Review by Msgr Arthur Calkins, which appeared in December 2000 issue of Miles Immaculatae
DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY, Apparitions of Mary: Their Meaning in History (London: Catholic Truth Society, 2000) pp. 87.
There is a saying that "good things come in small packages". I believe that this little booklet verifies that statement. On the surface it seems to be one among hundreds of pamphlets that attempt to summarize the content of Marian apparitions and, indeed, who knows what good simple and honestly written booklets can do?
In this case Donal Foley analyzes nine such apparitions of Our Lady, beginning with Guadalupe in 1531, highlighting Fatima in 1917 and concluding with Banneux in 1933. So far, so good. But, in effect, Donal Foley does much more. He correlates each of these approved apparitions with the wider world situation at the time, helping to provide the context needed to appreciate why Mary appeared and to understand her oftentimes deceptively simple messages communicated by her presence and her words.
Obviously, Mr. Foley is not alone in attempting this kind of analysis, but his presentation is unique in that he relates each of the nine Marian apparitions examined to specific Old Testament images and often supports them with references to the Fathers of the Church.
I found the analysis fascinating and largely convincing (even if I still find myself wondering about his correlation of Knock which I have always related principally to the heavenly liturgy described in the book of Revelation). His presentation also has the advantage of relating the apparitions of La Salette (1846) to Lourdes (1854) and of Beauraing (1932-1933) to Banneux (1933).
In his conclusion he states
The typological evidence presented in this booklet indicates too that they [these apparitions] have been foreshadowed by Old Testament events, which were often taken by the Church Fathers as prefigurations of Mary. Without this typological connection it is hard to see why Mary has appeared in such dramatically different ways in her recognised apparitions: it surely cannot have just been for effect, and so there must be a deeper reason. Her apparently "eccentric" mode of dress, and her activities on some of these occasions, seem to be best explained by the above similarities however unusual this idea may seem at first glance 84).
I will refrain from stealing the author's thunder by enumerating all of his correlations. I will simply state that his association of Lourdes with Exodus 3 is in strict agreement with the understanding of Saint Maximilian Kolbe while his relating of Fatima with the famous scene of Elijah's confrontation with the priests of Baal (I Kings 18:17-40) seems to be in harmony with the general tenor of the reflections expressed by the late Père Joseph de Sainte Marie, O.C.D. in his La Vierge de Mont Carmel: Mystère et Prophétie (Paris: Éditions P. Lethielleux, 1985).
All of the correlations proposed by the author are worthy of careful consideration. This little booklet deserves to be read and pondered - even as we await a more developed presentation of this thesis by the author!
Arthur Burton Calkins
Theotokos Catholic Books - Publications Section - www.theotokos.org.uk