Our Lady of Benoni?
South African Teenager Claims Visions of Virgin Mary

Mark Alessio

“Hundreds of people of all religious persuasions are flocking to be blessed by a 17-year-old South African girl who claims to have had visions of the Virgin Mary around her home,” reports the Associated Press (June 11, 2007).

Seventeen-year-old Francesca Zackey of Benoni, a small town east of Johannesburg, claims to have received visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary surrounded by bouquets of roses and pictures of the crucified Christ. Her parents have converted the front room of their house into a prayer room, complete with a shrine, fronted by a child-sized statue of Mary. According to the AP report:

Zackey is the youngest of four daughters in a devoted Catholic Lebanese family. Underneath a long black sweater, the teenager was wearing a zip-up sweat shirt printed with the word “punk”.

“She's always been a different child, very bold,” said Bridget Zackey, the girl's mother, who had a blue string of rosary beads wrapped around her right hand. She said the visions seemed to come at an opportune time for her daughter who has just finished school and was going through a transitional period in her life. “I think this is her calling.”

Francesca Zackey claims to have first seen the Blessed Virgin on May 7th, during her family’s evening meal. She says that, as she was placing a book upon a shelf, “I just smelt the strongest fumes of roses and it just hit me, and I fell to my knees and I started crying the tears of joy.” Her family also claim to have detected the scent of roses by the bookshelf. Zackey says that she was then compelled by the Holy Spirit to go to her bedroom, where she saw Mary sitting on the right side of her bed. “She had ice blue eyes, long brown hair, and an ice blue cloak. Her hands were open, there was light coming out of her hands,” Zackey said.

Although scared at first, the teenager claims that “the Holy Spirit took over” and gave her courage. Zackey says that the Virgin Mary – who has allegedly appeared to her some 20 times – wants her to write a book documenting her visions and start a youth prayer group: “She said to me that she wants people to pray with their hearts. She said: 'I want you to open your house for seven days and I want you to put statues where I have been'.”

According to AllAfrica.com (June 20, 2007), “the Catholic Church has told Benoni teenager Francesca Zackey to stop blessing pilgrims after a woman severely damaged her eyes.” Zackey reportedly told Amal Nassif, a 37-year-old woman from South Africa’s Gauteng Province, that if she stared directly into the sun with faith, the Blessed Virgin would appear:

After looking into the sun for an entire minute, Nassif now lives in a blurred world, in which she can't recognize shapes. And, in almost a month, her vision has not improved. "I can't see anything. There is a large dark blind spot," she said. She is fighting to save what remains of her sight.

As a result of this incident, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference has asked Zackey not to receive pilgrims, not to speak to the media and not to encourage people to look into the sun. On June 20, 2007, SAPA (the South African Press Agency) reported that at least four people had damaged their eyes in the same manner as Amal Nassif.

Comment: A “bold” teenager with a “punk” sweatshirt sees the Mother of God sitting on her bed? In the post-conciliar Catholic world, why not? After all, the very first “apparition” of Medjugorje followed right on the heels of two of the “visionaries,” Ivanka and Mirjana, heading out to smoke cigarettes stolen from their fathers.

And, once again, the devil is in the details. Just before the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, Lucia dos Santos cried out to the assembled multitudes, “Look at the sun!” In his eyewitness account of the Miracle of the Sun, Dr. José Maria de Almeida Garrett, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Coimbra, Portugal, noted that “the most astonishing thing was to be able to stare at the solar disc for a long time, brilliant with light and heat, without hurting the eyes or damaging the retina.” Another eyewitness, Avelino de Almeida, the chief editor of the Lisbon newspaper, O Seculo, wrote: “It resembled a flat plate of silver, and it was possible to stare at it without the least  discomfort. It did not burn the eyes. It did not blind.”

Compare the statements of Garrett and Almeida with the unfortunate lament of Amal Nassif, after she was told to look at the sun by Francesca Zackey: "I can't see anything. There is a large dark blind spot." Can the difference be any more pronounced?

It is further interesting that Francesca Zackey’s mother said that her daughter’s “visions” began at an opportune time, since Francesca had just finished school and was going through a transitional period in her life. An interesting time for an apparition to tell the teenager to write a book.

Of course, it is up to the proper church authorities to study and pronounce on this “Our Lady of the Ray” business. Until then, the facts speak for themselves. Come to think of it, these facts are shouting. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, etc. Sometimes, you just can’t beat simple folk wisdom.