The Phenomena of Medjugorje
A sign of God’s mercy in a spiritually-bereft world
On June 24, 1981 (feast of St. John the Baptist), the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, reportedly began appearing to six young people in the remote mountainous village of Medjugorje, in central Bosnia-Herzegovina. At the time of the first apparitions Medjugorje was part of Communist Yugoslavia. The name “Medjugorje” literally means “between the mountains.” The visionaries describe Mary as a three dimensional presence whom they can touch as well as hear. They say that she is beautiful beyond words. She looks no more than 19 or 20, is slender, dark-haired, blue-eyed, usually clad in a translucent silver-grey robe with a white veil reaching down to her feet and wearing a crown of twelve stars.
Identifying herself as the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, she continues to appear to select visionaries (now adults) every day. In one of her early messages, the Virgin Mary announced that her appearance in Medjugorje will be the last time she will be sent to earth in apparition. “I have come to call the world to conversion for the last time. Afterwards, I will not appear any more on this earth.” (1982)
Her message is PEACE — PEACE with God and man. In Mary’s own words to the children, “I have come to tell the world that God exists. He is the fullness of life, and to enjoy this fullness and obtain peace, you must return to God.”
The messages of Medjugorje are an urgent plea from God through His Blessed Mother for all mankind. These messages are given to all her children so that they may have the opportunity to find their way to God through a 5-point program:
1. FAITH – Belief and trust in God. Live your Faith. “There are many Christians who no longer believe because they do not pray.”
2. COMMITMENT TO GOD – Let God rule your life. Turn away from sin. Our Lady recommends monthly confession for Catholics.
3. PRAYER – Regular Mass, daily Rosary, Bible study. Pray with your heart – not just your lips.
4. FASTING – Bread and water on Fridays (and Wednesdays) if you can. Practice some other form of self denial if unable to fast.
5. PEACE – Peace with God, with your neighbour, peace in your family, peace in the world. The world will only have peace if it finds God.
In response to a controversy regarding the cure of an Orthodox child, the Virgin Mary said the following: “tell everyone, that it is you who are divided on earth. The Muslims and the Orthodox, for the same reason as Catholics, are equal before my Son and me. You are all my children. Certainly, all religions are not equal, but all men are equal before God, as St. Paul says. It does not suffice to belong to the Catholic Church to be saved, but it is necessary to respect the commandments of God in following one’s conscience. Those who are not Catholics, are not less creatures made in the image of God, and destined to rejoin someday, the House of the Father. Salvation is available to everyone, without exception. Only those who refuse God deliberately are condemned. To him who has been given little, little will be asked for. To whomever has been given much [to Catholics], very much will be required. It is God alone, in His infinite justice, Who determines the degree of responsibility and pronounces judgment.” (1984)
The visionaries say that the Virgin Mary told them she would confide ten secrets to them for the whole of humanity: up to now, three visionaries have received all ten secrets and no longer see the Mother of Jesus on a regular basis; three visionaries are said to have received eight secrets and still see the Virgin Mary on a daily basis.
The seers say that the ten secrets refer to the future of the whole world and are linked together as in a chain. They concern chastisements for the sins of the world. They are conditional and depend on the conversion of the world. In a taped interview in August 1983 the visionaries said that with the realization of the secrets entrusted to them by the Virgin Mary, life in the world will change. Afterwards, mankind will believe like in ancient times. What will change and how it will change, we will not know until the secrets are revealed.
From the early crude experiments by the communists to discredit the visionaries to the numerous rigorous, sophisticated investigations by specialists in psychology, psychotherapy, medicine and spiritual theology, a plethora of scientific and medical studies testify that the seers are perfectly normal and balanced. Moreover, their investigations firmly rule out alternative explanation such as play-acting, make-believe, auto-suggestion, dream, hypnosis, catalepsy, hallucination, hysteria, manipulation by priest, etc.
Doctors and scientists who have studied the children say several arguments confirm the view that during an apparition, the visionaries are interacting with a person who is distinct and external to the visionaries themselves; among these include:
• Their convergence of gaze during an apparition;
• The simultaneous timing, without any signals, of their kneeling and the cessation of eye movements when the ecstasy starts — all confirmed by the video recordings: they do not react with their eyelids to external movement or to light and they do not see the screen placed in front of their eyes.
