Medjugorje is touted by its apologists as a locale of practically ongoing miraculous phenomena, which range from such things as rosaries turning into gold, the sun dancing as at Fatima, burning bushes like that recorded in the third chapter of Exodus, crosses spinning, miracle cures of all types of diseases, new apparitions being generated, ad infinitum. If one peruses the history of authentic Marian apparitions, more specifically those which seem intended by God to influence the greatest number of souls, there is clearly a pattern evident: an undeniable, unambiguous miracle given by God as His signature or seal to the phenomenon in question, in effect telling the Church:
"I am here. This is truly the work of my hand.":
When a miracle is performed, and it is stated that it is worked with this intention, or when circumstances show this to be the case, it is an undeniable proof that of the divine nature of the revelation. (82)
While no particular Marian apparition is binding of acceptance by Catholics, since they are all private revelations, there are three which, owing to their world wide renown and the particular interest in them shown by the Popes and the Church Universal could be designated as "special." This does not imply, of course, that they are "better" than any other such apparitions, merely that the recognition accorded them by so many of the faithful, and the fact that they are so often referred to by the Church in so many documents, liturgies, and Papal pronouncements puts them into a somewhat unique "pride of place" in the history of the Catholic Church. These three are:
The apparitions of Our Lady on Tepeyac hill in Mexico (Guadalupe); at Massabiele in France (Lourdes); and at Fatima, in Portugal. (One could also include the apparitions of Our Lady to St. Catherine Laboure, in order to spread the devotion of the miraculous medal, but owing to the extreme humility and anonymity of the saint herself, the circumstances of the apparitions themselves did not come to light until after her death.)
More likely than not, the reader will be familiar with the stories of these apparitions; so what will be emphasized here are the extraordinary, miraculous interventions by God as a sign of the heavenly origin of these phenomenon:The miraculous cloak, or tilma of Juan Diego, which bears the image of Our Lady. The garment, which is made of cactus fibers which should naturally decompose within twenty years or so, is now upwards of four hundred and fifty years old. It shows no signs of wear, and miraculously survived a bomb detonating within a few feet. The cloth was undamaged by the attempt, but a bronze statue of Christ at the feet of the miraculous image was totally mangled. Recently, an optical analysis of the cloak discovered that in the image, the eyes of Our Lady contain microscopic images of Juan Diego and Bishop Zumarraga, which are physiologically identical with reflected images in a living human retina-something which, in 1531, the year the apparitions occurred, would have been virtually impossible to duplicate. Many documented miracle cures have been officially attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The fully documented, miraculous cures, recognized by the Church and attributed to the intercession of Our Lady at the spring at Massabielle (Lourdes), which was discovered by St. Bernadette at Our Lady's request, are so numerous that they require no elaboration here. Suffice it to say that the Lourde's medical bureau is the world's foremost authority (in service to the Church) on miraculous cures: one of the first miraculous cures related to Lourdes, that of a man blind in one eye, due to heavy scar tissue, occurred soon after the apparitions began. The man's vision was restored completely, and according to his doctor it was a physical impossibility, since the scar tissue remained. The cures worked in bygone times focused attention principally upon their divine origin, but modern miraculous cures are studied by scientists for their own sake, for example by Mangin and Alexis Carrel, who came back many times to Lourdes in search of the secret of cellular multiplication in cures of wounds and fistulae. In addition, medical theses have been written about them. (83)
But perhaps an even greater testimony to the heavenly origin of the apparitions of Our Lady is St. Bernadette's heroic sanctity and patience in suffering which, by the way, were the primary factors contributing to her canonization, not the apparitions themselves, although they have been a true blessing to millions of the faithful.
The miracle of the sun at Fatima:In his pastoral letter of approbation, the Bishop of Leiria speaks of it as follows:"The solar phenomenon of October 13, 1917 was the most marvellous of all and the one that made the greatest impression upon all those who had the happiness of witnessing it.
"The three children had announced beforehand the place and time at which it was to happen, and their prediction had been circulated all through Portugal. Thus, despite the bad, rainy weather, thousands and thousands of people had gathered at Fatima at the time of the last apparition. And this entire crowd assisted at all the manifestations of the king of the skies who thus rendered homage to the Queen of Heaven and Earth, more brilliant than the sun at the highest point of his splendor, as says the Canticle of Canticles (6:9).
"This solar phenomenon, which no astronomical observatory registered and which consequently was not natural, was observed by that multitude of people of every social category and class, by believers and unbelievers, by reporters from all the Portuguese newspapers, and even by people many miles away. This circumstance destroys all explanation by collective illusion" (84)
These miracles, as diverse as they may appear, have all been approved and authenticated by the Church. A true miracle is distinguished by certain characteristics that distinguish it from something which is merely natural in origin, or something which is not beyond the power of the "preternatural", that is, something which is satanic or demonic in origin. Two examples of such "prodigies" of the Devil are those performed by the Pharaoh's magicians in imitation of the true miracles which God wrought through Moses, (Exodus 7), and those done by Simon Magus and Elymas the Magician as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. These kinds of "demonic tricks" will be dealt with in the next chapter.
Miracles of God involve phenomenon which are either: above the power of nature (supra naturam), such as the raising of Lazarus by Our Lord after he had been dead for four days and his body was undergoing corruption (St. John 11); miracles contrary to nature, (contra naturam), such as Our Lord walking on water; and miracles alongside nature (praeter naturam) such as the instantaneous cure of the lepers (St. Luke ) which involves natural processes, such as healing, brought about by miraculous means (such as instantaneous creation of tissue). for something to be considered a true miracle, it must necessarily involve some event totally surpassing the powers of nature, and the scope of human science and foreknowledge.
