Earlier we asked you to envision the Angels on a cloud, getting ready to bring Our Lady from Heaven, down to earth on yet another mission for the Lord. Now we want to you to picture that heavenly cortege transporting Our Lady closer and closer to earth. It is the First Friday of the Month, July 6. Our little Sister is in bed, but not sleeping. The wound in her hand has been throbbing all night. She prayed and prayed, but could not get to sleep. Somewhere around three in the morning, her Angel spoke to her as she was changing the bandages on her hand. The following is from her journal:
"Do not fear. Pray with fervor 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 more sorrowful than yours. Let us go to pray in the Chapel."
Sister Agnes looked at the Angel for the first time. There was a resemblance to her sister who had died years before. The Angel read her mind and answered the question which she had not spoken.
"I am the one (Angel) who is with you and watches over you." By this, she was identifying herself as Sister Agnes' Guardian Angel.
The Angel motioned our little Sister to follow her into the Chapel. It was dark; it was late. But she didn't disturb anyone as she walked down the corridor into the Chapel. When she arrived, the Angel disappeared. All was quiet. Sister Agnes was alone. She began to pray. Her body moved, uncontrolled by her, in the direction of the statue of Our Lady at the right side of the Altar. The statue is carved out of one block of wood from a tree, indigenous to that area, a Katsura tree. It is three feet tall. The statue is very similar to that of Our Lady of Grace, or Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, in that Mary stands before us, Her hands outstretched, on top of the world. However, one difference is that there is a Cross in back of Her, very much like the image of The Lady of All Nations in Amsterdam. The sash and the veil are exactly like The Lady of All Nations. (Read the Chapter about The Lady of All Nations in this book )
Now the whole scene is laid out before you, the little Nun moved, by an invisible force, in the direction of the statue. Let us envision, above the trees in the Yuzawadai mountains, a bright cloud, illuminated by the presence of the Mother of God, floating softly down to earth. The whole Heavenly cortege descends into the Chapel, whereupon Our Lady enters the dead, wooden piece of wood, giving it life. The statue, through the power given to Our Lady by Our Lord Jesus, comes to life. The presence of the Angels all around Her, create a great light. Once more, She is here to help Her people.
When Sister Agnes recounted the conversation with Our Lady in her journal, she made sure to point out that the voice of the Mother of God was so beautiful, it sounded like Angels singing from Heaven. Our Lady spoke to her:
"`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 in 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.'" When Sister Agnes began to pray, the Angel reappeared. The three prayed together. When Sister prayed,
"Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
present in the Holy Eucharist,"
Our Lady stopped her and asked her to insert the word Truly. The Angel also included the word Truly Present in the Eucharist.
From that time on, the prayer of the Handmaids of the Eucharist included the term "Truly Present in the Eucharist."
"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.
Our Lady continued speaking to Sister Agnes:
"`Pray very much for the Pope, Bishops, and Priests. Since your Baptism (Sister was a convert) you have always prayed faithfully for them. Continue to pray very much...very much. Tell your Superior all that has passed today and obey him in everything that he will tell you. He has asked that you pray with fervor."
The statue of Our Lady returned to its normal state, a wooden statue, beautiful but wooden. Sister Agnes had an inspiration to look at the hands of the statue of Our Lady. As she was about to go up to the statue, she saw a fellow Sister praying near her. How could that be, she thought to herself? What is she doing up so early? But then Sister became aware that it was after five in the morning. She had been in the Chapel since three a.m.
She waited until she felt it would be better to go up to the statue. Later that day an opportunity presented itself. She was frightened to do it herself, and so she asked one of the other Sisters, her Mistress of Novices, to look at the hands of the statue. Sister Agnes then left the Chapel.
Some time later, she returned. The Mistress of Novices was on her knees, sobbing. Sister Agnes approached. The Mistress of Novices motioned for her to go up to where she was kneeling. The eyes of the Mistress of Novices were filled with tears. Agnes looked at the right hand of the statue; there was the same wound, in the shape of a cross, with a tiny hole in the middle; it was bleeding!
