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Our Lady of Akita (Japan)

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Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa Sr. is a member of a Catholic community, the Seitai Hoshikai (Handmaids of the Holy Eucharist) at Yuzawadai, Akita, Japan.

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This photograph was taken during one of the 101 times that the Virgin Mary statue was found to be weeping tears in the Akita convent chapel.

In 1973, Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa reported the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is known as Our Lady of Akita. These messages from an angel and the Virgin Mary are closely related to the messages the three children had received at Fatima. 

Early Life

Since she was a child, Sasagawa had a weak constitution and was frequently sick. At the age of 19, she was struck by a paralysis of the central nervous system caused by a surgical error during an appendectomy. For the next 16 years, Sasagawa underwent many operations to relieve the paralysis.

 

While in a clinic in Myoko, Niigata, she met a nurse who was a fervent Catholic. Thanks to that nurse's devoted care, Sasagawa’s condition improved and led not only restored her ability to physically move, but also to her first steps toward the Christian faith.

Awakened to the love of God, Sasagawa wanted to enter a religious community. She joined the community of the Sisters of Junshin (The Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) in Nagasaki. In 1969, she heard about the Institute of the Handmaids of the Eucharist, a community in which one could live a consecrated life while remaining in society. Upon the invitation of Bishop Ito, founder of the Institute, Sasagawa joined the Handmaids.

Shortly after joining, towards the end of January of 1973, she began to notice hearing loss in both ears. On March 16, when she went to answer a telephone call from the Motherhouse of the Handmaids, Sr. Sasagawa suddenly realized that she had completely lost her hearing. She heard the bell, but when she took up the telephone, she found herself plunged into total silence.

A medical examination revealed that she lost her hearing in her right ear and suffered from progressive hearing loss in her other ear with little chance of recovery. She was in a state of extreme fatigue and was hospitalized. She took an intensive course in lip reading to communicate for 43 days until she left the hospital.

 

She was then invited to move into the Motherhouse of the Handmaids of the Eucharist to join six other sisters there. On May 12, 1973, Sr. Sasagawa left her home and arrived at the convent in Yuzawadai, an outskirt community of Akita, Japan. 

June 12, 1973

A month after arriving at the Motherhouse, the first sign of the coming apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary began to Sr. Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa began on June 12 when the sister saw brilliant rays of light emanate from the tabernacle filling the entire chapel. Her fellow sisters did not experience this light.

 

June 14, 1973

Two days later on the feast of Corpus Christi, again a strong light emitted from the tabernacle. When Sr. Sasagawa told the Bishop of Akita of this (he was visiting the convent on the feast), he advised to keep the wonder to herself.

 

June 28, 1973

On the Vigil of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, shortly after the beginning of the silent meditation, Sr. Sasagawa saw a cloud of angels appear around the altar. During her prayers in the chapel, Sr. Sasagawa's left palm begun to hurt.

When she examined her left palm, there was a noticeable cross-like welt in the center of her palm. The wound looked as if a cross had been engraved in the skin. A small hole in the center of the wound bled. It was the wound of the stigmata. The bleeding ended on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The following Friday, the wound bled and stopped the next day. This continued for a month.

 

June 29, 1973

The moment Sr. Sasagawa and her superior sister began praying the Rosary, her guardian angel appeared to Sr. Sasagawa’s immediate right. The angel taught her prayers that Sr. Sasagawa did not know. One of the prayers by was the same as taught by the Virgin to the three shepherd children at Fatima: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have the most need of Thy mercy" that was to be spoken after each decade of the Rosary. 

 

Sister’s guardian angel later spoke to her in the chapel. Although nearly deaf, she heard the angel saying: “Pray not only for yourself, but for the people of all nations. The world today is wounding the Sacred Heart of Jesus through so much sin and ingratitude.” 

Sister heard a voice come from the statue in the chapel: “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 of 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...”

“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. Amen.” 

 

July 6, 1973

A bleeding wound appeared on the right hand of the statue of Our Lady in the chapel. On other days, the face of the statue bled. Sister’s guardian angel told her: “This flowing of blood is significant. It will be shed for the conversion of men and in reparation for sins. To the devotion to the Sacred Heart add the devotion to the Precious Blood.” 

August 3, 1973

While the initial Marian messages were a call for prayer and sacrifice for the glory of the Father and salvation of souls, the message that came on August 3 was for prayer, penance and courageous sacrifices to soften the Father’s anger: “My daughter, my novice, do 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 and form 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 sanctify itself and pray in reparation for the ingratitude and outrages of so many men. Recite the prayer of the Handmaids of the Eucharist with awareness of its meaning: put it into practice: offer whatever God may send in reparation 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 the way to being gathered. Without attaching too much attention to the form, be faithful and fervent in prayer to console the Master.”

