THE APPARITIONS OF OUR LADY IN SCHIO, ITALY
|OUR LADY OF LOVE
Who is Renato Baron? Pietro Renato Baron was born in Schio on 7 December 1932. His parents gave him a solid Christian upbringing. Attending evening classes, he gained a diploma in engineering. For some years he worked as a machine technician in a textile factory, and was later employed at the motorway toll-station at Piovene Rocchette, having responsibility for motorway development. He retired in 1989. On 5 May 1962 he married Margherita Menin. From 1960 onwards he was elected for several terms as a municipal councillor in Schio, and from 1970 to 1975 held the post of councillor responsible for public works. He also served as Chairman of the Nursery School in his district, and until 1985 was Section Secretary of the Christian Democrat Party in Schio. He is a practical man, possessed of much common-sense and well thought of by work-mates, superiors and friends.
THE CITY OF SCHIO.
Schio is a city of some 39,000 inhabitants in the Province and Diocese of Vicenza, Italy. It lies in the Leogra valley, where the mountains of the Little Dolomites rise up from the plain of the Po.
Initially, and for several months, Our Lady appeared in the church of St Martin: the statue of the Madonna of the Rosary came alive. Later, Renato had apparitions in other places too: at home, in a room set aside for prayer and meetings with his close collaborators; in the crypt of the Cenacle; on Monte di Cristo... When Our Lady appears outside the church of St Martin, she comes with arms outstretched, turned heavenwards; her feet are bare. The apparitions do not occur at a fixed time, but they often take place in the evening, after 8 o'clock.
The most frequent times were:
- in 1986, on Thursdays, in the Church of St Mar-tin, from 7.30 to 8 p.m., towards the end of the Rosary recited by the faithful; -after 1986, at around 9 p.m. during the meeting of the Prayer Group;
- at the conclusion of the Stations of the Cross, formerly held on Wednesdays at 9 p.m., and now on Fridays at the same time. Such constant apparitions may be regarded as a sign of Heaven's approval of these prayers in common.
During the first meetings of Renato's collaborators, there was some discussion as to the title that should be given to the Madonna in these apparitions. It was suggested that she be called the 'Madonna of the Rosary', since the statue did, in fact, represent Our Lady of the Rosary. But the next day, 28 November 1985, Our Lady herself said how she wished to be called:
♥«I am the Queen of Love. If you love one another you will be close to the Father. Love and charity. Unending prayer. Go out into the highways and byways of the world, proclaiming the Kingdom of the Father untiringly. He who saves his brother will also save himself. Love and you will be loved. I shall not abandon you. I bless you».♥
The Kingdom of the Father is the Kingdom of Love; the new era which we are awaiting and for which we are praying and working is the Civilization of Love. Appearing for us in the West, immersed as we are in the "civilization" of egoism, the Blessed Virgin reveals herself as the Queen of Love, reminding us in no uncertain terms that we must return to the fundamental commandment of Jesus Christ: "Love one another as I have loved you... By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples."
HOW THE APPARITIONS BEGAN
On 25 March l985 Renato Baron had gone to the little church of St Martin to perform some tasks. He then paused to pray, kneeling in a pew in front of the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary. "Suddenly", he recalls, "I felt as if my body was dying and my soul was fainting... I could no longer see or hear anything around me... The statue of Our Lady began to speak and move: it came alive for me. Her clothing seemed to move with her and she was smiling. Her eyes were most beautiful.
♥«I expected you to come yesterday. From now on you will always come here, because I have to speak to you about so many things. Afterwards, you will write these things down. But for the moment you must wait. Come back tomorrow and you will hear more».♥
When the apparition was over, Renato was so bewildered that he ran away, even forgetting to lock the church. Next day he returned to the church in order to close the door, but first he felt impelled to pray a little. This is what Renato relates:
"I knelt in front of the statue and began to pray. I read from the Scriptures and prolonged my prayers, so as to continue my dialogue with God, hoping that there would not be a repeat of what had happened to me the day before... so that I would not see the same things. Quite frankly, I was afraid. However, Mary did return. Once again, I felt as if I was dying, as if my spirit was leaving my body. All the time, the voice was repeating:
♥«It is I, Mary, I, the Madonna, really speaking to you. Take what I tell you seriously, and from now on you must write down everything that I say. I shall prepare you... One day you will speak, but meanwhile you must wait, you must prepare your spirit, because we shall be treading the path of faith. I shall prepare friends for you, apostles who love Mary. I shall send them to you and you will go a long way with them, because together we must convert many souls and lead them to Jesus».♥
"That day, when I returned to my senses, I did not run away; instead, I felt a great joy within myself". Renato went to the door of the bell-tower, intending to ring the bell and let everyone know what had happened. But the door was locked and he had to content himself with shouting his happiness to the wind. He then returned to the door of the church. He did not have the courage to go in, but knelt down at the threshold, weeping with joy and praying for a good hour. Now he no longer had any doubt: Our Lady was really appearing to him. After a few days, he decided to discuss the matter with his wife. "Rita," he said, "I have something on my mind. I must speak about it to someone, but I can't bring myself to do so..." "You have seemed disturbed to me for some days now," she replied. "If you find it hard to unburden yourself to others, at least tell your wife. We've been together now for more than twenty years". Encouraged by these words, Renato told every-thing in detail, trying to be as objective as possible. Now and again he came out with an exclamation of joy, but immediately attempted to control himself. Rita remained thoughtful, doubting whether such extraordinary events could be credited. On the other hand, she knew that her husband was mentally well-balanced and a man of faith. She had to admit that an apparition by the Virgin Mary was possible. But supposing, instead, it was the devil deceiving him? Perturbed by such a possibility, she finally broke her silence and said to him:
"You might perhaps be mistaken; after all, such things are just not possible! You have done a lot of work in that little church; you've even found skeletons there and reburied them in the crypt. Perhaps you have seen a ghost, perhaps there's something wrong. If I were you, I'd take some holy water and bless the place".
