Akita, Japan

The following is mainly excerpted from an article found here.  I’ve edited it and added one comment of my own and more material from a book on Our Lady of Akita.  This is just a brief summary, but it indicates the main points of the true presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and hence the value of Eucharistic adoration, the need for reparation for sin in view of divine judgment, and the sorrows of Our Lady over our sins and her continued call for sacrifice and prayer, especially the Holy Rosary.   In one of her messages she stresses our main recourse should be to the Eucharist and the Rosary.

A few pious nuns known as the Institute of the Handmaids of the Holy Eucharist were leading a quiet, hidden life of prayer in Yuzawadai just outside of Akita when they welcomed into their novitiate Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa, who was then 42 years old and a convert from Buddhism. When she entered on May 12, 1973, Agnes was totally and incurably deaf, however she was blessed with various mystical favors; soon this convent would become so well known that their little chapel would attract pilgrims from around the world.

The first miraculous event at Akita occurred on June 12, 1973, only a month after the entrance of Sr. Agnes: A brilliant light shone forth from the Tabernacle. This happened several times and was often accompanied by something resembling smoke which hung around the altar. She said: “I was struck by a dazzling light.  In my surprise I stepped back and prostrated in adoration. I… had the firm confidence that Jesus, who is truly in the Blessed Sacrament, had shown Himself… I was pierced through by that awesome majesty.” During one of these illuminations Sr. Agnes saw “. . . a multitude of beings similar to Angels who surrounded the altar in adoration before the Host.” Bishop Ito was staying at the convent to conduct a week of devotions. Sr. 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.

Sr. Agnes was also favored with visitations of her guardian Angel. Asked to describe the Angel, Sr. Agnes replied: “a round face, an expression of sweetness . . . a person covered with a shining whiteness like snow . . .” The guardian Angel confided various messages to the sister and often prayed with her, in addition to guiding and advising her.  One of the messages concerned her deafness, which was cured through Our Lady’s intercession: “The moment of the promised cure approaches.  By the intercession of the Holy and Immaculate Virgin… before Him who is truly present in the Eucharist, your ears will be definitively cured in order that the work of the Most High may be accomplished…”

On the evening of June 28, 1973, Sr. Agnes discovered on the palm of her left hand a cross-shaped wound that was exceedingly painful. On July 5, 1973, a small opening appeared in the center from which blood began to flow. Later, the pain would ease during most of the week except for Thursday nights and all day Friday, when the pain became almost unbearable.  [This painful wound made it impossible for Sr Agnes to receive Holy Communion in the hand, as was the custom then.  She interpreted it as a sign that the Lord wanted to be more reverently and humbly received.  After this, the whole community decided to receive Holy Communion only on the tongue.]

Sr. Agnes then turned to the statue of Mary situated on the right side of the altar. The statue, which is approximately three feet tall, had been carved from the hard wood of the katsura tree: it is a figure of Our Lady standing before a cross, her arms at her side with the palms of her hands facing forward.  Beneath her feet is a globe representing the world.

When Sr. Agnes approached the statue, she said, “I suddenly felt that the wooden statue came to life and was about to speak to me . . . She was bathed in a brilliant light . . . and at the same moment a voice of indescribable beauty struck my totally deaf ears.” Our Lady told her: “. . . Your deafness will be healed . . .” She then recited with Sr. Agnes the community prayer that had been 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 again appeared, the three voices recited a consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist. Before disappearing, Our Lady asked that Sr. Agnes “pray very much for the Pope, bishops and priests . . .”

The next morning, when the sisters assembled for the recitation of Lauds, they found blood on the right hand of the statue and two lines which crossed, in the middle of which was an opening from which the blood flowed. The wound matched that on the hand of Sr. Agnes except that, since the statue’s hand was smaller, its wound was smaller. It bled on the Fridays of July during the year 1973, as did the wound on the hand of Sr. Agnes.

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 . . .”  Of special noteworthiness, the drops of blood ran the length of the statue’s hand, which was open and pointing downward, yet the drops never fell from the hand.

The guardian Angel appeared, telling Sr. Agnes: “Be not afraid.  Pray not only in reparation for your sins, but for the sins of all people.  The world today wounds the Sacred Heart of Our Lord by its ingratitude and sacrileges.  The wound on the palm of Mary is deeper and more painful than yours…” After entering the chapel the Angel disappeared.

The wound on the hand of Sr. Agnes appeared on Thursday, June 28. As predicted by the guardian Angel, the wound disappeared on Friday, July 27 without leaving a trace.

Toward the end of May, 1974, another phenomenon occurred. While the statue’s garment and the hair retained the look of natural wood, the face, hands and feet became distinguished by a dark, reddish-brown tint. Eight years later, when the sculptor came to see the statue, 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.

Then on January 4, 1975, to the amazement of the community and Fr. Yasuda, the statue of the Virgin began to weep and did so three times that day. Also witnessing these tears, in addition to the sisters, were Bishop Ito and a number of people who had joined the nuns for a New Year’s retreat. In the 10 years following, scientific studies excluded any explanation other than the supernatural. The tears collected on the inside edge of the eyes flowed down the cheeks, collected at the edge of the garment near the throat, rolled down the folds of the garment and fell upon the globe under Our Lady’s feet.

Eventually, Bishop Ito arranged for Professor Sagisaka, M.D., a non-Christian specialist in forensic medicine, to make a rigorous scientific examination of the three fluids, although the Bishop did not reveal their source. The results were: “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 tears of December 8, 1979 were filmed by a television crew at 11 o’clock in the evening, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and was shown on television to 12 million people throughout Japan. It is now shown by the nuns at the convent and was shown during news broadcasts throughout the world.

According to the records kept by the sisters, the number of persons witnessing the tears went unrecorded on five occasions. However, all the other times they were witnessed by no fewer than ten persons, and other lachrymations were witnessed by various numbers of people, sometimes as many as 46, 55 and, for the last lachrymation, 65 people. Some of the witnesses were non-Christians and some were prominent Buddhists, including the mayor of the city.

On October 13, the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, 1973, Sr. Agnes heard the beautiful voice speaking from the statue once more: “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 would be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness…”

She continued, “As I told you, if people do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity… The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son [i.e., the Holy Eucharist]. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests.”

The statue wept for the last time on September 15, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, making a total of 101 times.

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 mentioned in his pastoral letter that he had known Sr. 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 Ito’s visit to Rome, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approved the contents of the pastoral letter.

Many miracles have been recounted in connection with these apparitions and the image of Mary.  Here is just one. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Akita, a Korean woman, Teresa Chun Sun Ho, was miraculously cured of a malignant brain tumor, which had left her in a coma.  Her friends had been praying to Our Lady at her bedside, and had placed a picture of Our Lady of Akita next to her bed.  After a few weeks, Our Lady, dressed in gold but appearing in the likeness of the image of the miraculous statue, appeared to Mrs. Chun.  She was carrying a pure white lamb, and she breathed three times on the woman’s forehead.  Some time after this, Mary said to her, “Teresa, wake up.”  She regained consciousness, and subsequent brain scans revealed the complete disappearance of the tumor.  The fact that Our Lady was carrying a lamb is another connection with the Holy Eucharist, which is called the Lamb of God in the Liturgies of both East and West.  From the mystery of Christ in the Eucharist and the power He gives to the prayers of his Mother flow an unlimited abundance of grace for those who turn to them in faith.  Mrs. Chun’s response to this miracle: “To the end of my life, I will never forget the kindness of the Blessed Mother Mary, who cured me of the disease.”

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