Our Lady of Guadalupe dates to 1531. Our Lady of Lourdes dates to 1858. Our Lady of Fátima dates to 1917.
The most popular Marian apparitions all occurred in the last few centuries, which, in the greater perspective of Church history, is fairly recent. But there was a whole other millennium and a half of Church history before that. Did Mary only start appearing to people recently?
Not at all! Amazingly, the first alleged Marian apparition dates all the way back to A.D. 40.
Yes, in the first century, just a few years after the Ascension of Jesus.
The story goes that the Apostle St. James the Greater was in modern-day Spain preaching the Gospel, but without great success. After a lot of work, he had only made a few converts, and he was beginning to lose heart. So, on October 12th, A.D. 40, he gathered a small group of his disciplines and started praying.
Suddenly, Mary miraculously appeared to them. She was standing on top of a pillar, surrounded by angels. She assured them that the people to whom they were preaching would eventually be converted and that their faith would be as strong as the pillar she was standing on. She instructed James to build a chapel in that spot, and she then vanished, leaving the pillar where it was, as well as a wooden image of herself atop the pillar where she had stood.