According to Father Laurentin:The major accomplishments of Medjugorje are its fruits, the most sure signs, according to the Gospel itself. (60)
The Medjugorje devotees have always proposed as their most cogent and convincing argument the abundance of good "fruits" supposedly emanating from Medjugorje as from a "a locus of spirituality".
To many, saying something with mantra like repetition and with a simple disregard for the facts and for the dogmas and disciplinary canons of the Catholic Church makes whatever is said a reality. One gets the impression that there is, in support of Medjugorje, a magisterium apart from the Church's hierarchy, a magisterium not based on apostolic succession, but on success in a publicity war and in gaining the market share for popular religiosity and spiritual sweetness. (The extreme form of "charismatic renewal" has had this attitude since its inception.) When one cites the facts about Medjugorje , sparing no effort to make a logical and coherent case against it, one is never refuted point by point; the Medjugorje devotees do not make solid doctrinal arguments in favor of the "apparitions," nor do they point to reasonable historical precedents.
The entire gist of their "apologia pro Medjugorje" would appear to be: "People who go to Medjugorje confess, do penance, fast and convert. Therefore, there is really no need to defend the apparitions ... if you are against Medjugorje, then you are against penance, conversion and fasting...as well as spiritual and emotional healing."
Such arguments can certainly be challenged on the intellectual, dogmatic plane.
Trying to convince die- hard "Medjugorjians" many of whom have considerable emotional capital invested in the phenomena is another matter entirely. Many of these people claim spiritual and emotional healing due to the "Gospa" or because one of the "seers" prayed over them...many more insist that they owe their renewed Catholic fervor is itself a fruit attributable to the "Gospa" and/ or contact with the seers themselves.
It is an historical fact, easily accessible to anyone interested enough to take the time out for a little research, that many of the false apparitions in the history of the Church have borne in their wake at least some true conversions and renewed sacramental lives. Many of these conversions were undoubtedly sincere and led to salvation. The question which should be posed is whether the conversion or subsequent salvation of a soul is every directly attributable causally to any extraordinary charismata. True charismata undoubtedly point the way to salvation; but the answer in a strict theological sense, would have to be no, since not even authentic charismata impart sanctifying grace:Theologians distinguish the charismata from other graces which operate personal sanctification: they call the former gratiae gratis datae in opposition to the gratiae gratum faciens. (61)
The charismata are signs which serve for the edification of the Church, and which certainly may dispose the soul for the reception of sanctifying grace, but they are infinitely inferior to the ordinary means of sanctity, those which give sanctifying grace, preeminently the Sacraments. In other words, true charismata do not exist to draw attention to and perpetuate themselves; rather the Holy Spirit is pleased to give these gifts to certain individuals, as extraordinary signs either for the inner or outer growth of the Church, to lead souls to the true fountain of sanctifying grace, the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.
Therefore, wherever there is a preponderance of piety, the abundance of the ordinary means of sanctification (priests, valid sacraments) and the predominance of a disposition to repentance, as very well may be the case among the majority of those who ignorantly go "on pilgrimage" to Medjugorje, there is bound to be conversion and repentance and the bestowal of graces. To attribute good fruits (as Laurentin does) to the "Gospa" of Medjugorje is a bit like attributing a married couple's lifelong commitment to a one time viewing of the full moon in June:Despite the numerous people who come to Medjugorje "with religious and other motives," and even though there are religious, priests, and bishops, the curious and those seeking physical healings and spiritual conversions; despite the tens of books and brochures written in favor of the so called apparitions at Medjugorje , all from the pens of famous writers of the world; despite the hundreds of thousand of confessions and holy communions made, which the supporters of Medjugorje consistently stress, the Declaration of the Bishop's Conference clearly states: "it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural visions or revelations of the Madonna.
