Monday, October 13, 2014

Our Lady of Nicaragua

Painting of Our Lady of Necaragua
        Somehow, living in the warp speed of our modern world, until just this week, I never heard of the Church-approved apparitions of Our Lady of Nicaragua, also known as Our Lady of Cuapa.  The visions with messages for our time, took place from April 15 to October 13 in 1980.  

Bernardo Martinez was a humble, middle-aged Nicaraguan rancher who died  in 2000 as Fr. Bernardo Marinez, having been ordained a priest in 1995 at the age of 64.  This article is condensed from Bernardo Martinez's full statement on the apparitions given to Bishop Mons. Pablo Antonia Vega, Prelate Bishop of Juigalpa.

Poor but Devout

Bernardo lived in the valley of Cuapa, Nicaragua.  He was as a poor but devout Catholic who volunteered to care for the small sacristy of his church since the time of his boyhood.  It was due to his conscientious care of the sacristy that led to the first apparition. 

Twice, once in March and again in April of 1980, he found the lights left on in the sacristy.  “I did not think that these signs were coming from heaven and for that reason I should quarrel with these ladies, because of the cost of electricity. I wanted to tell them to be more careful with the lights because we have very little money.”

On the night of April 15, 1980, Bernardo again saw the lights on and went to turn them off.  Instead of lights, he found the statue of the Virgin Mary illuminated.  He thought the light could be coming from broken roof tiles above. No, it was not. Then he wondered if there was a phosphorescent rosary in her hands.  

When he realized it came simply from the statue itself, Bernardo's humility and simplicity led him to think Mary was angry with him for blaming the women for leaving the lights on earlier.  That same evening, when his rosary group assembled, he apologized publically to the women and shared what he had just witnessed.  In spite of asking the rosary group not to spread the story, they did.  Bernardo was ridiculed by some.  His pastor, however, told him to pray to Mary and ask if there was anything she wanted from them. Bernardo kept up the prayers he had been faithful to since childhood, a daily rosary and three Hail Mary’s, and he also prayed the prayer  his priest had ordered but always asking for her to pick someone else.

What do You Want?

On May 8, 1980, Bernardo returned home from fishing at 3 o'clock to feed the animals and pray the Rosary in the chapel with people at 5 o'clock.  On the way, he saw a flash of lightening and feared it would rain. Looking about, he realized there were no clouds.  At the second flash, the Virgin Mary appeared. 

“I felt no fear, I was surprised. I had thought and said: What am I seeing? Could it be the same statue of the Virgin that they brought and placed here for me? … I then passed my hand over my face because I thought that what I saw was a dream….

“And when I removed my hands from my face, I saw that she had human skin and that her eyes moved and She blinked…. My mind was the only thing that I could move. I was in those thoughts when She extended Her arms --- like the Miraculous Medal, which I never had seen, but which later was shown to me…. When she gave out Her light is when I became encouraged to speak, although somewhat stammering. I said to her: What is your name?"

"She answered me with the sweetest voice I have ever heard in any woman, not even in persons who speak softly. She answered me and said that Her name was Mary….

I asked her, then, where She came from. She told me with the same sweetness:

"I come from Heaven. I am the Mother of Jesus. At hearing this I immediately asked Her --- remembering what the priest had told me --- I asked Her: What is it you want? "I want the Rosary to be prayed everyday."

"I then interrupted and said to Her: Yes, we are praying it. --- The priest brought us the intentions of the San Francisco parish so that we would unite ourselves with them.

"She told me: I don't want it prayed only in the month of May. I want it to be prayed permanently, within the family, including the children old enough to understand; to be prayed at a set hour when there are no problems with the work in the home."

"She told me that the Lord does not like prayers we make in a rush or mechanically. Because of that She recommended praying of the Rosary with the reading of bible citations and that we put into practice the Word of God."

"When I heard this I thought and said, How is this? Because I did not know the Rosary was biblical. That is why I asked Her and said, Where are the biblical citations?"