Of the many phenomena cited by the devotees of Medjugorje, there are only two classes which merit serious consideration as "miracles": the "numerous reported healings" and the "miracle of the sun." Regarding the first, the so-called miraculous healings, there have been many reports of such miracles, but not one single, documented case after nearly twenty years of apparitions. One is certainly glad to hear about the "healing" of the two and a half year old boy who was mute and unable to walk, but this is certainly a far cry from a true miracle, since there is no evidence that the boy's inability to walk or talk was due to any physical pathology. The followers of the alleged apparitions speak of numerous healings and cures:Perhaps the most famous case of a "cure" attributed to Medjugorje concerns Diana Basile from Milan. She allegedly was cured of multiple scerosis and blindness in the right eye (optic retrobular neuritis) on May 23, 1984…Bishop Zanic reccomended that the medical records be sent to the Medical Office of Lourdes ... In a detailed letter dated September 13th, 1984, Dr. Theodore Mangiapan, the President of the Office, stated it is difficult to verify a cure regarding MS because it can go into remission on its own.
Fr. Rupcic (a Medjugorje defender) prepared fifty six cases of alleged healings and submitted them to Dr. Mangiapan to discern whether any merited further attention. Dr. Mangiapan…stated that the cases presented were:Described briefly, and are based uniquely on the evidence of those involved. They are never confirmed…by an objective medical examination…In conclusion…this entire dossier is of no practical value and as such would not give grounds for an argument in favor of the apparitions. (85)
Notwithstanding these unsubstantiated claims for the miraculous at Medjugorje, the chief "miracle" cited by the devotees at Medjugorje is the much vaunted "miracle of the sun." People talk about spinning suns, exhibiting all the colors of the rainbow. As Marie Hancock, a supporter of the apparitions, notes:The miracle of the sun witnessed in Medjugorje on August 2nd …was apparently very impressive. Approximately 150 people observed this marvel, right before sunset. The sun appeared to be spinning on its own axis. It also seemed to move toward the observers and then recede. A great darkness loomed behind the sun… A white cloud, moving down toward the hill and toward the sun (which was still spinning) provided the conclusion. Withing fifteen minutes the sky show was over and the sky returned to normal. (86)
Anyone who is reasonably objective with regard to these phenomena would immediately notice the enormous difference between the "miracle of the sun" as it is described at Medjugorje, which seems to be an ongoing "sky show", as Marie Hancock puts it, and the "Miracle of the Sun" which took place at Fatima at exact solar noon. A relative handful of people (150), staring expectantly in the direction of the setting sun, in an area noted for its beautiful, multi-colored sunsets and in an atmosphere of feverish spiritual anticipation may have seen something, but it does not begin to compare in scope to what happened at the Cova de Ira in 1917, witnessed by over 70,000 reported in the local (atheistic and anti-clerical) newspapers in bold headlines. Those present at Fatima were soaked to the bone by the torrential rain which was pouring down until the very moment of the miracle, and the woolen clad spectators noticed to their amazement that their garments were instantly dried, which was itself miraculous, as anyone who has tried knows how long wool takes to dry. Another enormous difference is that the apparitions of Our Lady were foretold by the three children months in advance, down to the exact date and hour, which constitutes a prophecy fulfilled, something the "seers" of the "Gospa" have never been able to see realize, as the so-called "miracle of the sun" at Medjugorje appears to happen sporadically, with no apparent relation to any prophecies or "messages".
The "true believers" of Medjugorje are not content to let God take care of the miracle,as was the case at Fatima, but have acquired the habit of staring at the sun, which is bound to lead to all manner of visions and hallucinations, not to mention eye damage, as Mrs. Hancock, in words which should send chills down the spine of any decent opthamologist, testifies:It is known that staring into the sun can, and has, damaged the retina in the eyes. Yet, after thirty minutes, my eyes had absolutely no damage to them. Many observers have subsequently had their eyes tested by optometrists. The results have always been the same, no damage, no explanation! Of the thousands, maybe millions of people who have witnessed this marvel…Some have seen not only the spinning sun, but a large heart with six small hearts beneath it (the Madonna and the six visionaries?) (87)
Leaving aside the question of whether this particular collection of hearts was a straight or not, Mrs. Hancock's comments are not entirely accurate. A publication by Mr.Charles Toye, entitled "Miracle of the Sun at Medjugorje" begins with a warning:In June 1987, the Center for Peace, Boston, Massachusetts, issued the following warning on the subject:"Staring into the sun can cause permanent visual damage, cautions the American Academy of Opthamology, following findings of retinal burns among people hoping to witness the 'miracle of the sun' in Yugoslavia."Opthamologists report that at least nine individuals from New Orleans have sustained retinal injuries, similar to what would be caused by staring directly into the sun during an eclipse."(88)
Many devotees, not content with witnessing the "miracle" at Medjugorje itself, seem to be under the impression that witnessing one such phenomenon should lead to witnessing miraculous solar events no matter where they are. Some have openly encouraged others to stare into the sun, as if to "see for miliarity with mystical theology knows that miracles are never to be sought after, particular for purposes of spiritual entertainment or curiosity. And God would never sanction such reckless and irrational behavior as staring into the sun. Christians are called to walk by faith, not by sight, and should not concern themselves with looking for signs in the heavens. If a miracle does indeed occur, one's reaction should not be a euphoric hysteria, and a desire to see such a thing again, but rather an attitude of gratefulness to the Divine Majesty and a prayer to God for an increase of all three of the theological virtues, faith, hope and charity. God's miracles are perfect works, a free from all exhibitionism, with a purity and grace which excludes all elements of the theatrical , the gaudy, and of morbid curiosity. The prodigies of Satan, on the other hand, are imbued with all of these characteristics. It is by a prevalence of such events that Medjugorje seems to be characterized.
