The Church recalls the Blessed Virgin Mary's role in the story of salvation and Her sublime collaboration in the work of her Divine Son. This is one reason we celebrate the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary the Holy Mother of God every January 1st, entrusting ourselves at the beginning of each year to the protection and intercession of Mary, the mother of us all.
Although Catholics comprise only 3 percent of Japan's population of 127,700,000 people, it was in 1973 in Akita, Japan that our Blessed Mother delivered three very important messages for all of humanity. She appeared to Sister Agnes Sasagawa in a small convent in an apparition that has been officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. In Her message to the religious sister, Our Lady warned "If people do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity." She also warned that "The demon will be especially implacable against the souls consecrated to God."
Today we see the predictions of Our Lady of Akita coming true before our eyes. Satan's attacks against Christ's Church here on earth are no longer subtle but are very direct. Just as Our Lady had warned "Cardinals [are] opposing cardinals, bishops [are openly] against other bishops."
All of this is very disturbing and therefore it is more important than ever that we call to mind Our Lady's promise: "Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved." As at Fatima, She promised that Her Immaculate Heart would triumph in the end.
Participation on our part is required for the fulfillment of Our Lady's promises. We must return to God. At Akita, Our Blessed Mother asked for "Prayer, penance and courageous sacrifices [to] soften the Father's anger." We must, therefore, beseech our Blessed Mother to help us obtain the courage and perseverance necessary so that we may triumph with her.
Let us thank God with all our hearts that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has responded to the request of Our Lady of Fatima in consecrating Russia and Ukraine to her Immaculate Heart on March 25, 2022. Let us remember that She also asked us to participate in the Consecration through our prayers of reparation to Her Immaculate Heart when She said to the three children "I shall come to ask... that on the First Saturday of every month, Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins of the world." In other words, we must go to Confession, receive Holy Communion and recite the Rosary, meditating upon its mysteries. This is how the triumph of her Immaculate Heart will be attained.
The Institute of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist (Seitai Hoshikai in Japanese) is a small convent of Catholic religious women leading dedicated lives of prayer. Established in 1970 by the late Bishop John Shojiro Ito of Niigata, Japan, their convent is located in Yuzawadai just outside of the city of Akita. In 1973, the sisters welcomed into their novitiate a convert from Buddhism, Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa, who was 42 years old and incurably deaf. Sister Agnes was, however, favored with many mystical privileges and, unbeknownst to the sisters, their convent would soon become known throughout the entire world.
The first miraculous event occurred on June 12, 1973 only a month after Sister Agnes' entrance when a brilliant light shone from the tabernacle. This happened several times in the months that followed and was often accompanied by something resembling smoke which lingered around the altar.
Bishop John Shojiro Ito of Niigata, Japan was at the convent conducting a week of devotions when, during an illumination, Sister Agnes saw "A multitude of beings similar to angels who surrounded the altar in adoration before the Host." Sister Agnes thought it best to confide to the bishop the circumstances of this vision as well as all the events and apparitions that would follow. Both Bishop Ito, and Rev. Teiji Yasuda, the convent's spiritual director, were witnesses to many of these events.
Sister Agnes was also favored with many visitations from her guardian angel. When asked to describe her angel, she answered: "[The angel has] a round face, an expression of sweetness... a person covered with a shining whiteness like snow." Her guardian angel confided messages to the sister and often prayed, guided and advised her.
On the evening of June 28, 1973, Sister Agnes experienced an exceedingly painful cross-shaped wound on the palm of her left hand. The pain lasted a week. It eased during most of the week only to return on Thursday night into Friday and became almost unbearable. On July 5th, a small opening appeared in the center of her hand from which blood began to flow.
On July 6th, her guardian angel returned and told Sister Agnes, "The wounds of Mary are much deeper and more sorrowful than yours. Let us go to pray together in the chapel." Upon entering the chapel, the angel disappeared. Sister Agnes turned to the statue of Mary located on the right side of the altar.