Renato accepted his wife's advice. He went with a small bottle to the monastery of the Capuchin Friars, filled it with holy water, then returned to the statue of the Madonna in St Martin's. This is his account of what happened to him:
I poured the holy water into a small bucket and then went and stood in front of the statue, holding the bucket. I knelt down, dipped my hand in the water, but as I was raising my arm to make the blessing, the hand holding the little bucket opened, the bucket fell to the ground, and the apparition said:
♥«It is I who must bless you, it is I who bless you. Do not be afraid... be prudent. The time will arrive when many will be coming here to pray. Others will not believe. Be patient, have faith and pray for them».♥
This was on 2 April l985. Renato was now fully convinced that it was the Madonna who was speaking to him. From the following day, 3 April 1985, Our Lady has been giving messages to Renato, asking him to write them down so as to communicate them to the world.
Many, if not all, of the messages need to be reflected on and put into practice. The book 'Mary is Cal-ling' contains the messages given by the Blessed Virgin at Schio over the past ten years. The following three, however, merit special attention. The first was given on Monte di Cristo on 28 December 1988. It says:
♥«Let us bless the Lord.
My children, every battle with evil will be won if you remain with me and Jesus.
Be confident of victory.
My children, remove yourselves immediately
from every compromise with the world.
Too many of my children have allowed themselves to be carried away by the deceits of the evil one by living with sin!
May my heartfelt appeal bring all men back to live in truth before God.
My children, you are living through difficult and dangerous times!
I ask you to entrust yourselves completely to me, so that together we may succeed in restoring God's law in the world.
I thank you all, my children, and I bless you».♥
Basically, this message tells us that it is essential to return to observance of the Ten Commandments. For man, the Commandments are like the laws of physics or technical instructions for things: just as a motor does not function if it is not constructed according to the laws of physics and technical norms, so the man who follows a way of life that does not accord with the Commandments is on the wrong track and can have nothing really good in him. The second message was given on 12 April 1989 on Monte di Cristo, ten minutes after the usual message that Our Lady gives on the hill after the Stations of the Cross. The fact that she wished to make this message distinct from the usual one gives some clue as to its special importance.
♥«How is it possible, my son, to inform all people?
You, inhabitants of these places,
will be spared much suffering,
but for this I am calling you to work with me.
May all my people heed me and prepare themselves in God.
Remember: whoever sacrifices himself to be with me under God's law will not lament.
The time is near for many people, many nations, when sea and land will be convulsed.
Let my troops be prepared; sufficient for them will be humility and the courage with which I shall imbue them».♥
The third message was given on the following Wednesday, 19 April, on Monte di Cristo, after the Stations of the Cross:
♥«Let us pray together, my children.
If you give yourselves over still more to believing all God's reality, faith will increase in you.
Do not think only of the salvation of the earth, but of true salvation.
Be pure in this dark time of misfortune, pure, so as to be light in this corrupt world.
Every day I am waiting for you to join me in praying for men, calling them back through your lives.
Those who follow me will be with me in a new generation.
Count on the victory of Jesus, dear children.
Already many of my children are filling my Heart with joy!
They are consciously using this time of mercy and possess God.
Blessed will be those who possess God.
The hour of truth is near, my children, and the Father will reward those who, welcoming the Spirit with courage, call with my call. Courage, dear children, do not be afraid! I am your help.
I bless you all, I bless your dear ones».♥
The pilgrim arriving in Schio finds three special places of prayer: the church of St Martin, where the apparitions began, Monte di Cristo, and the Cenacle of Prayer. Monte di Cristo (formerly Belmonte), is a densely wooded hill overlooking the Schio countryside. In Holy Week of 1969 Renato Baron, along with some young people from the three neighbouring localities, had carried an iron trellis cross to the summit of the hill; it was blessed on 29 March 1969, Good Friday. A path led to the summit from the hamlet of Aste. During Holy Week in 1986, Renato and his friends erected 13 crosses on this path to mark the stations along the Way of the Cross; the fourteenth was represented by the trellis cross itself. The crosses were made from poles of acacia (robinia), cut from the wood at the summit. This Way of the Cross was inaugurated on Holy Saturday l986, which happened to be 29 March (the same day of the month as the blessing of the cross in 1969). Since then, the Way of the Cross has become a usual devotion for pilgrims coming to Schio. The path was improved. Half-way up, a small spring of fresh water was canalized. At the summit a stone altar was set up on 28 September 1986, containing three medals of the Immaculate Conception (1830), Marian messages, relics from Nazareth and Medjugorje and water from the Jordan. The bronze statue of Jesus was erected on 6 January 1987 and that of Our Lady on 8 December 1987. The first Marian apparition on the hill occurred on the night of 11 April 1986.
