'OUR LADY APPEARED IN JAPAN 38 YEARS AGO': Local diocesan priest explains message of Our Lady of Akita
CONTRIBUTED The statue of Akita in tears.
By LINDA ANDRADE RODRIGUES
March 26, 2011 12:00 AM
Ninety miles from the Diocese of Sendai in Japan, the hardest hit area by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake, is a Catholic pilgrimage site, the convent of the Handmaids of the Eucharist near Akita on the island of Honshu.
"Our Lady appeared in Japan 38 years ago," said Father Edward A. Murphy, a priest in the Diocese of Fall River who is knowledgeable about the approved apparitions of the Catholic Church. "Our Lady is very real. She is trying to help us. This is a time of grace."
The miraculous events reported in Japan from 1973-1982 were determined to be "reliable and worthy of belief" in June 1988 by the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Vatican City, Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI.
Thousands of healing experiences and conversions are attributed to the apparition of Our Lady of Akita.
According to the EWTN Apparition Archives, the extraordinary events began on June 12, 1973, when Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa saw brilliant mysterious rays emanating from the tabernacle at the convent. On June 28, a cross-shaped wound, the stigmata, appeared on the inside of her left hand, which bled profusely and caused her much pain. On July 6, she heard a voice coming from the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the chapel where she was praying. On the same day, a few of the sisters noticed drops of blood flowing from the statue's right hand. The wound in the statue's hand remained until Sept. 29, when it disappeared; but then the sisters noticed the statue had begun to "sweat", especially on the forehead and neck. On Aug. 3, Sasagawa received a second message, and a final third message on Oct. 13. Two years later on Jan. 4, 1975, the statue of the Blessed Virgin began to weep. It continued to weep at intervals for the next six years and eight months. On April 22, 1984, after eight years of investigations and consultation with the Holy See, the messages of Our Lady of Akita were approved by the bishop of the diocese.
Sitting in the chapel at Morton Hospital in Taunton where he serves as chaplain, Murphy, a native of Cork, Ireland, worked 16 years as an industrial chemist at a large pharmaceutical company headquartered in Philadelphia before he decided to study for the priesthood.
"After going to Medjugorje 21 years ago, I entered the seminary through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother," he said.
Ordained in 1998, he spent six years at Holy Name Church in Fall River and the last eight years in the chaplaincy at Morton.
Murphy said that it is difficult to get people to focus on their faith.
"We live with the media, TV, and the Internet constantly bombarding us 24 hours a day with very little to do with God — the God who made us, the God who loves us," he said. "People have been more or less hypnotized by the media and gradually slipped away from practicing their faith."
He explained that the link between Our Lady of Akita and Our Lady of Fatima is that the third message was given on the same day, the 13th of October, when 70,000 people witnessed the sun dance.
"We can link this apparition with many others," said Murphy. "Our Lady has called for the prayers of the Rosary. Outside of the Mass, the greatest prayer is the Rosary."
The purpose of the Rosary is to help keep in memory certain principal events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. There are twenty mysteries reflected upon in the Rosary, and these are divided into the five Joyful Mysteries, the five Luminous Mysteries, the five Sorrowful Mysteries, and the five Glorious Mysteries.
Murphy said that the remedy for life's ills is to pray the Rosary and turn back to God.
"There is no true peace without Jesus Christ in our lives," he said. "But the world we live in today would try to tell us otherwise. It is through prayer and sacrifice we can ward off evil. Our Lady wants to bring us back to her Son."
The message of Our Lady of Akita is for all humanity, according to the priest.
"You look at the signs of the times, and the message is to live now and pray now," he said. "Disasters wake us up to realize what's important in our lives, letting us know how fragile life is and what we are most worried about is of least importance. The only thing we go out of this world with is our good deeds."
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