- Why did Our Lady appear as the “Lady of All Nations” and why do we need another title for her?
- In the Prayer of the Lady of All Nations, what does “Who Once Was Mary” mean?
- Why has the Prayer of the Lady of All Nations been changed?
- In the Image of the Lady of All Nations, why does she stand in front of the cross?
- What about the prophecy of the Fifth Marian Dogma: Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate?
- There are some theological expressions used that are uncommon, are they in conformity with the Church’s teaching?
- The messages call for social and church reform, is that justifiable in private revelation?
- Why are the messages so specific about future political and economic events?
- Is a public sign a necessary proof of authenticity and was one given in these apparitions?
- Is the “forceful” tone of Our Lady reconcilable with Catholic tradition?
- Why is the word “Church” used interchangeably with the word “Community”?
- Was the visionary psychologically sound and obedient? What about the demonic attacks she suffered?
- Historically, what has been the position of the Church regarding the apparitions? What is it now?
The Apparitions of the Lady of All Nations, which occurred in Amsterdam from 1945 to 1959, have enjoyed international devotion for many years since their origin. Indeed, there appears to be a special relevance to the message and mission of the Lady of All Nations Apparitions for our contemporary times.
The crucial need for unity in the Holy Spirit between all nations and the prevention of “degeneration, disaster, and war” through the advocacy of Our Lady, as prayed for in the Prayer of the Lady of All Nations, seems to be a growing imperative for today’s world under present threat of war, famine, and moral crisis. As explained by Bishop Josef Maria Punt in his Declaration of May 31, 2002 : “Unlike Holy Scripture, private revelations are never binding upon the conscience of the faithful. They are a help in understanding the signs of the times and to help live more fully the Gospel (cf. Lk. 12:56, Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 67). And the signs of our times are dramatic. The devotion of the Lady of All Nations can help us, in my sincere conviction, in guiding us on the right path during the present serious drama of our times, the path to a new and special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who alone can heal the great wounds of our times” (In Response to Inquiries Concerning the Lady of All Nations Apparitions, May 31, 2002 see: “The Church’s Stance“).
It is to be expected that due to the very nature of private revelation, certain questions regarding various topics pertaining to the apparitions would naturally arise.
We distinguish two categories regarding questions pertaining to the apparitions.
On the one hand, there have been questions fostered by mistranslation, misinterpretation, erroneous information, and even incidental falsification. This category of questions has already been documented and submitted for the evaluation and judgment of the Advisory Commission, other experts, and finally the Bishop himself. Up to this time, there have been no new questions beyond those already documented, evaluated, and judged.
On the other hand, there are questions regarding this devotion that indeed call for a greater insight into its meaning. Therefore for the purpose of greater clarification, we here provide some of the principal themes concerning the Apparitions of the Lady of All Nations which belong to the latter category which have evoked questions concerning the historical and theological aspects of the apparitions themselves, and also concerning the proper Church criteria and process for their evaluation.
Why did Our Lady appear as the “Lady of All Nations” and why do we need another title for her?
Why does the Blessed Virgin Mary appear as the “Lady of All Nations?” Why is there a need for a new title in light of the rich Marian Tradition which the Church already possesses? Is this apparition detrimental to other Marian apparitions, such as Rue de Bac, Lourdes and Fatima?
The apparitions commence within the historical context of the post-world war years when optimism was predominant, particularly in Europe. The Church in general was experiencing strength and confidence, and optimism in Holland during this period was depicted in the expression, “the Rich Roman Life.” Yet the Mother of God envisions upcoming dangers that threatened the Church and world, and warns in urgent language: “Do you realize the gravity of the times? Join your hands in prayer. Go and plant the Cross in the midst of the world. You are all responsible for the task that falls to you in this present time. Resist the influence of the wrong spirit. Pray every day that the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, may send the Holy Spirit over the earth and the Lady of All Nations, who once was Mary, will be your Advocate” (April 6, 1952 message); “You do not know the great danger threatening you…There is a spirit out to undermine you….” (August 15, 1950 message).
Our Lady shows herself standing before the cross, clothed with the sun. Her feet are planted on the globe. Three rays flow from her hands, which symbolize “Grace, Redemption, and Peace,” which God grants her to be distributed to humanity. She addresses herself to the Church and to the world with admonitions and warnings, and yet her words are also full of hope and bring the promise of salvation (cf. Lumen Gentium, 62).
The Mother of humanity enters this serious historical time in order to assist humanity and to point out the way to her Son and to salvation (cf. Jn. 2:5). This historical moment is when Mary, humble handmaid of the Lord (cf. Lk. 1:38) wishes to be known as the universal Mother of all nations and all peoples: “Prepare yourself for the fight – the spiritual fight. The Lady of All Nations wishes to be brought among everyone, no matter who or what they are. This is why she received this title from her Lord and Master” (December 31, 1951 message). Her maternal mission is to unify all peoples “in the true Holy Spirit” (March 20, 1953 message), and time after time she directs the world to her Son: “through the Lady of All Nations to the Lord of All Nations. . .” (May 31, 1958 message).
