Medjugorje is a small mountain village in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the former Yugoslavia. Since the first apparition of the Gospa to six children on June 24, 1981 on the hill of Podbrdo of Mount Crnica (now called Apparition Hill), the entire region has been caught in the controversy of the apparitions and the messages of Gospa.
Why this small village was chosen by the Blessed Mother to be the place she would again repeat her messages of Lourdes and Fatima.. that of peace and prayer.. are a divine mystery. Certainly nothing in the history of Medjugorje suggested that in this communist nation would be a fertile place to encourage prayer, conversion and devotion to God. Bosnia-Hercegovina is multi-ethnic claiming Serbs, Croats, and over 30 percent Muslims. The disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991 led Bosnia and Hercegovina to declare its independence along with Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia.
How did the village of Medjugorje survive the horrors of war?
Is it the presence of the Gospa? Or perhaps because Medjugorje is considered by many the largest center of prayer and thus protected? These are questions that barely touch the surface of Bosnia-Hercegovina and the former Yugoslavia's history. History richly laced with war, destruction, inflation, economic instability and of simple people clinging to their religious faith to survive it all. It is a history much better explained and documented by those better qualified that we are. This does however lend a necessary background to better understand why Medjugorje is a phenomenon.. and why it's the center of such controversy.. religious and political.
It was on Apparition Hill (formerly the hill of Podbrdo of Mount Crnica) that the children first saw the vision of the Blessed Mother holding the Infant on June 24, 1981, and where the children saw her again the following day with her arms empty. Within a few days, the communist state authorities certified the gatherings at Apparition Hill were dangerous.. for by now there were hundreds and soon thousands of pilgrims in attendance during the apparitions. They harassed and tried to prevent the children from being present at Apparition Hill in hopes of frustrating the apparition itself. They were unsuccessful.
It was then that the children, Ivan, Ivanka, Jakov, Mirjana, Marija, and Vicka asked for protection from their parish priest, Father Jozo Zovko O.F.M of St. James Church. At first, Father Jozo allowed the children to use a side room off the sanctuary. Later they moved to the rectory to receive the apparitions. Several years later, on September 1, 1987 by the order of the Bishop Zanic, the children were forbidden use of the rectory and moved the the choir loft of St. James. The apparitions are often seen by the visionaries here to this day.
Although the first apparitions appeared on Apparition Hill and it is the planned site of the permanent sign to be given by the Blessed Mother just before the secrets are to be realized, it is Mt. Krizevac that has prominence for pilgrims. Along the extremely rocky and treacherous slope, there are placed all fourteen stations of the cross with a large cement cross at the top of the mountain. It's Mt. Krizevac that is where many miracles occur.. most happening by the fourth station of the cross, where Jesus meets his mother. To show devotion, some pilgrims climb Mt. Krizevac barefooted.
It's important to remember that Medjugorje is not just a place on earth, but a frame of mind. Not all miracles are physical ones. Many are of conversion or peace of mind or miracles that are personal to the pilgrim. The messages that the visionaries are sharing from our Blessed Mother are the same ones we're asked to share. We're asked to speak of them of course, but most importantly we're asked to share them by our example. They are of Prayer, Fasting, Reading the Bible, Confession and Holy Communion. She requests conversion back to God with our heart and to return to the sacraments. She asks all of us, not just Catholics, to accept Jesus with an open heart and truly learn to love him.. by knowing him. And we can best know him by knowing the Scriptures. In her message of June 25, 1989, Gospa has said:
Dear children, today I call you to live the messages which I have been giving you during the past eight years. This is a time of graces and I desire that the grace of God be great for every single one of you. I am blessing you and I love you with a special love. Thank you for having responded to my call.