This was the beginning of a gift the Handmaids of the Eucharist and Sister Agnes were to be given. The bleeding occurred four more times after this, and the wound was visible until September 29 of that year. For Sister Agnes, it was a different kind of gift, a mixed blessing. Each time the right hand of the statue bled, she had tremendous pains in her left hand, and it bled as well.
A very special blessing was given to Sister Agnes, and actually the Mystical Body of Christ, which aided in the authentication of the Apparition of Our Lady and the bleeding hand. On July 24, the Bishop returned to the convent of the Handmaids of the Eucharist. No doubt, he had been informed by the Mother Superior of the supernatural events which had taken place, and continued to take place there.
The Bishop had a meeting with Sister Agnes. After she explained all that had happened, he ordered her to write down all that she recalled. This was possibly the best thing that could have happened. The entire encounter with Our Lady and with her Guardian Angel was still very fresh in her mind. Had the Bishop asked her a year later, or five or ten years later, the incidents might have become blurred and distant in her mind. But praise God, she remembered vividly the events of the last six weeks, as she would those to come. On July 26, the Bishop, himself, witnessed the bleeding of the statue of Our Lady and the wound.
It's possible that this was the time when Sister Agnes recalled events in her life which now seemed to correspond to what was happening to her. From the very first time she encountered the Guardian Angel on June 12, she realized she had known the Angel from a previous time in her life. Perhaps now was when she began to put it together. It was four years before. She was in a hospital in Myoko, gravely ill. She was in a coma, so she wasn't sure if she was having a dream, or a hallucination. Whatever, it was very frightening. So she began to do what we all do in times of need, she prayed the Rosary. She recalled her heart was pounding; she faintly recalled calling on her Angel for help.
All of a sudden, she felt a tremendous warmth. Beside her, on her right side, was a beautiful person. She knew it was an Angel, even though she had never seen an Angel. The person didn't look like an Angel, but like a Heavenly creature, really beyond description. That person, (let's call her an Angel) prayed with her. As Sister Agnes came to the end of a decade, the Angel prayed this prayer, "Oh My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to Heaven and especially those who are in need of Your mercy."
We know that to be the prayer Our Lady gave to the Children of Fatima in 1917. For some reason, knowledge of it had never made its way from Portugal to Akita, Japan. There's no explanation for it, but it never got to any of these dear Sisters in Japan. Now, four years later, this same person, finally revealed to her as her Guardian Angel, was with her again, and stayed with her during the entire time of the Apparitions of Our Lady and beyond.
On July 27, Sister Agnes was experiencing excruciating pain in her left hand from the bleeding wound. She prayed in the Chapel for some relief from her suffering. She heard the Angel speak to her again, telling her that on that day, July 27, the bleeding in her hand would stop; the pain would also stop. It happened as the Angel had predicted. The pain stopped, and the wound healed. It never returned.
Her Angel told her the bleeding in the hand of the Statue of Our Lady would also stop. It did. It never bled again, but the wound remained in the palm of the right hand of the statue until September 29, when it disappeared. But Our Lady had another surprise in store for us that Feast of the Archangels. Come with us as we continue the story of Our Lady of Akita.
August 3, 1973 - First Friday
Her Guardian Angel appeared to Sister Agnes again, as she was praying the Rosary, and began to pray with her. Sister Agnes had been pondering questions the Bishop had wanted her to ask Our Lady. The Angel sensed her thoughts. The Angel said to her:
"You have something to ask? Go ahead, you have no need to be troubled."
Sister Agnes was about to ask the question when she heard the most beautiful voice speaking to her; it was Our Lady.
"My daughter, My novice, so you love the Lord? If you love the Lord, listen to what I have to say to you. It is very important, you will convey it to your Superior.
"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 forming 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 sacrifice itself and pray in reparation for the ingratitude and outrages of so many men. Recite the prayer of the Handmaids of the Eucharist with the awareness of its meaning; put it into practice, offer in reparation, whatever God may send for sins. Let each one endeavor, according to 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 their way to being gathered together. Without attaching too much attention to form, be faithful and fervent in prayer to console the Master.