This spiritual remedy for contemporary humanity as developed in the messages highlights three central themes:
1. A new prayer: In addition to the repeated references by the Lady to the great value of the Rosary, she gives on February 11, 1951 a new prayer, addressed to the Lord Jesus:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father,
send now Your Spirit over the earth.
Let the Holy Spirit live
in the hearts of all nations,
that they may be preserved
from degeneration, disaster, and war.
May the Lady of All Nations,
who once was Mary,
be our Advocate.
Our Lady says regarding this prayer that “you cannot estimate the great value this will have” (April 15, 1951 message); and promises that “all who pray before the picture and ask the help of Mary, the Lady of All Nations’, will be given grace for the soul and body, in the measure that the Son wishes” (May 31, 1951 message).
2. A new Marian dogma: She asks for the dogma of “Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate” to be papally defined so that her mediating role for the Church and world can be exercised fully in order to obtain a “true peace for humanity” (May 31, 1954 message). The messages speak in great depth and explanation about the new dogma, its meaning and origin. Mary, the messages emphasize, is the “Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate” because she is the “Immaculate Conception” (April 4, 1954 message).
3. Renewed devotion to the Holy Eucharist: Repeatedly, the Lady emphasizes the great importance of the Holy Eucharist for this time. Here we find the deepest meaning of Eucharistic devotion through the Lady: She wants to gather the Church and the nations around Christ in the Holy Eucharist and around Mary, the Lady of All Nations, to prepare the way for a renewed presence of the Holy Spirit in our time, leading to renewed Christian life for the Church and the world.
The title of “The Lady of All Nations” does not conflict with or duplicate other Marian titles, but rather emphasizes the universality of the Mother of all nations and peoples under a single title, which also points to the unity of all peoples as one single family under her whom John Paul II calls, “our Common Mother” (Redemptoris Mater, 30). At the present time when the world is experiencing a globalization, Mary wants to be the mother of all peoples, which also includes non-Christians.
As all authentic apparitions show a slightly different “face” of the Mother of all peoples, the appearances of the Lady of All Nations are not detrimental to other authentic apparitions, but instead serve as further development of the messages of Rue de Bac, Lourdes and Fatima. In fact, the Amsterdam apparitions can rightly be seen as a continuation of the Marian message to the modern world, which eventually will reach its fulfillment in the “Triumph” of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as prophesied at Fatima (July 13, 1917).
In the Prayer of the Lady of All Nations, what does “Who Once Was Mary” mean?
The Prayer ends with the expression, “May the Lady of All Nations, who once was Mary, be our Advocate.” Does this infer that Our Lady is “no longer” Mary? Are we no longer to invoke her as Mary, for example in the praying of the Rosary?
The expression “who once was Mary,” which can appear somewhat awkward to the first-time observer, refers to the historical grounding of Our Lady’s universal spiritual motherhood in the historical Mary of Nazareth. The phrase further expresses a proper appreciation and veneration to the ongoing human cooperation of the humble Virgin to God’s continual invitation of faith and suffering that ultimately led to her coredemptive participation with Jesus at Calvary, where she is given as spiritual mother to all peoples (cf. Jn. 19:25-27).
The visionary herself found the words strange, and the first local Church authorities to whom she had to go to obtain approval of the prayer initially gave permission only with the words “who once was Mary” omitted. This led Our Lady to insist on March 28 and July 2, 1951 and again on February 17 and April 6, 1952, that permission should be given for the publication of the prayer in its entirety. This was finally conceded and on October 5, 1952, Our Lady told the visionary, Ida Peerdeman, to tell the Bishop that she was satisfied.
On July 2, 1951 (then observed as the Feast of the Visitation), Our Lady herself explained:
The words “who once was Mary” mean: many people have known Mary just as Mary. Now, however, in this new era which is beginning I want to be the Lady of All Nations. Everybody will understand this.
On 6 April of the following year she further explained that she became the Lady of All Nations at the foot of the cross when Jesus asked her to accept John as her son (cf. Jn. 19:26): “At the departure of the Lord Jesus Christ, He gave Miriam, or Mary, to the nations in one act, giving her as ‘The Lady of All Nations’. For he spoke those words, ‘Woman, behold your son; son, behold your mother’. One act, and by this Miriam, or Mary, received this new title” (October 5, 1952 message); it is “at the Sacrifice of the Cross that the change came about” (March 19, 1952 message). The wording of the prayer in no way denies that Mary is always Mary, but appropriately underscores the universal motherhood conferred on her by Jesus.
