Bernardo Martinez was a
very simple, middle-aged rancher with great humility. In the valley
of Cuapa, Nicaragua, he took care of the small sacristy. From the
time he was a young boy, he had done the cleaning in the chapel,
opened doors for services, prepared for all celebrations, rang the
bells and led the Rosary hours all without pay. Bernardo's
grandmother had been very devout, and she taught him to have a great
love for Our Holy Mother Mary, and the Rosary. Bernardo was very
poor, owning a single calf and bathing in a nearby stream.
On two different nights
in April of 1980, Bernardo had gone to the sacristy, where he found
the lights turned on. Bernardo was sure some of the local women had
left the lights on, and he had lightly scolded them.
Then, on the night of
April 15, 1980, Bernardo saw the glow of the lights from the
sacristy, and entered to turn them off. What he found instead, was
not the sacristy lights on, but the statue of the Virgin Mary
illuminated all by itself. Because of Bernardo's humility and
simplicity, he thought that the statue lit up because Mary was mad at
him for blaming some of the women for leaving the lights on.
Bernardo later said:
“I thought The
Holy Virgin, the Holy Mother, is angry with me because I have been
quarreling with the people. I decided to ask their forgiveness
because I was so moved at seeing Her so illuminated.”
“After the public
apology, I told all the people (who
were there praying the Rosary) what I had seen (the
illuminated statue). But I asked them to keep it secret. It
was not so. The secret spread throughout all of Cuapa and I suffered
due to this because some of them ridiculed me.”
The people continued to
ridicule Bernardo, even his priest. People would ask if Mary was
talking to him; the priest would ask him for news as if he was making
fun; and then told him to pray to Mary and ask Her if there was
anything she wanted from the people.
pray, but his prayer was:
please do not request anything of me. I have many problems in the
church. Make your request known to some other person because I want
to avoid any more problems. I have a great many now. I don't want any
The man Mary had chosen
to receive Her message exemplifies what the Gospels say we all should
be: simple, childlike, humble, prayerful, and obedient. Bernardo
Martinez was himself such a man.
On May 8, 1980,
Bernardo had gone fishing. He was returning around 3 o'clock to go
feed the animals, and then go to the chapel to pray the Rosary with
the people at 5 o'clock. As he was going on his way, he saw 2
lightening flashes. On the second flash, the Virgin Mary appeared to
him. Here are his own words:
"It looked like
the statue of the Virgin of Fatima. I was immobile. I had no
inclination to run, to yell, I felt no fear, I was surprised. I had
thought and said: What am I seeing? Could it be the same statue of
the Virgin that they brought and placed here for me? The statue from
the chapel? Is it in order to play a joke on me because I said I saw
it illuminated? Is it a trick? But no! I would have seen them
carrying it.I then passed my hand over my face because I thought that
what I saw was a dream. And I said, Could it be that I am asleep, but
I have not tripped over anything."
"And when I
removed my hands from my face, I saw that she had human skin and that
her eyes moved and She blinked. I then said, in my thoughts, because
I could not move my tongue I said: She is alive. She is not a statue.
She is alive! My mind was the only thing that I could move. I felt
like numb, my lower jaw stiff and my tongue as if asleep, everything
immobilized, as I said, only the ideas moved in my head. I was in
those thoughts when She extended Her arms --- like the Miraculous
Medal which I never had seen, but which later was shown to me. She
extended Her arms and from Her hands emanated rays of light stronger
than the sun. She was... She rested up high and the rays that came
from Her hands touched my breast. When she gave out Her light is when
I became encouraged to speak, although somewhat stammering. I said to
her: What is your name?"
me with the sweetest voice I have ever heard in any woman, not even
in persons who speak softly. She answered me and said that Her name
was Mary. I saw the way She moved Her lips. I then said: She is
alive! She spoke! She has answered my question! I could see that we
could enter into a conversation, that I could speak with Her. I asked
her, then, where She came from. She told me with the same sweetness:
"I come from
Heaven. I am the Mother of Jesus. At hearing this I immediately asked
Her --- remembering what the priest had told me --- I asked Her: What
is it you want? "I want the
Rosary to be prayed everyday."
interrupted and said to Her: Yes, we are praying it. --- The priest
brought us the intentions of the San Francisco parish so that we
would unite ourselves with them.
"She told me:I don't want it prayed only in the month of May. I want it to
be prayed permanently, within the family, including the children old
enough to understand; to be prayed at a set hour when there are no
problems with the work in the home."
"She told me
that the Lord does not like prayers we make in a rush or
mechanically. Because of that She recommended praying of the Rosary
with the reading of bible citations and that we put into practice the
Word of God."