The fruits which are so often mentioned , are not proof that they result from "supernatural apparitions or revelations" of the Madonna, but insomuch as they are authentically Christian, they can be understood as a product of the regular working of the grace of God, through faith in God and the intercession of Mary the Mother of Christ, and through the Holy Sacraments present in the Catholic Church. Not to mention the negative fruits! (62)
This is certainly not to say that true charismata are not of vital importance to the Church. Millions of pagans were led to the Church by the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego on Tepeyac hill (Guadalupe). The true miraculous sign of Our Lady itself did not effect their salvation, however. She merely pointed the way to her Son, Jesus Christ and to his Church, the ark of salvation. The divine work of sanctification, (by appropriation) is the Holy Spirit's, which, He undertakes ordinarily by means of the most excellent channels of sanctifying grace, the sacraments.
St. Paul makes clear that the less "extraordinary" of these gifts (such as the Apostolate, the office of prophet, of teacher, etc.) take precedence over those which usually arouse more curiosity (increased faith, tongues, healings, etc.) but that the true disciple of Jesus is to aspire always and above all to the greatest spiritual goods of all, Supernatural Faith, Hope and Charity. Without these, everything else, including miracles and prophecy would be meaningless. When judging an apparition by its fruits, the main thing should be determining whether the charismata themselves have been instrumental in pointing the way to true conversion, penance, and virtue, or whether such things have come about, as was stated above, simply by the preponderant presence of the ordinary means of sanctity surrounding the events themselves. This having been said, one should consider the "fruits" of Medjugorje from a two-fold perspective; the visionaries or seers, and those immediately associated with them; and the mass of Medjugorje devotees around the world. It is important that one also keep in mind, that the personal sanctity of the seers or visionaries of a reported apparition or revelation is not always an indispensable criterion for judging its authenticity, (even after the fact) although its importance is usually critical. Pere Poulain asks in relation to putative seers and or mystics:What virtue does this person possess? What has been his been his general level from the standpoint of perfection, whether before the revelation or afterwards? If before the revelation, he was vicious, and particularly of scandalous conduct, it is not likely that God has chosen him as the recipient of his favors, except for the purposes of his conversion. On the other hand experience seems to prove that God has at times manifested Himself to simple souls of quite ordinary virtue…Thus at the beginning of certain special revelations, it may be that an ordinary piety is sufficient. (63)
So, in all fairness to the seers of Medjugorje, the fact that at least one of them, Mirjana Dragicevic, had the reputation in the village as something of a "hippie" and that many of the villagers had attributed the sightings of the "Gospa" to the use of hallucinogens by the "children", does not categorically rule out an authentic revelation, although this, in the words of Poulain, would be "not likely".The important point is to know whether there has been much progress after the revelations. Have these states created a center of moral energy? If a great advance in sanctification has been noticed, and if, further, this can be attributed to the revelations and not simply to other graces, there is a strong probability in their favor…If, on the contrary, the seer of the vision has remained at an ordinary level of virtue, his vision must be regarded with suspicion. Such extraordinary means are not made to lead to a merely ordinary state of self-sacrifice…Lopez de Ezquerra says, with regard to this subject: "all passive and extraordinary communications proceeding from the good spirit…produce an efficacious excitation to good works…and the soul…is conscious of an overflowing life…turning it away from created things and towards God and great actions. To a greater or lesser degree it accompanies all supernatural favor…and this without exception. (64)
Whether there is anything resembling a "center of moral energy" directly attributable to the "Gospa" surrounding the states of the seers is doubtful. Of course, one must not dare speculate on the states of the seer's souls, as this is known to none but God himself. However, the "center of moral energy" which Father Poulain refers to must be judged from the perspective of appearances and external evidence, for unless some spiritual director or ecclesiastical authority has the extraordinary gift of the reading of souls, that is what decisions such as this must be based upon. This should refer in the first instance to living the Christian life in all its fullness, and with all that "death to the world and alive in Christ" implies. There should be absolutely no question of profit or financial gain on the part of the seer or of the spiritual directors. While it is true that wherever there is a genuine "famous" apparition, the site in question inevitably will have its share of hotels and restaurants built, the authentic seer or visionary will not directly participate in such financial benefits. In the case of Medjugorje, on the other hand, it is evident that the seers have done fairly well by worldly standards, with precious "little turning away from created things":
