|Our Lady of Fatima, on the grounds of St. Francis Xavier Church, Birmingham, Ala.|
Over the centuries, there have been hundreds of claims that Mary, the mother of Jesus, has appeared to offer advice and comfort or to give warning and encouragement. Although there are only eleven Vatican-approved Marian visitations, Lourdes and Fatima being perhaps the best known, there are even today claims of appearances from the Blessed Virgin. She has supposedly been seen by visionaries in Medjugorje, and images have been seen in windows, on walls, and on food items such as toast and macaroni & cheese. There is even a site down Highway 280, just south of Birmingham, Alabama, where thousands gathered after one of the Medjugorje visionaries reported Mary’s appearance to her when she was in town for medical treatment.
“But anyone who has followed with attention the visions of Mary which have been increasing in number over the last few decades, and has taken their psychological significance into account, might have known what was brewing. The fact, especially, that it was largely children who had the visions might have given pause for thought, for in such cases, the collective unconscious is always at work ...One could have known for a long time that there was a deep longing in the masses for an intercessor and mediatrix who would at last take her place alongside the Holy Trinity and be received as the 'Queen of heaven and Bride at the heavenly court.' For more than a thousand years it has been taken for granted that the Mother of God dwelt there.” (1)
It is undeniable that Marian visions occur. Rather than ask if they are factual, I think it is more important to ask why these visions are needed. I agree with Jung that we need the influence of the feminine archetype to have a balanced life. For Protestants who question this, think about 19th century American Protestantism. It was the most anti-Marian expression of Christianity known up to that time. Jesus was primary, and what did 19th century Protestants do to Jesus? They made him highly feminized, made him meek and mild, even gave him long hair and a dress! (2) Some of the artistic portrayals of Jesus show him in flowing robes with arms outstretched – exactly the same posture that previous artists had traditionally given to Mary. This is just one example of how the feminine archetype will make itself known, even when a society tries to push it aside.
When I read about some of the Marian visions that have occurred in the past, often the message from Mary was to build a church in her honor and to promote the praying of the rosary. My own thoughts are that if this were the actual historical Mary appearing, such requests would be completely out of character – to dedicate a church in her honor? However, if that vision is an expression of the feminine archetype, it makes perfect sense. It is correcting a heavily masculine society, bringing balance by restoring feminine qualities and bringing the feminine archetype to mind (often Marian visions occur during wartime, or just before war breaks out, when the masculine war machine is at work destroying).
|In the Lady Chapel|
at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
Let me also share a personal testimonial. Although my wife and I are now practicing Catholics, last year we began going back to the Episcopal Church where we met. We heard that the church was in a rough spot so we began going back to lend moral and financial support. We would usually go there about three Sundays a month and would attend our Catholic parish once a month. On this particular Sunday, I felt personally inclined to meditate on Mary. As we entered St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, I was glad to find seating that was in line with the Lady Chapel, with Mary in full view. In my private prayers I prayed the Hail Mary (not a typical devotion in the Episcopal Church, though the Lady Chapel is an old Anglican tradition). After church as we were going home talking about the service, I discovered that my wife had also had Mary on her mind that morning and had spent some time much as I had done, to acknowledge the blessed Mother. Later that day, we both felt like going to the evening Mass at our Catholic Church. When we arrived, we were quite surprised to find that that particular Sunday (August 15) was the feast of the Assumption of Mary! We enjoyed a full service giving special remembrance and honor to her.
|Our Lady of Guadalupe|
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church
|Black Madonna of Czestochowa|
St. Simeon's Orthodox Church
|Stained glass window at|
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church
1. C.G. Jung. Answer to Job, trans. R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp 99 -100.
2. Cf. Stephen Prothero. American Jesus, New York, Ferrar, Straus, and Giroux, pp.59 - 61.
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