The Vatican appears to be heading for an unprecedented mixed verdict
The Medjugorje movement is very much in tune with the Second Vatican Council. Devotees are prone to uplifting guitar music borrowed from charismatic Protestant revivals. They go in for those warped, El Greco-style crucifixes. They photoshop images of the Virgin Mary over the small Herzegovinian town where she has allegedly been appearing for four decades. The visionaries who claim to consort daily with Our Lady return with messages of peace, tolerance and equality. Is Medjugorje an apparition for our time?
The Vatican seems to be leaning in that direction. In May, a commission established by Benedict XVI in 2010 to study the apparitions handed in its findings. The document, known as the Ruini report and as yet unpublished, reportedly recognised the validity of the first six apparitions. Then, in August, Archbishop Henryk Hoser said that “all indications are that the revelations will be recognised, perhaps even this year”. Hoser was appointed by the Holy See to assess whether the pastoral practices in Medjugorje were in keeping with Church teaching.
Of course, the Ruini and Hoser reports are by no means conclusive. Just this May, the Holy Father appeared to dismiss the apparitions out of hand. Asked by reporters if he believed they were authentic, he said: “I prefer Our Lady as Mother, our Mother, and not Our Lady as head of the post office who sends a message at a stated time. This isn’t Jesus’s Mother. And these alleged apparitions don’t have much value … Who thinks that Our Lady says, ‘Come, because tomorrow at this time I will give a message to that seer?’ No!”
Yet for Church authorities – both supporters and critics – the emphasis tends to fall less on the visions themselves and more on the remarkable ministry that’s emerged around Medjugorje. “This movement will not stop and should not be stopped, because of the good fruit that grows out of it,” said Hoser. “It is one of the liveliest places of prayer and conversion in Europe – and has a healthy spirituality.”
Two pavilions in the village square at Medjugorje house 50 confessionals, which are constantly inundated by pilgrims. Hoser spoke to one local priest who said that “it was enough to listen to Confessions for an hour to witness real conversions”.
Pope Francis agrees, saying that the “real core” of the Ruini report is “the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact” that thousands of pilgrims have been converted in the town. “For this there is no magic wand,” he said, “this spiritual-pastoral fact cannot be denied.” The tension between the dubious nature of the apparitions and the astounding efficacy of the site is driving Medjugorje’s halting progress towards recognition.
To complicate matters further, 13 of the Ruini commission’s 15 members accepted the legitimacy of the first six visions, which occurred over a period of 10 days in 1981. However, only three vouched for the subsequent (and ongoing) revelations. This splitting of the Medjugorje phenomenon into two distinct phases is unprecedented, and it’s raising eyebrows across the Church.
There is definitely a striking difference between the visions in 1981 and those that followed. The early messages are very much like those at Fatima, with their emphasis on the singular importance of the Catholic faith. During the third Medjugorje apparition on June 26, Mary told the children: “I have come because there are many true believers here. I wish to be with you to convert and to reconcile the whole world.”
All of that quickly changed, however. In a 1992 interview, the seer Vicka was asked if Mary still desired all people to become Catholic. She is said to have replied emphatically: “No! The Blessed Mother says all religions are dear to her and her Son. She says it is we on earth who have made division.”
The latter apparitions contain other major deviations from those at Fatima. For instance, the Medjugorje children eventually began to pray the Our Father with Mary, which she refused to do with the Fatima seers Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. That makes sense: the Church teaches that Mary was conceived without sin and “remained free of every personal sin her whole life long”. She has no need to pray “forgive us our trespasses”; she’s never trespassed.
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This would not be the first time that seers were manipulated after their vision. The seers of Our Lady of La Salette also had less than heroically virtuous lives. Melanie Calvat, though a member of a religious congregation for a part of her life eventually wrote an anticlerical politically charged “autobiography” which seems heavily influence by nineteenth century apocalyptic literature. Her co-seer Maximin Giraud was a seminarian for a short while. He eventuallytried to parlay his fame into a business selling liquor. Eventually he died a pauper, but fully within the Church.
“Yet for Church authorities – both supporters and critics – the emphasis tends to fall less on the visions themselves and more on the remarkable ministry that’s emerged around Medjugorje. “This movement will not stop and should not be stopped, because of the good fruit that grows out of it,” said Hoser.”
Which I take to mean, if it’s proving profittable in some form or another – financial and/or spiritual – the Church will buy into it. “Good fruit” can make its sellers rich..
Like Fatima and Lourdes.
“The Blessed Mother says all religions are dear to her and her Son. She says it is we on earth who have made division.”
…As if she would say anything so absurd. Undermines the whole fabric.
“Or are they flaky pseudo-mystics of the sort who bedevilled the medieval Church?”
…Never mind medieval. What about the flakes who are at it right now, today?
I will not mention names.
Not even Roger’s.
I know nothing of Medjugorje
What I observe is the lack of respect and honour toward God (first Commandment).
A coldness with nothing that invites recollection and meditation Nothing that provides for the faithful to present their miseries and humility before the omnipotent God.
Everything has been humanised and a total absence of the path that leads to God.
The sacred images that promoted devotion and sorrow or hope of salvation? where are these?
The coldness, abandonment and a lack of spirituality to God. The sacrificial altar replaced by a dinner table.
Sentiment or sacrifice? Self or Selfless?
” They go in for those warped, El Greco-style crucifixes”
What does this mean?
Many things are published on Medjugorje that have no relation with the truth. Vicka never said the second sentence at all. I have worked as pilgrimage guide there for 5 years, the Masses are very respectful and confessions are endless, the priests are very pious – the only noisy stuff is probably related to the Youth Festival, four days out of 365 in the year, there is no way to help that, young people are young people. I have personally been healed there and have seen hundreds (yes hundreds) of healings in bodies and souls. Satan would not be that nice for sure!
Many thanks, E. (Is that short for something?)
Some genuine practical local knowlege is most helpful.
Would you agree that the financial economy of Medjugorje has benefited hugely from the phenomena?
And, that – if a lot of people are converting to Catholicism as a result – it doesn’t really matter whether the “apparitions,” or whatever, are “real” or not?
(And what about the “warped, El Greco,” crucifixes? That aspect fascinates me.)