EVIDENCES OF THE DEMONIC
Some spiritual persons, as has been noted , convince themselves that their curiosity to know of certain things through supernatural means is good because God sometimes deigns to respond answers such petition. Yet, the truth is, that, regardless of God's reply, such behavior is neither good nor pleasing to God. Rather, He is displeased; not only displeased, but frequently angered and deeply offended…
These individuals so stir God's wrath that, by giving full scope to their vanities and phantasies, He purposely allows them to go astray, suffer delusion and spiritual darkness, and abandon the established ways of life… In this way God permits the devil to blind and delude many, who merit this by their sins and audacities. The devil is able and successful to the extent that others believe what he says, and consider him a good spirit. So firm is their belief that it is impossible, for anyone who tries, to persuade them of the diabolical origin…We read that this happened to the prophets of King Achab…that God allowed them to be blinded is the explanation of their unbelief, for in their attachment they wanted events to happen, and God to answer according to their own desires and appetites. This was the surest means and preparation for God to abandon them to blindness and deception. (89)
The stories of the first apparitions are well known. On the first day of the apparitions, Ivanka Ivankovic and Mirjana Dragicevic, who by Mirjana's own admission had gone up the hillside to smoke, Ivanka saw a glowing shape, or outline, resembling the silhouette of the Virgin, on Podbrdo, the Mount of Apparitions, as it is now called. It is important to note here that at this very first of the apparitions, there was no dialogue or any communication between the so called "Madonna" and the seers, merely fear and confusion on their part. Ivanka, apparently, "thought" she saw the Madonna "Gospa", and told Mirjana, but Mirjana ridiculed the idea. The two girls then went back to the village to tell their friends, and invited them up to see if the "Gospa" would oblige them by appearing again. The "official" (Medjugorje) version is that the "Gospa" did indeed appear again. Present in this first group were two youths who were not involved in any further apparitions, Milka Pavlovic, sister of Marija, and Ivan Ivankovic. These two did not subsequently return to the site.
What is especially fascinating and horrifying at the same time about this entire phenomenon is that , on the other side of this very hill, in June of 1941, (forty years to the month before the beginning of the apparitions) some 600 Orthodox Serbs were buried alive by forces of the Croatian Ustasha (Nazi collaborators). Three days before the first apparition, a plaque had gone up in a near by Serbian Orthodox Church commemorating the victims of this slaughter.(90)
Anyone who has studied the occult, the "para-normal" or demonology, is aware of the fact that evil spirits, or demonic activity seem to be drawn to places where atrocious evil has occurred, there being apparently an intangible relation between spirit and place which is totally beyond the grasp of the human intellect. Such places often serve as focal points for demonic encroachment and infestation. It is also important to note that Podbrdo, the "hill of the apparitions" apparently has a para-normal "history" which considerably antedates the massacre; there were always local legends about a hooded figure in black appearing on the mountain; in the nineteenth century, a Franciscan priest had documented that the mountain was well known as a site of "strange luminous phenomena". Whatever the case may be, there is really no truly authentic and unedited account of those first fateful encounters with the "Gospa". Whatever the "children" saw, whether hallucination or evil spirit, it was not the Mother of God; for if such were the case, everything in the history of true and authentic private revelations would have to be disregarded. It is obvious that there was great confusion among the visionaries, there was great confusion as to the identity of the "visitor" (not only during the first few moments) but for days on end, accompanied by an unhealthy curiosity, and a preternatural force seemed to be present from the very beginning:
Day 2: Vicka recounted the amazing events that followed:We ran quickly up the hill. It was not like walking on the ground …We simply ran toward her (the Gospa)… I was afraid…When we were about two meters away from the Madonna, we felt as if we were thrown to our knees…Jakov was thrown kneeling into a thorny bush, and I thought he would be injured. (91)
One should compare this incident with innumerable cases of demonic oppression, possession and infestation, the presence of a capricious, malevolent and domineering strength. Demons are able to exercise incredible, preternatural strength wherever they manifest themselves, either in so called "poltergeist" phenomena, or by means of outright possession. What is certain is that neither God nor the Madonna deal thus with those sons and daughters whom they have chosen to be the recipients of prophetic revelation; God's angels have, it is true, dealt somewhat roughly with men like Balaam who opposed God's will, and in the conversion of St. Paul, who at the time was persecuting the Church, but the Mother of God does not do so. Such violence (even if Jakov was not injured) is indicative of a desire for control and obeisance, fired by pride and a spirit of domination. The children at the beginning of the phenomenon, seem to have been somewhat terrified yet driven by a morbid curiosity and a desire for thrills, and it would appear that they were somewhat reluctant to undergo any further experiences of this nature. In their interviews with the pastor, Father Jozo Zovko, recorded in the very first days of the "apparitions", they seem to treat the whole thing as a joke. It is a fairly well known fact that "poltergeist" (demonic) activity is quite common around adolescents (especially girls). Is is possible that the "apparition", as seen by the adolescents, was somehow tied to something evil at that particular location, and merely, at first, a fortuitous encounter? E. Michael Jones, in his exhaustive and masterful "The Medjugorje Deception", has put forth the hypothesis that the "children" saw a ghost. One is not inclined to agree with this particular assertion, for the reason that the concept of an "autonomous" ghost (who goes about scaring, or appearing to people at his/her pleasure) is not easily reconcilable with Catholic eschatology.
