One of the great joys of being Catholic (and there are many) is that there is a full acknowledgment, a recognition of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the mother of Jesus Christ and the Queen of Heaven, among many other deserved titles. At her heart, however, she is a mom for all peoples, for all classes and for all backgrounds, irrelevant of social, economic, cultural and intellectual barriers. She is a mother, and she loves. And she urges and prods people, especially to those whom she appears to, to turn away from themselves and the materialism and ways of the world, instead to her Son, Jesus Christ. She is, in a way, a messenger, who carries forth the messages and insights of her Son and the Father; some are pleasing and others are less so. But they are powerful nonetheless, and in Catherine M. Odell's wonderfully written book, Those Who Saw Her, a reader will be comforted, alarmed and inspired to either reawaken their faith or to practice it more fervently through the rosary, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Holy Mass and receiving Jesus Christ truly present in the Holy Eucharist.
In the book, Those Who Saw Her, Odell profiles many apparition cases, from olden to modern times; she gives a brief background on all the visionaries for each case and what the times were like in which the Blessed Mother appeared. Sometimes it was to offer encouragement and on others it was to bring dire warnings. Yet, at the heart of each apparition message, is love, the love that God has for each created soul. The human condition, the terrible muck and mire that people entangle themselves in is not the fault of God, but rather, the arrogant actions of man, and that also seems to be a consistent truth in every Marian message. But arrogance and other sins can, if not be eliminated, then at least lessened with a return to the ultimate truth: Jesus on the Cross. What is startling about the assorted apparition cases is to whom the Blessed Mother appears to. Frequently her presence is made manifest to the unlikeliest of people, folks who are often illiterate, dirt poor, rude, rough in manner or sometimes not even faithful or practicing Catholics; generally, individuals whom society casts aside and bluntly states: You are nothing! are often the Little Ones who are the receivers of heavenly messages. It is not by their choice, and more often-than-not, the visionaries are themselves either frightened or doubtful (at first) of what it is that they are experiencing. But under the dominating spell of Mary's love, the visionaries do what is asked of them, despite the intense stress and mental agony that they must carry upon their shoulders during and long after the unexpected meeting with the Mother of God. Often, there is a request for the building of a church where there was not one before or the appearance happens in order to rekindle faith because it has seriously waned and sin has taken a firm foothold. Additionally, Mary might appear to deliver admonitions or prophetic warnings of global events yet to happen. At its foundation, however, is love, prayer and reconciliation, the Holy Eucharist, a desperate yet hopeful turning to her Son.
Each apparition case is represented by an individual chapter; some of those included are the well known ones: Guadalupe (Mexico) Rue du Bac (France) La Salette (France) Lordes (France), Pontmain (France), Knock (Ireland), Fatima (Portugal), Beauraing and Banneux (both in Belgium). The more modern and approved or partly approved ones (because the Church is still meticulously investigating it) are: Akita (Japan), Kibeho (Rawanda), San Nicolas (Argentina), Betania (Venezuela) and Medjugorje (Bosnia and Herzegovina). While all the apparitions are compelling in their own unique way, each have a common thread that unites them all, and they are reconciliation, prayer, the Holy Eucharist and the reformation of the soul, the turning away from behaviors that are not in accordance with God's wishes, for we should try to be perfect as He is perfect. As you read along, some apparitions may resonate better than others. But that is what is so beautiful about them, because there are so many validated appearances, no one can truly be left out of what is said by the Blessed Mother. You can't help but feel a certain attraction or connection to at least one of them. For me, I had at least five or six that touched me deeply.
If you are looking for a great reference read that will connect you to Jesus Christ through the Blessed Virgin Mary, this is definitely one of them. It is scholarly, clearly written and to-the-point; it is not a gushy or too sentimentalized nonfiction work that sometimes does a disservice to the subject being written about. It is frank and fascinating, and you will enjoy the faith affirming and uplifting power that it wields.