A personal reflection on Medjugorje from Deacon Peter Marshall
In recent times, I don’t think that there have been many issues that have caused more discussion within the Catholic community than the alleged apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje. Hardly a publication goes by without some expert or other voicing an opinion. Some opinions are pro some anti, not surprisingly the anti lobby seem to be more vociferous than the pro lobby. Personally I welcome opinion and debate, but wonder if the right and Christian approach shouldn’t be to prayerfully and respectfully await the outcome of the Vatican commission on the subject.
I say alleged apparitions because I want to keep an open mind on the subject and await the Vatican’s decision. And although Sue, my wife, and I have been pilgrimage group leaders to Medjugorje for a number of years, if I was asked whether Our Lady is appearing, I would have to say truthfully I don’t know, I have no proof for Our Lady hasn’t appeared to me personally. But I do believe in the apparitions because I want to believe, some may not want to believe, whilst others may want to believe but need signs. This seems to me no different to the faith struggle in general. Something I often ponder though: how could those six young visionaries live such a lie, if it is a lie, for thirty plus years, most of their life, without one of them breaking rank; and yet when you see and speak to them, they are so full of joy, how could they carry the burden of deceit of 30 million plus pilgrims so joyfully? I also believe in the many things that I have seen and heard, things that have happened in people’s lives as well as to me and my family, how can I not believe? So much to ponder and I wonder if all these experiences are too many and too much to be coincidence?
My own experience started in the late 1990’s. I was that typical “Sunday Catholic”, last in first out at Mass. I think that I wanted to do more within the church, but I was just too busy to get involved. Two things happened about the same time, firstly I was asked to consider becoming a Deacon. Having no idea what a Deacon was, it didn’t take too much research for me to realise this wasn’t for me. The second thing was that we both decided to go on a pilgrimage. My idea was Lourdes, Sue had other ideas and we went to Medjugorje. That first pilgrimage was a washout, it never stopped raining. We went twice more and I was coming to the conclusion it wasn’t for me, I got nothing out of it and importantly it was costing me a week’s holiday each year. Why we kept going I have no idea and why we both felt suddenly compelled to become facilitators for first time pilgrims is still a mystery. Although we didn’t notice anything ourselves we have been told by family and friends that they could see a change in us. Looking back I realise that I am becoming a different person. I know that I’m not there yet and I think that this is the key to why we keep returning. It is as though each year we are given another piece of the jigsaw puzzle to work on. It isn’t easy, a lot of the changes have certainly not been easy.
I’m a big believer in speaking as you find. Medjugorje is many things to many people; for some it’s where Heaven meets earth, for others it’s Our Lady’s school of prayer, yet for others it will be the issue that will split the Catholic Church. Whatever, I believe that “speaking as you find” is not a bad idea, so why not make the pilgrimage and see for yourself. Importantly go with an open mind. I’m convinced that you too will then have an informed opinion, a tale or two to tell, and plenty to ponder.