Introduction to the messages
A Short History of Our Lady’s Apparitions in Medjugorje
Dr. Fr. Ljudevit Rupčić, ofm
The First Day
For quite a while now, in Medjugorje (Čitluk, Bosnia-Herzegovina), six trustworthy witnesses testify firmly under oath that since June 24, 1981, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the „Gospa“ as she is affectionately known as here, appears to them every day up to the present.
On the said date at approximately six o’clock in the evening, in the area of Crnica hill known as Podbrdo, the children, Ivanka Ivanković, Mirjana Dragićević, Vicka Ivanković, Ivan Dragićević, Ivan Ivanković and Milka Pavlović saw an incredibly beautiful young woman with a little child in her arms. She didn’t say anything to them but indicated with gestures that they should come closer. Surprised and frightened, they were afraid to come near, even though they immediately thought her to be Our Lady.
The Second Day
On the second day, June 25, 1981, the children agreed to meet once again at the same place that Our Lady had previously appeared in, in the hope of seeing her again. All of a sudden there was a flash of light. The children looked up and saw Our Lady, this time without the child. She was smiling and joyful and was indescribably beautiful. With her hands she gestured to them to come closer. The children braced themselves and went up to her. They immediately fell to their knees and began to pray the „Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be”. Our Lady prayed together with them except for when they prayed the „Hail Mary”.
After the prayer she began to speak with the children. Ivanka, first of all, asked her about her mother who had died two months previously. And Mirjana asked Our Lady for some sign to be given to show to the people that they were neither lying nor crazy, as some people had said.
Our Lady finally left the children with the words, „God be with you my angels!” Before that, when the children asked her if they would see her the following day, she replied by nodding her head.
According to the visionaries, the whole encounter was indescribable. On that day two of the children which made up the previous group were missing: Ivan Ivanković and Milka Pavlović. They were replaced by two others: Marija Pavlović and Jakov Čolo. And from that day onwards according to these six children, Our Lady regularly appears to them. Milka Pavlović and Ivan Ivanković, who were present on the first day of apparitions, did not see Our Lady again, even though, later, they joined the other visionaries in the hope of seeing her.
The Third Day
On June 26, 1981, the children full of anticipation waited at around six o’clock, which was when she previously appeared. They were going towards the same place, to meet her there. They were very happy, although their joy was mixed with fear wondering what would be the outcome of all this. Despite all this, the children could feel some sort of inner strength attracting them to meet with Our Lady.
Suddenly, while the children were still on their way, a light flashed three times. To them and to those following them, it was a sign indicating Our Lady’s whereabouts. On that third day Our Lady appeared even higher up than on the previous days. All at once Our Lady disappeared. But when the children began to pray, she reappeared. She was cheerful and smiling serenely and once again her beauty was overwhelming.
As they left their houses some older women advised them to carry holy water with them to make sure that it was not of Satan. When they were with Our Lady, Vicka took the water and splashed it in the direction of the vision saying, „If you are Our Blessed Mother, please stay, and if you are not, go away from us“. Our Lady smiled at this and remained with the children. Then Mirjana asked her name and she replied, „I am the Blessed Virgin Mary“.
On the same day, coming down Podbrdo, Our Lady appeared one more time, this time however only to Maria saying, „Peace, peace, peace and only peace.“ Behind her, Maria could see a cross. After which Our Lady repeated, in tears, the following words, „Peace must reign between man and God, and between all people!” The area where this took place is about half way up to the apparition site.
The Fourth Day
On June 27, 1981, Our Lady appeared three times to the children. On that occasion the children asked all kinds of questions and Our Lady responded. For priests, she gave this message. „May the priests firmly believe and may they take care of the faith of the people!“ Once again, Jakov and Mirjana asked for a sign, because the people had begun to accuse them of lying and of taking drugs. „Do not be afraid of anything“, Our Lady replied.
Before parting, when asked if she would come again, she indicated that she would. On the way down Podbrdo, Our Lady appeared one more time to say goodbye with the words, „May God be with you my angels, go in peace!“
The Fifth Day
On June 28, 1981, big crowds were gathering from all parts even from the early hours of the morning. By noon there were about fifteen thousand people. On the same day, the parish priest, Fr. Jozo Zovko, examined the children on what they had seen and heard in the previous days.
At the usual time Our Lady appeared again. The children prayed with her, and afterwards they questioned her. Vicka, for example, asked, „My dear Lady, what do you want from us? What do you want from our priests?” Our Lady replied, „The people should pray and firmly believe!” Regarding priests, she replied that they should believe firmly and help others to do the same.
On that day Our Lady came and went many times. During one of these times the children asked her why she doesn’t appear in the Parish Church for everyone to see. She replied, „Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe“.
Even though the crowds were pushing them with their questions and curiosities and the day was heavy and sultry, the children felt as though they were in heaven.
The Sixth Day
On June 29, 1981, the children were taken to Mostar for a medical examination after which they were proclaimed „healthy“. The statement of the head doctor was: „The children aren’t crazy, the person who brought them here must be, though“…
The crowds on Apparition Hill that day were greater than ever. As soon as the children arrived at the usual place and began to pray, Our Lady appeared. On that occasion the Blessed Mother exhorted them to have faith saying, „The people should believe firmly and have no fear“.