The expression does not infer that the Lady of All Nations is not still the historical Mary, nor does it eliminate the legitimate use of invoking the Mother of Jesus as “Mary,” as in the case of the praying of the Rosary. The name of Mary is repeatedly used for Our Lady in the messages themselves (cf. October 5, 1952; December 8, 1952; May 10, 1953 messages, etc.). But it does give proper dignity and honor to Our Lady’s unique human cooperation with the Redeemer and to the salvific roles granted her by God (cf. Lumen Gentium, 57-62). In light of her unique cooperation in the work of Redemption (Lumen Gentium, 57, 58, 61) the Church rightly invokes the Mother of Jesus as “Mediatrix,” “Advocate,” and “mother to us in the order of grace,” who as spiritual mother of all peoples “intercedes for the gifts of eternal life” (Lumen Gentium, 61, 62).
As an example to illustrate the meaning of “The Lady of all nations, who once was Mary” we can use the case of the present pope. We could appropriately say, “Pope John Paul II who once was Karol Wojtyla.” The sentence identifies both the original historical identity of John Paul II as Karol Wojtyla, and at the same time refers to the higher honor and dignity due to him in light of his eventual papal office and title as Vicar of Christ on earth. So too, the expression, “The Lady of all nations, who once was Mary” identifies the original historical identity of Mary of Nazareth, but also honors the new office and title of the “Lady of All Nations”, which is granted to her by the Divine Redeemer at Calvary.
Thus the general meaning of the expression, “The Lady of all nations, who once was Mary” is: The woman who first was known as Mary (and still is), is now to be universally recognized and venerated as the Lady of All Nations.
Why has the Prayer of the Lady of All Nations been changed?
Faithful, priests, and bishops repeatedly have had difficulty with the expression who once was Mary, just as Bishop Huibers had in the past. Therefore, inquiries were repeatedly sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
Out of pastoral concern that the phrase who once was Mary, from the prayer of the Lady of All Nations, could be misunderstood, in July of 2005, the Congregation requested the diocesan bishop of Amsterdam, the Most Reverend Jozef M. Punt to leave these words out.
In a letter dated August 8, 2005, the position of the bishop was made public by the Coordinator of the Advisory Commission. It says:
“Naturally, the Bishop contacted the Congregation and expressed his opinion on this matter. In the meantime, he has asked the authorities of the devotion to respect the pastoral concern of the Congregation by leaving out or praying silently the clause during public prayer until further notice. The Bishop realizes that for many people this may cause a tension between conviction and obedience, but he refers to the example offered by the visionary herself.
Once she experienced a similar type of dilemma and then heard the following words from ‘the Lady’: ‘obedience comes first’. Of course, obedience does not exclude ongoing and open dialogue on this issue, he states. Also the great and actual importance of this prayer, that asks the ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father’ to send ‘now’ the Holy Spirit over our wounded world, completely remains.
In all this, the Bishop also sees a positive side. With this discussion a deeper dialogue is launched. Behind this clause, given after the proclamation of the Dogma of Our Lady’s Assumption, lies a fundamental question: Who truly is Mary in God’s plan of Salvation? What is Her role in the coming of the Holy Spirit? Who is She to be for this time and this world? It was to this dialogue that Pope John Paul II in 2002 explicitly encouraged theologians.”
To clarify that the title Lady of All Nations refers to Our Lady, the words the Blessed Virgin Mary have been inserted. This version received the Imprimatur on January 6, 2009 from Bishop Jozef M. Punt. So, the end of the prayer is now:
“May the Lady of All Nations, the Blessed Virgin Mary, be our Advocate.”
Thinking and acting with the Church is decisive for the spreading out of her image and her prayer. At one point, Our Lady herself even says: “And now the Lady of All Nations promises to grant true peace. But the nations, together with the Church––understand well––together with the Church, will have to pray my prayer…” (Mar. 20, 1953)
In the Image of the Lady of All Nations, why does she stand in front of the cross?
The picture of the Lady of All Nations depicts the Blessed Virgin in front of the cross. Does this not suggest that she is taking the place of Our Lord Jesus on the Cross? Does this infer that Mary is somehow “parallel” with Jesus in our Redemption?
The depiction of the Blessed Virgin Mary in front of the cross does not place her on a level of equality with Jesus Christ in the Redemption of humanity. Mary is not “on the cross,” but before the cross, which symbolizes her unique suffering with and under Jesus at Calvary for the world’s Redemption. She is the Mother of the Son and therefore is also the Advocate and bearer of this message to humanity: “I stand as the Lady before the Cross, as the Mother before my Son, who through the Father entered into me. And this is why I stand before my Son, as the Advocate and bearer of this message to this modern world” (March 28, 1951 message).
The Second Vatican Council teaches Mary’s unique sharing in the Redemption accomplished by Christ when it states: “She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ, she presented him to the Father in the temple, shared her son’s sufferings as he died on the cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls” (Lumen Gentium, 61).
But the Council adds that this subordinate sharing of Mary in the Redemption accomplished by Christ does not place her on a parallel or competitive level with the one divine Redeemer:
No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.
The Church does not hesitate to profess the subordinate role of Mary, which it constantly experiences and recommends to the heartfelt attention of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more closely adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer (Lumen Gentium, 62).
