Through the years, we have supported a number of apparitions — in Ukraine, in Venezuela, in Wisconsin, in Africa, in Egypt, in France, in Portugal, and a goodly assortment of other places. Among those is also Medjugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovina, which has not yet been approved by the Vatican but is currently under study by a special papal commission.
Obviously, we will strictly adhere to whatever that commission (which took the matter over from a national commission in Hercegovina) eventually decides. Recently, one member of the special group, Marianist Father Salvatore Perrella (assistant dean at the Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum and a theologian who also serves as an expert for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) confirmed that the issue is in Rome and completely out of local hands, adding that he expects the process of Vatican discernment to go on for a protracted period of time. This was reported by Catholic News Service, which is owned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
That same news service, which often has seemed jaded against apparitions, nonetheless has objectively and accurately stated Rome’s position, which is that: “More than once in recent years, the Vatican has said that dioceses or parishes should not organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje. But the Vatican has also said Catholics are free to travel to the site, and that if they do the church should provide them with pastoral services.”
Indeed, Rome has never disallowed pilgrims from going to Medjugorje, and Pope John Paul II — soon to be Blessed John Paul II — was famous for quietly urging cardinals and bishops to go, including a key official named Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.
At any rate, it has long been clear that both pilgrims and priests are at liberty to travel there, and we intend on doing so this June 6 (God-willing) in conjunction with a highly reputable organization called Trinity Pilgrimages. Author Michael H. Brown will be on the trip to meet with and speak to those traveling. We are excited — as we always are to visit this place of grace — and this pilgrimage will be smaller and more intimate than some in the past. Our experience has been simple: we have never seen another circumstance where pilgrims are so profoundly affected in a positive, life-changing, and traditionally Catholic way. (If the Vatican ever decides differently, we will seek to be the first to report on that — whatever our private feelings — and will no longer speak of it in the same way.)
For now, there is no indication that it will and we continue to follow apparitions that — this June — will mark their thirtieth anniversary. Recently, two new books have been issued outlining fascinating information about Medjugorje, which is the most famous apparition in nearly a century (since Fatima in 1917).
One of the books, written by two news reporters, Marijan Sivrić and Ivo Šćepanović (Medjugorje: 30 Years of a Phenomenon), says at least six hundred healings have been credibly reported at Medjugorje. “The Holy See observes with caution but the documentation only increases the observer’s curiosity of the Medjugorian happenings,” they report. “Recorded cases of the healings of people from all over the world are kept in the information center, along with all the given documentation which is then forwarded to medical and theological examiners.” The two journalists cite an especially impressive cure of multiple sclerosis — wherein a woman who had been unable to walk suddenly was able to hike more than seven miles to the shrine from the hotel she was staying at in Ljubuški. They report that the case was studied by twenty-five experts. So far, they say, “there are 143 similar documents of healings that can’t be medically explained.”
As at Lourdes (where the official tally of “miraculous” cures is just 68 out of the approximately 7,000 people who sought to have their cases confirmed), hundreds and perhaps thousands of other cases have gone unreported. The accounts we have directly heard themselves number in the dozens — although they are far outnumbered by dramatic spiritual healings (and conversions).
One who was helped at Medjugorje was a Polish exorcist who had been under severe attack by the evil one and sought refuge at Medjugorje. There he met a special Franciscan monk. “During the Rosary, he said he felt he had to run toward the place of the apparitions even though an inner voice told him not to,” Sivrić and Šćepanović quote this exorcist as saying. “I turned anyways and at that moment I got an answer to all my questions. I felt the Lady descending from Heaven. It was remarkable. I had a strong feeling. I could sense another world. Then I was pacified by a gentleness, an easiness, something like a strong wind of the Lady’s presence.
“She came near. The nearer she was, the power of evil was weaker. I experienced a revelation in my heart. I realized that she didn’t chase the evil spirits away, but they ran away anyway because they couldn’t bear her purity. The spirit of Satan in me was gone along with my depression and fears. In my heart, I heard a voice: ‘Don’t be afraid; I am your mother. I am your promise you will not fail.’ I feel the Lady’s presence during every exorcism.,” added this exorcist, who has frequently returned to the site of apparitions.
The official exorcist of Rome, Father Gabriel Amorth, has likewise endorsed the site.
But it’s up to you, in the end — or until Rome rules.
As with all major apparitions, aspects of Medjugorje remain difficult for anyone to believe. Prime among these: the claim by seer Mirjana Dragićević Soldo (whom, again God-willing, we will be spending time with) that her secrets are written on a mysterious piece of parchment that is only visible, right now, to her. That was allegedly given to Mirjana after her last daily apparition in 1982. States her spiritual director, Father Petar Ljubičić, “When the time comes, the contents of the first secret will become visible to me on the parchment and after seven days everyone else will be able to read it because it will cease to be a secret. This will happen until all ten secrets have been revealed and their consequence.”
For our discernment! There have been other cases in history with saints or seers in which unusual material contained writing (going back, of course, to Moses). But Medjugorje still evokes incredulity — and perhaps always will.
[resources: Michael Brown pilgrimage to Medjugorje; also (books): Medjugorje: The Way Home, The Medjugorje Fasting Book, Queen of the Cosmos, and The Fruits of Medjugorje]
[While we are unable to provide it, Medjugorje: 30 Years of a Phenomenon is available here]