True devotion?

Edward Baty on the Shrine of the Queen of Peace

 

Camberley Medjugorje Centre was formed through a charity set up to send relief to Bosnia-Herzegovina during the late civil war. Afterwards we kept in touch with our donors and found many others interested in the events at Medjugorje. From which emerged a monthly newsletter for the Society of Our Lady of Medjugorje.

We correspond now with over sixty people from all the major UK churches. The Centre provides information about the Christian faith and the place for Marian devotion. Its background is the continuing sequence of Marian apparitions reported since 1981 from Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Making up the Church’s mind

The nature of all apparitions is subject to strict scrutiny, and no decision can be made on this sequence until it ends. That is the clear official judgement of Benedict XVI, and of his predecessor. Pope Benedict, when Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, stated that there could be no decision while the apparitions continue. He has made it clear, as have the bishops of the local province, that personal visits to Medjugorje are allowable for prayer and renewal of faith.

John Paul II said of such visits, ‘Today’s world has lost its sense of the supernatural, but many are searching for and find it in Medjugorje through prayer, penance, fasting.’ Benedict XVI also endorsed its role as a place of prayer, a place where people are converted, spurred by Mary, our Mother. He has added, ‘We shall not suppress anything that bears fruit. We cannot yet recognize the supernatural character of these apparitions, but neither can we deny them.’

Making up your mind

How does this affect your decision about visiting Medjugorje? If it is supernatural (and no one has made this judgement yet, except privately) and from God, then all is well. Alternatively, the present Bishop of Mostar has endorsed the importance of a healthy devotion to Mary within Christian life, and laid down helpful guidelines for this at Medjugorje, despite his disbelief in the supernatural origin of the apparitions there.

If these apparitions are purely natural in origin, then you can see the results of healthy devotion to Mary which millions of Catholics and others have experienced, such as the thousands of young people who flock to the annual Youth Festival. In the first decade of the apparitions it is estimated that over half a million young people were converted by their Medjugorje experience.

Startling results were found among the reasons given for going to Medjugorje. First-timers gave vastly differing reasons. Among pilgrims returning for a second or later time, over 80% gave a single, unanimous answer, ‘I came back to learn how to pray.’ Five years ago the Provincial Bishops gave local, official recognition of Medjugorje as a place of prayer, as a shrine in which people come closer to God. The message is clear: ‘If you want to learn how to pray, visit Medjugorje.’

Tolerance necessary

Mirjana Dragecevic is the oldest of the visionaries, a graduate in agronomics from Sarajevo who spent her summer holidays with her grandmother in Medjugorje. Living in the multi-cultural society of the capital city, she was naturally interested in what attitudes towards Muslim or Orthodox neighbours and friends should be. In January 1983 she reported the following advice from the Virgin: ‘One cannot truly believe, be a true Christian, if he does not respect other religions as well. You do not really believe in God if you make fun of other religions.’

It should encourage us in the UK. We should note ‘respect’ not ‘believe in’ – there is no place for syncretism in Medjugorje. Surely, a spur to a positive view of the proposed UK legislation against incitement to religious hatred? Interestingly the report was focussed primarily on the situation of mutual intolerance the Virgin found ‘especially in small villages.’

The curious will find in Medjugorje the opportunity to experience first-hand the atmosphere around Marian apparitions as they occur in a place where the most careful guidelines are in place to prevent abuse from those disappointed, and distortions from the over-enthusiastic.

For further information contact the Revd Dr E Baty at Camberley Medjugorje Centre, 25 Martindale Avenue, Camberley, Surrey, or visit the website <susret.tripod.com>.

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