Lipa, Batangas, Philippines, was the site in 1948 of a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Teresita Castillo, a Carmelite nun, that were for a few years among the most celebrated in Roman Catholicism. Castillo was the daughter of the former governor of the region who had run away from home to join the convent. In July of 1948, while discussions were going on between the convent's leadership and the family, who wanted their daughter to return home and go through with a marriage they had arranged for her, she began to experience some unusual and disturbing manifestations. She sought the advice of the prioress, Mother Mary Cecilia of Jesus, who in turn sought the counsel of the community's spiritual director, Msgr. Alfredo Obviar, who was also the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Lipa.
The diabolical manifestation proved short-lived, and on August 18, Castillo experienced the smell of roses fill her room. Two days later, rose petals fell from the ceiling of her room and formed a cross on the floor. Finally, on September 12, as she was praying in the garden, she heard a voice, interpreted as the Virgin, asking her to return to the spot daily for the next 15 consecutive days. She consulted with the prioress and was granted permission to do as bidden. On the next day, Mary made her initial appearance. She was dressed in white with a golden rosary in her left hand. She indicated that her messages would be primarily for the priests and nuns, and called for the community to gather at the spot, which should be blessed. Bishop Obviar did the blessing on September 15. In the midst of the ceremony, Castillo entered a state of ecstasy (trance ), and all experienced the fall of the rose petals.
In the meantime, Mother Cecilia also began receiving messages purporting to be from Mary by a process commonly called clairvoyance, but in Catholic circles is known as interior locution. She began keeping a record of them in her diary.
On September 16, Mary requested a statue of her be created showing her form in the apparitions as was later revealed as Our Lady the Mediatrix of All Grace. During the remaining apparition, Castillo received numerous messages, and as she had with the children at Fatima, Mary also shared some secrets. The secrets of Fatima were one of the most well-known aspects of the event which had become the most heralded of the claimed apparitions of Mary sanctioned by the church. On September 26, Mary made her last apparition of the announced series. She would return one more time, on November 12, to warn of persecutions and hard times for the sisters at the monastery and the country in general. In making her final plea for prayer, she mentioned her presence at Fatima. Her last visit had been preceded by a final falling of rose petals. In the meantime a statue of the Virgin had been placed at the spot of the apparitions as requested.
As word spread of the apparitions, the bishop of the diocese became upset. He ordered the statue removed from its place in the garden. He also went to the convent prepared to reprimand Bishop Obviar and end any further activity relative to the apparitions. However, as the story is told, he was greeted at the convent door by a shower of rose petals. He reversed his opposition, ordered the statue returned to the garden, and on December 6 announced his approval of the apparitions. The convent became a focus of pilgrimages from across the country, and tours began to arrive from around the world. The petals that had fallen, and even water into which the petals had been dipped, were distributed and reports of cures grew steadily.
While the bishop of Lipa supported the account of the apparitions, other Philippine bishops were not so accepting. On January 23, 1950, the bishop was involuntarily retired. An official committee was established to investigate the apparitions and a Carmelite official arrived from Rome to investigate the convent. The distribution of the petals and all literature on the apparitions stopped. A short time later both the prioress and her assistant were also released from their leadership posts and sent to another convent. Bishop Obviar was then relieved of his post and reassigned.
The final report of the official investigation was released in April of 1951. It concluded that no supernatural events had occurred. The statue was ordered destroyed. The sisters at the convent removed it from its spot, but then hid it away. The prioress' diary was destroyed. The sisters were also ordered to stop speaking of the apparition.
In the face of the report, many concluded that the apparitions had been a money-making hoax perpetuated by the members of the convent.
After news of the event died out, Mother Cecelia was allowed to return to Lipa. She prophesied that after her death, the truth of the apparitions would be rediscovered. Then in 1991, Archbishop Mariano Gaviola ordered the statue be made available to people by having it placed in the chapel at the convent. He also called together a new commission to reinvestigate the apparitions.
He allowed the production of a documentary for Philippine television and the publication of a book about the apparitions. The cultus of the Virgin at Lipa has revived, though the commission has yet to report.
At the height of the initial reaction to the reports of the apparitions, another set of apparitions was initiated in Necedah, Wisconsin. On November 12, 1949, Mary Ann Van Hoof, a housewife, had a brief vision of the Virgin outside her home. The following year she reportedly had a set of apparitions throughout the year that also drew large crowds and became every much as controversial as those at Lipa, which were mentioned in the messages received by Van Hoof.
Keithley-Castro, June. "Shower of Petals." Parts 1-3. Philippine Daily Inquirer. September 8-10, 1999.
"Lipa." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lipa
"Lipa." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lipa
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