A short report about the apparitions of our Lady
The apparitions of the Mother of God in Bosnia and Herzegowina continue to create an ever increasing interest in the general public. For this reason there have been numerous requests to publish a shortened version of the appearances in Medjugorje in which the most important events are accurately described. This version may also be useful in answering several false and contradictory reports which have been circulating recently and will no doubt be welcomed as an instructive piece of literature by all interested readers.
The book written by the Croatian priest Marijan Ljubic served as the main source of information. The seventh edition entitled "The Apparitions of the Mother of God in Medjugorje" was published in October 1985 .
This report will in no way pre-empt the authority of the Church. Clearly the Church must form its own conclusions regarding the apparitions and this will only be possible when the appearances cease. We must stress we follow and subordinate ourselves to the judgement of the Church, and believe an accurate recounting of eyewitness reports is the best answer to criticism.
Medjugorje is a village in the mountains near Mostar.. The nearest cities are Sarajevo, Split and Dubrovnik. The region is called west Herzegowina. It is known as one of the most faithful islands of Catholic belief in Communist Yugoslavia although from 1482 to 1872 it was exposed to the severest Islamic pressures under the Turks. From these early days the pastoral office was in the charge of the Franciscans who sill minister to parish of Medjugorje today. Beside the main village of Medjugorje the parish includes several smaller villages- Bijakovici, Miletina, Vionica and Surmanci.
The English translation of the Croation name Medjugorje is "between the mountains", indeed the village is bordered on two sides by mountains. One is called "Krizevac" which in English means mountain of the Cross'. In 1933 a concrete cross 12m high was erected on this mountain by the parishioners on the occasion of the 1900th anniversary of the death of Jesus Christ. In Sep- tember nearly 70, 000 poeple attended a mass, celebrating the anniversary of this event.
The other mountain is called "Crnica" which translates as 'something black'. It was on this mountain the apparitions of the Mother of God commenced in 1981 and they are still continuing today.
The recent decades the parish of Medjugorje has produced 19 priests, 20 nuns and 3 seminarians, and all this despite the fact the peasant population has never been able to sustain a traditional faith because of severe successive persecutions by the Turks, the National Socialists and now the Communists. Religion to these people is based not so much upon a traditional faith as a conscious act of desision. Any suspicion the district is backward is quite erroneous. Not only have the guestworkers of central Europe broadened local horizons, but a large number of multi skilled workers and academics have allowed the district to keep pace with the 20th century.
In the space of about two years approximately one and a half million pilgrims have visited Medjugorje.
The dramatic first weeks
The recent apparitions by the Mother of God in ex Yugoslavia were the last thing the Church and general population expected.
24. June 1981, St John's Day, a religious holiday, four o'clock in the afternoon: Two girls, Ivanka and Mirija- na, go for a walk above their villagetowards the pasture land used for the sheep. Once there Ivanka sees some- thing shining on the slope of the mountain. She looks closer and sees a luminous young woman. Without even thinking she utters to her companion, "Look the Gospa! " (Gospa is the Croatian name for the Mother of God).
"Better be quiet or somebody might hear you. Why would the Gospa appear to us?"
- With this the conversation ends and the girls return home.
- Naturally they are a little disturbed and tell their relatives about it.
- That evening they have to fetch the sheep, and with a third girl called Milka, (sister of vissionary Marija), return to the same spot.
"The Gospa is there again" exclaims Ivanka as she points with an outstretched hand to a definite place. The other two see it as well, and all three stare in helpless amazement, unable to speak. A fourth girl called Vicka approaches them.
"Come here quickly" the three shout in great excitement. Vicka still a fair distance away calls "What's the matter, is it a snake?"
Vicka runs up to them and upon seeing the shining figure becomes terrified. She takes off her shoes and runs away in stockinged feet as though running for dear life, but then realising what she had seen, stops and returns to the other three. You don't run away from the Mother of God.
Then 16 year old Ivan comes along the path carrying a bag of apples. He sees the girls standing there in silent amazement pointing to the apparition. The boy sees it as well, and motionless with fear he drops the apples and runs away. A second boy (Ivan Ivankoviæ) who is quite a bit older is near by. He only sees a shining light and considering himself more mature than the younger children he leaves. He does not return during the following days, (and never more has not see Our Lady).
When they get home, Ivan and the four girls, unable to hide their excitement, tell the experience to all their neighbors. the reaction is one of laughter and nobody takes them seriously.
Next day on June 25th., Mirjana, Ivanka, Vicka, Ivan, Jakov and Marija, again go back to the same place, but Milka is missing. (Milka never more has not see Our Lady). All six see the apparition with outstretched arms and run towards her as fast as they can.
Standing directly in front of the Mother of God, the children weep with emotion. They kneel down and pray. Ivanka's mother had passed away two months before. The girl dares to ask the apparition how her mother is. The Gospa answers:
"She is well. You should not worry about your mother. She is my heavenly angel".
Then the children ask the Gospa if She will come again tomorrow. She replies "Yes I shall return".
The third day, Friday.
The children see the figure a little higher up the mountain, but they are separated from it by nearly impenetrable bushes of thorns, by sharp stones and holes in the ground. They run very fast through these obstacles without hurting themselves and this causes the first onlookers from the village to start believing.
This time Vicka sprinkles the figure with holy water and consecrated salt.
"If you are the Mother of God, stay here, if you are not, go away".
The Lady just smiles.
Ivanka asks again about her deceased mother,
"Did she not leave a message for us?"
"Yes, she said you ought to listen to your grandmother and help her. She is old."Then the children ask the Gospa why she appears particularly to them. They are indeed nothing special. Her answer: the Mother of god never looks for the most impressive. She wants to be among believers. She wishes the people would convert and turn back to the righteous way whilst there is still time. News of the phenomena had spread through the population with the speed of lightning and 1000 onlookers are at the third appearance.
