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Now we move up to Central America, another hotbed of political turmoil and unrest. Mary appeared right in the center of the long war between the Sandinistas and the Contras. The American C.I.A. was heavily involved and Americans were very divided as to whether we should provide weapons to one side or the other. We don’t need to try to untangle all the politics of the 1980s except to understand that the situation was terribly violent and the whole world was appalled. Nicaragua came under international criticism for human rights abuses, mass execution and oppression of indigenous people. Although the initial overthrow of the Somoza regime in 1978–79 was a bloody affair, the Contra War of the 1980s took the lives of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans. Many priests were mixed up in the politics. I remember a magazine picture, I think it was Nicaragua. It showed a small, poor church with a sign out front: Non-Marxist priest wanted. The people in those years evidently had to listen to sermons about achieving a kingdom of this world.

The message doesn’t need comment. Our Señora appeared, as at Fatima, after a flash of light. She stood above a small tree. And She appeared from May to October, the last apparition being on October 13, 1980, anniversary of the miracle of Fatima. The details of the apparitions in Nicaragua were published by the Bishop of the Diocese of Juigalpa, Nicaragua, on November 13, 1982. Bishop Pablo Antonio Vega, wrote: “It has been three years now . . . Because of the duty and the obligation to protect the wholesome piety of the faithful and for the truth of these events, in my capacity as Bishop of the area I find an obligation to assure the authenticity of the events . . . from the personal testimony of the one who saw the visions.” The Bishop noted: “For our part we are surprised at the emphasis given to the responsibilities that weigh on man and the duty to make peace and to construct the world. This is a religious emphasis not typical of popular piety, which tends to leave everything up to God.”

The following is a slightly condensed version of Bernardo’s account:

I, Bernardo Martinez, was in the old chapel where the signs began at the end of March. On entering the sacristy I found a light was on. On another date, I again entered the chapel and found another light turned on. I did not think that these signs were coming from heaven.

On April 15, 1980, I saw the statue all illuminated. I thought it was the boys playing in the plaza who had broken the roof tiles and that was how the light entered over the statue. I moved closer to see, and saw that there was not one hole in the roof; I went out to see if it was through the windows that outside light was coming in and could see nothing; I returned close to the statue to see if someone had placed on her a phosphorescent rosary. I saw the hands, the feet, the neck . . . it was nothing like that. The light was not coming out of anything, the light came from her. That was a great mystery for me, with the light that came from her one could walk without tripping. And it was nighttime, almost eight o’clock at night. I then understood that it was a strange thing . . . and that it no longer was an ordinary thing well . . . for me . . . I was so moved at seeing her so illuminated . . . so beautiful

One day I arrived at the home of Mrs. Consuelo Marin. I told her everything that had occurred, and she in turn told me that she believed it and to tell the Virgin that she wanted to see her illuminated. She made me promise that I would let her know if I again saw her.

The priest, our pastor, on another day again asked me to relate all that had been told to him. I told him yes, that it was true. He told me to tell it all again to him. I related it to him. He asked me what it was that I prayed. I told him the Rosary and three Hail Mary’s to the Holy Virgin ever since I was little. And that my grandmother had taught me to call upon Her always when I had any tribulations, saying: “Don’t leave me, my Mother.” She also taught me to say: “It is Mary our Helper, sweet lighthouse of the sea. Since I first learned to love, the love of my soul is She. She each of my childhood steps did guide, And for that, since childhood my love for Her did abide.”

She taught me this from memory because she did not know how to read. The pastor then told me to pray and to ask the Blessed Virgin if there was anything that she wanted from us, and to more clearly manifest Herself. I did so, but I prayed like this: “Blessed Mother, please do not request anything of me. I have many problems in the church. Make your request known to some other person because I want to avoid any more problems. I have a great many now. I don’t want any more.” That is what I would say to the Holy Virgin.

The First Vision: May 8th, 1980

Early in May I felt sad because of financial problems, employment problems, and even spiritual problems. And I felt bored. I had even said in the morning that I wished to die. I didn’t want to exist. I had worked a great deal for the people of the town and I could see that they did not appreciate anything. I had no desire to continue forward. In the chapel I swept . . . I washed the altar cloths and albs . . . and for this very same thing I was scorned, I was called a fool. Even my own family would say that I did not prosper financially because of my involvement with things at the sacristy. I have been a sacristan but without earning any money for this. I began to work in the house of God since I was able to use the dust cloth and broom . . . I was at the time very small. I have done it because in that way I serve the Lord. At any rate, now in Cuapa {after the apparitions} everything was changed, because sweeping the chapel is an honor. The altar cloths are washed in the blink of an eye.

