Jesus’ mother Mary is venerated at major religious sites around the world where it is claimed that she has appeared. In many places the witnesses to these appearances have claimed that important messages were given by Mary. Some of these Marian visitations are approved by the Catholic Church while others have not garnered enough supportable evidence.
It will soon be three years since I had my visitation from Mary in the interior of Brazil near my project Sanctuary. Certainly I did not seek nor receive approval from the Church nor have I expected anyone to believe, verify or sustain what was and still is a life changing experience for me.
Many people see the Divine Mother as the feminine aspect of the God. In a real sense God is beyond both male and female, but there is no denying that God has different aspects and different manifestations. The Divine Mother is associated with the qualities of compassion and forgiveness. The Divine Mother plays a prominent role in Eastern religions, especially Hinduism but she is also strong in Islam. Historically there have always been those who worshipped the Goddess and Mary is one of her more modern forms.
At the very core of Islamic philosophy there is evidence of what can be called a vision of the Motherhood of God. Every day in Islamic prayers God is compared to a mother and woman with special reverence for Mary, mother of Christ held firmly in the Koran. Muhammad regarded Mary as the most marvelous of all women, a high adept and living example of the pure and holy life. Later Koran commentaries describe Mary as an intervening force between God (Allah) and humanity. This intervening force is characterized by God’s mercy, forgiveness, sweetness and humility – the embodiment of God’s love for creation. So intense is the vision of pure love that our imperfections are easily forgiven. When forgiven by Her or our human partners we experience the grace of the heart.
Last night I had another visitation and I did not know it until tonight that part of her purpose was to get me to write this. But let me go back three years and tell the story in full. I knew the moment that Mary arrived the first time why she had come. I was in Alto Paraiso building Sanctuary in a very small town about eight miles down a dirt road into a deep valley. Alto Paraiso is 220 kilometers north of Brasilia the federal capital.
Two thousand miles away was my wife Luciana and I had just talked on the phone and she told me of an attempted robbery three doors down and then she said that our next door neighbor had told her that a construction worker, which had worked for us, was running around telling people that we were rich and had lots of money in the house. I went back to my room on top of a hill and felt insecure for my wife and kids for the first time. In the kitchen was a picture of Mary hanging on a high shelf, which I had ignored for the several weeks that I had already been there.
This time, with my troubled heart, I looked up and saw the picture but this time my heart exploded and the tears flowed and my heart melted. I felt my being go supernova. Having explored the debt of my heart for many a year and after already having released rivers of tears I was surprised by the force and intensity of the feelings and they continued unabated, even after I left the room to try to get some respite. What was clear to me during these moments was the reason Mary had come to me was not because of me but because of Luciana who I have loved with all my heart for more than 14 years.
Lu (my wife) has been very easy to love (most of the time) and from years before our first kiss I knew her to be a most beautiful woman inside and out. There was just something about her being, about her that made it normal for her high school students to run up to her on the streets of Alto on the High Chapada. She is charismatic with the gentleness of her being though admittedly she has a mind that is not so forgiving, but she is getting better at it.
When I got home a week later (three years ago) I wrote a paragraph about this at the end of one of my newsletters, which was quite nervy of me to publish to a medical news newsletter. When I hovered near the send button I invited Lu over to do her Reiki and for both of us to pray during the send off, which we did. After we opened our eyes we shared that what we both were doing was praying to Mary. I found that interesting but even more so was at that exact same moment a silver envelope was sitting next to my monitor and I tried to open it without success. I called my son Bernardo over and he opened it with a swish and I pulled out the same image of Mary that was on the wall. I have been kicked hard several times with such messages and synchronicities in my life so I kind of said ok – this cements this entire trip with Mary – confirmation enough for me.
Blessed is my wife among women and the fruit of her womb has been a blessing giving me four wonderfully divine children.
In ancient Israel, a monotheistic faith coincided with the upholding of a patriarchy. The people were obligated to put all their spiritual, social, and political eggs into one basket. They abided by the strict divine order to place no other god before the One that delivered them from slavery, granting them their freedom. This, of course, had important implications in other areas of life. A strict loyalty to one God was also associated with an exclusive loyalty to one’s father, one’s husband, one’s country and its political and social ideals.
