With the recent conclusion of the 2019 Youth Festival in Medjugorje, a historic period in the saga of the apparitions of Our Lady has been marked. Not only were influential Vatican representatives present at the festival on an official pilgrimage, from Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, papal vicar of the Rome Diocese, to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization, giving their approval to the event in front of 60,000 young people, but what is also noteworthy is that Bishop Ratko Peric, the local bishop of Mostar who has been a critic of Medjugorje for many years, has officially resigned, according to MaryTV.
Denis Nolan reported the resignation of the bishop on the August 2, 2019 episode of “The Rosary with Denis and Cathy” at MaryTV.tv, the online television station that streams from Medjugorje daily.
I was thinking about this reality: how over the past three decades, Medjugorje has had its critics, yet each critic comes and goes, but the apparitions continue. Millions of people continue to come on pilgrimage. Countless people report powerful experiences with God, deeper relationships with Jesus and Mary, a love of the Eucharist, religious and priestly vocations; and now, Vatican representatives are sharing in the joy, as Medjugorje has been officially recognized as a pilgrimage site and a place where the New Evangelization is flourishing.
As the wise Rabbi Gamaliel explained to his fellow Pharisees regarding the apostles of Jesus and their movement. “For if their purpose or endeavor is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39).
Critics of Our Lady’s apparitions come and go, but Medjugorje remains, remaining as a vital presence in renewing the Church and the faith, drawing millions to a deeper Catholic faith.
What is the appeal that Medjugorje continues to have? Part of it, no question, is what Pope St. John Paul II once eloquently articulated: “Today’s world has lost its sense of the supernatural. But many are searching for it, and find it in Medjugorje, through prayer, penance, and fasting.”
The great Polish saint and pope, who himself had met with a couple of the visionaries, loved Medjugorje, and understood the deeper dimension that attracts so many: the mystical dimension of faith. A place like Medjugorje shows people that God and the Mother of God are not distant realities of the past, but personal forces in our lives: present through constant messages from heaven, through the maternal care of Mother Mary for her children, through the grace of God that has affected so many through conversions, healings, vocations, a return to the sacraments – to lives of faith and deep meaning through Medjugorje.
A disturbing Pew poll recently came out which stated that over 70 % of Catholics do not believe in the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist. That is a deeply troubling reality, that the center of the Catholic faith, Jesus in the Eucharist, is denied by so many Catholics and treated as a mere symbol.
Two times in my life I have attended the Youth Festival in Medjugorje, and one of the most moving aspects of the Festival is how deeply reverenced Jesus is in the Eucharist. Surrounded by thousands of young people, kneeling in the silence of the night outside St. James Church, as a giant monstrance holds the Eucharistic Host, Jesus Christ among us, in those moments you realize you are in a holy place: where the sacred is worshipped, where the Truth is acknowledged, in His body, blood, soul, and divinity among us.
Perhaps it is not surprising, given the troubling poll of how few Catholics believe in the Eucharist, that in her most recent message from Medjugorje, given on August 2, Our Lady spoke about the centrality of the Eucharist, and the importance of adoring Jesus in the Eucharist. “Dear children! Great is the love of my Son. If you were to come to know the greatness of His love, you would never cease to adore and thank Him. He is always alive with you in the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is His Heart. The Eucharist is the heart of faith. He has never left you.”
Not only is Eucharistic adoration a time when we have to adore Jesus, but that time which we spent before Him also gives life to our souls, feeding us spiritually and allowing us to be stronger to spread love and truth to others, providing us with evangelistic fervor. Our Lady’s message concluded: “Let the Eucharist be the place where you will feed your souls, and afterwards, will spread love and truth will bear witness to my Son. Thank you.”