Exploring the Cult of Mary

The Virgin Mary is the most depicted and celebrated mother of all time. For two thousand years, she has been revered as the Blessed Virgin, the Queen of Peace, and the Mother of God. To truly understand the Virgin Mary however, we must understand the millions of believers who are devoted to her. National Geographic Channel’s Explorer: The Cult of Mary is a present-day tale of mystics and miracles, visionaries, and true believers

In the village of Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, six children claimed to see the Virgin Mary in 1981. Sick people from all over the world venture to this small town in the mountains to be in the presence of the visionaries and to be healed. Here we follow a mother of three fighting stage-four brain cancer as she makes her first pilgrimage to the town to meet Vicka, a visionary known as “the healer.”

Beyond their town, the visionaries have developed a following. After a trip to Medjugorje, Gianna Talone Sullivan began experiencing Mary in a deeply personal way. Through her daily contact with Mary, she spreads messages to thousands in Maryland.

On the outskirts of Mexico City, we encounter Father Antonio, a Catholic priest brings messages of Mary’s love to incarcerated prisoners, breaking through to even the hardest convicts.

There is also a more complicated side to Marian devotion. Terry Colafrancesco founded the self-contained religious community, Caritas of Birmingham, after one of the Medjugorje visionaries visited him in Alabama. This community is home to many Mary-devotees, but has also been at the center of controversy.

Apparition expert Michael O’Neill weighs in and offers insight into the global phenomenon of apparitions, and photographer Diana Markosian shares her own personal experiences capturing modern day Marian devotion across the globe.

Join National Geographic Channel on a journey into the heart of both historical and modern-day Mary devotion and explore her manifestation across cultures in Explorer: The Cult of Mary tonight at 8/7c on National Geographic Channel. And check out the feature story in this month’s National Geographic Magazine, How Mary Became the Most Powerful Woman in the World.