Jesus does not hesitate to call all his followers to “take up his cross and follow me” (Mk. 8:34). Here Our Lady becomes a model for the People of God (Lumen Gentium, 63-65), who are all called to become “co-workers with God” (1 Cor. 3:9) or co-redeemers with Christ in carrying our daily crosses in patient endurance in order to release the redemptive graces of Christ for others. St. Paul calls all Christians to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of his body, which is the Church” (Col. 1:24). No one exemplifies this Pauline summons to redemptive suffering better than the Immaculate Mother of Sorrows, who was “standing by the cross of Jesus” (Jn. 19:25) and who “enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim which was born of her” (Lumen Gentium, 58). The image is a visual rendering of her co-suffering role, and can be properly understood when we see the Church’s doctrinal teachings of Mary’s coredemptive role with and under Jesus.
It is noteworthy that the Prayer of the Lady of All Nations, which constitutes a cornerstone of the entire message, does not place the predominant focus on Mary herself, but rather on a Christocentric and Trinitarian process of divine intercession. It is formally directed to Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, who in turn sends down the Holy Spirit for a renewal of all nations through the human intercessory role of the Virgin Mary as Advocate (her ancient Church title first used by St. Irenaeus in the second century).
What about the prophecy of the Fifth Marian Dogma: Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate?
How can a private revelation call for a Dogma when dogmas are not based on private revelations, but rather on Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium? Can we legitimately call Mary a “Co-redemptrix”? Did the message not predict that Pope Pius XII would declare this dogma when in fact he did not? Doesn’t a petition for a Marian Dogma infringe upon the proper authority of the Church in such matters?
We must distinguish between a prophetic call for a Marian dogma of Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate from Marian private revelation, and the theological foundations for a Marian dogma itself. The Church has experienced several prophetic calls stemming from private revelation for the accomplishment of certain ecclesiastical actions, such as the Fatima call for the collegial consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; or the prophetic call for the institution of a Feast of Divine Mercy through the visions of Jesus to St. Faustina Kowalska, both of which were ecclesiastically enacted by Pope John Paul II. But the theological foundation for any ecclesiastical act associated with Christian faith must have its basis in the sources of divine revelation: Scripture and Tradition, as safeguarded by the Church’s Magisterium (cf. Dei Verbum, 9, 10).
In matter of fact, the contemporary theological discussion on a potential solemn definition of Mary as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate is not only a legitimate dialogue among theologians, but constitutes one of the most significant international Mariological studies within the Church. Its theological and historical foundations trace back to scriptural and apostolic times, with documented development throughout every principal phrase of the Church’s rich Mariological tradition.
The Marian roles and titles of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate already constitute the official teachings of the papal Magisterium. Pope John Paul II, for example, has repeatedly used all three titles in official addresses of the papal Magisterium, and has called Our Lady the “Co-redemptrix” on numerous occasions. The doctrines of Marian Coredemption, Mediation, and Advocacy are also the expressed teachings of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Lumen Gentium, 56, 57, 58, 60, 61, 62). It is also noteworthy that all three Mariological titles, “Co-redemptrix,” Mediatrix,” and “Advocate,” appear in the Consecration of the Netherlands to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Dutch Hierarchy (October 3, 1943) which occurred two years before the beginning of the Our Lady of All Nations Apparitions.
Our Lady has been called the “Co-redemptrix” by Popes Pius XI (three occasions) and John Paul II (six occasions), as well as by a long list of saints, doctors, and theologians of the Church. The Co-redemptrix title, which refers to Mary’s unique participation with Jesus Christ in the Redemption of humanity, has been used for over six hundred years in the Church’s tradition. The title was first used in the fourteenth to fifteenth century as a medieval development of the New Eve patristic tradition, and gradually matured into more widespread theological and popular usage by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Numerous contemporary saints and blesseds including St. Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Jose Maria Escrivà, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Blessed Bartolo Longo, and Bl. Teresa of Calcutta have invoked the Mother of Jesus under the title of Co-redemptrix. The Fatima visionary, Sr. Lucia, has used and explained the title of Co-redemptrix on six occasions in her recent book, Calls from the Message of Fatima. In sum, the Co-redemptrix title has been an authentic part of Catholic tradition for over half a millennium.
A deeper study into the messages regarding the proclamation of the Dogma make it clear that we must distinguish between the wish of Our Lady that the Dogma be proclaimed by Pius XII from the actual prediction that the Dogma will in fact be proclaimed. On the one hand, the messages express the wish of the Lady that the Dogma should be proclaimed during the pontificate of Pius XII. On the other hand, it becomes more and more clear during his pontificate that the Dogma will not be pronounced by Pius XII, but by another Pope. In other words, when Our Lady does wish to specify a pope, then she mentions Pope Pius XII by name (for example, in the message prophesying the death of Pius XII, February 19, 1958) or indeed the visionary recognizes Pius XII. And when she does not wish to specify, she uses the more general reference of “the Holy Father” or “the Pope,” and often the visionary then sees a Pope who is unknown to her. In prophetic language where free human cooperation could determine the specific fulfillment of certain prophesied events or the lack thereof, general references to the “Holy Father” leaves possibility for its fulfillment by either present or later Holy Fathers.
