Medjugorje – Scientific Investigations – Sensational Evidence That God Exists

800px-AngelsBridgeAndBasilicaDiSanPietroAtNight2.jpgBy Daniel Klimek 

Daniel is a PH.D candidate at Catholic University.

The spiritual significance of the apparitions in Medjugorje is of course monumental and, in many ways, self-evident. However, few people may know how much Medjugorje means on a scientific and academic level, especially in regard to the study of mysticism and supernatural phenomena. Medjugorje’s implications, largely due to the timely significance of the apparitions, constitute a breakthrough for the study of mystical experience.

Throughout the centuries countless of Christians have reported experiencing mystical phenomena, both bodily and spiritual. The late-medieval and early-modern periods are especially studied richly in this tradition. From a stigmatic like Francis of Assisi to medieval visionaries like Catherine of Siena, Hildegard of Bingen, Angela of Foligno, Julian of Norwich, to famous early-modern mystics, especially the great Spaniards like Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Ignatius of Loyola, to lesser known (or unknown) figures of the time, the examples of existing Christian mystics between these periods are pervasive. Because claims like visionary or apparitional experience were prevalently reported in the distant past, however, usually reduced to the medieval and early-modern framework, they became that much easier to dismiss for contemporary thinkers.

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Sidney Callahan, a professor and psychologist, explains: “Suspicions that religious beliefs and fervent religious experiences are a form of mental pathology still prevail in our world.” Likewise Amy Hollywood, Harvard scholar of Christian mysticism and medieval history, additionally points out that mysticism often—and thus mystical experience, particularly—is denigrated by skeptical scholars through psychoanalytical categories as simply constituting a form of hysteria, among other possible natural disorders. “Most scholars who have wanted to take mysticism seriously have, as a result of such dismissive diagnoses, either avoided the term ‘hysteria’ entirely or have reserved it for those figures seen as somehow marginal, excessive, or troubling to standard religious categories.” Speaking of the reported visionary experiences of medieval mystics of the Christian tradition, Columbia University neurologist Oliver Sacks argues: “It is impossible to ascertain in the vast majority of cases, whether the experience represents a hysterical or psychotic ecstasy, the effects of intoxication or an epileptic or migrainous manifestation.” Noticeably, the possibility of a genuine mystical experience is not even considered by Sacks in light of these neurological (and, therefore, natural) alternatives.

Religious historian Moshe Sluhovsky, likewise, points to the numerous “natural” diagnoses which are employed by many modern scholars to dismiss the validity of mystical experiences, whether divine or diabolical, especially reported experiences of late-medieval and early-modern Europe. Such diagnoses include: “insanity, hysteria, paralysis, imbecility, or epilepsy…” Yet Sluhovsky aptly explains that stereotyping Christians of past centuries, particularly of early-modern Europe, as ignorant of medical or psychological causes for abnormal (if not paranormal) behavior constitutes an erroneous approach, if not an altogether arrogant dismissal, obstructing serious study of such cases. Since matters like hysteria and epilepsy were “all classifications of afflictions that were not unfamiliar to early modern people” the assumption “that medieval and early modern people were simply not sophisticated enough to know the right meanings of the symptoms they experienced and witnessed tells us more about modern scholarly arrogance than about premodern ailments and healing techniques, or about early modern configurations of the interactions with the divine,” Sluhovsky concludes.

This is exactly what makes the case of Medjugorje so unique and important: by occurring in our contemporary society of the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the apparitions have been able to be scrutinized by exhaustive medical and scientific investigations unavailable to past generations—instead of remaining untested and being prejudicially dismissed by modern thinkers as constituting a case of hysteria, fraud, or any other possible natural explanation. In other words, the timing of the phenomenon has shielded it from the unexamined (and presumptuous) dismissal which so many medieval and early-modern mystical claims have received by skeptical critics. Now, with Medjugorje, skeptics need to deal with concrete empirical evidence, instead of simply proposing preconceived reductionist theories about mystical experience. As author and journalist Randall Sullivan explained: “the apparitions in Medjugorje had been subjected to perhaps more medical and scientific examination than any purported supernatural event in the history of the human race.” Similarly, Andrew Newberg, a radiologist at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and Eugene D’ Aquili, a professor of psychiatry at Pennsylvania, have made the claim that: “It is possible that with the advent of improved technologies for studying the brain, mystical experiences may finally be differentiated from any type of psychopathology.”

The majority of the studies conducted on the young Medjugorje visionaries, which have ranged from polygraphs to neurological examinations, psychiatric tests, electrocardiogram, blood pressure and heart rhythm examinations, and electroencephalogram tests measuring brain waves during ecstasies, have supported the integrity of the apparitions. The tests have shown that the visionaries were not lying or hallucinating, nor were they in any epileptic or hypnotic state during their daily ecstasies but, indeed, experiencing something unexplainable, beyond the boundaries of scientific understanding. Furthermore, numerous miraculous healings have also been reported at Medjugorje, many of them copiously documented with abundant medical evidence supporting the claims.

Thus, at Medjugorje, for the first time in human history, neuroscience and medical examination have played an instrumental role in penetrating the interior depths of mysticism by combining scientific inquiry with spiritual experience, thus elucidating our knowledge of the subject with empirical examination of the visionaries’ ecstasies. As the French doctor Henri Joyeux, an internationally renowned physician and Professor of Cancerology in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montpellier, explained in regard to the timely significance of the apparitions:

“Ecstasy is seen as a sensory perception of realities that are perceivable by and visible to the visionaries but invisible to and imperceivable by all others and, in particular, those who seek to understand. For the first time in history science can study these facts as they unfold in Medjugorje and not merely a posteriori. The most advanced medical techniques and the most up-to-date photographic and cinematographic techniques help us to reach the kernel of these events in order to try to understand them.”

This is much different from Oliver Sacks’ neurological reductionism, which applied no empiricism to the study of mysticism whatsoever but simply postulated that mystical experience cannot be authentic by offering neurological euphemisms for the experiences of medieval visionaries. The Medjugorje visionaries, on the other hand, have been tested for all of the natural symptoms which are usually applied by skeptics to discredit mystical experience, thus undermining reductionist theories against the apparitions. Dr. Joyeux led a team of French physicians from the University of Montpelier to examine the Medjugorje seers in ecstasy during their daily apparitions of the Virgin, when the visionaries simultaneously fall to their knees and enter an ecstatic state, which has the appearance of a trance. This phenomenon takes place daily at the same time (5:45 pm in the winter and 6:45 pm in the summer). Dr. Joyeux’s concluding report, delivered in the spring of 1985, stated: “The ecstasies are not pathological, nor is there any element of deceit. No scientific discipline seems able to describe these phenomena.” He explained that “these young people are healthy and there is no sign of epilepsy, nor is it a sleep or dream state. It is neither a case of pathological hallucination nor hallucination in the hearing or sight faculties…It cannot be a cataleptic state, for during ecstasy the facial muscles are operating in a normal way.” Through meticulous examination and investigation, the scientific studies have been able to disqualify all possible alternative, natural explanations for the apparitions.

Electroencephalogram tests, measuring brain waves and thus indicating the rhythms of brain activity through electrodes attached to eight different parts of the skull, were used on the visionaries and the results were recorded as taking place before, during, and after the apparitions. The electroencephalograms confirmed that pathological symptoms were not present before, during, or after ecstasy, excluding the possibility of epilepsy, paroxystic hallucination, or any sleep or dream state which can ignite hallucinations that are observable in cases of extreme mental disorder or in the course of atrophic dementia. All these were ruled out, since clinical studies proved the visionaries to be completely healthy, mentally and physically, and the electroencephalograms indicated the presence of type alpha (receptive) rhythms in their brain activity during ecstasies, which display the “normal electrical activity associated with wakefulness…” What is most fascinating is that, in neuroscience, states of consciousness are identified through some combination of alpha (receptive) and beta (reactive) impulses. Falling into a sleep or trance state would decrease the number of alpha cycles while increasing the beta. Yet, surprisingly, the exact opposite happened during apparitions: the visionaries’ beta impulses ceased completely, showing them to be in a state that is not simply awake, but hyper-awake. A similar, general alpha rhythm state has previously been observed only in a few Trappist or Buddhist monks. And the monks, Dr. Joyeux explained, could only reach such a state with their eyes closed in meditation, and after partaking in several hours of deep prayer, while the Medjugorje visionaries reached it instantly, as the apparition began, with their eyes wide open during the entire time of the ecstasies. In sum, the results especially contradicted claims of an epileptic state or any hallucinatory sleep or dream state, whether collective or individual, omitting these possibilities as explanations for the apparitions.

