Medjugorje and the New Evangelisation
Date: August 2, 2005 , Originally published November 10, 2001
Author: Dr. fra Ivan Dugandzic, OFM
Category: Theology reports , Medjugorje in the Catholic Church
Content of the article
The context of Medjugorje in the Church and in time
Medjugorje, in other words, that which is understood when the name of that small parish in Herzegovina is mentioned today, has already for seventeen-years a long and stormy, but above all, an unpredictable history. Because who seventeen years ago could have anticipated that the claim of the children to have seen Our Lady would reach to the furthermost parts of the world, and that the parish of Medjugorje would grow into one of the most distinctive shrines and develop such a dynamic spiritual movement before which no one can any longer remain indifferent. The experience of the group of children on Podbrdo hill in Bijakovici, accompanied by numerous messages and their tireless witnessing, has long ago outgrown them and the parish, as well as the local Church and has become a spiritual phenomenon of worldwide proportions. The children have long ago grown up. Most of them today are family people. And the small parish has become the meeting place of millions of pilgrims from the whole world. Among them are many who witness to having again found in Medjugorje a lost faith or to having quickened an already dormant faith. So many have again discovered the value of the sacrament of reconciliation, the depth and beauty of a live celebration of the Eucharist, and hearing of the word of God. Others again testify to physical healings for which medicine has no explanation. Inspired and animated by the Medjugorje events, numerous prayer groups as well as even completely new religious communities have originated in the parish itself and elsewhere. Meanwhile, many young men, who claim to have received the seed of their vocation precisely in Medjugorje, have found their way into the priesthood.
If we take all of this as the good fruits of Medjugorje, then the word of the wise Gamaliel that a work of God cannot be destroyed (cf. Acts 5:39) has already been fulfilled here. The fact is that both the visionaries and their parents, as well as the parish with its priests, have from the very beginning been exposed to pressures and threats by the authorities who wanted to extinguish everything, but they, even at the price of persecution, did not yield. In the beginning, the bishop was well disposed to the events only later on incomprehensibly to turn against them. Pressured by public opinion rather than by the real will to authenticate which spirit is operating in Medjugorje, the Bishops' Conference attempted to be even-handed by accepting Medjugorje as a shrine, while at the same time emphasizing that it is necessary to continue studying the phenomenon still further. Such a position of the bishops is logical only on the presupposition that at the current stage of events and investigations they are still not able to render either a positive judgment or much less so a negative judgment because if they had real reasons, they would have at least had to render a negative judgment immediately. Confusion was later on introduced by statements of individual members of the Bishops' Conference, which might have been understood in the sense that there is nothing at all supernatural in Medjugorje. That had as a consequence that Christian lay people in great numbers have been attracted to Medjugorje, but not also the hierarchy. And so the question of recognition by the official Church has been continuously brought up by the media. It should be said that this question is most often asked by those who know nothing at all about the nature of such phenomena, nor how the Church should relate to them. For the present time this is the ecclesiastical context in which the Medjugorje events are unfolding.
In order to comprehend the significance and far reaching quality of these events, the context of the time in which these events are unfolding is equally important. When the apparitions started, the end of an almost century long dictatorship of atheistic communism was on the horizon and it did soon happen. That presented one of the greatest spiritual challenges to mankind today, not only because of the collapse of the illusion of a happy classless society and the equality of all people, but still more so due to the condition of mind and spirit of hundreds of millions of people who were for generations brought up without God and without true spiritual values. On the other hand, the part of mankind that was beyond the range of communism had in the second half of this century been overtaken by a never before seen wave of hedonism which in a flood of drugs and pan-sexualism, free of taboos and boundaries, brings deadly fruits for the whole of mankind, even endangering its further survival. That is the context in time in which the Medjugorje apparitions are unfolding. These are warning signs. And Jesus already warned his contemporaries how important it is to recognize the signs of the time (cf. Mt 16:3). That, to be sure, the Church of our times is also on principle doing at the highest level, in the Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes, no. 4), but it seems that there are not enough people in the Church to take these warnings seriously. But people keen of spirit have in Medjugorje recognized God's response to the needs and anxieties of our times. That is valid also for the numerous theologians, priests and bishops who, having recognized here the work of God, were not afraid also to openly give witness to that, some even with very solid studies and books.
Consequently, we must not look at Medjugorje as some isolated island to which we will retreat escaping from the world in which one can no longer hold out, looking for a substitute for the Church which is failing to orientate itself to a world the way it today is at the end of the twentieth century. On the contrary, Medjugorje is happening in the midst of a modern world, which needs God in order to have any future at all. It is happening in the Church in order to startle it from being confused in face of the great modern challenges and to animate within it the spirit of its beginnings. It seems that the profound meaning of the Medjugorje events is not in just one more spiritual movement originating in the Church in addition to many others, but to set the Church as such into motion and that it recognizes its mission in the world of today, to comprehend its responsibility for the future of the world, which for various reasons has been brought into question. Naturally, that will be the reaction only of the one who understands that something good can come even from insignificant Nazareth (cf. John 1:46) and that God always acts through the little and insignificant ones.