Every day, pilgrims
come from all over the world to the little village of Medugorje, near
Mostar, despite government opposition and Papal caution. The events
of four years ago in this small Yugoslavian village have made thousands
of people turn to religion and have revitalized Christianity there.
Late in the afternoon of 24 June 1981, two young girls went for a walk.
On their way home, one of the girls, Ivanka, saw a bright figure on
a hill nearby. She immediately called to her friend: "Mirjana, look,
the Madonna!" Mirjana replied: "Come on, do you really think the Madonna
would appear to us?" Continuing on their way, they met Milka who reminded
them that the sheep had to be brought in. They returned with Milka to
where Ivanka had first seen the Madonna. This time she saw her holding
the infant Jesus in her arms; she called to Mirjana and Milka and they
A fourth girl, Vicka, used to spend most of her summer holidays with
her friend Ivanka. That same afternoon of 24 June she had arranged to
meet Ivanka, as they did every afternoon, to go for a walk. But that
day she came home tired and went to sleep. When she awoke her mother
told her that Ivanka and Marijana had left a message for her to go to
Jakov's house. Vicka went immediately and was told where to find her
friends. In an interview with Father Tomislav Vlasic she recounted what
happened there: "When I reached the road they were waving to me and
calling me to come. I was wearing slippers. When I reached them, Mirjana
said: "Look up there - the Madonna." I said: " What do you mean, the
Madonna? What's the matter with you?" I didn't look - I didn't even
bother to look. I kicked off my slippers and ran barefoot back along
the road. On my way I met Ivan Dragicevic and Ivan Ivankovic picking
apples. I said, "Ivan, the Madonna ÷ they say the Madonna has appeared
up there. Let's go there together. I'm afraid to go alone." "Of course
we'll go," said Ivan, "but why be scared?" I thought he wasn't afraid,
but when we got up there and I turned toward him to ask "Do you see
anything?" he had gone. I saw him running away. This was after 6.30.
It was raining slightly and beginning to get dark. I SAW IT. It was
very white: I saw a gown, dark hair. All the time she was covering and
uncovering something she held in her left hand. Then she called us to
come closer ÷ but who was going to do that?"
When the children returned to the village their parents teased them:
"You should have caught her." "Maybe it was a flying saucer." "Did she
send any greetings?" The following day ,the children took a few adults
up the hill thinking: "If we see her, OK; if not, what shall we do?"
They walked and talked, Ivanka leading the way. Suddenly she said: "Look
- the Madonna!" The Madonna called them up the hill. Vicka continued:
"We ran up quickly. It wasn't like walking on the ground ÷ we didn't
look for a path, we simply ran towards her. In five minutes we were
at the top. I was afraid. I was barefoot, but no thorns scratched me."
Ivanka was the first to talk to the Madonna. Her mother had died in
hospital two months before and Ivanka asked how she was. The Madonna
told her that her mother was with her and that Ivanka should not worry.
On this second day, the children prayed with the Madonna and recited
'Our Father'. "We didn't know what else to do. We were crying a little
and praying a little." The Madonna told them to recite three 'Our Fathers'
and three 'Hail Mary's'.
On this second day a permanent group of 'visionaries' spontaneously
formed itself. The members are Ivanka Ivankovic, Mirjana Dragicevic,
Vicka Ivankovic, Marija Pavlovic, Ivan Dragicevic and Jakov Colo. All
six of them claimed to have visions of the Madonna every day at about
6 o'clock. Today, only four of them still see Mary. Mirjana had her
last vision at Christmas 1982 and Ivanka saw her last in April this
Appearances in church
After the eighth day, the Virgin appeared several times in the rectory
of the parish church. Sites and dates become uncertain although the
visions continued on a daily basis. After 3 July 1983, details of specific
conversations with the Virgin are not known. The children were asked
to 'arrange' to have their visions in the church. Evening services were
held every day. in Medugorje but now also take place throughout the
day in several languages. The largest crowds come for the evening Mass
which begins at 7 o'clock. Evening services begin with recitation of
the Rosary, which is normally led by one of the priests. The church
has pews for only 600 people but sometimes as many as 80,000 have attended
the evening service. Young people from all over the world can be seen
sitting on the floor in Yoga positions with their eyes closed. During
Holy communion the Host is distributed by Franciscans both inside the
Church and outside. In a field near the church twenty to thirty priests
accept new converts.
The children say that they do not have the words describe the Madonna.
Her face is human but the beauty is divine. One of the children said,
"I could look at her and look at her, and look and look for ever." Her
voice, they say, is very pleasant, like beautiful music and she speaks
in perfect Croatian. The Madonna's messages are simple: peace, faith,
and prayer. Her answers are always wise as well as tactful and somehow
reminiscent of maternal love and caring.
The Madonna has given special messages to the children which they call
'secrets'. There are ten secrets, to do with the world, local church
and parish affairs, and some with the church as a whole. Only Mirjana
and Ivanka have received all ten secrets and the other children nine,
eight, or fewer. Three secrets are known by all of the children and
will be revealed only when the Madonna instructs them to do so. Indeed,
the children guard their secrets with the utmost tenacity, giving not
the slightest hint of their content. This confirms the authority of
the source of the secrets as well as the children's love and respect
for that source.
All six children have said that the Madonna has shown them Heaven, and
invited them to see Hell (which two of them asked not to see because
of their great fear). Vicka and Jakov say that they were taken to Heaven,
that they disappeared from earth for twenty minutes. The Madonna has
promised her 'angels', as she calls the children, that she will give
a 'great sign' to humanity. The children know what the sign will be
and the date. It will take place on the hill where she first appeared
to them. Many miraculous healings will be performed. Already 200 healings
have taken place in Medugorje.
The Yugoslav government opposes the story and one of the priests has
been imprisoned. Priests who have encountered trouble over it have turned
against it. Bishop Zanic of Mostar does not believe in the visions and
is harassing the Medugorje priests and the children. He points to the
political background of Hercegovina, to the children's subjective supernatural
experiences, and to similar cases throughout history. Even while the
Pope, bishops, and priests of all ranks and faiths are discussing Our
Lady, she appears to Ivanka in front of a cross of rainbow colours and,
in tears, urges: "Peace, peace, peace; reconcile yourselves. "
(A book on the Madonna of Medugorje can be obtained from the Franciscan
Herald Press, 1434 W 51st Street, Chicago, Illinois 60609, USA.)
( From Share International, November 1985 )