“Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary... I alone am able to still save you from the calamities which approach.”
Mary’s role in the history of human salvation and Her unique and sublime collaboration with the work of her divine Son, Jesus led the Church to declare that each January 1st we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. This is so that all may entrust themselves, at the beginning of the year, to the protection and intercession of Mary, the mother of us all. Pope Francis ended his homily for the Mass on January 1st, 2019 at the Vatican Basilica as follows:
“God himself needed a Mother: how much more so do we! Jesus Himself gave her to us, from the cross: ‘Behold your mother!’ (Jn 19:27). He said this to the beloved disciple and to every disciple. Our Lady is not an optional accessory: she has to be welcomed into our life. She is the queen of peace, who triumphs over evil and leads us along paths of goodness; who restores unity to Her children; who teaches us compassion.
“Mary, take us by the hand. Clinging to You, we will pass safely through the straits of history. Lead us by the hand to rediscover the bonds that unite us. Gather us beneath your mantle, in the tenderness of true love, where the human family is reborn. ‘We fly to thy protection, O holy mother of God’. Let us together pray these words to our Lady: ‘We fly to thy protection, O holy mother of God’.”
Mary’s only wish, as a servant of the Lord, is to lead all her children to Her Son, Jesus. He gave Her to us as our mother while on the cross. As She told the servants at the wedding feast in Cana: “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). Mary continues to repeat this message of conversion in each of her apparitions throughout the world and over the centuries.
Sixteen of these Marian Apparitions have been officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, including Fatima in 1917 and Lourdes in 1858. In this article we will consider Her Apparition in Akita, Japan in 1973 in which Mary delivered three important messages for humanity.
A few pious religious sisters, known as the Institute of the Handmaids of the Holy Eucharist, led a quiet, hidden life of prayer in Yuzawadai just outside of Akita, Japan in the diocese of Niigata. The community was founded by the local Bishop, Most Rev. John Shojiro Ito. They welcomed into their novitiate Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa on May 12, 1973. She was 42 years old, deaf, a convert from Buddhism and was blessed with mystical gifts. Soon this convent would become so well known that their little chapel would attract pilgrims from around the world.
In 1973, the Blessed Virgin Mary gave Sister Agnes three messages through a statue of Mary. The wooden statue was about 3 feet tall and had been carved by an artist at the request of the sisters. Bathed in a brilliant light, the statue came to life and spoke with a voice of indescribable beauty to Sister Agnes. Sister Agnes’ guardian angel also made appearances and taught her to pray.
The statue of our Blessed mother wept on 101 occasions over the course of several years, from January 4, 1975 and until September 15, 1981 (which was the Feast of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows). The statue also perspired profusely with a sweet perfumed scent. Her right palm bled from a wound that was in the form of a cross.
Hundreds of people witnessed many of these events. Scientific analysis of blood and tears from the statue was provided by Professor Sagisaka of the faculty of Legal Medicine of the University of Akita and confirmed that the blood, tears, and perspiration collected from the statue were indeed human tears, sweat, and blood.
Sister Agnes also has the stigmata on the palm of her right hand. A Korean woman with terminal brain cancer was miraculously and immediately healed while praying before the statute in 1981. The miracle was confirmed by Dr. Tong-Woo-Kim of St. Paul’s Hospital in Seoul and Fr. Theisen, President of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Seoul. A second miracle occurred when Sister Agnes’ hearing was fully restored.
The first miraculous event at Akita occurred on June 12, 1973, only one month after Sister Agnes’ arrival to the convent. On this occasion, a brilliant light shone from the Tabernacle. This happened several times and was often accompanied by something resembling smoke which remained near the altar. During one of these episodes, Sister Agnes saw “a multitude of beings similar to angels who surrounded the altar in adoration before the Host.” At the time, Bishop Ito was residing at the convent to conduct a week of devotions. Sister Agnes confided to him the circumstances of this vision as well as all the events and Apparitions that followed. Bishop Ito and the convent’s spiritual director, Rev. Teiji Yasuda, were witnesses to many of the events.
