A chronicle of Mary’s messages: The World of Marian Apparitions
“The World of Marian Apparitions: Mary’s appearances and messages from Fatima to Today” by Wincenty Łaszewski (2021, Sophia Institute Press) 432 pp., $39.95.
Few occurrences have had so significant an impact on the lived faith of Catholics than Marian apparitions. Their influence can be seen everywhere one looks within the Church, from statues, prayer cards and various other artistic depictions, to the names of churches, cathedrals, and basilicas. It would be impossible to empirically quantify just how central Mary’s appearances to visionaries and, indeed, ordinary people, have been over the centuries.
However, what if there were a book in which one could find a wealth of data and information concerning many of these extraordinary events? "The World of Marian Apparitions" by Wincenty Łaszewski intends to be just that.
Beginning with what are perhaps the most beloved of all Marian apparitions (those occurring at Fatima, Portugal), the book chronicles in an encyclopedic format approximately 48 apparitions up until the present day. From a physical standpoint, the book is of superb quality. It is relatively large, measuring slightly over eight-and-a-half by eleven inches, which would make it a great addition to any Catholic coffee table. The covers and spine are constructed from a smooth, velvety material which makes the book exceedingly comfortable to hold and read. Another beautiful design choice is the shimmery gold embossing found on the front, back, and spine, lending an air of refinement to the volume.
As mentioned above, Łaszewski has chosen to format the book as an encyclopedia. This makes it straightforward to navigate and use as an informational resource. Included in each of the entries are enriching elements such as small maps showing where the apparition(s) took place, many high-quality photos and graphics, as well as a legend of symbols to tell the reader at a glance whether or not a specific apparition has been approved by the Vatican, approved by the local bishop, was accompanied by a miracle or miracles, etc.
Since the book is organized as a timeline from Fatima to the present day, it is possible to discern a sense of narrative and continuity between the apparitions. Mary’s message, no matter to whom it is being given or where or at what time, is always the same: repent and work towards a closer relationship with her Son, Jesus. Although this is something we all learn implicitly, having heard at least some of these stories before in other places, when they are collected in one place and put in sequence (placed in context, if you will), they begin to take on a more poignant character.
If this book itself could be described to contain a message, I believe it would be this: Mary is not simply a historical figure, or a person in heaven whom we venerate here on Earth. While she is undoubtedly both of these things, this book also presents her as an active, interventional force in our reality. She is far from static. Like a mother, perpetually concerned for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of her children, Mary is constantly “keeping tabs” on us, her fingers on the pulse of humanity. And, like any good mother, when she observes her children engaging in behaviors that are ultimately harmful to themselves and those around them, she steps in. She reminds us with Whom our true loyalties lie, and that we should never allow ourselves to become distracted from our Christian mission by the wiles of the world. It is an uncomplicated message, yet one that needs to be repeated frequently and insistently, as with any recalcitrant youth.
Wincenty Łaszewski has created something extraordinary in writing and compiling this book. In the years to come, I predict that "The World of Marian Apparitions" will become widely known as one of the best places to find information about the last century or so of these most wonderful of visions and visitations, which are of critical import not only for ourselves as isolated individuals, but for the whole interconnected web of the human family.