Dr. Jacques Philippot, an ophthalmologist, undertook the study of ocular and visual functions on the visionaries, examining the back of their eyes; photomotor and blinking reflexes; the frequency of blinking before, during, and after ecstasy; screening tests; and studying the mobility of the eyeballs by using electro-oculographic recordings before, during, and after ecstasy. The examinations on the back of the visionaries’ eyes “were normal and were identical before and after the ecstasy.” These tests excluded any “organic anomaly (either ocular or cerebral, whether due to swelling or not)” and, furthermore, they excluded the possibility of visual hallucination since the “ocular system is anatomically and functionally normal.” The reflex of blinking, interestingly, was absent from the eyes during ecstasy when extremely strong lights were flashed in front of the visionaries, having no effect on them—yet reflexive blinking was present both before and after ecstasy in the face of dazzling lights. Moreover, during ecstasy the number of eyelid movements, thus blinking, was significantly less than observable before or after the apparition. Two of the visionaries had no eyelid movement whatsoever during ecstasy. Furthermore, according to the electro-oculogram tests, as the ecstasies begin the eyeballs of the visionaries become immobile, their eye movements “ceasing simultaneously almost to the second.” This graphic recording of the uncanny synchronization in the simultaneous movements of the eyeballs “indicates simultaneity to the second in cessation of movement at the beginning of the ecstasy and, again, simultaneity to the second in the return of movement at the end of the ecstasy.” Dr. Philippot would notice that, actually, at “the beginning of the ecstasy there is a simultaneity to one-fifth of a second in the cessation of eyeball movement which begins again simultaneously at the end of the ecstasy.” The electro-ocuolgram recordings showed that the visionaries’ eyes converge on the same point, a spot above their heads where they report to see the Virgin. The eyeball movements support the fact that during “ecstasy there is a face-to-face meeting, as it were, between the visionaries and a person whom we did not see.” James Paul Pandarakalam, a member of the Department of Psychiatry of Soho House in England, came to the same conclusion: “The eye movements of a person looking at a real moving object are different from those of a person looking at an imaginary moving object; the visionaries’ eye movements at the end of the apparition correspond to the former, as I had the occasion to witness in a person in Medjugorje.” Pandarakalam explained that this is defined as a voluntary activity, which is most observable when the apparition ends and the visionaries all simultaneously look up within the same second, claiming that the Virgin disappears upwards.

Pandarakalam, who witnessed the visionaries experiencing their apparitions on 21 different occasions, also ruled out the possibility of hypnosis. He noted that human eye movement patterns differ when a person is visualizing or remembering something from when the sequence of a person’s eyes are focused on an external object. The latter sequence involves no randomness, but both eyeballs converge to a point on the object as when looking at something in a three-dimensional space. This noticeable pattern in the visionaries, combined with the fact that the apparitions begin spontaneously (and not at the demand of the visionaries), and with the fact that there is no evidence of any intense concentration, or preparation, by the visionaries before the apparitional experience, undermines hypnosis as a possible explanation. The healthy mental state of the visionaries, before and after the apparitions, as determined by the clinical studies performed by the French team, further excludes the possibility of hypnosis, in addition to the electro-encephalograms that ruled out any induced sleep or dream state during the ecstasies

Of course, since the apparitions continue to the present day, it is that more unlikely that a hypnotic manipulation could take place consistently on a daily basis, to a collective group, over a 28 year period. Thus the conducted tests—ocular, visual, and mental—all undermine the possibility of fraud and deception, and exclude visual hallucination, hypnosis or any organic abnormality as possible explanations for the apparitions.

Dr. Francois Rouquerol, another member of the French team, conducted tests measuring the auditory functions of the visionaries in order to determine whether an auditory hallucination is taking place. The doctor concluded that during ecstasy there is an absence of normal objective clinical reactions to the presence of violent noise. A 90 decibel sound—the “equivalent to the noise of a combustion engine at high speed”—was fed into the right ear of Ivan Dragicevic, one of the visionaries, during ecstasy without a single reaction of surprise from the visionary. “At the end of the ecstasy Ivan confirmed that he heard nothing.” This was a fascinating contrast to his pre-ecstasy reaction, wherein the injection of a 70 decibel sound visibly startled the young visionary. In addition to concluding that there is a clear disconnection of auditory pathways during the ecstasy, making the visionaries as impervious to exterior noise as they are to strong blasts of light, in “the same way [it was concluded] the visionaries do not feel pinching, prodding or other interventions” thus being impervious to pain as well. Dr. Rouquerol’s results additionally showed that the “auditory potential test, which studies the nervous influx from the periphery (the cochlea, part of the inner ear) to the core of the cerebral artery, indicates that the various pathways to the brain are normal. The regular and rounded shape of the graph eliminates auditory hallucination of an epileptic type.” Thus another alternative explanation for the apparitions was eliminated.

Dr. Rouquerol also conducted voice function (phonation) experiments on the visionaries. It is interesting, and important, to note that during their ecstasies the visionaries’ voices become inaudible while their lips continue moving as if in conversation with the Virgin. This is one of the key synchronizations experienced by the visionaries during their ecstasies. As the apparition begins, first the children fall to their knees and their voices immediately (and simultaneously) become silent without even a split second of distinction, in addition to the synchronistic movements of their eyeballs. Dr. Rouquerol’s tests showed that during ecstasy, while their lips and facial muscles are mobile, the larynx (where the vocal cords are present) of each visionary stops. Interestingly, this means that while their lips are moving normally, as in communication, the act of exhaling does not vibrate the vocal cords of the visionaries, presenting an inexplicable paradox. Yet the movement of the lips, and thus the muscles controlling gesticulation on the face, provide “a further argument against catalepsy” since a cataleptic state would constitute rigidity and immobility of the muscles. Thus another natural explanation for the apparitions was eliminated.

The visionaries, in addition to medical scrutiny, underwent immense psychological and psychiatric testing. The results showed a group of perfectly healthy young people. According to Dr. Joyeux’s report: “The visionaries have no symptoms of anxiety or obsessional neurosis, phobic or hysterical neurosis, hypochondriac/or psychosomatic neurosis, and there is no indication of any psychosis. We can make these formal statements in the light of detailed clinical examinations.” In his previous examinations, Dr. Stopar reached the same results: “Scientific and sociological tests, including (respectively) neuropsychiatric, medico-psychological, somatic, adolescent and young-adult profiles, lifestyle characteristics and intelligence and educational standards, show the children to be absolutely normal and free from all psychopathological reactions” (emphasis in original). Likewise, Dr. Philippe Loron, head of the Neurology Clinic at La Salpietre Hospital in Paris who examined the visionaries himself in 1989, concurred that this “is the first time that medical science has been involved to such an extent in evaluating the phenomenon of ecstasy. And, in the process, what was confirmed in several ways was the moral and psychological integrity of the visionaries.”

After taking into consideration all of the tests and results assembled by the French team, Dr. Joyeux had to admit, in his final analysis, that the “phenomenon of the apparition in Medjugorje, which was studied during five different periods of 1984 with five visionaries as subjects, is scientifically inexplicable.” He acknowledged that an extraordinary event is taking place in the village and, in a later interview, the doctor would reiterate that, taking into account all of the possible natural explanations which were eliminated by the investigations, the experiences of the children “do not belong to any scientific denominations.”

Moreover, Dr. Luigi Frigerio, another member of the Italian team, explained that the results combined with neurological testing, which determined that the visionaries were not only awake but hyper-awake during their ecstasies, presented a paradox that “cannot be explained naturally, and thus can be only preternatural or supernatural.” Interestingly, even Dr. Stopar reached the same conclusion years earlier, admitting: “I had the impression of coming into contact with a supernatural reality at Medjugorje.”

