Bishop of Namur on Medjugorje
Other languages: English, Italiano
Date: January 29, 2007 , Originally published November, 1994
Category: Shepherds of Church , Medjugorje in the Catholic Church , Testimonies
I went,I saw, I believe
On 25 August, Ivan visited Beauraing in Belgium where Mary appeared to 5 children for 33 times in 1932. Mass was celebrated by the Bishop of Namur, Msgr. Léonard. The following is from his eloquent homily.
"(...)Which are the churches that please the Lord? Crowded churches. He loves them, because a crowded church for the Lord is a prophecy of what will be at the end of time, when God’s Kingdom will be everything in everyone!
This vision of the Kingdom is seen in today’s first reading (Rev 22:9): the Kingdom of Heaven is a gift of God who comes from above. The heavenly city opens its arms to the earthly city and is united to the history of our world. The angel speaks of this city as if it were a fiancée loved by Him and which will become His bride forever more. When all of us will form this Kingdom, we will be this Bride.
That is why the entire Church and the entire Kingdom are portrayed by a woman, the Virgin Mary. The 2nd Vatican Council tells us: When we see Mary we see, in anticipation, how humanity will be, how the Church will be when she will become God’s Kingdom. We can think of every Marian apparition as an announcement of the holy city, of the Fiancèe, of the Bride, that descends from her place beside God in Heaven. Therefore, what else could Mary be when She appears, if not the prefiguration, the sign, the anticipation of the Holy City that will descend from Heaven?
Today’s Gospel uses a similar language. Nathanael was sceptic: can anything good come from Nazareth? (Jn 1:46). We must admit that each time Mary has appeared in the world, including those place where the apparitions have received Church approval, scepticism were the order of the day.
Scepticism and doubt always accompany Our Lady’s apparitions! What, Mary is appearing to little Bernadette Soubirou who lives with her parents in Lourdes? What, Mary is appearing to three little shepherd children of Fatima? Mary is appearing in Beauraing, in a little corner of Belgium? Thus, we have the beginning of scepticism and doubt. The right way to feel, instead, can be seen in today’s Gospel. When Philip says to Nathanael, "come and see," he goes and he believes. For God’s signs to be accepted, it is necessary for one to go and see.
With regards to the apparitions in Medjugorje, the Church has still not given her official definite recognition. We await it with trust and in prayer. Personally, I went there in 1984, I saw and I returned convinced.
Nathanael was struck by what he saw and he understood. His proclamation of faith is one of the most beautiful in the New Testament: "Rabbi, you are the son of God, you are the King of Israel" (Jn 1:49). Nathanael went from scepticism to faith, because he went, thereby allowing Jesus to touch his heart. Jesus tells him: "You will see greater things that that... You will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending" (Jn 1:50-51). We can apply these words to the various apparitions in the world. Each apparition by Mary is Heaven laid open to the earth, it is Heaven that smiles to the earth.
Does Mary appear too much, speak too much? I am greatly impressed by Mary’s insistence in talking to us. Just think how many apparitions there have been in this last century! Rue du Bac in Paris, Pontmain, Lourdes, La Salette, Fatima, Beauraing, Banneux, Kibeho in Rwanda, Medjugorje... People often ask me why Mary is still appearing in Medjugorje after 13 years. Some say: "Mary talks so much! In other places, She only said a few words, appeared for only a few days!" Personally, I have no idea about Mary’s reasons, about what She should say and do. I know that if Mary knocks at our door with such insistence, intensity and duration, then there must be urgent need.
Have you noticed how committed our Pope is to his mission as universal pilgrim? Have you noticed his force and insistence in drawing our attention to the world’s present day problems, such as peace, true conversion and the family? He insists so much because he is convinced that these years are decisive years for the history of humanity. Personally, I see Mary’s insistence in talking to us and in calling us in this light.
The fruits of Medjugorje are blessed fruits. I have witnessed these fruits myself. They are conversion, the re-discovery of prayer, love and peace, the return to the Sacraments, to the Eucharist, to penance and fasting.
If you truly desire peace in the world, in our families and hearts, then my invitation to you is to truly accept Our Lady’s pressing appeals, in particular the ones concerning prayer and fasting. Jesus Himself tells us that some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasts. I simply repeat what Our Lady tells us wherever She appears, and I invite you to true conversion through praying and fasting."
So the bishop’s invitation is to create in every home a corner for personal and family prayer, to keep the churches open for Adoration, the Rosary and prayer (which is also the best way to prevent vandalism).
"If Jesus and Mary talk to us," the Bishop concluded, "it is not to frighten us, but to call us to conversion. All that you will do to better your praying and fasting, to open your hearts and to offer yourselves to Jesus, will be a blessing for all humanity. It will be a step towards peace in the hearts of men and in the world. Amen."