THE CENACLE OF PRAYER
When a sizable number of men had gathered around Renato Baron, who were prepared to follow him in realizing the "Opera dell'Amore" ("Work of Love") (see below), they took advantage of a favourable opportunity and decided to purchase an old villa standing in its own park, not far from the church of St Martin. The villa was restored and refurbished and the neglected park made tidy. Around 6000 voluntary man-hours were devoted to this work. In addition, the materials needed for the restoration were acquired by means of voluntary contributions by Renato's friends. The villa is now the headquarters of the Work of Love and a house of prayer. The park has become a place of recollection and meditation.
In Schio, too, the apparitions of Our Lady have encountered many difficulties. The first, and I would say the main one, is the rejection by people today of everything intended to draw attention to the eternal truths and orient us towards spiritual realities. Widespread materialism and rationalism have almost extinguished the desire for things of the spirit. Naturally, such an environment is conducive to obstacles of every kind being placed in the way of calls to conversion. This crisis in religion is also very favourable to Satan's nefarious work. Our Lady's messages, too, reflect the most critical stages of opposition to the apparitions, and they will take their place in history. The message of 4 August 1988 reads:
♥«Father, we glorify You and bless You.
Dear children, how I love you! I would like to carry you all to Heaven straight away while your hearts are still pure. Always remain pure in heart! I assure you that I will accompany you to Heaven when the Father calls you.
My son, you are right! Just as I was brought before the Sanhedrin, perhaps I shall be judged once again. Pray, pray in this place; here you will find me waiting for you. I bless you, dear children».♥
A few days later, on Sunday 7 August 1988, she said:
♥«Lord, receive the prayers of us who call upon You. My children, I bless you. I want to tell you that I shall not forget you. And you, do not forget Jesus and Mary. I am still waiting for you here. My son,in many churches today my appeal is being ridiculed. Make sure that you do not become the cause of malicious talk; see to it that my voice is heeded. I wish to remain with you, my children, travelling with you as a pilgrim in the world.
I bless you once again»♥.
On 13 August 1988 Our Lady warned Renato and his group of personal attacks against them, saying:
♥«We praise You, Father, and glorify You.
My dear children, how I love you! I know how much you love me too.
You would like to do many things for me.
You will do much, but for your brethren.
Remain strong! Know that you will always be so when you pray.
My children, many serpents are surrounding you and binding you hand and foot: be careful!
I promise also to you and to all those who follow me that you will see the triumph of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary in the world.
I bless you, my children. I shall be close to you».♥
These three messages reflect the infernal enemy's first great onslaught against the apparitions in August 1988. The devil made use of poor people who believed that they were illuminated and capable of illuminating others too, by casting aspersions on the apparitions of Mary in Schio. Another attack came in February-March 1989. Those who wished to destroy the apparitions planned to concoct a report to the Magistracy, in the certainty that something could be found to be irregular in the management of the Work of Love. The latter had already spent several hundred million lire, carrying out essential refurbishments on the old villa housing the Cenacle, on the park and on the church of St Martin itself. The Magistrate of Schio forwarded legal submissions to Renato and his colleagues. The press raised a hullabaloo, and the enemies were already crying victory. But it all came to nothing: every accusation proved to be unfounded. It was proposed that all the documentation be left in the records, with a re-commendation for an "amnesty", but Renato and his friends rejected this idea, insisting that every-thing should be made public by the Magistracy. An echo of this attack can be found in the message of 26 February 1989:
♥«Dear children, those who are causing you suffering are not with Jesus and Mary.
Every offence will rebound on them.
The time has come near when you will bear witness to your faith.
My children, I ask you not to run away.
I cannot hold you back by force, because I only have love.
I have already told you to stand up and be counted; now I invite you to make yourselves known...
You will also be testifying when you pray aloud together. I shall pray with you.
Do everything well, so that every accusation made against you may be proved false...
Love, love also those who teach love in words but drive you from their hearts, which you, nevertheless, love.
Such hearts are impure!
Do not be afraid, my children, this is Jesus' road. I bless you».♥
The final chapter in the legal proceedings relating to the so-called "abuse of popular credulity" was written on 25 May 1992, when the Vicenza Tribunal returned a verdict absolving everyone owing to lack of substantive evidence.
