The Story of Medjugorje
by Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer,
Bishop of the Diocese of San Angelo, Texas
St. James Parish, in a remote Yugoslavian village named Medjugorje, is a place where it is claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary has been making almost daily appearances since June, 1981, to six young people. The woman of these apparitions has identified herself as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace. Her main message is peace...peace with God and all people.
In one of her appearances, Mary said, "I have come to tell the world that God exists. He is the fullness of life, and to enjoy the fullness and obtain peace, you must return to God." The main messages of these visions center on Jesus Christ and are a call to live His gospel in our day and time.
To convey and transmit her messages to the people of the local village and to the wider world, Mary had selected six young messengers. These messengers are simple, ordinary but profoundly spiritual people, truly dedicated to Mary and to Jesus Christ. They all tell of the deep conversion process they have gone through because of the messages of the beautiful lady, called in Croatian, the "Gospa", who has been appearing to them. During the claimed apparitions, the young people seem to be in a trance and to be taken out of space and time. Since the apparitions began, some 13 million (by 1995, 20 million) have traveled to Medjugorje to pray. They share with and are enlightened by the six visionaries.
The credibility of the six visionaries has been tested medically, scientifically and has undergone scrutiny by the Church. When the apparitions first began, thousands of people began to gather on the hill where Mary was appearing. The local Communist authorities became alarmed. Fearing a political uprising, they wanted to jail the children to try to prove they were unstable emotionally or medically ill.
Unwittingly, by insisting that the children be tested medically and psychologically, the local authorities did much to establish the soundness and stability of the visionaries, and to give wider acceptance to their messages.
It was on "Apparition Hill", better known as Mt. Podbrdo, that the apparitions began, but because of the prohibition of the local authorities, the children were forced to go into the rectory and chapel of the church, where the apparitions continued. It is on this hill that Mary has promised to leave a permanent sign once the apparitions have ceased.
Each day at St. James Church, several Masses (in different languages) are celebrated and thousands of people attend. In the evening, the church is jammed with pilgrims who come to pray the Rosary (Joyful and Sorrowful Mysteries before Mass, Glorious Mysteries after Mass), and to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many remain for a healing service. It is during the evening Rosary that the apparitions take place in the choir of St. James Church.
The apparitions of Medjugorje seem to have three general purposes. First, to instruct and guide the visionaries themselves in their personal growth in Jesus Christ, Second, the visionaries have been selected to be messengers of Mary for the entire world, Third, the messages are ecumenical in nature, and the visionaries have pointed out that they are meant for people of all religions and all faiths, not just for Catholics. In the apparitions, Mary has stated that God loves all people; that his people, not God, made different religions and brought about division in the world.
The question may arise, "Can a Catholic accept the contents of private revelations and integrate them into one's life before the Church makes an official pronouncement regarding the apparitions?" The answer, by the Church's own teaching and experience, is "yes", provided that, after prudent and cautious examinations of the reported revelations, nothing is found in the content of the revelations that is in any way contrary to Church teaching on faith and morals.
The Vatican has set up a special commission to investigate Medjugorje, and the study has not yet been completed. The Franciscan priests of Medjugorje pointed out to me that Medjugorje has been tested and scrutinized more than any other apparition in the history of the Church, because of all the modern scientific and technological means available today.
As the Church continues to study and reflect on these mysterious and supernatural happenings of Medjugorje, I can only offer my personal opinion. I am convinced that Mary is appearing at Medjugorje, and that she is calling us to a deeper union with Jesus Christ, and to the faithful living out of His gospel in our daily lives - each on according to his or her vocation. Mary does not bring a new command, but simply the one she gave centuries ago at Cana, "Do whatever He (Jesus) tells you."
Mary comes back today at Medjugorje as a kind and loving mother, pleading with our world - with all of us - to simply do what Christ tells us to do. If we listen to her gentle command, Christ, through the Holy Spirit, will work new and wonderful signs of grace and love in our individual hearts, in our families, in our communities, in the entire world.