Sister Agnes was also favoured with visitations of her guardian angel. Asked to describe the angel, Sister Agnes replied that the angel had “a round face, an expression of sweetness…[and was] a person covered with a shining whiteness like snow...” The guardian angel confided Messages and often prayed with her, guided and advised her.
On June 28th, on the eve of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, Sister Agnes again saw rays of blinding light from the Blessed Sacrament accompanied by a multitude of angels surrounding the altar in adoration before the Host.
In the evening, another mysterious event occurred. While praying in the chapel, Sister Agnes felt as though something pierced the palm of her left hand. There, in the centre of her palm, were two red marks in the form of a cross. As days went by, the pain from these marks became increasingly intense.
On July 6, Sister Agnes’ guardian angel appeared and said: “Do not fear. I am the one who is with you and watches over you. Do not fear. Pray with fervour not only because of your sins, but in reparation for those of all men. The world today wounds the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord by its ingratitude and injuries. The wounds of Mary are much deeper and sorrowful than yours. Let us go and pray together in the chapel.”
Messages of Mary
In the chapel, the statue of the Virgin Mary came to life and a voice of indescribable beauty struck her deaf ears. “My daughter, my novice, you have obeyed me well in abandoning all to follow me. Is the infirmity of your ears painful? Your deafness will be healed, be sure. Be patient. It is the last trial. Does the wound of your hand cause you to suffer? Pray in reparation for the sins of men. Each person in this community is my irreplaceable daughter. Do you say well the prayer of the Handmaids of the Eucharist? Then, let us pray it together:
“Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist, I consecrate my body and soul to be entirely one with Your Heart, being sacrificed at every instant on all the altars of the world and giving praise to the Father, pleading for the coming of His Kingdom. Please receive this humble offering of myself. Use me as You will for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls.
“Most holy mother of God. Never let me be separated from your Divine Son. Please defend and protect me as your special child. Amen.”
As her guardian angel had told her a cross shaped wound, similar to that of Sister Agnes, appeared in the right hand of the statue of the Blessed Virgin. Blood began to flow from the wound.
On the first Friday of the month, August 3, 1973, Sister Agnes received the second message from Mary: “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. With my Son, I have intervened so many times to appease the wrath of the Father. I have prevented the coming of calamities by offering Him the sufferings of the Son on the Cross, His Precious Blood, and beloved souls who console Him and form a cohort of victim souls.
“Prayer, penance, and courageous sacrifices can soften the Father’s anger. I desire this also from your community, that it love poverty, that it sanctify itself and pray in reparation for the ingratitude and outrages of so many men. Recite the prayer of the Handmaids of the Eucharist with awareness of its meaning; put it into practice: offer whatever God may send in reparation for sins. Let each one endeavour, according to her capacity and position, to offer herself entirely to the Lord.
“Even in a secular institute, prayer is necessary. Already souls who wish to pray are on the way to being gathered. Without attaching too much attention to the form, be faithful and fervent in prayer to console the Master.”
On Saturday, October 13th, Mary gave Sister Agnes the third message: “If men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have 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 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 demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.
“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.”
During the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, on the last Sunday in May, 1982, Sister Agnes was completely cured from her deafness.
Approval of the Bishop and Rome
After having been an eyewitness of the events and having carefully investigated them for years, Most Rev. John Shojiro Ito, Bishop of Niigata, declared the events of Akita, Japan, to be of supernatural origin and authorized throughout the entire diocese the veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita. In a message which was to be read in every parish of the diocese on Easter Sunday, April 22, 1984 he advised that “the message of Akita is the message of Fatima.”
Bishop Ito went to Rome a third time in June, 1988 to seek the opinion of the Holy See. “I was worried because of the seriousness of the message,” he said. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reassured Bishop Ito that he had acted properly and gave definitive judgement on the Akita events and messages as reliable and worthy of belief.