The group of collaborators Early in August 1985 Renato spoke of his mystical experiences to the parish priest, who was rather sceptical. In September 1985, at Mary's invitation, he confided in the Sub-Prior of the Capuchins, but seemingly with little success. Renato recalls the meeting in these words:
"I started to talk to him about the matter, but he just turned tail and disappeared. I thought that he too was sceptical and did not believe me". Yet the facts had to be made known, because Our Lady was appearing not just for him, but for everyone. On 25 September 1985 Mary told him:
♥«In a short time from now you will have some good friends who will help you to bring the Kingdom of the Father to all men of good faith. Pray! I bless you».♥
Then Renato confided in a family who believed him, and news of the apparitions began to spread. At the end of October l985 the Madonna said to him:
♥«Do not be afraid. Today you will have some more visitors. They will be your collaborators, those who will help you on this road.»♥
The group came into being on Sunday 24 November 1985 in the church of St Martin. It comprised about 20 men, whose number would gradually increase. On 26 November the Virgin declared:
♥«Now the message has been communicated. Blessed are those who accept it. Try to create a single united Church, do not divide it. Come together to worship the Father. Seek His grace. I bless you».♥
Satan is sure that he will be victorious. He thinks he will succeed in suppressing Mary's messages, that he will be able to halt the flow of conversions resulting from the apparitions in Schio. But we are sure that Satan is mistaken, that he will lose this battle too. The victor will be Our Lady, the humble handmaid of the Lord, who will emerge supreme over all opposition. Many times she has predicted her victory. I quote here three messages that foretell this victory, and would ask you to reflect on them carefully and draw the necessary conclusions. These messages were given during the days of the first attack on the apparitions. On 17 August 1988 Our Lady said:
♥«Let us pray to the Father.
My son, all the demonic powers are at work as never before in human history, but your work is of divine origin.
Dear children, look with me towards the future and victory.
Let us go forward to meet Jesus Who is coming.
Do not look back to see who has been lost; soon it will be too late for them, because the time will have passed.
They will remain alone, while you will be with me. Courage, my children, courage. I bless you».♥
The second message was given on 26 August 1988, after the statue of Our Lady had been returned, privately and in silence, to the restored church of St Martin. It says:
♥«Blessed be the Lord.
I bless you, my children, and embrace you.
Today Jesus is smiling on you.
You who listen to me will not be confounded.
You have brought me back to this place which is dear to you and dear to me.
You are opening up my roads in the world and I will bring Jesus into the world.
I assure you that this, my statue, will be carried through the streets
of your district with song and thanksgiving to the Lord.
I bless you, my children, I bless you all».♥
The third message that I should like you to consider was given on Monte di Cristo on 31 August 1988; it summarizes the main conditions for being on Our Lady's side and participating in her victory:
♥«Let us pray together to the Father. Dear children, I have chosen my places, I have chosen my children to speak in them. The pure in heart understand what I am saying. Follow my advice, my children, and remain true to it. God asks of everyone true faith, not something weak and half-hearted, but living. Blessed are those who persevere in the faith. Avoid all superficial, arrogant language, which is the fruit of spiritual poverty. Grow in the spirit with prayer and love. Feel my presence always near you. I wish to help you. Let yourselves be transformed, renewed, so that you too can help me to save souls. I bless all my dear children, and I tell you: you can be certain that the Kingdom of God will come among you, with Mary, your Mother. I bless you».♥
The messages given to Renato Baron have the unmistakable hallmark of a mother's language, the language of faith: a few words that tell us what has to be done and what has to be avoided, sometimes with a brief explanation. In fact, Our Lady is the Mother who speaks because she loves us and, in the name of God, recalls the words of the Gospel. Her words are addressed to those who love her and wish to believe: long explanations and illustrations are of no use. Her messages point out the way that has to be followed. If you read them without the desire to live them, you will not understand them; they may create confusion in your mind and appear boring; they may even give the impression of being empty words with no meaning.
If, on the other hand, you try to put them into practice gradually, you find that they penetrate the heart like a balm, they give joy and strength, and you feel that you are changing. Having stressed this essential point, I shall now outline the major milestones on the road of conversion that Our Lady is proposing to Christians in the West, immersed as we are in materialism and egoism. 1. - Return to God One returns to God with faith and love. Whoever believes, accepts everything that God has revealed about Himself and about us.
Whoever loves, tries to do everything that God commands, with love and trust. Our Lady begins by reminding us of everything concerning the Person of God the Father. For eight months she spoke mainly about the Father. Then she began to remind us of the Person of the Son, and finally she recalls what Revelation has to say about the Person of the Holy Spirit. As you see, she adopts the biblical method: the Bible reveals first the Father, then the Son, and finally the Holy Spirit. Here Our Lady is telling us, essentially, two important things: a) We must start to renew our faith from the beginning, because we have allowed the teaching of the Church, expounded with such care and effort, to pass over our heads without al-lowing it to become part of our lives. Hence, our religious practice is no longer Christian, it is too imprecise and superficial. b) Faith and love of God lead us to the mystery of the Trinity. Our life is edifying and Christian if it is enlightened, warmed and animated by the mystery of the Trinity.2. - The Eucharist Special emphasis is placed on the Eucharist. Jesus Christ is present among us now and until the end of the world in the Eucharistic Mystery. His is a healing, sanctifying presence, but we are shamefully disregarding the immeasurable gift of Infinite Love. Our Lady has reminded us of the importance of the Eucharist not only by her words, but also by a most extraordinary happening. The apparitions to Renato began on 25/3/l985. The statue of Our Lady of the Rosary suddenly became alive, that is, it ceased to be a statue and became Our Lady in person. In the statue she has the Child in her arms. But during the apparitions the Child remained a "statue"; Our Lady continued to hold in her arms a sculpture of the Child. And this lasted for eight months. Often Renato longed to see the Child come alive, and wondered why it continued to be purely and simply a sculpture; however, he did not dare put this question to Our Lady. Towards the end of October 1985, when he saw that the church of St Martin was being visited by many people, he requested permission for the Blessed Sacrament to be placed in the tabernacle. Our Lady encouraged him in this. On 9 November 1985 she said:
♥«Your desire is right: the Eucharist, Adoration, the tabernacle which is not here: they will soon become a reality».♥
Finally, Renato and his friends obtained the permission they had so wanted: to place a tabernacle in the church, where the Blessed Sacrament could be reserved. The tabernacle was installed and blessed on Sunday 1 December 1985. Appearing to Renato on that day, Our Lady said:
♥«You are not alone in your suffering. Offer everything for those who do not believe, be-cause those who do not believe are sinning. Sins are the cause of all evil and the fault is man's. I shall help you. Tomorrow I shall show you Jesus. Come, and tell those who are suffering to offer their sufferings for conversion, because there is not much time left. I bless you».♥
Renato did not understand the meaning of the words: "Tomorrow I shall show you Jesus".
