Childhood and Youth
On August 13, 1905, Ida Peerdeman is born in Alkmaar, Holland, as the youngest of five children. There is a nice episode recounting this, for on the same day Gesina, her eldest sister, celebrates her birthday. She has wanted a new doll for a long time, and so her father guides her into the bedroom where her mother is lying with the newborn baby, Ida. Gesina understands, and stamps her foot in protest, complaining, “I don’t want a doll like that! I wanted a real doll!”
At the little one’s baptism in the parish church, St. Joseph, she is given the name Isje Johanna, but she will always be called just Ida. Shortly before World War I the Peerdeman family moves to Amsterdam. Ida is just eight years old when, after giving birth, her thirty-five-year-old mother dies along with the child. Following this great sorrow which deeply affects everyone, the oldest sister, Gesina, has to give up her wish of becoming a nurse. Only sixteen years old, she strives hard to be a good mother for her three sisters and her brother Piet. Since the father, a textile salesman, is often on business trips throughout the Netherlands, she must try to hold her family together. They treasure their family life at home all the more. Ida especially loves being together with her brother Piet, who understands her, with whom she can speak, and who consoles her when she is sad. As a Catholic family they attend Holy Mass on Sunday and they pray before meals, but that is all.
In her childhood, Ida goes to the Dominican church every weekend for confession with Fr. Frehe, who will later become her spiritual director. Her life continues like this for several years, until October 13, 1917. On this memorable Saturday afternoon in the month of the Holy Rosary, also the day of the miracle of the sun in Fatima, something amazing happens on her way home from her weekly confession.
The First Meeting with Mary
The twelve-year-old Ida witnesses a heavenly apparition. At the end of the street she sees an overwhelming light and a radiant woman within, who looks like a very beautiful Jewish woman. The child immediately recognizes her as Mary. With her arms spread out a little, with a kind, joyful look, and without saying a word, she stands in the shining light. Never before in her life has Ida seen something so beautiful. After the woman makes a friendly sign, the girl hurries home. It is understandable that her father admonishes her to remain silent about it, recommending that she forget everything. “For God’s sake, don’t tell this to anyone. You would be ridiculed and considered crazy. That’s all we need!” So Ida does not speak about it, even though something similar happens on two of the following Saturdays. The beautiful woman appears again as if in the sun, smiling and remaining silent, just as the first time, while Ida returns home from confession. All of this happens in the month of October 1917, in which Mary appears for the last time to the three shepherd children in Fatima. Ida, of course, knows nothing about this. Fr. Frehe, as Ida’s confidant and the counselor of the Peerdeman family, hears about the extraordinary happenings. He, too, strongly encourages her to keep it to herself, and, better yet, not to think about it anymore. And thus Ida’s initial preparation for the later Marian apparitions remain completely hidden. Thirty-three years later, during the 25th apparition, Ida anxiously asks Our Lady, “Will they believe me?” In her answer Our Lady herself reminds Ida of her three-fold coming in 1917, saying, “Yes, that is why I came to you before––when you did not understand. It was not necessary then; it was the proof for now” (December 10, 1950). This means that now, just as before, the apparitions are not a deception, but truly Mary.
Your Imagination Is Not Good Enough
After primary school, Ida wants to continue her studies to become a kindergarten teacher. After her time of practical training, however, she is turned away with the statement, “Unfortunately you are not qualified. Your imagination is not good enough, and you have too little creativity.” Nobody foresees how important this statement will someday be in the visionary’s life, namely, when she is accused that the apparitions might merely be the illusion of her vivid imagination.
Many years later, a psychological examination (at the bishop’s request) states that she is totally normal. Ida has no ability of pictorial visualization; she is unimaginative, yet straightforward.
When Ida is about eighteen or nineteen years old, she decides to work in the office of a perfume factory in Amsterdam, where she will remain for many years. She is very popular among her co-workers because of her kind and modest ways. The attractive young lady has several admirers, but she does not feel herself called to marriage. In this time Ida suffers more and more from demonic attacks. To this day Helene, the daughter of Ida’s brother Piet, remembers very well all that was told within the family circle about this painful time of demonic torments. While taking a walk through the streets of the town, a certain man catches Ida’s attention. He is dressed in all black, similar to a priest. Afraid of his uncanny, penetrating glance, she tries to evade him by quickening her pace. Her follower, however, is faster. He grabs her forcefully by the arm, trying to drag her into a nearby canal, as if to drown her. In this life-threatening moment, Ida hears a soft voice which calms her and promises help. In the same moment the man, shouting horribly, releases her and disappears without a trace. After this her father gives Gesina the task of accompanying her younger sister to work every day and picking her up in the evening.