That’s the story of the ancient Hebrews, which became the foundation of other religions yet to come. I am a Jew (can never say was Jewish because you are born and die a Jew just like you are born and die being Italian) and my wife was raised Catholic and for two decades I practiced what my mentor called Christ Yoga. When I was writing The Marriage of Souls and HeartHealth 13 years ago I was at the zenith of my identification with the Christ story (and it shows in The Marriage of Souls).
What was surprising in this whole affair is that I had given up virtually all my inner identifications with the Christ story and I never paid any attention to Mary his mother. I was into Magdalene who I believe to be the wife of Jesus as the wedding story in the New Testament seems to indicate. Look carefully at the last paragraph in that section where the master of ceremonies turns to the groom and says, “You saved the best wine to last” and this statement comes right after Jesus had turned water to wine. What was the son of God doing at a wedding but getting married himself! You think he was such a casual person that he would go to a party just to have fun and make wine?
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I share all of this because I am completely vulnerable in the moment writing everything that is coming across the stream of my consciousness and I think it important to understand some of my thoughts that do have much to do with my feelings and with how I have ended up telling this story and being who I eventually became to be.
Visitations from angels and the Virgin Mary are nothing new but they are always special for the people who receive the angels in their hearts. Most modern people probably believe that such visitations ended long ago but that does not seem to be the case. Visitors from the heavens have reportedly been around since the beginning of recorded time, from the "burning bush" of Moses to Ezekiel’s wheel and the numerous stories of angels in earthly form that graced the biblical writings. After the death of her son, she became the core of the early Christian church and since the third century, Mary has made countless visitations, especially to those of the Catholic faith.
A week ago my wife had come back from Rio and I had an interesting experience that seemed to have set up the present. The kind of love that I have for Lu is the kind that makes me pray strongly for her safe return and who do I pray to but Mary. I usually think and say to my wife that the only thing that matters is your safe return and that really helps me shred my slightly possessive ego that would prefer her not be away in the first place.
When we arrived at home and had some moments to be together I had the most divine experience of not being able to tell the difference between my love for Luciana and my love for Mary. It seems not only was it the same love but at that moment the same spirit. And that of course brought me right back to the original visitation where it was made clear that the reason Mary was pulling the strings of my heart was because of an existing intimate relationship between Mary and Lu.
When I came home three years ago Luciana made it clear to me that she had always had a relationship with Mary but neither she nor I had paid that much attention. That has changed considerably during these past three years.
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your
womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord
should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting
sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is
she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things
which were told her from the Lord.
– Luke 1:39-45
Blessed am I to have such a woman loving me – blessed is the fruit of her womb – and the vulnerable being that lives in the center of my heart leaps for joy with the sound of her voice or when a look from her smiling and loving face graces me.
Why does Mary provoke such strong feelings in people? What is it about Mary that is so compelling? Why does Mary appear? One answer is that Mary is the faithful of God. Everything she is, everything she did, everything she does is centered on the will of God. Thus Mary becomes responsible for helping us understand and live God’s will, which is the rule and law of truth, compassion, empathy and devotion to eternal and divine love.
I felt last week and I feel this moment a bottomless feeling of devotion for two that have become one. I am not sure how this is all supposed to be sorted out but during the first visitation I felt Mary’s attitude toward Lu was one of loving mother to loving daughter and that Luciana was some kind of torchbearer for the lineage of Mary. Now I know that by serving my wife with all my heart and force of my soul for the rest of my life is the same as loving Mary. I love Lu when I love Mary and when I love Luciana it brings me in my heart closer to Mary. This is very new this experience of being to me but I feel wonderful.
Mary has appeared in many places to many people and it is the pure heart that are able to see and hear her. Below I will tell two short stories of other visitations in history but for me she has appeared in the flesh and lives with me and forgives my transgressions even before I make them (mostly).