Such facts—pointing to the supernatural through scientific inquiry—have led to many spiritual conversions, especially of scientific skeptics, in the small Bosnian village. Randall Sullivan relates the story of Dr. Marco Margnelli, an eminent Italian neurophysiologist and an ardent atheist who came to Medjugorje in the summer of 1988 determined to expose the apparitions as a fraud. Margnelli had a well-known history of doubting the validity of Christian mysticism and supernatural phenomena, perhaps most notoriously conveyed in his skepticism toward the stigmata of the Franciscan friar Padre Pio, arguably the twentieth century’s most prominent mystic. An expert in altered states of consciousness, Margnelli conducted an array of medical tests on the Medjugorje visionaries in which he had to conclude that during their daily apparitions the seers did, in fact, enter into “a genuine state of ecstasy” and adding, “we were certainly in the presence of an extraordinary phenomenon.” Dr. Margnelli’s observations have ranged from conducting medical investigations on the seers to personally witnessing miraculous healings and strange occurrences which, admittedly, left him bewildered and deeply shaken. Sullivan relates a sequence of events to which Dr. Margnelli had been a witness at Medjugorje:

“from the ‘synchronous movements’ of the visionaries [during apparitions] to the apparently miraculous healing of a woman with leukemia. What had affected him most deeply were the birds: During the late afternoon, they would gather in the trees outside the rectory where the seers shared their apparitions, chirping and cooing and calling by the hundreds, at times deafeningly loud, until ‘they suddenly and simultaneously all go silent as soon as the apparition begins.’ This ‘absolute silence of the birds’ haunted him, the doctor admitted.”

Thus, a “few weeks after returning to Milan, Dr. Margnelli became a practicing Catholic.”

The very possibility of the supernatural in modern society, as strongly supported by medical science and observation, challenges an immense array of Enlightenment-influenced thinkers subscribing to strict rationalist ideology who have denied the possibility of such phenomena—denials that have led to renouncing the reported visionary experiences of earlier mystics and, frequently, the very existence of God. As noted, many modern scholars have utilized theories from neurology and psychology prominently in order to provide alternative explanations for phenomena they presumed medieval and early-modern people, with their lack of scientific knowledge, were not sophisticated enough to understand. Ironically and inversely, the same process is occurring today, wherein disciplines like medical science, neuroscience, and psychology have been utilized to disprove the rationalistic and naturalistic preconceptions of many post-Enlightenment thinkers by using advanced technology—such as electroencephalograms—to test supernatural claims with more sophisticated methods than any of those available to past generations. The fact that science lends strong support to the Medjugorje apparitions as constituting a legitimate supernatural phenomenon undermines numerous preconceptions of the rationalist worldview, challenging its presuppositions while providing significant support for the possibility of mystical experience and divine intervention. Of course, one modern case cannot vindicate all past visionary reports—since psychosomatic and fraudulent experiences are, obviously, probable in Christian history—but it can challenge the prejudicial, and easily accepted, mentality that all former mystical claims must be pathological or false.

In Medjugorje, the findings of contemporary doctors and scientists, based on knowledge of medical investigations not available to previous visionary and apparitional encounters, do offer significant insights concerning the possible mechanisms and probabilities of past mystical experiences. Whether one chooses to believe in the spiritual content behind the phenomenon—that the Virgin Mary is appearing—does, however, still constitute (and require) an act of faith. But since so much evidence is offered for the possibility, excluding all other alternative scientific explanations, then the visionaries’ claims must be given a fair chance. Not to do so could easily constitute an inverse reflection of dogmatic fundamentalism (in rationalist thought) over the findings of objective scientific and medical studies. The mentality of presumptuous skepticism has been prominent among many modern and postmodern thinkers denying the reported mystical experiences of late-medieval and early-modern Christians. However, the inclusion of modern science and technology in investigating contemporary mystical phenomena no longer makes such unexamined presuppositions universally agreeable, undermining their rash and unscientific conclusions.

 

St. Patrick – Fact vs Myth – The Authentic Saint

THE AUTHENTIC SAINT PATRICK

Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

What do we really know about St. Patrick? His background is shrouded in mystery. What we have heard often mingles myth with reality. To separate fact from fiction we need a closer look. We need to ask the real St. Patrick to please stand up.

In the fifth century A.D. an adolescent boy in Britain was kidnapped and enslaved by marauders from a nearby country. The youngster they captured eventually eluded his captors in Ireland, but several years later returned as a priest with the conviction that God had chosen him to convert that country to Christianity. That young Briton named Patricius died an Irishman named Patrick. Ireland and Christianity have not been the same since. Meet the authentic St. Patrick.

Fact over Myth

His life was clouded by legend, but peeling away the myth we discover that what is factually known about St. Patrick is far more interesting. He never chased the snakes out of Ireland, nor do we have any certainty that he used the shamrock to teach the Trinity to his converts.

History possesses no written records about Britain or Ireland from the fifth century except those few about Patrick. Quite simply Ireland had no written records prior to Patrick.

The sequence of his life is not clear, and historians cannot identify when he was born, ordained a bishop, or died. But scholars agree that the two extant examples of his writing are clearly the work of the same man we today call Patrick.

The two brief compositions of Patrick, his Confession and his Letter to Coroticus, are the sources of all we know for certain about the historical Patrick.

The Confession, not really a biography, recounts his call to convert the Irish and aims to justify his mission to an unsympathetic people in Britain.

The Letter to Coroticus, an Irish warlord whom Patrick excommunicated, illustrates his power as a preacher, but yields little biographical information.

His Life

In a nutshell these are the biographical facts. Patrick was born Patricius in Roman Britain to a Christian family of some wealth. He was not religious in his youth, and claims he was close to renouncing his family’s faith. Kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave for a warlord, he worked as a shepherd for six years and then escaped. At home he began studies for the priesthood with the intent to return as a missionary to his former captors. Clearly he had committed his life to Ireland until death. By the time he had written the Confession, Patrick was recognized as bishop of Ireland by both the natives of Ireland and by Church authorities on the continent.

His Character

Two traits are patently evident in Patrick’s Confession: his humility and his strength. These characteristics are missing in early biographies and in the legends.

The missionary Patrick who returned to Ireland was a strong and vigorous personality. He was tough and determined. He had to be to pursue the vision that launched him in the evangelization of the pagan island. He was not the least bit reluctant to undertake this mission despite the fact that in 400 years no one had taken the Gospel beyond the bounds of Roman civilization. As each obstacle was encountered, Patrick mustered the strength to overcome it.

With limited education — he was chiefly self-educated — but with the grace of the experience of his enslaved exile, Patrick determined to do what no other had done in the previous four centuries of Christian history. He decided to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and he planned wisely a way to do it. Unaided he figured out how to carry Christian values to the barbarians who practiced human sacrifice, who constantly warred with each other, and who were noted slave traders. That was neither simple nor easy to attempt. Most likely he hazarded this challenge of evangelization never before undertaken by the missionaries of the Greco-Roman world because the Christians of the continent did not consider barbarians to be human.

Patrick’s years as a slave had uniquely molded his attitude to mount a heroic effort to reach the minds and hearts of these untamed people. Patrick detested slavery, and may have been the first Christian leader to speak out unequivocally against it. The Church did not formally condemn slavery as immoral until the late nineteenth century. Patrick had experienced this suffering, knew how to suffer with others, and understood the sufferings of others. Compassion was his strong suit.
A more genuine advocate for the disadvantaged and the marginated of society than Patrick would be difficult to find. Without doubt he is one of the great saints of the downtrodden and excluded whom others shun.

In Patrick women too find an advocate. He speaks of them as individual human beings, lauds their strength and courage in the sufferings they endured in slavery, and respects them as handmaids of the Lord. Unlike most of his episcopal contemporaries, he might be the first male Christian since Jesus to speak so positively about women.

Patrick was convinced he had a God-given mission, and that Providence would see him through thick and thin. This gave him the will to return to the barbarians who had mistreated him. Patrick saw God at work in the world as a loving and benevolent Father.

His Legacy

Did Patrick accomplish his mission? At the time of his death human sacrifice had ceased, the Irish people abandoned the slave trade, and, although they had not stopped warring with each other, the battles were more restrained. Patrick knew these people would not change overnight.

This is the legacy left by St. Patrick: he had met the objective set by Christ, the Master of Apostles, to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And his successors continued the pursuit of that objective.

