What is so Special about Medjugorje? Thirty Years and Counting

What is so Special about Medjugorje? Thirty Years and Counting

Marian Apparitions are part of the Catholic experience. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of reported sightings of Mary over the centuries. Each case is examined by the church: first by the local parish, then by the local bishop before being sent to the Vatican. At each level, the authenticity of the vision is declared valid prior to being promoted. Some apparitions are to only one person, some are single visions to more than one person; some are multiple but time-limited sightings by one or more persons, still others are ongoing apparitions to one person, approved by the local bishop; and still others are ongoing, unapproved apparitions to more than one person. The apparitions at Medjugorje fit in the last category.

The vast majority of claimed apparitions have not been approved by the Vatican at some level. Many apparitions occurred before there was any way to test the visionary, so their trance states could not be verified by scientific instrumentation. Claims were verified by other means. The messages received had to be in accordance with Catholic teaching. The stories and messages could not vary over time. The visionary was expected to have a change in behavior, becoming more pious and God-centered. Many were expected to enter a religious order. If a visionary was found in an immoral act, this invalidated a supernatural claim. A deep and lasting conversion experience was requisite to believing the visionary.  Finally, what the church calls “fruits” (good things that happened, such as conversions) as a direct verifiable result of the apparitions, are also examined.  If these manifestations are miraculous and from God, then other people will experience some form of conversion too.

Medjugorje is an ongoing phenomena that has lasted over thirty years. The apparitions began during the communist rule of Yugoslavia. Since religion was discouraged, visionaries were also discouraged in Communist countries.  It is rare for a Marian apparition to occur in a communist country and become famous. (Fatima is one and Medjugorje is another.) In fact, the children of Medjugorje were imprisoned to force them to change their stories. They did not. The children were commanded to stay away from the mountain where they were having their daily visions. They were threatened in many ways. They did not change their stories.

A local Franciscan priest protected them from abuse and allowed them to meet at the parish church every day at the time when they usually had their visions. Their visions continued unabated. Later the authorities forced them out of the church so they met in a room at the priest’s house.

During the early years, the children were subjected to numerous biomedical tests while they were in a trance state. As the news of the apparitions spread beyond their little village, their lives came under the unending close scrutiny of the media, church officials, tourists and pilgrims. Their only recourse to privacy was in their own homes. Otherwise they were constantly besieged by hordes of people. This intense scrutiny remains unabated.

As the children grew to adulthood, most married. Some no longer make their permanent residence in Medjugorje. Their visions continue as of this writing, albeit no longer daily. See the book by Mirjana Soldo, My Heart will Triumph, for a description of the lives of the visionaries since the first vision.

To date, the visionaries and the apparitions have been approved only at the local parish level. There was some talk that the Bishop of Mostar, the diocese that included Medjugorje, and the Franciscans, who were in charge of the Medjugorje parish, were in disagreement with each other long before the children and their visions. Because of this ongoing disagreement, the bishop refused the findings of the parish as well as the scientific tests. I don’t know whether or not this story is just gossip, but Medjugorje has since been re-assigned to a different diocese and a different bishop. In addition, the Vatican has taken over the validation process for Medjugorje. The story is not yet over.

There has been no official statement on the unusual happenings reported by pilgrims. People have been permanently cured of devastating illnesses. Rosaries have turned to gold. Many observed the sun dance in the sky – not just once but several times. The conversion stories are innumerable.

Many Catholic clerics have made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Some have been Bishops. In parishes and diocese around the world, Archbishops, Bishops and Pastors have either supported or discouraged pilgrimages to Medjugorje. Some discouraged pilgrimages because of the lack of Vatican approval. Some discourage it because they don’t believe in pilgrimages in general as having much lasting impact on anyone’s spiritual life. Others encourage these pilgrimages saying, if it increases the faith life of the people, it is a good thing. Just recently, Pope Francis lifted the ban on parishes and diocese organizing pilgrimages to Medjugorje.

Medjugorje is the only well-known currently long-term Marian apparition. Mary continues to give messages every month. There was some speculation that the Vatican intended to release the findings of its investigations in 2013. To date, the Vatican has not released its findings. Logically, if the Apparitions were deemed false or from Satan, they would have been condemned. Since they have not been condemned, we can assume the findings were uniformly positive.

Until the apparitions cease, a final validation by the Vatican will not be made. This ruling is based upon previous apparitions which were time limited. Interestingly, the Vatican’s rigid adherence to its own rules, which only apply to short term experiences, negates Jesus teaching and condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees for their rigid adherence to rules since they did not consider the needs of the people.

Saint Pope John Paul II interviewed all the visionaries. There is no evidence that either Pope Benedict XVI or Pope Francis has ever done so. In fact, Pope John Paul II privately commented that he wished he could go to Medjugorje. Unfortunately, he too was bound by the Vatican rules to not approve apparitions until they have ended.

Many dismiss Medjugorje without considering the evidence or reading about it. They toss off flippant remarks such as, “Our Lady is not a postman who drops off messages.” If Medjugorje is true, these kinds of comments are most disrespectful to the Mother of God.

Fatima was time limited and accomplished great things. Medjugorje is an extension of Fatima, but the Vatican pays no attention.

It seems to me that the lack of Vatican acknowledgement of Medjugorje as real and worthy of veneration, demonstrates a battle of wills between Our Lady and the Vatican. She keeps insisting her visits are real. She keeps calling Catholics to prayer and fasting. She says that once her visits end in Medjugorje, she will no longer appear on earth. Also, she says she will leave a visible sign to prove her visits are real. If the Vatican waits for that day, so many graces for so many people will have been lost.

If this is indeed a battle of wills, I am confident Our Lady of Peace will win!