The next day, 2 December 1985, the figure of the Child also came alive. Our Lady said:
♥«Here is Jesus, for Whom you have been waiting so long. Now He is also alive in the tabernacle. Thank Him and love Him. Make Him loved by all men. One day very soon you will have to say to the Church authorities that Jesus wishes His Mother to be Queen of the World and Queen of Love, and He will never permit the error of removing her from the altars. Let the Church be united, but with-out yielding to blackmail or compromise. The world wants Mary, and Mary will save the world if you listen and are converted. Thank you for everything you are doing. Rejoice with Jesus.»♥
From that day onwards, every time Renato had the apparitions in the church of St Martin, the figure of the Child also came alive like that of the Madonna. Renato gives this description of the Child's behaviour: "...He gesticulates a lot when His Mother gives us some exhortation or dictates messages that are precise and categorical. He moves His finger in approval of what His Mother says, and accompanies her. I have seen Him wipe away His Mother's tears as she wept while giving the message about life, condemning abortion and the deliberate killing of human beings... The Child Jesus wiped away His Mother's tears with his little hand! This was an amazing sight for me; I was moved by Our Lady's weeping, but also by the way Jesus wiped away her tears!" Mgr Onisto, the then Bishop of Vicenza, upon hearing Renato's account of this detail, said: "This is of great help to you in gaining credence for your story, also as far as I am concerned. For if you were a false visionary you would have seen the whole statue move during those eight months. Instead, you only heard the Madonna speak, and Jesus did not move. But at a certain moment, when the Eucharist was consecrated, Jesus began to move... Mary showed you her Child... This is a fact about which we must reflect." I think we should keep this fact firmly in mind, for Our Lady is basically telling us that, if we do not make use of the Eucharist, we are not living per-sons, but unattractive, lifeless images of Jesus Christ. If we do not receive the Eucharist we do not have eternal life!
3. - Love of one's neighbour Our Lady reminds us, in unequivocal and categorical terms, according to Renato, that loving our neighbour, besides always forgiving every-one, means serving and giving oneself for others. And not only in material ways, but also in everything that concerns the salvation of the soul. Thus, love of one's neighbour requires us to be apostles. How often do Mary's messages remind us of the need to help our brothers take the road of salvation! When you read these messages, you will see that they are especially relevant to us in the West, who have grown up in an environment of individualism, materialism and egoism. By practising love for our neighbour, we shall be able to rid ourselves of these traits, which are truly pagan and contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.
4. - Prayer and fasting Mary's invitation to prayer is repeated very frequently. Prayer is the means necessary to achieve the end: if you wish to be a good Christian, if you wish to be saved, if you wish to do good, if you wish to obtain some particular grace, then you must pray. Our Lady stresses the importance of the Eucharist - Mass, Communion and Adoration; of Confession; she asks us to pray the Rosary every day and to make the Stations of the Cross; she recommends group prayer, individual prayer, family prayer...5. - Consecration to Our Lady If we wish to achieve our conversion and that of the world, we have to entrust ourselves whole-heartedly to her who was sent by God precisely to save us from Satan's oppression. In Her message of 2 January 1986 She dictated a prayer of consecration:
♥«Bless God, my children. Do not let this time of sanctification pass you by.
Make yourselves temples of God.
Give yourselves to Him.