"Is what you think in your heart true? Are you truly decided to become the rejected stone? My novice, you who wish to belong without reserve to the Lord, to become the spouse worthy of the Spouse, make your vows knowing 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. In total abandon let yourself be led by your Superior. He will know how to understand you and to direct you."
September 29, 1973 - Feast of the Archangels
The Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael was a very important day in the life of Sister Agnes and in the powerful drama of Our Lady of Akita. It was the end of something, and the beginning of something - both gifts by the Lord Jesus through His Mother Mary.
The community had gone into a parish church in town to celebrate a special Mass in honor of the Feast of the Archangels. When they returned, they went to the Chapel to pray the Rosary. Sister Agnes saw a bright light emanating from the statue of Our Lady. She went up to see what the source of the light was with another Sister. When they got close to the statue, they saw the blood had disappeared. Sister Agnes was sad; but she knew there was a Heavenly explanation for this. She continued to pray.
That evening, as they prayed the Evening Office, Sister Agnes saw a great light again, coming from the statue. When she went up to it, she could see that the statue of Our Lady had begun to perspire heavily. The entire statue was wet, but the forehead and the neck were particularly wet. The Sisters in the Chapel saw this miraculous occurrence as well as Sister Agnes. Someone suggested they gently sop up the liquid with cotton.
As the Sisters began to sop up the liquid, they exclaimed, completely surprised, but joyfully, what a sweet fragrance came from the perspiration. It was like nothing they had ever smelled before. The fragrance was indescribable. From that time on, every day, and sometimes two and three times a day, the Sisters would run into the Chapel to see if the fragrance had remained. It did, from the Feast of the Archangels, to the Feast of the Miracle of the Sun of Fatima, October 13, at which time Our Lady appeared to Sister Agnes again, for the last time. (On August 13, 1917,at the Cova da Iria in Fatima, the children did not come because they were kidnapped by the local sheriff. 6 days later Our Lady came to them at Valinhos, above a tree, Her mantle resting on a branch. After the apparition, Lucia climbed the tree to break the branch. She wanted to show it to her mother, who had not believed in the Apparitions of Our Lady. The mother said the branch had the aroma of Heaven. It melted her heart, she believed.-The Many Faces of Mary, Book I, Page 151)
October 13, 1973, Anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun
As this was a monumental day in the history of the Apparitions of Our Lady to the children at the Cova da Iria in Fatima, it would prove to be as important a day to the community of Sisters in the little mountain town of Akita, Japan. After morning Mass, they spent time in the Chapel in Adoration. Sister Agnes took this opportunity to pray and meditate on the Mysteries of the Rosary. During her praying, she saw the great light coming from the Tabernacle. She could sense the fragrance of Heaven enveloping her. It was difficult for her to tear herself away from the Chapel to go to breakfast. But out of obedience, she left.
As had happened on the first day, June 12th, so on this day, the Sisters left the convent in the hands of Sister Agnes. She welcomed the opportunity to spend the time in the Chapel. She began praying, when she could feel the magnificent presence of the Lady. She was back, Sister Agnes thought to herself. She caught her breath, as she heard the most beautiful voice of the Mother of God.
"My daughter, listen well to what I have to say to you. You will inform your Superior.
"As I told you, 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 remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son (the Eucharist). 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...church and Altars 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 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.
"With courage speak to your Superior (referring to the Bishop). He will know how to encourage each one of you to pray and to accomplish works of reparation."
There was a silence. Our Lady had given Her message to the world through this little Nun, who could hear everything the Mother of God had said to her, but could not hear anyone else. Sister Agnes wanted to speak to Her. She hesitated. Our Lady apparently felt the hesitation in the Sister. She spoke to her:
"It is Bishop Ito who directs your community......You still have something to ask? Today is the last time I will speak to you in living voice. From now on, you will obey the one sent to you and your Superior.
"Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in Me will be saved."
These were the last words Our Lady said to the deaf Sister. When Sister Agnes lifted her head to look at the statue, it was just the wooden statue from the Katsura tree which stood there. But for Sister Agnes, the Sisters of the Community, and soon, the whole world, something Divine had happened in this little Chapel, something which would continue. The fragrance disappeared after the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, October 15.
