Once upon a time I was fascinated by apparitions, visions, private revelations… When I entered the Church as a new Catholic, I didn't realise this world of supernatural happenings existed. When I found out about them, I was excited. I couldn’t read enough about such places as Medjugorje, and I soaked up book after book of ‘end times’ prophesies. Jesus and Mary are appearing here on earth today with important messages for us? I was hooked. I was drawn away from the 'ordinary' towards the spectacular.
A friend began to worry about me: “The Church hasn’t given its verdict about the messages of Medjugorje. They might all be a hoax. Don’t you think it would be better to ignore them, at least for the moment?”
“Ignore them? A hoax? How could they be a hoax? You only have to look at the fruits of Medjugorje. Thousands and thousands of people have turned back to God because of those messages. You can judge a work by its fruits,” I insisted.
My friend thought for a moment. “What will happen to the faith of those people if the Church decides the visions are not from God?” she asked. “How will they feel if they find out their faith is built on nothing but a hoax? I guess Satan will be laughing. Or what if it’s all just one big money making exercise? Medjugorje certainly is a big business.
“And look at all the people who are taking matters into their own hands. There is nothing wrong with going to Medjugorje but what about all the official pilgrimages led by priests? Are some people refusing to be guided by the Church? And some people are saying that if the Church doesn’t approve the visions, they will ignore that verdict. That’s disobedience. That will weaken the Church.
“Now I’m not saying any of these reasons explains Medjugorje. I’m just musing… We can’t possibly understand the situation. That’s why we have to leave the judgement to the Church.”
“But what if these are warnings and messages from God? We can’t just ignore them. What is the point of God going to all the trouble of giving us messages if we don’t pay attention? For example, what if we aren’t prepared for the ‘end times’?”
My friend had an answer: “Don't you trust the Church will tell us all we need to know? God speaks through the Church. We don’t need to go elsewhere for information. All that the 'end times' revelations are doing is causing a lot of worry about the future. Could it be the Devil wants us to be anxious and start despairing about what lies ahead? And Medjugorje? If those messages are authentic the Church will tell us in time. Then we can read about them. Until then, we should just ignore everything and let the Church look after us. That’s the way God works.”
Deep down I suppose I saw the sense of my friend’s words but I was still reluctant to let go of something that was so full of interest and so out of the ordinary. I didn’t want to wait for the Church’s decision. I didn’t want to be guided by the Church. I wanted to make up my own mind. And I wondered: if the Church declares Medjugorje to be a hoax would I accept that? I had a dangerous thought: I might consider ignoring the verdict.
Then a supernatural experience occurred that involved another dear friend, our unborn baby Thomas and me. I wrote about this in my story, The Miracle. There is no doubt something occurred at a healing service my friend attended. What happened and where did the supernatural experience come from? It could have been from God. I am quite open to that idea. But even so, I think I should have ignored it. I interpreted the experience wrongly and I ended up confused, hurt, angry with God…
After that experience, I rethought visions, apparitions and private revelations and decided to stay well away. They were the Church’s concern, not mine. I returned to reading the Bible, the catechism, the encyclicals, the writings of the saints... There is plenty of helpful spiritual reading available without stepping into the possibly dangerous waters of private revelations.
These days I steer clear of any unapproved visions. There are plenty of Church approved ones I could contemplate if I want to: Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Divine Mercy... Yes, I do realise God does still send us messages in the hope of drawing us all back to Him. But I don’t believe, even the approved visions, are an essential of our Faith. They reveal nothing new, even if they might "help (us) live more fully... in a certain period of history." Maybe if we were living our lives as God intends, we wouldn’t need any visions at all.
I no longer go looking for the spectacular and the out of the ordinary. I don’t need to. I have already found it in a safe place, inside the Church. All I need to do is contemplate Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The gift He has given us and the extent of His love for us is truly an incomprehensible mystery.
Isn’t that enough of a miracle for anyone?