Readers of this series have no doubt heard and/or read about the happenings taking place in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia. Most of the books published on Medjugorje treat the matter as if it has been approved by the Church. The purpose of this three-part expose is to provide the reader information not given by advocates of Medjugorje.
I would like to make clear that I am not against genuine apparitions and do accept those approved by the Church. In this regard I concur with St. Paul who said: "Despise not prophecies. But prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (I Thes. 5:20-21). Everything God intended to reveal to mankind was fully communicated to us through His Son Jesus Christ. Public revelation ceased with the death of the last Apostle St. John in 100 A.D. Revelations to seers since the death of the last Apostle are referred to as "private revelation" to distinguish them from Scriptural prophecy and the Deposit of Faith (viz., teachings of Christ and the Apostles by word of mouth). Authentic private revelations do not contradict Sacred Scripture nor Tradition and can be made public.
"....in all ages there have been persons possessed of the spirit of prophecy, not for the purpose of announcing new doctrines, but to direct human actions." St. Thomas Aquinas
—Vittorio Guerrera, Jr.
A group of Franciscans who claim to obey the "Virgin" of Medjugorje, do not seem to have any compunction in disobeying the local bishop of the diocese. The Croatian people had been under the pastoral care of the Franciscans until 1881. In the same year, Pope Leo XIII established a hierarchy of diocesan priests and, consequently, various Franciscan parishes were transferred to the diocesan clergy. Ever since there has been tension in the diocese of Mostar.
In September 1980, Bishop Peter Cule of Mostar handed in his resignation to the Holy See; his coadjutor, Pavao Zanic, succeeded him as the spiritual leader of the diocese. At this time the new Cathedral parish was formed upon an order from the Holy See and an agreement with the Franciscans. The Friars of Mostar, however, would not accept the division of their parish. Two of the Friars, Ivan Prusina and Ivica Vego, were reluctant to leave. There was outrage expressed on the part of a number of faithful who were emotionally attached to the Franciscans and refused to accept the diocesan priests.
An unusual aspect in this regard is the "Virgin" is supposedly siding with the rebels. According to an entry from Vicka's diary dated December 19, 1981, the "Virgin" allegedly "told the Friar to stay at Mostar and not to go away." On January 3, 1982, Vicka writes again in her diary: "...the Bishop does not contribute to order, and so he is guilty. He will not always be the bishop. I shall manifest justice in the kingdom." It is unthinkable for the Mother of God to support dissidents and to encourage rebellion against the Church's legitimate authorities. As a result of their obstinacy, they incurred a suspension from their priestly ministry, were released from their vows, and expelled from the Franciscan Order. This ultimate measure was taken on January 29, 1982, after at least eight admonitions from the General Curia of the Friars Minor in Rome.
One Franciscan priest who has played a vital role at Medjugorje is Fr. Tomislav Vlasic. In May 1981, he attended a gathering of charismatic renewal leaders in Rome. Reportedly, while in Rome he was given two prophecies by two other charismatic leaders. Sr. Briege McKenna told him she had a vision of him sitting in the midst of a crowd and streams of living water flowed from his seat. The other message was from God and was communicated by Fr. Emiliano Tardif who said: "Fear not, I am sending you my Mother."
Shortly afterward, on June 24, there were reports of the Mother of God appearing in Medjugorje. Approximately a week later, Fr. Thomislav Vlasic was present at an apparition and mentioned to the parish priest to have the apparitions moved from the rocky hill to the church. From August 18, 1981, Fr. Vlasic was appointed to the parish and has not left Medjugorje.
How the Apparitions Started
The first alleged apparition took place on June 24, 1981. The apparition of the "Virgin" was silent and seen by Ivanka Ivankovic and Mirjana Dragicevic. Ivanka relates she and Mirjana went out for a walk and on their way back to the village she saw on the hill a glowing shape of the "Virgin." Ivanka then called Mirjana to look at the vision but Mirjana did not believe her and did not look. The two girls then left and went to tell their friends what had happened. They left a message for Vicka Ivankovic instructing her to meet them at Jakov Colo's house.
When Vicka learned her friends were looking for her, she started for Jakov's house. Along the way she met Ivan Ivankovic, Ivan Dragicevic, and Milka Pavlovic, who accompanied her. As the six friends were walking to the site of the apparition, Ivanka once again shouted she saw the "Virgin." Ivanka described the "Virgin" as having on a long dress, black hair, a crown, and was holding the Child Jesus. Upon returning to their homes they told others about what they had seen but no one believed them.
The following day the "seers" returned to the hill called Podbrdo ("foot of the hill") with two adults as witnesses. It is interesting to note that on this day Ivan Ivankovic (the 21 year old man) did not return because he thought the whole situation was childish! This hardly seems to be the proper attitude one would expect from an individual who has been privileged to see the Blessed Mother. How can he so nonchalantly discard the apparition as childish? Does this mean the "Virgin" made a mistake in allowing him to see her? The other "seer" who did not return was Milka Pavlovic who had to stay home to do chores. Milka's mother sent Marija instead who was older. The official group of "seers" is now formed with: Ivanka Ivankovic (D.O.B. April 21, 1966), Vicka Dragicevic (D.O.B. July 3, 1964), Mirjana Dragicevic (D.O.B. March 18, 1965), Ivan Dragicevic (D.O.B. April 1, 1965), and Jakov Colo (D.O.B. June 3, 1971).
