I’m not normally someone who likes to watch foreign films. However, the subject of the French film The Apparition piqued my interest as it was a secular film telling the story of a teenage girl who has claimed to have seen an apparition of the Blessed Mother in a remote French village.
The plot is moved by the sending of a respected journalist by the Vatican to lead a team, or a commission, to explore the legitimacy of the claim. I always have a fear of how the institutional Church will be portrayed in mainstream cinema and as usual the priests and the bishop are portrayed as put upon, “can you believe we have to do this” types who I have a sense right away that, if it’s disproved and quickly, all the better.
This always puts me in a negative disposition as I am watching the film but I got engrossed in this movie because the acting is first rate and the story of a man with no belief leading a Vatican investigation became fascinating to watch.
The main character of Jacque Mayano is recovering from a traumatic experience in a war zone and the death of his photographer. He has a world-weariness that is totally believable and you feel for him right away. The young actress, Galatea Bellugi, who plays Anna, the alleged visionary, is well suited for the role physically with very expressive eyes and an innocent face and demeanor.
Anna seems wrapped up in something bigger than herself and she so desperately just wants to be a religious sister and live an anonymous life but knows that won’t be possible. I don’t want to give away too much more but suffice to say if you like foreign films and your faith I think I can recommend this film to you.
The movie also will spark an interest in apparitions. At least it did for me, and I have never visited an apparition site. If you dig a little bit you can find some good information on the internet about the approved and unapproved apparition sites.
Interestingly enough the Vatican has only approved 12 of the 295 apparitions that have been reported over the centuries with some receiving local approval by the diocesan bishop such as Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin.
The era of public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle and so these apparitions are treated as private revelation and so while worthy of belief it is never required by our faith to believe in them as being true.
The danger with claims of apparitions is that they may be false and that is why the Church in her wisdom takes its time in investigating and documenting them. (For more about apparitions and public and private revelation, read Pat Gohn’s article “Is Fatima worthy of belief?”)
If you’d like to do more reading on the subject of apparitions of Mary might I suggest starting with Catherine Odell’s book Those Who Saw Her: Apparitions of Mary (Our Sunday Visitor, updated and revised edition, 2010). I think you will find it to be helpful in explaining the individual apparitions and it is accessible to the novice on the subject. If these apparitions strengthen your faith and spark you to go deeper in your faith that’s great; if they are not your cup of tea that is alright as well. But we must always be willing to learn and grow as Christians; it is a faith of the mind and the heart.
To learn more:
“Lessons Mary taught at Champion,” by Fr. Edward Looney
“Living the message of Fatima 100 years later,” by Fr. Edward Looney
“A pilgrimage or a religious tour?” by Deacon Gene Townsend
“The ‘Miracle Hunter’ and ‘The Apparition’” by Lori Hadacek Chaplin