As someone who was raised Catholic, there are many questions with which I have struggled as I have tried to come into my own faith. The biggest has been "But why would Jesus care about insignificant me? Why would Jesus care about sinful, disobedient, tiny, irrelevant me?"
That's not the question I'd like to consider, but it is connected to the question we discussed on Monday of why some apparitions are more believable than others in the eyes of believers and in the eyes of the Church. It's a question that has stuck with me since I first learned about Lourdes and Fatima in grade school and which was thrown into sharper contrast after reading Pius's Constitution on the Immaculate Conception: Why would Mary appear to those people? Why did she single them out?
(I still haven't figured out the first question.)
In some respects, these questions go back to questions we have discussed earlier in the course, such as which presentation of Mary is most appealing, what aspect of Mary strikes us most, and how people connect to the various apparitions and why different versions of the same woman have such different--and yet equally dedicated--followings. When I read Pius's descriptions of Mary, I was overwhelmed. A human above all humans I was used to considering, but above all angels? In his description of her, she is the perfect woman, the perfect vessel, untainted and untouchable by humanity. In many respects, she stopped being human to me, which meant she could no longer be a role model for my own existence and her example was inaccessible to me since she was granted circumstances unique to my own. In his painting of Mary as the Immaculate Conception, then, we have a woman who exists on a wholly different sphere and who is untouched by the horrors of our world. In the course of reading that treatise, I lost sight of the other Mary's I knew--the Intercessor, the Mother, the Gentle Woman. How dared I, someone tainted by such sin and defiled by the world, appeal to this perfect individual? Why should I possibly expect her to intercede on my behalf?
And this is where we return to the question of the apparitions or, as I see them, moments when perfection comes into contact with imperfection and we are forced to confront the question of why Mary would appear to us at all and why she would choose certain individuals? The stories that we read abound with skepticism of the individuals who reported visions or sightings--some were too sexually promiscuous, others too wild and adventurous, some with a history of illness, others too imaginative, some not devoted enough, others not pious enough... the list goes on. Very few were deemed fit the Church's requirements for being an ideal model, displaying appropriate levels of piety and obedience.
Why would Mary, who is perfection itself, choose to appear to those who are untrustworthy or (in our perception) undeserving of her presence? Why would she appear to those who could not recognize her and give her proper adoration? Why would she risk her message on those who might not be believed? Logic tells us that Mary should appear to those individuals who are entirely ready to take her into their hearts and decipher her messages, who have purified themselves and made themselves temples for Christ, and who are mirrors of herself: models of perfection in their communities.
And yet, why would she not appear to such individuals? Jesus said that he came to save those who were in need of salvation; that is why he reached out to the sinners, to the outcasts of society, and to those in need of aid. Those who are well do not need a doctor (Mark 2:17). Why would His mother do any less? Would she not continue his mission: appearing to the outcasts of society, bringing them into its circle, appearing to those who needed her most in their lives and could perhaps be turned away from the path of destruction by witnessing her presence and her message? In many of her apparitions, she came to call the world into repentance, so it would be logical for her to begin her mission by reaching out to those whom society deem to be sinners or who are in need of salvation.
Part of the confusion, though, comes from how the apparitions occur. They are full of complex mysticism which the initial seers cannot understand and which can only be understood and decipher by learned individuals in the Church (examples being Bernadette's confusion regarding the phrase "I am the Immaculate Conception" while the priests and religious in the Church understood it more easily and were aware of its significance or Melanie and Maximin's assumption that the woman they saw was referencing domestic violence, not the destruction of the world). But at the same time, they are simple enough and accessible enough that children can chase the vision with excitement and wonder and that the woman inspires trust and continued conversation. Throughout, the visions are full of contradictions, such as in the case of Melanie and Maximin, who could not initially understand the woman because she spoke in French but who was quickly able to switch into their dialect--would not the Mother of God, above all men and all angels, be aware of the conversational capabilities of the individuals to whom she has chosen to present herself?
And this is why I think the apparitions can be so confusing, so difficult to believe, and why the Church struggles to determine which should be recognized and promoted and which shouldn't: because the events themselves are not clear and because an argument can be made for why the individual chosen for the message is both the perfectly right choice and the perfectly wrong choice.