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JOHN PAUL I
from issue no. 01 - 2007

Big and small revelations

Shrines help us to pray



A letter of Albino Luciani


From the letter to the Prior of Pietralba on the significance of the Marian shrines

Venice, 15 August 1977

[…] Visiting the shrines, one becomes aware that the apparitions of Our Lady have always been made to poor and simple people: children as in Lourdes and Fatima; peasants as in Motta di Livenza and Pietralba. Some make that a pretext for laughing and shrugging their shoulders. The more attentive Christians, instead, see this phenomenon as the continuation of the policy of God already marked out in Mary: «He has overturned the mighty, He has exalted the humble; He has filled the hungry with good things, He has sent the rich away empty-handed» (Luke 1, 52-53).
The shrine of Pietralba, in the province of Bolzano

The shrine of Pietralba, in the province of Bolzano

There is a great deal of discussion about the apparitions themselfves: a very devout “right wing” show an exaggerated taste for sensational religious things, they race about all over where an apparition is announced, breathlessly read the stories about it, continuously ask what the “third secret” of Fatima is. And they find enough to satisfy them: between 1930 and 1975 someone has counted 232 apparitions of Our Lady. A Catholic “left wing”, rather hypercritical, declares unserious everything that is not the Bible, underestimates a priori the apparitions, stresses that they are very rare among serious people like the English, the North Americans and the Germans; admits that even in English and German speaking areas there are many Marian shrines but point out that often they are devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes, of Fatima, of Caravaggio, etc.
The correct position is in the middle of these two extreme wings. Saint Thomas and Pope John – among many others – have suggested this. The first writes that, even though the «great» revelation was accomplished with the apostles, a «little» revelation is useful even after the apostles, in the time of the Church, «not to set out a new doctrine, but to direct human actions». Pope John, on the same line, on 18 February 1959, at the closure of the Lourdes centenary, declared: «The popes […] make a duty of recommending to the attention of believers – when after mature examination they judge it opportune for the general good – the supernatural lights that it pleases God to dispense freely to certain privileged souls, not to propose new doctrines, but to guide our behavior».
The Pope speaks about «mature examination», that concerns both the persons and the message. It is a negative criterion that the alleged «visionaries» want the visions, propagate them easily, put on a show, contradict themselves […]
According to Pope John again, the sensational datum is the secondary thing: what matters is that in Lourdes, in Fatima, in La Salette and elsewhere, Our Lady, in order to guide and help us, says in effect one thing only: prayer and penitence (conversion that is). This echoes Jesus, who had admonished: «If you do not do penance, you will perish […] We need to pray always». Always. The shrines help us above all to remember this teaching. Because of this they are most useful and do great good.


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