What is an Apparition?

By Msgr. Rene' Laurentin

May 25, 2010


If I assume that the problem is solved at the end of my hypotheses and after the electroencephalograms, but particularly after my conversations with so many visionaries, well treated or unfairly treated, I will simply say this:


I believe that it  (an apparition) is simply the immediate contact of the visionary with Christ or the Virgin as she is in heaven in the eternal glory from which she makes herself present to our successive time, and that it is necessarily a little disconcerting.


The apparition is immediate.  It does not pass through the optic transmission which imprints on the retina (in reverse), nor through the electric current which transmits the optic vibrations to the brain, nor through the converting of the image by the frontal lobe.  The visionaries pass from the successive duration of time to the eternal duration of God.  As they are too small to enter into the eternal duration of God, they are given to grasp only one element: Christ, the Virgin, or both, which they project during their temporal direction.  It does not seem that in heaven there is a closet where all is pure for the purest; but in our world where nothing is pure for the impure, they see Christ or the Virgin appearing to them dressed in conventional clothing, as we have here on earth, often the ones seen in Churches where they see the Virgin or the saints.


There are then many relativities and at the same time a profound immediacy in the apparitions.  This explanation merits taking into account all the scientific points acquired, including electroencephalograms, potential memory re-awakenings, etc. These latter well attest that the "image" of Christ or the Virgin which they see does not come from the image they project several feet before them, but comes more interiorly, immediately and profoundly than from a personal contact.


It is not a matter of a simple, perceptible image of no great value, but what they receive is an image of a person.  The image is a sacramental, a sign conjoined to that person.  It is, therefore, the person of Christ or the Virgin or the saints, which is communicated to them interiorly and profoundly through the image that grasps their understanding.


Certainly there might be variations in these intimate and personal communications, but the essential for the visionaries is this identification, this unity, which they feel so profoundly:  "Be one as the Father and I are One, you in Me and Me in you, as the Father is in Me and I in Him."( Jn 17:21)     


This is where the very profound impression is expressed so well by Mirjana (Medjugorje visionary) when she says, "When this union ceases, how is it done?  I love my husband, I love my children, I do everything for them; but in these short moments of apparition, I forget them, and I would be ready to go with the Virgin."


It is not easy to perceive even a little of the glorious eternity in its unending duration, a different state from the daily life we are living here on earth.  The Lord, Creator of all things, makes us live our lives in good order in our successive time and in the immense complete liberty of eternity, where He Himself lives, where they live in a perfect union, in an abundance with nothing fixed, because it (eternity) allows all connections and routes taken through the duration of time here on earth.


This interpretation of the apparitions explains and shows at the same time at which point the apparitions are a simple, private and personal thing, unutterable for the visionaries having a real contact instantly with heaven, and why they are unable to prove it.  They can simply manifest it by their joy, their strength, and also the powerlessness and distress.  Most of them are rejected and treated in a way objectively disgraceful, even if the personal intentions of those who reprimand them are excellent.  On the other hand, that also explains why in the jurisprudence and Canon of the Church, and all the procedures concerning the apparitions are generally in vain, because they take this spiritual and inaccessible matter in an exterior way by often neglecting what would be the specific and appropriate signs to recognize them.  That is why the commissions nominated are generally divided.  There is nothing we can draw from it.  It automatically results in a negative formula, "non constat supernaturalitas," (the supernatural is not determined) and reserves all, in an exclusive formula which excludes all by simply changing the place of the negation:  "constat non supernaturalitas", (it is evident that there is no supernatural); the transposition achieved, ingeniously by the official of Baltimore for Gianna Talone Sullivan, whose life completely given to God in others, was in this way removed from the supernatural. 


But the Orthodox have the proper procedure since the Patriarch simply sends a bishop on-site to observe the apparition (the "miracle" without talking of miracle), and simply recognizes it with joy.  The fruits are good, for it is in this way that the apparitions of Egypt to the Orthodox and the apparitions to a little Muslim, alone in Church where he referred it to the priest, were the occasion for the government and the Lebanese patriarch to officially recognize the 25th of March, the day of the Annunciation, as the great feast of the Virgin who thus became common to both the Catholics and Muslims, united in the faith in the integral virginity of the Virgin Mary, before, during and after childbirth.   In this case, the simple welcome from the Lebanese priest who welcomed and guided the little Muslim visionary, without separating him from his own, comes back in the same way as the quick declarations from the (Orthodox) bishops and the Egyptians Muslims.


(Translated from the French by Lily and Michel Gemond, Arlington, Virginia)