Visions of Mary and Jesus: a pilgrimage to the secret sites of 14 famous apparitions

by R.H.Ruggles, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.


There are many superlative adjectives one could use on this book. First of all the dedication of the writer/photographer who took 30 years to complete this beautiful prayer. I say prayer as one reads the text, one is called to prayer with the Blessed Mother. Throughout his career, Professor Ruggles traveled widely. One summer night in 1986 while in Manila, the Philippines, fear and anxiety overwhelmed him. He was convinced he would soon die (his father had died at an early age from a heart attack and his brother already had a heart attack). He feared he would never see his young children grow up. Manila Bay (Zerwell, Wikimedia, and CCA 3.0) at that terrifying moment in the hotel, a voice told him to look at the label of his shirt. He was amazed to see the word “Jesus” clearly printed in his shirt collar as he became immersed in a soothing purple light. Immediately a sense of peace flooded him, leading to a feeling that everything would work out for the best. It did. Ruggles subsequently kept the shirt for many years He returned to Victoria, Canada and told his wife, Belen Socorro (Spanish for Bethlehem and Help), that he wanted to return to the Church. Because Belen and their children were Catholic, he soon converted and was received into the Catholic Church in May 1987 (the month of Mary in the Marian year, one of only two Marian years in Church history, designated by the Pope). He felt Our Blessed Mother had touched his life and he wanted to do something in return. On a trip to Washington, D.C. he packed copies of Catherine Odell’s initial edition of Those Who Saw Her: The Apparitions of Mary and John Delaney’s A Woman Clothed with the Sun. It was fascinating reading to him but he longed to see what these shrines looked like. The more books he read, the more he found there were no extensively illustrated overviews of the most famous Marian apparition shrines. Only the fortunate few among pilgrims could visit all the major shrines. Others who, for financial or health reasons, could not travel to Europe, Asia and Latin America would have to be armchair pilgrims. Ruggles increasingly felt an interior urging which prodded him year after year to design a photo pilgrimage of Our Lady’s shrines celebrating her appearances. He felt that Our Lady was inviting him to put together this work. From 1988 to 1998, he visited most of the major apparition shrines at least three times. It is difficult to say which shrine he preferred. Each one offers something unique to the pilgrim, and all convey serenity, blessed by a touch from the divine. Nothing surpasses the majestic surroundings of La Salette, high in the French Alps. The stained-glass window of the scarlet cross in the Basilica of Pontmain stands out as the most stunning one he viewed. The Eucharistic adoration chapel in Fatima and the midnight Masses in Knock, Ireland and Bethania, Venezuela etched themselves into memory. He felt thrilled to view the evidence of Our Lady’s appearances in Akita, Japan and Zeitoun, Cairo. The resting place of Jacinto Marto in the Fatima Basilica is particularly moving as one recalls the courageous example of this six year-old who joyfully accepted the pain of her terminal illness in reparation for the sins of others.

Each of the sites of the apparitions help one to learn about the historical context; the visionaries witnessing the apparitions; the miraculous healings; the church approval process by local authorities; and the cultural attractions. They are priceless historical pieces of what has happened during this particular time. The photographs are breathtaking and from an angle that hasn’t been observed before. Below is a list of the places observed and written about concerning the apparitions.

INTRODUCTION APPARITION SITES AS SANCTUARIES

CHAPTER 1 MEXICO CITY (1531)

CHAPTER 2 PARAY-LE-MONIAL, FRANCE (1673-1675)

CHAPTER 3 RUE DU BAC, PARIS, FRANCE (1830)

CHAPTER 4 LA SALETTE, FRANCE (1846)

CHAPTER 5 LOURDES, FRANCE (1858)

CHAPTER 6 PONTMAIN, FRANCE (1871)

CHAPTER 7 KNOCK, IRELAND (1879)

CHAPTER 8 FATIMA, PORTUGAL (1917)

CHAPTER 9 POLAND AND LITHUANIA (1931-1938)

CHAPTER 10 BEAURAING, BELGIUM (1932-1933)

CHAPTER 11 BANNEUX, BELGIUM (1933)

CHAPTER 12 ZEITOUN, CAIRO, EGYPT (1968)

CHAPTER 13 AKITA, JAPAN (1973-1981)

CHAPTER 14 BETANIA, VENEZUELA (1976-1984)

Ruggles increasingly felt an interior urging which prodded him year after year to design a photo pilgrimage of Our Lady’s shrines celebrating her appearances. He felt that Our Lady was inviting him to put together this work. From 1988 to 1998, Ruggles visited most of the major apparition shrines at least three times. Our Lady of Knock Shrine, Ireland Ruggles personally believed that Our Blessed Mother’s appearances calls us to conversion, to turn away from sin, and to be reconciled with God and others. To do this, we need to consecrate ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, font of divine mercy, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We must practice mercy if we expect to receive it from God. Mary’s messages often invite us to prayer. Perhaps Mary’s increasing appearances on earth during the 20th century are a special grace to call us to repent and return to God. As to the visionaries, I believe that they have been blessed with being able to see in another dimension, often while they are in a deep meditative or sometimes ecstatic trancelike state. It is as if the divine veil of heaven has been lifted for them. That is, in addition to the three spatial dimensions and a fourth dimension for time, the visionaries have been privileged to have been able to access a fifth spiritual dimension.

The beauty of the pictures as well as the words is unforgettable. The good thing is one can get the entire book on Amazon. Kindle without charge. It is glorious!

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