When the apparition is starting the crowd sees a blazing light stretching from earth to heaven, but they do not see the Mother of God herself. They see the children talking with someone invisible but only see their lips moving and don't understand a word.
On the fourth day the Communist authorities get into action. The seers are interrogated and sent to Citluc for a medical examination. They are declared healthy and normal.
On the fifth day, Sunday, there are 15,000 people waiting. The regime has not reckoned on such a crowd and the few police and soldiers are powerless. They can only look on.
On the sixth day the Communist authorities plan a strategic move which they hope will "quickly put an end to these extra-ordinary events". The seers must see a psychiatrist in Mostar. It is hoped either narcotics or proof of psychiatric illness will serve as an explanation. The result of the psychiatric test reads:
"All six are thoroughly healthy and completely normal".
On the seventh day the authorities resort to a new trick. Two young ladies, one of whom must appear trustworthy because she comes from Bijakovici (the other has been sent by the Communist government in Sarajevo), invite the seers on a sightseeing trip.
Suspecting nothing, five get into car. It was not clear until after they had left, that the reason they were being entertained and driven around in such grand style was to keep them from the place of apparition.
When the moment of apparition arrives all five call out simultaneously "Stop!" at which the car is stopped on the edge of the road. The seers get out and drop to their knees beside the vehicle. The ladies light up with ciga- rettes, but they are quickly dropped from their hands when an indescribable flood of light envelopes them and the children. All the two women can think about is get- ting away from Medjugorje as quickly as possible. They will not be seen there again.
Padre Zovko has only been pastor in Medjugorje for the past eight months. He is a deeply religious man. From June 17th to 24th he was attending a retreat near Zagreb approximately 400 km away. During his absence the Communist communal building, the discotheque and post office were all destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning. He had tried several times to telephone his parish, but because the phone exchange had been des- troyed he was not connected.
Upon his return he sees the black burned ruins and at the same time runs into a large crowd of people in front of the rectory.
"What do all those people want there?" "The Mother of God has appeared in our village three days in a row".
"I beg your pardon, what's this you're telling me?"
Padre Zovko is shocked. Because he has been in the parish for such a short time he hardly knows the seers or their families. He is a member of the charismatic movement, but up to now not one of the six seers has attended his prayer circle. He suspects the Communist authorities are behind this, and their objective is to create difficulties for him with the regime. He does not dismiss the possibility the youths could have taken narcotics.
In a room in the rectory he questions all six, one after the other. Each conversation is taped so they can be compared. All his suspicions are allayed however by their obvious intelligence and the fresh unaffected way the children talk.
"Are they mentally ill? Certainly not".
"Then perhaps it is the work of the devil".
The struggle of padre Zovko
Every day padre Zovko sees larger crowds of people making pilgrimages to the place where the apparition ap- pears, but he does not go with them. He remains reso- lutely in his church and prays alone. He is an intelligent man and suspects he recognises what appears to be a superficial sensationalism in the people and some of his co-priests.
"Can anything like this serve the Faith?" he asks.
As the crowds of people returning from the place of apparition pass his church, he can hear them laughing and swearing. (Swearing is a national vice in Croatia. It is unusual to finish a conversation without a few juicy swear words).
"Is that from the Spirit of God?"
To the pastor, his responsibility is like a heavy cru- shing load. In addition he has been a thorn in the side of the Communist authorities for a long time now, and it seems they are out to get him and the whole Church. In sheer desperation he locks himself in his church for hours on end.
"(God, only you can show us a way out of this".
In the meantime after the failure of the psychiatric tests on the six seers, and the failure of the so-called "trip in the car", the militia have become more agressive. The seers are arrested, interrogated, released and placed under house arrest. Several soldiers guard each of their doors and under no circumstances should any of the six be permitted to meet with the crowd gathered on the mountain. However as the time of the apparition approaches they jump out of their windows, slip unter the stretched wires of the vinyards where the militia have difficulty following them, and are soon at the place of appa- rition again. They are arrested and taken back to the police station where their lives are threatened with revolvers.
"Don't think we carry guns as ornaments. You will not leave this place alive. We will shoot you down with these".
The six youths laugh mockingly at their captors and are released.
The following day they return to the place of apparition. Their parents are arrested. Crowds of people continue to stream there, ever increasing in number and always coming from further afield.
Twice daily they pass the church of Medjugorje where padre Zovko prays alone.
The afternoon of June 30th.
"God I don't know what to do any more. Please give me a sign".
Suddenly the priest hears a clear voice although here is nobody in the room.
"Go outside and protect the children".
Obeying the command he leaves the prayer bench, opens the door and goes outside. He has only taken one step when all six seers fly at him like a swarm of bees. ,,Please hide us, we are being chased by the soldiers". The pastor locks them in an empty room in the rectory and says:
"You must stay quiet as church mice".
The militia run past the house without suspecting anything, and padre Zovko stands guard outside.
During this time Mary appears to the children in the rectory. Later they tell padre Zovko all that has hap- pened. Since Yugoslavian Communism allows a tolerable degree of freedom within the church walls, the pastor asks the Mother of God, through the children, if she could appear inside the church. The answer the next day is:
"Very well I shall appear in the church" and instantaneously the word gets around.
It is the second of July, the Feast of Mary's visitation. The three naved church of Medjugorje which up to now has always been too large, is packed full, as is the area in the front of the church. Padre Zovko leads in prayer with the Rosary, listens to confessions, preaches, and conducts the Holy Mass. Is this still his parish? Instead of their normal indifference, the crowd is now extremely attentive to all that is happening.
Three days of fasting, no more swearing
Padre Zovko allows the children to testify before the congregation by truthfully re-telling their experiences. Little Jakov has to be put high up on the steps of the alter so everyone can see him. The people have tears in their eyes.