Although Our Lady never came back to the little Chapel in Akita, Her presence has remained there very strongly, especially in the wooden statue from the Katsura tree. On January 4, 1975, one of the Sisters ran from the Chapel, exclaiming that the statue of the lady was weeping. All ran into the Chapel to see if this was true. They saw the statue weeping. The tears formed in the eyes of the statue, and flowed down Her face. This miraculous occurrence continued on and off for six years. It stopped on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15, 1981. It has been documented that the statue of the Lady wept 101 times over a period of six years. For most of these times, there were witnesses other than just the community of Sisters.
Two weeks later, on the Feast of the Archangels, Sister Agnes prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel. Suddenly, she could feel the awesome presence of her Angel at her side. She didn't see the Angel, but she knew from previous visits that her Angel was with her. What she did see was a Bible opened before her to the Scripture Passage Genesis 3:15:
"I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
He will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel."
Her Angel spoke to her:
"There is meaning to the figure one hundred and one (101).
It signifies that sin came into the world by a woman and it is also by a woman that salvation came into the world.
The zero (0) between the two signifies the Eternal God who is from all eternity until eternity.
The first 1 represents Eve and the last 1, the Virgin Mary."
"From now on, you will obey the one sent to you and your Superior."
These were among the very last words Our Lady spoke to Sister Agnes. Although she was not sure what they meant, other than the Bishop was her Superior, she was to understand, less than six months later. In March of 1974, Fr. Teji Yasuda came to the Handmaids of the Eucharist as their Spiritual Director. Sister Agnes' Angel told her that he was the one sent by Our Lady, the one she was to obey.
From that time on, she confided in Fr. Teji all that she had formerly confided to the Bishop alone. He became her Spiritual Director, her confessor, her advisor, and ultimately, her greatest defender.
We have to realize that acceptance by the Church did not come immediately or easily to the Apparitions by Our Lady, or the Messages, or the bleeding, or the sweating, or finally, the weeping of the statue. For many, this was just too much for them to handle. Word had spread like wildfire about what had been happening in the little Chapel of the Handmaids of the Eucharist. For the most part, the local parish Priests stayed away, and didn't recommend their parishioners take seriously, any of the claims that came out of the convent on the mountain. This is not unusual. There has always been a struggle on the part of the Church to accept alleged apparitions. And with good reason. During the time of St. Bernadette of Lourdes, there were hundreds of claimed apparitions, all of which were discredited. In the area of Beauraing, alleged visionaries were coming out of the woodwork. It has always been this way.
But a time was to come when the Church would put the happenings in Akita to the official test. They appointed an investigator, who is only known by the formidable title of "The Inquisitor." Inquisitor was the name given to a legal court of the Church, sometimes administered in cooperation with the civil authority, for the investigation and sentencing of persons professing or accused of formal heresy. While the term did not fit the situation, the Inquisitor, in this case, put Sister Agnes, Fr. Yasuda, and all the members of the community, through such hell, and in such ways that defied logic, he fit the last part of the definition: "...there were bound to be grave abuses especially when the Inquisitor himself was often ignorant or an aristocratic appointee." To give him the benefit of the doubt, our Inquisitor was truly a Devil's Advocate. Devil's Advocate is the traditional name given to the "Promoter of the Faith" whose duty it is, usually in the cause of Canonizations, to raise objections and possible difficulties against approval of the cause.
It was 1976. The news of the events at Akita were spreading all over the world. The official Church had not made any stand about them. In this instance, it was somewhat unusual, as the Bishop of the Diocese, Bishop John Shojiro Ito, had actually witnessed some of these occurrences. He had seen the statue bleed and weep! But he couldn't make the decision on his own to approve the apparitions. He decided to have an investigation, and felt he had to put himself outside of the official proceedings, other than in his role as Bishop. To that end, he appointed the Inquisitor. It was not made clear why the Bishop chose someone who was not Japanese, from outside of his Diocese, unless he felt this person would have no pre-conceived ideas on the Apparitions. This did not seem to be the case. His greatest credentials were that he was an accepted theologian in the field of Mariology.