On June 24, 1981, the Feast of St. John the Baptist, the village was thrown into turmoil by an extraordinary happening. Two teenagers from Bijakovici were walking along a path by Podbrdo hill when they saw the shining silhouette of a young woman holding a baby in her arms. She covered and uncovered the child as if to reveal Him to the children.
One of them, Ivanka Ivankovic, 16, looked up in astonishment and stared at the light. She exclaimed to her friend Mirjana, “Look, it’s Gospa!” (Gospa in Croatian means “Our Lady”.) Mirjana, sure that Ivanka was joking, did not even take the time to look in that direction. “C’mon!” She said, mocking her. “Do you really think I would believe that Gospa is appearing to us?” When Mirjana finally resolved to look up, she saw the Lady too and fell to her knees speechless. Their friend, Vicka Ivankovic, was passing by. “Look up there, Vicka! Our Lady is there! Look how beautiful she is!” They called to her. Vicka made fun of them without glancing toward the hill and ran away. When she met Ivan Dragicevic, 16, in the street she recounted to him the words of Mirjana and Ivanka. Then she said, “Let’s go together and see what is happening!” When they arrived at the foot of the hill, they too saw the silhouette of the Lady. Ivan, frightened, fled to his home at full speed leaving his shoes behind.
The next day, the children felt moved inside to return to the same place at the same time. Vicka brought her friends Marija Pavlovic and little Jakov Colo, 11. On the second day, the six young people saw Our Lady. Hundreds of villagers were there too, curious to see what would happen. According to the visionaries, Our Lady made signs with her hand, inviting them to come up to her. Several villagers who were following the children saw them fly over half of the hill in no time, ignoring the bushes and rocks as if the visionaries themselves had no weight. Her first words to the visionaries were, “Praised be Jesus!” She was smiling. Then she revealed her identity to them, “I am the Most Blessed Virgin Mary”. Although several people saw Our Lady in those first few days, the remaining group of visionaries was comprised of six in number: Vicka Ivankovic, Ivanka Ivankovic, Jakov Colo, Marija Pavlovic, Ivan Dragicevic and also Mirjana Dragicevic. It was June 25th. It was the day that Our Lady later chose to commemorate the anniversary of the Apparitions; because it was on that day that the faithful came to her. From that day on, the Gospa has been appearing every single day at 5:40 PM (Winter time) or at 6:40 PM (Summer time).
According to the visionaries, Our Lady seems to be 18. She has black hair and blue eyes, she is wearing a white veil and a blue-grey dress, “It is a color that doesn’t exist on earth,” Vicka explains. Our Lady comes with a crown of 12 stars that floats over her head and she is of an inexpressible beauty. On Christmas day she appears with a golden dress and newborn Baby Jesus hidden in her arms. The visionaries confirm that they all see her in three dimensions, as we see a normal person. They can touch her; and sometimes she even kisses them. She is real.
Father Jozo, skeptical at first, quickly believed in Our Lady’s coming after he himself saw her one day in the church. In August 1981, he was imprisoned by the Communists for 18 months. Hardly out jail, he became an outstanding apostle of the apparitions! From his monastery in Siroki Brijeg, 45 minutes from Medjugorje, Fr Jozo continues to feed the pilgrims with his insights on Our Lady's messages. Crowds flock to him as a devoted son of Our Lady and as a model of spirituality for our time.
The Gospa continues to give the children, now adults, “messages” for themselves, for the parish, and for the world. These are messages of peace, conversion and love; and they are intended to bring humanity, lost in darkness, back to the heart of God. Since 1987 messages for the world have been given on the 25th of each month through the visionary Marija. This monthly message is published in all languages.
A special aspect of these apparitions is that Our Lady appears to the visionaries wherever they are. In this way, she has been able to visit all five continents! It seems that she means to visit her children today as never before since, she says, “the world is far from God!”
