Many of the more recent accounts of apparitions — especially those at Fatima and Medjugorje — have contained dire warnings about things that will come if people do not change their lives and begin to pray. In some apparitions, the Virgin Mary describes the threat of a third world war that could employ germ and biological warfare. She also sometimes describes natural disasters, widespread destruction, and loss of life. Some people have made a connection between the content of her messages and the ways in which she comes to people — often through weeping statues and icons.
In apparitions, the Virgin Mary sometimes expresses motherly frustration and anguish over people's unwillingness to change. She also constantly encourages people to pray, not only for themselves but for all of the people who have no one to pray for them.
During many of these apparitions, the Virgin Mary has said that the end of the world is near and that a period of intense suffering will be followed by a period of relative peace before the return of Christ.
Although some of the messages of the apparitions can be frightening, in most cases, visionaries experience a sense of confidence despite the dire predictions, because they believe that despite difficulties ahead, God will be present with them.
At Fatima, Portugal, the Virgin Mary told three shepherd children that there would be a world catastrophe during the time of Pope Puis XI if people did not repent. During the last year of the reign of Pope Pius XI, World War II began. It was also at Fatima that the Virgin Mary predicted both the rise and fall of Communism in Russia, as well as the spread of Communism to many other parts of the world.
The apparitions that occurred at Hrushiv, Ukraine, in 1914 and 1987 also contained predictions. In these apparitions, the Virgin Mary told a group of villagers that Russia would turn away from God and endure two wars. She also predicted that although the Ukraine would endure hardship for eighty years, it would eventually become an independent state.
An apparition that reportedly occurred in 1830 in Paris, France, also contained a warning of an event that is now well recorded in history books. A postulant of the Sisters of Charity named Catherine Laboure went to bed the night before the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul after swallowing a small fragment of the deceased saint's surplice. Nobody is quite sure why she did this. Perhaps Catherine felt that by swallowing this small fragment, she would be able to draw closer to the saint.
Like many other holy people, Catherine had a lifelong devotion to the Virgin Mary that was most likely connected to her own loss of her mother as child. When she was nine years old and grieving the death of her mother, Catherine held a statue of the Virgin Mary and said, “Now Blessed Mother, you will be my mother.”
The night of the Eve of the feast of Saint Vincent De Paul, Catherine woke in the middle of the night to a small child standing near her bed who told her to go to the church because the Virgin Mary was there waiting for her.
Do visionaries experience special protection?
In many cases, visionaries do experience protection, such as Catherine Laboure whose convent remained safe despite all of the violence in Paris during the French Revolution.
Catherine dressed quickly, rushing quietly to the church, which was fully illuminated — every candle in the church had been lit as if for midnight mass, but the church was empty. Suddenly, Catherine heard the sound of silk rustling. She looked up and there was the Virgin Mary seated in the chair that belonged to the father director of the monastery.
The Virgin Mary told Catherine that France's throne would come toppling down and that misfortunes were on the way. “Sorrows will befall France,” the Virgin Mary said. “The throne will be overturned. The whole world will be plunged into every kind of misery.” The Virgin Mary went on to predict that bishops and priests would be killed, and that many monasteries would be attacked, although Catherine's monastery would be protected.
The French Revolution
Just a few days later, the throne of King Charles X was overturned and mass rioting broke out. Churches were desecrated and bishops' palaces were attacked. Although many monasteries and convents were destroyed, Catherine's monastery remained unharmed just as the Virgin Mary had predicted.