Ivan Dragicevic was apparently told by the Gospa that he was to be a Priest. He actually attended the seminary for a time, but was expelled due to poor grades. He has since married the former Miss Massachusetts, Lorraine Murphy. He drives his own brand new BMW through the streets of "war torn" Herzegovina, and travels around the world giving descriptions of "the Gospa" to spellbound audiences of Medjugorje devotees. (The "Gospa" apparently follows the seers around, much like the familiar spirits of medieval sorcerers-or the "entities" of New Age channelers)
In 1995 Vicka Ivancovic publicly enlisted the support of the "Gospa" in encouraging the construction of a hotel in Medjugorje:
"Esteemed and honorable friend,
I have already written to you through my friend NN and his family, and I now write to you again…I am somewhat surprised that you are seeking someone else's messages over and above the messages of the Madonna, the Mother of God. ..When the Madonna, the Mother of God, approves and insists upon the commencement of the building works, then I do not understand why you have doubts and ask for any messages and approval from ordinary people… The Madonna, the Mother of God, has given her approval for the building works through me…"Vicka (65)
For Vicka to so shamelessly and manifestly use an alleged apparition to further the construction of a hotel in Medjugorje, and to assume an attitude of haughty condescension towards those who question her instructions in such mundane and commercial matters, shows that she perceives her mission as one more of self-aggrandizement than in sharing the truth.
In 1986, the "seer" Marija Pavlovic, along with a few members of her family, traveled to Birmingham , Alabama to donate a kidney for transplant to her brother. Marija and her family members stayed at the house of Mr. Terry Colanfrancesco, a wealthy businessman. (While traveling the conference circuit, the seers rarely if ever have accommodations below the "four star" level.) Mr. Colanfrancesco founded an organization called "Caritas", (not to be confused with the Vatican agency of the same name) . Caritas of Birmingham is dedicated almost exclusively to propagandizing Medjugorje and its "messages." Since Marija Pavlovic was known to have daily apparitions of the "Gospa", her presence in Mr. Colanfrancesco's home was bound to attract an enormous crowd of devotees. Mr. Colanfrancesco had recently purchased a large field adjacent to his home, and so asked Mirjana if she could have the "Gospa" appear to her in the field. Marija and the "Gospa" were apparently amenable to the idea.A Mr. Cyril Auboyneau, Miss Pavlovic's translator, confirmed that Colanfrancesco asked for a vision in that field:
"Terry wanted a vision in that field, under that tree-he prayed about that. So we asked Mirjana to ask Our Lady if she would appear in the field on Thanksgiving day. Our Lady said she would appear in the field. (66) Thanksgiving day? Could this possibly have something to do with the fact that Thanksgiving, being a holiday, would be a day on which an even larger crowd could gather? One must admit that the possibility is intriguing. The idea that the Divine Majesty can be manipulated on a whim is not even worthy of consideration:Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending Him by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty. (67)This was not the only instance of the "Gospa" coming to the assistance of Mr. Colanfrancesco through the ministry (or mediumship?) of Marija Pavlovic. It seems that Caritas had acquired a substantial amount of copies of a book by Maria Valtorta entitled "The Poem of the Man-God."
There was a slight problem, however; the Church had placed the book on the Index, which meant that it was forbidden reading for faithful Catholics. When asked on live television what the "Gospa", herself, thought about the book, Marija responded (in Italian) "It can be read." Since an endorsement by the "Gospa" in "apparitionist" circles is good for sales, the books started selling briskly, at 35 dollars per volume.(68)
Among the visionaries or seers of Medjugorje, the fruits have consistently been in the order of material benefits and social esteem, and all the visionaries have consistently played up their celebrity status. This is antithetical to how authentic visionaries usually behave; most flee any type of publicity at all. A historical example of an apparently authentic seer becoming spiritually proud is that of Melanie, one of the seers of La Salette; Melanie's subsequent attitude, however, did grave damage to La Sallete's reputation, and may be one of the reasons that these apparitions never quite acquired the universal esteem accorded those of St. Bernadette at Lourdes. It is important to recognize that such cases are rare, and that they invariably usually work against the fruits of revelations that have been acknowledged as authentic.
