Encountering Mary

Encountering Mary: From La Salette to Medjugorje

Sandra L. Zimdars-Swartz
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 358
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  • Book Info
    Encountering Mary
    Book Description:

    In the past two centuries hundreds of apparitions of the Virgin Mary have been reported, drawing crowds to the seers and the sites and constituting events of great religious significance for millions of people worldwide. Here Sandra Zimdars-Swartz provides a detective-like investigation of the experiences and interpretations of six major apparitions, including those at La Salette and Lourdes in France during the mid-nineteenth century; at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917; and the more recent ones at San Damiano, Italy; Garabandal, Spain; and Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, where the apparitions continue. Adopting a phenomenological approach to these "encounters with Mary"--one that is neither apologetic nor antagonistic--the author explores the tension between the personal meaning of the events for their subjects and the public appropriation of this meaning by a larger religious community. Along the way she examines the backgrounds of the seers, their willingness or reluctance to talk about the apparitions and their messages, the amount of emotional support they received from family and community as news of the apparitions spread, the reports of miracles at apparition sites, the reactions of local authorities, and the steps taken by the Roman Catholic Church in officially recognizing or rejecting the apparitions as worthy of belief. The author concludes with a survey of religious worldviews based on Marian apparitions, focusing especially on the now-popular transcultural apocalyptic nature of these messages to the modern world.

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6163-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-2)
    (pp. 3-22)

    At various times in the past two centuries, millions of devout Christians, most of them Roman Catholics, have gathered at rural sites scattered throughout the world to catch a glimpse of one or more persons who claim that they have been seeing and receiving messages from the Virgin Mary. Some have gone to these out-of-the-way places simply out of curiosity or at the urging of family and friends. Probably the majority, however, have gone in faith, hoping in some way to encounter the figure whose presence and special graces have presumably been manifested there.

    Few of these persons have expected...

    • CHAPTER 1 Personal Experiences and Public Demands: LA SALETTE, LOURDES, AND FATIMA
      (pp. 25-91)

      The experiences that constitute apparitions and that attract attention to them are best expressed in stories. The more time one spends with the reports of such experiences, the more the sense and the importance of this axiom becomes clear. To represent apparition experiences, at least initially, in any other way than through the narratives in which the seers and devotees have themselves represented them would in all likelihood be to miss the symbolic contexts that have defined these experiences, and it is precisely these contexts that we want to discern and to understand.

      There is, unfortunately, no systematic way to...

    • CHAPTER 2 Personal Crises of Health, Public Crises of Faith: SAN DAMIANO
      (pp. 92-123)

      The history of the apparition at San Damiano, Italy (1964–1981) is to a considerable extent the history of the seer who reported it and who, for its duration of almost sixteen years, stood at the center of the considerable amount of attention it received. Except for a period of about ten years, Rosa Quattrini was ill for much of her adult life. Her period of good health, which she believed she owed to a miraculous healing, coincided with the time in which the Roman Catholic Church was undergoing the tremendous changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council. Rosa’s understanding...

    • CHAPTER 3 Can the Testimonies of Thousands Be Wrong? SAN SEBASTIAN DE GARABANDAL
      (pp. 124-162)

      The apparition at San Sebastian de Garabandal, a small village in Cantabria in northern Spain, began on 18 June 1961, when four young girls reported that they had seen an angel. In the next two weeks there were nine more appearances of the angel, after which, in the next two years, came more than two thousand reported appearances of the Virgin Mary. The paranormal abilities claimed for the seers during the course of the apparition, two “public messages,” and a distinctive end-time scenario of warning-miracle-chastisement have been widely publicized in a number of languages by devotees of this apparition. Indeed,...

    • CHAPTER 4 From Personal to Public: LA SALETTE
      (pp. 165-189)

      Secrets are a particularly interesting aspect of modern Marian apparitions. Visionaries often indicate that the Virgin has told them things that they are supposed to tell no one. They are usually ambivalent about even mentioning such “secrets,” however, probably realizing that they will be under pressure to reveal them. When people become convinced that a seer harbors secrets, speculation about their nature and content is inevitable, and the seer is pressed for anything and everything in the alleged secrets which might be of public relevance. Indeed, a seer’s ability to withstand such pressure has often been understood as evidence of...

    • CHAPTER 5 A Secret in Three Parts: FATIMA
      (pp. 190-219)

      No apparition reported in the twentieth century has attracted as much attention with regard to secret revelations as that at Fatima in Portugal. While this apparition occurred between May and October of 1917, it was not well known outside of Portugal until the 1940s, when devotional accounts based on Lucia’s memoirs began to be published in various languages. It was these memoirs, in which Lucia related the first two parts of a three-part secret that she and her cousins had received from the Virgin on 13 July 1917, which gave rise to a flood of interest in and speculation about...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Drama of Secrets in Post–World War II Marian Apparitions
      (pp. 220-244)

      The abbé henri souillet was a priest in charge of a parish near l’Île Bouchard, France, where four children reported an apparition of the Virgin in December 1947. Shortly after these reports, in a letter to a Belgian priest whom he considered somewhat of an authority on apparitions, Souillet probably expressed the thoughts of a good many Roman Catholic authorities in the years after the Second World War with respect to the phenomenon of apparition “secrets.” He noted here, first of all, that he shared his colleague’s general skepticism about such secrets. The phenomenon had begun, he recalled, at La...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Fundamentals of Modern Apparition Worldviews
      (pp. 245-270)

      The apparitions of the Virgin Mary reported in the last two centuries have been focal points of significant religious experiences like some of those described in the first part of this study for vast numbers of modern Roman Catholics who have made pilgrimages to the sites of these apparitions. It is as if these persons have been able to transcend time and to enter into the experiences and meanings which first drew attention to these sites, encountering Mary for themselves in ways which reflect and build on these earlier experiences and meanings. As the second part of this study has...

  8. APPENDIX: Suggestions for Further Reading and Study
    (pp. 271-278)
  9. NOTES
    (pp. 279-318)
    (pp. 319-332)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 333-342)