The repeated petition for the papal proclamation of the Dogma does not usurp the proper authority of the Church. Our Lady presents the call to pray and petition for the Dogma and even provides astute scriptural and theological explanations for the Marian titles of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate. But she always does so with an explicit respect for the Church’s hierarchy and its decisions.
The ecclesiastical right of the faithful to petition the pastors of the Church for something the Christian faithful believe is for the good of the Church is protected under canonical law (cf. Canon 212:2, 3). Petition movements by the Christian faithful to encourage the papal proclamations of Marian dogmas were successfully conducted prior to the solemn definitions of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and the Assumption of Our Lady in 1950, both petition campaigns of which received papal praise and gratitude from Pius IX and XII respectively in the documents which defined the Marian dogmas.
There are some theological expressions used that are uncommon, are they in conformity with the Church’s teaching?
Certain theological expressions found in the messages appear doctrinally questionable. For example, Our Lady says: “For the same… Father… is the same Son…The same…Father and Son…is the same… Holy Spirit (May 31, 1955 message).” And another example: “Through the Lord to the Lady; through the Lady of All Nations, to the Lord of All Nations (May 31, 1958 message).” Can these theological expressions be reconciled with Catholic teaching?
Catholic doctrine on the mystery of the Trinity confesses one God in three divine persons. The persons of the Trinity are distinct from each other, and at the same time each person is God in full possession of a divine nature. The Father shares in common everything that is his except his uniqueness as Father. The Son shares with the Father everything except what is uniquely his as Son. The Holy Spirit shares with the Father and the Son everything except what is uniquely his as Spirit of the Father and the Son.
The words of Our Lady indicate this Trinitarian mystery when she says that “the same Father is the same Son” and “the same Father and Son is the same Holy Spirit.” While distinguishing their persons identified by name, the message speaks of the unity in divine nature and substance between the persons of the Trinity. The Eleventh Council of Toledo uses a similar formulation: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, that is, by nature one God” (Council of Toledo XI, , DS 530:26).
The Fourth Lateran Council confirms: “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, namely, the divine substance, essence, or nature” (Lateran Council IV :(DS 804).
The expression, “Through the Lord to the Lady; through the Lady of All Nations, to the Lord of All Nations” can refer to the scriptural revelation that it is Jesus who first gives us his mother. As our crucified Lord on Calvary, he gives to the world his own mother as the Lady of all nations, the spiritual mother of all peoples: “Behold, your mother” (Jn.19:26). Then, as a result, the Lady of all Nations exercises her intercessory role to bring all humanity back to her Son in recognition of Jesus as the Lord of all nations.
Moreover, the phrase reflects the traditional Catholic maxim articulated in different ways by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. John Eudes, St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort and St. Maximilian Kolbe: “Through Jesus to Mary, through Mary to Jesus.” Love of Jesus leads to a greater love of Mary, and love of Mary leads to a greater love of Jesus. John Paul II reflects this maxim in his papal consecration of Zaire to the Mother of the Church: “To consecrate itself to Christ through you! To consecrate itself to you for Christ!” (Inseg. III: I (1980); 1069). St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort expresses the same truth in these formulations:
“They [Jesus and Mary] are so intimately united that the one is altogether in the other. Jesus is altogether in Mary and Mary is altogether in Jesus; or rather, she exists no more, but Jesus alone is in her, and it were easier to separate the light from the sun than Mary from Jesus; so that we might call Our Lord, “Jesus of Mary,” and our Blessed Lady, “Mary of Jesus.”
The messages call for social and church reform, is that justifiable in private revelation?
The messages call for change in certain Church disciplines such as fasting practices and seminary instruction, and also emphasize a more “social” dimension to the Church? Can such a progressive call for Church reform be justified in a private revelation?
It must be remembered that these messages for disciplinary reforms such as fasting and seminary formation were addressed to the Church in the 1950’s to fortify the Church for upcoming challenges, and have in fact been incorporated by the Church since that time. For example on March 19, 1957, Pope Pius XII issued a change in the fasting practice before reception of Holy Communion that greatly mitigated the previous discipline, which allowed more of the Christian faithful to receive Eucharistic communion. The Second Vatican Council issued several disciplinary changes in the formation of priests (Optatam Totius, “Decree on the Training of Priests”) and of religious life (Perfectae Caritatis, “Decree on the Up-To-Date Renewal of Religious Life”), precisely with the intention of making priests and religious more capable of pursuing Christian holiness and bringing Christ to the world in our present day.
An authentic private revelation can certainly call the Church to re-examine its present disciplinary practices for the greater benefit of the People of God, for example, in order to assist its ministers and faithful in participating in the new evangelization with greater effectiveness, and in partaking of the Eucharist with greater frequency for the sanctification of God’s people.