As Ireland without Patrick is unthinkable, so too is life today without the saints. The saints are for the ages, ours no less than others. Without saints life would be miserable. The saints are for everyone — believing and unbelieving — because they are the people who proclaim by their lives that life is valuable, life is worth living, that a provident God cares for us. Without them life would be a series of disasters. St. Patrick personified this Christian hope.

Will 10th Medjugorje Secret Involve the United States, Chastisements? – Hints from a Visionary

im by Daniel Klimek

"If I stayed back home instead of going to the United States, maybe Our Lady would still be appearing to me." – Jakov Colo, Medjugorje visionary

When I first visited Medjugorje, four years ago in the summer of 2008, I got the chance to spend some time with Draga Vidovic. Draga is not only a witness to the events in Medjugorje during the early years of the apparitions, but also an author and the cousin of the visionary Vicka. I found Draga to be very insightful. She spoke about the events in Medjugorje more astutely than most people do, being able to make fascinating connections that few ever notice.

For example, she told me that one of the 10 secrets of Medjugorje may very well involve the United States since Jakov Colo, the youngest visionary, received his tenth secret from Our Lady when he came to visit the United States in 1998. It’s an observation that perhaps goes unnoticed by too many Americans. Incidentally, it was on September 11th, 1998 — exactly three years before one of the most tragic days in American history — that Our Lady appeared to Jakov, in Florida, announcing that Jakov should prepare in prayer for the following evening, when She would share with him the tenth and final secret he was to receive.

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Jakov himself, knowing that with the reception of his tenth secret his daily apparitions would end, has testified: "If I stayed back home instead of going to the United States, maybe Our Lady would still be appearing to me."

"But all that is part of God’s plan," Draga wrote, as she recorded Jakov’s testimony in her book Salvation of Mankind.

Draga — as our conversation four years ago revealed — believes that Jakov’s tenth secret will involve the United States, and therefore it was no coincidence that he received it when visiting America. Jakov’s own words, supposing that Our Lady may have still continued appearing to him if he had not visited the United States in 1998, strongly supports this possibility.

What is perhaps most serious, in this context, is what little the visionaries have said about their final secrets. The visionaries have, on numerous occassions, alluded to severe chastisements that are connected to the final secrets of Medjugorje — the visionary Mirjana Soldo has especially testified that the final secrets must transpire, that these chastisements are not irreversable. In an early interview she emphasized that the tenth secret "is terrible and nothing can alter it. It will happen." Of course, whether the visionaries are receiving the same secrets or different ones is difficult to say since secrets are secrets.

Interestingly, Mirjana — who was chosen by Our Lady to reveal the secrets to the world one day through a priest — was with Jakov in the United States in 1998. The two visionaries traveled to numerous churches in Florida, spreading the Madonna’s messages. Jakov during that time also spoke in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where 70,000 people gathered to hear of Medjugorje.

Shortly after receiving his final secret and final daily apparition, Jacov had an emotional conversation with the late Fr. Slavko Barbaric, in which he revealed: "It was the hardest day for me. I thought of so many questions,what my life would be like from now onwards. How am I going to go on? I can say that I grew up with Our Lady. I was ten She started appearing to me, and the most important things I was able to learn about God and faith were from Her. She was like a mother to me, like a true friend. But I need to say that Our Lady gave me strength to overcome all of the difficulties I was facing. I realized that it was far more important to see Our Lady with our hearts, rather than with our eyes." 

 


From the beginning the Medjugorje “Secrets” about future worldwide event including chastisements have been a controversial aspect to the apparitions.

 


The visionaries say there are ten secrets  which will affect the Church and the world. To date, three visionaries, Mirjana, Ivanka, and Jakov report they have received all ten Medjugorje secrets, while Ivan, Marija and Vicka say they have received nine secrets. To date only one secret – the third secret – has been completely revealed


The third secret involves a visible and permanent sign that is described as beautiful and indestructible and not of this world,. The sign  will be left on Apparition Hill, the site of her first appearance. The Virgin Mary gave the following message about this sign: "This sign will be given for the atheists. You faithful already have signs and you have become the sign for the atheists. You faithful must not wait for the sign before you convert: convert soon. This time is a time of grace for you. When the sign comes, it will be too late. As a mother I caution you because I love you. The secrets exist. My children! Nothing is known of these now, but when they are known, it will be too late. Return to prayer, nothing is more important than this. I would like it if the Lord allowed me to reveal some of the secrets to you, but that which He is doing for you is already a Grace which is almost too much."


None of the seers have revealed the other Medjugorje secrets. It has been said that the secrets contain blessings as well as chastisements for the world.  The visionaries warn, that despite Our Lady’s call for prayer, they say that no amount of prayer, or fasting can prevent the secrets from unfolding.  The secrets will be reveled to the world in the following manner.
“Ten days before the first secret, Mirjana will reveal what is about to happen to Franciscan priest Father Petar Ljubicic of Medjugorje.  “Father Petar Ljubicic will then fast and pray for seven days. Then, three days before the event, Father Petar will make a public announcement as to what is to happen and where. Mirjana says that after the events occur, those who are alive will have little time to convert. She insists that the painful events for humanity are very near, and that the important thing is to pray, to pray in the family, to pray for the young and for those who do not believe.” (From the “Grey Book”)

Ten Medjugorje Secrets by Father Tomislav Vlasic
All the visionaries say they have seen Heaven and Purgatory, four of them have seen Hell and two girls prayed Our Lady not to let them see it because they were afraid. These visionaries say that, from the very beginning, Our Lady told them she would confide ten secrets to them for the whole of humanity : up to now (1984), eight secrets have already been confided to Vicka, ten to Mirjana, and nine to the others. (As at 31/1/03 – Ten secrets have been confided to Mirjana, Ivanka and to Jacov, and nine to the rest). I that you know the names of all the children who have the visions : Vicka Ivankovic, Ivanka Ivankovic, Jacov Colo, Ivan Dragicevic, Mirjana Dragicevic and Marija Pavlovic


These visionaries say that the ten secrets refer to the whole world and are linked together in a chain. There are also other secrets, personal secrets for the children or for certain people who are connected with these future world events. Among the ten secrets there is the promise of Our Lady to leave a visible sign on the site of the apparitions here in Medjugorje. The visionaries say they have seen this sign in a vision. It is very beautiful, permanent and indestructible. It will be given here in Medjugorje for all humanity and many miracles will be connected with it. Five of the children know the date on which the sign will occur: all of them stress that this period until the appearance of the visible sign, is a period of grace and for the strengthening of faith.


Mirjana tells us something more about the secrets and the future of the world. As from Christmas 1982, Mirjana no longer has daily apparitions, on that date she received the last of the ten secrets for humanity and the dates of all the secrets to come. On that day Our Lady said:" Now turn to God by faith as everybody else. I will appear for your birthday and when there are difficulties in your life." After this, Our Lady has appeared twice on her birthday on 18th March 1983 and 1984. (Since 1984 Our Lady has appeared each 18th March, and also Mirjana now sees Our Lady on the 2nd of each month, where she prays for unbelievers)
Mirjana says that before the visible sign appears, three secrets will be revealed to the world. These three secrets will be three admonishments to the world and will be revealed by her three days before they are to occur. She will tell a priest what should happen. After the three admonishments, the visible sign will appear and after the sign, if the world is not converted, the punishment will come. Mirjana says that the punishment will surely come because it is no use expecting the conversion of the whole world, but it can be diminished. She tells us that the seventh secret has already been cancelled. This was an evil one, which was coming to the world for its sins, but it has been cancelled because many people have fasted and prayed. From this we can see that punishment can be diminished by penance, fasting and prayer. This is why Our Lady always urges us:"Pray, fast and be converted."


I asked Mirjana if there is a long or rather short time before these things come to pass and she replied that, for her, it is a short time. What is meant by short I do not know; does it mean months, years or decades? I do not know. However, she said "This period is short." Then I asked her another question, "What do you want to tell the world of today?" She replied,"Be converted as quickly as possible and open your hearts to God."
Excerpts of letter of Father Tomislav Vlasic to Pope John Paul II related to Medjugorje secrets
The Blessed Virgin has promised to disclose ten secrets to us. So far, Vicka Ivankovic has received eight. Marija Pavlovic received the eigth one on December 8, 1983. Jakov Colo, Ivan Dragicevic and Ivanka Ivankovic have each received nine. Only Mirjana Dragicevic has received all ten.


