Sightings of the Virgin Mary can happen in the unlikeliest places. Some people encounter her high in the mountains of the French Alps, while others find her in a school playground. Sometimes, Mary comes awash in a bright light. Other times, she's in tears.
In the 20th century alone, there were about 386 sightings of Mary "reported at a level beyond local rumors," according to The New York Times.
The bishops of local dioceses study these apparitions. In any given case, a bishop might have to make sure the sighting isn't a moneymaking scheme, or confirm that it doesn't contradict church doctrine. Church authorities also evaluate the backgrounds of the witnesses, sometimes even making use of psychiatric exams and brain scans.
If local bishops put their stamp of approval on the apparition, the site often becomes a place of pilgrimage for the faithful.
The Catholic Church celebrates Sept. 8 as the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day when the woman Christians believe to be the mother of God was born in Jerusalem. In honor of her nativity, here are just some of the sites where Mary is said to have appeared.
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