In 1859, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a woman named Adele Brise. This is not, strictly speaking, an article of faith, since the approval of the shrine by the Bishop of Green Bay does not add anything to the Catholic faith. The approval confirms, through the authoritative voice of the Church, that the reports of the apparition show no sign of fraud and give every sign of being worthy of belief by the Catholic faithful.
Devoted Catholics, far from being the credulous types who run after every scent of Heavenly perfume, are a pretty conservative group when it comes to visions and apparitions, and they tend to cling to their Rosaries and follow the beaten path to well known shrines. I saw this clearly when telling a nun about the apparition. She smiled and seemed amused. Then she asked if it had ever been approved. “Yes,” I said, “one year ago.” Her eyes lit up and she was suddenly very interested.
The fact that there are some authentic apparitions should make us see the world differently. First, they show that Heaven is real, and it is not very far away – we easily forget that Mary and the saints, not to mention Jesus Himself, are acutely aware of what is happening on earth, and they are not far from us. Second, an apparition makes visible Mary’s great love for her children, which is always with us but usually in hidden and unnoticed ways. Third, an apparition brings a message from Mary to her children.
The message of Our Lady of Good Help was very short and direct, and while it was addressed to the woman who saw her, it comes from our mother’s heart and reveals what she is concerned about. The full story of the apparition can be found on the Shrine’s official website www.shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com, at this page. Here is the message:
I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession, and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them.
‘Adele, who is it?’ said one of the women who was with her.
‘Kneel,’ said Adele, ‘the Lady says she is the Queen of Heaven.’
Our Blessed Lady turned, looked kindly at them, and said, Blessed are they that believe without seeing. What are you doing here in idleness…while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?
‘What more can I do, dear Lady?’ said Adele, weeping.
Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.
‘But how shall I teach them who know so little myself?’ replied Adele.
Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you.