The Medjugorje seers, on the contrary, are given a superstar "oracular" status, much like a Jean Dixon, or an Edgar Cayce, and seem to be able to worm their out of their apparent contradictions and gaffes at will, playing constantly on the sympathies of their increasingly credulous public.
This author was told by an eyewitness that she (while in attendance at a Medjugorje conference) was scandalized seeing Ivan Dragicevic leave the Church during Mass to have a cigarette. To those who would object that these sort of details represent an unnecessary intrusiveness into the lives of the seers, such an attitude merely demonstrates that they are not familiar with what many authentic mystics and seers have had to go through in the way of official observation and investigation by the Church. The well-known, long suffering ordeals of Terese Neumann are a good example of this. The seers are willing to claim visions from the Mother of God; therefore, they should be willing to be subject to a more severe scrutiny than those whom Vicka deems "ordinary people."
It is also significant that there has not been one single vocation to the religious life, and no extraordinary sign of sanctity among the seers, yet, according to the "Gospa": "… I thank you for having started to think more about God's glory in your hearts…I wish to keep on giving you messages as it has never been in history from the beginning of the world." (Message from the "Gospa" April 4, 1985)
While it is true that God forces nobody's free will, and that sanctity is a matter of free cooperation with Divine Grace, nonetheless, if God has something to communicate to humanity as it " has never been in history…" (which, by the way, is an impossibility when referring to private revelations, according to Catholic teaching) He no doubt could dispose the hearts and minds of His chosen messengers to sanctity, as a sign of their trustworthiness.
Regarding those non-seers who have played important roles in Medjugorje, the rebellious Franciscans and illicit religious communities, etc., as well as many of the chief propagandists like Father Laurentin, it would appear that the "fruits" of Medjugorje have been mainly of a self-serving and self-congratulating nature, "a pat on the back" from Heaven, as it were. Despite the many examples of disobedience, of sexual immorality, of deception, documented above, there were no messages from the "Gospa" which could even remotely be construed as an invitation for these disobedient priests to repent, to obey the Bishop and the Franciscan Father General. It would appear that people like Tomislav Vlasic, Jozo Zovko, Ivica Vego et al, have so far remained (publicly, at least) unrepentant of their misdeeds, since they have received the "Gospa's" seal of approval on their actions. Messages from the Gospa to this effect:"…those two priests (Ivica Vego and Ivan Prusina) are not at all guilty…""Jozo Zovko is a saint."Marija Pavlovic's alleged message from the "Gospa" regarding Tomislav Vlasic's new co-ed religious community…(later retracted.) In other regards, the "Gospa's" messages can make very good advertising for her propagandists:"Let priests read Laurentin's book and promote it."