I hardly slept on the night of the seventh. All night I felt very hot and feeling this heat I got up. I ate something and said to myself: “I will go to the river to fish so that I will feel cool and more tranquil.” I left early in the morning with a sack and a machete. I went to the river . . . and I felt happy . . . content . . . in a pleasant environment. The hours had been like minutes. I said to myself: “It is late.” I remembered that I had to feed the animals and then go to town to pray the Rosary with the people at five. Suddenly I saw a lightning-flash but I could see no signs of rain. Then I saw another lightning-flash, which opened my vision. She presented herself. Could this be a statue? She blinked. She was beautiful Her feet were bare and rested on a cloud. The dress was long and white. She had a cord around the waist. Long sleeves. A veil of a pale cream color with gold embroidery along the edge. Her hands were held together over her breast. It looked like the statue of the Virgin of Fatima. I was immobile. She extended her arms — like the Miraculous Medal which I never had seen, but which later was shown to me. She extended her arms and from her hands emanated rays of light stronger than the sun. The rays that came from her hands touched my breast. I said to her: “What is your name?” She answered me with the sweetest voice. She answered that her name is Mary.

–“I come from heaven. I am the Mother of Jesus.”

Remembering what the priest had told me — I asked her: “What is it you want?”

— “I want the Rosary to be prayed every day.” I then interrupted and said to her: “Yes, we are praying it . . . The priest brought us the intentions of the San Francisco parish so that we would unite ourselves with them.” She told me: “I want it to be prayed permanently, within the family . . . including the children old enough to understand . . . to be prayed at a set hour when there are no problems with the work in the home.”

She told me that the Lord does not like prayers that we make in a rush or say mechanically. Because of that she recommended praying of the Rosary with the reading of Biblical citations and that we put into practice the Word of God. When I heard this I thought and said: “How is this?” because I did not know the Rosary was Biblical. That is why I asked her and said: “Where are the Biblical citations?” She told me to look for them in the Bible and continued saying:

— “Love each other.Fulfill your obligations.Make peace. Don’t ask Our Lord for peaceif you do not make it.

— “Renew the five first Saturdays. You received many graces when all of you did this.”

Before the war we used to do this — we went to Confession and Communion every first Saturday of the month — but since the Lord already had freed us from the shedding of blood in Cuapa, we no longer continued this practice. Then She said:

–“Nicaragua has suffered much since the earthquake. She has been threatened with even more suffering. She will continue to suffer if you do not change.”

— “Pray, pray, my son, the Rosary for all the world. Tell believers and non-believers that the world is threatened by grave dangers. I ask the Lord to appease his justice, but, if you don’t change, you will hasten the arrival of the Third World War.”

I told her: “Señora, I don’t want problems; I have many in the church. Tell this to another person.”

— “No, our Lord has selected you to give the message.”

When She told me this, I saw that the cloud which was holding her was rising, and I recalled what Mrs. Consuelo Marin had said and I told her: “Señora, don’t go because I want to go and notify Mrs. Consuelo because she told me that she wanted to see you.”

— “No. Not everyone can see me. She will see me when I take her to heaven, but she should pray the Rosary as I ask.”

And after telling me this, the cloud was not delayed. She raised her arms to heaven as in the statue of the Assumption which I have seen so many times in the cathedral at Juigalpa. She again looked upward towards heaven and the cloud slowly elevated. When she reached a certain distance She disappeared. I then gathered the machete, the sack, and the branch. I thought I would tell no one. To say nothing of what I had seen or heard.

I went to the chapel to pray the Rosary and did not say anything. When I returned home I felt sad. My problems had just increased with that. I prayed the Rosary again, and I asked the Blessed Mother to free me from temptations. During the night I heard a voice saying to me that I should tell. I awoke again, and I again prayed the Rosary. I could not find peace. I did not tell anyone because I did not want the people to talk. They were already talking because I had seen the statue illuminated. I thought: “Now it will be worse. I will never have peace.” I went to the river, but by another road. I go to the river every day to bathe and to give water to the calf that I have.

A great weight seemed to fall on me and I heard something like a voice which told me to tell. But I simply did not want to tell. I sought ways to distract myself. But nothing was a distraction. I sought my friends, but always at the height of the merriment I heard the voice and the sadness would return. I was getting thin and pale. People asked what was wrong, if I was sick. I told them no. Eight days like that passed.

