Sunday 27 November 2022

What is happening at Medjugorje - David Baldwin - Catholic Truth Society

What is happening at Medjugorje?
David Baldwin
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860821738
eISBN 9781784692797
CTS Booklet D657

This was the first volume I have read by David Baldwin that is not part of the Christian Shrines Series. Over the last few years, I have read over 300 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I have greatly enjoyed many of the books in the Christian Shrines Series, about half of which were by David. But I approached this volume with some trepidation. I have heard very mixed things about this site. I have heard first hand testimonies praising and criticizing these events.

The description of this volume is:

“What is happening there, and what the Church has said about it. This booklet charts the events at Medjugorje from 1981 to 2002, and the claims that apparitions of Our Lady have taken place there and continue to this day. It describes how the Church authorities have responded to such claims and developments over the years, and sets out the Church's position regarding claims of the supernatural, and the guidance offered concerning pilgrimages there. It describes a visit to Medjugorje itself, and addresses the variety of opinion surrounding this recent phenomenon in the Catholic Church.”

The chapters in the booklet are:

Apparitions, Visions, Dreams
The Church’s Position
Events: 1981 - 2002
Medjugorje Message
To Go, Or Not To Go?
Personal Pilgrimage And Fruits

This volume was first published in 2002 and the eBook edition was released in 2017. I highlighted several passages my first time through this volume. Some of them are:

“Medjugorje! To some, this very foreign name may mean nothing; to others, maybe a vague undefined notion of some mysterious happenings in a distant country - probably best avoided. To some others, who may be aware of what is being reported out of Medjugorje, emotions ranging from simple scepticism to active disbelief. To many others, a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, prompted by reported appearances over the past years in this little-known Balkan village. It is a name, however, that is gradually gaining prominence in the Catholic consciousness, not only for what it has brought - and continues to bring - but also for the questions, disquiet, and indeed confusion that has come with it”

“For it is here that Our Lady - Gospa in Croatian - has, since 1981, been reported as regularly ‘appearing in apparition’ to six local young people. These alleged ‘appearances’ have given rise to a constant stream of ‘messages’ which are passed and avidly read round the world, as well as to a declaration of ‘ten secrets’ to the ‘visionaries’ which will be revealed to the world within their life time.”

“To the Church itself, however, weighing the evidence of the tangible, visible fruits and the reported claims of supernatural elements, it is proving to be a test of caution and prudence in the face of some controversy. This process has been complicated by an unforeseen popular desire that the ‘apparitions’ be officially recognised and approved by the Church.”

“The Church’s current position, however, is quite clear: “On the basis of investigations so far it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations” (the Zadar Declaration of 1991). It does, however, leave the matter open to further investigation and assessment - after events at Medjugorje have clearly ceased.”

“Many of the apparitions reported from time to time from all over the world are more often disowned or ignored by the Church - usually for heretical content - at an early stage. But this particular event has been enduring for over twenty one years, and has had a profound effect - and continues to do so - on many people. It is against this rising interest over Medjugorje that an attempt to provide a popular, accurate and balanced account is given by this booklet. It does not presuppose, nor require, any former knowledge of Medjugorje. Its purpose is to explain the background to, and give a simple, unvarnished account of what is happening in Medjugorje, using authentic sources.”

“The booklet seeks neither to persuade nor dissuade, simply to inform.”

“There is no intention to contradict or undermine the position that the Church has adopted to date regarding Medjugorje, and this the reader is asked to bear in mind throughout the booklet. This particularly applies in the ‘Events’ and ‘Messages’ sections where a simple narrative style has been adopted to depict the reported details of the apparitions, messages and the so-called secrets.”

“In 1933 the parish priest and parishioners erected this 36 foot high, 15 ton reinforced concrete cross to “mark the 1900th anniversary of the Passion of Jesus”. All the building materials had to be lugged up this steep, stony hillside by hand, “old man and boy, youth and girl, they all competed to do as much as they could to realise this holy act” notes the parish chronicle. Embedded in the concrete of the cross is a relic of the True Cross. These stout efforts, and the resultant cross give, strong testament to a village’s fidelity to the Lord their God.”

