Thursday, November 19, 2009

Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Grace

It is official: the Archbishop of Lipa, the Most Reverend Ramon Arugelles, has lifted the almost six-decade long prohibition on the public veneration of Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Grace. In 1948, Our Lady reportedly appeared to a young Carmelite novice, Teresita Castillo, reiterating the message of Fatima and revealing herself to be the 'Mediatrix of All Grace.' For fifteen days, Teresita was said to have conversed with the Blessed Mother, who was reported to have appeared on a cloud, and whose coming was heralded by the arrival of a blue bird in the convent gardens. And then, there were the petals. They rained upon the garden in droves, showering the grounds in crimson, the fragrance of which was said to have moved many a devotee to tears. Still more impressive, a large number of the petals seem to have been stamped with images of the Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Heart, St. Joseph, and even St. Therese of the Child Jesus. (You may read a truncated summary of the events, and the message, here and here.) In no time at all, the apparitions attracted a growing number of devotees, including the First Lady of the time, Dona Aurora Quezon. In Madrid, a crowd of at least 30,000 strong bore her image in procession; even New York City, one of the most progressive cities in the world, was captured by the spell of Lipa.

But in the span of less than three years, the apparitions were to be declared a hoax, and Sr. Teresita, her prioress, and the whole community of Lipa's Carmel, would suffer the extreme embarrassment of being labeled unscrupulous money makers, faking an appearance of the Virgin for their own ends. The poor Carmelites were called 'the dishonor of the Church', in the words of one nun. For almost fifty years, the Carmelites of Lipa were forbidden to speak of the apparitions under threat of excommunication. And yet, there persist rumors, very strong ones, to this day, that a very human hand was behind the silencing of the events at Lipa. More than one bishop was said to have been made to sign the declaration that the events at Lipa were a hoax. And more intriguing, perhaps, is the shadowy trail that suggests the involvement of some of the Roman Curia as well. What is the message of Lipa, and why was it so hastily disapproved? The purging was so thorough, so severe, that not a single mention of it survives in the archives of the Archdioceses of Manila and Lipa. A large number of the protagonists in the Lipa story are now dead, although Sr. Teresita herself is still alive. Most of the details of the story are now sketchy, since it was ordered that all material concerning the apparitions-- novenas, booklets, and the diaries of the prioress Mother Cecilia and Sr. Teresita herself-- be consigned to the flame. But like the petals that rained from above, the story of Lipa, and the events that transpired there, have resurfaced. In the coming posts, I will try to provide as much information as I can regarding the extraordinary circumstances of those years.

Some background information:

The city of Lipa in Batangas is about two hours' drive south of Manila. In the late 1800s, it was the sole provider of coffee beans in the world, making it one of the most prosperous cities in the country at the time. Some years later, however, a virus would destroy the city's main produce, so much so, that by the start of the second world war, Lipa had shrunk to a shadow of its former glory. The war totally destroyed the city; indeed, it was one of the most devastated cities in the Far East. It is said that almost 20,000 people-- priests, religious, old, young, men, and women-- were herded into the city's diocesan seminary by the Japanese. They were all bayoneted to death, and the seminary set on fire. It was on this site that the Carmelite convent of Lipa would be built.

Sr. Teresita Castillo was the youngest daughter of a very prominent family in the province. She led a sheltered, pampered life, but had always nursed a desire to enter the convent and dedicate herself totally to God. On the morning of her twenty first birthday, she fled to Carmel, and begged to be admitted into the order. Her family tried in vain all day to get her to come out, and reconsider her decision, but she would not budge an inch. That night, her brother, fresh off a drunken spiel, flew into the convent in a rage, and, with his gun pointed at the porter, demanded to see his sister. But Teresita's will was iron; her brother found her prostate in the chapel, her arms spread in the form of the Cross, and left, humiliated by his actions.


christopher said...

Please make sure you do follow up with more posts, I'm very interested and haven't heard of this before. Coincidentally, just a few days ago I put a poll question on my sidebar, "The Second Vatican Council very nearly proclaimed Mary to be Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces, should they have?"

Anonymous said...

The Archbishop of Lipa must be very sure of deciding, based on factual and thorough investigation of the miracle at Lipa, to declare the apparition of the Blessed Mother true and authentic. He must act decisively fast for six decades have past (imagine 6 long decades) and the Blessed Mother would seem not to mind the hardheadedness of the Church that would not declare it true, not to mention the very special message that she said she is THE MEDIATRIX OF ALL GRACES. That is indeed a new dogma which the Church must have to enlighten the faithful. If we study all other valid and approved apparitions of Blessed Mary, she was so much insistent to let us believe in their truthfulness that she always made many "follow-ups" for us to really accept. What about this Lipa apparition, is she making "follow-ups" in the span of the long six decades. If not, I guess the Archbishop of Lipa must make his decision final.