The Second Vision

On the 16th of May I was en route to give water to the calf. I was crossing the pasture unable to see the calf. I was walking with a stick in my hand. As I was near Guapinol, already halfway through the pasture, with the sun strong as it was directly overhead, I saw a lightning-flash. It was twelve noon. In plain light, because as I said, it was a hot sunny day, there was another even stronger light — more light than the midday light. In that lightning-flash She presented herself. I saw her in the same way as I had seen her on the 8th of May, with her hands together, and then She extended them. And on extending her hands, the rays of light came towards me. I remained watching her. I remained silent, but I said to myself: “It is She! She is the same one. The same Señora has again appeared to me.” I thought She had come to complain about all that She had told me to say. I felt guilty for not having spoken as She had asked and at the same time, in my mind, I said: “I don’t go to the place where She appeared because She appears there, and now, She appears to me here. I will be in a fine state, She will be following me wherever I am.” It was with this in mind, when She told me with a tone — with her voice soft — but with a tone as if in reprehension:

— “Why have you not told what I sent you to tell?”

“Señora, it is that I am afraid. I am afraid of being the ridicule of the people, afraid that they will laugh at me, that they will not believe me. Those who will not believe this, will laugh at me. They will say that I am crazy.” She then said to me:

— “Do not be afraid. I am going to help you, and tell the priest.” Saying this, there was another flash of lightning and She disappeared. I then continued walking and saw the calf I was unable to see before. I took it to the river, gave it some water, and returned to my house. I got ready to go to the chapel and then I prayed the Rosary. I thought of telling it only to Mrs. Lillian Ruiz de Martinez and to Mrs. Socorro Barea de Marin. This is what I did. I have more trust in them than in any other persons in the community of Cuapa. I called them aside and told them all that I had seen and heard. They then reprimanded me. It was the first time that I received correction without answering back. I promised them that I would tell it the next day. I went home and lay down to sleep. The next day dawned and I felt a strange happiness. All the problems, it seemed to me, had dissipated. It was the 17th of May.

On that day I told everyone who came to my house. I told them and they heard me. Some of them believed, others listened out of curiosity and pretended, others did not believe and laughed. But that did not matter to me at all. When it was time to pray the Rosary we prayed it and afterwards I told them everything. Again I noticed the same thing: some believed, others did not, some remained listening in wonder . . . amazed . . . others as if analyzing, others remained silent, others laughed and said I was crazy. Each one according to how he felt. But none of it was important to me. I felt happiness at saying everything.

The Third Vision

On the 8th of June I went to the site where the apparitions took place because She had asked me to be there. I arrived and prayed the Rosary with some persons, but the Señora did not arrive. I returned feeling disconsolate.

During the night, in dreams, She presented herself. It was as if I was at the same place where I saw her the first time. I prayed the Rosary. Upon finishing the Rosary, I again saw the two lightning-flashes and She appeared. In my dream I said to her: “What is it you want, my Mother?” She gave me the same message as She had done the first time, and afterwards I told her some requests which I had, because by now the people would recommend to me things to tell her. She answered me by saying:

–“Some will be fulfilled, others will not.”

And I remained without knowing which ones would be fulfilled and which would not. The petitions that the people of Cuapa made to me were varied: some requested things that were more or less material; such as, “to have good luck with work,” “that I will be cured of some illness,” and other problems. Others requested something spiritual; such as, “to have patience,” “love for God,” “Faith,” “perseverance in prayer,” “to be able to love the ones who do not like me and who are harmful to my loved ones.” As it turned out, I was unable to tell the people which would be granted and which would not.

Our Lady presented herself over the little norisco tree as She did the first time. She faced the east. To her left, near the pile of rocks where the little tree grew, were two cedars. At present one no longer exists because the people have been taking the trunk bit by bit; the other one also is disappearing. Raising her right hand, She said:

— “Look at the sky.”

I looked in that direction. She presented something like a movie. I saw a large group of people who were dressed in white [symbol of baptism] and were walking towards where the sun rises. They were bathed in light and very happy; they sang. I could hear them but I could not understand the words. It was a celestial festival. It was such happiness . . . such joy . . . which I had never seen. Not even in a procession had I seen that. Their bodies radiated light. I felt as if I were transported. Nor can I myself explain it . . . in the midst of my admiration I heard her tell me;

— “Look, these are the very first communities when Christianity began. They are the first catechumens; many of them were martyrs. Do you people want to be martyrs? Would you yourself like to be a martyr?”

