Most apparitions actually take place within the soul but are so vivid that
they sometimes appear external to those who experience them. But they are
not in reality "external" in so much that only the visionary (or
visionaries) can see them and then, if you read the descriptions from
visionaries, even in approved apparitions like Fatima, each individual
visionary reports a slightly different view of the apparition. For
example, this might explain why the boy in Fatima did not always see the
figure of the Blessed Mother but experienced her in other ways. In Fatima
we basically only had the descriptions of the visions from one of the
visionaries since the other two were taken to God early in life. In
Medjugorje, we have the unique experience of being able to chat with
several of the visionaries and each describes something slightly
A Theophany is an instance where the Divine Power of God is manifested
OUTSIDE the soul and unlike the apparitions, can be witnessed by thousands
of people. What happened at Fatima with the Miracle of the Sun is
considered by most theologians to be a theophany. As far as we know, there
has only been ONE theophany in the 20th and 21st century. Fr Benedict
Groeschel of EWTN TV, tells the story of one agnostic who was present at
the "Miracle of the Sun" (in Fatima). He had to be carried away in an
ambulance - the experience he saw which destroyed all his skepticism about
God was too much for him to take - he suffered a heart attack.
Thus since visions and apparitions take place in the soul, they are
sometimes subject to some misreporting and misunderstanding on the part of
the visionaries who are imperfect humans. Because of that, visions should
neither be totally debunked nor taken wholly and literally. Separating the
God part from the human part has always been a difficult task for the
"If you do no more than dismiss
these things, you're simply an obscurist. If you mindlessly embrace
them, you're just a dope. We have to resist the obsessive-compulsive
demand for a clear, definitive answer to these questions. This is a
field for people who don't have to have it all figured out, who don't
need it cast in black and white. There's a lot of grey mist around this
stuff and you have to be prepared to deal with that. Once in a while, a
bright, shining light comes through and we should be grateful for it.
Because the rest of the time we have to feel our way through the
twilight. [However] Without the supernatural graces there would be no
religions, only philosophies." Fr Benedict Groeschel.
As an example of something which MIGHT BE a misunderstood vision, St
Catherine of Laboure' described seeing the Savior in the Sanctuary at
Mass. He was wearing a crown and royal robe like a king. He proceeded to
take off the robe and the crown. She interpreted this vision to foretell
the de-throning on an oppressive monarch in her country. But I have often
wondered if Jesus wasn't telling her something much simpler and more
according to His Biblical message i.e. the old message that "My Kingdom is
NOT of this world!"
To illustrate the nature of a vision, the following is my own personal
Recently, I visited an 87 year old lady whom I will call, Annie - not her
real name - to bring her Communion for three weeks prior to her death
which was a Holy Death. The first time I saw her, I was truly amazed at
her face - it was radiant, the most beautiful face I had ever seen. We
seemed to have an immediate communication between us like we had known
each other for years - I prayed with her and gave her Communion. She was
so beautiful, it was unsettling because she was a very ill woman, no
longer could fix her hair or in any way adorn herself and had tubes in her
nose for O-2 and yet I had never seen anyone so beautiful and even young
looking! The face I saw had no wrinkles!
It was even more unsettling when the head of the Care Ministry, M----,
phoned me the following day apologizing to me for sending me to visit
Annie. She explained she had visited on Sunday and Annie had refused
Communion and had been negative and not real friendly. It didn't sound
like the same lady I visited. M---- was shocked to hear that my experience
was totally different. I couldn't explain what happened the day when I
visited Annie, one day after M--- had visited her and saw Annie so radiant
with God shining through her face. Annie's daughter also called me,
warning me (she had been present when her mother had given this other care
minister a hard time) and was shocked when I had to tell her that my
experience with her mother was almost of the opposite of what the others
had experienced and was very close to being like seeing an angel.
So the next week when I visited Annie, I was apprehensive, thinking I had
somehow made a mistake and not seen the reality. But again, it was the
same, like visiting an angel. She was radiantly beautiful, so much so that
I couldn't help remarking on that. After Communion, we prayed the Rosary
together - and I told her she ministered to me. She touched her frail hand
to my arm and whispered in a papery thin voice, "we minister to each
other." The last week I saw her, it was the same. She looked so radiantly
beautiful that I again had to comment to her about this. She was feeling
poorly that day and after Communion was not strong enough to pray the
Rosary. (She was falling asleep). I put my hand on her arm and said
"Annie, you know I love you." And she said "I know and I love you too."
It was the last time I saw her. She was taken to the Lord in a Holy Death
three days later.
It took me weeks to sort out what happened. My understanding of it, was
clarified, when the daughter sent me a Holy Card with Annie's photo on it.
The photo had been taken a few years ago. It did NOT look much like the
Annie I had known. The photo was of a pleasant looking lady who was in her
60's or 70's. Although she was nice looking, she bore little resemblance
to the radiant and stunningly beautiful face I saw when I visited Annie.
I then realized that what I had seen was a vision, a glimpse of how Annie
LOOKS NOW when she is with God, the soul shining out, God bringing her to
a Holy Death and purifying her! A vision, if you will, which God gave to
me. For not only the purpose for MY edification to help give ME serenity
about death, but to help Annie get ready FOR HER Holy Death and to meet
Jesus. And perhaps to unite me with a new friend whom I will look forward
to seeing when the time comes for God to call me back to Him!
It was one of the most profound experiences of my life! God is good....
The information about visions was taken from quotes from Fr Benedict
Groeschel who can been seen weekly on the Catholic TV station, EWTN.
To reach Fr, write to
The EWTN website is