Since 1981, when six local children claimed they had seen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Medjugorje has become an unapproved destination of Catholic pilgrimage.
“Our Lady of Medjugorje” is the title given to the apparition by those who believe that Mary, mother of Jesus, has been appearing from 24 June 1981 until today to six children, now adults, in Medjugorje (then part of communist Yugoslavia). “Most Blessed Virgin Mary”, “Queen of Peace” and “Mother of God” are words the apparition has allegedly introduced herself with.
The visionary Marija Lunetti (Pavlović) claims to receive messages from the Virgin Mary on the twenty-fifth of every month, while Mirjana Soldo (Dragičević) reports receiving messages on the second of the month.
The messages attributed to Our Lady of Medjugorje have a strong following among Catholics worldwide. Medjugorje has become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for Catholics in the world and has turned into Europe’s third most important apparition site, where each year more than 1 million people visit. It has been estimated that 30 million pilgrims have come to Medjugorje since the reputed apparitions began in 1981. Many have reported visual phenomena including the sun spinning in the sky or changing color and figures such as hearts and crosses around the sun. Some visitors have suffered eye damage while seeking to experience such phenomena. Jesuit Father Robert Faricy has written about his own experience of such phenomena, saying, “Yet I have seen rosaries which have changed colour, and I have looked directly at the sun in Medjugorje and have seen it seem to spin and turn different colors. It would be easier to report that it is just hysteria except that I would then have to accuse myself of being hysterical, which I was not and am not.”
On 24 June 1981, young Mirjana Dragicevic and Ivanka Ivanković reported seeing an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a village in what is now in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The following day another vision was reported, this time also by four other young people:, Marija Pavlović Jakov Colo, Vicka Ivanković, and Ivan Dragicevic.
The children claim that they saw an apparition on the hill Crnica (on the place called Podbrdo); the alleged apparition was a white form with a child in her arms. Surprised and scared, they did not approach. The next day at the same time four of the youths returned, and were later joined by the other two.
For several years the six visionaries reported seeing daily apparitions from the Virgin Mary and Medjugorje became crowded with pilgrims. It has been reported that Our Lady of Medjugorje has been appearing daily to three of these visionaries ever since, some say that they have stopped having daily apparitions.
At the time of the first alleged apparition Vicka Ivanković was sixteen years old. She claims to have prayed with Our Lady and talked to her; she also claims to have been given nine “secrets”.
Her “prayer mission”, said to have been given by the Blessed Virgin Mary, is to pray for the sick. Vicka says that her daily apparitions have not yet stopped. Vicka claims to have received a biography of Mary’s life, contained in two hand written notebooks, which Vicka has said will be published when the Blessed Virgin Mary tells her to do so.
Vicka Ivanković continues to meet with pilgrims to Medjugorje, which she has done for over twenty one years. Vicka is often called “the smiling visionary” because she always has a smile filled with joy on her face.
Regarding her alleged visions, Vicka once stated:
“Before, I prayed from pure habit. Now I’ve turned completely to prayer. I commit my life completely to God. I feel sorry for those who do not believe in God, because Our Lady wants no one to be lost. We can help each other find the right way to God. It’s up to the people to obey the messages and be converted. Great things are happening here: Our Lady is among us. She wishes to attract everyone to Her Son. That’s the reason She has been coming so long and so often. Here, everyone feels the nearness and the love of God. As role model and example, Gospa (Mary) began, in January 1983, to tell me Her life story, which took over two years.”
In the nearly 33 years that she has purportedly been appearing to the six visionaries, they have been reporting receiving messages from the Virgin Mary asking for people to pray often, to fast, and to do penance.
Many phenomena have been reported at Medjugorje, such as the sun spinning, dancing in the sky, turning colours, or being surrounded by objects such as hearts or crosses. Many have been able to look at the sun during those times without any damage to their eyes. The tall cement cross erected on Mount Križevac (which means “Cross Mountain”) has reportedly disappeared and reappeared or else glowed as if lit with lights, although there is no electricity on the mountain. Not everyone reports seeing the same miracles at the same time. Numerous miraculous healings have also been documented.
Description of Mary:
Franciscan Fr. Janko Bubalo questioned the visionaries and asked them to describe Mary’s appearance. They claim that Our Lady appears to be 18 to 20 years old, slender and around 165 centimetres (5 ft 5 in) tall. Her face is long and oval. She has black hair. Her eyes are blue with delicate eyelashes and thin black eyebrows. She has a nice, little nose and rosy cheeks. She has beautiful reddish thin lips and her smile is more like some indescribable gentleness. It’s visible as if somehow under her skin.
Her simple dress is bluish-grey and falls freely all the way down to the little whitish cloud on which she is standing. Her veil is pure white and covers her head and shožžulders. It also reaches down to the little cloud. She has a crown of twelve golden stars on her head.
Finally he asked, “Is Our Lady really beautiful, as you have said?” Their answer was, “Well, really we haven’t told you anything about that. Her beauty cannot be described. It is not our kind of beauty. It is something ethereal, something heavenly, something that we’ll only see in Paradise and then only to a certain degree.” Visionary Mirjana, in her autobiography,says that when they asked Gospa, “How is it possible that you are so beautiful? Our Lady gently smiled. “I am beautiful because I love,” she said. “If you want to be beautiful, then love.”