Self-offering and prayer will save the world. Pray like this:
O Mary, Queen of the world, Mother of goodness, trusting in your intercession We commit our souls to you. Accompany us each day to the source of joy. Give us the Saviour. We consecrate ourselves to you, Queen of Love. Amen.»♥
On 11 November 1986 (the feast of St Martin) the crucifix in the small oratory of Renato's house began to give off a perfume which spread through the whole house. All the windows were opened in an attempt to discover its origin. It was then found that the perfume was coming from the head and wounds of the crucifix. The next day, in the same room, the hands and feet of the ceramic statuette of the Madonna began to emit a perfume. It was immediately noticed that the perfume from the statuette differed slightly from that of the crucifix: it was more delicate. On 23 November the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary in the church of St Martin gave off perfume. Towards the end of 1986 a cross made of two branches of acacia wood, which formed the second station on the Way of the Cross, also began to emit perfume. This cross is at present kept in a transparent case at the Cenacle. Near it, on the wall, is the following inscription: "This cross of acacia wood, made on Monte di Cristo during Holy Week 1986, was placed where the first station of the present Way of the Cross is now sited. In November 1986 it began spontaneously to emit perfume. As the faithful in their devotion were removing pieces of it, it was moved in June 1987 and is kept in this case at the Cenacle of Prayer, where its perfume is still an object of wonder and respect". One night in March '87 some unknown individuals daubed this cross with lime or glue. Two persons then cleaned it, using cloths impregnated with turpentine. Afterwards, their hands and the cloths smelt of the same perfume as the cross. On Wednesday 19 August 1987, at around 10 p.m., after the devotions of the Way of the Cross on Monte di Cristo, Our Lady warned Renato in a very brief apparition that the cross was being profaned. The men ran down the hill to the Cenacle building, a distance of 3 km: the door had been forced open and the cross carried off. It was subsequently found near the fence encircling the park, and two cars were seen heading off at high speed: clearly the miscreants had had to abandon what they were doing so as not to be caught red-handed. On 4 February 1987, a Wednesday, some people returning from the evening Stations of the Cross noticed that the rock facing the fourth station was giving off perfume; in the days that followed the entire rock emitted perfume. On 11 February 1987 the water of the little spring between the eighth and ninth stations also began to emit perfume. Since January 1988 the rose-bush on the wall of the bell-tower of St Martin's church has also been giving off perfume. The perfumes are of two kinds: that of the cross is dryer, the so-called "perfume of the Madonna" is more delicate. Laboratory analyses have been carried out on a fragment of the cross and on perfumed leaves gathered along the Way of the Cross, but no evidence of any artificial substance has been detected. A very positive fact is the absence of fanaticism on the part of the pilgrims. These perfumes are regarded as signs of God's goodness; no one claims to merit them. On the contrary, they give rise to feelings of gratitude to God, whose goodness to us always goes beyond what we deserve. Finally, it should be mentioned that not everyone perceives these perfumes in all the places mentioned above: sometimes they are noticed, at other times not. Thus, the pilgrims are not in the habit of seeking them out, even though they feel joy when experiencing them.
THE PERFUMED PLAQUE DEPICTING THE MADONNA AND CHILD.
When the air, soil and public water supply at the Cenacle of Prayer had for some time been giving off perfume, the members of the Work of Love became more and more keen to discover the significance of this intense perfume that pervaded the whole place in May and the first weeks of June 1990. A further event seemed finally to provide an explanation to the phenomenon which, on top of all the facts already mentioned, could truly be called the "great sign" of Mary's presence. Why "great" sign? Because for everyone it was a cause for reflexion, meditation and intuition that Our Lady, by means of her perfume, was inviting people to see her apparitions at St Mar-tin's as being intimately connected with the fact that, in bringing us the Father's love, she was indicating that this "Love" was, in reality, Jesus Himself: Love made man for our sake. And this Jesus is always to be found where she, the Mother, is. The mysterious chance find of a terracotta plaque, of uncertain date, representing the Madonna and the Child Jesus, possibly provided the answer. The plaque was discovered at around 10 p.m. on 26 June 1990,when a group of young workers of the Marian Movement, together with the visionary Renato Baron, had gathered for a prayer meeting in the park of the Cenacle; at the same time, other pilgrims were praying inside and outside the chapel. Everyone noticed at that moment that the air be-came incredibly perfumed; not only that, the water coming from the taps had also taken on an intense perfume, as on previous occasions. But now there were noticeable currents of per-fumed air moving in a south-westerly direction. Because of this, the curiosity of those present led them to seek to establish the origin of the mysterious, unexpected perfume. Thus, a small group of people followed the trail of the perfume and arrived at a ditch that had been dug for a methane gas pipe; they continued along the pipe until they reached an ornamental acacia. At that point the earth was very damp, but beyond it there was no trace of the perfume. So, with pick and shovel, they started digging, in a state of considerable emotion, and not far from the surface they came across something that, by its shape, appeared to be a terracotta tile. They seized this find, almost intoxicated with the intense perfume emanating from it; they washed it at one of the outdoor taps of the Cenacle and, to their great amazement, found that they had before them a terracotta plaque measuring 26x36 cm, in a good state of preservation. The plaque depicted the Madonna with the Child in her arms. From that moment, the phenomenon of intense per-fume in the air came to an end, as did, gradually, that of the perfumed water from the taps connected to the public water supply. The fountain of the public water supply which began to emit a sweet perfume on the night of 2 June 1990.
The messages given by Our Lady between January 1991 and October 1994 are a clear call to prepare for the coming of Jesus in the world by true conversion to God and, consequently, witness to His love. But it is only the experience of God's love that makes any witness fruitful. Mary, then, is offering us her maternal help, inviting us to constant, trusting prayer and consecration to God through her Immaculate Heart.
