraud

In 2023, the Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, or PAMI announced an “observatory” to investigate claims around the world of appearances of the Virgin Mary and reports of statues of her weeping oil and blood. Mathew Schmalz wrote: This announcement extends PAMI’s mission of promoting devotion to Mary and study of phenomena related to her. While still waiting for full Vatican approval, the observatory will train investigators to study mystical phenomena in cooperation with church authorities — for example, trying to determine the substance of reported tears. [Source: Mathew Schmalz, Professor of Religious Studies, College of the Holy Cross, The Conversation, April 21, 2023]

Investigating the supernatural has always been a delicate task in the Catholic Church, which has to balance the faith of believers with the possibility of fraud. Catholics believe Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, and the mother of God, who still makes her presence known. And the Catholic Church has officially recognized a number of sites where Mary has reportedly appeared around the globe.

In examining claims of the supernatural, bishops follow standards set by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees Catholic doctrine. Perhaps because they address controversial issues, the standards were only made public in 2012 — nearly 35 years after they were first implemented.

The bishop, or a committee appointed by him, evaluates the alleged supernatural phenomenon. This involves interviewing witnesses and, sometimes, scientific tests. Impact on the community is also considered. Positive aspects include reports of physical healings and religious conversions, or a general deepening of faith among Catholics. Negative aspects would include selling oil from a purportedly weeping statue or claiming a message from Mary that goes against Catholic doctrine.

A well-known case of an apparition that the Catholic Church rejected concerns the visions of Veronica Lueken, the Brooklyn “Bayside Seer,” who died in 1995. Lueken reported a number of messages from Mary that concerned church authorities. For example, Lueken claimed in 1972 that Mary had told her that the pope was, in fact, an imposter made to look like the true pope, Paul VI, through plastic surgery. Although belief in the messages endures among a small number of Catholics, the local bishop deemed the apparitions not credible.

When it comes to weeping statues, one of the primary questions is whether the event has been staged. For example, in two cases of statues that supposedly had wept blood — one in Canada in 1986 and another in Italy in 2006 — the blood turned out be that of the statue’s owner. Liquids can also be injected into the porous material of statues and later seep out as “tears.” Oil that is mixed with fat can be applied to a statue’s eyes, which will “weep” when ambient temperatures rise.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons except Mexico Metro pic, CNN

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible,; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible,; Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) , Frontline, PBS, Wikipedia, BBC, National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Live Science,, Archaeology magazine, Reuters, Associated Press, Business Insider, AFP, Library of Congress, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

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