Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More on Medj

I am not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, on the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje or apparitions in general. I have not been to Medjugjore. However, I have researched Medj and that, combined with discussions I've had with other people have made me a skeptic of the alleged apparitions.

It should also be noted that skepticism is not a bad thing, though it may become sour if it turns into simple bull-headedness. Such as if I were to continue to reject Medj even if the Vatican were to declare it legit. I have said though that I will accept whatever the Church decides on the matter.

Because I am not an expert on this topic (and even if I were) it is not my intention to prove or disprove the alleged apparitions. I am merely stating the case for my skepticism. Though this post is mainly in response to a comment left by Timothy, in no way am I attacking his position. I simply intend to answer his protests to the best of my ability. I should also apologize beforehand for the length that I fear this post will go too.

Let us start with this passage from an an excellent (and unbiased) article on Medj which can be found here, from the EWTN website:

Catholics may go to Medjugorje. Such pilgrimages may even include priests acting as chaplains, as opposed to officially sponsoring them. Also, the Church has not suppressed discussion of Medjugorje, therefore, it is allowed. Common sense, however, says that Catholics on both sides of the Medjugorje issue should exercise prudence and charity in speaking of others who believe differently. Medjugorje is not a litmus test of orthodoxy, though every Catholic will have a moral obligation to accept the judgement of Rome, in the manner Pope Benedict explained, should it ever be rendered.

Though I am skeptical of much of what is happening at Medjugorje, I do not doubt that something is happening there. Obviously there are many good things happening as a result of Medj - such as people finding their faith. Regardless of whether the apparitions are real or not, from what I understand there exists an aura of holiness around the site. My qualm is whether or not the apparitions are real, not whether good things are happening there or not, for surely they are.

Timothy, in your comment you bring up the "miracles" that have been occurring there. And as you say, how do we explain the "miracles" other than by saying that they are just that, miraculous. However, I think you are mistaken when you use the "miracles" as proof that Mary is appearing there. It may be proof that something is happening, but it does not mean that the apparitions are real or that they come from Mary. They may very well be from heaven (though not necessarily from God) and they may very well be angelic, but keep in mind, as the following EWTN article points out, demons are angelic creatures as well.

Mystical Phenomena. The presence of remarkable phenomena is for many sufficient evidence of the validity of an alleged apparition. For others the judgment by local Church authority that there is no evidence of supernaturality at a site suggests fraud, mental illness or the demonic. The Church for her part, however, takes great care before affirming the certain supernaturality or non-supernaturality of phenomena. . . There are likewise few examples of outright condemnation. When they do occur it is usually on the basis of doctrine which is contrary to the faith.

The reasons for such caution are rooted in the Church's common teaching. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross both assert that as a general rule mystical phenomena (whether in the lives of saints or in apparitions) are the work of the angels. Unless God Himself needs to act to immediately produce an effect (such as to create out of nothing or to infuse sanctifying grace into the soul), He works through creaturely instruments. Thus the intellectual lights granted in contemplative prayer, the visions and locutions of private revelations, the levitations of the saints, the ecstasies of mystics and visionaries, and most external phenomena associated with mysticism, are produced by the angelic nature. Since both good and evil spirits possess the angelic nature the presence of such phenomena alone is an equivocal sign of authenticity. This means that a great deal of unexplained phenomena can occur without indicating positively that the event is from God. This is why the Church looks, among other things, for evident supernaturality, that is, for effects beyond the ability of men or angels which can be attributed to God alone.

Theologians remain divided in judging which phenomena fall clearly into the category of strict supernaturality. However, the practice of the Church in the canonization process of recognizing as miraculous those cures which meet certain strict criteria is a standard that has been applied in approving apparitions, as well (e.g. Lourdes, Beauraing, Banneux). At Fátima the Miracle of Sun likewise fell into the category of a natural prodigy. It is clear, however, that the phenomena which many laity have experienced in connection with alleged apparitions in our days, and which they consider to be proof that they are authentic, do not in fact rise to the level of evident supernaturality. Angelic or demonic activity would be sufficient to explain them. Without a proof of the supernatural order there is little likelihood of the Church affirming an apparition as authentic.