Padre Zovko calls upon the crowd:
"Will you agree we all fast for three days with nothing but bread and water, so the power of the evil spirits amongst us will be broken?" Everyone replies:
"Yes we will agree to it".
For three days not a single person smokes. No cooking is done, cafeterias do not sell meals, and there are no visitors in the restaurants. The people mutually agree "Any- one who continues to swear must pay penalty money into a common till", and the preceeds will later be taken to the priests. The swearing soon stops.
The crowds of people continue to increase and more priests are appearing all the time. The believers are standing so tightly in the church that the receiving of Communion is only possible at the end of the Holy mass. Before that nobody could move.
The Gospa has asked for seven Lord's Prayers, the Hail Mary, the Glory be to the Father and the Credo. The seers lead the prayers daily, and then in addition, the whole rosary. Many sick people come and ask the seers and the faithful to say a special prayer for them. Each day a padre gives a short introduction regarding the appearances and the message of the Gospa. More and more people continue to arrive from ever further afield. Some come from the more remote corners of Yugoslavia, and many have travelled 60 to 80 kms on foot, even barefoot. There are Catholics, Orthodox and Moslems. Approximately 25 000 people are assembled for the feast of the Ascension of Mary.
The police allow cars to come only to within one or two kilometres of the church buildings and this creates a real atmosphere of prayer in the vicinity of the parish church.
From this time on all of Medjugorje fasts each Friday with bread and water. Pilgrims returning home from the place of grace carry with them the renewed joy of prayer, and begin again their Christian lives with a new fervour and in a new spirit.
Call for return and penance
There are no gift shops in Medjugorje, no commercialism, nothing to divert people from prayer. The population is poor and leads a modest and content life. They understand and obey the call of the Gospa as a call for return and penance. Up to October 1981, 500 000 people had visited Medjugorje and 100 000 had attended confession. Above all it is the spirit of love and warmth the visitor notices today. How many thousands of pilgrims have been fed and accommodated at no charge? Nobody in Medjugorje takes money.
Prohibitions, housesearch, defamation
On August 12th the authorities prohibit access to the mountain of the apparition. On the 17th they arrest padre Zovko; they spend a full day searching the church and rectory. All money is confiscated whether it be from contributions, collections at Mass, or is for housekeeping. The nuns present in Medjugorje are subjected to a body search.
Astonishingly the authorities return the money a short time later. It seems those who had seized it had been tortured by nightmares. At about this time the media begins a flood of the vilest in defamation. It is directed against Medjugorje, Padre Zovko and the Bishop of Mostar. However when the authorities realize this serves only to incite the curiosity of the people, and is in itself a vehicle for propaganda, the reporting stops abruptly in September.
Padre Zovko stayed in prison for two years and afterwards was transferred to another parish. The editors of a church magazine who have expressed their belief in the authenticity of the appearances receive eight and five year sentences.
What is the message of the Mother of God?
Conversion, faith, prayer, penance, reconciliation, forgiveness, peace.
"You should tell the faithful I need their prayers, the prayers of everyone. One should pray as much as possi- ble and do penance because too few have been converted. Many who call themselves Christians still lead a pagan live".
The call of the Gospa is urgent: "There are not enough converts. Return and be converted while there is still time".
The Gospa speaks of many conflicts between people; between individuals, families, larger communities, and even conflicts between states.
Many people who call themselves Christians merely have their names entered into the baptismal register and don't seem to remember what being a Christian means. There are others who still go to church, but do so without any real faith. AR must be converted. Many professed Christians have stopped praying altogether. They must realize the seven Lords Prayers, the Hail Mary, and the Glory be to the Father, are the minimum requirements of prayer. On top of this praying must be done consciously and with the whole heart.
The fact that fasting has completely disappeared from the Christian life represents a severe loss. It should be practised again. The Gospa explicitly recommends the Friday fast with nothing but bread and water.
The priests are to be the guardians of the Faith, and their duty is to watch over the faith of the people.
"Do your duty well. Do what the Church demands of you. Through prayer one can achieve anything".
On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th, the Gospa's appearance is one of deep seriousness rather than joy. She kneels down and prays with outstretched arms:
"My most beloved Son, I beg of you forgive the world the grave sins with which it offends you so".
For the future the Gospa promises a permanent visible and tangible sign on the mountain of apparition as proof of the authenticity of her messages. What the sign is going to be, and when it will appear is already known to the seers, but it is a secret which they are not allowed to reveal.
Meanwhile other signs have been seen by many people on Krizevac mountain. A physical turning of the conrete cross, a figure of light depicting the outline of the Gospa, and a mysterious light or fire on the mountain which on several occasions has caused the authorities to call out the fire department. The fire officials see the light but are unable to offer any explanation.
The signs which have appeared so far have been "for those who do not believe the Gopa". The most impressive sign will come later, and it will be soon. The six seers will be entrusted with ten secrets, some of which are still to be revealed in future appearances. None of these secrets have been made public, and they are not even known to the Church authorities. So far every attempt to entice those already known from the seers, either by cunning or force, have failed. Even little Jakov has resisted these efforts.
The Gospa has asked that a feast known as "Mary Queen of Peace" be held on June 25th.
Today except for the officials of the Communist Party, nobody doubts the genuineness of the apparitions in Medjugorje. People do not talk about it any more, they live her message. Conversion, reconciliation, joy of the heart, these are the new realities of life, and every visitor can take hold of them. There are many parish children to whom an hour of prayer previously seemed intolerable. They now pray easily for four hours.
During the daily apparitions, the Gospa spends much time with the seers in joint prayer. The extra-ordinarily close communion of the six with their "Good Mother" is so heartfelt, one can hardly believe it. The Madonna calls them "andjeli moji" which means "my angels". The seers can literally discuss anything out of their young lives with her.
