[Headlines of The Connection] Lipa’s Marian apparitions: Devotion an ‘aftershock’ of diocesan declaration

 

LIPA CITY—The shocking news —sized 5 x 10 centimeters, shaped like a small cigarette box— is found on the left side of a woman’s body.

The Discalced Carmelite community with the original miraculous image of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace ( Mother Mary Cecilia of Jesus on the left side of Our Lady while the visionary Sister Teresita Castillo on the right hand side of Our Lady). Some 67 years after, the Lipa Archdiocese had affirmed the 1948 apparitions as 'worthy of belief' (photo from the Facebook page "Our Lady, Mary Mediatrix of All Grace")

The Discalced Carmelite community with the original miraculous image of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace ( Mother Mary Cecilia of Jesus on the left side of Our Lady while the visionary Sister Teresita Castillo on the right hand side of Our Lady). Some 67 years after, the Lipa Archdiocese had affirmed the 1948 apparitions as ‘worthy of belief’ (photo from the Facebook page “Our Lady, Mary Mediatrix of All Grace”)

Sonia Milan’s left breast had a cancerous tumor that year, 2002. The cancer cells have already spread (metastasize) to another part of Milan’s body, her lymph nodes.

I had done almost everything to save myself, Milan said: chemotherapy, lumpectomy, radiation therapy, and other treatment session. But lo and behold, the boxed-shaped tumor shrank to the size of a tip of a pencil. Plus, lymph nodes that were taken out of Milan’s body tested negative for cancer.

That rapid the cancer cells had gone. Sonia is now on her 13th year in remission. What could have led to this?

“You must have prayed a lot,” Milan’s doctor remembered telling her this. Not only Sonia. Not only her mother Severina, a former Catholic nun. Not only prayer did the trick.

An intercession did, from the Blessed Virgin Mary.

That’s what Sonia, a diehard of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace, claims. Sonia was only hearing stories of Mary Mediatrix in her youth from her mother. Severina was more proximate: The elder Milan was a former Carmelite nun (a postulant) who’s part of that small bunch of nuns some 67 years ago who were that close to the Philippines’ first Marian apparition.

At least, Severina (who died on November 27, 2009 at 89 years old) was close to a fellow postulant who saw the Virgin Mary in all her splendor, fellow octogenarian Teresita Castillo. The latter carried the name “Sr. Teresita Castillo” inside the convent; Severina was “St. Stephanie of the Cross” in the late 1940s.

As Severina had gone ahead, Teresita has an undicslosed lingering illness that almost took her last year. But the 1948 apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary is now “worthy of belief” as declared by the current Archbishop of Lipa, Ramon Arguelles, D.D. Who would have thought Castillo, the lead human figure of the apparition, will hear that good news in her lifetime?

 

Witnessing

Some 67 years ago at a monastery in Brgy. Antipolo del Norte, the Blessed Mother reportedly appeared to Castillo. The first one was on the afternoon of September 12, a Sunday: Castillo got amazed when a vine was shaking violently, and it wasn’t even windy. She approached the vine, and someone —the Blessed Virgin Mary— spoke: “Do not fear, my child. Kiss the ground and whatever I shall tell you to do, you must do. Eat some grass, my child.” Teresita did eat grass.

On the morning of Sept. 15, 1948, then Lipa Auxiliary Bishop Alfredo Ma. Obviar was presiding Mass at a Carmelite monastery (run by the Order of Discalced Carmelites) when Mary Mediatrix appeared to Castillo, who then “embraced” Mary. The nuns, as well as Obviar, then a chaplain of the monastery, witnessed the embrace. (It was uncertain if Severina Milan was in there with the other nuns who witnessed the embrace.)

On the afternoon of that same day, the first showering of rose petals happened which Castillo said was a “sign” Obviar prayed for to prove that the apparitions were “true”.

“His Excellency witnessed a very private shower of the petals,” Castillo wrote in her published personal account titled I am Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace. “He (Obviar) was stricken dumb. For a time, he could not speak. We said the rosary together.”

The monastery had been frequented by flocks of people. The apparition was making headlines globally. But like all wariness of the Catholic Church hierarchy over reported Marian apparitions, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines at that time told Obviar and then Lipa Bishop Alfredo Versoza to keep quiet and keep the statue of Mary Mediatrix. (Both Obviar and Versoza are now being lobbied for sainthood.)

 

Former nun Severina Milan (deceased) and the witness of the Lipa Marian apparitions, Teresita Castillo (still alive) in a late 1940s photo when they were still postulants at a Carmelite Monastery in Brgy. Antipolo del Norte in Lipa City. Castillo is said to be the direct witness of the Blessed Virgin Mary's appearances in Lipa City. Milan, for her part, accompanied Castillo during a psychological test at the University of Santo Tomas in 1950--and claimed she saw Castillo talk to the Blessed Virgin Mary in UST. "She was beautiful and (is) so calm," Severina was quoted as saying. (photo from the Milan family through daughter Sonia)

Former nun Severina Milan (deceased) and the witness of the Lipa Marian apparitions, Teresita Castillo (still alive) in a late 1940s photo when they were still postulants at a Carmelite Monastery in Brgy. Antipolo del Norte in Lipa City. Castillo is said to be the direct witness of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s appearances in Lipa City. Milan, for her part, accompanied Castillo during a psychological test at the University of Santo Tomas in 1950–and claimed she saw Castillo talk to the Blessed Virgin Mary in UST. “She was beautiful and (is) so calm,” Severina was quoted as saying. (photo from the Milan family through daughter Sonia)

Watching over

Teresita was then ordered to meet a psychologist, Dominican Fr. Angelo Blas (then rector of the University of Santo Tomas), to check on her mental condition. Blas reportedly told Castillo to renounce the apparitions, which Castillo refused. But in a final report from Fr. Blas, the UST rector said: “Teresita Castillo is perfectly normal and (is) not suffering from hallucinations or other mental disorder.”