As they approached the hill they saw a glimpse of the apparition at a distance. Filled with joy they fled to the top of the hill where the "Virgin" was waiting. When they had reached the spot they were compelled to kneel down and pray. It is on this day that Vicka requested a sign from the "Virgin".
The following is a list of some of the bizarre occurrences at Medjugorje which contribute to the incredulity of the messages.
On June 29, 1981, the "seers" asked the "Virgin" how long she would be appearing to them and the response was: "For as long as you like... are you already tired of seeing me?" This is a dubious statement to be uttered by the Virgin Mary. Throughout the history of authentic apparitions the Mother of God has never been known to make Her appearances based upon the whims of a seer. Genuine apparitions are not under man's control. It is Heaven that decides the length and time of apparitions.
On June 30, 1981, the "Virgin" stated she would appear for three more days to July 3, 1981. As we know, there have been over 1,000 alleged apparitions since this statement was made. Does this mean the Mother of God lies, makes mistakes, or is indecisive? In other apparitions approved by the Church, the Blessed Mother's final appearance to the seer was foretold and definitive.
On August 2, 1981, there was a gathering of people singing and praying in a field. As the people were praying the "Virgin" appeared. She supposedly told the children that whoever wanted to touch her could. As people came forward to touch her the "seers" explained what the people were touching (e.g., hand, veil, robe, head). This seems repulsive and an act unbecoming of the Blessed Mother. The alleged "touching session" lasted for 10-15 minutes.
After the "Virgin" left, Marija stated: "When the Virgin left she was completely blackened." The "seer" explained this was due to the fact sinners touched her. People were then exhorted to make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as soon as possible. To conceive of the notion of the Immaculate Virgin Mary allowing Herself to become stained by sinners is absurd. Despite these bizarre happenings related in books by advocates of Medjugorje, followers remain undaunted.
From the outset Vicka asked the "Virgin" to leave a sign so others would believe in her appearances to them. No reply was given by the "Virgin" until August 27, 1981, when she said: "It will come soon." Again on August 29, 1981, she stated: "Still a little more patience;" August 31, 1981—"For the moment, still a little more patience;" September 3, 1981—"Only a little more patience." The "Virgin" then promised the great sign would occur on December 8, 1981, then on Christmas, then on January 1, 1982. Needless to say, the great sign never took place which then led the "seers" to deny ever having said so.
Below is an account of the 72nd apparition as recorded in Vicka's diary dated September 4, 1981.
(Today, we waited for the Virgin at Marija's; with me were Marija, Ivanka, and Jakov. We began praying at 6:20 p.m. The Virgin appeared right away. We asked her about the Franciscan Friars and sisters of our parish...We asked her about the man who saw Jesus in the street as he was driving people in his car. He met a man covered in blood—this man was Jesus—he gave him a blood-stained handkerchief telling him to throw it in the river. Going on his way, he met a lady—it was the Blessed Virgin Mary; she asked the driver for the bloodstained handkerchief. The man offered her a handkerchief belonging to him, but the Virgin asked for the bloodstained one: 'If he had not given it to me it would have been the last judgment for all!' The Virgin said this was true.)
This alleged apparition is so preposterous the only comment one can make is how can the last judgment be contingent upon a bloodstained handkerchief?
Committee of Investigation
On January 11, 1982, Bishop Zanic set up a Commission of four members to investigate the events concerning Medjugorje. He sent two members of the Commission on May 10, 1982, to ask the children to write down in duplicate, the promise made by the "Virgin" and the date it would take place. These were to be placed in a sealed envelope with the Diocesan seal and opened after the fulfillment of the event. One was to be given to the Diocese of Mostar and the other for the "seers." One of the members of the Commission, Fr. Ivana Dugandzic, forewarned Fr. Vlasic about the impending visit. Upon hearing this, Fr. Vlasic managed to alert the "seers" and instructed them to say the "Virgin" had forbidden anything to be written down. Ivan Dragicevic, who was in seminary at the time, was not contacted by Fr. Vlasic. When a member of the Commission went to the seminary and made his request to Ivan regarding the writing of the sign, he complied without hesitation. Two copies were made and sealed in envelopes bearing the seminary seal. One envelope was kept at the seminary and the other at the Bishop's residence.
On August 3, 1982, the Bishop called the "seers" to Mostar. With the members of the Commission present, he asked the "seers" to write down the date of the sign along with a description. Each of these were to be put in an envelope; and sealed with the Diocesan seal. The "seers" refused to follow the Bishop's directives. The Bishop then asked Ivan Dragicevic whether he had been reprimanded by the "Virgin" for having written down the description of the sign at Visoko, he replied he was not. This seems peculiar since they were so adamant that the "Virgin" expressly forbade them to do so.