Monday, February 22, 2010

Miraculous Mass Sightings

Last time, we discussed Marian visitations such as Lourdes and Fatima, a religious theme that is well known worldwide, but was limited as far as actual viewers. This section on miracles will look at another kind of visitation, those involving mass sightings where multiple witnesses, sometimes in the thousands report seeing the identical apparitions. Please remember, it is our purpose here to investigate such cases with an eye to strictly paranormal explanations.

While the children of Fatima were the only witnesses to the “beautiful Lady,” who visited them in the fields, thousands did report seeing “orbs” and the “dance of the Sun” on the day of the last visitation. Even among the children, only the eldest, Lucia actually was in constant contact with the apparition, talking to her and receiving the messages; the younger children only saw the vision, but could not hear her voice. The same is true in many of the most famous visitations, but at others the number of witnesses explodes.

Again, there are hundreds of reported cases, many with good documentation from the Catholic Church, who admittedly is extremely skeptical of such reports; nevertheless there are cases through the ages, all over Europe and the World. Again, to give you a brief overview, I have selected a few for review here. These include cases from Knock, Ireland, Zeitoun, Egypt and finally a latter day case that the ASUP investigated in Bayside, Queens.

Knock is possibly my favorite case because, as a child I heard the tale from an uncle’s wife, who was a native of County Mayo, Ireland. Knock, by all accounts was a sleepy little village, nestled in the west county, close to absolutely nothing. The inhabitants were all Catholic and devout but nothing suggested the strange events of August 21, 1879 when one Mrs. Margret Beirne noticed an odd glow coming from the south gable of church in the middle of town. Margret looked to see if there was a fire, but instead found what she said looked like a statuary tableau of Jesus, Mary and a man dressed as a bishop, who she assumed was St. John. The tableau was about a foot or so off the ground and a few feet from the southern wall of the old Knock Church, and she assumed it was something new added by the Monsignor of the parish. When she returned home, she told her family, rather matter-of-factly about the new “statues.”

Later that evening, she was walking her friend, Mary McLaughlin with her sister Mary Beirne to the McLaughlin home near the church and they decided to take another look at the new statue. This time, Margret got a lot closer than before and realized that the “statues” were moving! One of the girls ran to find the parish priest, while the other looked on with a mixture of fascination and terror.

According to later accounts, the image of “Mary” was dressed in white,” Joseph” was grey bearded and dressed in muted tones, while the” Bishop” was in his full colorful regalia. A young man passing by joined the girls and later said the book that the “bishop” was carrying was so clear that he could see the individual letters on the page, but could not read them, they were in Greek. Soon more than a dozen witnesses were on hand to witness the event and each later gave testimony of what they saw. One elderly woman attempted to hug the legs of “Mary” and found that while the image seemed solid to the eye, her arms passed right thru it. All agreed the vision was not at all ghostlike or ethereal, but appeared to be full formed and three dimensional, at times moving, smiling and even walking slightly.

The next day, another witness came forward who was a man who was working in a nearby field. This witness stated that while he did not go to the church, he did see a strange light emanating from the west gable of the structure. He also stated that he was drawn to that direction because he saw a bright orb circle the church before resting in the eaves. He offered no other explanation or supposition. Knock was investigated by the hierarchy of the Church from Dublin, who found the witnesses credible, but the story of Knock does not end there.

Knock was to become a center for pilgrimage over the next century and stories about the healing powers of prayer offered at Knock continued to circulate, a large Catholic pilgrimage center has been erected on the site and the home of the Beirne family, as well as the old church have been preserved.

On October 12, 2009, thousands gathered at the Knock Shrine, Co Mayo, hoping to see an apparition of Our Lady.

There were ripples of applause from a crowd estimated at more than 5,000 as some people believed they could see the sun shimmering, changing color and dancing in the sky.
Some people were rapturous afterwards. Others were highly skeptical. “It’s an optical illusion, pure and simple,” one skeptic, who did not wish to be named, said. “Anybody looking at the bright sun long enough would begin to imagine things.” But other pilgrims were adamant that something supernatural, possibly life changing, had occurred.

John Tunney, from Islandeady, Castlebar, said: “I’m 53 years old and I have never seen the sun go like that before. I witnessed the sun go all different colors, yellow, red and green. Then it completely darkened and began shimmering. Sometimes the sun emitted a clean, bright light, then it would darken again.”

Mr. Tunney’s wife, Nina, said: “The sun was spinning in the sky. I experienced a feeling of total happiness. It is a feeling I would love to experience again. It was amazing. I felt marvelous.” Yvonne Rabbitte, from Dunmore, Co Galway, showed other pilgrims a photograph she had taken on her digital camera which showed vivid rays radiating downwards from the sun at the time the image was taken. Maggie Ahern, from Castlebar, had no doubt that the happenings in Knock were due to “heavenly intervention”.

Earlier in the week Dublin-based clairvoyant Joe Coleman predicted Our Lady would appear at the old parish church – scene of the 1879 apparition – at 3pm. Quite a number of those present were members of the Travelling community. They waited in the open air despite an invitation on loudspeaker at about 2:30 pm from Knock parish priest Msgr. Joseph Quinn that those in the grounds enter the adjacent Basilica to participate in ceremonies to mark the annual Dominican pilgrimage. The diocese made no public comment on the affair since.

Unlike the vision at Knock, the apparitions at Zeitoun, Egypt, was witnessed by tens of thousands of witnesses over a protracted period, hovering above Saint Mark's Coptic Church, a shrine dedicated to the Holy family, who according to tradition rested in that place during their stay in Egypt shortly after the birth of Jesus.