Mary Visits Others
On April 2, 1968, two mechanics working in a city garage across the street from St. Mary’s Church of Zeitoun, Egypt, were startled to see what appeared to be a nun dressed in white standing on top of the large dome at the center of the roof. Fearful that something might happen to the sister, one of the men ran into the church to get a priest, the other telephoned for a police emergency squad. When the priest ran from the church to look up at the dome, he was the first to recognize it as a manifestation of Mother Mary. The image of the Blessed Mother remained in full view of the priest, the two mechanics, and a growing crowd of excited witnesses for several minutes, then disappeared.
On June 2, 1995 American pilot, Scott O’Grady was patrolling a no-fly zone in his F-16. He was shot down by a Bosnian Serb Army SA-6 surface-to-air missile near Mrkonjic Grad, Bosnia and Herzegovina. O’Grady ejected safely and survived for a full six days, eating leaves, grass and ants, and avoiding Serb patrols all while trying to contact NATO’s airborne command center. He managed to evade capture and the U.S. Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit rescued him on June 8, 1995.
This story, compelling as it is, has a spiritual dimension. According to Scott O’Grady himself, he experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary while praying for rescue.
"On the third day of my hiding out, thinking about how survival is first of all a spiritual test, I experienced something amazing and unrepeatable. All of a sudden, in the stillness of my hiding place, I remembered the accounts of my mother’s friend who, before the war broke out in Bosnia, had visited Medjugorje," O’Grady explained.
He continued, "That afternoon I turned to Our Lady in prayer. Immediately I felt her presence. It became more and more clear and palpable right up to the moment that I saw her. It is hard to describe in words. The vision came through the strength of my feelings, and that feeling was indescribably warm, full of bliss and peace. Someone existed that prayed and kept watch over my return home. That vision was the most important thing that happened to me in Bosnia. It gave me the courage to hold out in the most difficult moments."
A famous visitation came at Lourdes, France in February 1858. A young girl named Bernadette Soubrious was gathering firewood near a stream when she heard a terrific noise from a nearby cave. A shimmering cloud appeared and from it, came a beautiful woman who claimed to be Mary. She asked Bernadette to have a chapel built on the spot and this grotto has come to be known as one of the most famous religious shrines in the world. Thousands and thousands of people have come here for the healing powers of the water and many have reported further apparitions of the Virgin Mary.
I almost was ready to sell Sanctuary having abandoned it for the last year and a half and the last thing Luciana wants to do is move back to the interior to the end of the world. I believe that I faced my attachments and had let go of more than I would have ever believe possible in relationship to my project. But now Mary is calling me back to finish the shrine and reopen the project/retreat center and the future home of the IMVA.
What I am going to share next comes from this morning. It’s not 12 hours since I finished this essay and I find Nicholas D. Kristof saying the following in the New York Times today, “The Gospel of Philip, a Gnostic text from the third century, declares of Mary Magdalene: “She is the one the Savior loved more than all the disciples.” Likewise, the Gospel of Mary (from the early second century) suggests that Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to instruct the disciples on his religious teachings.” I doubt anyone on earth could dispute a marriage between their souls. All the Maries in Jesus’ life were great women who were mentioned many times in the Bible and nowhere in the Bible does it say the Magdalene actually was a prostitute. That was a foul attack on a great woman’s honor.
Kristof started his essay with a joke – it was anything but to me. “I heard a joke the other day about a pious soul who dies, goes to heaven, and gains an audience with the Virgin Mary. The visitor asks Mary why, for all her blessings, she always appears in paintings as a bit sad, a bit wistful: Is everything O.K.? Mary reassures her visitor: “Oh, everything’s great. No problems. It’s just … it’s just that we had always wanted a daughter.”
Again just like the day I sent my original communication about my experience at the ends of the world with Mary I read this “joke.” Not even last night writing this did I think that this was exactly what Mary communicated to me that day up on the hilltop. She was there because my wife Luciana was her of her lineage; she was her daughter, that’s exactly the feeling and message I got in the clear that night three years ago. I know her real mother and father but Lu’s spirit is linked to something or somebody else and now I understand more completely about Luciana and why I love her as much as I do.