Aerosol spray on canvas, 2 coffee, 3 cigarettes.
A Marian apparition is an event in which someone believes the Blessed Virgin Mary has supernaturally appeared to one or more people. They are often named after the town where they were reported, or on the sobriquet given to Mary on the occasion of the apparition. They have been interpreted in religious terms as theophanies.
Marian apparitions sometimes are reported to recur at the same site over an extended period of time. In the majority of Marian apparitions only a few people report having witnessed the apparition. Exception to this include Zeitoun, and Assiut where thousands claimed to have seen her over a period of time.
The term "appearance" has been used in different apparitions within a wide range of contexts and experiences. And its use has been different with respect to Marian apparitions and visions of Jesus Christ.
In some apparitions such as Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Fátima an actual vision is reported, fully resembling that of a person being present. In some of these reports the viewers (at times children) do not initially report that they saw the Virgin Mary, but that they saw "a Lady" (often but not always dressed in white) and had a conversation with her. In these cases the viewers report experiences that resemble the visual and verbal interaction with a person present at the site of the apparition. In most cases, there are no clear indications as to the auditory nature of the experience, i.e. whether the viewers heard the voices via airwaves or an "interior" or subjective sense of communication. Yet, the 1973 messages of Our Lady of Akita, are due to Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa who had been totally deaf before 1973 (and remained deaf until 1982 when she was cured during Sunday Mass as foretold in her messages), suggesting means of communication other than airwaves.
In some apparitions just an image is reported, often with no verbal interaction, and no conversation. An example is the reported apparitions at Our Lady of Assiut in which many people reported a bright image atop a building, accompanied by photographs of the image. The photographs at times suggest the silhouette of a statue of the Virgin Mary but the images are usually subject to varying interpretations, and critics suggest that they may just be due to various visual effects of unknown origin. However, such image-like appearances are hardly ever reported for visions of Jesus and Mary. In most cases these involve some form of reported communication.
And apparitions should be distinguished from interior locutions in which no visual contact is claimed. In some cases of reported interior locutions such as those of Father Stefano Gobbi a large amount of text is produced, but no visual contact is claimed. Interior locutions usually do not include an auditory component, but consist of inner voices. Interior locutions are generally not classified as apparitions.
Physical contact is hardly ever reported as part of Marian apparitions, unlike in cases of interaction with Jesus Christ. In rare cases a physical artifact is reported in apparitions. A well known example is the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is reported to have been miraculously imprinted on the cloak of Saint Juan Diego.
An authentic apparition is believed not to be a subjective experience, but a real and objective intervention of divine power. The purpose of such apparitions is to recall and emphasize some aspect of the Christian message. The church states that cures and other miraculous events are not the purpose of Marian apparitions, but exist primarily to validate and draw attention to the message.
Some Protestant Christians and non-Christians regard claims of Marian apparitions as being hallucinations encouraged by superstition, and occasionally simply as deliberate hoaxes to attract attention. Many such apparitions are reported in economically depressed areas, attracting many pilgrims who bring trade and money into the region. For instance, some sources dispute the very existence of Saint Juan Diego.
Some spontaneous healings reported at apparition sites such as Lourdes are also disputed by some scientists. Other scientists have claimed that a handful of unexplained cures have occurred; the Lourdes Medical Bureau has recorded sixty "inexplicable" healings that match its requirements. Critics maintain that some other healings are incomplete, leaving the sufferer with disabilities or chronic illness, and that other claimed healings are likely to be the relatively rare but unmiraculous spontaneous remission of illness or injury.
Such remissions might be expected to occur in a few of the large numbers of ill (and perhaps credulous) people who visit such sites. That viewpoint is debated by religious people and by some in the medical profession . The Lourdes Medical Bureau claims that it will not review cases of claimed healing involving illnesses known sometimes to go into remission by themselves, or incomplete healings, or those that take place gradually, although it counts cases of tumors, which are remissible.