In the case of Medjugorje the commissions found that nothing directly connected with the apparition met this strict standard. As the earlier quoted statements show, the Church remains open to new evidence of supernaturality should it occur and has not judged that Medjugorje is NOT supernatural, much less condemned it.

Timothy also brings up the point of the content of "Mary's" messages: "the Blessed Mother in Her apparitions focuses on being devout to Christ and His Church." I take you at your word on this as I have not personally read the messages. Obviously if they were anything but faithful, we would not be having this discussion. However, you have missed a crucial step. You are still assuming (I do not mean that to sound harsh) that the someone or something is actually appearing to the visionaries. If this is the case, then I believe you are correct, it is not of Satan. Here I think I must make my skepticism more clear: my doubt is as to whether there is anything appearing to the visionaries, not just whether what may be appearing is of heaven or hell. That being said, if the visionaries are "making this up" then the content of their message means little.

And as far as ecclesiastical obedience goes, there seems to be something lacking in that department as well:

Bishop Perić reminded his people of the restrictions that he has imposed on activities in Medjugorje. The parish church is not formally a "shrine," he said, and should not be characterized as such. Pilgrimages to the church are discouraged. Priests there are "not authorized to express their private views contrary to the official position of the Church on the so-called 'apparitions' and 'messages,' during celebrations of the sacraments, nor during other common acts of piety, nor in the Catholic media."

The bishops urged the "seers" of Medjugorje to "demonstrate ecclesiastical obedience and to cease with these public manifestations and messages in this parish." [They did not. -Me]

Some of the Franciscan priests assigned to the Medjugorje parish, he said, have been expelled from their order because of their refusal to accept Church authority. "They have not only been illegally active in these parishes, but they have also administered the sacraments profanely, while others invalidly," he said. As Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, he said, he felt obliged to warn the faithful "who invalidly confess their sins to these priests and participate in sacrilegious liturgies."

As I have mentioned previously, one of my biggest problems with Medj is the fact that it makes no sense (to me) that the visions do not stop, as that is the only way for the site to become approved. Would Medj not bear much more fruit if it became official? Timothy, I believe you gently rebuked me by saying "Who are we to question how the Blessed Mother chooses to appear?" I think it's a slippery slope when we start to say, "who are we to..." Should we question nothing merely because we are inferior to God? If that were the case I think we would live in a vastly different world. The fact is, Mary has appeared before, and based on those official apparitions She has set a precedent. And frankly, Medjugorje is very different from the other apparitions. Granted, that in itself is not much, Mary could decide to appear any way She pleases, but by doing so the way She allegedly has at Medj, much discord has been sown.

For example, at Fatima Our Lady appeared only six times from May to October of one year and at Lourdes She appeared only 18 times from January to July of only one year. But at Medj She has now allegedly appeared over 40,000 times over the span of almost 30 years! Again, this is not enough to "debunk" Medj but it is enough to add to my skepticism.

Timothy, you also made this comment:
If we as Catholics believe in the presence of the Lord in each of the millions of Eucharistic Hosts presented throughout time and throughout the world, how is it so difficult to believe that His Mother would appear and give us messages of hope, love and a path to Her Son?
To which I would say that I do not find it difficult that Mary would appear and give us messages. What I do find difficult to believe is that She is appearing at Medjugorje. I respect your position that the apparitions are real at Medjugorje, I just cannot bring myself to believe it - based on what I know. Though I can't say this enough, I will accept the Church's ruling.

One final question, Timothy. What was it about Medj that brought you into the Church? Was it the message of the seers or the atmosphere of the place, or some other aspect? And - please keep an open-mind - if the Vatican were to officially rule that the apparitions were not real, what would your response be, seeing as how you were brought into the Church because of Medj?

More Links to happenings at Medjugorje:





Timothy said...

