As Catholics, no one is obliged to believe in Marian apparitions, because they do not have the power of sacred Scripture. Yet, when a Marian apparition has occurred and is later authenticated by the Catholic Church, as say in the cases of La Salette in 1846, Lourdes in 1858 or Fatima in 1917, it can often work as an enhancement to holy Scripture. The water in Lourdes is often taken to be holy water. The lamb in the 1879 Knock apparition in Ireland is viewed as the sacrificial Son of God, Jesus Christ. But there is also an overtone of endearment in the name of lamb, especially in referencing children, i.e. Those children are precious, they are my little lambs; there is a maternal and fraternal love element in using that word. Hence, it has and had a duel meaning of sacrifice and adoration all in one. Apparitions that are legitimate are often filled with rich Scriptural symbolism that express the truths as conveyed in the Bible. Even though by itself, the Word has life, people are not always too swift to understand. It's not a bad thing. It is just that, as people, we're unfortunately limited, even severely so. In special cases, God allows, for whatever His reasoning is, to permit Mary, His beloved daughter, to condescend down to us, to relay a message of vital importance or to imbue into visionaries a message for all of global society. A perfect example is the message of La Salette, whereby an expression of desired personal reformation was conveyed by Mary. Legitimate sightings still continue to occur, most recently in December of 2009 in Cairo, Egypt atop a Coptic Church. There were thousands of witnesses.
The apparition of Our Lady of Akita is a lesser known manifestation, albeit still potent in its meaning. It started on June 12th 1973 in the Convent of the Handmaids of the Eucharist in the mountainous hillside of Yuzawadai, just outside of Akita, Japan. There, a deaf nun by the name of Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa began to experience incidents of a supernatural nature which she did not understand. While praying in the chapel, a strong celestial light-visible only to her-began to emanate from the tabernacle, the ornate receptacle containing the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ. Being cautious, she doubted herself and was hesitant to make mention of what she had seen. The more cautious that she was, the more things began to happen, for it progressed to the point that she saw beings of light adoring the tabernacle in addition to a spirit being who resembled her deceased sister who prayed and adored with her. When she asked the entity if it was the spirit of her dead sister, it answered only in the negative, declaring that it only took on the presence of someone whom she had known and loved in order to acclimate her to the supernatural goings-on while also preparing her to be the receiver of the messages of Mary. The entity, her guardian angel, as her superiors and Bishop John S. Ito later declared it to be, was the one who directed Sister Agnes to communicate the happenings instead of keeping it bottled up. She complied. And even though at the onset, to her own admission-both privately and publically- that all that which was happening to her was indeed quite plausiable, it was still outside her box of reality. The visions, the religious communiques, the interior locutions. All of it. But she accepted with humility and obedience.
As time progressed, the community at large was made aware of what was happening, but it was also filtering to the outside world, much to the dismay of the higher-ups. They were not angry, exactly, but there is a lot at stake when manifestations of this nature do happen. Primarily, people of faith must be protected, because the apparition could either be a hoax, could stem form natural or psyhological causes, the phenomenon can't be explained one way or the other or the happening could be diobiolocal, meaning that the event is supernatural but not of heavenly origin. It could be a satanic manifestation in order to ridicule and mock faith. Thus, Church leaders had a lot on their plate in assessing this incident. Soon, the Devil's Advocate or Inquisitor was brought into the scene, and he placed blame squarely on the nun, Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa, declaring her to be a possessor of ectoplasmic abilities, transfering her desires onto the wooden statue of the Blessed Virgin where all this was happening. There was no spite in her actions, because this was all supposidly done outside of her conscienceousness. Her will became a physical reality. To me, it is not a surprising declarition, for there are known documented cases that could confirm such incidents as possible. Duke and other universities have developed reputable parasychology departments on less than what happened here. What the naysayers failed to acknowledge at the time in this Marian apparition was that the messages of Mary were not deviant from Church teaching nor were the private writings of Sister Agnes illustrative of any kind of mania or psychosis. Also, there were more witnesses than just Sister Agnes to the over 100 documentated lachrymations of the wooden statue of Mary. Witnesses included both lay and religious people. Most startling of all, however, aside from the tears, was the manifestation of sweat and blood, the latter emanating from the outstreatched hand of Mary in which a deeply cut cross appeared, slowly oosing blood. To make sure that this was not a hoax, samples of the tears, sweat and blood were sent to The Faculty of Legal Medicine in Akita. And without revealing the source of where these things came from, the scientists declared that it was all human fluid and of human origin, but the anomily was that the blood was of type B and the sweat and tears were of type AB-two different DNA structures which confounded all those who studied and analyzed the saturated gauze. The fact that miracles were happening at or near the statue of the Blessed Virgin, including the medically declared incurable deafness of Sister Agness, only validated that fact that this apparation was a lagit manfestation of divine origin. One element of authenticity of this apparation was that good results were stemming from it, i.e. people were returning to the faith and transforming their lives in and through Jesus Christ. Sick people also were being miricously cured of all sorts of ailments. As it all built up, finally in 1984, this apparation was declared authentic with the Church's seal of approval.
This was a fascining read, inspiring, strengthening, a real story of hope and change in such bleak, bleak times.