Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Nossa Senhora Mãe do Redentor / Our Lady Mother of the Redeemer - Asseiceira, Portugal

May 16, 1954 – January 16, 1955 / Feast Day: May 16

It was on the afternoon of Sunday, the 16th of May, that Carlos Alberto Delgado, 11 years of age, was studying with other students at the house of their teacher. The 4th grade 100 exam was approaching, and the outcome would determine those who would advance to the next grade and continue attending school, and those who no longer would. The teacher often tutored her students on weekends, as she wanted very much for them all to pass the exam. She even recommended to the children that, in addition to studying, to pray for assistance with the exam, as they needed all the help they could get.

A few days earlier, Carlos Alberto claimed to have seen a strange “transparent cloud” on the roof of his house. When he told this to his classmates, they taunted him, and his teacher, being a prudent woman, did not believe him either. It was because of the continued taunting on that Sunday that he and a friend, Manuel Carreira, began studying away from the group, near some trees. Later that afternoon, Carlos Alberto left his friend to go relieve himself in the bushes. On his way back, he heard the rustling of leaves and looking up he saw some tree branches shaking lightly. With his eyes fixed upward – according to his testimony – the same bright cloud that had appeared to him a few days before appeared again, however this time a Lady manifested above the cloud.

She was beautiful in every sense. Carlos Alberto, afraid, began to run away, but the vision, which remained among the laurel foliage, spoke to him with extreme sweetness: “Don’t be scared, boy. I am the Mother of the Redeemer.”

When Carlos Alberto calmed and returned to the tree, the Lady continued speaking to him. She told him to apply himself to his studies and to pray, often, at that same place. She also told him that she would return there on the 16th for eight consecutive months. The story of the vision quickly spread, becoming the topic of conversation in many circles. When speaking of the vision, Carlos Alberto, who was known to always tell the truth, spoke firm, categorical, and full of conviction. Not very many people doubted his sincerity. However, the local authorities had to interrogate him, and they did so relentlessly until his next meeting with the Virgin. To their satisfaction, the boy answered all questions, was assertive in his words, and never contradicted the tiniest detail in the various statements he had to give. Carlos Alberto was also subject to numerous psychiatric examinations, as the civil and ecclesiastical authorities wanted to be sure of his soundness of mind, from which he received a clean bill of mental health every time.

Over the following months, the boy continued meeting with Our Lady on the same spot, on the 16th of each month, with more and more people accompanying him each time. The Mother of the Redeemer asked for Carlos Alberto to pray, to observe the ten commandments, and to do good deeds. On the eve of each appearance, people witnessed unusual lights in the night sky, and, the next morning, would reportedly see the sun rise much earlier than usual, and moving about in the sky.

As the fame of these apparitions grew, the government and the Church became concerned. The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, only 50 kilometres away, was becoming a large draw for people as the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima was completed in 1954, with pilgrims and tourists visiting the site in droves. To have a “new apparition” of the Blessed Virgin Mary so close by, in Asseiceira, would possibly have detracted people from going to Fatima.

Also, with these alleged apparitions, there would have had to be a lengthy, formal investigation conducted by the Church of Portugal, which would have required a lot of time and effort on their part when, at the time, they were busy with promoting the Fatima phenomenon. During this time, Portugal was headed by a dictatorship under Prime Minister Antonio Salazar, who felt it was the government’s duty approve things such as books, plays, and the overall media, before being made available to the public. Anything that was not approved, was removed. The head of the Catholic Church in Portugal at the time was Cardinal Gonçalves Cerejeira, who as it happened, was friends with the Prime Minister since boyhood. It had been said that Cardinal Cerejeira asked the Prime Minister to put a halt to the people gathering for the apparitions at Asseiceira, to try and dissolve the popularity of these events. And so, the newspapers who once reported on the apparitions were now prohibited from doing so. The media was silenced on the matter. Any documentation of the apparitions was to be surrendered to the authorities. But Salazar didn’t stop there.

By the October 16th apparition, the National Republican Guard (GNR) was deployed to set up blockades on all roads leading to Asseiceira. This, however, did not stop the pilgrims from walking through the fields to circumvent the authorities.