St. Thomas Aquinas asserts in the Summa that God may indeed grant a "dispensation" to a departed soul to appear for a purpose (right a wrong committed in this life, ask for prayers for deliverance from purgatory, even to frighten obstinate sinners with descriptions of hell), but there are no "free-lancers" among the departed. What the "children" saw and what they are seeing now, if one is to take into account all the concomitant phenomena, would indeed appear to be of demonic origin, if not the product of mass hallucination. It may even be the case that what started as a joke or hoax became demonic, by means of the anticipatory atmosphere prevailing in Medjugorje during those very first days, in June of 1981. Neither God nor the Blessed Mother respond to conjuring-the idea that they can be invoked or summoned on demand is itself a diabolical concept-but the devil will gladly respond to invocation and to the desire to see, touch and feel the extraordinary:…the devil is so pleased to suggest to souls and impress upon them apprehensions and feelings…the devil induces many into believing vain visions and false prophecies. He strives to make them presume that God and the Saints speak with them; and they frequently believe their phantasy. It is here that the devil customarily fills them with presumption and pride. Drawn by vanity and arrogance, they will allow themselves to be seen in exterior acts of apparent holiness, such as raptures and other exhibitions. They become audacious with God and lose holy fear, which is the key to and guardian of all the virtues. Illusions and deceptions so multiply in some, and they become so inveterate in them that it is very doubtful whether they will return to the pure road of virtue and authentic spirituality. (92)
St. John of the Cross wrote these cautionary words for proficients in the way of contemplative spirituality; one can only imagine how very vulnerable the neophyte "seers" of Medjugorje really were and are to the snares of the devil. As said previously, the devil will respond to the desire for extraordinary spiritual experience as contrasted with the darkness of faith.
It is very possible that the "visionaries" became "hooked" on the publicity and favorable attention they were receiving, and by means of their continual invocation of the "Gospa" (the true Gospa not responding to their demands) they actually became subjects of demonic oppression or obsession. At present, these "seers" claim that the "Gospa" follows them around wherever they go, appearing to them on a regular basis, to some daily, and to some monthly. If this is indeed the case, then this "entity" is behaving like a demonic familiar spirit, who "attends" to the needs of those to whom it is attached. This is unheard of in the history of authentic revelations and visions, and is totally contrary to the dignity of the Mother of God . The "seers" play to credulous crowds of devoted Medjugorjites as light trance mediums would, giving descriptions of what the Virgin is wearing, what "her" hair is like, etc. This is a totally tragic degradation of authentic Catholic Marian devotion, reducing the cult of hyperdulia, which the Church gives to the most exalted of all creatures, the Queen of the Angels, into a shoddy circus act; Ivan Dragicevic plays to crowds with the following type of question and answer session:
How is your Madonna dressed?She is clothed in a simple woman's dress.Is the dress pulled in around the body, or does it fall freely? It falls freely.How far down does her dress reach?All the way down to the little cloud on which she's standing-it blends into the cloud.(93)
These are the kind of trivial banalities which are the subject of the "seers" worldwide tours. While such questions could be justifiable in an ecclesiastical inquiry, such useless banter has no spiritual utility or salvific purpose; it merely contributes to an unhealthy and spiritually sterile curiosity:In spiritualist meetings the spirits are often occupied with mere trifles. They condescend to reply to idle questions or to provide a drawing room game…(94)
Mirjana seems to consider herself as an equal partner with the "Gospa" with regards to the timing of the apparitions, as evinced in the following exchange:Question: Can you determine the time of Our Lady's appearing?Mirjana: Not in such a rude way. We make an agreement among ourselves. Today I make an agreement with her as to when she can appear the next day. (95)
Such claims are more akin to the conjuring up of familiar spirits than of true apparitions of the Queen of Heaven.Mirjana also claims to have been the subject of one of the first of the alleged miracles which have occurred at Medjugorje:She (Mirjana) then showed me the watch on which the "miracle" occurred, on which the hands of the watch had gone haywire. I took the watch to a watch expert, who said the watch had certainly fallen and become disordered. After bringing the watch back to her, I told her not to mention that a miracle had occurred. Yet, on cassettes taped later, she went on to speak of how a miracle occurred with the watch …(96)
Even giving Mirjana the benefit of the doubt, and supposing that the hands of her watch had indeed gone backward with no apparent natural explanation, as miracles go this one is pretty "lame." As was noted in the previous chapter, miracles of God are of such a nature as to show forth the power of the Divine Majesty, or the abyss of God's merciful love towards us, his children. Such a cheap and shoddy "prodigy" like a watch's hands going backwards is much more attributable to lower demonic intervention than to the intercession of the Mother of God.
Another supposedly common occurrence in Medjugorje is the transmutation of rosaries into gold. Although not one single case of this type has been verified, even if this were true it would prove nothing with respect to the apparition's authenticity, since many demonic nature's are undoubtedly capable of performing this type of preternatural "stunt." What makes a golden rosary any better than a wooden or a plastic rosary? The rosary is a very great devotion within the Church and one of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of the saints, but the material composition of the rosary beads themselves is of no consequence. What is important for the believer is to pray the rosary, not to wait in slack jawed wonder for the beads to turn gold-colored. It may very well be that the demonic presence wishes for so many unsuspecting "pilgrims" to become obsessed with such silly and superficial matters, and to neglect the greater pursuit of holiness and salvation; what better way than to involve them in this "Disneyland spirituality"?
