In Depth: Seeing the Virgin Mary

SHELBY COUNTY, December 8, 1999 – The thousands that gathered in Shelby County Wednesday came from different religious backgrounds, but they all shared a common hope, that a sign or message sent from beyond can somehow be recognized.

Marija Lunettie is one of six people who claim the mother of Jesus appeared to them in Yugoslavia in 1981. Lunettie first came to Alabama because her brother needed a kidney. Her 1988 visit stirred a lot of excitement when her daily visions of the Virgin Mary continued in a rural part of Shelby County.
    Wednesday she returned to Shelby County and thousands journeyed to rural Sterrett to glimpse some sign of the Virgin Mary. The turnout was not officially endorsed by an organized religion, and in particular, not endorsed by the Catholic Church. But the yearning for visions of the Virgin Mary worries religious experts who fear it may undermine faith.
    “There is something irresistible about the idea that someone who speaks from the divine world, speaks here at this time, and may be there, and may appear,” said Birmingham Southern professor Roy Wells.

The crowds gathered to hear from Lunettie who claims to speak daily to the Virgin Mary. Some religious observers say it’s a troubling sign and detracts from true, unverifiable faith.
    “We’re not making any judgments about them. We’re simply saying that as far as the phenomenon within the church, that this is something that we see as a distraction, as something that’s really not valid,” said Watchman Fellowship spokesperson Rob Bowman.
    The Birmingham Diocese of the Catholic Church is careful to distance itself from Caritas, the group sponsoring the visionary’s visit. It says it is not connected to the church but is “open and willing to accept the judgment of the holy see.” That troubles some conservative Christians.
    “This century has been dominated, and the last century but especially this century, have been dominated in the history of Christianity with the interest in overt supernatural experiences,” said Bowman.
With the millenium ending in just over a year, Bible scholars say there may be an increase in such occurrences as believers seek tangible proof from another world.
    “This kind of alienation, and this kind expectation, really doesn’t depend on verification. It almost has the opposite effect,” said Wells.
    Despite a lack of official church support, many believers insist on seeking some sort of verification.

Presents of God ministry