Image by level75 via Flickr
July 25, 2011
St. JamesDear Family of Mary!"Dear children! I have chosen this parish in a special way and I wish to lead it. I am guarding it in love and I want everyone to be mine. Thank you for having responded tonight. I wish you always to be with me and my Son in ever greater numbers. I shall speak a message to you every Thursday." (March 1, 1984)
Today is the patronal feast of the parish in Medjugorje. St. James Parish was clearly chosen by Our Lady. The entire parish was chosen, not just the 6 visionaries. This is extraordinary! A whole parish - called by the Lord through Our Lady! And what a call they have had. In the early years the parish existed in a hostile environment, under a communist regime. They were penalized for being Catholic. Their pastor was put in prison, and they were hounded by the police. You would think this would not be an ideal place for Our Lady to come. But as we see, it was the best place for her to appear. The people of Medjugorje knew how to be faithful to God. They had learned it over 500 years of Turkish rule, and then war and communism.
During our visit to Medjugorje for the 30th Anniversary, our guide, Ivanka Petrovic, gave a stirring talk to us about the history of Medjugorje. I want to quote the second part of her talk now, because she shares about the first days of the apparitions from the perspective of the parish, the parish Our Lady picked to be her home:
"1981, Medjugorje was a poor village. The name of Medjugorje was not written on any maps. People who lived 20 kilometers away didn't know where Medjugorje was. There was no traffic sign that would direct you to Medjugorje. There was only one telephone line but it didn't work. It was strange. Fr. Jozo Zovko was the pastor in Medjugorje. But on that day he was not in the town. He had gone on a spiritual retreat in Zagreb and the priests at the parish couldn't inform him of what was happening because the phone didn't work. And they thought that the story of the children might last a day or two, but they didn't want to disturb his spiritual retreat.
"On the way from Zagreb to Medjugorje, Fr. Jozo stopped in a hospital to visit his mother, and this is where he met a lady who was a little mentally ill, and she was yelling at him, 'Father, what are you doing here. Don't you know that Our Lady is appearing in Medjugorje?' He thought the poor lady was really getting sick. He didn't know what was going on in his parish.
"He came to the parish and heard the same story from the priest. But you know Fr. Jozo was just a new pastor. From the beginning he had started converting (evangelizing) the parish of Medjugorje, trying to bring the Charismatic Movement to the parish, trying to make the people come more often to pray the Rosary. But when he would ask the children what they would rather do, pray or play, they would always choose to play. They were not particularly holy children. Fr. Jozo tried to convince them to come to church but there was not much response.
"So he was not open to the story, he thought the communists were behind this story. On the other hand, the communists thought that Fr. Jozo was behind it. They thought he would start such a story, get the attention of 5000 people, and start a revolution against the communists. So the poor children, they didn't have support from the priests, or from the government or from their parents or anybody. It was a very difficult time for all of them.
"So finally when the police heard about all these events they were standing at the bottom of the hill. They didn't allow anyone to go to the hill. And then the children were running through the fields going to the church. Fr. Jozo was alone in the church, praying. He was trying to convince the villagers to come to the church and pray. He said, 'God is in the church, not on the mountain.' He was in the church, trying to read the Bible, but he heard a very special soft voice that said to him 'Open the door and protect the children.' He opened the door and saw the visionaries running toward him. That was the first contact of Father and the children. He still didn't believe, but he felt sympathy for the children. So he opened the door and protected the children, but not only the children, there were thousands of people with them. He didn't know how to keep control over them. So he said, 'Let's pray a Rosary'. After the first Rosary, the children said, 'Father we want to pray another one.' This was a big shock for Father! These children want to pray! So they prayed a second rosary. During that second rosary, Blessed Mother appeared, it was twenty minutes before seven, and then they said that the Holy Mother requested Holy Mass and seven Our Father's, Hail Mary's and Glory Be's.
Fr. Jozo was under big pressure. He didn't believe in the apparitions. He thought that if he started Holy Mass, God would take care of all this. So he celebrated the Mass and after the Mass, the prayer of Seven Our Father's, Hail Mary's and Glory Be's. During that prayer, Blessed Mother appeared to him. From that moment on he changed and started supporting the children. But because of the beautiful homilies he gave, especially the homily on confession, about someone who lives in darkness of sin for 40 years and found the light in Medjugorje, Father was arrested. The communists explained the 40 years of darkness as 40 years of communism, 1941 to 1981. Fr. Jozo was arrested and they thought that when they put him in prison the apparitions would stop. But you see that after 30 years the apparitions are still taking place! I hope this history will help you to understand why Medjugorje was chosen by heaven." (Ivanka Petrovic, Guide in Medjugorje, on June 21, 2011)
St. James the Warrior. Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr
Later this week I will share the first half of Ivanka's talk in which she gives a brief history of Medjugorje and Herzegovina. We see from this account that Our Lady began the evening program right away, by sending the children to the church and preparing Fr. Jozo to protect them, and then requesting Holy Mass. That evening Mass and Rosary has become a dynamo of prayer for the entire world! Thank you, St. James Parish, for answering Our Lady's call and opening your doors to the entire world!!In Jesus and Mary!
©Mary TV 2011