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|Catholic Church Approves Virgin Mary’s Lipa Apparitions|
By Peter I. Galace and Art Villasanta
The Archbishop of Lipa has declared as authentic the Blessed Virgin Mary’s apparitions to a Carmelite postulant named Teresita Castillo in Lipa, Batangas that occurred in 1948.
Archbishop Ramon C. Arguelles decreed on September12 that the Lipa apparitions are “supernatural in character and worthy of belief” giving the Philippines a historic first Church-approved apparition of the Virgin Mary. September 12 is the 67th anniversary of Mary’s first apparition to Castillo.
Invoking the Grace of God and the authority of the Apostolic See, Arguelles, the seventh Bishop and Lipa's fifth Archbishop declared the authenticity of the Lipa apparitions and encouraged the devotion to the most Holy Mother of Mary under the title Mediatrix of All Grace, declaring September 12 as her feast day.
The Virgin Mary revealed she was the “Mediatrix of All Grace” to Castillo, who is now 89 years old. The title is not new as the Blessed Mother has traditionally been referred to by Roman Catholics as the “Mediatrix of All Grace.”
The title refers to Blessed Virgin’s role as a mediator between God and man; that she is a dispenser of graces and blessings through Jesus Christ.
The apparitions occurred at the Carmelite convent grounds in Lipa starting September 12, 1948. During a series of apparitions, the Blessed Mother is said to have pleaded for humility, penance, prayers for priests and for the Holy Father.
As in many other Marian apparitions, she also emphasized the need to pray the Rosary. She also complained about the people losing faith. September 12, now the Annual Pilgrimage to Lipa, was declared in 2007 by the government as a National Day of Prayer, Reparation and Consecration.
Subsequently, an image of the Blessed Mother was sculpted according to the vision and instructions of Castillo. The image became known as Our Lady of Lipa or Mary Mediatrix of All Grace, and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under that title has long been approved by the Philippine Church and even by Vatican.
Worthy of belief
As early as June 4, 2015, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, D.D. of Lipa, had already declared "Mary Mediatrix of All Grace of Lipa is worthy of belief," saying he risked the displeasure of some people even in the highest levels of Church leadership.
“What happened in the past still happens now. Mary is truly with us, blessing us, taking care of us, loving us and leading us to Jesus. With Mary, let us create a better Province of Batangas. Let us bring about a holier local Church of Lipa.”
The phrase “worthy of belief,” is typically used by the church to declare a Marian apparition as authentic after great care and study. Arguelles’ pronouncement was followed almost immediately by a strong support from Angel Lagdameo, Archbishop of Jaro, Iloilo.
On July 2, Lagdameo released a circular encouraging the faithful to participate in the pilgrimage to Lipa on September 12. Referring to Arguelles declaration, he said this is “… a sign to us to pursue with greater vigor the on-going archdiocesan program of Montfortian Consecration to Mary Mediatrix of All Grace.”
Lagdameo followed up the circular with a letter to Ricardo Cardinal Vidal to “suggest to the leadership of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) that we lay all of these problems and challenges, which are beyond human solution to the feet of Our Lady, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace.”
Responding the Lagdameo’s letter, Vidal said he hopes the CBCP General Assembly “will also express its appreciation and gratitude to Archbishop Arguelles for his momentous declaration in favor of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace.”
The church approval of the apparitions overturn a negative verdict issued on April 11, 1951 that said “… the above-mentioned evidence and testimonies exclude any supernatural intervention in the reported extraordinary happenings ― including the showers of petals ― at the Carmel of Lipa.”
The investigative body that decided against the Lipa apparitions consisted of Archbishop Gabriel Reyes of Manila, Bishop Cesar Guerrero of San Fernando, Bishop Mariano Madriaga of Lingayen; Bishop Rufino Santos, Administrator of Lipa; Bishop Vicente Reyes Auxiliary Bishop of Manila and Bishop Juan Sison, Auxiliary Bishop of Nueva Segovia.
Following the release of the negative verdict, Bishop Santos ordered that no petals or water from Lipa should be given out to anyone and the statue of Our Lady should be retired from public veneration. He said his orders were to be obeyed “until final decision on the matter will come from The Holy See.”
Strangely, no copy of the decree of Bishop Santos could be found at the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila, at the Carmelite Generalate in Rome or even in the Vatican archives, according to Bishop Arguelles.
A positive verdict on the Lipa apparitions would be the culmination of the third investigative body that looked into the extraordinary events at Lipa.
In 1991, Archbishop Marian Gaviola allowed the display of the image of the Mary Mediatrix of All Grace when he was assigned to Lipa. Soon after, a shower of rose petals and physical and spiritual healing were again reported.
These occurrences prompted Gaviola to declare his personal conviction the Lipa apparitions were genuine. In the meantime, visitors to the Carmel convent swelled despite the 1951 decree.
Gaviola created a new commission to investigate Lipa but unfortunately he retired and the commission was unable to render judgment. The Commission, however, examined documents from surviving persons who experienced the events, as well as new evidence.
After taking over as Archbishop of Lipa in July 2004, Arguelles decreed in 2009 the reversal of the Church’s 1951 ruling. He encouraged the public veneration of the image of Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace in the Carmelite Monastery of Lipa, and lifted all bans, written or unwritten, intended to curtail or diminish the devotion to Mary Mediatrix of All Grace.
Sans a “final statement of the Holy See,” Arguelles formed a new commission to revive the investigation of the apparitions. The new investigative body, which took over the functions of the Gaviola commission, was ordered to conduct a thorough study and review of all documents about the alleged apparitions.
A diocesan bishop can initiate a process on his own initiative or at the request of the faithful to investigate the facts of an alleged apparition under the Vatican’s "Norms of the Con
gregation for Proceeding in Judging Alleged Apparitions and Revelations" issued in 1978. Thus, Arguelles, in whose diocese the extraordinary events took place, has the full power to declare the authenticity of the apparition.
This was exactly the route taken when Bishop John Shojiro Ito of Niigate, Japan declared in 1984 the supernatural character of a series of mysterious events concerning the apparitions of Our Lady of Akita to Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa near the city of Akita in Japan.
Shower of rose petals
The shower of petals at Lipa refers to showers of rose petals materializing out of thin air that were reported on the convent ground and witnessed by thousands of people that went to Lipa during the apparitions. Most of the rose petals recovered are said to have borne images of Jesus, His crucifixion, or Mary or St. Joseph or one of the saints.
The apparitions in Lipa triggered nationwide excitement, with thousands of Filipinos flocking to the convent grounds to try to catch one of the miraculous petals. Many stories of cures and miracles have been attributed to the petals and the apparitions.
Mrs. Aurora Quezon, wife of President Manuel Quezon of the Commonwealth, and her party reportedly witnessed a shower of roses at the monastery grounds on November 11, 1948. The then Bishop Alfredo Obviar of Lipa also stated petals fell on his feet as he exited the door of the nunnery.
The miraculous healings of people who pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Mediatrix of All Grace persist to this day. Most recently, an employee of the Asian Development Bank testified during a Lipa supporters’ assembly on May 2015 she was cured of her cancer after she visited and prayed at Lipa on February 15. She attributes the miracle to the intercession of the Blessed Mother and Padre Pio.