by John Beutler
On Christmas Eve in 1986, I stumbled on to a book about Medjugorje when I went into a Christian bookstore looking for a book for my mother. I had no idea that any such book existed. A year earlier, I had read a few short news items about six children in Yugoslavia who said they were seeing and talking to the Virgin Mary since June 24, 1981. I was shocked that these reports could be coming out of a Communist country.
After reading a couple of books, I wanted to go to Medjugorje to see if what I had read was true, which I did in 1987. I witnessed miracles and experienced a personal conversion on that visit that no one could explain. I went to Medjugorje again in the 1990s and experienced supernatural events that confirmed to me the existence of heaven and hell. In 1995, I helped start the Marian Peace Center of Lansing. And, just this past May, 2012, I went to Medjugorje again with one of my sons and good friends from Grand Rapids. Much has changed in the 25 years since my first visit, but much is also the same.
MEDJUGORJE IS STILL A TASTE OF HEAVEN: There is great peacefulness in the holy places, shrines, and the village; many people attest that their pilgrimage has helped them tremendously; property owners still allow pilgrims to walk the paths through their vineyards and other fields to go to the holy sites; many Masses are celebrated in various languages throughout each entire day in St. James Church attended by large numbers of pilgrims; many priests con-celebrate the daily Masses and hear confessions in many different languages; Eucharistic Adoration is promoted and many thousands attend the beautiful Saturday night holy hours; great love of Jesus and Our Blessed Mother is expressed and encouraged, as well as obedience to the Pope and Magisterium of the Catholic Church. There is always a strong emphasis on prayer and the sacraments in order to live the Gospels and have the strength to love and serve others.
OTHER THINGS HAVE CHANGED: The six children are grown and are no longer together for the daily 6:40 pm apparitions, and yet many thousands still go to Medjugorje each week. (Only three of the visionaries still report daily apparitions; the other three report annual or periodic apparitions). Many pilgrims who go to Medjugorje might only see or hear a talk from one of the visionaries, and yet many thousands still go there each week. There are no apparitions in the church or surrounding buildings as in the past, and yet many thousands still go there each week. The well-known priests, who were in Medjugorje during the early years, are no longer around and available to give regular talks, and yet many thousands still go there each week. Dramatic healings and supernatural phenomena have decreased or are not publicized as much as in the past, and yet many thousands still go there each week. These points may help prove the genuineness of these reported apparitions; they can also add to the good fruits from the apparitions.
As Father Edward D. O’Connor, C.S.C. writes in his book, Marian Apparitions Today: Why So Many?, if no one paid attention to reported apparitions, there would be no need or occasion for the Church to make a judgment on them. There would be no approved apparitions anywhere if a lot of people had not followed them, converted their lives, and visited the site where the visions occurred. Prophecy is a permanent gift to the Church.
A few people, especially some good Catholic apologists in the U.S., are trying to discourage others from believing that these could be true apparitions of the Virgin Mary. It is somewhat understandable because most of these apologists are well-known for debating often with Protestants, and the whole subject of Marian devotion and apparitions is a very difficult hurdle for most Protestants. So expressing disbelief in Medjugorje could actually help them in their apologetics work, which may or may not be their motive. However, there is no evidence that the visionaries are a fraud. The criticisms of Medjugorje are miniscule compared to the gigantic achievements that have occurred through Medjugorje over the past 31 years.
It is too easy for some people in this day of extreme skepticism and disbelief to draw a box around what they think God can do or what He is doing. Even if Medjugorje receives some form of official approval, these apologists may never go there because no one has to believe in apparitions, but it would be far more prudent to withhold their criticisms until the Vatican issues a ruling on the matter because the tremendous good coming from Medjugorje, as supported by numerous bishops and priests, could well be a work of the Holy Spirit.
One of the most convincing arguments that the six reported visionaries are telling the truth is that it is absolutely unheard-of that six children could grow up and become mature adults, often not seeing each other for long periods of time, and all six of them still keep up a so-called fraud for more than 30 years without at least one of them breaking down and going against everything the others are saying. But this has not happened, even from the visionaries who no longer report daily apparitions. And it never happened when they were all teens or young adults, the most unlikely time for any group of six people to maintain a so-called fraud while sacrificing so much in comparison to most other individuals their age.
For 31 years, the visionaries tell the same story about how the visions began and all the same details about the visions. They live lives that are not easy with many demands placed upon them and have given countless talks and interviews. They have their apparitions in the same way as they always have. They pray the Rosary, then raise their heads when Mary comes and they talk in an animated way with her as the visions occur. On various occasions I have been close to more than one of the visionaries during their apparitions and I have seen this myself. I wish everyone who doubts could witness this up close, or that they would look closely at the many videos on-line showing this. It is still happening after 31 years, which some people think is too long for God to allow any apparitions.
But even Lucia of Fatima had apparitions long after the 1917 apparitions (such as in 1925, 1926, 1927, and later, as documented in Fatima for Today by Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., 2010). And according to Lucia’s own nephew, Father Jose dos Santos Valinho, a Salesian priest who lives in Portugal, said the Virgin Mary told Lucia after 1981 that the Madonna’s work was continuing in Medjugorje, as documented by the French author Sister Emmanuel Maillard in her book Medjugorje, Triumph of the Heart! (2004). (Also see related article by Daniel Klimek, July 1, 2011.)
Why is Medjugorje important? If it were not for Medjugorje, the world and the entire Church would be in far worse condition than it is. There would be far less support for the Pope and Magisterium because Medjugorje is a staunch supporter of faithful Catholicism. The people involved in Medjugorje and millions of people affected by it usually grow into very strong Catholics who support official Church teachings. The conversions of countless sinners and rebellious people are wonderful fruits that build up the Church and help to destroy the influence and evil works of Satan.
Medjugorje continues because the Church needs much more help in counteracting the dictatorship of relativism and rampant atheism. Medjugorje has helped millions of people to know that God exists, that Jesus is the Son of God and He loves and wants every person to go to heaven, that daily Mass, regular Confession, daily Scripture reading, and the Rosary are very important, and that we should practice regular fasting each week. Prior to Medjugorje, many of these practices were not emphasized and were even discouraged in many quarters of the Church. There have been more priestly and religious vocations and conversions through Medjugorje than any other single place over the past three decades, more than anywhere else in the world. People can read new conversion stories every month. If this is happening anywhere else in the world, even the Catholic press is not reporting it.
I love the approved apparition sites, but, in our increasingly skeptical and secularized world, millions of people find it reassuring to feel and know that God continues to reach out in miraculous ways to help everyone know the truths in the Scriptures, even more than He has done in recent centuries. There is an explosion of miracles in the lives of many people because the evil in our times allows God to intervene to combat the extreme evil in the world. Mary is begging us to love Jesus with our whole heart and to live the Gospels with passion and conviction. Let us pray for one another and for a great increase in love and humility, especially towards anyone who disagrees with us about Medjugorje.
NOTE: The Church has not yet issued a final decision on the reported apparitions in Medjugorje. The Vatican is in charge of Medjugorje and took control of it under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), removing authority for passing judgement on Medjugorje from the local bishops and placing the matter in the hands of a Vatican Commission. Whatever the final decision of the Church is, we will accept it and trust in God.
Bio of John Beutler – I was in a seminary for seven years, served in the Vietnam War, have a Masters Degree in public administration, and worked for a non-partisan staff for the Michigan state senate for 30 years. I reside in Lansing, Michigan and have been director of the Marian Peace Center of Lansing for the past 17 years.