On the night of December 15th the unusual waves of light in the sky returned, this time accompanied by what appeared to be a sort of candlelight procession with hundreds of little lights hovering over the town, headed towards the apparition site. They rested around the little shrine Carlos Alberto had set up to welcome the Virgin for her appearances.

Early the next morning, citizens opened their doors to go about their usual bakery runs only to find that Asseiceira was completely overrun with the GNR and the army! The people were warned that they were not to go to the site of the apparitions under threat of being arrested. As the time for the apparition drew near, the sun began its now usual dance in the sky to announce the coming of the Virgin. The soldiers stood arm in arm around the site to prevent people from going, but they soon realized that they were outnumbered. 40,000 people marched to the place Our Lady was to appear. The crowds pushed through the guards, while praying peacefully, and after a while, realizing that their attempts were futile, the soldiers decided to let the people be. There were guards at the little shrine who had vandalized it, and they tried, unsuccessfully, to extinguish the little lights that settled there the night before. Fearing the massive crowd that was approaching, they laid down their guns and batons. Neither soldier nor pilgrim was harmed.

Finally, the Mother of the Redeemer arrived, this time accompanied by little angels – who some say they saw. Our Lady descended and the little sparks of light that kept vigil faded out in contrast to her brilliance. During the Virgin’s meeting with Carlos Alberto, the sun began throwing off all shades of colour, tinting the people with its rays (just as it did at Fatima in 1917). People were heard to remark to one another in surprise: “You’re all purple!” and another “Woman! You’re all yellow!” After some time spinning and changing colour, the sun returned to its natural position in the sky. Our Lady concluded her visit and returned to Heaven, leaving the people to process what had just taken place.

The final apparition took place on January 16, 1955. This time, there were no outward signs or spectacles for the people. Just a hushed silence as Our Lady spoke with the boy. The final message given to Carlos Alberto was the same as the pervious times: pray the Rosary, do good deeds, carry yourself well and observe the ten commandments. (Our Lady also had a private message for the boy, sombre in tone, which will be told further on).

After the apparitions Carlos Alberto went on to complete his schooling. After this, he got a job as a banker, and met his future wife Célia. Célia’s mother was against their courtship as she had it in her mind that seers did not marry, and her daughter was wasting her time with the young man who had seen Our Lady. Persistent in their relationship, Carlos and Célia were engaged to be married in the autumn of 1968.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Cerejeira released a pastoral note which prohibited the faithful from praying or worshipping at the apparition site under penalty of excommunication. Because of this, the parish priest refused to marry the couple unless Carlos Alberto recanted his story of the apparitions, which he would not do. And so, it was in September of 1968 that Carlos Alberto and Célia were married in a civil union. As time went by Carlos and Célia started a family, having two children: João and Cristina.

The sombre message given by Our Lady to Carlos Alberto during the final apparition involved his son and himself: He was told that in the future he would father two children, a boy, and a girl. Carlos Alberto would die as a young father, and, shortly after, his son would die as well. The girl was to stay behind with her mother. This all came to pass on November 9th, 1980 when Carlos Alberto and his son João were in a car accident. The father died on the way to hospital, while his son died six months later.

Though the parish priest refused to grant a funeral Mass for Carlos Alberto, thousands of people gathered at the apparition site where the casket was brought, to pray for the repose of his soul. On that day, a solar miracle took place, much like the ones in 1954, further confirmation for the people that Carlos Alberto had truly spoken with the Mother of the Redeemer.

Years later the prohibition and threat of excommunication was lifted from the Asseiceira apparition site, with prayer and worship now being permitted there.

Read about this and other lesser known Marian apparitions in Portugal in the book "OUR LADY OF PORTUGAL"




Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Our Lady of Barral - Nossa Senhora do Barral

Barral, May 10 & 11, 1917 Feast Day: Last Sunday of May

Catholicism flourished in Portugal since its beginnings in 1139 right up till the 19th century. However, it was during this time, that Freemasonry became popular and the people rebelled against the Royals and the Catholic Church. By the end of 1910, the monarchy was overthrown, and the Catholic Church was openly attacked. Under the new Portuguese Republic all Church properties were seized, monasteries and convents were closed, religious Orders suppressed, the Jesuit educators were expelled from the country, wearing of clerical clothing, habits, and any other outward signs identifying one as being Catholic, was banned from public view; religious holidays and feasts were no longer to be celebrated; and the ringing of church bells was prohibited. The land that was once a loving child of the Immaculate Queen, now rebelled against her.