The importance of greater social awareness is emphasized in the Second Vatican Council’s “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et Spes), where it states:
Today there is an inescapable duty to make ourselves the neighbor of every man, no matter who he is, and if we meet him, to come to his aid in a positive way, whether he is an aged person abandoned by all, a foreign worker despised without reason, a refugee, an illegitimate child wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a starving human being who awakens our conscience by calling to mind the words of Christ: ‘As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’ [Mt. 25:40] (Gaudium et Spes, 27).
In one regard, Our Lady speaks of the dangers of modern movements of “humanism, socialism, and communism” (March 20, 1953 message). In another sense, Our Lady’s call for a greater social outlook for the Church was not only incorporated by Vatican II, but also her concern for the need for socially oriented movements to be as much as possible brought “under the guidance of the Church” (August 29, 1945 message) also finds its parallel in the words of the Council: “Socialization, as it is called, is not without its dangers, but brings with it many advantages for the strengthening and betterment of human qualities and for the protection of human rights” (Gaudium et Spes, 25).
Why are the messages so specific about future political and economic events?
The messages get very specific about political and economic topics, for example, prophecies of future difficulties for the Royal Family in England, wars in the Balkans and the Middle East, and even warnings to the United States not to “push their politics too far” (December 10, 1950, February 11, 1951 messages). Is this political-economic specificity a legitimate aspect of a heavenly apparition from the Blessed Virgin Mary? Does Heaven truly concern itself with matters of earthly politics and economics?
The messages in general can be divided into two different categories concerning their discussion of political and economic topics. Before 1950, the messages repeatedly warn of upcoming political and economic problems; after 1950, the messages focus rather on spiritual remedies offered by Our Lady to assist her children through these and other spiritual difficulties.
The Church herself mirrors the concern of Our Lady for the economic and political circumstances which can threaten the general well-being of humanity. John Paul II has been outspoken throughout his pontificate against political and economic injustice that violates the rights of man and which in turn leads to grave spiritual crises for the human family, including war, starvation, oppression, terrorism, abortion, sterilization, and family breakdown.
Again, the Second Vatican Council shares the concern for international political and economic justice when it states, for example:
The present solidarity of mankind calls for greater international cooperation in economic matters. Indeed, although nearly all peoples have achieved political independence, they are far from being free of from excessive inequalitites and from every form of undue dependency and far from being immune to serious internal difficulties…” (Gaudium et Spes, 85).
Many of the upcoming political and economic events prophesied in the messages have indeed come to pass in our own day, for example the wars in the Balkans and the Middle East; the difficulties with the Royal family in England; the uprise of Communism and its effects; and the world concern over present U.S. political policies. At Fatima, Our Lady prophesied political and economic events such as the spreading of Communism, a conditional second world war, and the annihilation of nations. Is Our Lady concerned with earthly politics and economics? Certainly she is when it can result in widespread suffering and death for a significant number of her earthly children.
Is a public sign a necessary proof of authenticity and was one given in these apparitions?
At apparitions sites such as Lourdes and Fatima, the Blessed Virgin granted a public sign as an indication of authenticity for the apparitions, but at Amsterdam Our Lady responded to the request for a public sign with the words: “My signs are contained in my words” (May 31, 1957 message). Is a public sign a necessary criterion for the authenticity of a Marian apparition according to the guidelines of Church investigation?
The criteria for the evaluation of a reported private revelation issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and sent to diocesan commissions do not refer to the requirement of a public miracle as a condition for a conclusion of supernatural authenticity of an apparition. Nevertheless, public signs of a remarkable nature have been recorded and can be attributed to the Amsterdam apparitions.
One example of a truly remarkable sign is contained in the Amsterdam message of February 19, 1958, which predicted the death of Pope Pius XII in October of the same year. The message was kept secret and was written and sealed in an envelope which was given to the visionary’s spiritual director. After the unexpected death of Pius XII on October 9, 1958, the envelope was opened and the prediction was confirmed. In fact, Our Lady’s sign was contained in her words.
Numerous other prophecies which foretold future events have been fulfilled in our own times and in themselves constitute true signs of authenticity. From prophecies concerning a “landing on the moon” (February 7, 1946 message), to wars in the Balkans (October 1, 1949 message) and in the Middle East (December 26, 1947 message), to the convocation of a great Church council [Vatican II] (February 11, 1951 message), to modern forms of chemical and biological weapons (December 26, 1947), the signs of supernatural authenticity have been repeatedly manifested and fulfilled in the “words” of the Lady of All Nations.
