Have you ever wondered why certain people are chosen by our Lord or His Mother for apparitions

Why are certain visionaries chosen?


Have you ever wondered why certain people are chosen by Our Lord and His Mother for apparitions and to be Their messengers? I have.


Now, one would have thought that all these privileged men and women were holy, holy, holy, and walked on clouds with a light surrounding them. Nothing of the sort in many of them! Indeed, the visionaries of Medjugorje were certainly ordinary youngsters and not particularly churchy. In fact, when in July 1981 the visionaries asked Our Lady: “Gospa, why are you appearing to us? We are not better than others,” she replied: “I do not necessarily choose the best.” Indeed, several of their human frailties seem to persist throughout, and they are certainly not perfect.



St. Catherine Labouré


Because I am very well acquainted with a few of the modern-day visionaries, neither of whom carry halos around their heads, I thought that I should research just three of the lives of some of the seers of well-known and major Marian apparition sites, beginning with St. Catherine Labouré to whom Our Lady appeared in Paris in 1831 promoting the Miraculous Medal.


According to the biography on her life by Fr. Joseph I. Dirvin, C.M., Catherine was well-known to be confrontational with her confessor. It was all about Fr. Aladel’s refusal to believe in her visions and the mission, which she was given by Our Lady. Her terrible suffering at that time was evident in her despairing, exasperated complaint to Our Lady that she might better appear to somebody else since, as she said: “My good Mother, you see that he will not believe me. No one will believe me.”


These encounters between confessor and penitent became highly excitable and unpleasant. Voices were raised and harsh words uttered. These sounds of battle even drifted out of the confessional and startled the ears of the Sisters, who were waiting their turn. However, they did not know at that time what it was all about since Catherine kept her secret from them. Indeed, the Sisters later testified before the Tribunal convened by Rome to investigate Catherine’s sanctity that they often overheard the voice of Fr. Aladel, its tone peremptorily commanding, and the voice of Catherine, its tone just as peremptorily insisting. It is also written that she had a dogged and determined will that would sidestep any unpleasantness to achieve its objective, and a spirited tongue to pursue that objective against all arguments and remonstrance.


There are other ample examples of her tart rejoinders. For example, she also gave in to occasional flashes of temper and these outbursts endured almost to the moment of her death when she had attained a very high sanctity. Nonetheless, when her body was exhumed it was found to be miraculously preserved. It tells a story! She now lies in the chapel in the Rue du Bac in Paris, in the Mother house of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. But didn’t St. Peter also have a temper? Did he not chop the ear off one of the soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane? Yet it was upon this rock that Jesus Christ built His Church!



Bernadette of Lourdes


Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes could also be quite caustic at times. According to Fr. René Laurentin’s book Bernadette of Lourdes, among other things, she disliked being harassed by curious people and being treated like a saint. For example, when people would ask her to touch holy objects for them, she would curtly reply: “Sorry, I am forbidden to do that.” On another occasion, several women approached her from behind thinking: “If I could only cut off a bit of her dress!” Sensing their intention, Bernadette would reply: “What imbeciles you are!”


When other people would present their Rosaries for her to touch and bless, she would simply reply: “I do not wear a stole.” Some people would then resort to subterfuges. Distinguished visitors, for example, would accidentally drop a Rosary so that Bernadette might have to pick it up for them. One day when asked why she did not pick up the Rosary of someone, who was considered to be special, she replied: “I am not the one who dropped it.”


One bishop was admitted to the infirmary to see a sick Bernadette. But he had a more original idea. Playing negligently with his Episcopal cap, he let it drop on her bed. It was a deliberate strategy designed to get her to touch it and pick it up for him. Bernadette did not move a muscle. The conversation then dropped to zero. Finally, the bishop took the initiative: “Sister, would you mind giving me back my cap?” “Your Excellency, I did not ask for your cap. You can pick it up yourself,” she gently replied. However, in the end she did pick it up out of obedience because her superior in the room ordered her to do so. In fact, she frequently used to sigh: “Oh, my impetuous nature again!” On another occasion she referred to her fellow Sr. Julienne as a “blabber-mouth.”


Her superiors did all they could to protect Bernadette from curious visitors, but exceptions were tried to be made for bishops passing through. Among them were Bishop Chigi, the Apostolic Nuncio, and Bishop Dupanloup. However, Bernadette seems to have had no undue respect for those who insisted on seeing her, which included even bishops. When asked to see them, Bernadette retorted: “These poor bishops would be better off staying at home in their chanceries.” Once she also refused to see a certain Bishop Bourred of Rodez. According to Sr. Victoire Cassou: “I said to her: ‘What about the 40 day indulgence? (for kissing a bishop’s ring).’ “My Jesus, mercy. That’s 300 days!” she replied.


Once she was also asked about the secrets which Our Lady had given to her, to which she gave no reply. Three Jesuits then argued: “If you cannot tell them, it is a useless revelation.” She sternly replied: “I am sorry but it is useful for me.” “Why have you hidden them from your confessor?” asked another priest. “They are not sins!” immediately retorted Bernadette.


