On April 22, 1984, Bishop John Shojiro Ito, the local ordinary of the diocese where the Marian apparitions took place, issued a pastoral letter in which he authorized the veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita. In the pastoral letter, Bishop Ito declared the supernatural authenticity of three Marian messages, the messages of an angel and other mysterious events that have happened to a Japanese nun since 1973 at a convent in Akita, Northern Japan, a city that belongs to his diocese.
His successor as local ordinary, Bishop Francisco K. Sato, has continued his predecessor’s authorization of the veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita. Thanks to these two diocesan bishops’ authorization of this veneration, pilgrims from some fifty countries have trekked to the convent of the apparitions over the past twenty years and pilgrimages still continue today.
Here an important fact should be noted: Akita, Fatima and Lourdes all share one decisive Providential development—a local ordinary who declared the supernatural truthfulness of the Marian apparition, in the form of a pastoral letter. In Lourdes, Bishop Bertrand Laurence did so on January 18, 1862. In Fatima, Bishop Jose de Silva issued his pastoral letter on October 13, 1930. In Akita, Bishop Ito did so in 1984.
The mysterious events in Akita chiefly concerned a wooden statue of the Blessed Mother at the convent of the Handmaids of the Holy Eucharist. The statue stands on a globe with a Cross standing behind her body. The statue stretches out both arms slightly downward. The statue was carved by a Japanese sculptor, a Buddhist, Saburo Wakasa, who used a small card containing the image of “The Lady of All Nations” of Amsterdam as its model. He sculpted it about thirty years ago by adding the facial features of a typical Japanese woman to the image of the Lady of All Nations. The statue shed tears for the first time on January 4, 1975, which was a Saturday morning. The second and third weepings took place in the afternoon and evening of the same day. The last and one hundred first weeping took place on September 15, 1981, the feast day of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This number “101” has a profound meaning, which I will explain later.
I witnessed almost all of the hundred and one episodes of the statue’s weepings or lacrimations with my own eyes, except for three of these episodes. I was appointed as the spiritual director for the convent in Akita By Bishop John Ito in 1974—a year before the weeping began. Every time the statue wept, I was notified about it by someone and called to the scene. During each of these incidents I directed eyewitnesses to recite five decades of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in front of the weeping statue. Whenever teardrops still remained on the statue after we completed the joint recitation of the rosary, I collected them with cotton swabs. These cotton swabs, along with labels carrying the date of each weeping, have been preserved as precious hard evidence and kept inside a wooden display stand with a glass lid.
Why the statue shed tears had remained an unanswerable question for several years. Some people interpreted the weeping as being the Holy Mother’s warning against the sinfulness of modern men. From the onset of these series of weepings, I had thought that there might be a deep relationship between the statue’s weepings and the historical fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary wept on Calvary when she observed her Divine Son Jesus Christ redeem mankind by His bloody Sacrifice on the Cross.
In 1981 a mysterious event taught me that God caused the statue to weep in order to teach the Roman Catholic Church the truth of Marian Coredemption, by calling its attention to the Blessed Virgin’s sufferings and tears at the foot of the Cross. This realization was given to me after an angel explained the profound meaning of the statue’s one hundred and one weepings to Sr. Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa, one of the nuns at the convent. Sr. Agnes immediately rushed to my office to recount the angelic message after the apparition.
The message and the weeping constitute private revelations. Those who received the message and witnessed the mysterious events are not in charge of defining or promulgating a doctrine or dogma of faith. However, it does not mean that the message and weeping may be ignored. This message related to the Coredemption and the tears from the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary has the same level of profound significance as the Marian apparitions in Lourdes in 1858.
When Pope John Paul II defines and promulgates to the world the Coredemption by the Blessed Virgin Mary as a dogma of faith, true Catholic believers around the world will welcome these private revelations in Akita as invaluable events by which God explained the truth of Coredemption, just as they have welcomed the Marian apparitions in Lourdes.
In Lourdes, Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the Blessed Virgin Mary emit splendorous light from her majestic figure in the grotto of Massabielle a total of eighteen times. God taught the Roman Catholic Church, through the experiences of Bernadette, that this wonderful figure of the Blessed Virgin itself signifies her Immaculate Conception, in addition to the Holy Mother’s own words, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Although the dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been promulgated to the world by Pope Pius IX four years before the apparitions, the contents of the dogma had remained difficult for ordinary Catholic laymen to understand and embrace in their hearts. As a result, the dogma could not filter down into the hearts of Catholic believers around the world, even for some years after its ex-cathedra promulgation.