Moreover, the weeping statue of the Lady of All Nations located in Akita, Japan constitutes a miraculous public sign which is documented and confirmed. A wooden statue of The Lady of All Nations venerated in a Japanese convent wept numerous lacrimations, which were witnessed and documented by several hundred people including the local bishop, Most Rev. John Shorijo Ito, Bishop of Niigata (local ordinary during the time of the apparitions). The tears were scientifically examined at the University of Akita and concluded to be of the nature of human tears. This public phenomenon accompanied apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to a Japanese religious, Sr. Agnes Sasagawa with a message emphasizing Our Lady’s role as Co-redemptrix. Several supernatural healings were documented, scientifically confirmed, and personally examined by Bishop Ito. Bishop Ito issued a pastoral letter declaring the events of Akita to be supernatural (April 22, 1984).
Bishop Ito has publicly testified to the essential interconnectedness of the apparitions of Our Lady of Akita with the Amsterdam apparitions of the Lady of All Nations, and has twice taken pilgrimages to the site of the Amsterdam apparitions.
Is the “forceful” tone of Our Lady reconcilable with Catholic tradition?
Aspects of the message give the impression that Our Lady is “angry,” with the pounding of her fist or manifesting other signs of forcefulness. Can this be reconciled with the scriptural and traditional portrayal of the Mother of Jesus?
The Pauline admonition to “be angry and sin not” (Eph. 4:26) reminds us that the human emotion of anger is not in itself sinful, but only when such anger leads to sinful acts against the Gospel. Jesus himself manifests anger in the temple when he drove out the moneychangers, turning over their tables and seats (cf. Mt. 21:12). Is it not possible for the Mother of Jesus also to speak with strength and conviction when she points out and warns the Church and her children about the seriousness of the time and the great dangers which they will soon face?
Our Lady is also foreshadowed in the Old Testament figures of Judith, who triumphs over the enemy Holofernes with the cutting off of his head (cf. Jud. 8-16); and the prophetess Deborah, who is Barak’s active partner in the victory over Sisera, which leads to the crushing of Sisera’s head by Jael (cf. Judg. 4:5). These Old Testament models convey in type the ongoing spiritual battle courageously fought by Our Lady, between the “woman” and the “serpent” (cf. Gen. 3:15), which continues in our present day.
But an examination of some of the particular messages reportedly manifesting the “forcefulness” of Our Lady actually reveal her efforts to depict anger or battling between others, and not expressions of her own anger. For example, she refers to an indifference and a battle in the Church symbolized by a gesture, as if she bangs her fist on the table, but then immediately shakes her head in an emphatic “no” against this battle (December 10, 1950 message). In another message, Mary refers to a battle between the East and West which she symbolically conveys through the striking of her fists three times together. This does not relay her own anger or forcefulness, but rather warns of grave international confrontations between the East and the West. It must also be kept in mind that such passages are rare and must be understood in context of the overall message tone which conveys peace, gentleness, and a loving maternal concern for humanity.
Why is the word “Church” used interchangeably with the word “Community”?
The term, Church is not used in a uniform fashion throughout the messages. Sometimes it seems to be used as interchangeable with “Community.” Does the Church permit others terms to express its unique essence and role?
The term, “Church” (Latin, ecclesia; Greek, ekkalein), refers to an assembly or convocation. In Christian usage, the word designates the liturgical assembly, the local community, or the whole universal community of believers (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 751, 752). The Second Vatican Council states that the “sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic…subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the Successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” (Lumen Gentium, 8). The Council also refers to the Church by using different expressions, for example as the “People of God” (Lumen Gentium, 13) and as a “visible society and spiritual community” (Lumen Gentium, 8).
The call of the Lady of all Nations, for example, to “Build one community for all the nations” (May 31, 1958 message), does not undermine the unique subsistence of the sole Church of Christ in the Catholic Church, but rather refers to the imperative for all peoples to come together in assembly under the Holy Spirit and under the successor of Peter. This particular message also refers to the geographical location designated by the Lady for the building of a church (place of assembly) where believers from all nations could come together in Christian worship.
The Second Vatican Council speaks in general about the appropriateness of one community of believers from all nations, one “People of God” united in communion by the Holy Spirit:
The one People of God is accordingly present in all the nations of the earth, since its citizens, who are taken from all nations, are of a kingdom whose nature is not earthly but heavenly. All the faithful scattered throughout the world are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit so that “he who dwells in Rome knows those in most distant parts to be his member,” “qui Roma sedet, Indos scit membrum suum esse” (Lumen Gentium, 13).
Moreover, the term “community” may be understood in an analogical sense just as the term “Church,” may be. In its fullest and truest sense, the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church and it is realized in individual local churches. Each parish church and gathering of the faithful is a further “assembly” of this reality. In a further analogical sense, the Church is realized, but not in its fullness, in those bodies which have maintained Apostolic Succession and the Sacraments. It is realized to an ever lesser extent in those ecclesial bodies in which we recognize a bond of Christian union by virtue of our common Baptism. These general distinctions regarding the nature of the Church and related terminology is well articulated in the messages of the Lady of All Nations, even though the messages were revealed before the significant ecclesiological developments of the Second Vatican Council.
Was the visionary psychologically sound and obedient? What about the demonic attacks she suffered?