When during that historic apparition on Thursday, February 25, 1848, Bernadette was told by Our Lady: “Go and drink of the spring and wash yourself in it,” and then: “Go and eat the plant you will find there,” she then acted in blind obedience, all to the embarrassment and ridicule of the huge crowd. Some time later, she was eventually summoned to a final Episcopal interrogation before Bishop Laurence in Tarbes. The Bishop’s demeanor was one of imperturbableness as were the chiseled faces of the 12 members of the Commission. One Commissioner tried to embarrass her: “The idea of making you eat some kind of grass doesn’t seem to me to be an idea worthy of the Holy Virgin.” “Well, we eat salad alright, don’t we?” replied Bernadette. That took care of the question.


Now, one of her superiors Mother Vauzou, the Mistress of novices, had a growing reserve and stiffness towards Bernadette and maintained a relative amount of skepticism with regards to the apparitions of Lourdes. She offered several reasons to Canon Boillot, the then chaplain of the Mother house. She gave as some of her reasons: “There are some bishops who don’t believe it,” and “Oh, she was a little peasant girl. If the Holy Virgin wanted to appear somewhere on earth, why would she choose a common, illiterate peasant instead of some virtuous and well-instructed nun.” Another reason was the difference in class and social status between Bernadette and herself and Mother Vauzou frequently expressed this bias: “I do not understand why the Holy Virgin should reveal herself to Bernadette. There are so many other souls more lofty and delicate. Really!”


It tells a story — perhaps even a contemporary one!



Melanie Calvet of La Salette


But it was Melanie Calvet or Sr. Mary of the Cross, the shepherdess of La Salette, who took the cake for spunk. Fr. Paul Gouin wrote all about her in his book on La Salette. After 5 years of careful examination of the facts, in 1851 the Church authorized the apparitions of Our Lady of La Salette as authentic.  It was signed by the Bishop of Grenoble, France.


Now, St. Bernadette was told by Our Lady that she would have to suffer in this world, but that she would be happy in the next. However, although her life was one of martyrdom, at least she had the security of a convent. On the other hand, Melanie Calvet was, as it were, chased from pillar to post and she received no comfort from people or Church authorities (except in a few cases). She had to live, as it were, the life of a kind of spiritual fugitive. It was not a life, which was hidden in a cloister, but one of wandering across Europe for all to criticize, even to persecute as she went about protesting, not her own innocence, but the truth of La Salette.


Melanie’s secrets given to her by Our Lady in La Salette, their heart-rending appeals to the clergy, their prophetic language, and the announcement of a fearful punishment in the future, were found to be extremely severe, ensuring the clear hostility of the French Church hierarchy. In fact, as early as 1854, Mgr Ginoulhiac, the Bishop of Grenoble, had stated that Melanie was “eluded and proud.” But as Melanie herself would say later on: “There are people who believe it their duty to see that Almighty God does not say things which are too severe or shocking when He lowers Himself to talk to His creatures. They allow the Good Lord to complain about farmers working on Sunday, blasphemy or the missing of Mass, but they do not allow Him to complain about the clergy being too fond of money!”


In her last letter written to Fr. Mesière, the parish priest of Labbeville, when close to her death in 1904, among other things, she wrote,: “Poor people! Poor France and the poor clergy, who, through their egotism, have lost the true light of Eternal Wisdom. Blessed and a thousand times blessed are those priests who live close to the Heart of the Lord and who serve Him and love Him in spirit and in truth with the Virgin Mary.”


When her body was exhumed the skeleton was found to be intact (in spite of her rebukes to the clergy!). That too tells a story. But didn’t Jesus Himself have harsh words to say about the scribes and Pharisees? (Matthew 23). And so, just as the high priests of yore did not believe in the authenticity of Jesus, many of the high priests of today do not also believe in the authenticity of several of the alleged apparitions of Our Lady.


Heaven, however, knows everything about us, our character and characteristics, our strengths and our weaknesses. As Jesus said: “Every hair on your head had been counted” (Matthew 10:30). So said, people are apparently chosen, not necessarily because of their extreme sanctity, but because of certain traits about which we frequently are unaware. They are also chosen because of their potential to carry out certain missions, some of which, by the way, do not always succeed because of man’s free will. As Jesus also said to his disciples: “If anyone does not welcome you or listen to what you have to say, as you walk out of the house or town shake the dust from your feet. I tell you solemnly, on the Day of Judgement it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom and Gomorrah as with that town” (Matthew 10:14-16).


To those visionaries of today, who are truly authentic but are being doubted and persecuted, I say this. As Fr. Albert Hebert once wrote: “There are similar instances of restraint in the history of genuine apparitions, stigmatists, saints, seers and holy persons.” And so, what you are going through is nothing new. It has happened before. It is all part of the territory. In fact, if you are not persecuted, it simply means that you are not authentic. But the battle will be won — even if at the last moment (like that of her Son). And then the truth will be known to all.


By the way, to spare his name, a certain cardinal in Portugal at one time forbade his priests to go to Fatima under pain of excommunication. However, he repented on his death bed!