Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in modern European Roman Catholicism (from 1830)
Apparition phenomena, particularly those that claim Mary as their object, are still very influential in modern Roman Catholicism. The first half of this thesis is concerned with the context of these visions in their European form, and how the Catholic Church promotes some of them into the heart of its devotional life. On the whole, this first part takes a phenomenological view, simply looking at this process in its own right, although there are also some sociological insights and critical remarks. The author, as a Catholic devotee of the marian cult himself, is attempting to write a theological critique of the visions as a member of the pilgrim community, using a broader range of academic tools than is usually employed in such a task. In the second half of the thesis, therefore, a theoretical model is constructed that provides a new understanding of the phenomena. This model has four elements: firstly, the humanistic psychological, in which marian apparitions are compared with other such phenomena and considered from the view of depth psychology. The major factors which distinguish them are the intensity of the experience and the ecclesial context. Secondly, ecclesiological: the visions cannot be considered as extras or alternatives to the everyday life of the Catholic Church, but as its own 'epiphenomena'. Thirdly, mariological: the apparitions show evidence of 'high' mariology, although this is qualified because of Mary's apparent powerlessness in the face of God's judgement. In the modern era, the orthodox christocentric emphasis is more pronounced, but this does not appear to be a wholly spontaneous feature. Fourthly, and finally, biblical: the Christian revelation is rooted in history, and it is this which must be primary and not the archetypal, universal patterns of the psyche. Therefore the objective element in apparitions, if such exists, is, from a theological perspective, the Mary of history and her part in the events at the heart of the Christian understanding of salvation.