Friday, October 29, 2021

Our Lady of the Universe Bronx Apparitions 76 Years Later

The Bronx is a borough of New York City that is known for many things: its rich cultural diversity, its iconic landmarks, its vibrant arts and music scene, and its history of resilience and innovation. But did you know that the Bronx is also the site of a reported Marian apparition? Yes, according to some witnesses, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in the Bronx in 1945 under the title of Our Lady of the Universe.

The story goes that on November 15, 1945, a nine-year-old boy named Joseph Vitolo Jr. was playing with his friend John Bruno near his home on Villa Avenue, adjacent to the Grand Concourse, a major boulevard that runs through the Bronx. As he climbed onto a ledge, he saw a bright light and heard a voice saying "Fear not, Joseph. I am Our Lady of the Universe. You must come here every night at seven o'clock for fifteen nights." He then saw a beautiful woman dressed in white with a blue mantle and a crown of stars, holding a rosary in her hand with a Star of David on her chest. She smiled at him and disappeared.

Joseph ran home and told his parents what he had seen. His father, a devout Catholic, believed him and took him to the local parish priest, Father Edward McKenna. The priest was skeptical at first but agreed to accompany Joseph to the spot where he had seen the apparition. The next night, November 16, Joseph returned to the ledge with his father, his friend John, and Father McKenna. As they prayed the rosary, Joseph saw Our Lady again and spoke to her. He said she asked him to pray for peace in the world and for sinners. She also told him to spread devotion to her Immaculate Heart and to wear the brown scapular.

Word of Joseph's vision spread quickly throughout the neighborhood and beyond. The following nights, hundreds and then thousands of people gathered around the ledge to witness the phenomenon. Some claimed to see flashes of light, stars, or even Our Lady herself. Others reported hearing heavenly music or smelling roses. Many brought flowers, candles, statues, and pictures to honor Our Lady of the Universe. Some also brought crutches, wheelchairs, or sick relatives, hoping for a miracle.

The apparitions continued until November 30, 1945, when Joseph saw Our Lady for the last time. He said she told him: "I am very pleased with your obedience to my request. Continue to pray for peace in this troubled world." She then blessed him and everyone present and ascended into heaven.

The apparitions of Our Lady of the Universe have never been officially approved or condemned by the Catholic Church. However, they have been tolerated and supported by some local clergy and faithful. A shrine was built on the site of the apparitions, where Masses and rosaries are still celebrated regularly. Joseph Vitolo Jr., who died in 1990, remained faithful to his experience and devoted to Our Lady until his death.

Today, 76 years after the apparitions, Our Lady of the Universe remains a source of inspiration and hope for many Bronxites and visitors who come to pray at her shrine. She is a reminder of God's love and mercy for all people, especially those who suffer or struggle in this world. She is also a symbol of the Bronx's spirit of faith, courage, and joy.

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If you want to learn more about Our Lady of the Universe or visit her shrine, you can check out these links:





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