♥«...My troops in prayer will annihilate evil!»♥ (14/1/91)
♥«...Once again I invite all of you to take refuge in the temple of my Immaculate Heart, in order to watch, pray and implore God's mercy...»♥ (16/1/91)
Mary goes far beyond helping us to become converted: she offers us her help to be true witnesses of God's love in the world and collaborators in her work of calling people to conversion:
♥«...I will make you centres from which His love will radiate, for you are God's handiwork».♥ (2/2/91)
♥«...Dear children, enter the garden of my Immaculate Heart. I will give you the power to love, so that you may love and, yourselves enlightened, bring light to the people of God through the same gift».♥ (19/5/91)
We would do well to recall the principal purpose of these apparitions: the realization of Jesus' great desire for His love to be cultivated in everyone.
♥«...In the hearts of those who welcome me I can prepare an intimate living tabernacle where Jesus can dwell and be loved». ♥(24/7/91)
Finally, the message of 9 November 1991 invites all who love Mary to be mature in faith, attaching due importance to our acts of faith, so that the love of Jesus, the only true God of humanity, may be-come evident above all else:
♥«...When each of you has understood the real purpose of my call, he will then have found the true joy of life, and my presence will no longer be the most important thing for you: the Supreme Good will then be in you».♥
Never could we have imagined such a great example of humility on the part of Mary during her apparitions in the world! As we can see, those apparitions are not drawing quietly to a close;rather, they are continuing to provide us with clear evidence of their purpose.
Never could we have imagined such a great example of humility on the part of Mary during her apparitions in the world! As we can see, those apparitions are not drawing quietly to a close;rather, they are continuing to provide us with clear evidence of their purpose.
The answer to this question has been given to us by Our Lady herself, in one of her first messages. It is the one she gave to Renato Baron on 3 April 1985:
♥«Pray and make sacrifices, because only through prayer can mankind be saved. Even those who go to church are not strong enough in their faith. This is why I am intervening: to do the will of the Father. You must turn to Him always, because He is all-powerful.
The world is heading for perdition».♥
These apparitions are the will of the Father. Our Lady has been sent by the Father. Who, then, could raise any objection? Who would presume to tell the Father what He should do?
Yet there are those who have many objections to apparitions. Their reasoning goes like this:
- God has revealed the whole truth through the prophets, Jesus Christ and the apostles. The period of revelation finally ended with the death of the last apostle. Therefore, apparitions have no purpose, as God has nothing further to tell us.
These people reason quite correctly, but the conclusion they draw is a false one.
It is, in fact, wrong to suppose that apparitions can reveal new truths. Genuine apparitions, those that come from God, do not proclaim any new truths, but only remind us of truths that we are neglecting and that are of particular importance in combating the evils of our day.
Were we to compare truths with medicines, we might say that the Church's pharmacy is fully equipped with all the necessary medicines, and that no others are needed. However, wise physicians are needed, who can tell the patients what remedies are called for in their particular case.
The pastors of the Church have the task of diagnosing spiritual ailments and indicating the remedies. It is in this field that divine mercy intervenes from time to time. The history of the Church clearly shows that divine mercy has intervened in two ways: by raising up great saints, and by means of apparitions.
History shows clearly that there have been apparitions that have effectively helped to preserve and spread the faith. Those apparitions and the accompanying messages have penetrated deeply into the hearts and religious life of Christian people, since they were the work of God. If God has intervened in the past through apparitions in order to give His Church a helping hand in special difficulties, why should He not be able to intervene today?
The Church has neither rejected nor underestimated those apparitions. How, then, can some Christians today maintain that apparitions are "unnecessary" or "impossible"?
We should also bear in mind that apparitions have a function that is even more important than that of indicating the truths most appropriate for dealing with our ills: they are a sign of the extraordinary presence of God and the extraordinary abundance of His grace, so that the place of the apparition becomes a "place of grace", that is, a "sanctuary", and the time of the apparition is a "time of grace". Hence, the extraordinary conversions of those who, by believing, make themselves open to the action of grace. Rather than rejecting apparitions out of hand - this is of help to no-one - it is much more in conformity with the Christian faith to think that God is helping to combat the extraordinary virulence of evil with an exceptional outpouring of graces. We now have to ask ourselves: do we have, at the present time, a crisis situation for the Faith, so grave as to justify an apparition? Is it true what the message says, that "even those who go to church are not strong enough in their faith"? We do not need surveys to tell us that this statement is correct. We need only answer a few questions such as these:
- How many of those who still "practise" their religion accept all the Commandments?
- How many serve Mammon rather than God?
- How many have a mentality that is centred on the world rather than on the Gospel?
- How many seriously and systematically pursue the ideal of holiness, the holiness that makes us "light" and "salt" for those living alongside us?
Our Lady has been sent by the Father to our Christian world of the West, where parishes very much resemble the ancient churches of Sardis and Laodicea, for which two letters in the book of Revelation were intended. We quote them here, for they are very useful when reflecting on the situation regarding the Christian faith in our parishes:
- Write to the angel of the church in Sardis and say, "Here is the message of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:
I know all about you; how you are reputed to be a-live and yet are dead. Wake up; revive what little you have left: it is dying fast. So far I have failed to notice anything in the way you live that my God could possibly call perfect, and yet do you remember how eager you were when you first heard the message? Hold on to that. Repent. If you do not wake up, I shall come to you like a thief, without telling you at what hour to expect me.
