In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, mother of Jesus. The dogma states that “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”1
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this means that Mary was born “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature. By the grace of God, Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.”2 Thus, according to Roman Catholic teaching, Mary was born sinless and remained sinless.
Four years after the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception on February 11, 1858, a 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubirous, while crossing a shallow stream beside a grotto at the base of a cliff near Lourdes in southern France, saw the apparition of a woman in white. Between February 11 and July 16, 1858, the woman in white appeared 18 times to Bernadette and revealed to her that she was the Immaculate Conception.
Because Bernadette, the uneducated country girl, knew nothing of the papal dogma pronounced four years earlier, great credibility was given to her story when she repeated the words of the woman in white, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” During the ninth vision she was told to dig in the ground next to the grotto and uncovered a spring.
A few days later, a blind stonecutter bathed his eyes in the water and reported a miraculous cure. By the time of her last vision, thousands gathered at the grotto every day.
Today almost three million people—many of them sick or disabled—visit Lourdes every year. Thousands of healings have been reported as a result of bathing in, or drinking, this miraculous water. The walls of the grotto are lined with crutches of people who walked away from the waters healed. Bernadette became a nun in 1876 and died a year later of tuberculosis. She was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933.
Marian apparitions have been recorded since the 16th century. Between the 16th century and the year 1900, however, fewer than 10 places recorded apparitions. Since 1900, more than 60 sites around the world have reported Marian apparitions with hundreds of sightings. The book The Thunder of Justice, an encyclopedia of Marian apparitions and revelations, reports, “Currently, hundreds of Marian apparitions are being reported. A storm is approaching, and grace is telling us where our safety lies. In Medjugorje, Mary has said she will appear if necessary in every single household. . . . The warnings are from Mary herself, the Queen of all Prophets, the Prophetess of our time.”3
In June 1981, Mary appeared to six teenagers in the village of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina. She promised to give each of them 10 “secrets” or happenings that will occur on earth in the near future. When each of the six visionaries has received all ten “secrets,” Mary will stop appearing to them on a daily basis.
Since the apparitions began in 1981, millions of people of all faiths, from all over the world, have visited Medjugorje. Most of Mary’s messages are simply a call to return to God. Others have a typical Catholic slant, e.g., “Recite the rosary each evening. Pray and let the rosary always be in your hand as a sign to Satan that you belong to me” or “Today I invite you to pray every day for the souls in purgatory.”4
In Matthew 24:24, Jesus warns of false christs and false prophets. According to Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, just before Jesus comes again, Satan will work with all power, signs and lying wonders. And Ellen White in 1894 wrote concerning the delusions of the last days: “The signs and wonders of Spiritualism will become more and more pronounced as the professed Christian world rejects the plainly revealed truth of the word of God.”5
Throughout the Gospels, Mary is first and foremost presented as the mother of Jesus. Motherhood is her role in salvation’s history. When the angel appeared to her, he addressed her with the words: “‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’” (Luke 1:28).6
Outside the infancy narratives, Mary appears only on a few occasions in the Gospels. Where she does appear, the emphasis or focus is always on her responsiveness to God’s leading. In Luke 2, after she saw Jesus discussing theology with the priests, it says she kept all these things in her heart (vs. 51). At the wedding in Canaan she told the servants, “His mother said to the servants, “‘Whatever He says to you, do it’” (John 2:5). And at the foot of the cross she accepted her new role as the mother of John (19:26, 27). Mary clearly holds a considerable place of honor in the gospels; but there is no justification in history or in theology for the cult that has grown up around her in the Roman Catholic Church.
The worship of Mary is a late tradition. Not until the fourth century was there any veneration of Mary. At that time, Epiphanius, the bishop of Salamis, rebukes heretics who worshipped her. The phrase “Mother of God” originated in the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431. It was taken over in 451 into the Creed of Chalcedon, however, not to glorify Mary, but to emphasize the deity of Christ. In time, however, the phrase “Mother of God” was used to exalt Mary to a supernatural status as Queen of Heaven. The basis of this is, of course, the erroneous idea of the immortality of the soul. Since Roman Catholics believe she is in heaven rather than resting in the grave, her exaltation as Queen of Heaven was an easy step to take.
On Friday, November 29, 1996, the Daily Mail in England reported that “Roman Catholics were given the church’s blessing yesterday to ‘contact’ loved ones beyond the grave. Leading Vatican theologian Father Gino Concetti said it was no longer a sin, provided mediums, fortune tellers and palmists were not involved.” What an invitation for Satan to practice his deception—not only through loved ones but through these supposed apparitions of the mother of Jesus.
For some Catholics, Mary is more important than Christ. They go to her not to Him. “He comes to us through Mary,” they say, “and we must go to Him through her.” The Roman Catholic Catechism teaches, “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the Saviour’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix” (Co-mediator or Co-intercessor).7
Roman Catholics idolize Mary; Seventh-day Adventists usually ignore her. As far as these apparitions and messages are concerned, we know they have nothing to do with Mary, the mother of Jesus. We recognize that these apparitions and miracles are satanic delusions, designed to confuse and to lead astray, and to prepare for the master deception, the impersonation of Christ. Marian apparitions consistently speak about the coming Jesus—and that these appearances are in preparation for it.
From Scripture we know that Mary, like all other believers who died in the Lord, is awaiting the first resurrection morning somewhere in a grave in Palestine. But does this mean Mary, the mother of Jesus, has nothing to say to Seventh-day Adventists? I do not think so:
● Mary’s life, her commitment to God, and her willingness to fit into His plans is a model for all Adventists to follow.
● Her role as the mother of Jesus is an example for all mothers.
● In Acts 1:14, where she is mentioned for the last time in Scripture, we see her praying with the disciples—in this, too, she is an example to all of us.
● We do well to heed what she said to the servants at the wedding in Canaan: “‘Whatever He says to you, do it’” (John 2:5).
May the Lord grant us a discerning spirit—to recognize the signs of the times and to know what is true and what is false, what is real and what is a counterfeit.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Catechism of the Catholic Church (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1994), Statement No. 491.
2. Ibid., No. 493.
3. Maureen and Ted Flynn, The Thunder of Justice (Sterling, Va.: Maxkol Communications, 1993), p. 11.
4. Ibid., pp. 203, 204.
5. “Delusions of the Last Days,” Signs of the Times (May 28, 1894):452.
6. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references in this article are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible.
7. Catechism of the Catholic Church, op. cit., Statement No. 969.