The fruits that the "Gospa" of Medjugorje has borne to those closest to her have little to do with Christian notions of conversion and penance, and much to do with values so prized by the New Age: self-esteem, self-realization, guiltlessness, the enjoyment of the abundant life. Material success, though often an object of disdain in the messages themselves, nevertheless seems to be what the seers have attained. In the midst of Herzegovina, which could hardly be called an affluent part of the world, the area in which the seer's homes are located is known in Medjugorje as "millionaires row." The seers themselves often give "private or semi/private audiences" for a substantial fee. The rebellious Franciscans, profiting from the huge tourist boom, have been undertaking large construction projects with the money that is pouring in from the pilgrims. The village itself is spoken of throughout the region as the "Las Vegas" of Herzegovina, due to the huge commercial and tourist expansion which has followed in the wake of the "apparitions." (69)
In short, some of the "fruits" most directly attributable to the "Gospa" with regard to the seers and their closest collaborators are:Outright disobedience to Bishop Zanic, his successor, Bishop Peric, and the superiors in the Franciscan Order.Lying on the part of the seers about the apparitions, about the supposed words of the "Gospa" and calumniating the Bishop of Mostar, Bishop Zanic. The open defense of disobedient members of the Herzegovina Franciscans, including those involved in sexual misconduct with female religious, and who continued to administer the sacraments in an illicit and sacrilegious manner.The establishment of canonically illicit "religious" communities, at the behest of the "Gospa", the publication of all kinds of books, newsletters, videos dealing with and propagandizing false visions, without the approval of the Church. The shameless commercialization of the seers world wide, playing up the "cult of celebrity" thereby exposing them to the dangers spiritual pride, and enabling them to profit financially from the alleged apparitions, something which never happens with a true visionary.The advertising of "pilgrimages" to Medjugorje, even though this goes against the authority of the Bishop of Mostar, the Bishops Conference of Croatia, and the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. This is perhaps the most pernicious of Medjugorje's fruits, as many of the "little ones" of the Christian flock are led to commit , at least the materially sinful action of disobedience against the Bishop of Mostar, by going on illicit "pilgrimage" to an unapproved apparition.
While true that most such "pilgrims" may not be aware of this, this does not excuse the seers, the disobedient clergy, the promoters and the propagandists involved. In case there is any doubt on the matter, it should be repeated that all so called "official" pilgrimages to Medjugorje are acts of disobedience:
Neither the Diocesan Bishop as the head of the local diocese of Mostar Duvno, nor any other competent authority has ever officially declared the parish church of St. James the Apostle in Medjugorje as a "Marian Shrine" and no "cult" of the Madonna based upon so called apparitions has ever been proclaimed. Due to these discrepancies, the local Bishop has repeatedly forbidden anyone from preaching or speaking in churches on the supernatural nature of these so-called "apparitions and revelations", and he has asked that no official pilgrimages be organized be they at the level of parishes, dioceses or generally in the name of the Church. These and similar warnings were made by our former Bishop's Conference and by the Holy See. Whoever acts to the contrary, is directly going against the official statements of the Church, which even after 14 years of so called apparitions and widespread propaganda, still remain valid in the Church. (70)
One should call to mind the words of Our Lord, with regards to leading astray the simple and childlike members of the People of God:But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea. (St. Matthew 19:6)
Let us assume the best case scenario with regards to the multitudes who have gone to Medjugorje, that they are for the most part ignorant of the prohibitions which Church authority has placed upon the pilgrimages, and that they go in good faith. What about the scores of people who have taken the messages of the "Gospa" to heart? What about the fasting, the praying, and the conversions? As was remarked above, one must discern the source of the fruits. The world will perhaps never fully know (until the general judgement) how many conversions which supposedly resulted from Medjugorje are genuine and lasting, and how many merely based upon an emotional and subjective faith in the "apparitions" themselves. For this is the heart of the argument about the fruits of Medjugorje. What is it that the people are converting to? And after that John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God; and saying, "The time is accomplished, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel."
(St. Mark, 1:14-15)
There are many calls to conversion and penance, but since the coming of Jesus Christ, they all truly originate with His Gospel. All true private revelations stressing conversion are in essence a reassertion of Jesus Christ's preeminent call to "believe the Gospel" made by Our Lord Himself at the beginning of His public ministry, preached constantly and indefectibly ever since by His Church.