On that day, a doctoress who was following and observing them, during the apparition desired to touch Our Lady. The children guided her hand to the place where Our Lady’s shoulder was, and she felt a tingling sensation. The doctor, even though an atheist had to admit that, „Here, something strange is happening!”
On that same day, a child by the name of Danijel Šetka was miraculously healed. His parents had brought him to Medjugorje, praying specifically for a healing. Our Lady had promised that this would come about if the parents prayed and fasted and strongly believed. The child thereupon was healed.
The Seventh Day
On June 30, 1981, two young girls suggested to the children to go by car further away to be able to stroll in peace. In fact, their intention was to take them far away from the area and keep them there until after the usual apparition time had passed. However, even though the children were far away from Podbrdo, at the usual time of the apparition, it was as if an interior call prompted them to ask to be let out of the car. As soon as they did, and said a prayer, Our Lady drew near to them, from the direction of Podbrdo, which was now over a kilometre away, and prayed seven „Our Fathers“ with them… And so the girls’ trick had no effect. Soon after this the police began to hinder the children and the pilgrims going on Podbrdo, the site of apparitions. The children, and soon afterwards even the crowds were forbidden to go there. But Our Lady continued to appear to them in secret places, in their homes and in the fields. The children had already gained confidence, and openly spoke with Our Lady, eagerly seeking her advice, listening to her warnings and messages. The events of Medjugorje continued in this fashion up until January 15, 1982.
The Apparitions Continue
In the meantime, the parish priest began to host the pilgrims in the Church, enabling them to participate in the Rosary and to celebrate the Eucharist. The children would also come and pray the Rosary. Our Lady sometimes appeared to them in the church at that time. Even the parish priest himself saw Our Lady once while praying the Rosary. Immediately he broke off praying and spontaneously started to sing a popular hymn: „Lijepa si, lijepa, Djevo Marijo“ – „O how beautiful you are, Most Blessed Virgin Mary“. The whole church could see that something unusual was happening to him. Afterwards he stated that he had seen her. And so, he who up until then had not only been doubtful, but openly against even rumours of the apparitions, became their defender. He testified his support of the apparitions even to the point of serving a prison sentence.
From January 15, 1982, onwards the children saw Our Lady in a closed off area of the Parish Church. The parish priest arranged this because of the newly arisen difficulties and sometimes even dangers, which provided themselves for the visionaries. Previously the children had ensured that this was in accord with Our Lady’s wishes. Because of the prohibitions of the Diocesan Bishop however, from April 1985 onwards the children abandoned the area of the church as an apparition site. Instead, they went to a room in the Parish house.
All this time, from the beginning of the apparitions up until today, there have only been five days when none of the children saw Our Lady.
Our Lady didn’t always appear in the same place either, nor to the same group or individuals, nor did her apparitions always last a specified period of time. Sometimes the apparitions lasted two minutes, sometimes an hour. Neither did Our Lady appear at the children’s will. Sometimes they prayed and waited but Our Lady didn’t appear until a little while afterwards, unexpectedly and unforewarned. And sometimes she appeared to one and not to the others. If she hadn’t promised an appointed time, nobody knew when she would appear, or if she would appear. Neither did she appear always to just the aforesaid visionaries, but to others also of different age, stature, race, education and walks of life. All this suggests that the apparitions are not a product of the imagination. It depends neither on time nor place, nor desire nor the prayer of a pilgrim or visionary, but moreover on the will of the One who appears.
According to the united testimony of the visionaries, Our Lady on the occasion of her apparition gave a series of messages, to be transmitted to the people. Even though there are many messages, they can however be summarized in five themes, because all the messages basically underline or lead up to these five.
Already on the third day, Our Lady stressed peace as the first of her messages: „Peace, peace, peace and only peace!“, after which she said twice, „Peace must reign between God and man and between people“. Considering that Marija could see a cross when Our Lady gave this message, the obvious conclusion is that this peace comes from God. God, who through Our Lady in Christ became „our peace” (Eph 2:14). „For He is the peace between us“... This peace, „the world cannot give“ (Jn 14:27) and that is why Christ commanded His apostles to bring it to the world (Mt 10:11) so that all men could become „sons of peace“ (Lk 10:6). That is why Our Lady as Queen of Apostles in Medjugorje specifically refers to herself as „Queen of Peace“. Who better than she can more successfully convince today’s world, which is faced with the threat of destruction, how great and how necessary peace is.
The second of Our Lady’s messages is faith. Already on the fourth, fifth and sixth day of apparitions, Our Lady exhorted those present to have strong faith. Understandably, she repeated this message many times. Without faith we cannot arrive at peace! Not only this but faith is in itself an answer to God’s Word, in which God not only reveals Himself, but actually gives Himself to us. When we believe, we accept God’s Word, which in Christ became „our peace“ (Eph 2:14). Accepting it, the individual becomes a new creature, with a new life of Christ within, and a share in God’s nature (1 Pet 1:4, Eph 2:18). In this way the individual ensures peace with God and with others.
