The following interview was conducted and published by ministryvalues.com. - Asst. Ed.
Last week, Ministryvalues.com was lucky enough to catch Dr. Mark Miravalle between radio broadcasts, and he was kind enough to give us some of his very valuable time to ask him some questions - tough questions, it turns out for many - questions that seem to consistently cause a stir in many circles of a very large family called the Catholic Church.
Today it seems the subject of a Fifth Marian Dogma and the events taking place at Medjugorje, certainly when it comes to debating the issues, can split even the most well meaning Catholics into a veritable Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s family feud. The Fifth Dogma seeks to establish the Blessed Mother as Co-redemptrix and the Mother of all graces. The concept of Co-redemptrix refers to an indirect or unequal but important participation by the Blessed Virgin Mary in redemption, a status that many say would widen the ecumenical divide between Catholics and Protestants.
Medjugorje is perhaps even more controversial, especially among the Catholic faithful. Medjugorje is a town in Bosnia and since 1981, the Virgin Mary is said to be appearing to six people bringing special messages to the world urging us all to return to prayer and to seek “Peace in our hearts”. The controversy surrounding Medjugoje stems from the fact that the movement has become the fastest growing Marian shrine in the world, rivaling now even Fatima and Lourdes, but has yet to receive official Vatican approval as an authentic apparition of the Blessed Mother of Jesus.
At Ministryvalues.com, we bring these subjects up a lot in our content and we have found ourselves in the middle of the bazooka crossfire many times. Perhaps that is why Dr. Miravalle took pity on us and accepted our request to speak with him.
As soon as we began our conversation with Dr. Miravalle, he quickly insisted we call him Mark. At first we thought we had mispronounced his name and rather than go through the niceties of straightening that business out, we figured he decided it would be simpler and quicker to go with just “Mark”. But that was not the case - turns out one of the most esteemed and respected Marian theologians and authors in the world, a man who has had private meetings with Pope John Paul II and Our Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI, a man who has given his enormous talents and energy to make this world a better place by helping people get to know the Blessed Mother more intimately, more realistically and more lovingly, really likes being called just plain old Mark.
Without a doubt, Dr. Mark Miravalle is not only a treasure within the Catholic Church, but also the politest man you will ever meet. And did we mention patient. Dr. Miravalle, a man who is pulled at once in many directions, and as a father of eight, we mean that literally as well as figuratively, made us feel like he had all the time in the world as we fumbled around trying to get our phone conference buttons to be punched in correctly. It was an eerie feeling, for us anyway, keeping a man on hold who has broken bread with Popes in private rooms. After we managed to work our way through the technological hurdles, Dr. Miravalle’s first words were, “It’s nice to talk with you on this special feast day of the Nativity, the Blessed Mother’s birthday.”
Ministryvalues.com: Dr. Miravalle, when the Catholic Church investigates reports of supernatural phenomena, it often invokes your assistance. What are some of the cases that you have investigated and what are some of the criteria that you use to discern such cases, especially when someone reports experiencing an apparition?
Dr. Miravalle: In investigating and discerning reported cases of supernatural phenomena, I use the official guidelines for criteria that the Church, through the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith), issued and works with. These guidelines were established in 1978 under Cardinal Seper at that time the Prefect of the CDF.
There are three primary criteria that are used to evaluate and judge any claim of supernatural phenomena. They include:
1) The content of the revealed message; does it align with Church teaching on faith and morals, with the Magisterium, does it align with Church history?
2) The nature of the ecstasy and other concurring phenomena
3) The recognized spiritual fruits resulting from the reported message and phenomena.
Ministryvalues.com: As a doctoral student, you wrote your dissertation on the reported Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, which are currently being investigated by the Holy See. Can you tell us how your dissertation came to be and what were your original experiences with Medjugorje?
Dr. Miravalle: I originally traveled to Medjugorje in 1983 while pursuing my doctoral studies at the Angelicum in Rome. I first heard of Medjugorje by finding a book on the subject by Fr. Robert Faricy and Sister Lucy Rooney in a bookstore across the street from the Vatican. Arriving at Medjugorje, I studied and investigated the events there, coming to the conclusion that Medjugorje fully aligns with Church teaching and, in my opinion, is absolutely authentic. Upon arriving in Medjugorje I soon felt a great sense of peace around me and my personal experience could only be described as a supernatural event. The dissertation was called, “The Message of Medjugorje: A Postconcilar Formulation of Lourdes and Fatima.” The dissertation showed how the messages of Medjugorje align with Church tradition, ranging from the Gospels to the teachings of the early Church Fathers in their foundational elements, to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and to the messages of other Church-approved apparitions.
Ministryvalues.com: As you probably know, the Vatican has taken the judgment of the apparitions in Medjugorje away from the local bishop, setting up an international commission under the guidance of the CDF in Rome to examine this phenomenon. What does this tell us about the significance of Medjugorje?
Dr. Miravalle: I see this as a continuation of what has transpired before, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger intervened in 1986 and took the jurisdiction of Medjugorje away from the local bishop of Mostar, Bishop Zanic, placing it into the hands of the Yugoslav Bishops Conference. This was done so Medjugorje could be judged objectively. That's why Medjugorje has recently been placed under an international commission headed by the Holy See, so the apparitions could be judged objectively. I see this is as a continuation of the Church's previous actions now.
