There we were—all 7,000-plus of us—engaged in Eucharistic Adoration at the outdoor altar of St. James, the parish church in Medjugorje. At Benediction, the priest held up the Blessed Sacrament. It was huge, but it has to be, in order to be seen by worshipers at the back of the outdoor prayer area. As he held up the pie-plate sized consecrated host – Our Lord’s body, blood, soul and divinity – we chanted the Kyrie Eleison three times. That’s when it all started.
The demon could take it no longer. At every Christe Eleison, hair-raising, guttural growls and moaning emanated from the mouth of the one possessed by the demon. As we began praying the Divine Praises in Latin, each time we mentioned the name of Jesus or Mary, the demon continued with the growling sounds, which are hard to describe, but were something like a combination of growls and moans coming from the very depths of one’s being. I was near the very back of the assembly of pilgrims from all over the world, many rows behind the person who was suffering through this.
From my vantage point in the semi-lit area (it was nearing 10:00 p.m. local time), although I could clearly hear, I could not see exactly what was going on. It appeared, though, that those near the demonic manifestation continued praying through the incident, as did the rest of us. At the conclusion of Adoration, the crowd quickly disbanded, with people moving in all directions as they headed off the campus and back to their transportation or to accommodations for the evening. Others who have been to Medjugorje multiples times told us that this sort of occurrence is not uncommon. It certainly does speak to the fact that demons do exist, and to the fact that the consecrated hosts we consume at Mass really are the true body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.
To say Medjugorje is an interesting pilgrimage site is a profound understatement. Readers probably are aware of challenges to the authenticity of the visions and all of what’s been going on there pretty much continuously since 1981. Naysayers have raised different objections about Medjugorje, its validity, sanctity, and so on. I am not here to address or refute those objections. Many others have done, and will continue to do, a more than adequate job in all of that. No—I want to share with you my personal perspective as a pilgrim who came to Medjugorje with no expectations of outward signs, apparitions or miracles. Rather, my wife and I went there to spend a week on a retreat in prayer and adoration. We were not disappointed. As I reflect on our time there, St. Paul’s advice comes to mind:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8)
Honorable, Just, Pure, Lovely
What is honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, or excellent about Medjugorje? Even though the commercial part of the village, and the crowds that visit it, have grown, there’s still a sense of peace surrounding the place. The local people are friendly and welcoming. Priests conduct Masses, adoration and veneration of the cross with an appropriate sense of reverence and dignity shown toward the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is the only community I’ve found where many, many people carry and pray the Rosary as they are walking. Dozens of priests hear confessions in a number of different languages. We took advantage of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which occurs at the outside altar twice a week, and veneration of the cross, once a week.
On top of this, we were able to pray inside the Adoration Chapel daily during the afternoon hours. Priests celebrate Mass every day of the week in a variety of languages, and we attended the English language Mass. In the evenings, we joined with other pilgrims, praying the Rosary before the 6:00 p.m. Croatian Mass. Behind the church stands the Statue of the Risen Christ. This bronze sculpture has been weeping droplets of a liquid substance since 2001. There is no valid scientific explanation for this phenomenon. We reverenced the sculpture and obtained some of the weeping liquid ourselves.
And then there are the occasional “miracles of the sun” where the sun seems to pulse or move in the sky. A companion pilgrim from our parish pointed out one such miracle to us as we came down from Apparition Hill. But through all of this, over the years, untold numbers of pilgrims have converted or reverted to the faith. Many have found religious vocations there. Others have come away with deeper conversions in their faith. The true fruits of Medjugorje don’t come in external signs and phenomena. They reside in the changed souls of the visitors to Medjugorje.
Reflecting on the Fruits
We heard edifying, inspirational homilies during Mass each day—we had three priests in our pilgrimage cohort–what a blessing! Fr. Leon Pereira, OP, the Medjugorje Chaplain to English Speaking Pilgrims, and Father Branimir Musa from Tihaljina, a neighboring parish, gave us even more spiritual food for thought as well. Some key takeaways from all that we experienced include the fact that we all need to pray more. As St. Paul tells us, we should pray without ceasing.
Father Leon, I believe, asked us to consider key questions for our interior lives. He suggested we ask ourselves if we are living each day as if it were our last day, living and loving the Lord and one another, in the moment. Or do we fret over past incidents and worry about the future, taking our eyes off of Jesus and ignoring the needs of our fellow sojourners? Father Branimir suggested that we look forward, out to our last day here on earth. When we do come to our last day in this life, will we look back with regret over the fact that we could have prayed more, and prayed more fervently?
There’s no time like the present to make some course corrections in our lives if need be. Mary pleads with us to do so. She has been doing this not only at Medjugorje, but at Fatima and other apparition sites as well. Our Blessed Mother will intercede for us, for the graces we need to help us change our lives. Jesus wants us to come to Him, to be one with Him, but He needs our cooperation. That’s the essence of the message here: be faithful to God’s graces, cooperate with Him to grow in holiness. How? Pray the Rosary from the heart, pray with Scripture, frequent the sacraments, and fast. It’s all very much part of our Catholic faith. We just need to live it with vigor.
The Bottom Line
So, what’s the story with Medjugorje? My wife and I received immeasurable graces and blessings from our pilgrimage there. There is a saying that, if one goes to Medjugorje, it’s because Our Lady has called them to do so. She called us, and we are grateful that she did. We’d do it again, regardless of what skeptics claim, and with or without a pulsing sun.
O Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.