The ninth and tenth secrets are serious. They concern chastisements for the sins of the world. Punishment is inevitable, for we cannot expect the whole world to be converted. The punishment can be diminished by prayer and penance, but it cannot be eliminated. Mirjana says that one of the evils that threatened the world, the one contained in the seventh secret, has been averted, thanks to prayer and fasting. That is why the Blessed Virgin continues to encourage prayer and fasting: "You have forgotten that through prayer and fasting you can avert war and suspend the laws of nature."
After the first admonition, the others will follow in a rather short time. Thus, people will have some time for conversion.


That interval will be a period of grace and conversion. After the visible sign appears, those who are still alive will have little time for conversion. For that reason, the Blessed Virgin invites us to urgent conversion and reconciliation.
The invitation to prayer and penance is meant to avert evil and war, but most of all to save souls.


According to Mirjana, the events predicted by the Blessed Virgin are near. By virtue of this experience, Mirjana proclaims to the world: ‘Hurry, be converted; open your hearts to God.’
In addition to this basic message, Mirjana related an apparition she had in 1982, which we believe sheds some light on some aspects of Church history. She spoke of an apparition in which Satan appeared to her, and asked Mirjana to renounce the Madonna and follow him. That way she could be happy in love and in life. He said that following the Virgin, on the contrary, would only lead to suffering. Mirjana rejected him, and immediately the Virgin arrived and Satan disappeared. Then the Blessed Virgin gave her the following message in substance:


"Excuse me for this, but you must realize that Satan exists. One day he appeared before the throne of God and asked permission to submit the Church to a period of trial. God gave him permission to try the Church for one century. This century is under the power of the devil; but when the secrets confided to you come to pass, his power will be destroyed. Even now he is beginning to lose his power and has become aggressive. He is destroying marriages, creating divisions among priests and is responsible for obsessions and murder. You must protect yourselves against these things through fasting and prayer, especially community prayer. Carry blessed objects with you. Put them in your house, and restore the use of holy water."
 

13 Pilgrimages That Offer Spiritual Healing To Those In Need

Millions of people each year embark on spiritual pilgrimages around the world , to deepen their faith and gain wisdom.

The following 13 pilgrimages draw people who, in their spirit or body, are in need of healing. In these sacred places they seek the spiritual power of renewal and wellness. What spiritual pilgrimages of healing have you been on? Share them in the comments section.

  • Chimayó – Santa Fe, New Mexico
    William Aranda/Wikimedia Commons
    Located roughly 30 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, El Santuariò de Chimayó is called the “Lourdes of America.” Legend holds that a wooden crucifix appeared on the hillside in the early 19th century where the chapel now stands, several times mysteriously returning to the same spot after being transported to a nearby church. A chapel was built on the site as a result, and thousands of pilgrims now visit it every year. Many come particularly for the healing dirt that sits beneath the church, accessible by a small well in an attached hermitage.
  • Lourdes – France
    DigitalImagination/Getty Images
    The southern French town of Lourdes is a popular site where Catholics celebrate the 1858 apparition of the Virgin Mary to shepherd girl Bernadette Soubirous. Millions of pilgrims visit Lourdes every year to bathe in and drink from the spring believed to have curative powers. Visitors can also attend Mass, which is observed every day, and visit the home of Bernadette, who was canonized in 1933.
  • Naag Mandir – Fiji
    Naag Mandir/Blogspot
    Naag Mandir is the temple for a Hindu snake god and houses the mysterious “growing stone.” First discovered over a century ago, according to legend, the stone was originally just two feet tall and continued growing over the years. The stone now stands at about 15 feet tall. Devotees come to the temple to pray for fertility, health and good fortune.
  • Medjugorje – Bosnia
    Elvis Barukcic/Getty Images
    Medjugorje has been an important pilgrimage site since 1981 when six local “visionaries” began seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary. The apparitions delivered messages to each of villagers over the years that followed, though the Catholic Church has been divided over the authenticity of these visions. Nonetheless, over 30 million pilgrims have visited the site in search of miracles, visions and spiritual healing.
  • read more on Huffington Post

What to make of Vladimir Putin’s Cross and his Submarines Named After Christian Saints

 

   Vladimir Putin, by all accounts,  is a very disciplined man, leaving  little to chance and keenly aware of his image. So why then   has Mr. Putin released official photographs producing  astonishing images of him  riding  a horse bare-chested through a rustic region of Siberia with his  Christian cross dangling off his chest clearly visible for the world to see the same week  he sends nuclear submarines to American shores.

  

 

Russia Names Submarine after Russian Saint – Installs Chapel

A new  Russian nuclear submarine has been named after Saint Aleksandr Nevsky of Russia, and will be fitted with its own Orthodox chapel after the vessel finishes its sea trials. It has become the second nuke-carrying sub equipped with a sanctuary in addition to ballistic missiles.    

 

According to the Associated Press:

"In the official photographs and video, shown on state television, Putin cultivates the macho image that Russians appear to love as they look to him to keep the country stable and strong more than a year after he stepped down as president.  Putin was shown fishing and swimming the butterfly stroke in an icy river in the Tuva region of southern Siberia. He posed while sitting in a tree, wearing khaki pants and T-shirt with a canvas bush hat." \

 In the description of Vladimir Putin as Russia’s version of the  Marlboro Man"  the Associated press surprisingly failed to point out in that the "bare-chested "   Putin was also clearly projecting his image as a "committed Christian"  as well. 

Did Mr. Putin deliberately release these photographs as Russia’s Christian Macho man the same week  his submarines patrol the America coast?  Is there something more to be read into these remarkable image?

The American press continues to be unaware of Vladimir Putin’s and imageDimity Medvedev’s deep Russian Orthodox Christian beliefs .  The American press cling to the cliched image that Vladimir Putin is a product of the Soviet/KGB/atheism system  and  that Russian leadership is desperately attempting to recapture its imperialistic past.   Perhaps Russia is pursuing some form of expansionism but it should be understood that Russia this time around is  led by Russian Orthodox Christians and not by Communist  atheists.

Read the AP story

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The Madonna Files – Prophetic Account Behind the Mysterious Rise of Christianity Inside Russia and the Coming Conflict with the West

Reaching top 10 on Amazon (Category International Mysteries) the Madonna Files is “A Powerful book of adventure and faith” - FRANK SCHAEFFER – New York Times best selling author of fiction and nonfiction.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read March 16, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this Catholic, historical, Marion novel. It was fast paced with enjoyable plot twist and believable and interesting characters. I highly recommended the novel!

Lean the truth!  Fictional yet prophetic account behind the rise of a Christian Theocracy inside Russia and how it leads to an apocalyptic clash with the West.

Based on true prophecies of the Virgin Mary. Five years in the making, The Madonna Files is “The most prophetic book of our times”
Stephen Ryan’s explosive debut novel challenges the prevailing orthodoxies of American history and Christianity, and reveals the dynamic presence of the Virgin Mary throughout the ages. With unexpected turns and a full dose of scholarly intrigue along the way, The Madonna Files is a contemporary religious thriller that explores the hidden secrets of the Catholic Church.

 


Out of today’s headlines: Russia, Vladimir Putin’s Crucifix, Middle East conflicts, The United States, and a prophecy from the Virgin Mary urging  the world to be ready for God

Review

“I found it to be a great book; a fascinating, fast-paced thriller, written in a strong voice, filled with rich dialogue, complex and colorful characters, a story-line that tackles the most meaningful, religious and political subjects in the world. It is an impressive work…Move over Dan Brown, I was blown away!”  -  Daniel Klimek -Scholar, seminarian and Marian expert featured in the full length motion picture –  ”Queen of Peace”

http://www.amazon.com/The-Madonna-Files-ebook/dp/B00EX6BC1S

The Virgin of Kazan – A Supernatural Icon for Mother Russia

A supernatural icon for Mother Russia

The Virgin of Kazan is one of the most revered Russian religious icons. Its disappearance at the time of the Russian Revolution was a catastrophe, but its resurgence and its link with Pope John Paul II and Fatima has confirmed the icon’s mythical status of securing the fate of “Mother Russia”.