"When I heard
this I thought and said, How is this? because I did not know the
Rosary was biblical. That is why I asked Her and said, Where are the
"She told me to
look for them in the Bible and continued saying:"Love
each other. Fulfill your obligations. Make peace. Don't ask our Lord
for peace because if you do not make it there will be no peace. Renew
the Five First Saturdays. You received many graces when all of you
"Before the war
we used to do this. --- We went to Confession and Communion every
First Saturday of the month. --- But since the Lord already had freed
us from the shedding of blood in Cuapa, we no longer continued this
practice. Then She said:
has suffered much since the earthquake. She is threatened with even
more suffering. She will continue to suffer if you don't change. ---
Pray! Pray, my son, the Rosary for all the world. Tell believers and
non-believers that the world is threatened by grave dangers. I ask
the Lord to appease His Justice, but if you don't change, you will
hasten the arrival of a Third World War."
"After She had
said these words, I understood that I had to say this to the people
and I told her: "Lady, I don't want problems. I have many in the
Church. Tell this to another person." She then told me:
Our Lord has selected you to give the message."
After this first vision
of Our Lady, there would be five more visions of Her, and one vision
of an angel.
Not wanting any more problems or ridicule from the people, Bernardo kept the vision to himself, and began to avoid the area where the vision had occurred. He felt guilty for remaining silent, and felt as though he had a great weight upon him. On May 16, 1980, Bernardo was walking through a pasture on his way to take his calf to the river to water it. Once again he saw 2 lightning flashes, and Mary appeared before him: "I thought she had come to complain about all that she had told me to say. I felt guilty for not having spoken as she had asked and at the same time, in my mind, I said: "I don't go to the place where she appeared because she appears there, and now, she appears to me here. I will be in a fine state, she will be following me wherever I am."It was with this in mind, when she told me with a tone -- with her voice soft -- but with a tone as if in reprehension: "Why have you not told what I sent you to tell?" I then answered her: "Lady, it is that I am afraid. I am afraid of being the ridicule of the people, afraid that they will laugh at me, that they will not believe me. Those who will not believe this, will laugh at me. They will say that I am crazy." She then said to me: "Do not be afraid. I am going to help you, and tell the priest." Saying this, there was another flash of lightning and she disappeared.
then told all the people who came to his houseabout
his vision, and then he told the priest. The priest told him that
what he had already seen he could tell the people, but if he had any
more visions he was to tell no one but the priest.
On June 8, 1980 Bernardo had a night time appearance from Our Lady. She showed him 4 visions that Bernardo described as being like a movie in the sky. First, he saw a large group of people dressed in white, their bodies radiating light, singing and marching towards heaven. These were the first Christians. Second, he saw another large group of people (Dominicans), dressed in white with large luminous Rosaries in their hands. One of them carried a very large book. He read, then everyone silently meditated on the words, and then they all prayed the Our Father and ten Hail Marys
Mary told Bernardo:
"They are the first ones to whom I gave the Rosary. That is the way that I want all of you to pray the Rosary."
Bernardo then saw a third group all dressed in brown robes, apparently they were the Franciscans.
"These received the Rosary from the hands of the first ones."
The fourth group Bernardo saw was a very large group dressed in normal street clothes and all carrying Rosaries. Light radiated from all of their bodies, and their bodies were all beautiful. Bernardo told Mary he wanted to go with this last group because they were all dressed like he was.
Mary's reply to him was:
"No! You are still lacking. You have to tell the people what you have seen and heard. I have shown you the glory of Our Lord and you people will acquire this if you are obedient to Our Lord, to the Lord's Word; if you persevere in praying the Holy Rosary and put into practice the Lord's Word."
Bernardo wanted to tell everyone about this vision, but he obeyed his priest and told only him. This is always a true test of any apparition, and that is the obedience of the seer to the priests and bishops.
On July 8, 1980 an Angel appeared to Bernardo and foretold several events which shortly took place. One of those events was the murder of Bernardo's cousin which could have been prevented if he had listened to Bernardo's warnings.
On September 8, 1980, Mary appeared to Bernardo as a child of six or seven years old. Her message to him was the same as the first time and Bernardo asked Her if She wanted a church built in her honor, as one man had already given him 80 Cordobas for that purpose.
Mary told Bernardo:
"No! The Lord does not want material churches, He wants living temples which are yourselves. Restore the sacred temple of the Lord. In you is the gratification for the Lord. Love each other. Love one another. Forgive each other. Make peace. Don't just ask for it, make peace. From this day on do not accept even one cent for anything. Always continue firmly in the catechism. Little by little you will comprehend all that the catechism signifies. As a community group meditate on the beatitudes, away from all the noise. I am not going to return on the 8th of October, but on the 13th." (Note: October 13 is the Feast of Fatima.)