The Gospa enters into everything. Little Jakov sometimes asks such childish questions that the others look anxiously at the Madonna hoping she has not been offended. She does not take offence, she just smiles lovingly.
Permanent contact with the Gospa
If the seers from Sarajevo, Mostar and Medjugorje are separated, the Gospa appears to each one individually. When Ivan entered the boys training college he missed the others and often asked her about them. She frequestly replied "My angels do their penance well".
One two occasions the Gospa has shown paradise to the seers, once when they were all together and once when Jakov and Vicka were by themselves. The two cousins were alone in a room. The Gospa appeared, took them by their hands, and "simply lead them into paradise". When one of their mothers entered the room a few minutes later it was empty although it was impossible for them to have left either through the window or door. Twenty minutes after their "disappearance" the children were there again. Such things they have to tell. The depth of empathy they beheld between heaven and earth is almost impossible for earth bound mortals to understand.
Before the Gospa showed Hell to the seers, she asked whether they would agree to it or not. Four decided they would but two refused. The glimpses they received into the world beyond were for a very specific purpose:
"All of your efforts should be directed toward saving people from the torment beyond the grave, and this through your prayer and penance".
At one time the Gospa asks the seers to fast with bread and water for a whole week. The children answer:"We promise we will do it".
The Gospa replies by kissing the children on the forehead and saying "You are my angels".
Since the apparitions, the personalities of the. six have developed dramatically. This is the unanimous opinion of all who know them. Nothing in their young lives has really changed. They still experience the same difficulties and problems as before, they still bear the same crosses. Those who found learning hard before, find it just as hard after the apparitions. None of their school marks have improved. Once when the children demanded something special of her she said:
"You are impatient my angels".
Up to now countless people have asked questions of, and made requests to the Gospa through the seers, and on numerous occasions they have received detailed answers through the children. Sometimes the children had even forgotten the odd questions.
When one question was asked, and before the child had even finished asking it, the Gospa said
"Tell the nun I understand her question. The fatally injured brother died in the grace, but he needs the sacrarnent of Mass and prayer". On the question of restoring health to the sick the Gospa never answers with promises, rather shereplies with an exhortation to conversion, prayer and penance. The seers flee from cameras
and have shunned publicity. With a patience that is hard to understand they continue to answer questions put to them by inquisitive people. Vicka for example is sought after by about fifty people every day. She talks with them and answers their questions in a friendly warm hearted way, and all of this on top of her regular work in the house and in the fields.
Social intercourse with their peers is completely free and natural whether it be with boys or girls. When an elderly woman reproached them for that, Mirijana said "The Madonna has no time for hypocrites".
Every day the evening worship lasts up to three hours. When everything is finished, including the appearance of the apparition, the six go home with a crowd of young people their own age. Nobody could pick them out of the crowd as being the favoured ones, indeed this is only possible when they are seen from the front while praying. All young people from Medjugorje are pious.
Are there miracles in Medjugorje?
Up to the middle of 1982 in the parish of Medjugorje, 140 people were reported to have been healed through prayers granted, unfortunately most without the benefit of a medical certificate. Each time prayerful intercession is made on behalf of a sick person, the Mother of God would like to see change for a better life, penance, and in particular, fasts with bread and water. Most of these hearings take place slowly. Concerning the very sick the Gospa says:
"The laws of nature can also be made powerless through prayer, penance, fasts, and a firm faith".
The first two miracles of healing known to have happened in Medjugorje are here quoted literally:
(1)'I'he first person to be healed through the intercession of the Gospa was an old man called Jozo Vasilj. Eight years earlier the left side of his body had become paralyzed. He had lost he sight in his left eye, his left arm b came quite stiff and was completely convered with sores from the shoulder to the palm of the hand. It had not shown any sign of healing all that time. He could only distinguish day from night with his right eye, and aftc four years became completely blind in that eye as wet He was totally dependent upon the help of others an, had to be lead everywhere.
When he heard about the apparitions on the mountains he said:
"I shall tell you if it is really the Gospa or not".
He asked a neighbour to bring him some soil and plants from the place of apparition. His friend did no want to co-operate at first, but after much persuasion he said he would. Jozo made a mixture with water in a wash, bowl and washed his face with it. At the same time he prayed the Creed. Then he washed himself with clean water, dried off with a towel, and said to his wife:
"You, old woman, I can see you". "Don't be silly, how could you see me. You've been blind for four years". "Aren't you ashamed of yourself, an old grandmother running about with no stockings on?"he answered.
Now she had to believe in the miracle. The joy was indescribable. Jozo then washed his left arm from the shoulder down in the same muddy water, wrapped it in a towel, and repeated the praying of the Creed. Next morning all the sores had disappeared without trace. The pastor concurs as to the truth of this occurrence. Every one who knows him says that Jozo was always very pious. Now often when he cannot sleep at night he says the Rosary and the Litany.
"As long as I live shall not be able to thank the Lord enough".
(2) Shortly after the appearances had started, a small paralysed child by the name of Daniel (he was about five or six years old) was taken there by his parents. They came from nearby Mostar after the seers had recommen- ded they visit the Gospa. She looked at the child for a full minute, and without stating any conditions simply said "The child will be healed", and he was healed.
Some people have been healed of mental disorders. Amongst them have been the psychiatrically ill and some schizophrenics. Others have been freed from alcohol. The largest number of miracles however have been in the conversion of the heart, in the changing of lives, in the joining of the faith, and in the improvement of the lives of countless people rather than on the superficial level of materialism and sensationalism.
If the confessional could talk, volume upon volume could be filled in no time at all. Many come to Medjugor- je to bare their innermost beings and so be cleansed through confession. When the church is over-crowded confessions will be heard in the open. The priest will sit on a chair and the person confession will kneel on the ground before him. It is not unusual for confessions to be heard in this manner all around the outside of the church. In the coldest weather many priests were sitting outside for hours on end listening to confessions and it seemed a miracle in itself not one of them ever caught a cold.
