What’s the deal with Medjugorje?
This question of “the deal” raises multiple possibilities for me to answer. It may be a question of simply “what is” (or “where is”) Medjugorje; it may be a
request to speak about alleged events happening there; or it may even be an ask for clarifications about the Church’s viewpoint on alleged events. I’ll look briefly at these three areas – hoping that I encompass all possible interests.
First of all, Medjugorje is a small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina where the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to six individuals beginning in 1981 and continuing to the present day. Since 1981, Mary is said have given words and visions concerning ten secrets related to upcoming happenings in the world, with the promise that in time all six visionaries will hear all ten secrets before such secrets will be in right timing to be made known publicly. When the time for the release of each secret is said to have arrived, such release will be made by a particular priest ten days before each one comes to pass.
Within the regular messages that continue are words regarding conversion, prayer, spiritual discipline, and the like (these ongoing messages being given in particular to two of the visionaries, each one receiving a particular message on a particular day each month). To date, the Church has not made an official judgment on the authenticity of the messages and visions – as they are yet to be completed and therefore the Church can not fully judge the messages. At this time, there has not been anything objectionable to the Catholic faith in the messages themselves – but that does not mean something problematic may not surface in the future. In spite of this open-ended situation, many people through the years have made pilgrimages to Medjugorje and gained much from these experiences.
Having said something of what it is and what the messages are said to contain, might I make a few more comments about the Church’s stance on Medjugorje by speaking of how she approaches all such claims of apparitions. To broaden our approach to Medjugorje, I will speak (as the Church does) of what we call “private revelations.” Acknowledging first that the “public revelation” [contained in the Sacred Scriptures and in the Tradition of the Church] contains all that is necessary for salvation as God Himself revealed, it is such public revelation that requires our belief. Any private revelations that are deemed “worthy of belief” by the Church are not required of the faithful to believe – since such revelations do not add to or change what is contained in the Scriptures and in the Tradition. Might we use the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima as an example: in 1917, Mary appeared to three shepherd children over the course of six months with a message of prayer and repentance, culminating with a miracle that was observed by the huge crowd that gathered on October 13 of that year near the town of Fatima, Portugal. The Church, after investigating the messages and events, deemed Fatima as worthy of belief – as it contains true teaching and is not contrary to the faith. No one, however, is required to believe it – as it does not contain anything that is not already present in the “public revelation” as received and guarded by the Church.
To this point, no judgment has been made regarding Medjugorje – for (as said above) it is not yet complete and therefore the Church cannot rule at this time in case there is any forthcoming message/event that is not in full union with the Church’s faith and teaching. However, it is undeniable that many people from throughout the world (including right here in Duluth) have made pilgrimages to Medjugorje and received tremendous benefit in their living of the Catholic faith. For in addition to the apparition site itself, the parish church in Medjugorje has become a great center of sacramental life and prayer for all who make pilgrimage there.
In conclusion, I will say that many great fruits have been borne in Medjugorje, but to date it remains subject to scrutiny as to its authenticity. As with any private
revelation, it is always important to remain discerning, basing such discernment on the full life and teaching of the Church.