"She told me to look for them in the Bible and continued saying: "Love each other. Fulfill your obligations. Make peace. Don't ask our Lord for peace because if you do not make it there will be no peace. Renew the Five First Saturdays. You received many graces when all of you did this."

"Before the war we used to do this. --- We went to Confession and Communion every First Saturday of the month. --- But since the Lord already had freed us from the shedding of blood in Cuapa, we no longer continued this practice. Then She said:

"Nicaragua has suffered much since the earthquake. She is threatened with even more suffering. She will continue to suffer if you don't change. --- Pray! Pray, my son, the Rosary for all the world. Tell believers and non-believers that the world is threatened by grave dangers. I ask the Lord to appease His Justice, but if you don't change, you will hasten the arrival of a Third World War."

"After She had said these words, I understood that I had to say this to the people and I told her: "Lady, I don't want problems. I have many in the Church. Tell this to another person." She then told me:

"No, because Our Lord has selected you to give the message."

October 13. Last Vision 

There were five visions in all, the last one being on October 13-- also the date of the last vision of Our Lady of Fatima to the three shepherd children in Portugal.  Bernardo and around fifty people prayed the rosary and sang "Holy Queen of Heaven." While singing, everyone suddenly everyone saw a large luminous circle over the ground that gave off lights in different colors without coming from the sun. 

"It was 3:00 in the afternoon. One could feel a small breeze that moved softly. Pleasant, like a fresh shower, but which did not wet us. While we observed this, we were silent and continued seeing that circle of light which gave off colored lights from the exact center, where the sun is at twelve noon.

"All of a sudden a lightning flash, the same as the other times; then, a second one. I lowered my eyes and I saw the Lady."

Bernardo again asked Mary to let everyone see her. She began to cry, as did Bernardo.  She told him: "It saddens me to see the hardness of those persons hearts. But you will have to pray for them so that they will change. Pray the Rosary. Meditate on the mysteries. Listen to the Word of God spoken in them. Love one another. Love each other. Forgive each other. Make peace. Don't ask for peace without making peace, because if you don't make it, it does no good to ask for it.

"Fulfill your obligations. Put into practice the world of God. Seek ways to please God. Serve your neighbor as that way you will please Him. They ask of me things that are unimportant. Ask for Faith in order to have the strength so that each can carry his own cross.

"The suffering of this world cannot be removed. That is the way life is. There are problems with the husband, with the wife, with the children, with the brothers. Talk, converse, so that problems will be resolved in peace. Do not turn to violence. Never turn to violence. Pray for faith in order that you will have patience.

"You will no longer see me in this place."

Bernardo began to shout, begging, "Don't leave us my Mother!"

Mary said:

"Do not be grieved. I am with all of you even though you do not see me. I am the Mother of All you sinners.

"Love one another. Forgive each other. Make peace, because if you don't make it, there will be no peace. Do not turn to violence. Never turn to violence.

"Nicaragua has suffered a great deal since the earthquake, and will continue to suffer if all of you don't change. If you don't change you will hasten the coming of the Third World War.

"Pray, pray, my son, for all the world. Grave dangers threaten the world. The Mother never forgets Her children, and I have not forgotten what you suffer. I am the Mother of all of you sinners. Invoke me with these words.

"Holy Virgin, You are my Mother, the Mother to all of us sinners."

With those words, the apparitions ended. Bernardo continued as the sacristan for a while.  As word of the apparitions spread, however, he was persecuted by many and even bribed to say Mary had come as a Sandinista, (the Sandinista National Liberation Front political group). When he refused, he was persecuted all the more with threats and even having women trying to seduce him. For his protection, he left his village and lived his days out in a seminary where he was ordained a priest in 1995 and died five years later.

It is noteworthy to add to this story that (according to In 1880, Fr. Andres Rongier, SJ, a Jesuit missionary from Mexico, prophesied that Cuapa would be a famous future site of a Marian apparition. On Aug 20, 1931 Bernardo Martinez was born.
For more inspiration, check out Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families. Your children will laugh while learning big spiritual lessons with Dear God, I Don't Get It! and Dear God, You Can't Be Serious. 

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