What is most important is Our Lady’s wishes. Perhaps local Church authorities not certain of the authenticity of the apparitions at Medjugorje have themselves at times not been in conformity with the Church’s process of objective evaluation which therefore calls for ongoing cooperation. Much of the debate surrounding Medjugorje generally results from misunderstandings of official Church position pertaining to Medjugorje. Which in light of the 1991 Zadar statement from the ex Yugoslav conference of bishops, and the May 26, 1998 letter of Arcbishop Tarcisio Bertone then secretary of the CDF, does allow for private pilgrims to go to Medjugorje in good faith and in full obedience to the Magisterium.
Ministryvalues.com: Can you comment about this Marian movement, regarding the fifth Marian dogma, that you're a part of?
Dr. Miravalle: I am the president of Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, a movement within Catholicism that hopes to promote and gain, through papal infallibility, an official recognition of a fifth Marian dogma, a papal definition identifying Our Lady as the Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of all grace, and Advocate of all peoples. This dogma simply proclaims Our Lady to be the greatest helper to her Son in the Redemption of humanity, more than any other human being. As part of the movement, millions of people have sent their petitions to the Vatican for the official recognition of this dogma, including hundreds of priests, cardinals, and bishops; including the President of the Phillipines, Gloria Arroyo, who, on behalf of the Filipino people, petitioned the Pope Benedict directly for the proclamation of the Fifth Marian dogma.
Ministryvalues.com: You have written many books on Medjugorje. Many of your works emphasize how to live the messages of Medjugorje - from daily Mass to prayer and, perhaps most difficult for modern people, fasting. Can you talk about how you and your family incorporate the messages in your lives and what advice would you give to Christians who are sincerely trying, but struggling, to live these messages?
Dr. Miravalle: All Christians should struggle to live the messages. It is a message which really needs Christian perfection. Our Lady has been very pastoral with the call to fasting , for example. In the early periods of the apparitions, she recommended fasting on bread and water on Fridays; and only later, once people got used to it, she gradually added Wednesday to the fast; helping us to gradually adopt to these needs. But, while Our Lady says that bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays is the best fast, it's not the only way to fast. There's other things we can give up, other things that hinder us. We all can give up watching television. We can all give up eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. There's also the fast of the tongue. We should try to be less judgmental, giving up negative words and thoughts. So, while bread and water constitute the best fast, according to Our Lady, it's not the only way to fast.
Ministryvalues.com: When Cardinal Christoph Schonborn spoke at the Catholic University of America last February, he was asked about Medjugorje. One of the things that he emphasized was how many young people have discovered faith through Medjugorje, and how he could not ignore this blessing. He also emphasized how many vocations have been discovered through Medjugorje, explaining that if it wasn't for Medjugorje he wouldn't have any seminarians in Austria since most of his seminarians have found their vocation to the priesthood someone through Medjugorje. Being a professor at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, what has been the response that your students, that young people which you know and encounter on a daily basis, have given to Medjugorje and your lectures on the subject?
Dr. Miravalle: My students have been very receptive toward Medjugorje. Many of my students at Franciscan love Medjugorje, many have traveled to Medjugorje. For young people, Medjugorje is a place where we see a fire of conversion. .. Love flows to the hearts of young people and Medjugorje is a place that generates extraordinary graces. How powerful the spiritual fruits have been of Medjugorje, especially with young people. How many have overcome drug addictions, or sex addictions, how many have had their lives transformed completely because of Medjugorje. These are supernatural fruits which are being evidenced throughout the world, therefore this must be an authentic tree. Those who oppose Medjugorje have to ignore the foundational elements of Christian discernment, the fruits of the tree, according to the exceptional guidelines for discernment that Jesus Himself gives us. Many who oppose Medjugorje even try to separate the two, claiming that the fruits are good but the tree isn't. This doesn't make any sense in the tradition of Christian discernment, for, as Christ taught us in the Gospel, you will know the tree by the fruits. If the spiritual fruits are authentic, so then must be the tree.
Ministryvalues.com: As a devout Catholic and a father of eight, what advice can you give parents about raising their children with a love of faith, especially fostering a love for Our Lady? How have you attempted to foster this love in your own children's lives?
Dr. Miravalle: It is very important to foster regular family prayer, especially devotions like the Rosary. When families set time each day to pray together in the home, children will learn from this. They will notice that if this routine is broken, something is not right, for they will grow to appreciate the routine of prayer as part of their family's tradition.
Ministryvalues.com: What can people do if they want to support efforts for the Fifth Marian Dogma?
Dr. Miravalle: Our Lady has specifically asked, through the Marian message to the modern world, that we pray and petition for the Papal Definition of Mary as Our Spiritual Mother under its three essential aspects of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate. An international Rosary Crusade is presently taking place from August 15, 2010 to August 15, 2011 for this dogmatic crown for Our Lady. Pray the Rosary Daily for the Dogma, and also include the powerful prayer from the Lady of All Nations …
People can join the millions who have already sent their petitions in by going to fifthmariandogma.com and sending their own petition to the Holy Father. But especially pray. The Dogma will bring torrents of grace to the Church. The Fifth Marian Dogma will also bring the peace promised at Fatima, leading to the Triumph of her most Immaculate Heart.
Ministryvalues.com: Thanks Dr. Miravalle ....sorry thanks Mark, thank you so much for your time on this special day - the feast day of the Nativity, the Blessed Mother’s birthday
Daniel Klimek attended Harvard, graduated with a Masters degree from Yale, and is now pursuing his PHD at Catholic University in Washington D.C.
Stephen Ryan is Publisher of ministryvalues.com, is a graduate of George Washington University, and lives in Alexandria Va.
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