The apparitions, hundreds in number took place at night, and Our Lady was always surrounded by light. At 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, 1968; She appeared on the roof of the Church in a kneeling position, surrounded by light. The first man who saw her, a Muslim, Farouk Mohammed Atwa, was reportedly undergoing treatment for a case of gangrene. The following day when he went to hospital for his scheduled operation, and was certified completely healed.(Reported by Watani, an Egyptian newspaper, 21 April 1968) Other devoted women saw her and recognized her as Our Lady. The first apparition lasted only for a few moments, but that was just the beginning.

For the next three years Our Lady appeared on many occasions especially at night, and sometimes she was accompanied by white doves that would fly around her. Many orbs of light would be seen in the sky preceding the apparitions as if beautiful diamonds made of light were dropping from the heavens. The first two years she appeared about two to three times a week.
These apparitions attracted large crowds by night, sometimes up to 250,000 people, according to local authorities who feared for the safety of such crowds; they were Christian, Jews, Moslems, unbelievers and many others. The apparitions finally ended in 1971 leaving an atmosphere of unity and peace and many people received miraculous healings there. The apparitions were approved firstly by the Patriarch of the Coptic Church in Egypt, and later on they received approval by the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholic Cardinal Stephanos did all the investigations and submitted them to Pope Paul VI in May 1968, who approved them as a visitation of the Mother of God.

One remarkable thing about these apparitions is that Our Lady was visible by everyone and she allowed photographs to be taken. The apparition walked around the giant dome of the church, sometimes waving to the onlookers. Her face was said to be flesh colored, as were her hands, and she was bathed in a brilliant lights. In all, thousands of photographs were taken, showing not just the light show that accompanied the visitations but the image of the apparition as well, who appeared to be three dimensional.

Although no messages were given in these apparitions, Our Lady appeared many times in a position of prayer as if inviting onlookers to pray. The doves would fly and form the sign of the cross. The reports from Egypt are the longest running encounter of their kind, lasting years and many times on a weekly basis.

Our last visitation is even more modern and possibly the most unlikely, the reports of the Virgin Mary in Queens County, Long Island, New York, which were investigated by the ASUP. These reports centered on Mrs. Veronica Lueken, who lived in a quiet suburban neighborhood near Bayside, New York, who reported that she had been visited by the Mother of Jesus at her home in Fresh Meadows, and reported that she would appear at St. Robert Bellarmine Church in Bayside on April 7, 1970. This visitation was followed by a host of others, first to the church and later when the Catholic diocese took legal action to ban Mrs. Lueken from the church grounds, her followers relocated their demonstrations to the monument in nearby Flushing Meadow Park, site of the 1964 World’s Fair where the Vatican had built a pavilion to show the Pieta by Michelangelo, where the Pope came to offer mass during the Fair.

Mrs. Lueken’s family incorporated so that they could legally raise funds, reportedly to pay for her weekly newsletter to be sent worldwide, her small rented home became ground zero for followers and disbelievers alike and the local homeowners association took legal action to bar visitors to her street; she then limited her public appearances to the World’s Fair site, where thousands were drawn each month in hopes of seeing the miraculous.

Central to the Lueken claims were photographs being circulated among her followers of “The Ball of Redemption” being taken at the Vatican Pavilion site each month. Lueken’s entourage stated very clearly that to take a photo of the balls of glowing red, you had to use a certain Polaroid camera while Veronica was in trance; any other type of camera would not reproduce the heavenly image. There were hundreds of these photos circulating, but when several copies found their way to the hands of photo experts, they were deemed to be the fingertips of the photographer as they pushed the red button adjacent to the lens of the camera to take the picture, a design flaw that caused the flash to bounce off the finger tip, making it appear pinkish red in color to one side of the image. Even though some of these images clearly showed the ridges of finger prints, the followers countered that skeptics could say what they wished and that the photos were indeed proof of divine intervention.

I went to the site on several occasions and was met by physical restrain from Lueken’s body guards, who refused to give access to either myself or W.J. Karling, a local photojournalist who I was accompanying. Karling was chased and wrestled to the ground by one bodyguard when he attempted to take a photo of Lueken, leading to yet another legal battle in which officials ordered that the press had as much right to be on the site as anyone else. Findings concerning the photographic evidence collected by ASUP were later reviewed by independent experts and the Archdiocese of New York, who came to the unanimous conclusion that the Luekenites were perpetrating a hoax to raise funds, either with or without the knowledge of Mrs. Lueken herself. Sometime later I visited the Lueken home to find an empty house, the floors strewn with flyers about the visitations and a large Christian symbol emblazoned on the living room wall, which the landlord could not cover… not because it was religiously inspired but because it was done in Tempera that resist being covered by any paint. Lueken had disappeared, only to re-emerge some months later, still claiming that her Marian apparitions, who she alone could see, were real. She died on August 3, 1995 but a small band of her followers continue to spread her message to this day, even though the mainstream Catholic Church had disavowed them.

It should be noted here that the Luekenite movement was later seen by sociologists as a part of the larger Sedevacantist position, a group of Catholics who believe that the unbroken line of succession of the Papal state was discarded at the Second Vatican Council in 1963 and that all later Popes were elected illegally. This belief was later attributed to members of the Opus Dei, an ultra conservative group within the church, but no clear evidence to that has come to light to this point.

All of this as a given, we will not look at the pros, cons, similarities and differences in our course of Miracles, which will be covered in our last section.

© 2010 Rick Moran and the ASUP, Inc.

No comments:

Post a Comment