Nevertheless, once more they meet this strange man, who laughs coldly, but does not dare touch Ida. Even a third time the devil approaches the twenty-year-old girl, and slyly attempts to draw her into a deadly accident. This time he appears to her as a frail old woman, who claims to know Ida very well from church. She gives the girl an address and invites her to come and visit as soon as possible. Ida says “no,” but she cannot refuse the woman’s request to help her at least to cross the street. In the middle of the street, she is overcome by paralyzing fear as she again feels an iron, claw-like grip on her arm. A shout follows, and Satan disappears. He has led her directly in front of an approaching tram, which barely stops in the last second, missing Ida by just a hair. In the evening, when her brother Piet, together with his future brother-in-law, searches out the address given by the old woman, he finds only an old, abandoned house.
Fr.Frehe, Ida’s confessor and spiritual director, was personally deeply convinced of the authenticity of the messages, yet he was anything but gullible. A Dominican with a theological education, he strictly examined the visions and words of Our Lady which were conveyed to him by the visionary. A selfless and devoted pastor, he was kind and gentle with everyone. He could be truly strict only with himself—and, when concerning matters of the Lady of All Nations, with the visionary too.
Demonic Torments in the Family
Ida is severely tormented by demons at home too, and her family suffers together with her, as Ida’s brother Piet later recounts to his daughter Helene. Once, for example, while Fr. Frehe prepares at the parish house to visit the Peerdeman family, Ida is simultaneously at home, where she begins to shout and curse. Suddenly she has such physical strength that she is able to lift a heavy chair over her head. Her voice is totally changed. We know of similar phenomena from the life of Blessed Myriam of Abellin, a Carmelite who sometimes also had to endure expiatory possession before receiving exceptional graces. Her family members are witnesses when the living room lamp swings back and forth and the doorbell or fuse box continually makes noise on their own. When doors and closets spring open by themselves, the father would sometimes say with humor, “Come in, everyone. The more the merrier!” Fr. Frehe advises him to ignore the demonic harassment as much as possible.
Their father’s fearlessness helps the whole family very much. Following his example, they attach as little importance as possible to extraordinary happenings. But when it is especially hard for them all, they encourage one another with a wise saying, “Laugh, youngsters, for if we don’t laugh, the little devils will—and we don’t want to give them that pleasure!” Once, however, as an invisible hand chokes Ida and the attacks become extremely strong, Fr. Frehe under-stands that he should perform an exorcism over her. During the exorcism the family hears Satan’s revolting voice, which from Ida’s mouth hatefully curses the priest. Fr. Frehe experiences the demons’ rage also in other ways. Thus both Ida and her spiritual director are prepared by a twenty-year-long spiritual lesson for the grace-filled event which one day will concern the entire world—the coming of the Mother and Lady of All Nations.
Visions of War
For years now Ida’s life continues peacefully. Just once—still long before the outbreak of World War II—while working at her office desk, she unexpectedly sees in a vision countless exhausted soldiers passing by. Then, in 1940, when Ida is 35-years-old, the so-called “war visions” begin, visions of the future concerning World War II. Seeing the approaching battle fronts, Ida, with her eyes closed, traces their course upon the table. Her brother, in the meantime, marks them down on a map with pins. The visions correspond exactly to the latest news broadcasts from secret transmitters. Ida, who understands nothing of military strategy, has another vision of something inconceivable at the time. She sees the German army, which had still not lost a battle, pinched off and surrounded by the Red Army at Stalingrad. In May of 1940, at the highpoint of German “successes,” Ida already sees the end of Hitler and Mussolini. Even Ida’s best friend laughs about this prophecy. None of the foreseen events have yet come to pass as her visions of war come to a sudden end. Ida begins a new phase of her life.
The First Apparition of the Lady of All Nations
World War II is not yet finished when, on March 25, 1945, Palm Sunday, the great Marian apparitions of Amsterdam begin. On this day the Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation, the greatest event in the history of man: God takes on human nature in Jesus, to redeem us from sin and death.
