Historically there have been many apparitions of Mary, both real and alleged.    The International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton reports  that nearly 80,000 apparitions of Mary have been claimed since the third century A.D.  Only seven (one hundredth of one percent) have received official recognition by the Church.

That great multiplicity of apparitions has both a positive and negative aspect. Positively, it reflects the belief of many that the Blessed Mother is willing to    appear to them and to communicate with them personally.  Negatively, the danger is of creating a shallow spirituality, even of falling into superstition.

In assessing the meaning and importance of those manifestations the most fundamental observation to make is that any revelations subsequent to the death of the last apostles is considered by the Church  to be a private revelation.  That has two important consequences.  First, no private revelation can be considered as adding anything to the message of Jesus as preserved and taught by the Church.  Secondly, there is no obligation to believe any private revelation.  Typically, such revelations or messages simply emphasize certain aspects of divine revelation at different times and in different circumstances.

The history of the Church reveals God has repeatedly manifested himself through chosen individuals, beginning with the prophets of the Old Testament.   It is also true that the devotional life of the Church has often been profoundly influenced and enriched by the experiences and visions of certain people.  Outstanding examples of this are:  St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernadette at Lourdes, St. Margaret Mary and the devotion to the Sacred Heart. What all those experiences have in common is that they have been authenticated by Church authority and the subjects of those experiences have been canonized.

At the same time there have been great saints who never experienced visions or locutions.  An example of that is St. Therese of Lisieux, who said: “To ecstasy I prefer the monotony of sacrifice.”  What is the “monotony of sacrifice” if not the fulfillment of one’s duties, the faithful carrying out of responsibilities, the willingness to work at removing any obstacles to God’s grace coming into our lives?

Surely this ordinary way of religious living, a preference for the “monotony of sacrifice” has many advantages.  It greatly reduces the risk of spiritual pride.  It is characterized by fidelity and generosity, which are much surer signs of holiness than visions and messages.  And the greatest advantage is that it is available to us all.