Why Does the Virgin Mary Come?
The Virgin comes, the visionaries report, to teach us how to achieve peace in our hearts, in our homes and in the world. Perhaps there has never been a more appropriate time than the present for the world to receive this heavenly instruction.
She comes, they say, to remind the world that God exists. She cautions that darkness reigns over the whole world. This, the Virgin tells us, is because we have turned away from God and have become distracted by the lures of materialism. We have become lukewarm in our faith and have forgotten the Bible.
Therefore, the Mother returns to earth each day, patiently, predictably, in the hopes of reconciling the world back to her Son. Her words of comfort and consolation, correction and guidance and, at times, desperation, have attracted the attention of many. Her words are simple and repetitive, making them temptingly easy to dismiss or underestimate. Few, she tells us, can comprehend the full intent of her words, and none can do so without prayer.
“You are not conscious of the messages which God is sending to you through me. He is giving you great graces, and you do not comprehend them. Pray to the Holy Spirit for enlightenment. If you only knew how great are the graces God is granting you, you would be praying without ceasing.” (11/8/84)
As a Mother who loves her children, the Blessed Virgin comes to call her people to holiness, to an abandonment of self for God. Equally important, she comes to warn us of danger and tell us how we can protect ourselves.
The urgency of Our Lady’s messages was clarified in the first year of the apparitions. The visionaries were told:
“A great struggle is about to unfold. A struggle between my Son and satan. Human souls are at stake.” (8/2/81)
For the next several years, the Virgin hinted of “a plan.” She asked for prayers for this plan, that it be carried out according to God’s will. Finally, in early 1987, she revealed the nature of this plan, in her first monthly message to the world:
“Dear children, I want you to comprehend that God has chosen each one of you, in order to use you in a great plan for the salvation of mankind.” (1/25/87)
This plan, Our Lady told the seers, cannot be carried out without the help of her children. To defeat satan in our lives and in the world, the Queen of Peace revealed five important spiritual weapons.
Five Weapons with which to Defeat satan
Our first defense, not surprisingly, is prayer. Prayer, promises the Virgin, can change the world. It is the only way to save the human race. “Pray!” is the most frequent message of Our Lady. In prayer, she says, the spirit is purified. Whether it is the Rosary, formal prayers, silent meditation or prayers of consecration, it is important that prayer not become a mere recitation of words. The Virgin calls us to pray with the heart, to pray with love.
The second weapon against the attacks of satan is the practice of fasting. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, are filled with examples of abstaining from food for the purposes of penance and purification. The Virgin informs us that the importance, effectiveness and power of fasting have been all but forgotten, particularly in the past century.
“Fasting and prayer can stop wars and suspend the laws of nature.” (7/21/82)
While fasting can consist of giving up earthly pleasures such as alcohol, cigarettes or television, Our Lady tells us that the best fast is one of bread and water. She invites all people, except the sick, to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. Through fasting, the body is purified, and the spirit is once again placed in control of the flesh.
The third weapon in our arsenal against darkness is daily scripture reading. The Virgin Mother encourages her children to display the Bible in a visible place in the home, to encourage us to read it everyday and apply it to our lives.
Fourth, the Virgin calls us to penance, to atone for our sins and those of the world. For Catholics, this means monthly Confession, with a focus on transforming ourselves to become closer to God. Again, this is a practice that has lost much of its significance in the world today. Monthly confession, Our Lady goes as far as saying, will be a remedy for the Church in the West.
Finally, the Queen of Peace calls Catholics to receive the Eucharist as often as possible. The Mass, she tells the faithful, is the most important and most holy moment in our lives. It should be our life. Mass is the greatest prayer of God, and we should prepare ourselves accordingly.
If the above five practices are our weapons against evil, our armor, instructs the Queen, must be love. Without love, she says, nothing is possible.
The Queen of Peace Comes to all People
Our Lady has made it clear that the apparitions and messages of Medjugorje are not limited to Catholics only. We are all her children, she tells us. Particularly when pressed by the Croatian visionaries about the oppression and persecution of the Serbian Orthodox and Muslims in their own country, Our Lady answered:
“It is you who are divided on earth. The Muslims and the Orthodox, for the same reason as Catholics, are equal before my Son and me. You are all my children. Certainly, all religions are not equal, but all men are equal before God, as St. Paul says.
Salvation is available to everyone, without exception. Only those who refuse God deliberately are condemned. It is God alone, in His infinite justice, who determines the degree of responsibility and prognoses judgement.” (1984)
Viewpoint of the Catholic Church
The apparitions of Medjugorje are the source of much discussion and controversy within the Catholic Church. According to Church law, an apparition falls under the category of “private revelation.” The faithful is not obliged to believe in or follow any particular apparition. Only the seer(s) may have obligation to heed the messages.
However, since prayerful meditation on approved apparitions has been shown to enhance one’s faith and lead a person into deeper relationship with God, the Church carefully scrutinizes reports of supernatural occurrences to test their legitimacy. This process involves an analysis of the visionaries, the documentation of miraculous cures and interventions, and an assessment of the overall fruits of the event.
Since Medjugorje is an ongoing phenomenon, the Church cannot make a formal decision at this time. It is significant, however, that these apparitions have lasted for 23 years and have not been condemned by the Church. While under the watchful eye of the Magisterium, the publicized messages continue to be true to the Gospel and not contradictory to the faith. The fruits appear sound, particularly the numerous spiritual conversions.
Our Lady has been questioned through the visionaries by those who wish to respond to the messages without being disobedient to the Church. She answers:
“One must follow the authority of the Church with certainty. Yet, before she expresses an opinion, it is necessary to advance spiritually, because she will not be able to express a judgement in a vacuum, but in a confirmation which presupposes growth of the child. First comes birth, followed by Baptism, then Confirmation. The Church comes to confirm him, who is born of God. We must walk and advance in the spiritual life, affected by these messages.” (1986)