The statue is a figure of Our Lady standing before a cross with her arms at her side and palms facing forward. It is approximately three feet tall and carved from the hardwood of the Judea tree. Beneath her feet is a globe. Sr. Agnes approached the statue and later said "I suddenly felt that the wooden statue came to life and was about to speak to me. She [Our Blessed Lady] was bathed in a brilliant light. At the same moment, a voice of indescribable beauty struck my totally deaf ears."
Our Lady told Sister Agnes: "Your deafness will be healed." (Her hearing was permanently restored on May 30, 1982.) She then recited with her the community prayers composed by Bishop Ito. At the words "Jesus present in the Eucharist" Mary instructed, "From now on, you will add TRULY..." Together with the angel who reappeared, they recited a consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in this manner: "He is TRULY present in the Holy Eucharist…". Before disappearing, Our Lady asked Sister Agnes to "pray very much for the Pope, bishops and priests."
When the sisters assembled in the chapel for the recitation of Lauds the next morning, they found blood on the right hand of the statue. There were two small lines crossed in the middle of the palm, and an opening from which blood flowed. The wound on the statue matched that on the hand of Sister Agnes except that, since the statue's hand was smaller, the wound was also smaller. The wound continued to bleed on Fridays in July, as did the wound on the hand of Sister Agnes. The blood ran the length of the statue's hand, which was open and pointing downward, although the droplets never fell from her hand.
One of the sisters wrote: "It seemed to be truly cut into flesh. The edge of the cross had the aspect of human flesh, and one even saw the grain of the skin like a fingerprint. I said to myself at that moment that the wound was real."
There was a second message given by Our Lady on Friday, August 3, 1973. At that occasion, the heavenly voice from the statue warned: "Many men in this world afflict the Lord. I desire souls to console Him to soften the anger of the Heavenly Father. I wish, with My Son, for souls who will repair, by their suffering and their poverty, for the sinners and ingrates.
"In order that the world might know His anger, the Heavenly Father is preparing to inflict a great chastisement on all mankind. I have prevented the coming of calamities by offering Him the sufferings of [My] Son on the Cross, His Precious Blood, and the beloved souls who console Him by forming a cohort of victim souls.
"Prayer, penance and courageous sacrifices can soften the Father's anger. Know that you must be fastened to the Cross with three nails. These three nails are poverty, chastity and obedience. Of the three, obedience is the foundation." These were the vows professed by Agnes as a religious sister.
Although the wound on the hand of Sister Agnes disappeared on July 27th, the wound on the hand of the statue remained until September 29th, at which time the statue emitted a brilliant light. The whole community witnessed the light coming from the statue, and at that same moment the entire body of the statue became covered with a moisture resembling perspiration. Sister Agnes' guardian angel told her, "Mary is even sadder than when she shed blood. Dry the perspiration." The sisters used cotton balls to collect the moisture as the dazzling light that had surrounded the statue gradually disappeared.
Shortly after, on October 13th, the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, Sister Agnes again heard the beautiful voice speaking from the statue: "The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres. Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises, and the devil will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will no longer be any pardon for them."
Our Blessed Mother continued, "As I told you, if people do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the Flood, such as one will never have been seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son. Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary pray for the pope, the bishops and the priests.
"The demon will be especially implacable against the souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will no longer be pardon for them. Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able to still save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved."
There were other phenomena. In May 1974, the face, hands and feet of the statue became distinguished by a dark, reddish-brown tint, though the garment and hair retained the look of the original wood. (When the sculptor came to see the statue eight years later, he could not hide his surprise that only the visible parts of Our Lady's body had changed color, and that the face itself had changed expression.)