Hi Marcus,

I'm not going to get into a long, drawn out debate over Medjugorje with you. I know your position and I am not on a mission to change that opinion. But I will elaborate a bit more on my experience.

For over 25 years, I was agnostic. Pursuing my PhD in Science and Engineering only strengthened my rationale view of life and the Universe. I went to Mass with my wife often but was closed to the Holy Spirit. My wife, who had been to Medjugorje before we were married, had tried for 20 years to get me to go. I thought the whole thing was a novelty. If I didn't appreciate Mass, how was Medjugorje going to be any different? But my wife was persistent and I finally did go, kicking and screaming, in Oct 2007.

So what happened to me? Several things. Outwardly, it was meeting and interacting with the visionaries themselves that was initially compelling. Jakov especially since the apparitions started for him when he was 10 years old. From my analysis of these visionaries, there was absolutely no likelihood of these 6 young people carrying on such an elaborate hoax for 28 years - especially under duress from the communist government and the Parish priests.

More importantly however was the inward transformation - a deep seated change that I feel to this very day. There is a continuous presence that is very difficult for me to articulate. The closest I can come is to describe it as immense love. This presence developed slowly over time while I was at Medjugorje. By the time I was to leave Medjguorje, I didn't want to go. When I got home, I had to go to Mass during the weekday as well as on Sundays. I didn't understand why I was so compelled to go and didn't even understand the Mass completely until I went through RCIA the following year. There were other very subtle "signs" specific for me that I won't elaborate on here.

I want to be clear that I don't go around dwelling solely on Medjugorje. Medjugorje was like a beautiful gateway for me to the Lord's house. In joining the Catholic Church, I truly feel that I have come home. Since returning I've heard of countless examples, similar to mine, where skeptics have been converted at Medjugorje. I testify to you that these conversions are not due to outward signs but to inward transformations. Unless one is open to the Holy Spirit, one cannot understand this.

For me, my faith will always be connected to Medjguorje. I have no concern about the Vatican and Medjugorje because I know the Vatican recognizes the good being done there. To me, recent events indicate that the Vatican is "cleaning house" to prepare the way for Medjugorje to become an official Shrine to Our Lady.

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to express my faith about Medjugorje on your forum. I know you will likely disagree but for me, it is not a rationale debate anymore. All I can say is I know what gift of faith I was given at Medjugorje.

God Bless

Marcus Toft said...

Brother, thank you for sharing your conversion story with me and any who happen to read this. I thank God that you have been given such a gift of faith and that it has lead you into the Church. Because our experiences, and therefore our perspectives, are so different on the subject I think our positions are unlikely to change, as I'm sure you'll agree. Nonetheless, for all my skepticism Medj has brought you home and I am thankful for that. As you said yourself, I am not trying to change your opinion but merely to state my own. I hope you will continue to visit my blog so we can have further discussions. God bless Timothy.

Timothy said...

Thank you Marcus. I'm probably belaboring the point here but this video which I just found today depicts typical conversions happening at Medjugorje and is very similar to my experience.


This will be my last comment on this topic and I will continue to visit your blog for discussions on other topics that I'm sure we will be more aligned on.

Amy said...

Timothy and Marcus...
I just wanted to thank both of you for your witness and truth. Medj and other sites have led to a lot of my own questions but thanks to both of you, I have come to some conclusions:
1. I reserve any opinion concerning the authenticity of the sites for the Vatican
2. I am thankful for Medj and other sites because it is calling people to prayer. The messages of Medj are essentially a call to fast and pray. No matter the conclusion, if one more soul was inspired or changed through Medj then Praise God. From what I can tell, there have been a few more than one.
So Timothy, I'm thankful for sharing your experience. I'm thankful that you have discovered a deep relationship with Christ and have chosen to be a witness for Him. And Marcus, I'm thankful for your reminders that it is Christ who is at the center and we are merely His instruments and that Medj too can be an instrument.
Again, thank you both for helping me with this and being instruments of our Faith.
God bless you both.