It was on June 24, 1981, the Feast of St. John the Baptist, that Our Lady was first seen, on that now famous small mountain, known as Podbrdo, overlooking the parish of Medjugorje. Two young friends, Ivanka Ivankovic, 15 years old, and Mirjana Dragicevic, 16 years old, were the first to see her. Ivanka was born in the small hamlet at the foot of Podbrdo, but was living in Mostar at the time, and Mirjana’s family was from Sarajevo, but was visiting her grandparents who lived in Medjugorje. Ivanka describes the event as it began:
“We were together in my house, Mirjana and myself, and we went for a walk. When we were returning home, for some reason I looked toward the hill and saw a bright figure. I said, ‘Mirjana, look, the Madonna!’ Mirjana waved her hand and said, ‘Come on! You think the Madonna would appear to us!’ And we continued on our way home.”1
Both had been frightened; Ivanka by what she had seen, Mirjana by the look on Ivanka’s face and her claim to have seen the Blessed Mother. As they approached the houses in the village, they ran into Milka Pavlovic, 12 years old, who asked their help in getting her sheep and bringing them home. This meant the girls would have to return to where they had just been.
“The time was about six-fifteen. When they reached the spot where Ivanka had looked up and seen the mysterious figure, the girl again cried, ‘Look, there she is.’ Mirjana and Milka, following her pointing finger to a distance of 656 ft (200 meters) or so, saw a young woman in gray, holding something in her hand which she seemed to be protecting. ‘She was a long way away,’ says Ivanka. ‘We couldn’t see her close … just the outline of her body.’ ‘We couldn’t see her face,’ confirms Mirjana, ‘and anyway, we didn’t know what the Madonna would really look like! But something inside us insisted that it was the Madonna. We knew it was her, but we felt confused, and just stood there looking at her.’ Ivanka agrees: ‘We didn’t know what to do, where to put ourselves. We felt a mixture of joy and fear. So much joy, yet so much fear, it’s impossible to describe it.’”2
Earlier in the day, Mirjana and Ivanka had gone to Vicka Ivankovic’s house (no relation to Ivanka) to invite her to join them on their walk. Vicka, 17 years old, was resting, but her mother told the two friends that she would give Vicka the message to join them later. Vicka recounted what happened next.
“I went to look for Ivanka and Mirjana, because every summer we are together all the time. When I reached the road where they were, I noticed they were waving with their hands and calling me to come. I was wearing slippers. When I got to where they were, Mirjana said: ‘Look up there. The Madonna!’ I said: ‘What do you mean, the Madonna? What is the matter with you?’ I did not even look—did not take the time to bother to look.
“I kicked off my slippers and ran barefooted toward (the village)…On my way back, I met Ivan Dravicevic (16 years old, who is no relation to Mirjana) and Ivan Ivankovic (20 years old, who is no relation to Vicka or Ivanka). They were picking apples, and asked me if I wanted some. I said no, and then I said: ‘Ivan (Dravicevic), the Madonna…they said that the Madonna has appeared up there. Let’s go there you and me. I’m afraid.’ Ivan said: ‘Of course we’ll go, but why are you afraid?’ I thought: He’s not afraid. But when we got there, I turned toward Ivan and asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ He was gone. I saw him running away.
“Then I asked Ivan Ivankovic: ‘Do you see anything?’ He said: ‘I see something completely white, turning.’
“The little sister of Marija (Milka), was with us then, and I asked her if she saw anything. She said: ‘I see the Madonna.’
“When I went up there the first time, I stood a little distance from them. I was afraid. But when I went the second time, I said to myself: If they are not running away, I will not run away either.
“This was after 6:30 in the evening. It was raining a little and beginning to get dark.