I answered yes, even though I did not know exactly what the meaning of being a martyr was — I now know, because I have been asking, that it is he who professes Jesus Christ openly in public, he who is a witness, to Him including the giving of his life. After that I saw another group, also dressed in white with some luminous rosaries in their hands. The beads were extremely white and they gave off lights of different colors. One of them carried a very large open book. He would read, and after listening they silently meditated. They appeared to be as if in prayer. After this period of prayer in silence. they prayed the Our Father and ten Hail Mary’s. I prayed with them. When the Rosary was finished, Our Lady said to me:

— “These are the first one to whom I gave the Rosary. That is the way that I want all of you to pray the Rosary.”

I answered the Señora that yes we would. Some persons have told me that this possibly has to do with the Dominicans. I do not know that religious order, and to this date have never seen anyone from that Order. Afterwards, I saw a third group, all of them dressed in brown robes. But these I recognized as being similar to the Franciscans. Always the same, with Rosaries and praying. As they were passing after having prayed, the Señora again told me:

— “These received the Rosary from the hands of the first ones.”

After this, a fourth group was arriving. It was a huge procession; now, as we are dressed. It was such a big group that it would be impossible to count them. It was like an army in size, and they carried Rosaries in their hands. They were dressed normally, in all colors. I was very happy to see them. I admired them. I felt at once that I could enter into that scene because they were dressed the same as I was. But . . .I looked at my hands and I saw them black. They radiated light. Their bodies were beautiful. I then said: “Señora, I am going with these because they are dressed as I am.” She told me:

— “No. You are still lacking. You have to tell the people what you have seen and heard. I have shown you the Glory of Our Lord and you people will acquire this if you are obedient to Our Lord, to his Word; if you persevere in praying the Holy Rosary and put into practice the Lord’s Word.”

And the cloud that was supporting her went up towards Heaven. She looked like, as I said, the statue of the Assumption. I had a prohibition from the priest at telling what I saw and heard, I could tell it only to him. I took the bus early on the morning of the 9th of June and I told it to the priest. I thought that once I had told him, he then would right away give me permission and he said no — for me to keep it in secret. I then began to feel a tremendous sorrow which I could hardly stand, and I kept hearing a voice telling me to tell it. I began suffering as I had before. But I chose to obey the priest and I did not relate it until permission was given for the 24th of June, which is St. John the Baptist, the patron feast of Cuapa. On that day the church was full of people.

The Fourth Vision

On the 8th of July we went to the place where the apparitions occurred, about forty of us went. We prayed and sang, but I did not see her. I begged in my prayers that I would see her again. At night, while sleeping, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was in the place of the apparitions praying for the world. [To condense a long account, an angel appeared in his dream and gave detailed instructions how to proceed to free a young man in prison. Bernardo also received instructions to tell his cousin something. The next morning he learned that some people were saying “Bernardo is crazy.” But he followed the angel’s instructions and was successful, against all odds, in getting the man released. Many came to believe because of that. Then he proceeded to visit his cousin, who was harassed by drunken uncles. One uncle believed Bernardo, stopped drinking, and was converted. The other man was hard-hearted. Bernardo gave him several prophecies but when they came true he paid no heed. Soon the man died in a manner that the angel predicted].

I had an appointment with the Señora, but it did not take place. We could not get there because the river was too deep, it was full. The current was too strong and it was overflowing its banks because of the violent winds. We sat down on the rocks alongside the river and prayed the Rosary and sang many songs. On our return we did not feel cold nor were we sad.

The Fifth Vision

On the eighth of September [Mary’s Nativity] I saw her as a child. Beautiful! So little! She was dressed in a pale cream colored tunic. She did not have a veil, nor a crown, nor a mantle. No adornment, nor embroidery. The dress was long, with long sleeves, and it was girdled with a pink cord. Her hair fell to her shoulders and it was brown in color. The eyes, also, although much lighter, almost the color of honey. All of her radiated light. She looked like the Señora, but She was a child. I talked with her a great deal trying to entice her to allow herself to be seen, but She said:

— “No. It is enough for you to give them the message because for the one who is going to believe that will be enough, and the one who is not going to believe though he see me is not going to believe.”

These words of hers have been fulfilled. I can now see the unbelief or the faith of a person. Individuals have come who are not looking to see any sign and the message is sufficient for them, they receive it. Others have great needs but they do not ask for miracles, they prefer to trust in the Lord. Then there was a man who received a sign, he was able to see Mary, but he said “ah this is just some being from another planet.” Then I talked to her about a church that the people wanted to build in her honor.

