The Apparitions of Our Lady of Lipa: Making Headway

by Lourdes Policarpio

Among the apparitions of Our Lady in the last hundred years or so, while it is the Amsterdam apparitions that should merit a great deal of attention because of the supposed request for the fifth Marian dogma, allied to it are the apparitions of Our Lady of Lipa (Province of Batangas Philippines) where she calls herself, Mediatrix of All Grace. In both, Amsterdam and the Philippines, she is the Mediatrix, the channel for God’s graces to mankind. While the apparitions in Amsterdam however have enjoyed the approval of the local Bishop, those in Lipa have had a tragic history.

Way back in 1948, the cloistered Carmelite convent in Lipa became a hub of pilgrims and the plain curious when it was reported that a young postulant, Teresita Castillo, just two months after joining the Sisters, was having apparitions of the Blessed Mother. What made things sensational was that showers of petals became an occurrence in the convent grounds, prompting Filipinos from all over to flock to the convent in the hope of catching a petal which reportedly bestowed favors and cures.

The excitement regarding Our Lady of Lipa was short-lived as, three years after, on 11 April 1951, a Church verdict came out stating that there was no supernatural intervention in the extraordinary events at Lipa, Carmel. Consequently, the distribution of rose petals was stopped and the statue of Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace was kept from public veneration.

The devotion to Our Lady of Lipa, under the title Mary Mediatrix, however did not fade with the years, despite the negative pronouncement of the Church. In 1991, after long years of silent agony and suppressed fervor, then Lipa Archbishop Mariano Gaviola allowed the image to be taken out and exposed to the public in the Carmelite chapel. Since then, pilgrims have thronged to Lipa and September 12, the date of the first apparition, became a National Day of Prayer, Reparation and Consecration.

As Archbishop Ramon Arguelles subsequently took over the reins of the Archdiocese, things perked up even more. Before an International Mariological Congress in Lourdes, France last September 2008, Bishop Arguelles stated bluntly: “Yes, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace, did appear in Lipa.” However, due to unfortunate historical circumstances, he was still vacillating in making a clear-cut pronouncement.

In November 2009 however, Bishop Arguelles took a step forward in resolving the alleged apparitions of Our Lady of Lipa. He came out with a Decree stating that “all bans written or unwritten to curtail or diminish the devotion to Mary Mediatrix of All Grace be lifted” and quite significantly, he formed a new commission to review the documents on the alleged apparitions.

In the November 2009 issue of “Ulat Batangan,” official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Lipa, Bishop Arguelles wrote in his column:

Increasingly many concur with me that most likely the most significant event in the local Church of Lipa all these hundred years is the supposed visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1948. Undeniably the Blessed Virgin Mary is extremely active during the last decades. If she had indeed shown her presence and delivered her message in various places throughout the world even in some nations in Asia, how can this “pueblo amante de Maria” be different and excluded from her powerful intervention?

It should also be noted that the Archdiocese is celebrating its centennial from 10 April 2010 to 10 April 2011. Pilgrims should flock there more than ever as Pope Benedict XVI has declared 21 churches in the Archdiocese as Jubilee churches endowing them with the privilege of granting plenary indulgence (subject to the usual conditions of Sacrament of Reconciliation, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father).

We watch and pray. What is unfolding before our eyes is an important milestone in Marian history. We pray that the Holy Spirit guide Archbishop Arguelles in momentous decisions he has to make regarding the alleged apparitions of Our Lady of Lipa. In prayer and in spirit, we join all Batangueños and storm the Heavens with blessings for the Philippines, through the intercession of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace.

Interview with Archbishop Arguelles

Totus Totus Maria (TTM): Last 12 November 2009 you issued a new decree regarding the controversial apparitions of Our Lady of Lipa in the Carmelite Convent way back 1948. What is its significance?

Archbishop Arguelles: I believe the Mediatrix phenomenon is the greatest thing that ever happened to the Church of Lipa in the last one hundred years and even from time immemorial. The lifting of the ban is intended to dispel any doubts that in 1991 Archbishop Mariano Gaviola already did so. The late Archbishop and I are deeply concerned about the faithful’s great devotion to our Holy Mother. It must be encouraged and promoted, especially since it is Lipa’s great privilege to be known as the place where the Mediatrix of All Grace, the possible fifth Marian dogma, has most prominently been declared by “sensus fidelium”.

TTM: What prompted you to issue this new decree regarding the alleged apparitions of Our Lady of Lipa?

Archbishop Arguelles: The faithful have the right to know whether the Lipa phenomenon was authentic or not. The attachment to Mary must be promoted in these times of trial for our country and the world. Moreover, studying the so-called 1951 Episcopal Commission’s statement that there was nothing supernatural in the said Lipa event, the ensuing declaration of then administrator, Bishop Rufino Santos, was clearly “overkill”. I have the feeling that my benefactor, Cardinal Rufino Santos, asks me to review those acts of almost six decades ago.

TTM: There has been a growing groundswell of support for a positive declaration on the authenticity of Our Lady of Lipa, given numerous testimonies, miracles and healings attributed to Mary Mediatrix of All Grace, as well as the general fruits of the apparition. Given the formation of a new commission investigating the apparitions, is a “new” ruling on the apparitions of Our Lady of Lipa, whether positive or negative, imminent?

Archbishop Arguelles: There will be no new ruling. I want to call it a new perspective, whatever conclusions will be arrived at, which will be for the pastoral good of the people, the greater honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the better benefit of the Church in these difficult times and, of course, the glory of God.

TTM: Previous church authorities have already issued a negative verdict on the apparitions of Our Lady of Lipa, declaring that the apparitions are “not supernatural in origin”. This new decree of 12 November 2009 effectively reverses the previous 1951 ruling of Apostolic Administrator Bishop Rufino Santos with regard to public veneration of the image of Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace. Given this precedent, is a “reversal” of the previous ruling regarding the authenticity of the apparitions of Our Lady of Lipa possible, under Church rules or norms?

Archbishop Arguelles: The Church reconsidered the Galileo pronouncements. The Lipa case is so insignificant compared to that of Galileo. Nevertheless, the Galileo “reversal” did not satisfy many non-believing thinkers. The Lipa “revocation” will immensely benefit the multitude of true believers world-wide. The reaction to my move was very positive and widespread except for one source which, for me, is a major setback personally. 

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