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A Book Review… Learn About Our Lady’s Role In History

April 30, 2018 Featured Today No Comments

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY

Donal Anthony Foley reviews Daily, Daily, Sing to Mary: Celebrating With Our Lady Every Day of the Year by Fr. Paul Haffner (Gracewing Publishing, 648 pages, $17.85, paperback).

This hefty book is designed to provide a daily reading relating mainly to places associated with Marian apparitions, devotions, and pilgrimages. Thus there is an entry for every day of the year and these are drawn from a wide variety of sources, with the general aim of encouraging devotion to the Blessed Virgin as part of everyday life.
In many cases, the readings chosen for a particular day will be well known to most readers, involving as they do, an important Marian feast day, such as the Presentation on February 2, or the Annunciation on March 25, or the Assumption on August 15. Similarly, the major apparitions of our Lady, such as Lourdes on February 11, or Fatima on May 13, or Guadalupe on December 12, are covered.
But what makes this book interesting is the breadth of scope of the entries, which indicate the truly Catholic or universal nature of the Blessed Virgin’s influence over the last two thousand years of Church history.
There are quite a number of entries devoted to statues of our Lady which have either appeared miraculously, and around which a devotional cult has then arisen, or alternatively, where an individual has put a statue in a particular location, as a devotional offering to the Blessed Virgin, and then over time a cult has arisen there.
Similarly, there are a number of accounts of statues being found miraculously and then, when it was desired to move them to nearly church or chapel, it proved either impossible to physically move them, or if they were moved, the statue was mysteriously found to be back in its original location soon after. Clearly, the message was that our Lady herself was choosing the place she wanted for the devotional image of herself.
Another recurring theme is the way our Lady has appeared to poor shepherds or shepherdesses, such as the children of Fatima. But unlike Fatima which has grown into one of the major Marian shrines in the world, the shrines which grew up around these other individuals have often remained quiet and obscure, showing that there is a definite hierarchy for the various apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, and that some are clearly far more important than others.
Regarding shepherds and shepherdesses, there is an example of this from near Fatima itself, at Ortiga, which is only a few miles away from the shrine. Here a young mute shepherdess was miraculously cured by our Lady during the Middle Ages, and Fr. Haffner details similar occurrences which took place in Piedmont in Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, where cults devoted to Our Lady of Divine Providence and Our Lady of Bocciola developed.
Something similar happened only about 10 miles from Lourdes in the sixteenth century, at Betharram, where some shepherds found a statue of the Blessed Virgin on rocks on the banks of the River Gave in the midst of an extremely bright light. This statue was one of those which when moved, returned to its original place.
Apart from apparitions or statues, the book also deals with icons of the Blessed Virgin, such as Our Lady of Philhermos, which was discovered by the Knights of St. John while they were leaving the Holy Land. Like the icon known as Salus Populi Romani, which is now in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, in Rome, this one is traditionally ascribed to St. Luke. The icon became the patron of the Knights, and they took it with them when they moved to Rhodes and then to Malta. After various vicissitudes, the icon finally ended up in Montenegro.
The book also details more recent Marian apparitions, such as those to Adele Brise, a young Belgian immigrant, at Champion in Wisconsin in October 1859. Our Lady appeared to this young woman and entrusted a twofold mission to her, which involved prayer for the conversion of sinners and catechesis. This led her to start a school; eventually a shrine was set up in the locality and dedicated to Our Lady of Good Help.
There are many reports of physical healings which have been obtained there, and as testimony to this numerous crutches have been left at the shrine. The apparitions to Adele were officially judged to be authentic in 2010, by Bishop David Ricken, the bishop of Green Bay, Wis.
The book also details the Canadian national shrine to the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of the Cape, which is situated halfway between Montreal and Quebec City, at Trois-Rivières, in the district of Cap-de-la-Madeleine. This shrine grew out a rebirth of the piety of the local people following the arrival in the 1860s of a new priest, Fr. Luke Desilets.
By 1877, the need for a larger church became apparent, and the local men crossed the St. Lawrence River to quarry and prepare the stones for the new building. The parish could not afford a barge to bring them over the river, though, and waited in expectation for it to freeze over, even though, because of its width and speed, it did not do this every year.
Thus the parishioners began to recite the rosary for freezing weather, but by March they became discouraged — although Fr. Desilets carried on praying. Then on March 14 a warm wind began to break up ice, and it floated down and accumulated by the cape, forming a mile and a half-long ice bridge across the river. For eight days the men brought over the stones for the church on sledges, trusting in their pastor’s prayers that all would be well; soon after the final stones had been transported, the ice roadway was swept away. Thus the new church was built, and later the eyes of a statue of our Lady on the main altar were seen to move by several people. A basilica at the shrine was completed in the 1960s and Pope St. John Paul II visited in 1984.
There are many such interesting accounts in Daily, Daily, Sing to Mary, but unfortunately, the book is marred somewhat by the inclusion of a number of alleged Marian apparitions, which range from the questionable to the downright suspicious if not fraudulent. For example, there is an entry for the alleged “apocalyptic” visions at Akita in Japan (1973), which although they gained support from the original bishop, were effectively repudiated by the rest of the Japanese hierarchy.
And it’s difficult to see why claims for places such as Mettenbuch in Germany, for apparitions dating from 1877 — which the alleged visionaries publicly repudiated ten years later — were included in the book. Likewise, the entry for “Our Lady of Medjugorje,” for June 24 — a title which very much begs the question — does really seem inappropriate, given all the controversy surrounding the alleged visions which have been reported as originating there.
It would probably have been better to focus on more long established and trustworthy apparitions rather than these suspect ones.
Having said that, such entries make up only a relatively small percentage of the whole work and overall, this is a book which will undoubtedly be very helpful for many people in making them more aware of our Lady’s role in history, be it at minor or major shrines, and in strengthening their devotion to the Blessed Mother.
What comes across strongly in Daily, Daily, Sing to Mary is how our Lady has very much accommodated herself to her spiritual children throughout the world, but with a marked preference for the poor and lowly — which is only to be expected.

+ + +

Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also a written two time-travel/adventure books for young people — details can be found at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk/.

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