Over 40 years ago, the town of Medjugorje in southwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina began receiving messages from the Virgin Mary. But does she still appear to this day? And if so, why?
The Blessed Virgin Mary still appears to Medjugorje’s six visionaries at varying intervals throughout the year, offering messages and insights which these visionaries then relate to the public. These messages largely pertain to reaffirming or embracing faith before punishment falls upon those who fail to dedicate themselves to God.
Naturally, this is a very broad description of decades’ worth of modern theology. To better understand the mysteries of Medjugorje, we must start at the very beginning.
History of Mary in Medjugorje
In June of 1981, just one month after Pope John Paul II credited the 1917 Marian apparitions of Fatima with saving his life from an assassination attempt, five teenagers and one older friend in Medjugorje saw the image of a radiant woman upon Mount Podbrdo, now known as Apparition Hill. The next day, they heard her speak.
Two of these six would soon fall out of touch with what many believed to be an apparition of the Virgin Mary. However, they would quickly be replaced by two newcomers, and this group of six would continue experiencing apparitions to this very day. While local clergy met these accounts with suspicion at first, many were convinced as the seers began receiving regular messages.
Given that the rise of such apparitions throughout Europe coincided with growing anti-communist sentiments, the government believed these sightings to be political in nature. However, they changed their tune quickly when they recognized the newfound opportunities for a growth in tourism.
Meanwhile, Catholic Croatians saw the Medjugorje apparitions as a symbol of their separate identity from their Orthodox Serbian neighbors. But as various parties attempted using the Mother Mary to meet their political and economic goals, the Medjugorje visionaries insisted that Mary’s messages should be heard for their spiritual significance rather than for earthly gains.
Notable Marian Apparitions
The Marian apparitions of Medjugorje typically seem to be geared toward the purpose of conversion. However, in the span of 40 years, the visionaries have naturally reported a wide variety of messages with both long-term and short-term implications. The following are some of the more notable messages among them:
- “I wish to be with you to convert and to reconcile the whole world.”
- “Obey your grandmother and help her because she is old.”
- “Blessed are those who have not seen and who believe.”
- “When the sign comes, it will be too late for many.”
- “By means of the messages, I wish to make a very beautiful mosaic in your hearts.”
- “Children, darkness reigns over the whole world. People are attracted by many things and they forget about the more important.”
What the Marian Apparitions Mean
The precise meaning of the Marian apparitions remains largely unclear. When she began appearing regularly, she promised to deliver ten secrets to each of the visionaries. These secrets would pertain to the visionaries themselves, the town of Medjugorje, and the future of the world at large. To date, only three visionaries claim to have received all ten secrets.
Few secrets have been revealed to the public. The third secret prophesies what will happen when the Marian apparitions conclude. On that day, the Mother is to leave an indestructible symbol atop Apparition Hill. The last two secrets pertain to punishments that will fall upon sinners after this sign appears.
Three warnings will be given to the world in the form of events to be prophesied after the apparitions cease. During this time, the visionaries claim that prayer and fasting will lessen the severity of the aforementioned punishments, although the punishments will remain unavoidable. This contrasts the seventh secret, which told of a great evil that was avoided through prayer.
This makes it clear that the purpose of the Marian apparitions is one of conversion. The visionaries claim that Mary’s messages must be studied, and the people of Earth must embrace God through prayer, fasting, reading scripture, attending Mass and confessing their sins. These are called the 5 Stones, in reference to David’s slaying of Goliath.
Vatican’s Stance on Medjugorje
The Church has taken no official stance on the apparitions of Medjugorje, nor do they actively encourage most clergy to treat the seers’ messages as if they’re presumed to be true. Some accounts claim that Pope John Paul II met with one of the seers, Mirjana Soldo, and told her he believed Medjugorje to be “the hope for the entire world.” Others dismiss this as fiction.
Similarly conflicting accounts surround Pope Benedict XVI. He did, however, send a commission sent by Cardinal Camillo Ruini to study the events of Medjugorje.
