Today, we celebrate Our Lady of Medjugorje, the Blessed Virgin Mary who may or may not have appeared in Bosnia-Herzegovina (formerly Yugoslavia).
The existence of Our Lady of Medjugorje was highly controversial for many years. The basic story is the tale of 6 children. These kids all claimed they had seen apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, high atop a mountainous hill in Yugoslavia. That was their story and they stuck to it.
The Catholic Church’s leaders would not sanction pilgrimages to Medjugorje because the Apparitions have not been verified. This did not deter people from traveling to Medjugorje to seek spiritual comfort there and pray for miraculous healings and conversions. Still, the Holy See balked and would not budge. No pilgrimages to Medjugorje was the rule!
There are all sorts of sordid stories about the Apparitions or alleged Apparitions out there for you to find and read about in books and on the internet. They will not be rehashed here. The only story I want to tell is my own.
Years ago, I went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje from Dubrovnik, in Croatia. It was a long trip and when we arrived, I was tired. As I began to climb “Medjugorje Hill” the sun was beating down full throttle and I could barely speak or breathe. So, I announced that I was “bailing” on the trip to see the statue of Mary atop the hill.
As I started to turn around to go back down and buy medals and mail postcards to folks on this mailing list (some of you will remember those cards you received), I changed my mind. I looked across Medjugorje Hill and saw people climbing the Hill. A lady was there climbing to go to see the Our Lady of Medjugorje statue. She had one arm and one leg. Yet, she was intent on getting atop Medjugorje Hill.
felt horribly about saying it was “too hot” and that the mountainous red clay was all over my hands and clothes. So, I climbed and made it to the top where there was a giant white cross. Surrounding it were cards, letters, tokens, pictures the believers had left for Our Lady of Medjugorje, perhaps asking her for a miracle perhaps seeking comfort from despair.
Something happened to me. It was the strongest feeling of Faith I had ever experienced in my life. To say it was emotional is quite the understatement. It was definitely conversionary. My pilgrimage to see Our Lady of Medjugorje was the most profound I have ever experienced.
Are the kids telling the truth about their visions of Our Lady of Medjugorje? I do not know.
Since my visit to Medjugorje, Pope Francis has officially sanctioned pilgrimages to Medjugorje. The Holy See sanctioned the pilgrimages in 2019. They’re not quite ready to signify support of the Apparitions but the church “acknowledges the faith and pastoral needs” of the pilgrimages. I’ve been to quite a few officially sanctioned pilgrimage places and basilicas. None affected me the way I was affected in Medjugorje. I did have a miraculous intercession with Saint Bernadette one time, but that’s a story for another day.