And what does the State say to this?
The State considers this whole affair as a direct threat to its authority, and has demonstrated it will resort to any tactic in order to quash it. So far they have used intimidation, threats, arrest, and even overnight confinement in the local mortuary or mental hospital. As the "instigator of the apparitions" padre Zovko was originally sentenced to three and a half years in prison, but this was later reduced to a year and a half. For a long time access to the place of the appearances was prohibited. The accomodation of pilgrims which has always been provided by the population so willingly, and always free of charge, has now been made almost impossible by bureaucratic red tape.
The authorities did not close the region completely, but special armed troops are suppose to be ready for action in the surrounding mountains. Travellers are often harrassed in a worrying way, and full buses are are sent back at any hint of the slightest indisretion.
Anyone who had been there three times would be expelled from the party at once.
"And how often have you been to the mountain comrade N.N.?"
Up to now I've been there nine times, so you'd better expel me from the party three times"
On the 24th and 25th of June 1982, the anniversary of the first apparition, approximately 100 000people made the pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Many came on foot, and more than a few were barefooted. Hundreds of priests were listening to confessions and the whole crowd consecrated themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Nowhere in the world could Mary's call from Fatima be followed by such a crowd as it was in Medjugorje on that occasion.
Several times the Gospa was asked why the apparitions are so much more intimate and frequent compared to those in Lourdes and Fatima. Answer:
"Because they are the last apparitions. In the future there will still be a few false appearances, but this is the last time I will come to teach people. I will not come down to earth any more".
Are we indeed standing at the end of time? Here opinions differ. Nobody has the right to make predictions about the future course of the world, but considering the arms race which has no parallel in history, and the unprecedented abandonment of the faith, it seems heaven is making a ,last and most intensive" effort to rescue erring mankind. Is this to be wondered at? Would not Mary be a ,bad Mother" if she reelected her children in their time of extreme need?
The Holy Scripture speaks of the woman (Mary) who crushes the head of the snake (Satan or evil). Is it really so surprising she has started the final offensive today and that it will be Her who will finally arrest the determined march of ungodliness and moral decline? Was it not predicted in Fatima:
"In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph?"
Nobody knows the future, but anyone who impartially considers the events in Medjugorje must admit two things:-
(1) Never before in history has there been such close and intimate contact between heaven and earth as is now happening in Communist Croatia, and
(2) The demensions that this movement towards conversion will assume in the future, are totally unknown.
The Gospa says our time is one of the "power of the devil" which "will soon be broken". It will happen through "events quickly following one another". The big sign on the mountain of apparition (Crnica) will be there to be seen, but by then it will already be too late for many to convert.
"Today the devil tests every human being and the only way to resist this attack is with a strict 'No' to Satan. This 'No' is possible through prayer, sacrifice and atonement".
A question of univesal interest concerns the mercy of God. As a God of love, how could he condemn anybody to eternal damnation? Is it not true that earthly courts only impose temporal sentences, even for serious crimes? Mirjana had put this question to the Gospa and the answer she received was this:
"People who go to Hell continue to deny the good and condemn themselves to staying there. There is no escape".
Other declarations by the Gospa about Purgatory and Hell are terrifyingly stark.
Concernig the relationship between people and priests, She observes that in Germany, Austria and Switzerland people judge the Faith according to the way the priests live. If they fail people o not believe in god anymore. But does one go to church because of the priests? Of course not. One goes because of God. To Him one prays and listens.
Some of the terrible happenings revealed to the seers as part of the ten secrets can be mitigated through fervent prayer, but the other part cannot. The absolute refusal by many people to accept the fact of their ungodliness permits no other possibility.
Since there is no escape from these terrible events, the Gospa gives exact instructions as to how people must prepare themselves for when they happen. This is not through panic or fear but by placing themselves completely at the mercy of God.
"Convert whilst here is still time to do so. You can lose everything, but you cannot lose God" It is the priests responsibility to help people find God.The greatest dangers come from the lack of godliness. This is most strongly evident in Germany. Because of the acute danger facing world peace the Gospa calls herself "The Queen of Peace". This means she mediates the peace of Christ to all who hear her voice and fulfil her requests. Peace has to start in the hearts of men before there can be any peace between states. This is only possible through faith, devotion to God, prayer, penance and fasting. Because mankind is so evil, the terrible events of the future are just around the corner. Today there are so many false prophets about.
The depressingly bitter words written above have not yet received the approval of the Church and are therefore still beyond the authority of its proclamation. If they possess any authority at all the reader must recognize it for himself as they are considered in the light of present worldy realities. Is our world not riddled with atomic weapons? Isn't our modern prosperous society further away from Christ than ever before in history? Hasn't un- godliness become the main evil of the 20th century? The readers may answer these questions for himself and then consider the words of Mary.
The spreading of the apparitions and their consequences
Recently so-called "pareallel appearances" occurred in Herzegowina. New apparitions occurred in several places and inluded appearances before more children. As a consequence the Church is faced by yet another difficult task: Namely to consider whether Medjugorje is being imitated, whether the devil is behind it, or if indeed Mary makes multiple appearances possibly to show the Communist state that whilst it can lock up the seers and their ministers, it cannot imprison the apparition.
The most interesting apparitions may have been those experienced by the eleven year old school girl Jelena (in this short report we will disregard all others). Jelena who also comes from Medjugorje, hears the voice of Mary from within herself. The source of the apparitions she experiences are also from within and they do not appear externally. The message propagated through her, consist of urgent calls for the conversion of the whole world. "My heart is burning for you. Conversion. Only conversion. Say this to everyone, to all my children, all my children".
"You know nothing of God's plans, nothing of what he will send or do. I ask only that you will convert your- selves. Be prepared for everything that is coming, but most important of all convert yourselves. Renounce everything because that is part of conversion".
