It’s been 25 years since I visited Medjugorje, the village in Bosnia and Herzegovina where six teenagers claimed the Virgin Mary began appearing to them daily. Marian appearances aren’t uncommon; look at the devotion around places like Fatima and Lourdes. But these teenagers, ages 10-16, had a late 20th century take on Mary’s purported sayings; threats of worldwide cataclysms and a sign that would appear on a local mountain.
Despite a number of hardships in the early years, they stuck to their story. I’d been following this phenomenon for several years when in May 1990, a Roman Catholic group invited me to accompany them to the site for an article I published to the Houston Post.
Not being Catholic, there were some aspects, such as the constant praying of the Rosary by seemingly everyone there, that didn’t appeal. Of course I noticed the souvenir shops (of which there were only a few at that point) and how much they were charging for a simple Mary statue. Then again, pilgrims were tramping all over their tiny roads, vineyards and tobacco fields, making a normal life fairly difficult. Were I a local, I’d have opened up a shop and B&B too.
And then nearly 10 years to the day the apparitions began, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, sparking a war that ravaged that part of the world. Thus, some of Mary’s purported prophecies of war were fulfilled, at least in the short term. Which is why I was interested to see the New York Times’ story about the site now that the Vatican is poised to make a ruling on the authenticity of the apparitions.