In 1911, the persecutions culminated with the official separation of Church and State. The man behind this Alfonso Costa, who served as Portugal’s Prime Minister three times, boasted in his declaration:

“With thanks to this Law of Separation, in two generations Catholicism will be completely eliminated in Portugal!”
On September 3, 1914, one month after the start of the First World War, Benedict XV ascended the Throne of St. Peter as the 258th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. The first four years of his seven-and-a-half-year papacy was plagued with anxiety and frustration as he tried, unsuccessfully, to bring about the end of the war which he dubbed “the suicide of civilized Europe.” With encyclicals, public exhortations, and pleading with the forces of all sides, Benedict did all that he could to try and bring the fighting to an end.

Exhausting all efforts for peace, Pope Benedict XV then called upon the Most Blessed Virgin Mary for assistance. In his May 5, 1917 letter to the Cardinals, the Pope ordered that the invocation “Queen of Peace, pray for us” be added to the official Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Litany of Loreto:

… And since all the graces which God deigns to bestow in pity upon men are dispensed through the Most Holy Virgin, We urge that more then ever, in this terrible hour, the trusting petitions of her most afflicted children be directed to the august Mother of God.
Hence, we direct Your Eminence to make known to all the Bishops of the world that it is Our fervent desire that mankind turn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus – the Throne of Grace – and that recourse to this Throne be made through Mary. Accordingly, We ordain that there be placed in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin the invocation: Queen of Peace, pray for us.
From every corner of the earth – from the majestic churches and the humble chapels; from the mansions of the rich as well as from the huts of the poor; from wherever dwells a faithful soul; from the bloodstained battlefields and war swept seas, may this pious and ardent invocation arise to Mary, the Mother of Mercy who is all-powerful in grace!
To Mary may be brought every anguished cry of mothers and wives, each tear of innocent children, each longing of generous hearts! May her loving and most generous solicitude be moved to obtain for this convulsed world the peace so greatly desired! And may the ages yet to come remember the efficacy of Mary’s intercession and the greatness of her blessings to her suppliants!
Just five days after the Pope’s plea, Mary, Queen of Peace, answered. But rather than answer directly to him, the Blessed Virgin was sent to an unassuming Portuguese town called Barral. It was here where a humble shepherd boy lived with his widowed mother and six siblings. The boy’s name was Severino Alves, aged 10.

Severino was born in Barral, Parish of São João Batista de Vila Chã, Ponte de Barca, on June 21, 1906. He was the son of António Alves and Cecília Francisca Valente.

On a clear day, May 10, 1917, at eight o’clock in the morning, Severino was on his way to the hills with his sheep, praying the Rosary, as he usually did while making his way, when he was startled by a sudden flash of lightning and stopped in his tracks. After composing himself, he was going to continue his way, but after a few steps he once again stopped.

He beheld a Lady he did not recognize, sitting on the side of the road near some rocks, with her hands clasped. She wore a white dress with a blue mantle wrapped around her. But what was so striking about this woman was that her entire body radiated light, with her face being the most beautiful he had ever seen. Severino was awestruck by her light and her beauty and he fell to the ground, unable to take his eyes off her. The Lady then disappeared.

Later that day, Severino approached the parish priest to tell him of the mysterious woman he had seen. The boy, though having a good reputation in the town as he was known to be well behaved and loved by the locals, was not initially believed by the priest. However, the prudent priest listened carefully and patiently to the boy’s detailed story. Believing the boy was sincere in his intentions, he instructed him to return to the place of the vision and, if the Lady returned, ask her to speak.

The next day, Friday, May 11, at eight o’clock in the morning, Severino once again walked with his sheep to the hills. At the same spot as the previous day, the Lady reappeared. She was seated, as before, with hands clasped, wearing the same white dress and blue mantle, and still radiating light.