“I saw it…and what I saw was very white. I saw a gown, dark hair. All the time, She was covering and uncovering something She held in Her left hand. I was not able to see what else She was doing, but it looked like She was showing something. Then She called to us to come closer…but who was going to get any closer? We were saying to each other: ‘She is calling us, but who is going to go?’3
Coming home that night, they recounted their experience to family and friends, though few believed them and many laughed. Vicka said, “There was real commotion. Some perhaps believed, some wondered, some explained it away as some kind of ‘flying saucer.’ And the like. Why, everything conceivable was said.” She added later, “How could they be expected to believe us? In their place, I wouldn’t have believed us either.”4
Mirjana’s experience was the same. She said,
“There was incredible light. The Blessed Mother held baby Jesus in Her arms, covering and uncovering Him as She called to us. It was overwhelming! We are from a small village, not like young people from America or Europe. The girls here have never been anywhere away from home. Home, school, family-this is our life.”5
When asked how did she know it was the Madonna, Mirjana replied,
“My whole being knew without a doubt that this Lady of unexplainable beauty was the Mother of God. That is why I had such fear.”6
In fact, during the first days of the apparitions, both Mirjana and Ivanka fainted many times. When asked why, Mirjana said, “I was quite overwhelmed to be in the holy presence of the Mother of God.”7
The next day the children were expected to be up at dawn to help harvest the leaves from the large tobacco plants in their fields, so all went to bed. But to those who had seen the vision, sleep did not come easily. And so ended the first day.
Day Two of the Apparitions
June 25, 1981
The Anniversary of the Apparitions
Feast of Our Lady Queen of Peace
The children, who had seen the vision the day before, spent this day working in the fields. As they finished their work, a little earlier than usual, four of them decided to see if Our Lady would return: Ivanka, Mirjana, Vicka and Ivan Dragicevic. Mirjana said, “I felt in my heart that I must go back. Interestingly, the others felt the same way too…We didn’t plan it. We just all, about the same time, felt an immense desire to go back to that place.”8 The older Ivan wasn’t interested in returning and Milka could not go as she had been asked by her mother to stay behind and take care of the sheep. Milka’s older sister, Marija, who was 16 years old, asked Vicka to come and get 10 year old Jakov Colo and herself if she should happen to see the vision again. Marija told Vicka, “If you see the Madonna, I would just like to be there. I do not have to see Her.9 Little Jakov had told Mirjana that: ‘he too would want to see Her more than anything else in the world.’ That’s why he came on the second day.”10 A few curious adults and some children followed along. Mirjana stated that when they arrived at the road where they had been yesterday that they heard the Blessed Mother calling to them to come up the mountain. “…She waved to us. We were at the foot of the hill. She was calling us to come to Her.”11 Vicka, in an interview with Fr. Vlasic, continues to tell the story.
“It was approximately 6:00pm. We went a little earlier. Mirjana and I were walking together, talking to each other. Ivanka was right in front of us. Suddenly she turned and said: ‘Look, the Madonna!’ She saw her first. Then Mirjana and I looked where Ivanka had looked, and we both cried out: ‘The Madonna-It is She!’ It was still daylight and I was able to see her face, eyes, hair, and gown. I was able to recognize everything. We were down on the road and did not know what to do. I went to call Marija and Jakov. They came immediately….
“The Madonna called to us to go up on the hill, and we went. When you look up from the bottom of the hill, it looks close, but it is not. We ran quickly up the hill. It was not like walking on the ground. Nor did we look for the path. We simply ran toward Her. In five minutes we were on the hill-as if something had pulled us through the air. I was afraid. I also was barefoot, but no thorns had scratched me….
“When we were about seven feet (two meters) away from the Madonna, we felt as if we were thrown to our knees. Jakov was thrown kneeling into a thorny bush, and I thought he would be injured. But he came out of it without a scratch. Then I asked: ‘Marija, do you see the Madonna?’ She said: ‘I see something white; it is getting clearer.’ Later she saw, like the rest of us.
“Jakov said: ‘I see the Madonna,’ but Ivanka talked to Her first. Her mother had died two months earlier, and Ivanka asked about her. The Madonna told Ivanka that her mother is well, is with Her, and that Ivanka should not worry….
“Mirjana complained to the Madonna. ‘Dear Madonna, they will not believe us when we go home. They will tell us that we are crazy.’ The Madonna just smiled. We were on the hill for ten to fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, some people had come up to join us. When we were about to leave, the Madonna seemed to be hovering in the air, and we didn’t know what to say. Then She said to us: ‘Go in God’s peace.’ Our heads were all turned in the direction where She was leaving-all in the wsame direction. No one said anything, but everyone was frightened.
