Visions, revelations and apparitions are supernatural
manifestations due to the direct intervention of a power
superior to man in which God makes himself, his will, or
other information known to mankind.
The recipient of a revelation is commonly referred to as
a visionary, a seer or a prophet if
the divine message reveals future events. Supernatural
apparitions of divine forces have been known in every
religion since ancient times. And it’s by far the most
frequent of all miraculous phenomena within the Catholic
Apparitions usually occur while the recipient is in a
state of ecstasy or a trance-like condition. They are
either induced spontaneously or brought on by intense
prayer, meditation or fasting. Ecstasy is characterized
by expanded mental and spiritual awareness while the
activity of the senses is usually suspended.
Three types of apparitions
The Catholic Church, following St. Augustine, outlines three
types of apparitions or visions: intellectual, imaginative
The intellectual vision is perception without the presence
of a visual object. As St. Theresa has said, "It is like
feeling someone near one in a dark place." The object of an
intellectual vision can be anything, but most often is a
higher theological concept such as the Holy Trinity, the
essence of the soul, the nature of heaven, and the like.
The imaginative vision is somewhat more 'concrete' than the
intellectual. Although it also lacks a visual object, the
human imagination is touched to create a visual
representation. Often the visionary is aware that it is a
purely reproduced or composite image, which exists only in
the imagination. This kind of vision occurs most frequently
The difference between an imaginative and a corporeal vision
is that the imaginative, while having a visual component, is
not seen by the eyes and leaves no physical evidence of its
effects. The corporeal vision, on the other hand, is
registered by the human eye and at times leaves physical
effects. The corporeal vision can either be a figure really
present or a power superior to man, which directly modifies
the visual organ and produces in the composite a sensation
equivalent to that which an external object would. The
presence of an external figure may be seen in two ways.
Sometimes the very substance of the being or the person will
be presented; sometimes it will be merely an appearance
consisting in a certain arrangement of luminous rays.
Other Types of Phenomena
Sometimes the apparition is only heard, usually as an inner
voice. This phenomenon is called locution.
Phenomena such as weeping images of Jesus or the Virgin Mary
and people showing the marks of stigmata may obviously also
be considered as divine apparitions. These are therefore
often investigated and judged by the Vatican congregation,
which deals with private revelations.
Here let the heart abide,
For winter is over and done
Where Heaven is opened wide
On a woman clothed with the sun.
Sr. Mary St. Virginia Cyril Robert,
Mary Immaculate: God's Mother and Mine (1946)