In silence and secrecy the plan of salvation began in the grace-filled womb of the Immaculata, in her who will once be called the Coredemptrix. It is surely no coincidence that Mary chose this particular feast day to reveal herself as “THE LADY AND MOTHER,” for the messages of Amsterdam are of universal, salvific importance for the Church and world. Let us have Ida herself tell us of this event: “It was March 25, 1945, the Feast of the Annunciation. My sisters and I sat talking in the drawing-room, around the pot-bellied stove. The war was still going on, and it was the time of the ‘hunger-winter.’ Fr. Frehe was in town that day and stopped by for a brief visit.” (Fr. J. Frehe, O.P., was her spiritual director and confessor for fifty years, from 1917 until his death in 1967)“Well, you know what that comes to: we talked about the war and about our experiences. There had been more raids that week and the like. So we had quite a story to tell. Anyway, we were in deep conversation, when all at once—to this day I don’t know how or why—I felt drawn to the adjoining room and suddenly I saw a light appearing there. I said to myself, ‘Where is that light coming from? And what a curious light!’ I got up and couldn’t help going towards it.”
“There, in the corner of the room, I saw the light coming nearer. The wall disappeared before my eyes, and with it every-thing that had been there. It was one sea of light and an infinite depth. It was neither sunlight nor electric light. I couldn’t tell what sort of light it was. And out of that depth I suddenly saw a figure coming forward, a living figure, a female form; I can give no other explanation. She was dressed in a long, white garment and wearing a sash, very feminine. She was standing with her arms lowered and the palms of her hands turned outward, towards me. As I looked, something strange came over me. I asked myself, ‘What is this?’ And even now I don’t understand how I dared to think, ‘It must be the Blessed Virgin; it can’t be otherwise.’ Meanwhile I heard my sisters and Fr. Frehe say, ‘Now what are you going to do’ and, ‘What are you up to?’ But because I was strongly drawn to that figure, I couldn’t give an answer. Then, all at once, the figure begins to speak to me. She says, ‘Repeat after me.’ I therefore begin—she speaks very slowly—to repeat after her, word-for-word.
“My sisters and Fr. Frehe had gathered around me. I heard Fr. Frehe say, ‘What is she going to do now? Playing the saint, is she?’ However, when he heard me begin speaking, he said to my sister Jo, ‘Just write down what she says.’ My sister saw no sense in it; she found it silly. But Fr. Frehe said, ‘Write it down.’ After I had repeated a couple of sentences, I heard Fr. Frehe say, ‘Listen, just ask who it is.’ And then I ask, ‘Are you Mary?’ The figure smiles at me and answers, ‘They will call me 'the Lady', 'Mother'.’ At the words ‘The Lady’ she moves her head slightly towards me. And so I repeat after her, ‘They will call me The Lady, Mother.’ At that I heard Fr. Frehe say, ‘The Lady? Well, I’ve never heard that before! The Lady!’ And he and my sister that was doing the writing burst out laughing. Inwardly this irritated me a little. I thought, ‘If only you would see what I see, you wouldn’t be laughing like that.’ I couldn’t blame them, though, for they couldn’t see what I was seeing at that moment. After the figure had said everything for me to repeat, she withdrew very slowly. Only then did the light also disappear, and all at once I saw everything around me in the room as it had always been. “Naturally enough Fr. Frehe began to ask, ‘What was that all about?’ I replied, ‘Well, I myself don’t know either. I think it was Mary.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, but made no further comment.” (Fr. Brouwer, of the Assumptionist Order, heard these accounts from the mouth of the visionary herself, and recorded them on audio tape.)
During this first apparition of Our Lady, a cross is placed before Ida. “I take it up very slowly, and it is heavy.”
With this heavy cross Ida accepts her vocation as bearer and bringer of the messages of Amsterdam.