Philip Coppens


The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 not only meant a new era for politicians; it also changed the religious landscape of a country known as “Mother Russia” – a once extremely religious country. Communism, after all, had been atheist, whereas the new Russia was again assumed to have freedom of religion. Pope John Paul II had always set his sights on it and tried to improve relations with the Orthodox Church, though a visit to Russia itself was blocked by the Russian Orthodox Church itself, who saw it as the Vatican trying to take advantage of the situation. In November 2003, Russian president Vladimir Putin did meet the pope in Rome. During the meeting, an icon known as the Virgin of Kazan was brought from the Pope’s private chapel into the Vatican Library, where the meeting was held. Putin watched as the Pope blessed the icon and then the Russian leader himself kissed it. Few observers seemed to realise the importance of this event. Putin and the Pope, however, did.

The Virgin of Kazan is one of Russia’s most sacred relics. The icon was discovered on July 8, 1579, in the city of Kazan. Interestingly, it was the Virgin Mary herself who in an apparition revealed the artefact’s location – it was buried – to a little girl, Matrena. The icon apparently shone as bright as the sun and the Virgin instructed the child to tell the monks of a nearby church about what she had just experienced. When they dug at the indicated location, the icon was recovered. A copy of the icon was sent to Czar Ivan the Terrible, who had a cloister built on the site where the icon had been found. Matrena, as well as her mother, then joined the religious community that was installed there. 
In 1612, St. Sergei was said to have appeared to Bishop Arseni. The saint – who had died in 1392 – told the bishop that the Lady of Kazan would intervene in battle. Hence, the icon was brought to lead the troops of Prince Pozharski that were trying to free Moscow. True to the prophecy, on November 27, 1612, the Kremlin was liberated. 
Ever since, whenever Russia had to go into battle, the Virgin of Kazan or one of its copies was carried in front of the army. Later, the Virgin also rescued Russia from Napoleon’s troops. In September 1812, Marshal Koutesov took the icon from Moscow’s Cathedral and rallied his troops to cut off Napoleon’s supply routes. As such, the icon is often considered to be a “palladium”, an image upon which the safety of a city or a country – Mother Russia – was said to depend.

At the time of the Russian Revolution, the basilica housing the icon was destroyed, apparently to prove that God did not exist. As great sledges and rams knocked down the church, loudspeakers blared: “You see, there is no God! We destroy the church of the so-called protectress of Russia, and nothing happens!” A green plot of grass in front of Lenin’s tomb marked the site where the Basilica of Our Lady of Kazan had once stood as the national Marian Shrine of Russia. 
But what happened to the icon at the time of the Russian Revolution? Though some argue that it was sold by the Emperor’s family to sustain itself in exile (a hope that never materialised for them), it is more probable that the icon was sold to help pay for the Bolshevik Revolution. This was the opinion of American art expert Frank Dorland, who studied the icon in the 1960s.
From the little that is known, the icon apparently reached Western Europe in 1935. On April 15, 1953, the English adventurer “Mike” Mitchell-Hedges – known for his infamous crystal skull – was approached by letter from a business friend, Arthur Hillman, who was negotiating the purchase of a collection of great historical and artistic value. It was initially referred to as “The Louis Tussaud’s Collection”, likely because it was where the collection had been on display, in his museum in Blackpool (England). Between April 1953 and September 1953, several letters were exchanged between Mitchell-Hedges and Hillman, until, on September 23, 1953, Mitchell-Hedges finally purchased the icon. It is known that Mitchell-Hedges never came to see the artefact prior to purchasing it and it is therefore unclear whether he fully realised what he was buying. 
What happened to the icon between 1917 and 1953 is difficult, if not impossible, to assess. Some suppose that the icon was actually in the possession of Herman Göring, Hitler’s designated successor and commander of the Luftwaffe. This isn’t so bizarre, as in the same lot put up for sale, there was a copy of “Mein Kampf”. It is unknown whether Mitchell-Hedges bought the entire lot or merely the Virgin of Kazan.

Between 1953 and 1965, the precious relic hung in the home of Anna Mitchell-Hedges, Mike’s daughter. Though there was no doubt that the relic was most important, the question was whether it was one of the many copies or the original icon. One of those who tried to answer that question was Cyril G.E. Bunt, the author of a book on Russian art and – for 49 years – on the staff of London Victoria and Albert Museum. “Experts will agree,” he wrote, “that it is the work of a great icon painter of the 16th century […] the pigments and the wood of the panel are perfectly preserved as exhaustive X-ray tests have proved, and have mellowed with age.” 
His verdict might seem surprising now, but we need to note that in the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, there was still great confusion about which relic went where how. He concluded that the Mitchell-Hedges icon was a copy of the original icon, but that it was nevertheless the artefact that had been carried by Prince Pozharski during his march on Moscow with his Nationalist Army in 1612. Today, that is known to have been the original icon, not a copy. 
At the time, however, it were the likes of Grand Duchess Zenia and priests that had actually handled the original icon in Moscow, like Patriarch Leonty of New York, that aided the verification of the artefact as being the original icon. The identification occurred through the rizza, with its configuration of jewels, which is the easiest method to attain a positive identification: the icon in the possession of the Mitchell-Hedges family had a rizza that only the original icon, on display in Moscow in 1917, possessed.

The Mitchell-Hedges Virgin of Kazan was the original… but what to do with it? With Russia off-limits, a new venue for the Virgin of Kazan had to be found and as early as 1963, there seemed to be but one choice: the Portuguese town of Fatima, where in 1917 the Virgin Mary had apparently appeared to three small children. John Shahovskoy, the Archbishop of San Francisco and the Western United States, wrote how “the Roman Catholic faith holds that the blessed Virgin appeared at Fatima and predicted the reconversion to the government of Holy Russia to Christianity. There must be something more than coincidence that this occurred in 1917 AD, the year that our beloved Russia was lost to the Bolsheviks and Communism.” 
Meanwhile, in 1964-1965, a special pavilion was erected at World Trade Fair in New York to house the icon so that people could come to admire it. On October 4, 1965, Pope Paul VI came to bless the icon. 
And then entered the “Blue Army”, an American organisation that had embraced the communist strife and the role of Fatima. The icon was the perfect billboard to promote their campaign. The Blue Army had its first “official contact” with the icon on September 13, 1965, at the New York World’s Fair. That night, the pavilion was filled with members of the Blue Army, led by the Bishop of Fatima himself. It appears that the entire night was spent in adoration and prayer for the conversion of Russia and world peace. Blue Army groups around the world, in many cities, held similar all night vigils on that same date.
The Blue Army learned about the opportunity to purchase the icon in January 1970. Anna Mitchell-Hedges demanded $125,000 for the relic – a most reasonable price.
Father Karl Pazelt, the director of the Byzantine Centre in San Francisco, begged the leaders of the Blue Army to make sure the necessary funds were raised. Then, it seems, another miracle of Fatima happened, for the Blue Army were able to purchase the artefact, even though officially there was nothing to indicate they would ever be able to obtain the required funds. This is why some accounts claim that Anna Mitchell-Hedges was only paid $25,000.

Once the icon was purchased, it was taken to Fatima. Russia’s most precious relic now hung in the very place where the Virgin had predicted the vice that was communism. It therefore doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the Soviet communist regime did next: it suggested that the icon was not the original one. The Soviet powers were perfectly aware that the icon was courting a date with destiny… and became extremely nervous. 
The West, of course, wanted to see the icon returned to Moscow, as its return would be interpreted by the Russian people as an omen that the evil of communism was about to be vanquished by the Virgin. But would the people of Russia rebel against their leaders, inspired by the return of the icon? And would such a revolt be successful? That was definitely not a foregone conclusion. And if the icon failed to bring about a popular revolt, then what? It was therefore agreed that the icon would remain in Fatima until Russia was free from communism… a far safer option.