With her request for fasts the Gospa said:
"Fasting is not enough on its own; bad habits must be renounced as well. Fasting is worthless if you sin at the same time."
Examples of bad habits are taking exessive amounts of coffee and alcohol, watching television, and smoking.
The Holy Mass is reconciliation with God through a bloodless sacrifice offered by the priest in the name of and upon the instruction of Jesus. The faithful should prepare themselves spiritually half an hour before the Mass so as to be fully receptive.
Following Good Friday a second eleven year old and a five year old girl see the Gospa in the same way as Jelena, but without being able to hear her voice. Jelena is normal child but pious and serious in nature. Some of the things she has said go well beyond the bounds of understanding of a normal eleven year old. She is extra-ordinarily modest.
Through Jelena the Gospa expressed the wish for a group of volunteers who will be completely dedicated to the service of Jesus and herself. By the summer of 1983 this group already numbered 60 people. Most of them were young.
They observe the following rules:-
(1) to renounce all passion and unworthy desires, especially bad television programs and andeed television in general. This includes smoking, alcohol, excessive use of drinks and food, and excessive sport.
(2) To surrender totally to God.
(3) To give up all fear once and for all. There is no place for fear in the heart of one who gives himself completely to God. Difficulties will always exist, but they will serve to promote spiritual growth and turn out to be for the Glory of God.
(4) To begin to love their enemies, to harbour no hate, bitterness or condemnation in their hearts, but only love and forgiveness. To pray for their enemies and call down the blessing o God upon them.
(5) To fast twice a week with bread and water, and to meet in a group once a week.
(6) to devote at least three hours daily to prayer in which the Rosary and Holy Mass are included.
In addition the Gospa also gave the following advice--
"Try not to worry too much about earthly matters for a lack of inner peace is not conducive to prayer. If we stand first for God He will supply our earthly needs and all will be well".
"To extend the spirit of prayer into daily work, and to accompany work with prayer".
"Pray, pray, pray. Through prayer you can achieve everything".
(7) Be cautious regarding the devil. He watches all those who have decided to consecrate themselves to God. They will also be examined by him. He will try to convince them they pray too much, that they fast too much, that they should be like other young people and follow the ways of pleasure. Rather than obeying the devil they should pay attention to the Gospa's voice. Once secure in their faith the devil will no longer be able to harm them.
The Gospa seems to watch over the group in a special way. Lately her principle exhortation to them has been "Become absorbed in your prayer life".
One gets the impression today the Gospa goes for all or nothing. It is as if she is encouraging people to put themselves totally at her disposal; to be Saints.
A minister of Medjugorje said in the summer of 1983 he suspects that from the group of 60 dedicated youths, the Gospa is training a special religious order and a number of missionaries for future work in ex Yugoslavia. The time seems to have run out when God will tolerate half hearted service by those supposedly consecrated to Him. In 1983 in a letter to their Bishop, the ministers of Medjugorje said many people had completely renounced alcohol, nicotine, the entertainment programs and other pleasures. Many fast several times a week with bread and water, and nearly all meet monthly for reconciliation, penance and confession. Daily prayer is undertaken in deepest composure.
One of the most important things to have happened has been the reconciliation of people and classes where there used to be tension and rejection. Here one really feels the fresh wave of prayer and penance which today we look for in vain in leading ecclesiastical institutions.
On the 24th and 25th of June 1983, the second anniversary, there were 150 000 pilgrims in Medjugorje. They were surrounded and observed by fully equipped special troops of the army who were stationed in the surrounding mountains. The pilgrims prayed all through the night and their confessions lasted several hours. The message delivered by the apparition at this times was: "Convert yourselves. All I want to say to you ist convert yourselves. Tell this to all my children as quickly as possible, to all my children, convert yourselves".
In July 1983 padre Josef Zovko, the pastor during the historic days, was transferred from Medjugorje to the most remote diocese in the province, the out of the way village of Bijakovici near.Duvno, as a chaplain.
Here are a few words from padre Zovko spoken during a sermon in Medjugorje after his release from pri- son: "It is an illusion to defend peace with weapons alone. That is always a deceptive and artificial peace. The real peace springs from the heart which has turned to God. Wars are won with prayer. Israel's victory was dependent upon the raised arms of Moses who prayed for his people. As long as his arms were raised the people won, but when he let his arms drop his people were defeated. There are many examples in history where weaker armies, reinforced through a multitude of prayers, were victorious over much stronger enemies."
Miracles and conversions are witness to the authenticity
From Medjugorje and its surroundings many miracles have been reported which happened either suddenly or gradually. In the book written by Dr. Rupcic, fifty two are briefly described. Here we shall consider two of the most recent reports cited in Mr. Ljubic-s book. They are characteristic of the works of the Mother of God in Medjugorje.
A sudden conversion
A pastor from the outskirts of Zagreb reports on a man from his parish who had been known as an atheist for a long time. As an active atheist he had raised his children without God. Neither he nor his family ever came to church. End of 1982 he became ill with cancer, without any hope of being cured and several of the faithful tried to persuade him to attend confession. He rejected all attempts with determination. Many from his parish who had made the pilgrimage to Medjugorje prayed for him while there and also when they returned home. At another time they made a special intercession to the Gospa through one of the seers. The following events took place shortly after. They are confirmed by his relatives:
The third of March 1983 was a Thursday.
After he had his lunch in bed, his wife took the dishes in- to the kitchen. He turned over in bed to the other side and suddenly saw the figure of the Mother of God on the wall. She appeared from the waist to the head and was visible for about a minute. She looked at him, smiled, and said nothing. He was fully conscious, totally aware, and somewhat shocked. He gazed at her with wrapt attention. He had never before in all his life beheld such beauty. The Gospa looked at him with penetrating eyes. Her head was slightly inclined to one side. After the apparition he cried. He told no-one about his experience.