You are the instrument. The Lady is taking care of everything
During her childhood and youth Ida prepares for her very special vocation. Just as with all prophets, so also is this simple, forty-year-old office-worker suddenly and unexpectedly entrusted with a serious responsibility. Within a fifteen-year period, ending May 31, 1959, she receives fifty-six messages from Our Lady. Subsequently, continuing into the 1980’s, the Lord grants her what are called “Eucharistic Experiences.” In contrast to many other apparition sites, in Amsterdam everything remains hidden and in silence. “In all tranquility I came,” said the Lady on May 31, 1958. The main part of the messages is given to Ida at her home. Her sister Truus (Gertrude), a schoolteacher, writes down word-for-word all of the Lady’s statements as Ida repeats them. This is possible because she speaks slowly and makes long pauses before showing the visionary a new image or giving a new thought. When it seems necessary, Ida completes the experience through personal commentaries. Especially in the first years, the messages are very coded, apocalyptic, and symbolic. Similar to the great prophets of the Old Testament, the visionary of Amsterdam belongs to the theologically untrained, to simple people. She often does not quite understand what she sees. Words like ‘Paraclete,’ ‘meteor,’ and ‘Ruach’ are completely unknown to her. She also has great difficulty putting into words what she sees in visions of unknown events. But Our Lady consoles Ida, “Tell your spiritual director that the Lord always chooses the weak for His exalted plans. He can be at ease.” (April 4, 1954). “Once again I say: the Son always looks for the little, the simple for His cause.” (April 15, 1951). Mary lets her child understand, “You have a great task to accomplish” (June 15, 1952). Ida is only an instrument, as Our Lady likes to call her. Yet she says, “By means of this instrument in a small country which is on a downward slope, the Lady of All Nations will give her motherly admonitions and consolations” (May 31, 1954).
Do not hesitate. For I myself never hesitated.
As a wise, kind, loving teacher, she educates her student in the visions: “Listen well!” “Look carefully!” “Read!” “Mark well!” “Warn!” “Tell!” “Spread it out!” ... As messenger and deliverer, Ida must pass on in obedience all which the Lady of All Nations so urgently wishes to tell the Pope, the Bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, the Church, theologians, the world, and all peoples, so that a renewal in the Holy Spirit may come. Understandably, the visionary often feels herself weak and unable to fulfill this difficult task. More than once she anxiously asks the Lady, “But will they believe me?” Mary, however, calms and encourages her, and so also her spiritual director, “Do not hesitate. For I myself never hesitated” (August 15, 1951). “Do not be so afraid. Why be afraid regarding the concerns of the Son?” (March 28, 1951). “I am only asking you to do what I tell you. More is not expected. … You, child of man, cannot estimate what great value this can have.” (March 4, 1951). “You are telling me that you have only empty hands to offer. The Lady is only asking you to pass these messages on to those who need them. The Lady will do the rest.” (October 5, 1952). It is sometimes so painful for the visionary to obey faithfully the directions of her heavenly mother that she spontaneously expresses her human struggles and resistance. This happens, for example, when the Lady requests: “Go to the Holy Father and tell him that I said: the time has now arrived in which the dogma can be proclaimed. I shall come back in private for the Church and for priests, at the time which the Lord shall determine. Say that celibacy is endangered from within. But in spite of everything, the Holy Father shall uphold it.’ When I shook my head and said that I didn’t dare say this, the Lady said somewhat angrily, ‘I order you to say this!’ So I nodded ‘yes’” (May 31, 1957).
Suffering United with the Coredemptrix
That which the visionary sees and experiences in the messages of the Coredemptrix deeply changes her personal life too. Mary asks her child, “Let them come with all their needs, spiritual and bodily. The Lady is here… Make a sacrifice of your life” (April 4, 1954). “Everyone invoke the Lady of All Nations. And you, child, come before this image and pray as long as you can.” (March 19, 1952). Ida matures as a spiritual mother for many people, through her sincere, decades-long effort to live in obedience to the wishes of the Lady. Mary confirms this with impressive words, “And you, child, into your womb I lay the people of the entire world” (April 1, 1951). Many times, therefore, the visionary mystically experiences within herself the state of all humanity. During the fifth apparition, for example, Ida describes, “we come to a large Cross. ‘Take it up; He has gone before you’, the Lady says. I refuse, and feel as if the people of the whole world did the same and turned their backs upon the Cross” (October 7, 1945). Very often Ida experiences through mystically-felt pains, what the Lady of All Nations as Coredemptrix suffered spiritually and physically for the salvation of all peoples. “…and then the Lady … places herself before the Cross. I see her double over, and then she begins to weep. Such in-describable sorrow is written upon her face, and tears are running down her cheeks. Then the Lady says, ‘Child!’ And now it is as if she transmits that suffering to me. First of all I am seized by spiritual exhaustion…. And I feel the same pains as before…. Suddenly it is as if I collapse, and I tell the Lady, ‘I can’t bear it any more.’ It lasts another moment, and then everything is over” (April 15, 1951).