Since the Vatican rarely (if ever) approves miracles or other divine events while they remain ongoing, the Ruini Commission was hotly contested by its own members for many years. It eventually fell into the hands of Pope Francis, who voiced skepticism that the Virgin Mary would send messages on a daily basis.
Medjugorje’s Marian apparitions remain unapproved by the Vatican, but Pope Francis did authorize official pilgrimages. Although the Vatican cannot yet approve the messages as authentic, the Pope does not deny that many who travel to Medjugorje return home with renewed and strengthened faith.
Pilgrimage to See the Mother
More than 10,000 travelers have gone on pilgrimage to Medjugorje since two years after the first apparition. The village involves itself heavily in these pilgrimages. Travelers stay with host families, and a local guide takes them to Apparition Hill by the same path initially taken by the six seers.
These pilgrimages allow for private discussion with two of the visionaries, who act as host families themselves. To reap this particular benefit, travelers must sign up for their pilgrimage through Medjugorje Web, the official website of Medjugorje’s Marian apparitions.
Pilgrimages additionally include a visit to the Blue Cross, where visionaries often met in their early years to avoid government interlopers. Travelers can also climb Mt. Krizevac, also known as Cross Mountain. This has been the site of a 29-foot cross since 1933, which contains an actual relic from the crucifixion.
The Future of Mary in Medjugorje
No particular end date has been given for the apparitions of Medjugorje. Mirjana, among the most vocal of the seers, claims that the end will occur within her own lifetime. Whatever form these warning events take, she believes she is meant to bear witness to them with her own eyes.
Mirjana also says that she will know the precise nature of these warnings ten days in advance. She will then spend a week in prayer and fasting with Father Petar Ljubicic, who is meant to prophesy these warnings to the world three days before they occur. After the warnings commence, the ten secrets will be revealed and those who fail to convert will be punished.
At the time of writing, Mirjana Soldo is 57 years old. If there is any truth to her claims, believers can assume that the apparitions will likely end within the next 30-50 years, if not sooner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why should anyone believe in the apparitions if only six people claim to see them?
It falls on the individual to choose what they believe. While studies have ruled out pragmatic explanations such as fraud and hallucination while attempting to explain away the Marian visions, this naturally will not convince skeptics that Medjugorje proves the existence of the divine.
Nevertheless, those with faithful and open minds may wish to read the messages and determine their value. Even among those who remain cynical regarding the authenticity of the apparitions, some may determine the content of the messages to outweigh any questions regarding the nature of their origin.
Q. Do the Blessed Mother’s messages apply to those who’ve already converted?
Yes. It’s important to note that “conversion” in this sense refers not merely to religious conversion, but rather a conversion of the heart and soul. The messages relayed by the visionaries of Medjugorje ask listeners to turn their lives more fully over to God. Many devout people, regardless of the strength of their faith, will still find room to improve in this area.
Q. Have any of the visionaries been ordained?
No. The visionaries claim that Our Lady asked them long ago to become either nuns or men of the cloth. However, they also claim they were given room to choose the calling they felt best suited them, provided they continued to live as examples of faith. The visionaries ultimately came to believe they could do this better as spouses and parents than as priests.
Q. Does Mary want people converting to Catholicism or merely Christianity?
Technically, neither. As noted above, the messages do not call for outright religious conversion. Rather than turning to the God of Christianity, “converts” may seek salvation simply by striving for goodness. They turn not to God, but what God represents.
Q, What does the Madonna look like?
This has been answered at some length by various sources. Mary is estimated to be about 5’5″ and roughly 132lbs. She has thin lips, rosy cheeks, and slight dimples. She has black hair and clear, blue eyes. The visionaries state that she always keeps her bosom covered and her fingernails clean.
Regardless of whether one believes in the messages of the visionaries, Medjugorje remains a site of pilgrimage for many influenced by the Marian apparitions and the prophecies they contain. Anyone who wants to visit the town and converse with the visionaries themselves is welcome to do so. Simply be aware that, if the messages are true, time may be limited.Shop Hundreds of Catholic Home Decor Pieces at the World’s #1 Catholic Store – Catholic Company!