One difference between the “Old World” Marian apparition stories found in the William Christian reading and the “New Word” Marian apparition story recounted by Carl Anderson and Eduardo Chavez is that the “New World” Mary seems to be gentler and more interested in making a personal connection with the people she appears to. This may be an accident of the versions of the stories we were assigned to read, or it may be evidence that Mary in the New World took on a more personal and motherly role to her devotees. I hesitate to jump to the later conclusion based on a small sample of stories, but the difference I noticed is interesting nonetheless. The New World Mary seems more gentle and personable than the Old World Mary based on how she interacts with her witnesses, the witnesses’ reaction to the visions, and the signs she produces as proof of the apparition.
In the Santa Gadea story, Mary first appears to the witnesses as part of a procession. The witnesses, two boys, were frightened by what they saw and heard and “fled” the scene. (Christian 29). It was not until the second appearance that Mary finally spoke to the boys, and in telling them what she wanted, she said, “I order you to explain” and, “I order you to keep declaring this publicly.” (Christian 31). When one boy did not do as he was ordered, Mary had him beaten. It was not until the entire town “saw the welts and injuries” that the boy did as he was told. Several details of this story stand out to me: Mary first appeared from a distance, her initial request was characterized as an order, and the signs she produced for the town were the welts and bruises resulting from the boy’s beating. In this story, Mary does not seem very gentle or very interested in forming a personal connection with her witnesses.
In the Jaen story, Mary did not interact with her witnesses at all. She only ever appeared at a distance as part of a procession. Additionally, the vision was not initially pleasant to the witnesses. The witness Juan’s reaction was lukewarm at best, as he states that he experienced “neither pleasure nor fear.” (Christian 43). The witness Pedro first experienced pleasure, but seeing soldiers in the procession with Mary made him frightened. (Christian 46). The witness Maria Sanchez “suddenly took fright” upon seeing Mary. (Christian 47). Lastly, the witness Juana Fernandez, immediately “fell down, paralyzed with fright, and began to tremble all over” when she saw the vision. Like the previous story, Mary here is impersonal, and the vision is on the whole, unpleasant to the witnesses.
In the Cubas story, Mary is much more personal, addressing the witness Ines as “Daughter,” (Christian 61) but several aspects of the story still stand out as suggesting the difference between Old World and New World apparitions. Regarding Mary’s interaction with Ines, Mary’s requests are initially and frequently referred to as “orders.” (Christian 61). Ines also notes that in their interactions, Mary never calls Ines by her first name. (Christian 69). In several points in the story, Ines is reported as being afraid because of the visions. (Christian 62, 67, 68, 69). Finally, in order to get the townspeople to believe Ines, Mary makes a sign out of Ines’s hand, forcing Ines’s fingers into the shape of a cross. Ines states that this hurt her, but not much, and that it caused her arm to feel paralyzed and numb; the pain did not go away until her hand was restored days later. (Christian 71). Notably, as in the other stories, the apparition of Mary is frightening to the witness, and the sign Mary sends causes the witness pain.
The final story in the William Christian reading does not contain many details, but it does state that the witness experienced “great fear.” (Christian 90). Furthermore, it characterizes Mary’s request as an “order.” (Christian 91).
An additional detail that each of these Old World stories share is that the church officials required notarized affidavits and investigation into the witnesses’ accounts before accepting the stories as true. In class we discussed several possible reasons for this, but perhaps something about how Mary presented herself in these apparitions explains why the church officials sought legal verification.
The one New World apparition story we read differed in the details discussed above. Mary does not appear to the witness, Juan Diego, from a distance, but instead calls out to him personally using his name. (Anderson and Chavez 173). She goes even further, and calls Juan Diego, “dearest” and “Juanito” which implies some affection toward the witness. In none of the Old World apparitions does Mary call to the witness by name.
While in the Old World apparition stories, Mary is described as “ordering” her witnesses, in this story, Mary is said to “reveal her precious will,” and she tells Juan Diego that she “want[s] very much” for the town to build a church. (Anderson and Chavez 173). She does eventually say “I strictly order you,” but that is after the first request, and after she says “I beg you.” (Anderson and Chavez 173). This may be a small difference, but it paints Mary as acting more gently toward her witness.
When the bishop does not believe Juan Diego, Mary sends Juan Diego back with a sign, like she did in the Santa Gadea and Cubas stories. However, unlike in those stories, the sign did not cause the witness any pain. Instead the sign was meant to be beautiful; it consisted of flowers and a miraculous image of her on Juan Diego’s tilma.
Finally, perhaps because of Mary’s more gentle and personal presentation of herself, the Bishop did not require any sort of legal verification in order to believe Juan Diego. Instead he was deeply moved and immediately believed and asked Mary forgiveness for ever having doubted.
In conclusion, unlike Old World Mary, New World Mary reached out to her witness in a more personal manner, and even showed affection toward her witness. Additionally, New World Mary did not scare her witness by her appearance or hurt the witnesses to provide a sign. Perhaps because of these details, the Bishop in the New World story did not require a signed affidavit in order to accept the truth of the vision. These details suggest to me that the New World Marian apparition stories depict Mary as kind and amiable, unlike how she was depicted in the Old World apparition stories.