Many claimed to see the huge concrete cross on nearby Mount Krizevac illuminated at night by a huge blue colored flame which appeared to shoot out from the cross itself. There is a photograph of a bluish ghost like figure about fifty or so feet high which was taken on the mount of apparitions. There are reports of a burning bush on the hill. If true, what do these claims prove about the "apparitions"? For one thing, that they are probably not of God, but clearly are the kind of morbid phenomena in which Satan delights in fooling the credulous, and in frightening the superstitous; as noted above, such phenomena often occur in areas where great evil has been commited, as the demonic may acquire a certain foothold in such places:…I cannot help but believe that there is such a thing as demonic focalization in certain objects and operating uniquely through certain formulas. These objects…become special embodiments and vehicles of demonic powers and convey supra-human and supra-natural potency. Strange phenomena proceed from them. Sounds and voices are heard, flames are seen shooting forth from rocks and trees as lightning or bright flashes, and strange and destructive influences emanating from them…trustworthy eyewitnesses have informed me that they have seen flames shooting up from rocks repeatedly in Timor, Indonesia, and trees have been seen burning without being destroyed. (97)
Likewise, certain people claim to have witnessed the same cross spinning with enormous speed, turning all the colors of the rainbow. (98) Again, if these accounts are true, far from vouching for Medjugorje's authenticity, they merely provide more evidence of diabolical manipulation, for not only would this particular phenomenon of the cross spinning wildly constitute an unseemly inversion of one of the great maxims of Christianity: Stat crux dum volvitur orbis that is, the cross stands fixed while the world turns; it is something fully within the power of demons to move material bodies in such a manner, as witnessed by this account:
"The facts of possession we are now reporting occurred at Illfurth between 1864 and 1869…The victims were two brothers, Thiebaud Burner…and Joseph, who was only seven…the phenomena produced were quite abnormal. For instance, if the boys were sleeping on their backs, they could turn over and over, like living tops, at an incredible speed. (99)
Therefore, there is nothing particularly difficult for a demon (or a legion of demons) in causing a concrete cross to spin, even if such is quite massive. As for the "writing in the sky" (probably in imitation of the authentic apparition at Pontmain, France) supposedly observed by a large crowd at Medjugorje, when the word "MIR" (Croatian for "Peace") was distinctly formed by clouds. While not wishing to see a demon "under every bed" as it were, one should at the same time be aware that the devil is astute at imitating authentic apparitions; and demons also have the power to "write in the sky", as the late Father Malachi Martin related in his bestselling work on demon possession and exorcism, "Hostage to the Devil":The following Sunday, Jamsie was driving the short distance to Pasadena when out the window to his right he saw Ponto (the demon-familiar) craning his head down from the roof of the car looking at him upside down through the window. Ponto was moving his left hand as though pitching a ball, and with each gesture he seemed to throw a word, a phrase, or a whole sentence into the sky where it remained a while and then danced away over the horizon. "WELCOME TO JAMSIE MY FRIEND!" ran one message. "GREATEST BLOW OUT FOR THE MIND!" was another. "PONTO!, JAMSIE! PALS! REJOICE! PASADENA HERE WE COME!" (100)
The devil, as captain of the "spirits of wickedness in the high places" ( Ephesians 6:12) is certainly able at times to manipulate atmospheric phenomena in a local area; however such displays of demonic power are manifestly inferior to such sovereign displays of the Divine Majesty as the miracle of the sun at Fatima, both in a quantitative and qualitative sense. Thus, the foregoing accounts, even if all truly did occur, would be meaningless as far as determining the authenticity of the "apparitions" since none qualifies as truly miraculous; indeed they would together constitute excellent grounds for suspecting the events as definitely not supernatural in origin, and would tend to validate the recent judgement: constat de non supernaturaliter rendered by Bishop Zanic's present successor, Bishop Peric in 1997.
All phenomena are within the power of the demonic nature to perform, and are the kind of morbid and pointless tricks that demons play at seances, albeit on a much larger scale:They push furniture about, cause vibrations in musical instruments, and introduce small objects from outside. The medium will amuse you in this way for a whole evening, just as conjurors will do at a fair. Would spirits who have our eternal welfare at heart consent to lend themselves to such childish things? How far removed is all this from the office attributed by theology to our Guardian Angel. (101)
From the very beginning, the apparitions manifest strong mediumistic or spiritualist tendencies, including communicating with the dead. In one of the first few apparitions, Ivanka asked the "Gospa" about her mother who had been recently deceased. In a subsequent apparition, the "Gospa" supposedly brought along Ivanka's dead mother. This is pure spiritualism, something totally forbidden by Sacred Scripture:Neither let there be found that…consulteth soothsayers, or observeth dreams and omens…or that seeketh the truth from the dead. (Deuteronomy 18:10-11)
The channeled "Gospa" involves "herself" in conversations which deal with all kinds of occult issues and moral absurdities. According to Slavko Barbaric, current "spiritual director" to the seers, the "Gospa" is a virtual gold mine of esoteric information:
When does a baby receive a living soul?
Gospa: "Four and one half months."
What about U.F.O.s? Are they true?
Gospa: "Yes."Where Adolph Hitler, Marshal Tito and Pope Paul VI replaced by red doubles during their lifetimes?
Gospa: "Yes. They were good men replaced by evil red doubles.
"Did you appear at Necedah, Wisconsin?
