Though I was raised Catholic, Marian apparitions were not a large part of my childhood. I really don't know much about them at all. I was pleased to see this book available for review from The Catholic Company.
As difficult as some Catholic teachings may be, we cannot pick and choose what we wish to believe. Marian apparitions are different, however. They are not part of Revelation, "Scripture and Tradition (doctrine transmitted by the apostles but not in Scripture)" and therefore we are each left to decide for ourselves.
Since Revelation supplied the necessary body of truth about God and salvation two thousand years ago, "particular revelations," including apparitions, can't really add anything. This is the reason why belief in apparitions, even those like Lourdes and Fatima, is optional.Most apparitions are not even investigated by the Church. Of those that are, the greatest number do not receive any official response or are deemed "nothing contrary to the faith." A few are determined to be false, "not worthy of belief" (a purposeful attempt at fraud, a seer who is psychologically impaired, etc.). This book concentrates on those that are determined "worthy of belief" and a few of the more recent and well-known sites that continue under investigation.
It is clear the author, Ms. Odell, does belief in Marian apparitions, if not necessarily every one examined in the book.
With all apparitions, there is a tension between authority and prophecy (the Church and apparitions) that must work itself out again and again. The tension will continue, but there is little need to be concerned that it will damage the Church, theologians assure us. Because Mary has assured us that she is indeed Mother of the Church, it is safe--and even necessary--to believe that she will always be near. And when the time is right and the needs of the world warrant it, she will be close enough for some eyes to see and many hearts to know.Knowing the author's bias, I was pleasantly surprised at the clear description of events and struggles of each apparition. Ms. Odell did not condemn the bishops or priests for withholding belief or delaying decisions (though she did stress the sorrow or struggle such delays may have caused the visionaries).
It should not be surprising that the stories of the apparitions are enthralling and inspiring. Many of the seers experienced pain and suffering, ridiculed by many and embarrassed by a great amount of attention from believers. Most of them were devout Catholics before Mary appeared and approached their priests and bishops humbly.
I will admit I find many of the apparitions difficult to grasp. I will not say any Marian appearance deemed worthy of belief is false, but I'm glad to be able to read books like this one and learn more. The only Marian apparitions I knew much about at all was Lourdes (thanks mainly to a movie) and Guadalupe (thanks mainly to children's books). This book has greatly improved my knowledge and given me much to consider.
This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. I have not received any payment for this review, but I did receive a free copy of the book Those Who Saw Her: Apparitions of Mary. Learn more about joining the reviewer program here.