“When we were on the hill, praying with the Madonna on the second day, we prayed seven Our Fathers. We were praying because we did not know what else to do. We were crying a little and praying a little. Later, She told us to pray seven Our Father’s, Hail Mary’s, Glory Be’s, and the Credo.” 12
For those who followed the six children up the hill that day, they were dumbfounded as to the speed in which they saw the visionaries climb it. They, themselves, could not keep up with them. Mirjana’s uncle, who was one of the adults present that day, stated that, “It takes at least twelve minutes to get up there, yet they did it in two. It scared me to death.”13 The apparition lasted for almost 15 minutes. All the visionaries were weeping upon coming down from the hill. They were both moved and frightened by their experience.
Marinko Ivankovic, a man of about 40 years in age, lived across the street from Milka and Marija, and just down the street from Vicka’s house. He knew the children well, and knew them to be ‘good girls.’ He had come across Marija and Vicka on Thursday morning and heard, for the first time, the strange occurrences of the day before. He was shaken by the story and decided, if the children returned to the hill, he would keep a close watch on them. However, he arrived at the wrong time, and was there only to see the children, who were frightened and upset, coming down from the mountain. He said,
“Ivanka was sobbing, terribly upset. I ran to her and asked what the matter was, and she told me all that had passed between her and the apparition. I tried to tell her that if the vision had said her mother was well and happy, then she should be laughing not crying. But she was inconsolable.”1
Marinko felt that the parish priests should be informed and involved in these occurrences, especially if ‘some evil power was at work here.’ But to his dismay, the pastor, Fr. Jozo Zovko was not in the village and the assistant pastor Fr. Zrinko Culvalo wanted nothing to do with the matter. Marinko then took it upon himself to help and watch over the children. As he spoke to them, he began to believe their story. He said after returning from the Church,
“…so I went back home and talked to the children myself. Ivanka had calmed down by that time and was able to talk quite rationally. And that was when I began to believe the whole fantastic story, because I knew Ivanka well, and she was a level-headed studious girl. I knew Milka and Marija too; every night the girls used to come and help my wife Dragica, with the washing-up…They were good girls.”15
And thus ended the second day of the apparitions. It was on this day that Heaven made known its final determination of those who would be the only “eye-witnesses” of Our Lady in the apparitions. The six children who went up the hill that day compiled the permanent group of visionaries: For this reason, among others perhaps, June 25th became the anniversary of the apparitions and eventually was named, the Feast of Our Lady Queen of Peace, at the request of Our Lady, herself.
As the apparitions continued each day, the differences of each apparition only increased the mystery of the visions instead of making sense of why they were happening. On this third day, news of the apparitions had spread to all the small villages and regions around Medjugorje. Consequently, several thousand people gathered on the hill that evening.
Marinko Ivankovic, having already committed to support, defend, and protect the children in any way he could, met them at the bottom of the hill this evening, bringing with him a bottle of Holy Water. Holy Water and Holy Salt were commonly used for house blessings to protect against evil in these Catholic, Croatian homes. Vicka once said a favorite expression of her grandmother’s that she had heard often when growing up was, “He is fearful like the devil is of Holy Water!” Some of the older women had told the visionaries to sprinkle the apparition with the water to see if it would ‘flee’.16
On this day Our Lady used a different means to attract the visionaries attention. A brilliant light flashed three times, announcing Our Lady’s arrival. Seeing the light the visionaries began bounding up the mountain, telling Marinko exactly where they were headed so he could keep up with them. They were then, followed by a multitude of children and adults. Vicka stated, “We ran forward as though on wings. The place is all thorn and stone...it’s awful steep. But we flew like birds. We just flew. Us and the people.”17
There was a great deal of excitement and fear among the people gathered for when the light had flashed, all those present were given the grace to see it. Our Lady led the visionaries much higher up the mountain then on the previous occasions, a good 300 meters higher than before. The crowd saw the six suddenly stop and drop to their knees all at the same moment, in front of an old wooden cross. Marinko stated,
“I had taken the Holy Water from my house, to sprinkle it around the vision, in order to see what She is: whether the Madonna or the devil. However, when we had climbed up the hill, we knelt down, and I gave the Holy Water to Vicka to sprinkle.”18
“I sprinkled Her,” said Vicka, “and said in full voice: ‘If you are the Virgin, remain with us, if you are not depart from us.’ I came quite close and didn’t spare the water.” Vicka then said that Our Lady smiled. “It seemed to me that She was pleased.”19
The children said that on this day they prayed and sang in the apparition. Marinko had told Ivanka to ask the Lady why She has come.
