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? 
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  1. What a pity that your friend sowed seeds of doubt in your heart about Medjugorje, probably someone who had never been there to experience the graces and witness first hand the fruits and just how Sacramental Medjugorje is. That’s what happens at Medjugorje, people return to the Sacraments – big-time! :)

    And yes, the birth of a child is a beautiful miracle, so is the resurrection of a child that has been lost in darkness and brought to life again – a second birth, so to speak. New life.

    The Church would not be deliberating on Medjugorje now if it was not for the millions of people who have given witness to Medjugorje.

    I used to share the same opinion as your friend, until I went to Medjugorje and experienced first hand the reality of what is happening there. I now attend daily Mass, read and meditate on Scripture every day, go to monthly confession, pray more, give witness to my faith whenever I can. Would I have done all this if I had not gone to Medjugorje? Unlikely, I never did so before making a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. What brought on the change? I know, but your friend would probably not understand. It is hard to understand when we look in from the outside.

    Now that you are a member of the Catholic Church your understanding of the Church has increased. On the outside, this would not be possible. But you stepped inside because God gave you the gift of faith and courage to make the journey, the pilgrimage. Others may have said to you at the time, “Don’t do this, you don’t need to.” Had you listened to this advice and not the whisper and conviction in your heart at the time, I doubt if your friend would be trying to steer you away from Medjugorje. :)

    Peace and blessings to you and your family.

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    1. Pilgrim,

      Thank you for your comment and sharing your beautiful story. I can see that Megjugorje has resulted in many such stories of an increased faith. I am not condemning Medjugorje. I am open to the idea that they are genuine visions. I am only saying I will wait for the Church's decision.

      I read that St John of the Cross advises us to stay clear of supernatural revelations, to ignore them. He says only the Church has the skill to interpret them and decide where they have come from. After experiencing hurt caused from misinterpreting a supernatural happening of my own, I am reluctant to venture into areas which are beyond my understanding. I am willing to wait. I see nothing wrong with such an attitude. The Church is there to guide us and safeguard us from possible harm.

      This post is not an attack on Medjugorje. I just used it as an example. I guess this is a story about trusting the Church and not my own opinion. I am quite comfortable with doing this.

      Maybe you think I am missing out on graces from Medjugorje because of my friend's words. I imagine pilgrims from Medjurorje want to tell their stories, to share the great graces they have received, to encourage others... Maybe you want others to have the chance to have similar experiences, to share what you believe is a great gift. I appreciate this. But I have decided I will wait for an official verdict. There are plenty of sources of grace already available within the Church such as the sacraments, prayer, reading the Bible...

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your opinion. Differing points of view make very interesting conversation.

      God bless you!

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  2. I understand what you're saying, Sue. I found Medjugorje exciting after my conversion, but, for me, the belief in the Eucharist came first and it was that which sparked my conversion rather than the apparitions. I think it's probably the other way around for other people but it's never been a possibility to go on a pilgrimage for us. Luckily, Jesus is so close in the tabernacle and I find more lasting joy in just being in His Presence before the Blessed Sacrament than I did in my earlier discoveries. Like you, though, I'm not against Medjugorje, at all - I just think that it may be an extra grace which is given to some and the Eucharist alone is sufficient for our salvation.

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    1. Vicky,

      Would you go to Medjugorje if you could afford it, before the Church comes to a decision about its authenticity? I didn't quite understand. Sorry!

      Yes, I am not against Medjurorje but I am not for it either. I do not know everything about the situation, and even if I did, I feel unqualified to come to a decision. I am happy to leave that to the Church.

      I agree with your words about the Eucharist! Even though some visions are helpful, they are not essential to our salvation like the Eucharist. Even if Medjugorje is given Church approval, it will not be an essential aspect of our faith. Helpful maybe, but not essential.

      Thank you for your comment!

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    2. No, Sue, I wouldn't go because I rely on the Church's judgement first. If the Church gives approval, I'd be happy to go and I'm happy for those who experience conversions there, now. But, while the Church hasn't approved the visions, I'd be choosing to go to Lourdes, Fatima, Knock, Lanciano or one of the other approved apparitions. I don't feel that caution indicates a lack of trust and, until there is approval from a superior authority, I feel that detachment is prudent. My faith is in the Eucharist.