Just as he did before, Severino fell to his knees. As he gazed upon her, he worked up the courage to ask her to speak:

“Let she who didn’t speak yesterday, speak today.”
The Lady smiled and replied with a voice that sounded of laughter and singing mixed together, a voice more pleasing than anything he had ever heard! 

“Do not be afraid, boy, it is I, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Tell the shepherds of the mountains to pray the Rosary, let men and women once again pray the ‘Star of Heaven’ which has been long forgotten, and tell them to approach me in prayer: that I may come to the world and placate the war.”
After saying this, and leaving Severino enough time to answer: “Yes, my Lady”, she continued to speak; now looking to the side:

“Such beautiful buds, such beautiful bunches.”
When Severino turned to see what she was looking at, the Lady disappeared. He returned immediately to the town and told the people what the Virgin Mary had said that she would help end the war if people prayed the Rosary and resumed praying the forgotten prayer ‘Star of Heaven’, as in years past. Since she spoke of the end of the war, the Virgin became known as “Our Lady of Peace”.

To the questions asked, the boy always answered in the same way:

“If you want to believe, then believe. If you don’t want to believe, then don’t. I did my duty in telling you what the Virgin instructed me to do.”
Throughout the year, 1917, Severino Alves was interrogated by various priests of the Archdiocese of Braga about the two apparitions of Our Lady of Peace at Barral. Severino recalled the experience:

“Of course, they tried to make me admit to lying. When I refused to recant my story, they then began to threaten me with a beating. They then put their hands on me. I told them ‘You can be assured that what I saw is what I said. And what was told to me by the Lady is what I said. Now, go ahead and do as you want with me.’”
Later that year, as the government continued to fight against the Catholic Church in Portugal, Severino was advised by authorities to deny everything he said he had seen, otherwise he might be arrested.

“Oh! Never! Our Lady told me to tell everyone to pray the Rosary and the ‘Star of Heaven’ to bring an end to the war, and I will say I didn’t see anything?! Never! I will never deny these words she spoke to me! Never! If you want to arrest me then go ahead and arrest me, if they want to kill me, let them kill me!”
Severino was later collected by the Archdiocese of Braga, and taken to the Major Seminary of Braga, not to study, but simply to stay there. He was regularly subjected to interrogations about the apparitions: what he had seen and what he was told.

He was then sent to the Jesuit Fathers’ College in La Guardia, Galicia. He was there for two years against his will. He did not believe he had a vocation to the religious life, and the only way he could leave would be to run away. He made his escape one day, with the help of a friend, and returned to Barral. He was left alone after this.

Like most of Barral’s youth, Severino went to Lisbon seeking employment, where he found a job at a drug store. Sometime later came the time to fulfill the Military Service. During the military physical examination, it was found that he had typhus, and therefore would not be allowed into the army, as he was most likely going to die soon. Years later Severino’s daughter, Matilde, revealed that during her father’s illness, the Virgin came to him once again:

“My father was dying from Typhus and he prayed to Our Lady of Peace during this illness. She appeared to him and instructed him to drink a tea of nettles and she would do the rest. He drank the tea and recovered the next day.”
Some time after his recovery, he married a lady named Delfina, who was from the Parish of Sampriz, Ponte da Barca. They lived in Lisbon for a short time and six months after the birth of their first daughter, they left the city and returned to Barral, where they lived for ten years.

In 1954 Severino was again interrogated about what happened on May 10 and 11, 1917:
“I swear by my daughter’s health that what I said in 1917 has to be said again, because it was all true.”
Severino later returned to Lisbon where he once again worked for his previous employer, at the drug store. For extra income, he and his wife had a small vegetable garden. The profits from the sales of their vegetables were offered to the building of the chapel of Our Lady of Peace in Barral. The chapel was inaugurated and blessed on 15 September 1969. 

There was one final interview on January 3, 1985. Severino once again held firm that he indeed saw the Virgin Mary at Barral and that the message she gave him was the truth. He died ten days later. He is buried in the Parish Cemetery of Barral.