Apparitions of the Madonna at Oliveto Citra

By Faricy, Robert | The Catholic Historical Review, July 1999 | Go to article overview

Apparitions of the Madonna at Oliveto Citra


Faricy, Robert, The Catholic Historical Review


Apparitions of the Madonna at Oliveto Citra. By Paolo Apoito. Translated by William A. Christian,Jr. (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press. 1998. Pp. xi.267. $49.50.)

On November 24, 1985, the feast of Saint Macarius, the patron saint of Oliveto Citra, a small town south of Salerno, Italy, the townspeople held their annual evening celebration in honor of their saint. Late that night, while many were still celebrating, twelve boys who had been playing in the center of the town, reported having seen the Blessed Virgin Mary. They ran into a nearby bar shouting, "We've seen the Madonna." The barmaid went to where the boys had been playing and reportedly saw the Madonna herself, who spoke to the barmaid. That was the beginning of a long series of alleged apparitions, which continued for about ten years on an almost daily basis. Many people, hundreds, some of them pilgrims who have come for an evening of prayer to the place where the Madonna is said to appear, say that they have seen the Virgin Mary and heard her speak to them. HIer message has always been the same: she calls them to be converted, to have faith, and to pray.

At present, only one person claims to see the Blessed Virgin Mary at all, and rarely. There are few pilgrims, and only a handful of people come to the center of the town each evening to say the rosary together. For all practical purposes, the episode of the Oliveto Citra apparitions is closed. This book is about the phenomenon of those alleged apparitions.

Congratulations to the translator and to the University of Pennsylvania Press. The production of the book, including the book jacket, stands as a model for publication of a scholarly work. And William A. Christian has done an outstanding work of translation, with an additional bibliography additional explanatory footnotes, and an extensive and useful index. The book itself is another matter. Readers, in general, will be puzzled by the book rather than enlightened.

The author teaches cultural anthropology at the University of Salerno, Italy, near where the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary reported in the book take place. This book, the author's first to be translated into English, purports to be a scholarly, scientific study in the field of cultural anthropology. The distanced view that the author takes from his subject, however, far from being scientific, appears condescending and peculiarly prejudiced against the people of that part of southern Italy. …

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