What is striking about the messages of the "Gospa" is not so much the many theological errors contained therein, nor even the downright heresies involved in some of them, but the idea that the call of the "Gospa" is for conversion to these messages and these events:Tell the Bishop that I seek a quick conversion from him towards the happenings in Medjugorje before it is too late. ..(June, 1981)
My Son, Jesus, is praying for him (the Bishop) so that he would believe and therefore take better action in favor of Medjugorje…( April 24, 1984)Dear children, you are not conscious of the messages which God is sending to you through me…(Nov.8, 1984)
Dear children, your Mother told you yesterday to renew the messages from now on…If you want your Mother to give other and new messages, you first have to live those messages I have already given. (June 26, 1989)
Tonight your Mother wants to invite you to start again to live the messages. Children, your Mother cannot give you new messages if you do not live the messages I have already given. Decide with joy and love to begin to live the messages, for your Mother to continue to guide you, for you to continue your growth in love with your Mother living the messages. (August 21, 1989)
Dear children, these days, Satan is working underhandedly against this parish…(Jan. 17, 1985)
Dear children, these days you have experienced God's sweetness through the renewals, which have been in this parish. Satan wants to work more fiercely to take away your joy from each of you…( Jan. 24, 1985)
On one occasion, the "Gospa" actually complains about "her" messages not being taken seriously enough:I don't wish to force anyone to do that which he neither feels nor desires, even though I had special messages for the parish by which I wanted to awaken the faith of every unbeliever. But only a really small number has accepted my Thursday messages. In the beginning there were quite a few. But it's become a routine affair for them. And now recently some are asking for the message out of curiosity, not out of faith and devotion to my Son and me. (April 30, 1984)
Perhaps the "Gospa" should ask "herself" precisely why the messages were becoming a "routine affair". Could it be because messages received daily over a four year period become tedious, since they are not "from heaven"? One could go on and on with examples of how interest in the phenomenon of the ongoing messages and their continuation at all costs would appear (despite all objections to the contrary by the devotees) to have taken precedence over the supposed urgency for humanity of their supposed central message, conversion, prayer and fasting. Medjugorje's primary consideration now seems to be its perpetuation. Those who have remained inordinately attached to this new "Delphic oracle" seem to hang on every word that proceeds, not "from the mouth of God, or from the Church's ordinary Magisterium, but from "Queen Gospa" who "knows all and tells all." True and authentic private revelations never serve to obfuscate the main Gospel message with verbosity or vain multiplication of words. After eight years of monthly, weekly, even daily apparitions, the "Gospa" was still repeating "herself":Dear children, today I call you to live the messages which I have been giving you during the past eight years. This is a time of grace, and I desire that the grace of God be great for every single one of you. I am blessing you and I love you with a special love. Thank you for having responded to my call. (June 25, 1989)
One wonders why the "Gospa", instead of calling the children and their followers to live "the messages" doesn't instead emphasize simply living by faith infused with charity, without the necessity of further visions, apparitions, and messages. There are indeed many "nice" words intermingled in the messages, but was it really necessary for the Mother of God to have been appearing to these "children" in an unprecedented manner "in the history of the world" for eight years running, merely for the purpose of stating again and again what should be plainly obvious to any faithful Catholic?
The revelation is also to be mistrusted, if, although good from the spiritual point of view, it is a truism, occurring in all ascetic writings. God would not employ such great means for such a small result. It is rather probable that the person is thus unconsciously repeating things, which he has learned from books. Or again, the devil is amusing him with trifles, until the day when, having allayed his suspicions, he can become bolder. (71)
In other words, what is the moral utility of repeating the obvious? What is the point of the "Gospa" repeating the words "pray, pray, pray" and "peace, peace, peace" over and over, for years on end? The issue is not whether more prayer is needed among all peoples, or if peace between humans and their Creator is something that all should desire and pray for; they obviously are. But will not such vain repetition such as the "Gospa's" merely sow confusion into the hearts of the faithful swept up in the hyper-spiritual atmosphere of Medjugorje?