Though Our Lady had told Ivanka that her mother, who had recently died, was in Heaven with Her and happy, Ivanka still longed to know more. Vicka said that, “Because her mother had died in the hospital and no one was with her, Ivanka had wondered if she had left a message for her children. The Madonna answered,
“Mirjana wanted to know about her grandfather who had recently died.
“The visionaries requested a sign for those who don’t see Our Lady to prove that the apparition was really the Gospa.
“It was Mirjana who asked the Lady: ‘Who are you?’
“More questions from the visionaries: ‘Why are you appearing to us? We are no better than others.’
“‘Will you come back?’
Marija reports that they asked Our Lady, “Is there life on other planets?
It was now 7:00 in the evening. The apparition had ended and both Mirjana and Ivanka felt faint. Marinko, their ever present guardian cleared a path for them through the crowd, helping them down the mountain. Marija began descending herself. She was half way down when she felt herself mysteriously pushed to the side of the trail by an unseen force. She sees the Virgin again. Our Lady is crying and there is a bare wooden cross behind Her.
Vicka tells it this way: “She, Marija, is rather swift footed. She went a bit ahead: with us. And suddenly, she as though she was tossed, not knowing how,… was tossed off to the side…There, the Virgin appeared with a big cross to Marija alone. Marija said the Virgin was very sad, and that She spoke to her through tears. Marija was very frightened. She was unable to stand on her feet…At that point, we also arrived. We spotted her and helped her until she got her wits about her. And, slowly we managed to get home.22
“It was an overwhelming experience,” said Marija. “I saw the Madonna weeping, and the sight drove me to commit myself totally to Her request. She had come to inspire all of us to search for peace-peace in our own hearts, peace within our families, peace in the world.”23
Day three then was an eventful day. From this time forward, three flashes of light would preceed each apparition. Our Lady revealed Her identity saying, “I am the Blessed Virgin Mary.” According to Vicka it was pronounced ‘loud and clear’,24 She revealed why She had come, ‘…to convert and to reconcile’ the whole world. She would say Her Most important message is to call the world to peace.25
Returning to their homes, the people gathered outside the homes of the visionaries, waiting to know everything that had happened, what was said, how did Our Lady look. And they stayed, hearing the stories told over and over again, well into the night.
Saturday came and with it, new trials for the six children and their families. That afternoon the local government authorities had the children picked up and brought to the police station in near by Citluk for questioning. The children never wavered in their testimony, even before the police. They had seen the Virgin Mary up on Podbrdo, in their village of Medjugorje. In an attempt to have them labeled “mentally unfit,” they were sent to be examined by the doctor on duty. Ivan was the first to be called in and an entire hour had passed before the doctor came out to call the next one. By this time it was getting late in the afternoon. Due to Vicka’s insistence, the doctor released them. He later stated that he had found the children to be normal, well-balanced and healthy. The time was 6 p.m. All but Ivan, jumped in a taxi and headed back to Medjugorje for the apparition. Ivan’s mother, seeing trouble beginning to rise with the authorities, asked her son to stay, that evening, at home. By 6:30, the other five children were at the foot of the hill ready to ascend. Mirjana, Ivanka and Vicka began going up together, while Marija and Jakov waited down below looking up towards the hill. Suddenly, Marija saw a light. A Franciscan priest, who was walking with them, reported the following:
“Marija and Jakov were walking with me when suddenly Marija’s face flushed scarlet. “Look! Look! Look!” she said. Jakov said nothing, but together they ran ahead at what seemed to be a superhuman speed. Marija was wearing a white blouse and red skirt, so I could see her distinctly as she ran, almost seeming to fly. It was impossible to keep up with her.”26
Reaching the top, Marija found herself standing in front of Our Lady, alone without the other visionaries. But then the Blessed Mother disappeared leaving Marija with a puzzled look on her face.