 

Other messages followed.

 

August 10, 1973

After seeing the wound in the right hand of Our Lady’s statue, Sr. Sasagawa heard: “My daughter, if you love Our Lord, listen to me. Many people in the world grieve Our Lord. I ask for souls who will console Him, and who will make reparation. The Heavenly Father is preparing a great punishment for the world. Many times I have tried with my Son to soften the anger of the Father. I presented to Him many atoning souls who make reparation by prayers and sacrifices. That is what I ask of you. Honor poverty. Live poorly. You must keep your vows, which are like three nails to nail you to the Cross – the nails of poverty, chastity, and obedience.” This message is reminiscent of the angel's second apparition to the three children of Fatima in 1916.

September 20, 1973

The statue began to sweat from the face to the feet. Tears began to flow down the face and a pleasant fragrance filled the chapel. This happened many times in the presence of others, including the Bishop. In all, the statue wept a total of 101 times.

October 13, 1973

The message made on this day, the actual anniversary of the final visions and miracle of Fatima, was: “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 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 work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their Confreres. The Church and altars will be vandalized. 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 rage especially 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.”

“Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able still to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved.”

 

May 18, 1974 

During the morning Eucharistic adoration, the guardian angel appeared to Sr. Sasagawa saying: "Your ears will be opened in August or October. You will hear and your ears will be healed. But, that will last only for a while.

You will lose your hearing again, because the Lord still wishes this as an offering."

As the angel told her, Sr. Sasagawa’s hearing loss was cured. However, as the angel had indicated, her return of hearing lasted for only five months.

January 4, 1975

When Father Yasuda was in the presbytery at around 9 a.m., he suddenly got the shocking news that the statue of the Virgin Mary was weeping tears. The tears appeared a second time around 1 p.m.

 

Father Yasuda and the other sisters gathered at the chapel and they recited the Rosary. At 6:30 p.m. when a sister came to let Sr. Sasagawa know it was time for dinner, she saw new tears flowing from the statue. This time, the tears flowed with greater volume from the corner of the eyes. 

Bishop Ito came to the chapel to see the tears for the first time.He asked for a absorbent cotton and wiped away the tears with it many times. Scientific analysis found that the liquid was “human tears.”

Usually, there were less than ten sisters in the convent, but, at that time, members of other regional branches joined them for the New Year retreat. That day, indeed 20 persons witnessed the statue shedding tears.

The statue had been carved from the Japanese Judas tree more than ten years before by Saburo Wakasa, a prominent local sculptor. It had so completely dried out at that time that it was found that little cracks were running.

So, it would be miraculous that water overflowed from such dry wood. Furthermore, slightly salted “human tears” flowed from the eyes, not the cracks of the statue. 

This supernatural phenomenon of weeping statue of Holy Mary lasted intermittently until September 15, 1981.

In total, the statue wept 101 times! More than 1,870 people witnessed it in person. Plus, it was filmed and broadcast to a national TV audience in Japan. More detailed records are summarized in Father Yasuda’s book “Akita: The Tears and Message of Mary.” 

March 25, 1982

On the Feast of the Annunciation, which is a most important Feast of the Institute of the Handmaids of the Eucharist, Sr. Sasagawa came to see Father Yasuda after the adoration to tell him of a new message from her guardian angel. The angel said:

"You feel painful in your lost hearing, don’t you? The time of the cure which I had promised you is close at hand.

Just as before, through the intercession of the Holy and Immaculate Virgin, your ears will be completely cured before Him who is truly present in the Eucharist. And thus the work of the Most High will be accomplished.

"There will still be many hardships, sufferings and obstacles coming from outside. But, you have nothing to fear. If you devote them in patience, you will definitely be protected. Please offer prayers well. Tell the man who guides you what I have told you. And ask him for guidance and prayer."

Father Yasuda had expected the complete cure of Sr. Sasagawa’s hearing loss would come someday. Nevertheless, he got so emotional to know that the day was coming. Father Yasuda advised Sr. Sasagawa to tell nothing to anyone else about it and to behave as usual. 

May 1, 1982

A little more than a month had passed. It was May which is called Marian month. On the morning of May 1, Sr. Sasagawa received a message from her guardian angel again during adoration. The angel said:

 

"Your ears will be completely cured during this month consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They will be cured as before by Him who is really present in the Eucharist. Those who will believe in this sign will receive many graces. There will be those who oppose, but you have nothing to fear.":

From this angel’s message, Father Yasuda expected that it would be any one of the Sundays of May. Then, the Sunday of Pentecost, the last Sunday of Marian month came. That day, there were fewer visitors than usual.

