A few pious women 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. 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.
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.
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
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 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.
The second message of Our Lady came on August 3, 1973, a First Friday, when the heavenly voice from the statue warned:
". . . Many men in this world afflict the Lord . . . In order that the world might know His anger, the Heavenly Father is preparing to inflict a great chastisement on all mankind . . . 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 . . . know 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 . . . When Sr. Agnes was professed, she pronounced these three vows. Although the wound on the hand of Sr. Agnes disappeared on July 27, the wound on the hand of the statue remained until its disappearance on September 29. At that time the statue emitted a bright light. The wound had remained for three months.
While wounds in the hands of the statue bled, Bishop Ito advises that, contrary to some reports, ". ..the statue did not sweat blood or weep blood at any time."
On the evening office of September 29, 1973, the
whole community saw a brilliant light coming from the statue. Almost
immediately the entire body of the statue became covered with a
moisture resembling perspiration. Sr. Agnes' guardian Angel told
her, "Mary is even sadder than when she shed blood. Dry the
The sisters used cotton balls to collect the moisture. Following Our Lady's message, the dazzling light that had surrounded the statue gradually disappeared.
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
Then on January 4, 1975, to the amazement of the community and Fr.
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.
Fr. Yasuda recorded in his book, The
Tears and Message of Mary, that the statue:
. . . had completely dried out during the years since it was made and
little cracks had begun to appear. It is already miraculous if water
would flow from such material, but it is still more prodigious that a
liquid sightly salty, of the nature of true human tears, should have
flowed precisely from the eyes."
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 blood was found to belong to group B and the sweat and tears to group AB. Sr. Agnes belongs to group B.
Bishop Ito was advised by the Apostolic Nuncio to seek the assistance of the Archbishop of Tokyo in creating a commission of canonical inquiry. Unfortunately, the Inquisitor who was not Catholic was named president of this group. Without any of the members visiting the convent to conduct a personal inquiry, the commission rendered an unfavorable verdict.
Unwilling to accept a negative verdict to the events he himself had witnessed, Bishop Ito asked the advice in Rome of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. He was then advised to form another commission to study the events from the beginning. This commission rendered a favorable verdict regarding the supernatural aspects of the events.
The tears of December 8, 1979 were filmed by a televiion 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.
The sculptor of the statue, Saburo Wakasa, a non-Catholic and a citizen of Akita, was asked his reaction to the occurrences relating to the statue. He answered:
The statue of Mary was my first work connected with Christianity. Of my
various statues, it is only with the statue of Mary at Yuzawadai that
mysterious events occurred . . . I sculptured the whole statue of Mary,
globe, and the Cross from the same piece of wood, so there are no
joints . . . The wood from which I carved the statue of Mary was very
dry and rather hard . . .
When questioned as to
whether he regards as a "miracle" the reported shedding of tears from
the statue of Mary, he replied, "It is a mystery."
Another examination of the fluids
was conducted by Dr. Sagisaka of the Department of Forensic
Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Akita. The results were
given on November 30, 1981 and revealed that:
"The object examined has adhering to it human liquids which belong to the blood group O." Since the first analysis revealed that the blood belonged to group B and the sweat and tears to group AB, it has been established that the fluids belong to three different blood groups.
It is a medical fact that the blood, tears and sweat of an individual
all belong to the same blood group. One fluid cannot differ in type
from the other fluids of the same body. Since Sr. Agnes belonged to
group B she could not have "ejected and transferred" blood or fluids
belonging to group AB or O. The theory of the Inquisitor that Sr. Agnes
exercised had ectoplasmic power wass thereby refuted.
On the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows [September 15], the statue cried for the last time. Two weeks later, Sr. Agnes' guardian Angel presented a large Bible surrounded with a brilliant light. The open Bible revealed the reference, Genesis 3:15. The Angel explained that the passage had a relationship with the tears of Mary and then continued.
. . . sin came into the world by a woman and it is also by a
salvation came to the world . . .
The lachrymations number 101, and they took place at irregular intervals from January 4, 1975 until September 15, 1981. The first 1 is Eve, the second, Our Lady and the 0 represents the eternal Holy Trinity.
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. If sins increase in number and gravity, there
will be no longer any pardon for them."
She continued, "As I told you, if people do not repent and better
themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all
humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the Flood, 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 statue wept for the last time on September 15, Feast of Our Lady
Sr. Agnes was totally and incurably deaf when she
entered the community, having lost her hearing on March 16, 1973.
Sister was able to speak, and understood spoken messages by lip
reading. As predicted by her guardian Angel, she temporarily regained
her hearing on October 13, 1974. Deafness returned on March 7, 1975.
Her hearing was permanently restored on May 30, 1982, as predicted by
Our Lady during the first message of July 6, 1973. Both healings
occurred instantaneously during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Sr. Agnes is today in sound health, except for the rheumatism that has
affected her hands.
A canonical law regarding the judgment of a Marian apparition was
issued in 1978. According to a Vatican official: ". . . the authority
hand down a conclusion regarding the authenticity of any Marian
apparition is given canonically to the ordinary (the bishop) of the
local diocese where the apparition took place . . ."
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 lto's visit to Rome,
the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approved the
contents of the pastoral letter.