There are a few in Sardis, it is true, who have kept their robes from being dirtied, and they are fit to come with me, dressed in white.
Those who prove victorious will be dressed, like these, in white robes; I shall not blot out their names in the presence of my Father and his angels.
If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches."
Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea and say:
"Here is the message of the Amen, the faithful, the true witness, the ultimate source of God's creation: I know all about you: how you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other, but since you are neither, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth. You say to yourself, 'I am rich, I have made a fortune, and have everything I want', never realizing that you are wretchedly and pitiably poor, and blind and naked too. I warn you, buy from me the gold that has been tested in the fire to make you really rich, and white robes to clothe you and cover your shameful nakedness, and eye ointment to put on your eyes so that you are able to see.
I am the one who reproves and disciplines all those he loves, so repent in real earnest. Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in and share his meal, side by side with him.
Those who prove victorious I will allow to share my throne, just as I was victorious myself and took my place with my Father on his throne. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. (Rev. 3)
In our western world, the Blessed Virgin still finds, here and there, a few people who are still ready to serve, who have "kept their robes from being dirtied". She is gathering together this little remnant, and after setting them on the road of the Gospel, she is making them her "heel", with which she will crush the head of the infernal dragon who is now ravaging the Church and the whole of mankind.
This is precisely why the Father is sending Mary. Every time Satan becomes more enraged with those who observe the Commandments of God and bear witness to Jesus Christ, the Father sends her, the humble handmaid of the Lord, to overcome the arrogance of Satan and his accomplices on earth. Would not you, too, like to be among that small band who are helping Our Lady to win the battle against the powers of Hell?
Could you not try to lead onto her road someone who is especially close to your heart?
Mary's messages of 29/12/85 and 25/3/86 constitute not so much a wish as a command:
♥«...Soon I shall give you a task which, together with your apostles,
you will bring to completion.
It will be a marvellous work and will have my protection.
Prepare to make yourselves available, and rejoice.
All those who work with you will enjoy its fruits».♥ (29/12/85)
♥«...Now I would also like you to commit yourselves to the elderly.
Join forces, together you will build a large house.
You will receive there the outcasts, the lonely, you will receive priests.
Begin, I will send workers and the means to maintain it. You will call it the "WORK OF LOVE". Give all your love.
You too will enjoy its fruits».♥ (25/ 3/86)
Now, some ten years later, we see that these prophetic messages of Mary are being fulfilled as predicted. In fact, 8 December 1993, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, saw the inauguration of the first building, called the "Piccola Opera" ("Little Work") and the laying of the foundation-stone for what is to become the Work proper.
The Piccola Opera, set up at Via Salesà, Poleo di Schio, will serve as a base for the training of young animators of the Work and, it is hoped, for accommodating elderly priests and sisters serving the Work itself.
Why does Mary, Queen of Love, desire this Work? From the various messages she has given us, we can see clearly that Mary not only wants "men of faith"; she also wants this faith of ours to be enriched and confirmed by works of true charity.
These provide an opportunity not only to show in a tangible manner what we can do for others, but also to spread our faith and bear witness to it in a more deeply felt and generous way.
What does Mary expect of those faithful to her, of the members of the "Work of Love" Association and the Marian Movement at St Martin's, for her "Great Work" to be brought to fruition?
Above all, she wants us to perfect our path of faith, directed at total conversion to God and our brethren, through prayer, and at offering ourselves to God through consecration to her Immaculate Heart.
♥«You still need to receive in order to be able to give...»♥ (22/8/86)
Mary wishes us especially to work on the way we act and relate to others:
♥«Let there be love in everything you do and say, humility and love».♥ (22/6/86)
We are also being asked by Our Lady to prepare ourselves on the cultural level so that we can perform adequately the work of assistance that will be required of us. Thus, many of us, in a spirit of joyful sacrifice, are attending a School of Medical and Nursing Information. This will also prove extremely useful to those called to serve in the mission field: in Brazil, where the so-called "Obra do Amor", an important project caring for several hundred people, both resident and non-resident, is already functioning; in Kenya and in Russia, where similar charitable initiatives are taking shape.
The Obra do Amor in Brazil is based on two complexes. The first consists of seven small terraced houses, recently built, and intended to house the elderly poor and homeless; the second is a home for orphaned or abandoned children, where meals are also provided for street children (meninos da rua).
In all, the Brazilian project cares for around 150 persons who live in; another 400 spontaneously apply for assistance or are provided with food and clothing.
Thanks to the sensitivity and generosity of many supporters of the Marian Movement and members of the Association, the "Work of Love" in Schio arranges adoptions by sponsorship: these currently number over 250. The Obra do Amor is under the direction of its founder, Mother Themis, who is assisted in the administrative work by those receiving care and also by a small number of aspirant religious sisters and priests of the Congregation of Humble Servants of the Queen of Love, also founded by Mother Themis.