 

The only persons from outside were Mr. and Mrs. Okuhara. Mr. Eiji Okuhara was the professor of the first biochemical class of the medical department at Akita University. He had introduced Prof. Kaoru Sagisaka of the forensic medicine class of the medical department at Gifu University to Father Yasuda so that a scientific analysis of the tears of the statue of Virgin Mary could be conducted. In hindsight, Prof. Okuhara was just the proper person required to be present.

After more than an hour of adoration, Father Yasuda took the monstrance of the Blessed Sacrament to give a benediction to the attendees gathered.  Then the moment he rang a bell, Sr. Sasagawa’s hearing returned as if the ring of the bell triggered it. When they finished the divine praises like always, Sr. Sasagawa called out to Father Yasuda from behind.

"Father! I have just received the grace of healing! Could I ask you to recite the Magnificat to show my appreciation?"

Father Yasuda put the Host in the tabernacle and said with a rush of emotion to the attendees. "A few months ago, an angel had appeared before Sr. Sasagawa and told her that her ears would be completely healed. Amazingly, just as the angel had predicted, Sr. Sasagawa’s ears have been healed now! So, let us sing the Magnificat as an expression of our gratitude to the grace of Virgin Mary."

That evening, Sr. Sasagawa called the Bishop Ito to report him the cure of her ears. The Bishop was very surprised, because she could talk with him on the phone like a person with normal hearing. 

The following morning, Sr. Sasagawa went to see an ENT doctor, Dr. Arai of the Akita Red Cross Hospital, who had been taking care of her for nine years. His examination showed that her hearing had been completely cured. 

Father Yasuda supposed the reason why she had lost her hearing was to prepare for the great grace to receive the messages from the Virgin Mary. In other words, it was necessary to lose her hearing to hear the supernatural voice of the Virgin Mary.

Additional Apparitions

Over the course of decades and to this day, Sister Agnes has reported additional apparitions in which Mary conveyed messages of repentance, prayer, and the need for conversion. 

 

Bishop Ito's Approval

Most Reverend John Shojiro Ito of Niigata, who on April 22, 1984, after years of extensive investigation, declared the tears to be of supernatural origin and authorized veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita.

 

"After the inquiries conducted up to the present day, one cannot deny the supernatural character of a series of unexplainable events relative to the statue of the Virgin honored at Akita (Diocese of Niigata). Consequently I authorize that all of the diocese entrusted to me venerate the Holy Mother of Akita."

The Bishop said that it would have been difficult to believe in a message from Our Lady that is so terrible, unless there was overwhelming proof that it was indeed from Her. He points out that the terrible chastisement of which Our Lady speaks is conditional: “If men do not repent and do not better themselves...”

 

The Bishop said that it is a serious warning, while at the same time, one perceives in it the maternal love of Our Lady. In Her message warning the world of the annihilation of a great part of humanity, She said: “The thought of the loss of numerous souls makes me sad.”

His letter discusses the miraculous healing of Sr. Sasagawa's hearing as well as the healing from terminal brain cancer of Theresa Chon from South Korea in 1981 during a pilgrimage to the Akita convent asking for her Lady's intercession. 

 

The letter presents the scientific tests on the samples of blood, tears, and sweat from the statue. Scientists confirmed that the samples were of human origin: the blood was found to be type B and the sweat and tears were type AB. 

Bishop Ito delivered his letter to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI. The Cardinal allowed the pastoral letter and its dissemination to the faithful.

 

However, the apostolic nuncio in Japan, Bishop William Aquin Carew noted that Cardinal Ratzinger did not give any judgment on the reliability or credibility of the messages of the Virgin, saying he simply affirmed that there are no objections to the conclusions of the pastoral letter. 

 

The Holy See has never given a formal statement on either the events or messages of Akita. 

Our Lady's Messages

While the warning given by Our Lady at Akita is terrible, the message, as the Bishop points out, is basically a repetition of the Message of Fatima. Our Lady stressed the importance of praying the Rosary, and above all of accepting from God whatever He may send in the course of each day... whatever suffering... and to offer it up in reparation for so many sins committed throughout the world at this time.

 

Our Lady begged especially for prayers for bishops, priests, and religious, and for reparation before the Blessed Sacrament. Our Lady said: “I have prevented the coming of calamities by offering to the Father, together with all the victim souls who console Him, the sufferings endured by the Son on the Cross, by His blood and by His very loving Soul. Prayer, penance, and courageous sacrifices can appease the anger of the Father.”

The impending chastisement foretold by Our Lady in Her apparitions at Akita can be averted if enough people pray the Rosary daily and do penance which Our Lady requested at Fatima in 1917 and at Akita in 1973.

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