Since 1987, Our Lady also appears to Mirjana every 2nd day of the month in order to pray with her “for those who do not yet know the love of God.” Today this apparition is public and occurs at the Cenacolo Community in Medjugorje. In recent years Our Lady has given Mirjana a message for the world on this day in addition to the message of the 25th day of every month. In July of 1981, at the request of Vicka, Our Lady also promised that she would leave a permanent, visible, indestructible sign on Apparition Hill that will be seen by all.
Throughout the history of the Church, Our Lady has been keeping secrets from man. It began with the Annunciation in Nazareth. Until he saw for himself, Our Lady never revealed to Joseph the secret she held in her womb. Like in Fatima, the Gospa in Medjugorje promised to entrust ten secrets to each visionary. Three of the six, Ivanka, Mirjana, and Jakov, have received all their ten secrets. They have no more daily apparitions but they see the Mother of God once a year. Vicka, Marija and Ivan have received nine secrets and continue to see her each day. According to Mirjana, each visionary will have to choose a priest who will reveal his/her secrets to the world. For her part, she has chosen Father Petar Ljubicic, a Franciscan. Ten days before the realization of the secret, she will have to fast on bread and water with the chosen priest, and on the seventh day she will reveal the secret to the priest who will publicize it widely three days before its realization.
What About the Secrets? (Adapted from Medjugorje in the 90s by Sr. Emmanuel)
Among the multiple speculations on the future which haunt our world, only one thing is absolutely 100% certain: each and every one of us will be very surprised by whatever the Lord is preparing. In Medjugorje, Ivanka is the visionary who has the most information on the future because Our Lady made her fill entire notebooks on the world’s future. Vicka knows many things too, since the Gospa also entrusted several things to her in 1985, after showing to Vicka her entire life (the Gospa) using words and images. Also, Mirjana knows the exact date of each secret according to what she told Father Tomislav Vlasic in 1983. (“Once the secrets are revealed,” Mirjana told me, “it will be known why March 18 was so important for the Gospa. Also, the second of each month is not an arbitrary choice; there is a reason for it. It will be understood later.”
I have often wondered why Our Lady, who is usually so clear and straightforward in everything she does, has felt the need to let the world know that she is telling secrets to some children’s hearts.
She is smart enough to foresee that some will react with curiosity, agitation, and even anxiety. Can’t she give these secrets to the visionaries without us knowing it? Many pastors of the Church feel uneasy about the secrets, and they often try to shun the issue: “Ah, if I were the Gospa, I wouldn’t...” Yes, indeed, the Gospa sometimes disturbs even our pastors. The Gospa unveils secrets because she is a mother, and a mother in a divine way. The secrets are an act of pure maternal love on her part. Among the messages that she has prepared for us, some are a little difficult for us to hear. We are not ready yet. But as a mother, she knows that the word “secret” will draw our attention, that we will look forward to the time of their revelation and attach great importance to the content of this word. When a child is bored, won’t listen to anything and wriggles out of talking with you, the minute you promise to tell him a secret, his eyes light up. You excite his interest and thereby allow the opening up of a dialogue. You are then in a position to tell him the important thing he ought to know. No matter how sweet or... cauterizing that thing is!
If the messages are important, the secrets take on an importance of a different nature, an eschatological nature. Their realization might shake the world as never before. The messages are a school (and a clinic), but the secrets are directly connected to God’s plan for mankind. When Father Tomislav Vlasic, OFM asked the visionaries why the Gospa had said, “I have come to call the world to conversion for the last time,” and also, “These are my last apparitions on earth,” they answered that they couldn’t tell him why, because, if they did, they would reveal part of the secrets. “The very first secrets will be revealed, and they will prove that the apparitions are real,” said Jakov, speaking of the third secret, which deals with the sign. “I saw it. It is very beautiful,” he added.
