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There have been so many apparitions of Our Blessed Mother that we forget most of them -- or are not even aware of them.

How many are cognizant of the messages and apparitions reported through history in places like Denver  -- where back in 1950 Mary was allegedly seen by a 15-year-old girl (weeping, arms crossed over her heavy heart)?

Does anyone know that two years later, in 1952, the Blessed Mother appeared to a Jesuit in India -- Father Louis M. Shouriah -- asking devotion to the same "sorrowful heart"?

Has word ever gotten out of equally moving appearances inside what was then the U.S.S.R.?

How many heard of Seredne?

This was in Ukraine, where a striking visitation took place on December 20, 1953. To be exact it occurred in a nearby village called Dubovytsya. This is in the Frankivske region of Ukraine, where Stalinists slaughtered thousands of helpless peasants and piled them into mass graves.

In a vision during Mass, a woman named Hanya saw the hill of Seredne and a spot where there had been small wells of clear water -- just as there were miraculous wells at the shrines of Zaravanystya and Hrushiw (later made famous in the 1980s in the same Ukraine).

Hanya saw it all vividly, even though she'd never visited the hill. And as her vision continued the Virgin Mary appeared and began to speak:

"My daughter, my daughter, my daughter, you see what a fullness of grace I possess. But I have no one to give my graces to, for there are so many daughters and sons who have turned away from me... I wanted to obtain a great forgiveness for poor sinners, for disaster is upon us as in the times of Noah. Not by flood but by fire will the destruction come. An immense flood of fire shall destroy nations for sinning before God. Since the beginning of the world, there has never been such a fall as there is today. This is the kingdom of Satan. Rome is in danger of being destroyed, the Pope of being killed. Rome must be renewed and raised through the hill of Seredne. The sinful world with its sinful people is in desperate need of renewal."

That was in the 1950s! When we go back through the book, The Final Hour, we find some fairly stunning messages that mean more now than back when the book was first released in 1991.

And in the mention of fire -- and a danger to the Pope -- it begs a question:

Was there a link between this obscure apparition and the third secret of Fatima?

Four years after Seredne, the Fatima secret, still sealed in a double envelope, finally found its way to the Vatican. For some reason, Pius XII, like the bishop of Leiria (overseeing Fatima) chose not to study its tantalizing contents -- perhaps deciding to wait for after 1960, as indicated by seer Lucia dos Santos. But when it was finally released in 2000, there in the Fatima secret was an image showing the threat of the world being torched and an attack on a "bishop in white" (which is how Pope John Paul II, as Bishop of Rome, dressed).

It's a shame and perhaps a tragedy how many apparitions are unknown or ignored. No doubt many were dubious and those rejected by the Vatican must be rejected by the faithful. Of at least 59 significant reported apparitional claims in the 1940s, some 22 were rejected and no decision was rendered on 37 (according to one tally); with the exception of one in Holland, which was only later okayed (after initial rejection), none were accepted. There were also at least 96 reported in the 1950s (acccording to this list, which like any such list is not complete) and of these, no decision was rendered on 88 and nine were rejected.

Not a single approval. Such was the case with Seredne; no decision was made. Was it too minor for consideration? Were Church authorities too short-handed to investigate all the claims? They were good messages but as always the question is begged: has the Church been too exclusionary, or are "good" messages sometimes a smokescreen? 

Did you know that during this time period -- a crucial time period for the development of the modern world (a world set astray in this time) -- that there was a report in Sausalito, California? And Mississippi? And in New York (the Bronx and Binghamton)?

It was a period leading up to the raucous, rebellious Sixties.

We are now suffering the "fruits" of the evil that entered back then -- including in the Church. In fact, it is fascinating how phenomena attached to the Blessed Mother have often focused on places and nations where the faith would soon be threatened. There was an eruption in Ireland in the 1990s, for example -- and soon after, that Catholic nation went through a horrible clerical crisis.

(Here is an e-mail from just today: "Please help our desperate situation. Here in Ireland the entire media newspapers, radio and television, are now attacking the Catholic Church. Presenters now spend entire programs attacking the Church, there is not one person on any panel to defend the Church position. We are being ripped apart and no one cries 'stop.' A godless Labour party is full cry into dismantling the Catholic educational system. Each individual or group maintains that they had their life destroyed by someone in the church. I could go on and on. Please help.")

In the Boston area, a seer from former Yugoslavia tirelessly appears in churches -- again, in an area that has been badly shaken by the abuse crisis.

In the U.S., a similar eruption occurred across the nation. Of dozens during the 1990s, none have been approved; some have been forcefully rejected.

Are we being given signs? Is the Lord still waiting for one more element to fall into place before cleansing, or some sort of final timetable?

"Just wanted to mention, that in the middle of the night last night, down in southwest Florida, I saw the crescent moon and behind it was what appeared to be a lit up Cross---beautiful---wish I had a picture of it," writes Jeanne Walsh, also today. "Divine Mercy."

[resources: The Final Hour, The Last Secret, and Michael Brown retreat: Sacramento and Omaha]

[see also: Approved and unapproved apparitions]

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