Gospa: "Yes. But no one listened, not the bad Bishops of U.S." (102)
So, in one fell swoop, the "Gospa" of Medjugorje justifies all abortions in the first trimester, pleases U.F.O. buffs, would have people believe that Pope Paul VI was replaced by a "red double" and that Necedah, Wisconsin was an authentic site of Marian apparitions, even though the seer, Mary Anne Van Hoof, died outside the Catholic Church and the shrine has been in the hands of a schismatic sect called the Old Catholic Church for more than thirty years. This should suffice in convincing any reasonably well informed Catholic that the "Gospa of Medjugorje" is not the Mother of God. From the foregoing it could be readily ascertained that the atmosphere surrounding the Medjugorje phenomenon is ripe for Satan to come to the fore with his cheap tricks:
Satan banks on the lack of discernment which marks a faith not yet mature, and by a theatrical stroke he displays falsity and truth as mixed in an extricable imbroglio, thus seeking to put everything in confusion. There is a like ambiguity in the external manifestation of the Satanic prodigy. Its prime characteristic is its exorbitance, in striking contrast to the restraint characteristic of the true miracle. It glimmers with a false and fictitious glare; although it attracts and absorbs attention, there is a lack of any deep meaning behind it. Instead of opening eyes to the supernatural light which ought to shine through it, the demonic prodigy blinds the spectator with its flashiness and it intoxicates him with its marvelous qualities. (103)
The "Gospa" is also apparently interested in "Stories of the Strange and Supernatural" as the "bloody handkerchief incident" attests-Vicka asked the "Gospa" to verify what must really be the kind of "strange story" which in country regions like Herzegovina acquires a life of its own-much like Mark Twain's "The Golden Arm":
It seems that a taxi driver saw Jesus while he (the taxi driver) was taking some people to their destination. He met Jesus who was all bloodied. Jesus gave the taxi driver a handkerchief and told him to throw it into the river. Continuing on his way, the taxi driver then met a Lady, the Virgin Mary, who asked him to hand her the handkerchief which was all bloodied. Although the taxi driver wanted to give her his own clean handkerchief, the Virgin Mary would only take the bloody one. When the taxi driver finally handed her the bloody hankerchief, the Virgin supposedly said: "If you had not given it to me, it would have been the end of the world." Vicka asked the "Gospa" if this was true, and the "Gospa" said it was indeed the truth. (104)
There is not even the remotest possibility that a true apparition would ever say that such a childish and absurd anecdote was true! It would appear that this is just another lie invented by the "visionaries" or a diabolical attempt to convince the grossly credulous fanatics of Medjugorje that God is a mere capricious deity like the Olympians of Greek Mythology, who would destroy the world on a whim! If they can be convinced of something so ludicrous, simply because the "Gospa" said so, one wonders to just what extent they can be manipulated.The following message is highly suggestive of a demonic presence:Regarding a strong icy wind blowing which everyone noticed on the way to Church:The wind is my sign. I will come in the wind. When the wind blows, know that I am with you. You have learned that the cross represents Christ; it is a sign of Him. It is the same with the crucifix in your home. For me, it is not the same. When it is cold, you come to church; you want to offer everything to God. I am, then, with you. I am with you in the wind. Do not be afraid. (105)
This is bizarre and uncharacteristic language, in no way worthy of the Mother of God. It more closely resembles the language of the evil, "channeled entities" so commonly featured in New Age literature. An unaturally cold wind is often the sign of a demonic presence. Among para-psychologists, this is known as "psychic cold", but many experienced exorcists would regard it as a signature of the demonic presence.
Perhaps the most explicitly demonic episode on record in the annals of Medjugorje is the supposed "test" given to Mirjana by the "Gospa"; Satan appeared to Mirjana under the guise of the "Gospa" with "her" features gradually morphing into the "Gospa's" features. Satan then supposedly departed, and the "real Gospa" then appeared and said to Mirjana:Excuse me for this, but you must realize that Satan exists … Even now he is beginning to lose his power and become aggressive … As Father Guerrera relates concerning this incident:This alleged apparition suggests that the Blessed Virgin Mary colluded with Satan. While it is true that in authentic apparitions, the devil always tries to discredit them, the visionary is always advised on how to test the apparition to determine if it is from God. This admonition is absent in Mirjana's encounter. (106)
One is also tempted to add that in no authentic apparition ever recorded does the Virgin Mary or any of the angels or saints ever work together with Satan or demons, or use such banal phrases as "excuse me". It would appear that the "Gospa" in this incident bears a striking similarity to the "spirit counselors" invoked by those involved in the occult method known as Silva Mind Control, or to the famous "spirit guides" of classical spiritualism. Indeed, the constant repitition of vague messages and their sheer number, combined with the fact that the "Gospa", like most demonic manifestations, apparently has a predilection for the night hours (having more than once requested that prayer groups gather at the Krizevic cross at two o'clock in the morning)only serves to reinforce such notions. Is it any wonder that a film about Medjugorje entitled "The Evening Visitor at Medjugorje" was a hit at the parapsychology convention at Dunkirk in 1985? (107)
The "Gospa" follows the "visionaries" around in a ghostly manner, uses pseudo-Christian language (enough to fool those relatively unacquainted with the study of dogmatic theology), changes "her" mind continuously, and makes vague, open-ended prophecies which do not come true, but are so highly interpolated by the followers of the "apparitions" that they are perceived as being fulfilled. All these affinities would lead one to believe that this "spirit" is by no means sent from God, but the most manifest of counterfeit, evil spirits, intent upon subjecting "his" followers to the characteristic oppression which trance mediums and those involved in spiritualism inevitably undergo. Even Medjugorje propagandists like Rene Laurentin are concerned by some of the more bizarre happenings:It was June 25, 1985, that Mirjana unveiled how the secrets will be revealed…"The 'Gospa' (Our Lady) has given me a special sheet on which are written the 10 secrets. It is such a type that one cannot describe it. It seems to be paper, but it is not paper. It seems to be silk, but it is not silk. It is visible, you can touch it, but you cannot see the writing. At the right time, I will give this paper, or this thing, to a priest of my choice. He will receive grace to read only the first secret; later the others. My cousin, who is an engineer in Switzerland, examined it but he was not able to identify the material.
"…This singular point perplexed me, because such a means of revelation more resembles magic than the habitual manner of God, according to the tradition of the Church. It is necessary to be a little reserved on this point. The seers are not exactly infallible. (108)
Perhaps Mirjana should take this "magic document" to the elders of the Mormon Church for analysis, since such a document fits right in with old Joe Smith's account of the magic plates. Laurentin is to be praised for this rather rare demonstration of intellectual honesty regarding Medjugorje, but if it is "necessary to be reserved on this point", then why not with regards to all the other numerous Medjugorje anomalies?