What happened next, was a surprise, for rather than to Russia, the icon went to the Vatican… to the private quarters of Pope John Paul II. After the papal assassination attempt in 1981, the pope became convinced that his life had been saved by the intervention of the Virgin herself. He believed that the Third Secret of Fatima had predicted his survival and that the Virgin had personally saved him from death. Equally, the Polish-born pope tried to bring religion back to the communist countries. 
When he discovered the icon in 1991, during one of his many visits to Fatima, he realised the icon was most important, politically, but maybe also to his own personal cause. He asked to have it transferred to the Vatican, where it was installed in the papal apartment. In 1993, the Blue Army consented to this transfer.
Rome was never meant to be its destination, of course. In 1989, when communism had collapsed, Metropolitan Alexy of Leningrad, the future Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow, visited Seattle and had dinner with Father Frederick Miller, then-executive director of the Blue Army. The meeting could be seen as the first step in a process that might see the return of the icon to Russia. 
But in 1993, it was no longer the Blue Army, but the pope who was negotiating with the Russian Orthodox leaders. The pope did not merely want to see the object on display in Moscow, he personally wished to visit Moscow or Kazan, when he would return the icon to the Russian Orthodox Church. It was clear that the Vatican wanted to show to the people of Mother Russia that it was the Catholic Church, not the Orthodox Church, which had preserved their most precious relic. Unsurprisingly, these plans were blocked by the Moscow Patriarchate. They wanted to see the relic’s return, but without the Vatican’s fingerprints all over the event. 
Officially, the pope wanted to deliver the relic personally as a sign of rapprochement between the two Churches that had been divided since 1054. This was also the dream of the Blue Army, but it was clear that this would be a very high-profile state visit, which would have to meet with the total approval of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The president, it seemed, did not wish to see a papal visit to Mother Russia either… and definitely not one in which he brought the Virgin of Kazan back.

Little happened for a decade, but after Putin’s visit to the Vatican in 2003, it became obvious that the seriously frail and aging pope would not be invited to Russia any time soon. Pope John Paul II realised that he had to lower the stakes if he wanted to accomplish anything. As such, he consented in a lower key process in which a Vatican missionary would present the icon to the Russian Church. 
In late August 2004, the Pope said goodbye to the icon in an incense-filled Liturgy of the Word celebration inside the Vatican. “How many times have I prayed to the Mother of God of Kazan,” he lamented about the icon that had hung over his desk in the papal apartments for the past ten years, “asking her to protect and guide the Russian people and to precipitate the moment in which all the disciples of her Son, recognizing themselves as brothers, will know how to reconstruct in fullness their compromised unity.” He then handed the icon over to two emissaries, Cardinals Walter Kasper and Theodore McCarrick, the latter archbishop of Washington, who took it to Russia. 
Interestingly, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, stated that the icon was “a symbol of the new Europe and its formation, of which Russia is a part.” He added that “Our Lady of Kazan is the protector of Europe and its Christian roots. […] After two world wars, and the phenomena of secularisation, Europe needs to be founded again in the faith.”

On August 26, 2004, the Virgin of Kazan went on display on the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. Two days later, it was delivered to Moscow. Vatican Cardinal Walter Kasper handed the icon back to the Russian Orthodox Church in a ceremony at the Kremlin’s Cathedral of the Assumption, as a personal gift from Pope John Paul II.
It would be almost one year later, on the next feast day of the holy icon – July 21, 2005 – that Patriarch Alexius II and Mintimer Shaymiev, the President of Tatarstan, placed it in the Annunciation Cathedral of the Kazan Kremlin. The Virgin of Kazan was back where she belonged – and where she had conquered, it seemed, the forces of communism. Destiny had been fulfilled, through divine will and/or political engineering, with the participation of several popes, an English treasure hunter, maybe Hitler’s inner circle, and maybe even the Virgin Mary herself.

This article appeared in Atlantis Rising, Issue 87 (May – June 2011).

Russian Submarine named after Russian Saint – Orthodox Chapel Installed

imNew Russian Submarine named after Russian Saint
 

By Stephen K. Ryan

 

As Russia rattles its sabre in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis a new  Russian nuclear submarine has been named after Saint Aleksandr Nevsky of Russia. The new sub will be fitted with its own Orthodox chapel after the vessel finishes its sea trials. It becomes the second nuke-carrying sub equipped with a religous sanctuary.

Veneration of Saint Alexander Nevsky as a saint began soon after his death. The remains of the prince were uncovered in response to a vision, before the Battle of Kulikovo in the year 1380, and found to be incorrupt. He was glorified (canonized) by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1547. His principal feast day is 23 November. By order of Peter the Great, Nevsky’s relics were transported to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg where they remain to this day

The military chapel on the submarine will allow sailors to attend religious services right on board during the sub’s long missions. 

It is the sixth military chapel to consecrated into the Russian Navy. The other five were installed on the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, the heavy cruiser Pyotr Veliky, Russian Navy sail training ship Kruzenshtern, guided missile cruiser Moskva, and nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine K-433 Svyatoy Georgiy Pobedonosets. 

FromRT:

Construction on the Alexander Nevsky began in March 2004 and it was launched in December 2010. Its sea trials began on October 24 in the White Sea. After the trials, the sub will return to port, where the chapel will finally be installed.

The development of clergy activities in the Russian army has support from the highest level. Some 240 clergy and nine priest positions have appeared in the Russian army in 2011, and by the end of the year the military is expected to fill all the vacancies with representatives from all official religions.

A full-scale military priesthood existed in Russia from the 18th century until the beginning of the Soviet era. In 2009, President Dmitry Medvedev supported a project to restore the military priesthood to Russia.

Prophecies Fulfilled: From Fatima to Kibeho and Medjugorje

Prophecies Fulfilled: From Fatima to Kibeho and Medjugorje
By Daniel Klimek

There are two sets of Marian apparitions of the 20th century (one extending into the 21st) that have had much in common, and whose similarity is quite noteworthy for the immeasurable consequences. They are the apparitions of Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the apparitions of Kibeho, Rwanda.

Both apparitions began in 1981. Both contained a group of young visionaries, mostly teenagers, experiencing the phenomena – six visionaries at Medjugorje, seven at Kibeho. Both featured extraordinary supernatural signs witnessed by thousands of people. Both contained visions of the afterlife given to the young visionaries. Perhaps most importantly, both apparitions correctly predicted significant world catastrophes, from war to genocide.

More specifically, Our Lady of Medjugorje correctly predicted the wars in the former Yugoslavia and the end of Communism in the region, while Our Lady of Kibeho correctly predicted the Rwandan genocides. What is most remarkable is that these correct prophecies came years before any serious political or military conflict was noticeable in the regions of these apparitions.

In Medjugorje, Our Lady told the visionaries that Communism would end in the Balkans after a war. This prophecy, given in the early ’80s, came years before Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian war criminal, came into power in the former Yugoslavia and began advocating a hegemonic “Greater Serbia” to rule the Yugoslavian states. The prophecy came long before Milosevic applied nationalistic language to incite Serb antagonism toward the Croats and Muslims in the region. The prophecy came long before any military action was undertaken in the region, long before the concentration camps were reestablished in Europe, for the first time since World War II, long before war broke out in 1991. The warning – from Our Lady of Medjugorje – was there years earlier. Unfortunately, people were not listening.

Bishop Paolo Hnilica, a Jesuit who survived the GULAG slave camps in Soviet Europe and who was one of Pope John Paul II’s closest friends and Vatican advisers, once explained: “In Medjugorje, Gospa [Our Lady] started with the warning that there would be war if we were not converted. Nobody took these messages seriously. Maybe if the bishops of former Yugoslavia had accepted these messages more seriously it [the war] would not have gone that far.” im

The nearly identical scenario transpired in Kibeho, in southern Rwanda. Years before political or military conflict was present in the region, Our Lady of Kibeho predicted the bloodshed that would follow through war and genocide. Not only that but, like in Medjugorje, Our Lady of Kibeho asked the people to pray to prevent a terrible war from coming. Similarly, in Medjugorje, Our Lady has frequently repeated that with prayer and fasting even wars could be stopped,

The great prophecy of Kibeho came in August 19, 1982, when the Kibeho visionaries experienced an unusually long apparition, which lasted eight hours. During this apparition the seers were shown a horrifying and disturbing vision of the Rwandan genocides that were to come. In this terrifying vision, they saw “a river of blood,” people slaughtering each other indiscriminately, killing, mass murder, human corpses – many without their heads – too numerous to bury.

