The Historical-Theological Context of the Medjugorje Apparitions
Date: November 10, 2005 , Originally published November 10, 2001
Author: Dr. fra Tomislav Pervan, OFM
Category: Theology reports
Content of the article
The Beginnings and the Historical Context
Someone said that the problem of the meaning of history is precisely in this, does man know and is he at all aware and is it granted to him to discover the truth about himself while that history is still ongoing. Namely, does history, which offers so many signs of coincidences, so much irrationality, still reveal, in spite of everything, the necessity, which brings along some sort of justification for everything that has happened in the past? Is it possible to write history from a first hand consideration and still to observe the times in which we live from a certain distance and to give it a meaning, that is, to draw from it a meaning for the future. This especially relates to Medjugorje. It has been going on among already for fourteen years. The phenomenon itself is too complex to be able to observe in all of its ramifications and its components. Nevertheless, it has its historical-theological Sitz im Leben of today's world and the church, and it has long since surpassed its narrow boundaries. Medjugorje is indelibly inscribed on the religious map of the world, particularly of the Catholic Church. During these past fourteen years many have spoken and written about its meaning and importance, about the need for it precisely in these crucial times of ours. It seems unnecessary to be an apologist for Medjugorje, a defender, because it is by itself strong enough to defend itself all alone, and to succeed in defending itself and to survive before the highest tribunal of the Church, before theology, history and the world. All that is necessary is to fathom and look under the surface and to see and observe how great is the tectonic shift that has come into our Church and the world with Medjugorje.
Clemenceau, the French politician and agnostic, on one occasion said that each war is a far too distinguished and important thing to be left only to generals and soldiers. In the same way, Medjugorje is a too many faceted reality to be able to leave it over just to commissions, to the judgment and opinion of theologians and to commissions which approach the Medjugorje phenomenon with the kind of premises we already well know. It is impossible to leave it over to a decision made at some kind of desk, to idle theologians and to those who actually never made an effort to grasp the meaning of the manifestation, the ramification of the events, and the essence of the message.
Medjugorje is hard to define. It is many faceted and along with itself involves different judgments and evaluations by many experts from different fields of thought and science. No matter what anyone personally thinks or believes about Medjugorje, we still have to admit, whether we like it or not, that in the regions of ex-Yugoslavia, and, if you like, Europe and the entire world, it is the most outstanding religious phenomenon of the last decade, actually, of the last two decades of our century and of our millennium. If it were possible for us with a huge magnet to collect all of the particles on this earthly globe that Medjugorje has sown in countless souls and hearts, then we would experience a stunning effect, and would find out about incredible results. We would ourselves be surprised how much it is present in the consciousness and the life of believers and unbelievers. And how did it all begin?
Si licet exemplis in parvis grandibus uti, ie. if it is permitted in a small thing to use grand examples, that is, si licet parvis componere magna, if it is allowed to compare the great with the small, then I would begin with a quote from the New Testament, "What good can come from Nazareth?" as Nathaniel in wonderment asked himself and Philip (John 1:46). Nazareth was a small provincial place which in the dialect was spoken of only in bad terms, just the same as happened about Bijakovici, that is, about Medjugorje. The province, the village, the provincial people, the peasants, in quarrels, and the visionaries the same as that, were the offspring of poorly educated people. Without schooling and education, in a single moment of their personal life history, they were uprooted from their smooth running routine and began to speak with a vocabulary and language that belonged to another world and not their own. They began to speak about a manifestation from the other side and not from this side. Those little and unknown ones filled the ears of the world with a message and assertions because of which the authorities of that time trembled, and which new life and embryo they tried by every means to extinguish. It may be that Bijakovici and Medjugorje were two quarrelling villages in some kind of Herzegovina, but at that moment, they were written into the map of the world. There follows an expansion like in the Acts of the Apostles, "from Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (1:7). The same concentric circles are observable in the Bijakovici-Medjugorje phenomenon.