The "Gospa's" messages are apparently also used by one of Medjugorje's major patrons, Mr. Colanfrancesco, the founder of Caritas of Birmingham, in much the same manner as New Age adherents use the I-Ching, the ancient Chinese book of oracular utterances:Mr. Colanfrancesco claims that Our Lady speaks directly to his Caritas community through her daily messages. Each morning they read a randomly chosen message, which results in "remarkable things"…(109)
Such divinatory practices are clearly opposed to the teachings of the Church. Is it any wonder that Medjugorje has become such a center of attraction for New Agers and quasi New Agers? This author has read books and articles extolling Medjugorje by adherents of cults as varied as Cult Subud and traditional Pentecostalism (the late renowned "Mr. Pentecost" David DuPlessis, whose endorsement of the phenomenon apparently means more to its followers than does that of the Bishop of Mostar); by New Age authors like UFO author Brad Steiger, and New Age "angelologist" Sophie Burnham. Interestingly enough, Medjugorje seems to be a gathering place for some strange (at least to Catholic theology) looking angels:…the occult apparitions at Medjugorje , Yugoslavia, include the appearance of putti or child angels, whose messages deny the teachings of Jesus Christ. (110)
Whoever or whatever these beings are, they cannot be true angels, but are most likely either the figments of heated New Age imagination, or demons under the guise of "fairies" or the "elemental spirits" of medieval magic.Father Phillip Pavich, a Croatian-American Franciscan, one of only four Priests licitly present in Medjugorje, arrived in the village in the mid-1980's after (mirabile dictu!) Briege Mckenna made the same "prophecy" in relation to him that she had previously made regarding Tomislav Vlasic. At first a strong proponent of the alleged apparitions, Father Pavich is now convinced that they are of demonic origin. What got Pavich to rethink his commitment to the "apparitions" in part was the fact that the "Gospa" had (via Marija Pavlovic) endorsed the "Poem of the Man God", an alleged revelation of the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which had been placed on the Index of Forbidden Books during the pontificate of John XXIIII . This endorsement (obviously at the behest of Marija's friend, Mr. Colanfrancesco, who sells the books at thirty five dollars a piece) eventually led to a clarification by Cardinal Ratzinger stating specifically that Poem of the Man God" was most likely the fruit of mental illness and deeming it not fit for presentation as Catholic literature. When faced with this rather harsh reaction by the Church, the true believers of Medjugorje simply pretend it didn't really happen, or ask for "documentation." Like the Jehovah's Witnesses used to do when the prophecies announced in Awake! and The Watchtower failed to materialize, they just deny that they were ever made, choosing to ignore reality rather than engage in the honest pursuit of the truth. His observance of these expressions of contempt for Church authority on the part of his fellow Medjugorje admirers led Father Pavich to some serious soul searching.
The Medjugorje incident which played a definitive role in leading Pavich out of the Medjugorje cult altogether was this message (via Marija Pavlovic) of May 25, 1991:…Dear children, I invite you to life and to change all the negative in you, so that it all turns to the positive and life… I am with you, and I desire to help each of you to live, and, by living, witness the good news. I am here, dear children, to help you and to lead you to heaven, and in heaven is the joy through which you can already live heaven now…(May 25, 1991)This particular message:…struck Pavich as both un-Biblical and vaguely familiar…This drove him to peruse the New Age books that the penitents had left behind.
When he got to Living with Joy: Keys to Personal Power and Spiritual Transformation (Tiburon, CA: H.J. Kramer, 1986) … Sanaya Roman…had written the book as a "Channel for Orin" ("Or", of course, as Pavich immediately noticed, comes from the Hebrew word for light, and is therefore …the basis for Lucifer, which means bearer of light. ) The passage about changing the negative into positive…cited verbatim in the first message from the Gospa …is the title of Chapter Five.
Pavich was saying, in effect, that both Sanaya Roman and Marija Pavlovic were in touch with the same spiritual entity, whose name was most probably "Orin" and not the Blessed Virgin Mary. (111)
Father Pavich, well acquainted on a personal level with all the "visionaries" and with all facets of Medjugorje, now tries mightily (but always, one might add, in a spirit of gentleness and humility) to dissuade believers in Medjugorje, and issues warnings to persons considering making a pilgrimages to this site of unapproved apparitions.With regard to the "Gospa's" supposed endorsement of Maria Valtorta's "Poem of the Man God", such a fact could be a very strong indicator of demonic influence over the seers, unless Marija was prompted by Mr. Colanfrancesco for merely commercial motives. Cardinal Ratzinger himself has attributed the delirious meanderings of Valtorta to mental illness. To give the reader an idea of just how distorted a picture of the life of Jesus Christ the "Poem" gives, one should first consider the claims of Maria Valtorta herself with regards to herself; Jesus allegedly told Maria that, while the evangelists and apostles had only partial knowledge of certain episodes of His life:"…you have taken note of Our every breath, Our voices, Our every look…Oh! My crucified adorer, for your life long sufferings, I wanted to give you this perfect, complete knowledge of Us both, in a way the Saints and Doctors of theology did not have" (112)
According to the "Jesus" of Maria Valtorta, two of the reasons he revealed the "Poem" to her were:"To reinstate in their truth the figures of the Son of Man and of Mary.""To make you acquainted with the mystery of Judas." (113)
The first reason stated above is a manifest heresy which implies that "the truth" about the Son of Man and Mary had somehow been lost or vitiated, and that therefore the Church had failed in her mission of indefectibly preaching the truth. With regards to the second, just what is so important about acquainting believers with the 'mystery' of Judas, since this alleged 'mystery' apparently has no place in either Sacred Scripture or Divine Tradition,? Nor is any "mystery of Judas" mentioned by the Church Fathers. The fate of Judas was dealt with in a satisfactory manner by the four evangelists, and by the Apostles, when they chose lots to determine his successor, St. Matthias. There seems to exist in certain passages of the "Poem" a virtual "Judas cult". In order to demonstrate to the reader the perverted depths to which the "Poem of the Man God" sinks, the following passage should suffice-this is part of a dialogue between the putative "Man God" and Judas Iscariot:
"Judas?…Be not afraid! I have been longing for such a long time to speak to you thus, holding you on my heart, like twins in a cradle, born of the same mother, almost one flesh only…each savouring his brother's saliva together with his mother's sweet milk…" "You will be the king of the banquet, Judas…You will be the bride of the groom, oh sould that I love, if you become clean and free, depositing your dust in my purifying lap…Have you understood, Judas?"
