By Christine Watkins
“The theology of Medjugorje rings true. I am convinced of its truth. Everything concerning Medjugorje is authentic from a Catholic point of view. All that happens there is so evident, so convincing! . . . There is only one danger alone for Medjugorje – that people will pass it by!” Cardinal Hans Urs Balthasar–
Cardinal Hans Van Urs Balthasar is regarded by Pope Benedict XVI as one of the greatest theologians of our time
I have travelled to Medjugorje five times. On each trip, I discovered that in Medjugorje, the miraculous is commonplace. The miracle of the sun, spontaneous healings, the smell of roses where no roses or perfumes are present—all of which I have personally experienced—are but small drops in a sea of miracles witnessed by millions who have been there.
One never knows what will happen in Medjugorje, where the Blessed Mother has allegedly appearing to six visionaries for over thirty years, because Medjugorje is part Earth, part Heaven. Even with the modern build up of hotels and religious knick knack stores at every turn to shelter and cater to the growing stream of pilgrims, Medjugorje captivated me. I didn’t know that a physical place on Earth could contain so much of heaven.
Never before Medjugorje had I experienced such intense spiritual communion, such palpable belief, everywhere I looked. In Medjugorje, graces seemed to rain down in torrents, renewing parched souls with the same living water Jesus offered to the woman at the well. I once heard a priest say, “Show me another place on earth besides Medjugorje where I can take teenagers for a week and they come home transformed, and I’ll take them there instead.”
One particular miracle stands tall in my memory above the rest. It happened on my last pilgrimage, which came about because ABC News wanted to interview me there for a program on Mary called “The Miracle Mysteries.” After eating dinner at a restaurant, near a table seating the three-person crew from ABC television, I left to walk a short block to the area behind St. James Church where hundreds of people sat outside in the warm summer night air, facing the Blessed Sacrament—a large Host carefully placed in a stunning monstrance circled by golden rays.
As I walked into the midst of the Real Presence of Jesus, a multitude of prayers, and sweet live music, I felt overcome with a deeply peaceful, tingling, ecstatic joy that filled my heart to capacity. When I sat down to pray, that capacity somehow grew. Giddy waves of peace carried my heart off to heaven while it somehow remained in my chest. Off to the left, the sky flashed with lightning, but without a sound, as if the Holy Spirit were delighting in showing himself off to his people—perhaps He was.
I promptly stood up and ran back toward the restaurant. If only the ABC crew could experience this! Surely then their hearts would be touched, and they could share with the world what was truly happening here at this holy site.
I bounded back into the restaurant trying to calm myself down. Still gasping for breath, I approached the crew’s table and exclaimed, hardly making sense: “You might want to see this. You might want to film this. The peace—the lightning with no thunder—the music, the multitudes. It’s so beautiful. It’s warm. It’s adoration. It’s what we Catholics do. Then looking at them with pleading eyes, I said, “You should come!”
They looked at me with courteous amusement, and then I left. They never budged. They hadn’t finished their beers and saw no reason to disturb their comfortable dinner. Without interest or faith or the desire to change, even one block is too far to travel.
Miracles, as divine as they are, simply become neglected sideshows if the soul is left untouched. As Fr. Jozo Zovko, OFM, the pastor of St. James church when the apparitions began, once said:
“In Medjugorje, the miracle is not so much in Our Lady’s apparitions or in the words she speaks to us, but in the pilgrim’s reply, who accepts to change his heart and life. That is the great miracle!
Take St Francis: the miracle was not that Jesus spoke to him, but in the fact that he gave up everything to become poor in everything.
In the Gospel, we read of the rich young man who was called by Jesus. The miracle wasn’t that he saw Christ and heard his call; it would have been in his response, had he responded. But he preferred his riches to Jesus. That is a miracle which did not occur.
It is not a miracle for God to talk; it is normal. In Medjugorje it is the pilgrim who decides if a miracle will occur or not. All he has to do is to open his heart to respond to the call.”**
Medjugorje would mean nothing without the conversion of the human heart. My work gathering stories for my book, Full of Grace: Miraculous Stories of Healing and Conversion through Mary’s Intercession, introduced me to Medjugorje’s inner world, the world within each heart, as I wrote down some of the most amazing conversions I had ever heard: a former crack addict who experienced his own apparition of Mary in Medjugorje and is now completely free from his addiction; a lonely youth who found healing from abortion, depression, and anxiety; a Nobel Peace Prize who, with Mary’s help, rescues children living in the sewers of Colombia; a violent, homeless heroin addict, diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic who is now a happy, sane, kind-loving family man; a former stripper who has considered becoming a nun; and a former atheist, who was me, caught up in serious sin and miraculously saved from imminent death through Mary’s Intercession.
The book and subsequent talks I’ve given around the country have introduced me to hundreds of Medjugorje conversion stories, more than the mind can run after.
Such graces have to come from heaven. They can’t possibly come from man. As I encountered testimony after testimony, I saw how each conversion, healing, or a prayer answered ministered so perfectly to the individual that only an all-knowing, all-loving, Almighty God could manage such feats. No human being could weave such tapestries of exquisite experience, could manipulate lives with such life-altering results and reach the heart where only God can speak. Like seashells, or grains of sand, or snowflakes, each story was intricately unique, beautiful, and perfect—so clearly created by an infinitely fertile imagination.
When compared with movements of human origin, Medjugorje points to a divine source. The regimes and of man forge themselves under a controlling will that subjugates, but Medjugorje topples this model onto its head. It is an empire built on freedom and love, gifting people with their own life anew to share with the world in the way they see best—without fear, intimidation, or force.
Medjugorje transforms those it touches through tailor-made love stories from the Creator to the creature, and each life that is changed is going to change the world, one person at a time. Vast sweeping movements of military and political power can only manipulate for a time but inevitably every human being changed by holiness becomes an eternal yes, a structure for the Kingdom of Heaven that can never be destroyed.
The gift of Medjugorje is for everyone. Don’t allow it to pass you by. If you have never travelled to Medjugorje, let yourself be transformed and challenged by this inspired book, which pours the graces of a Medjugorje pilgrimage into your own hands. If you have been there and long to return, visit there now through these pages. Through Steve Ryan’s engaging writing and skillful compilation of some of the best information concerning Medjugorje available, the Mother of God will come to you.
Christine Watkins, MTS, LCSW is Author of Full of Grace: Miraculous Stories of Healing and Conversion Through Mary’s Intercession
ABC Nightline co-anchor, Bill Wier, asks what the Virgin Mary looks like, and interviews Catholic author and speaker, Christine Watkins, regarding her life before her miraculous healing and conversion to Catholicism,in the hour-long special on Mary, called “The Miracle Mysteries.” See www.christinewatkins.com and www.medjugorjemiracles.com.