By entrusting secrets, Mary is not only divinely a mother, she is also divinely a queen. Her eyes fixed upon God’s decrees, she can see far beyond our human vision and she knows from her own experience, from her life on earth, that God’s entrusting secrets to his intimate friends is nothing new in the history of salvation. All lovers share secrets, and God is so in love with mankind! Loving intimacy with Him can only attract His secrets! In Medjugorje, as in Fatima, He has chosen a very special point of impact in order to touch the earth with this loving intimacy. This point of impact, through the 6 visionaries, is spread to the parish of Medjugorje and to the world. In Christ’s Mystical Body when the hand touches something, all the limbs take part in this contact. When I arrived in Medjugorje, I couldn’t understand why the idea of these secrets filled me with joy, a supernatural joy. The more my joy increased, the more I came to understand a tiny bit of the reason behind it. Secrets make us feel secure! They show us that God is handling everything, that He is in control of the world, that He is the King, the Master of all times and that we are not orphans given over to the absurd fatalities of statisticians. It is a Heart that rules the world! My fate is in the hands of the King of Love!
What if some secrets contain chastisements (as it is probably the case in the last three secrets given to Mirjana)? There too, praise be to God! If I had a child threatened by gangrene, wouldn’t I amputate his leg to save his life? Mental cruelty? No! Active maternal love! Gangrene, plague, AIDS and despair have contaminated my sinful humanity, therefore I give praise to my God who uses His merciful genius to curb evil before my sins lead me to eternal death. I can only bless Jesus on the Cross for His unfathomable love. Isaiah said of Him: “The chastisement which restores our peace falls upon Him” (Is 53:5). Our peace, that’s all God wants!
The idea of God as 'Mr. Boogeyman' is a satanic invention. I only know of Jesus, Jesus crucified, who made Hinself sin to free men from sin and death. God only saves, and “chastisement” (etymologically, a father’s correction) is another invention of His to offer to stretch out a last lifeline to the child who had preferred sin to Light. We are so skilled at thwarting God and His mercy that sometimes, to restore our peace, God has no other solution than chastisement. When hell is the only other alternative to chastisement...chastisement becomes desirable. And, while we’re talking about chastisement, let’s open our eyes and look around us: aren’t we already smack in the middle of it? In what other period of human history have thousands of young people and children committed suicide, out of agony of soul and heart just to mention one of today’s plagues? When was the number of 60 million martyrs per year ever reached?
This reminds me of something Marthe Robin said to a priest of my community, The Beatitudes . “The prophecy in the Apocalypse, concerning the death of two thirds of the human race, does not refer to an atomic war or any other catastrophe, but to a spiritual death.” Prayer and fasting can alleviate and even prevent chastisements. This is the case for the seventh secret in Medjugorje.
To me, the best example of this is what happened in 1947 as France was on the brink of the abyss. The Communists were about to come to power. The whole country was paralyzed by serious strikes. A catastrophe was imminent. One morning, in Châteauneuf-de-Galaure, Father Finet opened the newspapers and immediately felt depressed. The date was December 8. As usual, he went to the Farm to talk and pray with Marthe Robin. He described to her in detail the alarming state of the country and said in conclusion, “Marthe, France is done for!” “No, Father!” answered Marthe cheerfully. “France is not! Because Our Lady will appear to little children, and France will be saved.” It was 10 o’clock in the morning. Father Finet left Marthe’s home and went back to his work, puzzled. At 1 p.m., that very same day, Our Lady appeared to 4 little girls in the church of l'Ile-Bouchard in Touraine (in the center of France). “These days, France is in great danger,” she said to them, “Pray!” During the following days Our Lady of Prayer taught them how to say the rosary, to pray for sinners and make the sign of the cross. Ten days later, the strikes stopped, the Communist threat was averted, and the country was able to turn its attention to reconstruction. And to achieve this, Our Lady had found 4 little girls...and a great saint, Marthe, who offered herself day and night to God in sacrifice to ward off from her country the fruit of sin which is death. (Fr. Finet was the co-founder of the Foyers de Charity in France, with the great mystic Marthe Robin.)
The Gospa’s secret in Medjugorje? Let me whisper it in your ear: “Prayer is the only way to save mankind” (July 30, 1987).