Then God sent the Blessed Mother Mary to Lourdes as a crucial divine gift for all Catholic believers. Today, we know that numerous statues depicting the image of the Holy Mother at Lourdes have been installed at many Catholic churches around the world to commemorate the divine intervention in 1858.
These developments suggest that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception would not have been able to exert its favorable effect of strengthening the faith of ordinary laymen if the Marian apparitions in Lourdes had not taken place and thereby profoundly influenced ordinary laymen. These apparitions have helped these laymen understand this dogma, and each believer’s faith has been bolstered by their understanding of the dogma.
Generally speaking, even if a dogma is promulgated as a truth of faith by a pope, the truth remains hard to understand from the standpoint of ordinary Catholic believers. The Apostle Paul said, in his letter to the Romans (12:6), “Our gifts differ according to the grace given to us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it in accordance with the teachings of the faith.” Here, St. Paul teaches the Catholic Church that the truthfulness of the content of a prophecy or the messages of an alleged apparition can and must be judged by examining whether they correspond with Catholic dogmas and doctrines. This is because expressions of dogmas are formulated by human beings under inspiration from the Holy Spirit.
What Saint Paul said here applies to Lourdes, where God arranged for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception to be explained in a manner that could be understood by ordinary Catholic believers by linking the difficult dogma to the Marian apparitions there.
Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has repeatedly alluded to the Blessed Mother’s Coredemption through his encyclical Redemptoris Mater and explanations at general audiences, although he has not yet defined and promulgated it as a dogma.
If Catholic believers around the world come to understand that the hundred and one episodes of weeping of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Akita signifies her Coredemption, they will be able to understand and embrace the upcoming dogma of Coredemption in their hearts far more easily, just as the Marian apparitions in Lourdes helped believers understand the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This is because the doctrine of the Coredemption contains a subtle theological nuance, and therefore it is sometimes hard for ordinary Catholics to understand this truth.
It is truly beautiful that God revealed this difficult truth in Akita in such an easily understandable manner for ordinary Catholic believers—namely, by causing the statue to shed tears that symbolize her maternal suffering on Calvary, which she offered up to the Heavenly Father as Coredemptrix by giving full consent to the immolation of her Divine son Jesus on the Cross.
God willed that Mary suffer together with Jesus in accordance with His eternal plan of Salvation. It was even more painful for Mary to consent to her Son’s immolation than for her to be physically killed. She offered up her suffering to God, thereby acting in accordance with God’s own plan for the salvation of mankind.
Of course, nobody should interpret Jesus’ Redemption and Mary’s Coredemption as having the same level of value. Saint Paul says, in his First Letter to Timothy (2:5-6), “For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, Himself a man, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself as a ransom for them all.”
Essential differences between Jesus’ Redemption and Mary’s Coredemption need to be understood by keeping in mind the ontological differences between the persons of Jesus and Mary. The Divine Person of Jesus Christ, who assumed a human nature, offered His body to the Heavenly Father as the Sacrifice, and suffered in His human flesh and soul to redeem mankind.
At that moment, Mary, observing her son’s sacrifice from beneath the Cross, gave full consent to Christ’s immolation and offered her beloved son to the Heavenly Father as unique human cooperator. During this Mary was experiencing very acute spiritual pains whose intensity is beyond any human being’s ability to imagine. God called our attention to her suffering by causing the statue in Akita to shed tears.
No human wisdom can grasp the depth of Mary’s self-abandoning love of God, which caused her to show deep and perfect obedience to the Heavenly Father as His handmaid, from the moment of the Annunciation to the moment of the Redemption of mankind by her son Jesus on the Cross.
Her first public action as such a unique cooperator of the Redeemer recorded by the Scripture was her presentation of the baby Jesus to God in the Temple, on the fortieth day after the Redeemer’s birth, according to the Law of the Lord. She, as His mother, offered Jesus to God and thus silently expressed her willingness to consent to the upcoming immolation of her son.
Then the upright old prophet, Simeon, foretold the mystery of her mission as the Coredemptrix to her: “You see this child: He is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected—and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Lk 2: 35).
The Deepest Meaning of the Tears of the Statue
On September 15, 1981, around two o’clock in the afternoon, the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary wept for the one hundred first time. A total of sixty-five persons, including myself, were eyewitnesses on that day. The weeping moved all deeply, especially because the day fell upon the feast day of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. No one present could foresee, however, that God had willed that this episode was to be the statue’s last weeping.
On the thirteenth day from that date, September 28th, Sr. Agnes felt the presence of an angel at her side in front of the exposed Holy Eucharist, during her silent prayers which followed the sisters’ joint recitation of the Rosary at the chapel.
