At the moment the 30 year events going on in Medjugorje in Bosnia Herz are being fully investigated by a team at the Vatican. There’s a general belief that a definitive judgement on whether Our Blessed Mother has been appearing there will be made by the end of this year. In the meantime there’s quite a bit of argument and controversy over the matter. I don’t want to add to that, but I thought I might tell what part this place and it’s events have had on my faith.
I grew up and went to Catholic schools in the 1970’s and early 80’s. It was during the Catechism-free-zone days of Catholic teaching. I was being unpleasantly sandwiched between the dark judgemental “can’t wait for an excuse to send you to hell” god on the one side and the pink and fluffy”how does it feel for you?” god on the other. It was not good.
One thing that began to bug me was the sheer volume of miracles. I don’t mean cures as such, but the spinning sun seemed to happen all the time and then there was the business of people’s rosaries turning to gold. Something about that seemed wrong.
Without going into the rigmarole of my painful Faith journey back then I had reached the point where I knew God existed (from reason) but I had no idea who He was and had a strong suspicion that even if the Jesus of Scripture was God and that He had spent nearly 2000 showing His love for His people, all that had vanished some time after the first world war and He had shipped out, leaving us to ourselves. I could see no evidence at that point in my life that God had anything more to do with the world or His Church (if the Catholic Church was His Church and I was not convinced of that).
News reached me somehow (I can’t remember how) that Our Blessed Mother may be appearing to some young people in a place called Medjugorje. At first I wasn’t able to find out much about it, but eventually I found a magazine about the events and I signed up to see if it was true. I was pretty cautious at first as I wasn’t one to trust anyone very easily, but the stories of the apparitions, cures, conversions and the joy that came with them all captivated me and I began to think it highly likely that the apparitions were true and I was so grateful to have the hope that God hadn’t done a runner. (As you can see spiritually I was way off beam still). The fact that I was beginning to believe in it meant that I decided to make the effort to live the messages; going to Mass more often, praying the rosary, reading the Bible – just trying to be better at this Christianity thing I was so unsure of. I have to admit, it was all very good for me and certainly played a pretty big part in steering me in the right direction. But doubts began to creep in.
I can’t remember when exactly, I began to sense something off about it all. One of the first red flags was the Bishop of Mostar being so against it and the anger towards him by those who supported it. He may have been completely wrong, I didn’t know (and having been brought up in the catechism-free-zone I had no idea that the local ordinary had the authority to declare on local private revelation. I don’t think I even knew there was a distinction between public and private revelation at this point). The other thing I began to feel uncomfortable with was the number of times I met people who put immense pressure on me to go there. One couple in particular had a really negative effect on me, even though I thought they were very nice people. It was the “come and see the miracles” approach that niggled at me. I didn’t give up hoping it was real though.
Then I met a friend who had been there. He told me that his rosary had turned to gold while he was there. Far from being pleased with this, it had unnerved him. He said that he had thought the event “brash and tasteless” and wondered if it really was Our Blessed Mother doing this. Somehow this conversation vocalised the niggling doubts and strange feeling that had been growing for me and I decided to leave well alone until there was a definitive judgement. Some time after that the Bishop of Mostar asked the visionaries not to speak any more on the visions (or some say he asked them to stop having visions) but nothing has changed. Knowing that in other apparitions Our Blessed Mother has obeyed the Bishop’s request because he has the authority from her Son – this was the clincher for me.
At this point it is 30 years down the line and a lot has been written and said. Many, many of those who have or still support the authenticity of the apparitions are truly good, holy people who I respect. A couple of the leading lights against Medjugorje on the other hand come across as arrogant and snarky. But there are also good, holy people who are pretty sure the Vatican will say it is not authentic.
Where do I stand now? I can’t help thinking this probably was a genuine apparition to begin with. But so many other things have happened that need unknotting or undoing that I can’t see there’s much room for the Commission to say any of it was authentic. But they have far more info than I do- so we wait.
I have to say I think the Church has taken the Ent-Moot far to far on this matter. Countless souls are wrapped up in these events and I am afraid I think they have been left to flounder without proper guidance. Hopefully the Commission will give and clear, definitive judgement. As a matter of fact one of the advantages (to me) of being Catholic is that there are rigorous investigations of purported miracles and apparitions. It is a shame it’s taken so long, but better late than never.