Bernardo Martinez was experiencing a sense of despair about his life. He lived in Cuapa, Nicaragua, and was quite poor. He also had been sick, and could not find work. Bernardo lived in a small room in the back of the church where he did his best to maintain the grounds and a small chapel, also carrying out the duties of sacristan.
On two separate nights in April of 1980, Bernardo had discovered the lights turned on. He blamed some of the women who’d come in to pray for leaving them on, but they denied that they had. Again, on April 15, 1980, Bernardo had noticed the glow of light coming from the sacristy. Annoyed and mumbling under his breath, he hurried to the chapel to turn the lights off. But the lights were not on. The glow was from something else.
As Bernardo entered the chapel, he noticed the glow was centered around the statue of the Blessed Virgin. As he slowly approached the unexpected sight, he realized that it was the statue itself that was illuminated. Excited at seeing such a sight, he hurried to tell some of his friends. He asked them to please not tell anyone. But they did tell, and most of the townsfolk began to ridicule and make fun of Bernardo. Even the priest did not believe him.
On May 8, 1980, Bernardo had a chance to go fishing. After about two hours at the water, he left to go home. While walking home, he saw two lightning flashes. After the second flash, he saw a woman standing there. Bernardo was naturally frightened and, after doing his best to compose himself, asked the Lady who she was. She replied that she was the Mother of Jesus.
Bernardo fell to his knees and stared at her. Then he asked her what she wanted. She told him that she wanted the Rosary prayed every day. Bernardo told her he was going to meet the people to pray the Rosary in the chapel.
Our Lady knew that they were praying the Rosary because it was the month of May, but she told him she wanted it said every day of the year. Bernardo said that she told him that, “the Lord does not like prayers we make in a rush or mechanically.” Because of that, she said “you should pray the Rosary and also read Bible passages so you can put into practice the Word of God.”
The Blessed Virgin appeared to Bernardo five more times, and another time an angel appeared. Bernardo, afraid of being ridiculed, kept these visions to himself. He even began to avoid the area where the visions had occurred. But he could not keep silent for long. On May 16, 1980, only a few days after the last vision, Bernardo once again saw two flashes of lightning. Then Mary appeared before him. He wept and told her he was sorry for being so frightened. She smiled at him and told him he could tell the people.
Bernardo went to the priest and told him what had happened. He told him to gather the townsfolk together and he did. With the priest by his side, Bernardo told everyone about the visions. Some of the people believed Bernardo but most were still skeptical. The priest told Bernardo that if he had any more visions to tell no one but him.
During the evening of June 8, 1980, Our Lady again appeared to Bernardo. He said the visions he saw were like watching separate movies in the sky. The first was of the first Christians all dressed in white marching to heaven. The second was the Dominicans all carrying large, luminous Rosaries. One of them carried a large book, and they all mediated on the words. Then everyone said one Our Father and 10 Hail Marys.
There were apparitions on July 8, 1980; September 8 (Our Lady’s birthday), 1980; and on October 13 (the anniversary of the last vision of Fatima), 1980. During the final apparition, the Blessed Virgin said, “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.”
In 1995, Bernardo Matinez, at the age of 65, was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Leon, in Nicaragua. He died in 2000. In 1982 the Bishop of Managua authorized an investigation into the apparitions. In 1994, Bishop Robelo gave a diocesan-level approval to the apparitions, saying that they were “worthy of belief.”
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Aleteia has brought you an introduction to some of the titles under which Mary is honored, especially in Latin America. See here:
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Our Lady of Charity, from Cuba: In the face of evacuation from Irma, turn to Our Lady of Charity
Our Lady of Aparecida, from Brazil: Pope Francis recalls the joy of entrusting his pontificate to Our Lady of Aparecida