• The simultaneous timing of the disappearance of the visionaries’ voices and their subsequent reappearance when they say “who art in heaven”;
• And the simultaneous timing of their raising of heads and gazing upwards when the ecstasy is over.
The results of extensive medical experiments conducted over the past 30 plus years prove that at a given moment, which the visionaries call an “apparition,” something is happening that is medically inexplicable.
In March 2010, in view of mounting public interest, the Holy See announced the establishment of a new International Commission under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, composed of bishops, theologians, and other experts, under the leadership of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s former Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome. The formation of the new Vatican commission to begin formal investigation of the Medjugorje apparitions was the first time in the history of the Holy See that the highest office of the Catholic Church would directly investigate an ongoing apparition. These matters are normally left to the discretion of the local bishop and usually studied after the phenomena is over. That the Vatican would directly intervene in this matter demonstrates what a significant and serious event Medjugorje is on a global scale; some say that because of its prophetic implications, it is the most important event occurring in the world today.
Pope John Paul II on Medjugorje
Although he never took an official position on these apparitions, in private Pope Wojtyla (John Paul II) did not conceal his own belief. To Monsignor Murilo Sebastiao Ramos Krieger, archbishop of Florianopolis in Brazil… he confirmed:
“Medjugorje is the spiritual center of the world!”
In 1987, during a short conversation, Karol Wojtyla confided to the seer Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo:
“If I weren’t pope, I would already be in Medjugorje confessing.”
To Slovakian archbishop Pavol Hnilica, one of the prelates who was closest to the pontiff, he said:
“Medjugorje is the continuation of Fatima, it is the completion of Fatima.”
To his friends Marek and Zofia Skwarnicki, he wrote the following:
“I thank Zofia for everything concerning Medjugorje. I too go there every day in prayer: I am united with all those who are praying and who receive the call to prayer from there. Today we better understand this summons.”*
* Written in 1992 shortly after the war in former Yugoslavia.
(From the book, “Why He is a Saint: The Life and Faith of Pope John Paul II and the Case for Canonization” by Monsignor Slawomir Oder, postulator for the cause of beatification of John Paul II, and Saverio Gaeta. Published by Rizzoli International Publications, New York, New York, 2010, pages 167-169)
“Only good things are happening at Medjugorje. People are praying there. People are going to confession. People are adoring the Eucharist, and people are turning to God.”
– Words of John Paul II as reported by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis in the diocesan newspaper, The Spirit, 10/19/2006.
“I Believe in Miracles”
Actor Martin Sheen, who has gone to Medjugorje several times, starred in the 1995 big screen religious drama, Gospa, alongside Michael York, Morgan Fairchild and Paul Guilfoyle. Filmed on scene in Medjugorje, Sheen played Franciscan friar Jozo Zovko, the parish priest in charge of St. James Church at the time the apparitions began. In August of 1981 Fr. Jozo Zovko was arrested by the Communist authorities for siding with the visionaries and sentenced to three years in prison for treason. He was released 18 months later after strong international pressure on the Yugoslav government.
I believe Medjugorje is a very special and holy place. It was made holy by the humanitarianism, by sympathy and sincerity of people who come there. Several years ago I made a documentary on the Vision of Our Lady [of Medjugorje]. When lights and camera were switched on, suddenly I felt embarrassed just as if I had dropped into a private meditation. I thought: well, I have no right to be here.
When we wrapped it up, I entered the church for the last prayer. The church was full with poor pilgrims, who were simply everywhere. They slept on the floor, kids were crying, men snoring. The fact that all these men were broken down, their vulnerability, made this place particular…
I believe in miracles, but I don’t think that is important if the Mother of God truly appeared to the children in Medjugorje. For me, faith is also a question of humaneness: if we do not have it ourselves, Gospa [Our Lady] will not help…
Would I speak about believing when I would know it for certain? If I knew it, the entire mystery of life would disappear. I guess that is where I agree with the friar Jozo Zovko who never said that he knew that Gospa appeared to the children. He simply kept saying that he believed in it…
– Taken from the book, “Gospa: Based on the True Story of Miracles at Medjugorje,” Zagreb, 1995, page 37.