Once again there is no one who can better understand the necessity and efficaciousness of faith than Our Lady. That’s why she stressed it on every occasion and charged the visionaries to bring the light of faith to others. Our Lady presented faith as an answer to everything, no matter what people were looking for. She presented it as the pre-requisite of all prayer, desires and demands, relating it to health, wholeness and to all other human necessities.
Conversion was another one of Our Lady’s frequent messages. This presupposes that she noticed either a weakness or a complete lack of faith in humanity today. And without conversion it is impossible to achieve peace. True conversion means the purifying or cleansing of the heart (Jer 4:14), because a corrupt or „deteriorated” heart is the basis of bad relations, which in turn brings social disorder, unjust laws, base constitutions etc. Without a radical change of heart, without the conversion of the heart, there is no peace. For this reason, Our Lady continually suggests frequent confession. The request is directed to all without differentiation because, „not one of us is just“… „all have wandered, not one does right“ (Rom 3:11-12).
Almost daily, from the fifth day of apparitions onwards Our Lady recommends prayer. She requests everyone to „pray without ceasing“ just as Christ himself taught (Mk 9:29, Mt 9:38, Lk 11:5-13). Prayer, therefore, stimulates and strengthens our faith, without which our relationship with God is disordered, as is our relationship with each other. Prayer also reminds us of how close God is to us even in our daily lives. In prayer we acknowledge Him, we give Him thanks for His gifts to us, and we are filled with a hopeful expectancy of that which we need, but particularly our redemption. Prayer solidifies the equilibrium of the individual, and aids us in our „ordered relationship with God”, without which it is impossible to maintain peace either with God or with our neighbour.
Prayer finds its justification especially in the fact that the Word of the Lord was addressed to man and that man must respond to it with words. Our response should be „spoken faith“ or „prayer“. In prayer, faith animates, renews, strengthens and sustains itself. In addition to this, man’s prayer really bears witness to the Gospel, and to the existence of God, thus provoking a response of faith in others.
Starting from the sixth day of the apparitions, Our Lady often recommended fasting because it aids faith. That is, the practice of fasting aids and ensures control over oneself. Only the person who can dominate himself is truly free, and is capable of abandoning himself to God and to his neighbour, as faith demands. Fasting guarantees him that his abandonment to faith is secure and sincere. It helps him to free himself from every slavery, but especially from slavery to sin. Whoever is not in possession of oneself is in some way enslaved. Therefore fasting helps the individual to restrain himself from disordered pleasure seeking which easily leads to a futile and useless existence often wasteful of the very goods which are necessary to others just for basic survival.
With fasting we also retrieve the good which can bring to life a love for the poor and the destitute, and thus at least to a certain point alleviate the differences between the rich and the poor. It therefore heals the wants of the poor and also heals the excesses and over-indulgence of others. And in its own way, it gives a dimension of peace which today in a special way, is threatened by the difference in the lifestyles of the rich and the poor (e.g. North and South).
To sum up, we can say that Our Lady’s messages underline that peace is the greatest good, and that faith, conversion, prayer and fasting are the means by which we can attain it.
Outside of the five messages which, as we have said, are the main messages which Our Lady gave to the whole world at the beginning, from March 1, 1984, mainly through the visionary Marija Pavlović, she started to give special messages every Thursday to the Parish of Medjugorje and to the pilgrims who come. Our Lady therefore, in addition to the six visionaries, chose the Parish of Medjugorje together with the pilgrims who come here to be her collaborators and witnesses. This is clear from the first of the Thursday messages, where she says: „I am choosing this parish in a special way and I want to guide it“. She emphasized this once again when she said, „I am choosing this parish in a special way, which is dearer to me than others, where I joyfully went when the Almighty sent me“ (March 25, 1985). Our Lady gave a reason too for her choice saying: „Convert, you who are in the parish, this is my second wish. In that way, all those who come here will convert“ (March 8, 1984). „I am asking you, especially the members of this parish, to live my messages“ (August 16, 1984). First of all the parishioners and the pilgrims should become witnesses of her apparitions and her messages, so that we can then unite with her and the visionaries in the realization of her plan for conversion of the world and reconciliation with God.
Our Lady well knows the weaknesses and the nature of the parishioners and pilgrims with whom she wishes to collaborate in the salvation of the world. She is aware of the need for supernatural strength. That is why she leads them to the fount of that strength. This primarily is prayer. She ardently and continuously exhorts us to pray. Of all prayer, she especially stresses the Holy Mass (March 7, 1985; May 16, 1985) and recommends continuous devotion to the Blessed Sacrament (March 15, 1984). She also encourages devotion to the Holy Spirit (June 2, 1984; June 9, 1984; April 11, 1985; May 23, 1988, etc.) and the reading of the Sacred Scripture (September 8, 1984; February 14, 1985).
With these special messages to the parish and its pilgrims, Our Lady wishes for the first messages, which in the beginning were intended for the whole world, to be deepened, made more acceptable and understandable to others.
From January 25, 1987, Our Lady began to give the message on the 25th of every month instead of every Thursday, through the visionary Marija Pavlović. This continues to this day.