On January 4, 1975, to the amazement of the entire community, Father Yasuda, Bishop Ito and a number of people who had joined the nuns for a New Year's retreat, witnessed the statue of the Virgin begin to weep. This happened three different times throughout the day. Later, in his book, The Tears and Message of Mary, Father Yasuda said: "[The statue] had completely dried out during the years since it was made, and little cracks had begun to appear. It is already miraculous that water would flow from such material, but it is still more prodigious that a liquid slightly salty, of the nature of true human tears, should have flowed precisely from the eyes."
Eventually, Bishop Ito arranged for Professor Sagisaka, M.D. a non-Christian specialist in the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Akita's School of Medicine, undertook a rigorous examination of the three fluids. He intentionally did not reveal the source of the fluids, and patiently awaited the results: "The matter adhering on the gauze is human blood. The sweat and the tears absorbed in the two pieces of cotton are of human origin." The blood was found to belong to type B, and the sweat and tears to type AB. In the 10 years following, scientific studies excluded any explanation other than the supernatural.
On December 8, 1979, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the tears were filmed and televised throughout Japan. This video production is now shown by the nuns at the convent, and has also been shown during news broadcasts throughout the entire world.
According to the records kept by the sisters, the number who witnessed the tears in person went unrecorded on five occasions. However, all the other times they were witnessed by 10 to 65 people. Some of the witnesses included prominent Buddhists, including the mayor of the city of Akita.
Bishop Ito was advised by the Apostolic Nuncio to seek the assistance of the Archbishop of Tokyo to create a commission of canonical inquiry. Unfortunately, the Inquisitor, who was president of the group, was not Catholic and, without any of the members ever even visiting the convent to conduct a personal inquiry, they rendered an unfavorable verdict.
Unwilling to accept a negative verdict on the events he himself had witnessed, Bishop Ito asked for advice from The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and from The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome. He was advised to form another commission to examine the events from the very beginning, and this commission rendered a favorable verdict regarding the supernatural aspects of the occurrences.
On the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, on September 15, 1981, the statue cried tears for the last time. Two weeks later, Sister Agnes' guardian angel presented a large Bible surrounded with a brilliant light. The open Bible revealed the verse from Genesis 3:15: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." The angel explained that the passage had a relationship with the tears of Mary and then continued, "Sin came into the world by a woman, and it is also by a woman that salvation came to the world."
The sculptor of the statue, Saburo Wakasa, a non-Catholic, was asked his reaction to the occurrences relating to the statue. He answered: "The statue of Mary was my first work connected with Christianity. Of my various statues it is only with the statue of Mary at Yuzawadai that mysterious events occurred. I sculptured the whole statue of Mary, globe, and the Cross from the same piece of wood, so there are no joints… The wood from which I carved the statue of Mary was very dry and rather hard." When asked whether he regarded the reported shedding of tears from the statue of Mary as a miracle, he replied, "It is a mystery." The statue was recorded to have shed tears a total of 101 times.
A canonical law regarding the judgment of a Marian apparition was issued in 1978. According to a Vatican official, "The authority to hand down a conclusion regarding the authenticity of any Marian apparition is given canonically to the Ordinary (the bishop) of the local diocese where the apparition took place."
In his pastoral letter dated April 22, 1984, Bishop John Ito, the Ordinary of the Diocese of Niigata, wrote that having been given directives in this regard, "I authorize throughout the entire diocese, of which I am charged, the veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita." The Bishop noted that the events are only a matter of private revelation, and are not points of doctrine. The Bishop also said in his pastoral letter that he had known Sister Agnes Sasagawa for 10 years. "She is a woman sound in spirit, frank and without problems; she has always impressed me as a balanced person. Consequently, the messages she says that she has received did not appear to me to be in any way the result of imagination or hallucination."
Four years later, on June 20, 1988, during Bishop lto's visit to Rome, The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approved the contents of the pastoral letter. Bishop Ito's official recognition of the occurrences and the messages of Our Lady were reported in the October 1988 edition of the magazine, 30 Days.
Adapted from http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/akita.htm