Sr. Agnes did not see the angel in person then. Instead, the mysterious vision of a majestic, beautiful Bible surrounded by a celestial light appeared in front of her. The angel instructed her to read a passage in Scripture. In an open page of the Bible, she recognized the reference—Verse 15 of Chapter 3, of the book of Genesis. Then she heard the voice of the angel say, in the manner of a preamble, that there is a profound relationship between this passage and the weeping of the Blessed Mother Mary. The angel then said:
There is a profound meaning to the figure 101 of the hundred and one episodes of the holy weepings of the statue of the Holy Mother Mary. This signifies that sin came into the world through a woman and it is also through a woman that the grace of salvation came to the world. The zero, which is between the two “ones,” signifies God who exists from all eternity until eternity. The first “one” represents Eve, and the last “one” signifies the Holy Mother Mary.
Then the angel instructed her to reread Verse 15 of Chapter 3 of Genesis, and told her, “You must convey this message to the Catholic priest who has given you spiritual guidance.” The angel then left. At the same time the vision of the Bible disappeared.
After the adoration of the Holy Eucharist, Sr. Agnes rushed to my office and asked me to verify the passage. I opened the Bible and found the passage which carries God’s prophetic announcement to Satan: “I will place enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed. She will crush thy head and thou shall bite her heel.”
It was by the message of the angel, who quoted Verse 15 of Chapter 3 of Genesis, that the profound significance of the tears of the Holy Mother Mary was elucidated. This means that the statue’s tears resulted from the Divine aim of calling all Roman Catholics’ attention to Mary’s sufferings at the foot of the Cross as Coredemptrix. The miraculous tears were created by God to teach the entire Roman Catholic Church that the Holy Mother suffered and wept as the Mother of Jesus Christ amidst her noble act of Coredemption, when she gave full consent to his immolation.
When our Holy Mother Mary observed Jesus crucified to redeem mankind, she consented to the sacrifice of her Son and offered her Son to the Heavenly Father. Nonetheless, her intense spiritual sufferings (before the reality that she was losing her beloved Son Jesus), caused her to shed copious tears as she endured this great ordeal.
The weepings of the statue of the Holy Mother Mary in the convent in Akita equal that of the mysterious experiences of Saint Bernadette, who witnessed the vision of Mary the Immaculate Conception at the grotto of Massabielle. I have heard that numerous statues of Mary have wept in various sites around the world. But none of these weepings had their meaning explained by an angel’s reference to Scripture.
In Akita, God linked the weepings of the statue of the Blessed Mother with the upcoming dogma of the Coredemptrix by having the tears themselves signify the upcoming dogma in advance. In this sense, the tears were a mystical Divine prophecy of the dogma. If we confirm that the meaning of the one hundred and one episodes of the statue’s lacrimations can be explained clearly by the words of Scripture, then we can conclude that the weepings are truly Divine Revelations and that they have a celestial supernatural origin.
To confirm this, let us examine the profound Christology of the Apostle Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans, in which St. Paul, inspired by God, identified Jesus Christ as the new Adam. Saint Paul wrote:
Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned (Romans 5:12).
Adam prefigured the one to come. The gift (of the Redemption) itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. The results of the gift also outweigh the results of one man’s sin (Romans 5:15-16).
Given the fact that the truth of the contrast between the old Adam and the new Adam, Jesus Christ, was elucidated by Saint Paul, it is natural to conclude that Saint Paul was also aware of a similar contrast between the old Eve and the new Eve, Mary, the Mother of God. This is because the sin of Adam is linked with that of Eve, who tempted Adam to disobey God’s command. It is evident that the grace of the Redemption of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, came to the world in accordance with the plan of God, who willed that Jesus be born of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the New Eve.
Now, let us ponder an analogy between Saint Paul’s Christology and the angel’s explanation about the mission of our Holy Mother Mary, delivered through Sr. Agnes to us. As mentioned, the angel said:
There is a profound meaning to the figure 101 of the hundred and one episodes of the holy weepings of the statue of the Holy Mother Mary. This signifies that sin came into the world through a woman and it is also through a woman that the grace of salvation came to the world…. The first “one” represents Eve, and last “one” signifies Holy Mother Mary.
Saint Paul compared the new Adam, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, with the old Adam, a sinner. In Akita’s message in 1981, God had the angel reveal the contrast between the old Eve, who tempted Adam to sin, and the new Eve, our Holy Mother Mary, who gave birth to the Savior. The one hundred and one episodes of the weepings of the statue signify this truth, that God integrated Mary as an inseparable part of His plan of Redemption, from all eternity.
