The Virgin Mary smells of roses and is returning to Upper Bavaria. The mother of God is set to appear in the small St Lawrence Chapel in Unterflossing on March 17 at half past four, sharp (1530 GMT).
That is according to Otto Masszi, a man who, a few years ago, bought and renovated the chapel in the village of 100 souls at his own expense.
He denies any personal interest. “Whether or not this becomes a place of pilgrimage is of no concern to me,” he says.
The virgin has appeared here twice in the past, most recently in September. Hundreds made the pilgrimage, along with a self-appointed prophet named Salvatore Caputa. Some of them insist they could smell her.
“There was this unmistakeable scent of roses,” says Erich Neumann, chairman of the association of friends of the St Lawrence Chapel, who organized the gathering.
Masszi, who works as an engineer for city of Munich – and is also organist and choir leader in several parishes – says a woman even saw the mother of God, describing her as having brown hair and being dressed in a blue velvet robe.
The archdiocese of Munich and Freising, under the jurisdiction of which Unterflossing falls, have refrained from commenting on the phenomenon, which has generated debate among the faithful and others in the region, saying matters outside the church’s purview were involved.
The archdiocese instructed its clerics not to become involved in order to avoid lending any legitimacy to the phenomenon.
Even before that, Father Armin Thaller, the local priest, had maintained his distance, saying the church first had to test the reports. He spoke of “walking a line so sharp that one could cut one’s feet to pieces.”
Reports of Marian apparitions are not uncommon among devout Catholics. Some of the more famous were in Lourdes in France, where a series of appearances were reported in 1858, and another in Fatima in Portugal, where the Mother of Jesus is said to have revealed herself in 1917. Both are places of pilgrimage for Catholics to this day.
Other places where the virgin is believed to have appeared are Guadelupe in Mexico and Filipov in the Czech Republic.
But even if these apparitions are acknowledged by the church, this merely means that they do not conflict with the faith. The faithful are not compelled to believe.
The question being asked is why Mary should appear in Unterflossing, of all places. There are a few theories.
First, Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus who retired five years ago, was born some 30 kilometres away and went to school in the area. There is also Altoetting, with its famous Black Madonna dating back to the 14th century. It is nearby and already an established place of pilgrimage.
Masszi has his answer ready: Our Lady simply chose to make an appearance in strongly Catholic Upper Bavaria. She had previously tried at a place where she was unwelcome – a farmer’s private chapel in Walpertskirchen a little to the west, where Caputa was awaiting her with his retinue.
According to Masszi, Caputa has close links with the virgin and goes ahead of her when she wishes to appear, along with hundreds of pilgrims. That didn’t sit well with the son of the farmer who owned the channel and he chased the group off the farm.
“He even put his manure cart in the way,” Masszi says in disgust. “A tragedy. You can’t pull the rug out from under the Mother of God.” He then took the decision to invite Mary to his chapel, appealing to Caputa to pass on the invitation.
The fact that the Mary will appear at 4:30 pm on the dot does not surprise Masszi. “She knows the time of day.” But he warned guests to come early, as those who have not prayed have little chance of seeing her.
Prayers will start around noon. Following the ban imposed by the archdiocese, an afternoon service will be conducted without a priest.
Masszi says he is opposed to commerce done in the name of Mary, at nearby Altoetting for example. “That does not please the mother of God.”
People in the area are preparing for a surge in interest. “You are the 300th caller,” says Hans Soehl, owner of a metalworking company in nearby Obertaufkirchen, whose phone number has mistakenly been linked to the apparition.
“We have nothing to do with the Marian apparition, apart from the wrong phone number.”(dpa/NAN)