— “No. The Lord does not want material churches. He wants living temples which are yourselves. Restore the sacred temple of the Lord. In you is the gratification for the Lord.”

— “Love each other. Love one another. Forgive each other. Make peace. Don’t first ask for it. Make peace!”

I asked her what I should do with the money that had been donated. She told me that it could be used for the construction of a chapel in Cuapa.

— “But from this day on do not accept even one cent for anything.”

She told me not to say “church” to material things because the church and the temples are ourselves; whereas chapels are houses of prayer. At times, out of habit I make a mistake and say “church” instead of “chapel.” I asked her whether or not to continue in the catechumenate.

— “Don’t leave. Always continue firmly in the catechumenate. Little by little you will comprehend all that the catechumenate signifies. As a community group, meditate on the Beatitudes, away from all the noise.”

— “I am not going to return on the 8th of October, but on the 13th.” Then the cloud elevated her.

The Sixth Vision

On Monday October 13th a group of about fifty of us went to the site of the apparitions. We went praying the Rosary and singing. On arriving we arranged the flowers the people had brought. We started another Rosary. The sky looked as if it was going to rain, with big threatening clouds. It looked like rain. At the end we sang “My Queen of Heaven.” when all of a sudden a luminous circle formed over the ground. Everyone, without a single exception, saw it. The light that came was like a spotlight that touched the ground and scattered. I looked up and saw that a circle had also formed in the sky, giving off lights in different colors, but without coming from the sun.

It was three in the afternoon. The circle of light gave off colored lights from the exact center, where the sun is at twelve noon. All of a sudden a lightning-flash and I saw the Señora. This time her cloud rested on the flowers we had spread out. Beautiful! She extended her hands and rays of light reached all of us.

I tried to insist that She let herself be seen. She raised her hands to her breast in a similar position to the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows — the statue that is carried in procession during Holy Week — and like that statue her face turned pale, her mantle changed to gray; her face became sad; and She wept. I cried too. I trembled to see her like that. I said to her:

“Señora, you are angry with me. Forgive me! Forgive me!” She then answered me saying:

— “I am not angry, nor will I become angry.”

“Why are you crying? I see you crying.” She told me:

— “It saddens me to see the hardness of those persons’ hearts. But you will have to pray for them so that they will change.”

I could not speak. I continued to cry. I felt that my heart was being crushed. I felt very sad as if I were going to die from the pain right there. My only relief was through crying. I no longer continued insisting that She let herself be seen. I felt that I was to blame for having said this to her. I cried as I could not endure seeing her cry.

— “Pray the Rosary, meditate on the mysteries. Listen to the Word of God spoken in them.Love one another. Love each other.Forgive each other.Make peace. Don’t ask for peace without making peace; because if you don’t make it, it does no good to ask for it.Fulfill your obligations.Put into practice the Word of God.Seek ways to please God.Serve your neighbor as that way you will please Him.”

When She had finished giving her message, I remembered the requests from the people of Cuapa. I said to her: “Señora, I have many requests, but I have forgotten them. There are a great many. You, Señora, know them all.”

— “They ask of me things that are unimportant. Ask for faith in order to have the strength so that each can carry his own cross. The sufferings of this world cannot be removed. Sufferings are the cross which you must carry. That is the way life is. There are problems with the husband, with the wife, with the children, with the brothers. Talk, converse so that problems will be resolved in peace. Do not turn to violence. Never turn to violence. Pray for faith in order that you will have patience. You will no longer see me in this place.”

I thought that I would definitely never see her again and I began to shout: “Don’t leave us, my Mother!”
“Don’t leave us, my Mother!”
“Don’t leave us, my Mother!”

— “Do not be grieved. I am with all of you even though you do not see me.I am the Mother of all of you, sinners.Love one another.Forgive each other.Make peace, because if you don’t make itthere will be no peace.Do not turn to violence.Never turn to violence.Nicaragua has suffered a great deal since the earthquake and will continue to suffer if all of you don’t change.If you don’t change you will hasten the coming of the Third World War.Pray, pray, my son, for all the world.A mother never forgets her children.And I have not forgotten what you suffer.I am the Mother of all of you, sinners.”

Bernardo Martinez was ordained a priest fifteen years after the apparition, at the age 64. If he is still living, he’s in his mid-eighties. Let us thank the Lord and our Lady for the gift of these apparitions.