For one journalist, apparition site left little choice but believing in it

By Michael H. Brown

In May of 1988, when I first went to Medjugorje, the famed apparition site, I was furious.

The first morning there, I was convinced it was a case of mass hysteria.

As a journalist I was geared to observe circumstances, and what I saw concerned me greatly.

It seemed like a classic case of suggestion:

One person would point to Cross Mountain (Mount Krizevac) and say she saw the Cross spinning and those she mentioned it to would then see the same.

When I looked, it was just a Cross up there on this rise behind the church, doing nothing.

I was angry that I had come all this way and it was a bust and I would have to spend the better part of a week in this rather remote hamlet in Bosnia-Hercegovina without English newspapers and so much as television.

It was not that I didn't believe. My conversion had come years before, starting in the early 1980s in Manhattan. I was a freelance magazine writer and author (and former newsman), who "saw the Light" while working on a book about organized crime.

Attacked by the devil, I had sought refuge at a nearby church, and about instantly became a daily communicant at Our Lady of Good Counsel on East 90th Street near my apartment. Immediately, I was committed to the Rosary.

Thus, I believed in visions and had seen and felt things for myself and in fact initially had no intention of going to Medjugorje because I didn't feel I needed it. I believed. I was already fasting. I felt the Holy Spirit.

Instead, I sent my mother to the apparition site, which I first read about in People Magazine and later learned more about it in a book by Father Rene Laurentin; in a widely circulated newsletter; and through home-made videos a priest gave me. Just touching and reading these items gave me a sense of the Holy Spirit. I had never felt anything quite so strong come from a book, save for Scripture (which I read daily). My mother went with a group from Niagara County at the same time that I traveled to Israel on business (visiting the holy sites but doing secular research into paleoanthropology).

I had no intention of expanding my travel plans but my mother and everyone with her were so blown away (my brother ended up at Medjugorje as well) that I resolved to go there myself.

I had never seen such a strong reaction.

And in subsequent months, and then years, time after time, testimony after testimony, it would be the same: the vast majority who went there would not only come back believers, but "converts" in the sense that spiritual blinders were lifted and they went to daily Mass (not just Sunday) and they never approached life again in quite the same fashion.

I had never seen anything near the strength of those conversions, and if those are not fruits -- fasting, daily Rosary, love of God, Mass -- I am not sure what is. Like many others, my brother ended up in the seminary. I can only compare it to other places where I have felt the Power of God in a special fashion: at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem; in the grotto of Lourdes; in the chapel at Fatima; at Turin where the Shroud is. I have had other major experiences everywhere from Knock to Guadalupe. I ended up visiting more than thirty sites of reputed apparition.

For me, Medjugorje was set apart in the size, the awesome power, and the fact that the apparition was ongoing.

Initially skeptical, it didn't take long for the Spirit to begin exploding.

After listening to a seer named Vicka I had begun to see incredible sights. There was a large moon as I looked across to the church from a balcony one evening, and peering up, the lunar orb suddenly seemed to part into two orbs.

In one was the profile of a bearded man. In the other was the profile of a veiled female. A woman in our group from Detroit saw the same thing -- "the Blessed Mother," she blurted (without knowing what I was seeing).

The next day when we visited a priest who was there at the start of the apparitions, and who laid his hands on us, I noted that two statues at the front of the altar were of a bearded man with a crow (Benedict, Elijah?) and the veiled Virgin Mary.

Crossing a vineyard at the time of the evening apparition, I looked up and saw the sun suddenly behave in a way that was totally different from anything in my previous experience. I had seen sunsets in Hawaii. I had seen them in Colorado. I had seen them in California. I had seen them in Tanzania -- hard to beat those. I had seen them in New Zealand.

But this was totally different.

The sun spun and moved and threw bands of colors in an impossible wide aura and also around the mountain range below.

They were purples and pinks and blue and orange and a melding of colors not of this earth, at least not in my experience.

When I dashed up to a couple walking in front of me to ask if they were seeing the same thing, it turned out to be the famous Miami football coach Don Shula and his wife (who was equally excited).

Stars moved in the night sky. At one point, a dozen of us took turns watching a star as it continuously and indisputably split into three smaller stars (blue, red, and white), then went back to a single one.

We watched that for fifteen minutes (with binoculars).

I could go on. I was spoken to. On other visits, I saw more remarkable things. I saw a cross of light stream down from the sun and touch a field in front of me. I saw more sun miracles. I saw a huge dove-like light rise from between the towers of the church (observing it from various angles for more than ten minutes on the feast of the Assumption). Most importantly, I saw dramatic conversions -- and felt a peace unlike any I had ever encountered (such that "peace" meant something wholly different from my first visit onward).

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