“Of the six, described at the time as, “representative of the village, neither good or bad, just like every one else”, only three of them were close friends. Whilst these were acquainted with the other three, they had little else in common, and indeed their initial coming together to witness and pass on their extraordinary experience initially frightened and confused them. The age range between them was also wide, the four girls of the group were between seventeen and fifteen, and the two boys were sixteen and ten at the time.”

“Since the beginning, the apparitions continued on a daily basis to all the children, until December 1982. Between then and 1998, three of the visionaries had their apparitions reduced to one a year and on ‘special occasions’, as well as having been given the ten secrets, leaving only three who now experience daily apparitions, and who await the tenth secret. Added to the initial six visionaries in 1983 were two ten year old girls who started having, and still experience, locutions - reportedly hearing messages from Our Lady.”

“Once the ‘apparitions’ and related activities have ceased the challenge may be made even more demanding, when the limitations of human cognisance, in further painstaking investigation, aided by prayer and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, may have to re-address the events at Medjugorje and make further declarations if necessary.”

“Corporeal visions are therefore what can more commonly be termed as apparitions, literally ‘appearances’, from the Latin apparitio, meaning ‘attendance’. As described above, they are “a sensible manifestation of God, an angel, a saint or any resurrected soul to a living person (or persons) on earth” (Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion).”

“In investigating reported apparitions the Church applies much the same thorough and painstaking process applied for beatification and canonisation. It was Pope Benedict XIV who insisted in his Encyclical ‘De Beatificatione et Canonizatione Servorum Dei’ that, “No phenomenon is to be attributed to a supernatural power until all possible natural or diabolical explanation has been investigated and excluded”. After being passed on by the parish priest to his bishop as being worthy of further examination, the evaluation process next involves an initial and thorough examination by a formal Commission raised by the diocesan bishop.”

“On the basis of the investigations so far it cannot be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations.”

“During the ten years leading up to the Zadar Declaration there were public, lengthy and at times heated debate over what was, or was not, going on at Medjugorje. A Commission of four members was set up by the Bishop of Mostar in January 1982 to examine the events in the parish of Medjugorje, with, unusually, himself as the leading member; it was enlarged at the beginning of 1984 to twenty people. The interim conclusions were that there was insufficient scientific documentation in support of reported healings, and that it disapproved of any organised pilgrimage to Medjugorje.”

“It should be noted that there is an emphasis that what is being said is urgent, and the faithful should heed this sense of urgency. The core message is a call to conversion, a conversion back to God.”

“To obtain the true and full meaning of this word we need to turn to the Catechism, which describes Conversion as, “interior repentance” which is “a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance towards the evil actions we have committed” (CCC 1431).”

“We are asked for monthly confession, with a clear explanation that it should not turn into a monthly habitual ritual, “Confession should give impulse to your faith. It should stimulate you and bring you closer to Jesus. If confession does not mean anything for you, really, you will be converted with real difficulty”.”

““Let the Holy Mass be your life”, is the unequivocal message regarding the fifth weapon of salvation, the Holy Eucharist. Vicka tells us that Our Lady sees the Mass as “the most important and most holy moment in our lives. We have to be prepared and pure to receive Jesus with a great respect. The Mass should be the centre of our lives”. The messages lament the fact that, “You do not celebrate the Eucharist as you should.””

“Hope, that the experience would help to strengthen my faith. Open-mindedness that my newly rediscovered and regenerated faith would sustain a non-judgemental approach until the evidence, one way or another, had been revealed and could be evaluated. As for that nagging scepticism, it would have to be actively confronted on a daily basis and weighed against the evidence, rather than conveniently buried and ignored.”

Those few quotes should give you a feel for this volume. But it is a little dated in that the information is 20 years old now. From reading this volume David Baldwin appears to be convinced of the validity of these appearances. I myself and still on the fence. And I appreciate that as a Catholic I do not have to accept them, or any of the apparitions. Though I do have personal devotion to a few of them. I understand that Pope Saint John Pail II and Pope Benedict XVI both had grave concerns about this site. But only time will tell. 

It is a good read. It did not really answer any of my concerns. But I greatly enjoyed Baldwin’s other volumes for the Catholic Truth Society so wanted to give it a read.  

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by David Baldwin:

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