And who would have thought Mary Mediatrix followed Castillo at UST? That’s what Severina Milan, who accompanied Castillo to UST, saw: Mama Mary followed Castillo, with Severina (as told by daughter Sonia) as witness.

The in-remission daughter Sonia told The Filipino Connection: “My mother said she (Teresita) seemed like she was talking to someone and her face looked so angelic.”

The reported discussion between the Virgin Mary and Castillo, says the younger Milan, “was beautiful and so calm”.

One night during the sortie at UST, Sr. Teresita screamed and this awakened Severina: “Sr. Stephanie, the big black man is here again,” in reference to the devil.

And Severina claimed she saw Teresita’s leather belt “burning” so the former quickly unfastened the belt and extinguished the flames.

Milan kept the ashes and the remnants of that belt until Milan, Castillo and the rest of the Carmelite nuns were told to surrender everything they had in relation to the apparition.

 

Wonders

Fast forward to the cancer diagnosis of Sonia. To her surprise, and praying to Mary Mediatrix only once, I “breezed through all treatments without any difficulty,” Sonia said.

“I told God through Mama Mary Mediatrix of All Grace that I believe in miracles and I know He will do one for me. After that, I never bothered God again.”

But Sonia Milan did a Teresita Castillo in not setting aside Mary Mediatrix. If Castillo never, ever denied her discussions and embraces with Mary Mediatrix, Sonia Milan never discounted the role of Mary Mediatrix in her recovery.

“I was physically alone in my battle with the big C (cancer) but never spiritually. I felt Mama Mary and my mother’s love throughout.”

“I attribute my healing to the miracle from Mama Mary Mediatrix of All Grace.”

Stories that the rose petals have healed diseases, as well as intercessions to her by people with various infirmities, have sprung up decades after the 1948 apparitions.

 

‘We believe’

Six years ago, Arguelles declared the Marian apparition in Antipolo del Norte is “the most celebrated event recorded” of the Catholic Church in Lipa. Back then, there was no final word if the event did really happen.

Fast forward to September 12, 2015, some 67 years after Mary Mediatrix first shook the vine and caught Castillo’s attention. In a prayerful tone, Arguelles was reading an archdiocesan declaration saying the events and apparitions of 1948 “do exhibit supernatural character and is worthy of belief”.

Just some flashback to 23 years ago, on July 16, 1991: After four decades of hiding, the statue of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace re-appeared because then Lipa Archbishop Mariano Gaviola overturned the 1951 declaration of six bishops and said let the image of Mary Mediatrix be exposed and venerated.

The September 12, 2015 declaration then “removes doubts,” Arguelles explains to The Filipino Connection, surrounding the authenticity of the events of 1948.

Actually, a local Catholic diocese is the first and main authority to judge the authenticity of Marian apparitions, as established by the old Council of Trent (1545-63). If a diocese declares a reported apparition as authentic and transmits the news to the Vatican, what authorities of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can do is release a statement.

And I am “ready,” Arguelles said, “to take responsibility if the apparition is later proven as untrue.” Bottomline is the devotion to Mama Mary is good for the people.

(The said “approval” from Vatican’s CDF may follow years or even centuries later. Such is the case of Our Lady of Laus in France: the local diocese approved the apparitions in 1665 but the formal recognition of Our Lady of Laus’ apparition as a supernatural event only came in 2008.)

“I believe that the Blessed Mother really appeared here. She appeared to Lourdes for our French people to awaken their faith. She appeared in Fatima. There’s nothing wrong with appearing to Filipinos,” said Arguelles.

“The blessed Mother is asking the people to pray and we need that because the world is in now in chaos as well as the Philippines. Even the church: We have to pray to God (that He) intervene.”

Arguelles said Mary Mediatrix of All Grace is needed to bring about a “true and lasting transformation in this nation… in its totality —in the political, social, economic and spiritual spheres.”

 

Winners

Arguelles’ declaration is icing on the cake for the victory of those who believed in the 1948 apparitions. More so that news vindicates Castillo.

Marian devotees like Sonia Milan, 56, welcomed Arguelles’ Sept. 12 declaration. That will “further bolster our petition to Vatican to finally give its approval to the apparition,” the younger Milan said. (Interestingly, the leaders of the CBCP and the country’s two cardinals, Luis Antonio Tagle and Orlando Quevedo, have yet to issue a statement on Arguelles’ declaration.)

But Sonia Milan isn’t mindful of the coming of the Holy See’s imprimatur (approval). She isn’t sure if that will come in her lifetime, like Arguelles’ declaration that octogenarian “Sr. Teresita Castillo,” now based in Parañaque City, had been told about.

But Mary Mediatrix of All Grace gave the cancer survivor a lifeline, Sonia Milan thinks. What matters now, she says, is that “I will continue my devotion to her.”

 

 

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About MARLON ALEXANDER S. LUISTRO and JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO