In 1969, Akita, Japan, was the site of one of the more prominent modern series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary. While praying, Sister Agnes Sasagawa, a young postulate of the Order of the Handmaids of the Eucharist, a Roman Catholic order community, received a locution, a clairaudient message, concerning how she should pray. She ascribed this voice to an angel. The content of the prayer, she later discovered, was the same as that given to the three children who had seen the Virgin Mary at Fatima. Sister Mary was deaf.
Four years later she received another locution, which happened to coincide with the development of the stigmata, a mysterious cross-shaped wound on her hand that refused to stop bleeding. The inner voice directed her to the chapel, where she saw the Virgin for the first time. She also heard a series of accompanying messages from the Virgin calling for prayer and sacrifice. The words seemed to come from a wooden statue of the Virgin located in the chapel. She would see the Virgin two more times. The last of the three messages complained of problems of discord and compromise within the church reaching to the highest levels.
These apparitions would probably have gone unnoticed had it not been for the accompanying phenomena. During the period when the apparitions were being received, the statue oozed a reddish substance from its right hand. Analyzed, it proved to be type AB blood. Then the statue was noticed to perspire. Again the substance was analyzed and proved to be similar to human sweat. Then, several years later, the statue in the chapel began to emit tears from the eyes. All of the sisters saw the tears as did visitors to the convent. At one point, a Japanese film crew from the local television station filmed the phenomena. They also took samples of the tear drops, which upon analysis proved to be the same as human tears. Over the next six years the statue was recorded to weep more than a hundred times.
In 1981, the first miracle was recorded: a woman experienced a healing of what had been diagnosed as terminal brain cancer. Later, Sister Agnes was cured of her deafness.
The local diocese conducted an investigation, and in 1984 the bishop of Niigata announced a favorable conclusion and authorized the veneration of Our Lady of Akita. The messages are in accord with church doctrine and appear to be of mysterious or supernatural origin. This verdict was confirmed by the Vatican in 1984.
The events at Akita challenge the more common explanations of skeptics concerning weeping statues as the substance coming from the eyes was not water (as would have been the case if it was due to mere condensation). In like measure, explanations generally attributed to bleeding statues do not appear applicable.
Catholic Apparitions of Jesus and Mary. http://www.frontier.net/Apparitions/akita.num. April 5, 2000.