On October 13, 1980, Mary appeared to Bernardo at Cuapa for the final time. Bernardo and fifty people went to the site of the apparitions. They prayed the Rosary and sang "Holy Queen of Heaven" when suddenly Bernardo and the witnesses saw:
..."a big luminous circle formed over the ground. Everyone without a single exception saw it. It was like a single ray that fell and marked this luminous circle on the ground. The light came from above. The light that came was like a spotlight that on touching the ground was scattered. Seeing how this light fell over the heads of everyone who was there, I again looked upward and saw that a circle gave off lights in different colors, without coming from the sun. It was not at that spot as the sun was already setting.
"A little girl, being held by the hand of her mother, tried to release her hand, telling her mother that the Lady was calling her. The mother held her even more firmly and did not let her move. The child's mother told me this herself after the apparition was over.
"It was 3:00 in the afternoon. One could feel a small breeze that moved softly. Pleasant, like a fresh shower, but which did not wet us. While we observed this, we were silent and continued seeing that circle of light which gave off colored lights from the exact center, where the sun is at twelve noon.
"All of a sudden a lightning flash, the same as the other times; then, a second one. I lowered my eyes and I saw the Lady."
When Mary's form appeared Bernardo pleaded with Her to allow herself to be seen by the others for they didn't believe. Her face turned pale, and Her garments gray, and She began to cry. Bernardo began to cry too when he saw how this hurt her, and he began to apologize profusely. Mary told him:
"It saddens me to see the hardness of those persons hearts. But you will have to pray for them so that they will change. Pray the Rosary. Meditate on the mysteries. Listen to the Word of God spoken in them. Love one another. Love each other. Forgive each other. Make peace. Don't ask for peace without making peace, because if you don't make it, it does no good to ask for it.
"Fulfill your obligations. Put into practice the world of God. Seek ways to please God. Serve your neighbor as that way you will please Him.
"They ask of me things that are unimportant. Ask for Faith in order to have the strength so that each can carry his own cross.
"The suffering of this world cannot be removed. That is the way life is. There are problems with the husband, with the wife, with the children, with the brothers. Talk, converse, so that problems will be resolved in peace. Do not turn to violence. Never turn to violence. Pray for faith in order that you will have patience.
"You will no longer see me in this place."
Bernardo began to shout, begging "Don't leave us my Mother!"
"Do not be grieved. I am with all of you even though you do not see me. I am the Mother of All you sinners.
"Love one another. Forgive each other. Make peace, because if you don't make it, there will be no peace. Do not turn to violence. Never turn to violence.
"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.
"Pray, pray, my son, for all the world. Grave dangers threaten the world. The Mother never forgets Her children, and I have not forgotten what you suffer. I am the Mother of all of you sinners. Invoke me with these words.
"Holy Virgin, You are my Mother, the Mother to all of us sinners."
With those words, Our Lady of Nicaragua left, and never again appeared in that place. Her message was complete...pray the Rosary, meditate on Christ's life, meditate on the Beatitudes, pray as a family, never rush or mechanically say prayers, make your own peace, and put the Word of God into practice daily.
Bernardo Martinez, that simple humble man who received these visions, continued to be the sacristan at his parish for awhile.
When the Bishop of Juigalpa, Bishop Pablo Antonio Vega, authorized him to reveal the miracle, and crowds of pilgrims began coming to Cuapa, the Sandinistas began to persecute Bernardo. They tried to bribe Bernardo with the offer of free farm land if he would say that the Virgin was Sandinista. He refused. They then launched a televison and newspaper campaign calling Bernardo insane, hysterical, and hallucinatory. A woman began to follow him, and tried to seduce him, but he would not be swayed. The faithful who protected Bernardo discovered lurking photographers, and one morning defended him from Sandinista police who had invaded his house and tried to kidnap him.
To protect Bernardo, the Church brought him to a seminary where he devoted himself to gardening and took great joy in telling the seminarians about his visions.
In 1995. at the age of 64 years, Bernardo was himself ordained a priest in the Cathedral of León, Nicaragua. He would later celebrate the Mass of the Resurrection in this same cathedral.
You may click here to read Bernardo Martinez's officiasl statement on the apparitions at Cuapa given to Bishop Mons. Pablo Antonia Vega, Prelate Bishop of Juigalpa.
In 1982, both Bishop Bosco M. Vivas Robelo, Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Managua and Bishop Pablo Antonio Vega M., Prelate Bishop of Juigalpa (the diocese where the apparitions took place) released statements positively affirming the apparitions. You may read those by clicking here.
The following excerpt is from the blog "Canterbury Tales" by Dr. Taylor Marshall:
The first recorded Marian apparition occurred while the Blessed Virgin Mary was still on earth. According to tradition, the Apostle Saint James the Greater (brother of Saint John the Evangelist) was sent by Saint Peter to Spain to evangelize the Gentiles of that province. While praying by the banks of the Ebro at Saragossa, the Holy Mother of God bilocated and appeared to the Apostle. She instructed him to build a church there, which he did.