What might have seemed to be a mere piousness that raised certain doubts and reticence, is now a place of pilgrimage like Lourdes or Fatima. This was authorized by Pope Francis on May 12, 2019, the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Fatima: "From now on, pilgrimages to Medjugorje can be officially organized by dioceses and parishes.". To this end, Pope Francis has taken direct pastoral responsibility for this entire reality, appointing Archbishop Henryk Hoser as Special Apostolic Visitor of the Holy See and his permanent Delegate to act on his behalf.
But it should be noted that this authorization does not entail the authentication of the alleged apparitions of Our Lady in this place. The Church does not ratify apparitions until they are over, and they are studied with great care, and in the case of Medjugorje the facts continue. On the other hand, the Church has not condemned it either, after 39 years since the apparitions began, so there is not the slightest suspicion of heresy that threatens the integrity of Catholic doctrine.
The place and the message
"Medjugorje" is a word of Slavic origin meaning 'between mountains' because of its geographical location. It is a small village located in a valley in the south of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This simple village has the peculiarity of having remained faithful to the Catholic faith throughout history, despite having been subjected to various totalitarian regimes.
A good summary of the message that Medjugorje is transmitting to the world could be a universal call to conversion, through five fundamental weapons that favor a solid life of faith (the so-called "five stones" of David against Goliath):
- prayer with the heart, that is, a living and personal relationship with God, which also includes a tender relationship with our Mother, the Virgin Mary, who is so fond of the meditative recitation of the Holy Rosary, a powerful weapon against evil;
- the Eucharist, lived in depth as the center of our life;
- the daily and meditative reading of Sacred Scripture, which can be placed in a visible place in the home, in such a way as to encourage family prayer.
- fasting on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays, which purifies the soul, helps to live better self-control, makes our prayer more effective and can stop wars;
- the sacrament of Confession, at least once a month, opening our hearts to the mercy of God, who awaits us with open arms.
The visionaries (Ivanka, Mirjana, Vicka, Marija, Ivan and Jakov) are absolutely normal people. They were children when the apparitions began, and today they are married with children. They enjoy a good mental health, certified by many doctors and scientists who developed all their arts to question the testimony of the seers. They have come to verify, however, that their brain stimuli during the apparitions responded to a reality that they were seeing and hearing, even though others could not see or hear it.
The Lord tells us that "by their fruits ye shall know them" (Mt 7:20) in order to discern. Well, in Medjugorje the fruits are innumerable. There have already been several miracles with the sun - as in Fatima - and abundant physical healings - as in Lourdes - well documented and scientifically inexplicable (to date more than 500 miraculous healings have been verified). But the greatest miracles - which cannot be enumerated because they happen continuously - are the spiritual healings, that is, the conversion of thousands and thousands of people who, perhaps having arrived there in a circumstantial way (accompanying someone, out of mere curiosity, or even with certain prejudices), in reality have encountered the immense Love that God has for them, in contrast with all the human miseries and weaknesses that we carry with us.
Medjugorje has thus become a place of reconciliation with God. It represents the spiritual lungs of Europe where one breathes deeply after a good Confession. It is called the "confessional of the world" because of the large number of daily confessions, but not just any confession: there are many cases of penitents who, discovering in their conscience offenses committed in their past life and which they had never confessed before, come with a deep desire to "empty the sack" and to do a thorough cleansing.
Encounter with God
Medjugorje is a place where millions of people discover the beauty of the Church and meet God through the Virgin Mary. The climate of peace and prayer that is breathed there favors this special encounter. Monsignor Hoser went so far as to say: "Why do so many people come to Medjugorje every year? The answer is clear: they come here to meet 'someone', to meet God, to meet Christ, to meet their Mother. And then to discover that peace which leads to the joy of living in the house of the Father and the Mother, and finally the Marian way as the surest and surest. This is the peace of Marian devotion that has been taking place here for years." (homily delivered in Medjugorje on July 22, 2018). To Jesus we go and return through Mary. She is the Queen of Peace who leads us to the encounter with her Son, the Prince of Peace.
Among the pilgrims to Medjugorje, thousands of priests and many bishops could be mentioned who have concelebrated masses there and have been attending confession to so many penitents, being witnesses of the infinite mercy of God, capable of transforming people's lives. Many anecdotes could be told, but we do not have the space to do so. We will simply mention the experience of Josefina, a faithful laywoman: "I must confess that it has been a blessing. A call from the Blessed Mother to visit her, since I had no intention of going on pilgrimage to Medjugorje, because I was very clear about what was happening there, but I must admit that it was a blessing to receive this call from our Mother. I was very impressed by the number of people present there, young families, many young people, also older people, but above all the silence, the respect in spite of the thousands of people there, both in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as in the prayer of the Holy Rosary and the Eucharist. Our Lady wanted me to experience her love for me personally in the face of my skepticism. Medjugorje invites us to adoration, love, friendship, union with Jesus and joy. To pray from heart to heart. I give infinite thanks to God for the opportunity that was given to me. She, the Lady, was waiting for me with open arms"..
Among the different incidents that can happen on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, there are those who discovered the sweet gaze of the Virgin Mary in the eyes of a little girl, filling that person with peace and calm in moments of great tension and nerves, as if telling her in the most intimate part of her being: "Calm down, I am here". On other occasions, it is a message from the Virgin Mary that arrives unexpectedly, but at such an opportune moment, that it has helped to avoid suicide and to turn one's life around.
"A window to the world"
The messages may seem repetitive, and yet, each message is different, even though it may mention some common aspect that is fundamental, such as the call to conversion, the invitation to pray, to open the heart.
Because a mother never tires of waiting and remembering what is important, just as a person in love never tires of saying: "I love you".
It is necessary to emphasize the great number of priestly vocations and to the religious life inspired by Medjugorje. Many of them give their testimony in the youth festival that is celebrated every year at the beginning of August, which welcomes more than 60,000 young people from different parts of the world.
Another fruit is the thousands of prayer groups that have emerged from Medjugorje all over the world. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the Rosary, Confession, Bible reading, fasting, Eucharist, consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, are the points that are being carried out.
The parish of St. James in Medjugorje, under the care of the Franciscans, is a reference point for the world. It is a daily practice of this school of prayer, so simple and yet so profound, which reminds us of our need for greater conversion and urges us to rekindle our faith.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI went so far as to say: "God, through the Virgin Mary, opens a window to the world, when the world closes the door to God.". If we look around us, we realize that this modern world is increasingly excluding God from society. But God continues to knock at our door, inviting us to open our hearts to Him so that He can enter and His love can transform us. God sealed a covenant with his people, with us... and in spite of us. For this covenant to persist, God counts on his Mother, the Virgin Mary, to remind us that we are his children and that he awaits our conversion. As a mother wants the best for her children, so our heavenly Mother intercedes for us and helps us to be more faithful to God.