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    3. Vicky,

      Thank you for returning and adding more. I appreciate that.

      You said, "I feel that detachment is prudent." I agree.

      God bless!

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    4. Sue, Another thought occurred to me, this morning - that is that prudence seems sensible when events don't impact us directly, especially if there is controversy surrounding them. But, what if we are confronted with events on our own doorstep? I'm thinking of the people of Fatima. To be over-cautious would have meant missing out on some very special graces. On the other hand, would God have opened the eyes of those with deep faith to see what was happening there or would He have reached them through some other, equally meaningful, way? Another thing is that the signs were more for those who were lost - not those who were already living lives of obedience to God, which leads back to the Sacraments alone being sufficient.

      Lots of random thoughts here - I don't know the answer but I do think that discernment is so difficult that prudence can be a sign of faith rather than a lack of it.

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    5. Vicky,

      A personal opinion: Even if we are confronted with events on our own doorstep, we need to be cautious. Just because it is happening to us, how can we be sure we are dealing with God? We can easily be misled. We would still need to rely on the Church to interpret the visions. Of course, there may be opposition, authorities may not listen, there could be delays... But I think God can work with this regardless. These things won't stop the messages from eventually becoming public if this is what God wants. I don't think God would advise anyone to act outside the Church by taking matters into his own hands. It is a long time since I read any revelations but I seem to remember authentic visionaries have had to wait and suffer much before they have been believed. And I think they have to accept it. (They have all become saints in the process.) It's all to do with obedience. If it was easy to have a vision authenticated, the devil could cause much havoc with imitations.

      Missing out on special graces? I don't think God would keep back graces if the people involved were cautious about a vision. There are graces associated with obedience and trusting in the Church rather than in one's self. If a vision is authentic, those particular graces will come with time.

      Yes, discernment is so difficult. I am going to re-read St John of the Cross. He is very helpful in this area. His writings really changed the way I thought, after Thomas' 'miracle'.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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  3. Many years ago, when Paul was preaching about Jesus, he was arrested. Whilst deciding what to do with him, some in authority reasoned that: "If what he is saying is from God, it will endure and last for ever more; if it is not, then it will soon die out and be forgotten."

    God will somehow make it plain in our hearts whether the messages and visions are from Him or not.

    God bless.

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    1. Victor,

      Are you saying that if a vision or revelation like Medjugorje endures over time (like it seems to be doing) then it's a good sign that it is from God? You could be right. But I will still wait and see what the Church decides. I am patient!

      I am not sure that what we feel in our hearts is always true. We can be deceived. Well, I know I can. I will talk for myself. I do not trust myself but would prefer to trust the Church which I am sure is better at discerning these things than me.

      I know we aren't agreeing entirely, Victor but I do appreciate the discussion. It's good to debate things in a friendly manner and to be accepting of different opinions.

      God bless!

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  4. Great post Sue. We have such a wealth of treasure within the Church that I'm happy to wait and see. I tend to be a bit wary of things having had some rather negative experiences in the past mostly with religious orders that are a bit on the fringe, iykwim?

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    1. Beate,

      I don't think it hurts to wait and see. As you say, there are already many treasures within the Church that are helping us on our pathway to Heaven. We are not putting ourselves at a disadvantage.

      Negative experiences can be painful but they do make us stop and think and we always learn something valuable from them. I think our own experiences certainly influence how we view such things as visions, whether they end up leading us towards or away from them.

      "religious orders that are a bit on the fringe": that's a whole new can of worms, Beate!!

      Thank you for your comment!

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  5. Sue, great article. Great discussion too.

    I don't need to believe in apparitions to have faith. But I do believe medjugorje is real. I know people who have gone. I have seen the fruits. It is certainly from God, I have no doubt at all..

    The church does not usually make a judgement until apparitions are finished. However, the church has decided to start proceeding with Medjugorje. Interesting.

    And of course, Pope John Paul II went there as well as other cardinals and bishops. So, I don't have much doubt here.

    That being said, if I had a choice of where I could go, I would rather go back to the Holy Land. What a blessing to walk,where Jesus walked. Words are not enough!

    God bless!

