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.
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.
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.
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.
| by Daniel Klimek
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.
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.
Ten Medjugorje Secrets by Father Tomislav Vlasic
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.
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 Dimity 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.
A young doctor is whisked halfway across the globe to care for an ailing international religious icon.
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
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”.
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).
New 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.
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
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.