by Lourdes R. Policarpio
Ours has been regarded as a Marian Age which started with the apparitions of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal to Sr. Catherine Laboure in Paris way back 1830. Indeed, no period has been endowed with so many apparitions from Our Lady as ours. Consider the breadth and reach of some of these apparitions: Medjurgorje (in former Yugoslavia), Akita (Japan), Naju (Korea), Fatima (Portugal), Lourdes and La Salette (France), Knock (Ireland), Beauraing and Banneux (Belgiuml,etc. What then distinguishes the apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations in Amsterdam?
The apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations are remarkable and controversial for here, Our Lady is said to have asked that she be declared Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate. The apparitions therefore merit more than a cursory glance.
The visionary in Amsterdam is Ida Peerdeman (1905-1996) an unmarried woman, who lived with her sisters. When the apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations began in 1945, Ida was 40 years old and worked in an industrial firm.
The first apparition took place in her home and was witnessed by her spiritual director, Fr. Frehe, O.P. Thereafter, until 1959, Our Lady appeared to Ida 56 times. In Our Lady's last apparition on May 31, 1959, Ida saw her in her heavenly glory and with a Host of white fire from which the figure of the Lord emerged in all His majesty.
In addition to apparitions of the Blessed Mother, Ida also had Eucharistic experiences from 1958 to 1984. These Eucharistic experiences usually took place during Holy Mass.
The messages to Ida by Our Lady of All Nations number over 60 and have been compiled into two volumes: the Messages of Our Lady of All Nations and Eucharistic Experiences. These messages (which have been published) make the apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations one of the most well-documented Marian apparitions. Unlike in Fatima and Medjugorje where the visionaries received many "secrets" from Our Lady, in Amsterdam the Lady, in her messages, does not simply address them to Ida. In many portions, she addresses the messages to "nations" - meaning that she wants them known.
The first 25 messages, given from 1945 to 1950, are like a "commentary" by Our Lady of All Nations on the state of the world as she shows Ida events in some places, like the Vatican, England, France, etc. Most of what the Lady is showing Ida may sound obscure, especially to the younger generation who did not live those years. However, some have seen in Our Lady of All Nations' messages or prophecies many important events in the lives of nations and the church, such as the Balkan war, the underground production of chemical weapons, and the various crises in the church, including the most recent one on celibacy.
Then starting in 1951, Our Lady goes to the heart of her many apparitions in Amsterdam. She tells Ida that in this age, she should no longer be regarded as Mary or the simple Mary of Nazareth but that following the will of the Father, she comes to be called as the Lady of All Nations (or Peoples). She gives Ida specific instructions as to how she should be depicted as Our Lady of All Nations and gives an explanation of the image (see photo and explanation on page 6). The task of painting the image of Our Lady of All Nations was entrusted to the German painter Heinrich Repke.
Aside from the picture, Our Lady gave Ida a short prayer (see page 6) which invokes the sending of the Holy Spirit to preserve all nations from "degeneration, disaster, and war". Our Lady of All Nations emphasized that the picture and prayer precede the fifth dogma she is requesting. She explained to Ida why she is Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate and said that once the dogma, the final dogma in Marian history has been proclaimed, Our Lady of All Nations will give peace, true peace, to the world.
Our Lady refers to Amsterdam as the "city of the miraculous Host'' referring to a Eucharistic miracle which took place there on March 25, 1345, exactly 600 years before her first apparition to Ida. Following the apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations, Ida was granted many Eucharistic experiences, majority taking place in the Chapel on Diepenbrock St. which is now known as the Shrine of the Lady of All Nations. In majority of the Eucharistic experiences, the imagery of the light is prevalent, especially light coming from the Sacred Host or encompassing the altar and the celebrating priest.
Amsterdam is one apparition where critics cannot say that Mary is excessively glorifying herself at the expense of Jesus. If you read exhaustively the many messages, you will notice that Our Lady of All Nations always emphasizes that men should go back to the Cross. And as if chiding those who do not believe in the Eucharist or are lukewarm to it, Our Lady says:
Before the Lord Jesus Christ died His bodily death… He gave you the Great Mystery, the great Miracle of every day, every hour, every minute. He gave you Himself. No nations, (she shook her head vehemently as she said this) not merely a remembrance: no, nations, listen to what He said: not just an idea, but Himself, under the appearance of a little piece of bread, under the appearance of wine. This is how the Lord wants to come among you, day after day. Do accept it. Do act on it. He gives you the foretaste - the foretaste of eternal life.
In many apparitions of Our Lady, she gives a sign or miracles so that the apparitions may be believed. For example, in Lourdes, we have the miraculous spring; in Fatima, the miracle of the dancing sun; in Guadalupe, her image imprinted on the Tilma of Juan Diego.
In Amsterdam, Our Lady of All Nations refused to give a public sign or miracle. She said, "My signs are contained in my words." However, probably to accommodate the seeress herself who on occasions had serious doubts and fears lest she had become the victim of satanic deception, Our Lady of All Nations did give one sign. In a message on Feb. 19, 1958, she predicted that Pius XII, who was perfectly healthy at that time, would die at the beginning of October 1958. The seeress privately wrote down the message and handed it to Fr. Frehe with the direction that it should not be opened before the beginning of October 1958. Pope Pius XII died unexpectedly on October 9, 1958. This is said to be a valid sign of authenticity since the day of someone's death is determined by God and known to Him alone.