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    1. Colleen,

      Yes, my post has resulted in some good discussion. There have been some differences of opinion but everyone has been very charitable. I was a bit afraid I would be shouted down!

      I guess we will soon know the Pope's decision on Medjugorje. I read somewhere that he hopes to have the proceedings moved forward by the end of the year. I guess it would be good to have a verdict one way or the other. It would stop all the speculation!

      I used to be a little afraid of a verdict. What if the Pope declared Medjugorje to be a hoax? I was so attached to the visions and so sure they were genuine. I knew I'd be tempted to disregard the verdict if it didn't match my own opinion. I had to let go so I could move on and accept any decision, whatever that may be.

      A pilgrimage to the Holy land would be a real blessing, I agree! When my daughter went to World Youth Day in Cologne a few years ago, she had a side trip to Assisi. She said that was the best part of the whole few weeks away. Personally, I'd rather like to go to Ars.

      God bless!

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  6. Sue- I, also, was fascinated at one point about Medjugorje. My husband went there on a pilgrimage when he was in high school. The more I read, researched, and heard the more I began to doubt though. There are many inconsistencies with Medjugorje and the other APPROVED apparitions. Not the least of which is disobedience by the "children" who received the visions. My husband did have an amazing experience there and felt close to God on his trip but he does not necessarily believe the visions are legitimate either. Thankfully, God can work through anything and bring good of anything but, like you said, it is up to our Church to decide if Medjugorje is real.

    I, myself, would love to visit Fatima or Lourdes someday but, for now, feel blessed to be able to visit our Lord in my own local parish two minutes from my house.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and starting this discussion. :)

    Blessings, Kari

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    1. Hi Kari,

      I haven't read much about Medjugorje for many years so I can't claim to know much about it. But your words, "disobedience by the 'children' who received the visions" interest me. Yesterday I did a little research on the Church's views about visions and the right way to handle them. I wanted to see if my 'personal opinions' were on the right track. I've been talking about obedience and trusting in the Church. I was reassured to find out that obedience by the visionaries is looked for as one of the signs that a vision is from God. God does not want a visionary to take matters into his own hands and defy authorities, even if it might look like the message is not going to reach the people. If the message is authentic then God will see that it is eventually proclaimed.

      Maybe your husband's amazing experience can be explained through his contact with the sacraments. And lots of people praying together. That is always such a wonderful experience. So many voices joined together praising God. That always uplifts my soul!

      Medjugorje may be authentic or it may not. But from what I was reading, it's not the apparitions which give us grace. Even approved visions don't give grace. They help us by pointing to the sacraments, the real source of treasure within our Church.

      You live two minutes from your church? Kari, that is a real blessing! We live some distance from the nearest church, but I've always imagined living next door and being able to pop in and visit Our Lord frequently.

      Thank you for your comment.Kari. I am enjoying the discussion.

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  7. I have much the same thoughts as you Sue. I appreciate the discussion here as well.

    I agree very much with what was said about detachment being prudent. I have no issue with visiting Medjugorje, etc. however I believe the visions and messages of unapproved phenomena should be observed but not absorbed. Of course one should always avoid any attachment to visions/apparitions, approved or not. These things, while they may be good, if held onto can become a temptation in themselves. We should keep "open hands" and be prepared to accept things from God while at the same time allowing them to be taken away. I feel if one fears that a vision may be discredited then they have already attached themselves to much to the vision itself. Always look past spiritual wonders to the source Himself and remain with your eyes fixed upon Him. Consider everything else only a fruit of this love.

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    1. Tricia,

      Yes, "Always look past spiritual wonders to the source Himself and remain with your eyes fixed upon Him." You have said that so well! I think the purpose of any supernatural apparition, vision, revelation... that comes from God, is to draw us closer to Him, to lead us to the Church and the sacraments. It's God we need to be attached to, not the visions.

      Detachment? There is a problem with making a personal decision whether a vision is authentic or not. If the Church's verdict doesn't match our own, will we be able to let go? I guess with Medjugorje, so many people think there is no possibility the visions will be declared a hoax so they feel confident to state their opinion. I'd rather be cautious especially after I began to fear my own reaction to a negative decision, just as you pointed out.

      Thank you, Tricia for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I agree with you: detachment is certainly prudent.

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