"Yes master, I have. But believe me, I am only tired and deeply moved. I love You with all my heart, and…" "All right, that is enough." "Will you give me a kiss, Master?" "Yes, Judas. I will give you a kiss now, and many in the future…"…He only grows wan and closes his eyes for a moment.; And Jesus kisses his closed eyelids, his lips and then his heart, bending His head to look for the heart of his disciple…(114)
Rather than making for edifying spiritual reading, as the "Gospa" has allegedly stated, the "Poem of the Man God" would appear to have served as a reference book for Kantanzaki's blasphemous "The Last Temptation of Christ."What is one to make of all this? Is there a demonic presence at Medjugorje? Or is there a gigantic, New Age plot to take over the Church, with its center in the bowels of the "apparitionist" movement, whose greatest success is Medjugorje? Or perhaps both? The last word on Medjugorje, of course, will be uttered by the Church, but its true cause may not come to light until the general judgement.
One can read about many plots and conspiracies involving Medjugorje, but they all seem to center around money making schemes and the furtherance of Croatian nationalistic aims, rather than any gigantic machination against Catholic orthodoxy. This author is in no way contending that the "seers" and their devotees are somehow members of a secret cabal, stretching from the cult of the "Gospa" to the cult of intelligence, or being engineered out of New Age headquarters, wherever that may be. The New Age is not essentialy a centralized or monolithic movement, but more likely a prevalent attitude in the affluent west, fed by an enormously diverse group of authors, speakers and intellectual lights, who only apppear to be in agreement when it comes to opposing (subtly or openly) orthodox Christianity. The New Age seems to consist of a "do it yourself" spirituality, the apotheosis of "self-esteem" and egocentrism with certain elements of eastern spirituality and masonic pluralism thrown in to make it exotic enough for the jaded tastes of its adherents. It is by nature anti-authoritarian, although many of its most prominent adepts would have the world believe that they are in contact with "channeled entities on a higher plane" or the "lodge of the great white brotherhood" and do their bidding. This having been said, one should not fall into the opposite error of denying the quite real danger that New Age spirituality represents to the Church, or that the devil is active in the New Age spirituality. It should always be remembered that Satan is not omniscient or omnipotent, but prefers to piggy back into human affairs on the shoulders of human evil, and once called and bidden, is here to stay, until his final vanquishing at the parousia. As said above, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that what began as a stunt or a prank by a group of adolescents (whose dominant member, Mirjana, had just been reading a book on Lourdes) quickly snowballed into a demonic challenge to the authority of the Church of the first magnitude.
There are simply too many factors present to write off such a scenario altogether:The mount of apparitions had a history of possible preternatural (psychic or demonic) activity, and was very near the site of a wartime atrocity in which hundreds of Serbian Orthodox men, women and children were slaughtered and buried in a mass grave.The Franciscan province of Herzegovina was in rebellion against the local Bishop of Mostar, the Franciscan Father general and the Vatican; and the rebellious Franciscans were badly in need of a rationale for such disobedience
There was an atmosphere of intense anticipation of something "spiritual" happening involving Father Tomislav Vlasic (the charismatic prophecies), which had probably spread like contagion among the youth of Medjugorje and the surrounding villages, many of whom attended his prayer meetings; Mirjana had been reading a book on the apparitions at Lourdes, and was at least capable of interpreting any strange experiences (preternatural or otherwise) in the light of the book's contents; There was gross, sacrilegious immorality being perpetrated by the Franciscans Ivica Vego and Ivan Prusina, and they were being defended by their fellow Franciscans in Medjugorje;The "visionaries" were more than willing to be manipulated, at the very first by Marinko Ivankovic, (June 30, 1981):
Fr. Zovko: Does Marinko write up everything for you? (Concerning the "Gospa's" messages)
Ivanka Ivankovic: Marinko writes up everything. I memorize, then I read. (115)
The "visionaries" were willing to lie-not once, but on many occasions; The "visionaries" have used the "apparitions" for financial gain, and have benefited quite handsomely from their participation in this unapproved "apparition";
The recommendation by the "Gospa" of an openly blasphemous caricature of the life of Our Lord, "The Poem of the Man God."The open contradiction of the teachings of the Catholic Church in the "Gospa's" messages.Is it any wonder, in light of all the foregoing, that a malignant spirit would intervene at some point? Many of the Medjugorje propagandists participate in so called "deliverance conferences" organized by the radical fringe of the Charismatic movement, where the devil and his legions are perceived to be virtually omnipresent-in a fit of sneezing, in a twitch, in a speech impediment, in a doll, in children's toys, even in the back masked lyrics of the theme song of "Mr. Ed", yet appear totally oblivious to the devil's challenge to the Bishops of the Catholic Church, as the authentic successors of the Apostles! And the "Gospa" seems to have Satan on "her" mind almost continuously as he is mentioned almost as frequently in the corpus of messages as is Jesus Christ! It does not require a great leap of the imagination to surmise that maybe the "Gospa's" true mission is not only to separate Catholics from the true shepherds of their souls, the Bishops in communion with the Holy See, but to spread that "unhealthy interest" in the devil that C.S. Lewis spoke of, an interest with no moral or spiritual utility for the Christian. And despite the claim of its propagandists, the "Gospa" of Medjugorje has been instrumental in sowing the seeds of distrust and scandal among the faithful, artfully posing all the while as the most trusting and faithful creature who ever lived.