The following day he told his wife and several others what had happened and said he wanted to confess. The pastor came, he confessed and received Holy Communion. Now he prays a lot, he experiences an inner peace and often attends Holy Communion. He swears that if God gave his health back to him now he would never again miss the Holy Mass on Sundays.
Ten days after his conversion a few acquaintances visited him. The sick man gave a detailed report of his illness and the operation which he had endured, and then related specifically the experience of his conversion. At the same time he pointed out the place on the wall where he had seen the Gospa. He declared he would not be prevented from speaking about it by anybody in the world. Sometimes when his illness becomes unbearable he asks others in the house to pray together with him.
Immediately after his conversion he returned his party membership card. After having read the book about Medjugorje he asked his son to visit there with a group of people. The son later reported that together with other pilgrims, he had seen the miracle sign on the cross on Kri- zevac mountain. The conversion of the sick man has become widely known and he is now visited by many people. He tells them about God and the Gospa.
Healed from multiple sclerosis
In the bulletin of the diocese of Split, August 1984, pages 10-1 1, the following healing miracle is reported under the title "Something further about Medjugorje". On August 13th a group of about 30 pilgrims from Milano and Pavia visited the archbishop on their return journey from Medjugorje. Amongst them were five university professors. On this occasion they also met with the Bishop of Mostar, Mr Pavao Zanic. They gave him a report of this miracle which had occurred in the church at Medjugorje.
An Italian woman who had been left completely blind and lame from multiple sclerosis suddenly became heal- thy again. She was again able to walk and the sight re- turned in her right eye. Physicians have given the Bishop of Mostar proper medical documentation describing the woman's condition before and after recovery, and it is hoped this will go some way towards establishing as scientific fact the nature of the miracles. Apart from this miracle, the details of which are irrefutable, other amazing events of a similar nature have taken place which could not have occurred in accordance with any known natural law. Many have been scientifically documented by physicians and their veracity is beyond question.
Of course it is true the truth of these miraculous happenings cannot be established by logical argument alone. For this reason it is necessary not only to use ones power of reasoning, but also to be willing to accept a miracle. This is a miracle and is what appears to have happened in Medjugorje. We all know how the Pharisees accredited the miracles of Jesus to the devil.
Some people have been offended the Mother of God appeared daily in Medjugorje over the years. She once said she is grateful to the local parish she was received with so much affection and not rejected as in other places. Perhaps this is one reason she has continued to appear there daily through the years.
A few messages of the Gospa in the year 1984
Through the seer Marija, the Mother of God announced the following messages:
12/7/84: My dear children, at this time Satan wants to frustrate my plans. Pray that he does not succeed. I shall ask my Divine Son that you resist these trials.
11/8/84: Dear children, pray. Satan further tries to hinder my plans. Pray with all your heart and join yourself with Jesus in prayer.
End of August 1984: The Gospa asks them to pray and sacrifice as much as possible before her Son's cross.
In September 1984: Do not fast with an ill will, against the will, or for any other reason but love. Be thankful to God's kindness I am able to come to you for such a long time.
Reports by pastor W. Schur (Kartisch/Tirol, Austria)
I would like to report the overall impression of Medjugorje as overpowering. Why? Because the faith, piety, and warm heartedness of the population comes to us sophisticated mid Europeans as a severe shock. I have celebrated Holy Mass four times and distributed communion as well. I have seen the faces of the celebrants close up and all are so deeply lost in prayer one is left speechless.
Above all one is surprised by the number of young people, boys and girls, and men who take part. At home the life of the church is most often supported only by the women and the elderly, but here every strata of the population is represented. I have been overwhelmed by the crowds of pious men in their 30's and 40's, by the pretty young girls in western dress, and the dashing young men. Those who in our towns "live" in the discotheque are here happy to spend three hours daily in the church without any sign of boredom. They listen to the padres preach daily for about half an hour, and all this in a Communist country where every youth knows going to church could cost him his job.
When the crowds arrive late in the afternoon, and the church has filled up, the padre talks about conversion and the practical aspects of confession. He asks each person to search his or her conscience and to recognize their sins. The people are then sent outside where other priests are waiting to hear confession.
When I saw this I could hardly believe my eyes. There sitting on ten chairs- under trees, in the field, in the meadow, and along the wall of the church, were ten priests. In front of each priest was a small queue of people. Each person in the queue was just far enough from the one in front so nobody could understand what the others were saying. One after another they went forward, knelt down before the priest, whispered, the priest spoke with them, gave absolution, made the sign of the cross, and then went on to the next.
On Sunday up to 300 people may have been to confession, on working days the number was less, but there were fewer priests also. We two Austrian priests were al- so appointed, but those speaking German who arrived by bus avoided us. They were not Croatian and did not go to confession.
Herzegowina has always been a deeply religious region, and it has only been in recent years the so called 9 9new morality" has made any impact in Medjugorje. Men drinking in the pub, young people in the discotheque, television, materialism, antisocial tensions, hate, envy, adultery and so on. Four days before the apparitions started the discotheque was burned down after a lightning strike. The debris was still smoking when the first apparition occurred. The young people saw this as a sign from heaven and transferred their nightly meetings to the church. Today alcoholism, adultery, and anti social hostility are no longer problems in Medjugorje. The people have found God and are content.
To me as a mid-European, it is obvious that this start- ling and unbelievable mass conversion has to be attributed in no small part to the outstanding pastoral ministry exercised by the Franciscans who put themselves totally at the disposal of the people as they channelled the movement through the offices of the Church. As one priest said "We must believe what the Mother of God says", said one priest, "There is no other way".
Certainly this mass movement of the conversion of souls could not have been achieved by the Church without the intervention of some higher authority. My feeling is that this speaks for the authenticity of the apparitions.