Whenever Sister Agnes had encounters with supernatural events that cannot be explained as natural phenomena—be they messages of the Holy Mother or those of an angel—the nun, first of all, reported the events to Bishop John Ito or myself, asking for our spiritual guidance. Not a single time did Sr. Agnes announce those events to the public by herself. When she received the most important message that elucidated the meaning of the one hundred and one lachrymal episodes of the statue, she reacted in the same manner.
The supernatural authenticity of the tears of the statue of the Holy Mother Mary was substantiated and corroborated by two other objective miracles.
One of the two is the miraculous cure of Mrs. Teresa Chun Sun Ho, a South Korean housewife, from brain cancer in 1981. Mrs. Chun had lapsed into a coma due to cerebral tumors, which also reduced her to a mere vegetative existence. Her relatives, family and acquaintances implored our Holy Mother Mary of Akita to cure the bedridden woman by placing the photograph of the weeping statue beside her pillow. Then, on August 4 at midnight, while Mrs. Chun was still in a coma, the Blessed Mother appeared to her in a vision, looking exactly as she does at Akita. At that point Teresa was completely healed. The x-ray photographs of her brain—taken at Saint Paul Hospital in Seoul—certify the complete disappearance of the cancer from her brain.
After the cure, Mrs. Teresa Chun testified, “The Holy Mother Mary of Akita, who held a white lamb in her arms, appeared to me, when I was bedridden, and breathed upon my forehead three times. I saw the lamb’s wool flutter and sway due to the strong breaths of the Holy Mother.”
This miracle was attested to by Dr. Gil Song Lee in a medical certificate, which was sent to the Holy See, along with a document issued by Maryknoll Father Roman Theisen, S.T.D., then head of the Archdiocesan Tribunal of the See of Seoul. The Church of South Korea had established a committee to work towards the canonization of 103 Korean martyrs, and it sent documents reporting her cure to the Holy See. The miracle was used to secure the Holy See’s authorization of the committee’s application to canonize the 103 martyrs.
The other of the two miracles is the cure from complete deafness of Sr. Agnes herself in 1982. By then, nine years had elapsed since she lost her hearing in 1973. On May 30, the feast day of Pentecost, her deafness was cured at the moment she received a blessing by the Holy Eucharist in a monstrance, which I elevated at the chapel. The moment the blessing by the Eucharist was given, she heard an adoration bell being rung by another sister religious. Her cure was attested to in a medical certificate issued by Dr. Tatsuhiko Arai of the Akita Red Cross Hospital.
Saint Bernard, a Doctor of the Church, provided a profound insight in connection with this truth in one of his sermons: “The old upright man Simeon prophesied that the Virgin Mary would suffer a spiritual martyrdom. Simeon told Mary that the infant Jesus is destined to be a sign that is rejected. Then, he told Mary that a sword would pierce her own soul too.” St. Bernard went on to explain, in the form of a prayer, what happened on Calvary:
Dear Holy Mother, your soul was certainly pierced by the sword. The lance thrust by the Roman soldier could not pierce the body of your son without piercing your soul. After Jesus died, the cruel lance pierced our Lord’s side relentlessly. Jesus, who was already dead then, did not feel any pain. But this lance certainly pierced your soul…. It is appropriate for me to say that you are greater than the martyrs.
How many tears our Holy Mother shed when she witnessed Jesus continue to suffer on the Cross! The intensity of her sufferings is beyond any human being’s ability to imagine. Her sufferings at the foot of the Cross were, in a mystical sense, the pains of childbearing, which she accepted in order to become the mother of all the faithful in accordance with the plan of God, who willed to give mankind the true Heavenly Mother who continues to care for believers until the end of the world.
Through her humble acceptance of the mystical pangs of childbirth, she became the mother of the Mystical Body of Christ, to which we belong as its members. First, she conceived Jesus, the head of the Mystical Body of Christ, in her chaste womb, and then, through the process of her Coredemption, she began to give birth to members of His Mystical Body, which is the community of all Catholic believers through all generations.
Because the mystical process of the application of the effects of Christ’s Redemptive sacrifice continues until the end of the world, Mary’s intercessory activities, as the Mediatrix of all the graces which have flowed from the Redemption, are also continuing while she acts as a unique subordinate to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier.