The Proofs of Authenticity Lie in the Words of the Lady
When Ida asks for a sign of authenticity—mainly at the request of others—the Lady answers that her proofs of authenticity lie hidden within the messages themselves: “My signs are in my words” (May 31, 1955 / May 31, 1957).“It will come true through the years” (December 3, 1949). Despite the miracles of healing and conversion which have occurred, Mary does not wish that such miracles be the primary proof of the authenticity of her messages. Rather, she establishes their authenticity through the happening of events which she has predicted either openly or in a coded manner. Over the years many of the Amsterdam messages have, in fact, been fulfilled practically word-for-word, one event after the other, happening as Ida had clearly seen it in her visions. Such proofs are all the stronger and more convincing, for the predicted events lie outside any possibility of human influence on the part of the visionary herself. Until the end of her life, Ida follows with much interest the latest secular and ecclesiastical news on radio and television, seeing whether the messages are confirmed therein.Probably the strongest proof of the authenticity of the Amsterdam messages is the prediction of the day on which Pope Pius XII was called to eternity. God alone, as the “Lord over life and death” can know such a day. Do not such proofs of authenticity—even reaching into the life of a holy pope—clearly enough confirm the universal importance of the messages for the Church and world?
On the night of February 18, 1958 (Ash Wednesday), Ida receives that message which, more than any other, will be the proof of authenticity for Amsterdam. Let us have Ida herself describe what she experienced that night. “Last night I again woke up with a start, because, at exactly three o’clock, I heard someone call me. I saw the light again and heard the voice of the Lady saying, ‘Here I am again. The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. … I shall make an announcement that you may not tell anyone about, including the Sacrista* and your spiritual director. When it has happened, you may tell them that the Lady told it to you at this time.
*Sacrista, the General Vicar of Vatican City, at that time Dutch Augustine Bishop, Msgr. Petrus Canisius J. van Lierde, Titular Bishop of Porfireone, who served 5 popes from January 13, 1951 to January 14, 1991, and died on March 13, 1995 at the age of 87 in Belgium. The announcement is: Listen. This Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, will be taken up among Us at the beginning of October of this year. The Lady of All Nations, the Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate, will lead him to eternal joy.’ I was shocked at this announcement and hardly dared to believe it. The Lady said, ‘Do not be frightened, child. His successor will proclaim the dogma.’ I thanked the Lady and she said very solemnly, ‘Amen.’” (February 19, 1958).
First thing in the morning, Ash Wednesday, the visionary calls her spiritual director to tell him that the Lady has given her a message, but that she may tell no one about it. Fr. Frehe, however, has the good idea to have Ida write down everything: “No! You have to promise me to write down everything immediately, and to bring it straight to me today. Otherwise it is worthless. Think about it. I don’t care whether you seal the letter; it’s only important that I receive it today, and preferably as soon as possible.” Ida obeys. She types the Lady’s words, keeps a copy with her at home, and even on the same day takes the sealed original to her spiritual director. He takes the closed envelope and puts it in his desk drawer, where it is soon forgotten. Difficult months now lie before the visionary — months of waiting in silence and trust for the realization of Mary’s prophecies.
Looking back on this sorrowful time, Ida writes in a letter to her bishop, Msgr. Huibers, on November 24, 1958, “I sat there, then, still with the thought that the Lady told me that I have to say this and that to the Holy Father. It was worst of all in the days when the Holy Father lay dying. Acquaintances called me and often said, trying to console me, ‘But the Holy Father will not die. It’s not at all possible,’ etc. Once again, Your Excellency, that was the most difficult time ... On the morning of October 9, while sitting before the radio, I then heard that the Holy Father had died. After that I said, ‘Thanks be to God.’ I know, of course, that this was not nice of me, but he will forgive me, for he knows that I was saying it to the Lady, for not abandoning us, and for not discrediting her concerns ...” Ida immediately hurries to her spiritual director and asks him for the sealed envelope. Because Fr. Frehe can no longer remember it, she even has to show him where he was keeping it. Then Ida gives him the copy of the message which, at his wish, she had written down on Ash Wednesday. Great is Fr. Frehe’s surprise, and he immediately sends the sealed original to Rome. There it will be a trustworthy proof of the authenticity of the messages for those in responsibility.