I lived for many years near Medjugorje and was among early visitors to the place. In the beginning it was a very small village with humble people living of agriculture, or donations from family members working abroad. During the early years, I myself was very impressed by hospitality, poverty and charity of the villagers. However as the time went on, the village was slowly transformed into a town-like place. The immediate vicinity of the church became transformed into a market place - with shops, restaurants, music, etc. I personally new Maria. I met her few times in Split. She was a very shy quiet girl. I had a feeling she would become a nun. She was that sort of a person. With a group of pilgrims I also met Ivan in his home in 1989.
He was an opposite of Maria - a sort of overbearing, liked to take a leading role, would not allow anybody to contradict him. At the time he was working on a book about family life which would tell parents how to bring up their children. He had about 25 hand written pages with large spacing between lines and large letters which made an impression that he was doing this on purpose in order to fill in larger number of pages. To be honest, I did not take his writing seriously. In 1990 I bought a tape in which Ivan was answering some questions. He was speaking in Croatian and was not answering the question directly. Instead, he said a sort: "I will talk first, than you ask questions." His answers were translated into English. I was surprised by the inaccuracy of English translation.
These two things together with market place transformation of the area close to the church made me ask questions about the apparitions. I therefore stopped going to Medjugorje. However, the question is still with me and the question is: Did the apparitions happen? My memory of Maria is still a memory of a humble honest village girl. I have not met her for ten years, but I am still inspired by how nice she was. On the other hand, the official bishops of Mostar are against it.
Who is right?
During communist times the church in Yugoslavia was prosecuted. Now when the third secret of Fatima has been published, it is not difficult to grasp what it meant. It is not supprising that in this persecutions many people gave up going to church completely. Many were not even baptized, not alone instructed in Catholic faith.
In the late seventies and early eighties communist ideology was on retreat. It is a sad fact that the charismatic movement came to fill in the vacuum created by retreating communist ideology. An atmosphere of "instant" christianity and instant conversions had been formed to the extent that the members of such groups advocated women priests, non-existence of punishment and expatiation for sins, etc. Then, very many members of such groups started prophesying, etc.
In short people were "initiated" into faith instead of being instructed in faith. The illusion was that the movement is bringing large number of people back into the church. The sad reality was quite different. After few years most of the newly recruited gave up going to church all together, some become mentally un-balanced, some even ended in mental hospitals. Despite that, the charismatic movement grew in importance and in numbers. It was because the old members who would become disillusioned and disappear from the church would be replaced by recruitment of new members from vast pool of atheistic society. I will illustrate this with an example:
In the early eighties a parish priest introduced me to a young man. He presented the young man as an example of proper faith. Thus the priest invited me for the seminar for "evangelisation" of the church. The seminar was mostly conducted by non-clerical people. It was dominated by a man giving a personal testimony - endlessly praising his son (who was a student at the time). At the same time, the young man in question was laughing uncontrollably. Few years later, the same young man started having visions and was hospitalized by his relatives. At this point the parish priest in question visibly distanced himself from this young man to the point of even not greeting him. To this day I cannot understand the lack of charity the part of this charismatic priest. Later on I was told that he had a child with parishioner whose husband was working in Germany. I myself did see him once running after the lady in question into his house, both laughing. It is as though LaSalette become true (it is a public knowledge that communist regime did send its own agents into the priesthood).
The Charismatic Movement came under the name of evangelization of the church. Thus, to many people it was not immediately recognizable. Especially people who knew nothing about Catholic faith were mislead with tragic consequences for both spiritual and material well-being of the persons involved.
The theory is that it attracted mentally unstable people. I would dispute that! I would state that it very often converted people of sound mind into mentally unstable crazed fanatics. Some of them will unfortunately spend the rest of their lives searching for what is wrong with them, while the leaders of the movement will carry on recruiting new people through their seminars and will laugh-off all criticism. Many charismatic persons are now in charge of religious education for very young children. Their approach should at least be considered as an experiment with unknown consequences for mental well-being of young people involved. It may be that the children of Medjugorje were honest children, but they were then taken by charismatic priests. The children had no experience in dealing with such serious matters. Thus the charismatic priests adopted a non critical approach to the whole process, and acted as if everything was given by God. In such a case, the children are victims, the pilgrims are victims, the truth is a victim.
Medjugorje now stands a complete opposite of Fatima. Fatima resulted in conversion of children involved. Sister Lucia is completely obedient to church hierarchy and Catholic teaching. Medjugorje is characterized with feuds, abuses, disobedience and constant quest for supernatural - all characteristics of charismatic movement, usually disguising itself as "seminars for evangelisation". This are serious issues. Medjugorje should be studied seriously regardless whether apparitions happened or not. It should be studied for a simple reason: it went wrong. Where are the shepherds? Why did it take so long for the local bishop to voice his opposition? Why were clergy initially and immediately so "sympathetic" to the events, when their job was exactly opposite, i.e. their job was to be cautious, and careful, and to investigate, and to advise both the visionaries and the faithful flock. Instead of prudence they became advertisers.
I would like to point out that in here souls are at stake - not money, not perishable good but souls of those who tend to follow their priests and listen to the voice of their bishops. The last thing any soul needs is an instant conversion based on truth mixed with false doctrines. In such a case it is better not to be converted at all. It is better to be hungry than to eat food mixed with poison. If it was true that apparitions happened in Medjugorje, it is a tragedy that it ended-up being promoted by tour operators. If it was true that Medjugorje was a false apparition, it is a tragedy how it run out of control. In both cases the responsibility is on both pro-Medugorje and against-Medugorje camps.
It is probably a sign of our times when many truth-like voices can be heard and official teachings of the Church are ignored or even rediculed by many. We all tend to think we know best, and listen to no advice, or seek the advice of a fool (who may pleasing to our ears).
(Name withheld by Unity. Available to researchers.)