We could not talk with the seers because of language difficulties. Nevertheless they helped me daily to change into and out of my vestments. Perhaps my eyes spoke. Marija who helped me every day, seemed to recognize my helplessness and my desire to communicate. Her concern was conveyed through looks and gestures. I believe she was showing me in a loving way she was sorry for me. But one thing is certain about this child, she has a charisma which I have never before seen in my life in anyone of the same age.
Such a charismatic calling imposes burdens upon the young, which outsider cannot imagine. Apart from their daily work in the fields and the house, and their school work, they are also involved in the three hour long divine service every evening. They spend several minutes in communion with the apparition and this is followed by a tremendous rush of people into the church. In my parish at home such a crowd occurs only two or three times a year at the most, and when compared with here it makes me irritated and disillusioned.
For these youths, all of whom are kind, friendly and normal, these services have been continuing evening after evening for the past two years. After 13 years of school teaching and doing youth work. How quickly young people tend to imitate the behaviour of media celebrities! These youth stayed normal, or disappointingly normal as one padre put it. They demonstrated not a trace of pride.
Many people including some priests, come to amuse themselves at the expense of the apparition, while others attend out of great scepticism or for sheer sensationalism. The seers very quickly recognize the motives of each individual and respond accordingly. To the pilgrims who are on a genuine religious search they minister with love and patience, from the others they withdraw.
For me the second proof of the authenticity of these events lies in the seers themselves. Their purity of soul, their simplicity, and the glow they radiate is something which I find difficult to put into words. It seems the hand of God is visible, not so much in the apparitions them- selves as in their effects. One could argue from the Holy Scripture "By their fruits you shall know them".
The fruits of Medjugorje are good for we have wit- nessed the successful conversion of many thousands of people. To think of this happening in Austria represents wishful thinking and is probably unrealistic, at least up to now. We know this religious awakening has spread to all the provinces of ex Yugoslavia, and this includes Slovenia which is on the Austrian border. I pray to God it does not stop there.
I came here out of curiosity, and if I am honest with myself, secretly hoping to come into contact with the supernatural. But I saw something different.
Back home the continuing decline of the number of young people at Divine Service seems to be creating a church which caters only to women children and older people. Although it's not entirely that way in my own parish just yet, I can see it heading in that direction and this makes me ponder the situation very deeply.
There have always been those who are strong in the faith, and have remained so, but I have believed many others to be virtually incapable of conversion. when I considered the possibility of religious re-awakening it seemed that belief was necessarily limited to sacrifice groups such as the Fockolarini, or to the Charismatic movement.
Here my faith has been re-affirmed. When I saw the church filled with such a crush of people most of whom were between 20 and 50 years of age, I could hardly believe it. I have seen this happen now for eight evenings in a row and for three hours on each occasion, and my belief in mankind has been restored.
That has been my gift from Medjugorje. Even if I do not know how to transpose this phenomenon from Herzegowina to Austria, I believe again that people, indeed all people, are capable of deep religious experience. Presumably the recipe for success belongs solely to the Mother of God in union with Divine Grace.
Pastor Werner Schur, Kartisch
(This part of the report is taken from the east Tirol newspaper).
Pilgrimages to Medjugorje
In different publications false reports concerning the supposed prohibition of pilgrimages to Medjugorje have been published. It therefore seems necessary for us to clarify the situation in this booklet and what follows could be considered a practical guideline.
A declaration on October 12th 1984 issued by the Bishops of ex Yugoslavia states:
"The Bishops have considered the occurrences in Herzegowina/Medjugorje and an appraisal of the significance of those events will only be possible after they have been subjected to a thorough and expert examination. This is the exclusive duty of the appropriate Church authorities and until then no officially sanctioned pilgrimages to Medjugorje can be organised. We would not prejudge the verdict of those responsible for the ecclesiastical life".
(AKSA, Nr 42 (753) of the 19110 1984, S. 2)
It follows from this that pilgrimages to Medjugorje may not be officially organised by ecclesiastical organisations or persons thus preventing the impression the church has already pronounced a positive judgement regarding the alleged appearances of Mary at Medjugorje.
It does not follow however that pilgrimages to Medjugorje cannot take place. In answer to readers questions the Croations Catholic Newspaper of Yugoslavia, "Glas Koncila" states in its editorial:"... we do not believe it is right for the Bishop to prohibit pilgrimages to Medjugorje. Every faithful church goer obviously has the right, whether accompanied or alone, to visit any church in the world which attracts him for reasons of faith or as a source of spiritual activity. But it is true that the Bishop is obliged to inform the faithful that so far no ecclesiastical judgement about the events in Medjugorje exist and for that reason such pilgrimages cannot be officially made. It follows that no priest can conduct a pilgrimage to Medjugorje as he would to Lourdes or Fatima".
(Glas Koncila, Nr 2711984, S. 8 of November ]8th 1984)
Simply stated it means that church organised pilgrimages will only be possible when the ecclesiastical examining body has reached a positive judgement. It is however possible to engage in private unofficial pilgrimages right now.
I invite you to join a new email mailing list I have created called "mir_peace_shalom". This list will be devoted to discussion and sharing information on Our Lady of Medjugorje's messages, events in Medjugorje, meditations, posting prayer requests, submitting petitiions to be given to Our Lady, and glorifying God and Our Lady. Members of the mailing list may start their own topics of discussion or respond to those posted by others. Messages posted to the list will automatically be sent to all of the members on the list.
My hope is that this list will help to spread the messages of Our Lady of Medjugorje and that we will be able to help each other in living her messages.
The messages given by Our Lady on Fridays, along with other messages given by Our Lady, will only be sent to registered members of the Mir_Peace_Shalom mailing list. The messages will not be sent separately to individuals not on the mailing list.
ALL is FREE!!!Thank you!
Revised: June 30, 1999.