Another problem with the so called "fruits" of Medjugorje, would appear to be the literally undoable penances and prayer forms advocated by the "Gospa" and the "seers", such as Ivan Dragicevic's announcement that we should all take at least fifteen minutes to say each Our Father and each Hail Mary? If this were taken to heart, five mysteries of the rosary would take over a day to pray. What about the rigorous two day a week bread and water fast (three days, on some putative "special occasions" ) recommended by the "Gospa"? Would not the many earnest and sincere devotees of Medjugorje, when unable to keep up with this rigorous asceticism and unrealistic prayer expectations, fall into despair at being unable to satisfy the "Gospa's" demands? Could their failure to please the "Gospa" bring about an even greater psychological dependency on hearing and spreading the latest messages? Or could it be that the "Gospa's" call has now conditioned many otherwise faithful Catholics into becoming practicing spiritualists, bent upon pleasing their "control" at any cost?
With regards to penance and fasting, it is true that the Church has always recommended certain reasonable and prudent mortifications of appetite, such as fasting, as actions, which when prudently undertaken under mature spiritual direction, can lead to heightened sanctification. However, the great mystics of Christendom unanimously caution against an exaggerated asceticism, for such extremism can not only destroy mental and bodily health, but can also lead to a spiritual pride which focuses on the degree and number of mortifications, rather than on a growth in holiness through the increase of Charity:Lack of discretion in discipline , fasting, and bodily mortification, sometimes renders the best years of a man's life nearly useless as regards the service of charity, as was the case with St. Bernard, who repented of his excessive austerity: and those who have begun with over-strictness are compelled at last to become over lax. (72)
It is rather significant that the "Gospa" seems to contrast Charity unfavorably with fasting!:"Charity cannot replace fasting." (July 21, 1982)
This author remembers just what imbibing the hyper-spiritualistic atmosphere surrounding Medjugorje can lead to, once people cease to rely on good old prudence and common sense: a very kind, fatherly Italian missionary was instrumental, as pastor, in bringing the Charismatic renewal to a missionary parish in Mexico. Since, as will be seen below, Medjugorje and the Charismatic Renewal have what can be characterized as a "symbiotic" relationship, the priest led a pilgrimage to Medjugorje with certain members of the parish. One of the seers, probably Vicka Ivankovic, told the priest that it was the "Gospa's" will that he and Mrs. Lopez (another member of the Charismatic prayer group, not her real name) pray together in private. Upon returning to the parish, this arrangement suggested or commanded by the "Gospa" via Vicka, led to great evil in the parish; envy of Mrs. Lopez by other members of the Charismatic group, helping to lead to a split in the parish between the partisans of the pastor and Mrs. Lopez and the more numerous followers of the assistant pastor, another kind and fatherly priest, who was also heavily steeped in the Charismatic movement and Medjugorje. The split eventually led to calumnious gossip against the priest and Mrs. Lopez and a public controversy erupted between the two priests over the supposed apparition of a "miraculous image" of the Virgin of Guadalupe appearing on an artificial rose bush! Such events are an indication of what can happen when so much emphasis is placed on visionaries, "messages", apparitions, and miracles, and there can be no doubt that this is one of the "Gospa's" more bitter "fruits" so abundant today in the Lord's Vineyard.
The New Age craves the spiritual sweetness of contact with the spirits; it does not long for the spiritual. It seeks the self: self-esteem, self-realization, self-aggrandizement. Ultimately, the fruits of Medjugorje , (and this is said only with regard to the intransigent, disobedient followers, not those willing to submit to the Church's judgement) satisfy all of these longings: they represent a direct contact with heaven via a knowledge or "gnosis" communicated to an elect few (the devotees) by an elite group of seers; that plays to self-esteem, and in these devotees mind, obviates the darkness of faith. It provides a way for many of those whose existence perhaps lacked purpose: they can now live lives which fulfill the "Gospa's" purpose, and thus they feel they are fulfilling a mission in life ; thus self-realization will replace hope, occurring here and now, not in a future which God has prepared for those who have loved him. And, being devotees of the "Gospa" with the knowledge of "insiders" gives them a sense of importance, self-aggrandizement, and "spiritual evolution" will replace growth in charity. They may even have locutions themselves, and every person conscious of the God/ or "Gospa" within. And then who will need a hierarchy? Or even a Church?