On May 31,1955 Our Lady of All Nations said:
Understand my words well when I say: make sure that every year the nations will be assembled around this throne, before this picture. This is the great favour that Mary, "Miriam" or "the Lady of All Nations" is allowed to bestow on the world.
A reader may wonder how the Blessed Mother's request can be carried out. How indeed can you assemble the nations before her picture? The difficulty lies when you try to take her words literally.
But it is amazing that this request of Our Lady of All Nations is being complied with. In Amsterdam, the first International Day of Prayer was held on May 31, 1997, the feast of Our Lady's Visitation to St. Elizabeth. For that occasion, the original painting of the Lady of All Nations (now located at the Shrine in Amsterdam) was brought to the RAI-convention Center. Around 5000 participants from around the world responded to the invitation, among whom reportedly were peoples of other religious denominations. Representatives from 49 nations, in bringing their flags, symbolically brought their nations to the miraculous image of the Lady of All Nations. Present were several bishops, including Bishop Paul Maria Hnilica, S.J. and Msgr. Henrik Borners of Amsterdam and 80 concelebrating priests who had come from 25 different missionary areas. Greetings were also read from His Eminence Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler of Rome and His Eminence Ricardo Cardinal Vidal of the Archdiocese of Cebu. The sisters of the Family of Mary Co-Redemptrix who have been taking care of the Shrine of the Lady of All Nations since July 31, 1996, received messages from over 25 nations for this Day of Prayer. Among the messages of support was one from the Carmelite Monastery in Portugal where Sr. Lucia of Fatima lives.
The presence of peoples of other faiths in the International Day of Prayer is a positive sign. A main argument of critics who are against the declaration of the fifth dogma is that it would endanger ecumenical efforts. If the Lady of All Nations can unite her various children of many faiths in prayer under her picture, can she be a sign of division?
While many Marian apparitions have undergone trials in varying degrees, the Amsterdam apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations is one of those which have received the most beating. This on two counts: first, because of the fifth dogma it espouses and second, because of the skeptical stand of the bishop during the early years of the apparitions.
The Catholic Church has proclaimed four dogmas on the person of Mary: Mary as Mother of God (431 A.D.), as Perpetual Virgin (649 A.D.), as Immaculate Conception (1854) and as being taken up or assumed into Heaven body and soul (1950). The fifth dogma being proposed, Mary as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate, defines Mary's role in the divine scheme of salvation.
The Catholic Church teaches us that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer: He offered His sufferings and death on the Cross to God in satisfaction for our sins, to regain for us the heavenly life we lost by sin, and to merit all the graces for reaching Heaven. Did Christ have a Co-Redemptrix in the person of Mary? Here, the debates begin.
Various movements have risen amassing signatures requesting the Holy Father to declare the dogma. In 1997, Fr. Paul Maria Sigl, founder of the religious order, Family of Mary Co-Redemptrix, stated that the movements have amassed signatures of four million lay faithful, 475 bishops from around the world, and 44 cardinals. (Fr. Paul Maria Sigl, Ave Maria Magazine, 1998). As of December 1999, it was reported that the signatures gathered have reached over six million. Why are these signatures so important? It should be recalled that, prior to the declaration of the dogma of the Assumption in 1950, numerous petitions for the dogma were sent to Rome from 1849 to 1950. They came from eight million lay faithful and thousands of priests, nuns and even from cardinals, patriarchs and bishops.
Foremost among the advocates is an American theologian, Dr. Mark Miravalle, founder of Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, a lay movement promoting the Fifth Marian Dogma. Those advocating the dogma have also quoted Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Maximillian Kolbe.
On the other hand, in a meeting of theologians during the International Mariological Congress at Czestochowa, Poland in 1996, it was unanimously agreed not to petition the Holy See to proclaim the fifth dogma at that time. The theologians, notable Mariologists of the Church, cited some objections.
Another aspect of the apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations which has caused confusion is the stand of the local bishops in Amsterdam which has changed with the years - thereby causing some misunderstanding. Initially, the apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations met with resistance. For more than 20 years, while the prayer spread throughout the world, public veneration was not allowed.
But in 1996, public veneration was allowed. Finally, on May 31, 2002, in a landmark proclamation, Bishop Josef Punt declared the apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations as “supernatural in origin”. In Church lingo, this is equivalent to a full stamp of approval on the apparitions. Note that in the matter of determining the veracity of Marian apparitions, it is the local bishop who has the full and final authority to render judgement on the truthfulness of the apparition in question. Below are excerpts of Bishop Punt's positive declaration regarding the apparitions of Our Lady of All Nations:
I observed that the devotion had taken its place in the spiritual life of millions all over the world, and that it possesses the support of many bishops. Many experiences of conversion and reconciliation, as well as healings and special protection also have been reported to me... In light and virtue of all these recommendations... I have come to the conclusion that the apparitions of the Lady of All Nations in Amsterdam consist of a supernatural origin.
In the meantime, we wait and see what the Vatican decides to do with the petitions for the dogma. While waiting, we can continue praying that the Holy Spirit come down to preserve nations from degeneration, disaster and war. Will it not be a good idea also to pray that the Holy Spirit come down to the hearts of the church theologians as they debate the issue?
In Matthew 11:25, Jesus exclaims: "Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, I praise You because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to simple people”. On the issue of the Co-Redemptrix dogma, may we not beg the Lord to be impartial and illuminate the minds not only of the simple faithful but most of all, the wise and learned who have to discern and decide on whether He made His Mother His Co-Redemptrix?
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