Was the visionary of sound psychological and emotional state? Were there ever occasions of disobedience? How are we to interpret the demonic attacks experienced by Ida Peerdeman?
Preceding the declaration regarding the authenticity of the apparitions, Bishop J. M. Punt sought the advice of theologians and psychologists. Moreover, each of his four predecessors who were in office during the experience of the apparitions and the remainder of the visionary’s life knew Miss Ida Peerdeman personally, and never expressed any opinion or statement against her psychological well-being and emotional stability. On the contrary, as testified to by the Most Reverend Hendrick Bomers, Bishop of Haarlem during his homily at the funeral mass of Miss Peerdeman:
“I have known the visionary Ida Peerdeman for many years…I believe we can all easily confirm that Ida, with all the experiences that she had, never became something similar to a hypocrite. She was entirely “down to earth” up until her last day, and she would hold in great abhorrence any glorification of her own person. To her, this was out of the question. Both [of these qualities] are good and positive signs that are of major importance. What to me is indisputable without any doubt is that she was absolutely honest and told the truth about all she experienced” (Homily of Bishop H.J.A. Bomers, June 20, 1996, Archives of the Diocese of Haarlem).
All this led Bishop Punt to the conclusion that there was no psychological impediment concerning the sound emotional and psychological condition of the visionary.
The obedience of the visionary to her own spiritual directors and to Church authorities was exceptional and without failure. At times, she obeyed her spiritual director in preference to obeying the specific requests of the Lady, for which she was commended by the Lady herself: “You have acted well. Obedience was your first duty – so be it! This is what the Lord wanted of you” (message of May 31, 1956).
The visionary did report occurrences of satanic attacks, but similar demonic attacks have been experienced by numerous canonized saints, such as St. John Vianney and St. Pio of Pietrelcina. Spiritual attacks such as these can give positive indication of Satan’s dissatisfaction with the spiritual fruitfulness of the person’s cooperation with God and the individual’s contribution to the mystical Body of Christ (cf. Col. 1:24), rather than being indicative of any negative quality.
Historically, what has been the position of the Church regarding the apparitions? What is it now?
Has the local bishop ever condemned the apparitions as “constat de non supernaturalitate?” Did the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ever declare the apparitions false? Is it appropriate for the local bishop to make a declaration of authenticity before Rome makes a statement?
In principle and according to the guidelines of the Church, it is primarily the task of the local bishop to come to a judgment regarding the authenticity of a private revelation in his diocese. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may then confirm this judgment, but this is not necessary. Three classifications are used to express the level of authenticity of a reported private revelation. “Constat de supernaturalitate” denotes that the apparitions are of supernatural origin; “Non constat de supernaturalitate” indicates that a supernatural origin has not been defined; and “Constat de non supernaturalitate” signifies that there is no supernatural origin to the reported apparitions.
The Apparitions of the Lady of All Nations have never been condemned as “constat de non supernaturalitate,” either by any local bishop of Haarlem or by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has commonly confirmed the decisions of the local ordinary regarding the apparitions. For example, on March 13, 1957, the Holy Office confirmed disciplinary restrictions which were taken after investigation by Bishop Huibers, but added that it did not rule out the presentation of new information in the future. In May, 1974, the same Congregation confirmed that the status on the apparitions was “non constat de supernaturalitiate.”
In the decades that followed, much new information was added to the documentation. With greater awareness of the apparitions worldwide and greater maturity of its international devotion over time, Bishop Henrick Bomers undertook a new step which marked the beginning of a new phase. In 1996, after consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bishop Bomers in conjunction with his Auxiliary Bishop, Joseph Maria Punt, declared the approval of public devotion of the Lady of All Nations (May 31, 1996 open document), but without making a formal statement regarding authenticity .
After over fifty years of the development of this devotion (inclusive of two major investigations), and over the period of six subsequent years following a careful and prayerful discernment of authenticity according to the appropriate theological, psychological, and spiritual criteria, Bishop J. M. Punt came to the conclusion that the Apparitions of the Lady of All Nations in Amsterdam consist of a “supernatural origin” (Declaration, May 31, 2002 open document). In the declaration itself and the accompanying pastoral letter, he makes the following notes:
- The recognition refers to the apparitions of Mary as the Lady of All Nations, during the years 1945 to 1959. These occurred in the presence of others and were immediately documented.
- The Bishop recognizes these apparitions as essentially authentic, as essentially of a supernatural origin. But he adds that the influence of the human factor remains, that the abilities and limitations of the visionary can have their own impact.
- The bishop recalls that a private revelation is never binding for the conscience of the faithful. Everyone has the freedom to give this devotion a place in his or her religious life or not.
Numerous resources are available concerning the messages of the Lady of All Nations, the theological foundations for the doctrine and potential dogma of Mary, Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, and the historical development of the position of the Church (See: “The Church’s Stance“) regarding the apparitions.
The Lady of All Nations Foundation, Amsterdam