Amidst this mystical process of the joint distribution of graces, Jesus and our Holy Mother are jointly struggling against Satan to help believers courageously join in the subjective Redemption, or the application of the effects of Christ’s sacrifice. Because of this mystical struggle with Satan—where the eternal lives of souls are at stake—one can affirm that our Heavenly Mother is still offering up her mystical pains of childbearing for us, all believers, while acting as an instrument of grace to sanctify us. In doing so, the Holy Mother mediates graces in accordance with the will of Jesus Christ, while distributing graces as a subordinate to the Holy Spirit.
Recognizing the realities of this subjective Redemption, believers must use their free will to offer up their sufferings, prayers and sacrifices of love to help apply the effects of Jesus’ sacrifice to their souls. Thus, they are led to join in the Holy Mother’s struggle against Satan. This is the reason why God told the Serpent, “I will place enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed.” This struggle continues until our Mother completes the process of giving birth to all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and in this sense her mystical pains of childbearing will continue until the end of the world. This is the profoundest meaning of her Coredemption. The tears shed by the wooden statue of Our Lady in Akita is the hard evidence God has manifested in history, in order to prove the lasting enmity between Satan and our Heavenly Mother.
Amidst this lasting antagonism, the Rosary is our powerful weapon. With this we appeal to our Advocate to “pray for us, sinners.” And our Holy Mother, Mediatrix of all graces subject to the Holy Spirit, will crush the head of the Serpent in a struggle that we must join with our free will and responsibility.
Scripture says, “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary of Magdala (John 19:25).” This means that the two other women, named Mary as well, were also standing while weeping at the sight of the crucified Jesus. But the tears of the two other Marys were shed out of mere sympathy for Jesus’ sufferings, so there is not the same profundity of meaning in them.
In sharp contrast, the tears of Holy Mary were the tears which resulted from her spiritual pains suffered when she gave full consent to the Sacrifice of her divine son Jesus and offered Him up to the Heavenly Father as the Mother of the Redeemer of mankind.
Therefore, there was an essential abyss between the meaning of the tears of our Holy Mother Mary and that of the tears of the other two Marys. The tears of the Blessed Virgin were the tears of objective and mystical Coredemption.
What is the significance of the divine revelation of the tears of Coredemption using the statue of the Holy Mother Mary, in connection with the crisis engulfing today’s Roman Catholic Church throughout the world?
Since the end of the Second Vatican Council, ecumenical movements have been gaining momentum in many countries. The scope of meaning of ecumenism has been expanded to mean dialogue with non-Christian religions. Many proponents of ecumenism say that other religions’ teachings have certain degrees of truth on ethics and morals, even though they neglect to call specific and unique attention to the Redemption by Jesus Christ. As a result, the true meaning of the Redemption has been confused even in the minds of many Catholics.
Against the background of this worldwide situation, the dogma of the Redemption by Jesus Christ crucified on the cross continues to emit a unique light. Religions other than Christianity do not have the Redemption among their teachings. The truth of the Redemption by Jesus Christ who atoned for mankind’s sins by offering himself in the sacrifice of the Cross to satisfy the justice of God is unique, and has absolute value.
If the Catholic clergy and laity disregard or start downplaying the value of this Redemption, it creates a serious danger that all Catholic doctrines and dogmas will lose their meaning. We have to be mindful of this danger. If the Roman Catholic Church misses or misunderstands the unique value of the Redemption, it will end up degenerating into merely one sect among numerous religious sects around the world.
I believe the reason why the truth of Marian Coredemption has come under international scrutiny in recent years, is that God is trying to revive Catholics’ serious attention toward the dogma of Christ’s Redemption of humanity. The fact that this dogma movement is gaining momentum appears to have mystical connections with God’s plan to lead the Holy Father to define and promulgate the dogma of Marian Coredemption. When the Holy Father promulgates the dogma of Coredemption in accordance with the Divine plan, it will lead to the reviving of many Catholics’ faith in the dogma of the Redemption by her Son, Jesus.
The Heavenly Father, offended at the proliferation of immoral values and heretical theological teachings in today’s world, appears to have caused the wooden statue of the Holy Mother in Akita to shed tears in order to help ordinary Catholic believers easily understand the truth of her Coredemption, and to lead them to again embrace their Catholic faith in the Redemption and Coredemption as their true inherited treasures.
Fr. Thomas Aquinas Yasuda was the spiritual director of the visionary, Sr. Agnes Sasagawa, recipient of the Church approved apparitions of Our Lady in Akita, Japan (which is often referred to as the “Fatima of the East).” Fr. Yasuda is considered the world’s foremost authority on the message and apparitions of Akita. The above article was originally published in Contemporary Insights On A Fifth Marian Dogma: Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations III, Queenship, 2000.