To know the Virgin Mary is to love her. One way we can get to know her better is through her visits from Heaven to Earth. Marian apparitions are simply ‘private revelations’ illuminating aspects of faith but not revealing new ones since, according to Catholic doctrine, the age of public revelation  ended with John, the last apostle. These messages in union with the Church, increase our love of the Blessed Mother who she leads us closer to Jesus, and calls us to pray more and offer repentance for our sins.
It can be a long road between the reported claim of an apparition until an investigation is completed. It is anyone’s choice if they want to travel that road, but final authority rests with the Church.
Some reported apparitions have received the “constat de non supernaturalitate” judgment, meaning it was determined as not from God. With Church investigations, discernment is done objectively with great theological understanding  and not based on emotions or signs and wonders. Even if 99% of the messages conform to Catholic teaching, it is the 1% that does harm. Catholics are not attracted to outright heresy but they can fall into false apparitions where errors are subtly planted. The Blessed Mother would never operate outside and against the Church that her Son founded.
Some of these apparitions have deeply impacted my life; two of them since childhood—Lourdes and Fatima—with inspiration and directions for holiness. I introduced my own children to Marian apparitions through books and movies. Our Lady’s Wardrobe by Anthony DeStefano is also a beautiful, new book that introduces young children to eight of the most well-known Marian apparitions. The life-like images feel like an encounter with our Heavenly Mother. Children are introduced to her visits through the simple but beautiful clothing she wore. They also learn about the special things they can wear (the Brown Scapular and the Miraculous Medal) to assist them along the path to holiness and that they, too, can create a heavenly wardrobe reflective of God’s presence.
I especially encourage everyone to learn about the four apparitions listed below have deeply impacted our Catholic Culture and annually draw many millions to their shrines.
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
St. Catherine Labouré, a nun in France, woke up on July 19, 1930, to the voice of the Blessed Mother, calling her to the chapel to pray. She instructed St. Catherine to have a medal made that would rain down graces on those that wore them. Inscribed on the medal is: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” St. Catherine was canonized in 1947. Her body, now encased in glass in Paris, was discovered to be incorrupt . Learn more here .
Our Lady of Fatima
Between May 13 to October 13, 1917, ‘a lady more brilliant than the sun’ appeared six times to three Portuguese shepherd children. Our Lady of Fatima asked them to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to pray the Rosary every day to end World War I which was raging at the time. She also showed them a vision of hell and entrusted them with three secrets.
The children’s visions drew thousands of visitors. They were even briefly jailed and threated with their lives unless they retracted their story, which they refused. The Blessed Mother’s last appearance attracted an estimated 60,000 or more visitors. Newspapers reported on a ‘Miracle of the Sun’—multicolored light and erratic movement from the sun. Our Lady of Fatima pleaded with us to pray the rosary daily and offer reparation for sinners so that they be saved. Pope John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fátima with saving his life in the attempt on his life on May 13, 1981—the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima. Go here  to read about it.
Our Lady of Lourdes
On February 11, 1858, 14-year-old Saint Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto of Massabielle about a mile from the southern French town of Lourdes saw a beautiful lady that would ultimately appear 17 times in all. She identified herself as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and asked that a chapel be built on that spot. She also revealed to Bernadette a place where a spring came up. The Lourdes Bureau Médical has documented around 70 miraculous healings at the site and there are countless more claims of miracles that have not been investigated. Learn more here .
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego and instructed him to pick Castilian roses on top of the usually barren Tepeyac Hill to confirm the apparition to the Bishop. When Juan brought the roses to the bishop, they discovered an image of the Virgin on his cloak. A few days later, the cloak was displayed in a hastily erected chapel. Miracles started occurring almost immediately.
Our Lady of Guadalupe’s image is full of symbolism understood by the Mexicans. They knew that she was pregnant, yet a virgin, and bowing before one greater than she. Our Lady of Guadalupe became Mexico’s most popular religious symbol and is a powerful prolife symbol. Learn more about her here .
Getting closer to our Blessed Mother always leads in on direction: to Jesus. It’s not only a good place to start to grow in holiness, but a way to accelerate our journey.
For reference, MiracleHunter.com  catalogs apparitions that are approved, condemned and waiting decisions.