Over a decade later in the summer of 1994, the vicious civil war broke out in Rwanda between the Tutsis and the Hutus, resulting in the murders of nearly one million people, including the Kibeho visionary Marie Clare Mukangango. What’s fascinating, and that much more disturbing, is that the killing style of the genocides fulfilled the Kibeho prophecy. Many of the victims in Rwanda were beheaded by machetes and their corpses dumped into the Kagea River – this was exactly as Our Lady prophecized, twelve years earlier, in giving the seers a vision of a “river of blood” [as found in the Kagea River] and of headless corpses laying amidst mass killing. Like in Medjugorje, the Kibeho prophecy came many years before military and political conflict erupted in the region. Like in Medjugorje, the Kibeho prophecy came as a warning, urging the people to pray, fast, reconcile, and convert to God in order to stop these evils from arriving,

Even in the spiritual sense, the content of the messages between Medjugorje and Kibeho has been strikingly similar, beyond the terrifying prophecies.

In the book, “Those Who Saw Her: Apparitions of Mary,” the Catholic author Catherine M. Odell observes some of the connections between the apparitions in Kibeho and the apparitions in Medjugorje. She especially noticed the remarkable similarity between the content of the devotional messages given by Our Lady of Kibeho and Our Lady of Medjugorje, very likely pointing to the same spiritual source at each location.

“Many Rwandans must have recalled the words they heard from the seven youths of Kibeho. The young people had communicated a message from the Mother of the Word. Like the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje, she had pleaded for reconciliation, conversion, penance, and prayer! Our Lady also begged to be seen as a loving Mother of all peoples. She had come to bring a message of love and consolation to a nation that was soon put upon a cross.”

Prayer, penance, fasting, reconciliation, these simple—but deeply mystical—messages have been given by Our Lady in both Medjugorje and Kibeho for years. Interestingly, the continuing similarities between the two apparition sites go even further. In both Medjugorje and Kibeho, Our Lady has given the young seers visions of the afterlife.

Alphonsine Mumureke, who was a student at Kibeho College during the apparitions and the first visionary to see the Virgin, experienced an unusual phenomenon from March 20-21 of 1982. Alphonsine told the Sisters of the college and her classmates, “I will look dead, but don’t be afraid. Don’t bury me.” As March 20th arrived, so did Alphonsine’s predictions. Her body seemingly turned into stone – in other words, it was not possible to move the young visionary. Alphonsine fell into a deep sleep, it appeared. Her body was so heavy that priests, nuns, and medical doctors from the Red Cross could not lift her. Even her hands, which were clasped together as if in a state of prayer, couldn’t be separated from one another.

Alphonsine remained in this strange state for eighteen hours. What was truly fascinating, perhaps even more so than what was happening externally, is what was transpiring internally through the visionary. In this eighteen hour state, Alphonsine experienced a mystical journey. She was showed what many people would die to see (no pun intended): the afterlife. Our Lady showed Alphonsine heaven, purgatory, and hell.

The visionary was shown what happens to a person’s soul after they die, the realm that they travel into. Heaven was a place aglow with illumination, great lights, joy and happiness permeated the realm. Purgatory was a sad place of reconciliation. Hell was a disturbing and dark place of fierce fire and complete separation from God.

After experiencing this phenomenon, after eighteen hours, Alphonsine’s body returned to its normal state and the young seer finally awoke.

Similarly, the visionaries of Medjugorje were also shown the afterlife. As in Kibeho, the Medjugorje visionaries describe seeing three realms – heaven, purgatory, and hell. Two of the visionaries, Vicka Ivankovic and Jacov Colo, report being physically taken by the Virgin to these locations, while the others were simply given visions of these realms.

Heaven, according to the Medjugorje visionaries, is a huge place of great lights, beauty, and immense joy. Meadows, mountains, hills, beautiful countrysides are all present; people possess an inner light, radiating a serene joy from their presence. Purgatory is a very sad and chilling place. The visionary Vicka described it as a gray area with misty fog through which people could be heard trembling, weeping, moaning, and where an extreme loneliness permeates the atmosphere. Hell is even more disturbing. The visionaries have described it as a vast space with many people and a great sea of fire in the center. According to the visionaries, the people in hell are enraged, cursing, ugly, angry. They enter the fires naked and come out horrific, no longer in human shape, in vastly darkened, blackened skin.

What is fascinating is that, in addition to the similarities of the Kibeho visions, these descriptions of the afterlife given by the Medjugorje seers match the Fatima visions as well. As one of the three secrets of Fatima, the visionary Lucia Santos was shown a vision of hell. She later described this vision thus:

“Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent.”

It is interesting how the Medjugorje visionaries described a sea of fire in the center of hell, like Sister Lucia did in Fatima. It is further interesting how the Medjugorje visions describe people who, after entering the flames, no longer resemble humans but take on different (inhuman) forms with darkened, blackened skin. Incredibly similar to Sister Lucia’s vision in describing what appeared as a “repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent.”

The similarities are important for they show a coherency in these apparitions, pointing once again to the same spiritual source in each location. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, who has been an astute observer of these matters, once observed: “I am fascinated with the coherence of Medjugorje with other Marian shrines, apparition sites. I always say that there is a grammar of Mary’s apparitions. That style has something special with Our Lady. I think that theologians have to study the syntax of Mary’s apparitions and in that context to study the phenomena of Medjugorje.”

The same coherence that Cardinal Schonborn spoke of, between Medjugorje and other Marian shrines, Pope John Paul II noticed years ago, once famously explaining that “Medjugorje is the fulfillment of Fatima.” Given the fact that the late Polish Pope likely constituted one of the individuals in the third Fatima secret, his expertise on the matter, and his role as the great pontiff, are unmatched.

What is noteworthy is that there are even more similarities, and thus more coherence, between Medjugorje, Kibeho, and Fatima. Perhaps Fatima’s most famous event occurred when thousands of people – many of them skeptics – saw the sun dance in 1917, thus a visible supernatural sign was given by God to prove the authenticity of the apparitions. The miracle of the dancing sun has been reported also a few times at Kibeho while the visionaries experienced their apparitions. At Medjugorje, likewise, the miracle of the dancing sun, which was seen once in Fatima and a couple of times at Kibeho, has been so frequent and so constant that a simple online YouTube search will produce several video clips of the phenomenon in the Bosnian village, recorded by countless of pilgrims, thousands having witnessed the occurrence. This is very important to note because it was the widely reported miracle of the dancing sun, witnessed by an estimated of 70,000 people in Fatima, which quickly led to the approval of the apparitions by the Church.

Invoking Fatima, it is also noteworthy that the famous apparition of Portugal prophesized the coming of World War II and the end of Communism in Russia. Thus both Medjugorje, in correctly prophecizing the wars of the former Yugoslavia and the end of Communism in the region, as well as Kibeho, in correctly prophecizing the Rwandan wars and genocides, have their predecessor in the apparitions of Fatima. Again, as Cardinal Schonborn acknowledged, there is a syntax, a coherence between Mary’s apparitions.

There is one major difference between Fatima and Kibeho, on the one hand, and Medjugorje on the other. The difference is not spiritual but ecclesial. Both the Fatima and Kibeho apparitions have concluded and have been subsequently approved by Roman Catholic authorities. In Medjugorje, on the other hand, the apparitions have not concluded but continue to this day, nearly thirty years later, and are currently under investigation by the Holy See.

Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger acknowledged that in investigating Medjugorje what the Church will consider are the facts and the fruits. The fruits, of course, have been abundant. From the millions who have converted and reawakened their faith at Medjugorje, to the thousands that have discovered their vocations to the priesthood at Medjugorje (see, “The Amazing Fruits of Medjugorje – Religious Vocations Point to Authenticity” on MinistryValues).

But, as the Holy See continues its diligent investigation of Medjugorje, it will no doubt (to quote Cardinal Schonborn’s advice) also look for the coherence of Medjugorje with other Marian apparition sites, especially those that have been approved by the Church. This is where the facts come in. In this sense, the coherence present between what is happening in Medjugorje and what happened in both Fatima and Kibeho, from the catastrophic prophecies of war and genocide, to the spiritual messages of prayer, fasting, and conversion, to the extraordinary supernatural signs and witnessed miracles like the dancing sun, to the coherent visions of the afterlife at each of these three locations, is both abundant and impossible to ignore. All of the evidence points to the presence of the same spiritual source at each site – the Mother of God.

Daniel Klimek recently completed his Master’s degree at Yale Divinity School and is now pursuing a Doctoral degree in Spirituality at Catholic University in Washington D.C.