Jakov, who had not seen the light, joined the other three visionaries and Marija soon discovered them as well. It was not such an easy task for the visionaries to find each other on the hill as each day, the number of people present for the apparition increased. In fact, as the apparitions continued, often the visionaries were separated from each other. But when the light flashed, announcing Our Lady’s arrival, no matter where they were on the hill…the six came together, led by the light, much as the wise men were led by the star to the stable in Bethlehem. With thousands on the hillside, this gave clear validity to the children’s testimony, as it would be impossible to find each other in such crowds that were gathered.
As the visionaries began to sing and pray together, the people joined them, pressing all the more closer to them. Those closest to the visionaries, seeing the expressions change on their faces, realized the apparition was taking place and moved more tightly in towards the children. The children, while still in ecstasy, began to excitedly tell the people to move, as the children were shocked to see them stepping on the Blessed Mother’s long veil, but the crowds were out of control and wouldn’t listen. Our Lady then disappeared a second time. Marinko with a handful of villagers made a circle around the visionaries to help control the crowd. Our Lady re-appeared, but again disappeared when another boy stepped on Her veil. The visionaries noticed that Our Lady hadn’t said goodbye, which had been Her custom. They began praying again, hoping that Our Lady would return. But when She did not, they began to move back down the hill.
That day on the mountain, the visionaries asked Our Lady several questions.
“Jakov wanted to know what the Virgin expected of the Franciscans in Medjugorje.
‘Have them persevere in the faith and protect the faith of the people.’
“Mirjana and Jakov were concerned because the people were treating them like liars. They asked Our Lady to leave a sign for the people.
“The visionaries wanted to know: ‘How must we pray?’
Meanwhile, Ivan had felt very dejected, not being on the hill this evening. He had left his house, to go a short distance towards the hill and it was there, on the side of the road, that Our Lady appeared to him. “She greeted him, told him to be at peace and to take courage, and then smiled as She left him.”28 Vicka was asked if perhaps Our Lady faulted him for not being present with the rest of the visionaries. She replied, “No, no. None of you know how kind the Virgin is and how She understands us. She told him to be at peace and to have courage. She bade him farewell and departed. What can the lad do! He’s not to blame.”29
As the five seers descended the mountain together, Our Lady appeared once more to them, to their delight. She greeted them and said, “Farewell my angels. Go in the peace of God!” And for the last time on this day Our Lady disappeared.30
This was an important apparition for those who were concerned that the children were making the whole story up. Fr. Joseph Pelletier, author of The Queen of Peace Visits Medjugorje, spoke to this point.
“The first sign was the way in which Our Lady appeared on this fourth day. It was completely different from the manner in which the apparition had occurred previously. It was so complicated and involved that it would seem to surpass the capacity of the young people to have thought it up by themselves. Marija broke away from Jakov and raced up the mountain alone. Our Lady appeared to her alone at a different place than before and then mysteriously disappeared. When Our Lady appeared to the five seers together, the people saw the light, which immediately preceded Her coming. During this apparition, She disappeared again to the five as they returned home and, finally, She appeared to Ivan alone, Her sixth appearance in that single day. Many people felt that the pattern of what happened proved the apparitions were not under the control of the seers. In this regard, the apparition to the five seers on their way home was particularly impressive. Together, they all pulled away from the people who were supporting them and together they suddenly saw Our Lady.”31
As it ended, Ivan’s mother, seeing how miserable Ivan was in not being able to be with the other five upon the hill, did not interfere any longer, and allowed him to go at the appointed times. At the same time, she suffered terribly, especially as the harassment of the police began to increase. All the parents were in anguish, having to look after their other children, the house, their fields. Several of the fathers were not in the village at the time, working in Germany or other locations. This left the mother’s alone to cope with these strange happenings involving their children. Only a few days into the apparitions, Vicka’s mother, very distraught, sat outside Fr. Jozo’s office as the children were being questioned. Fr. Tomislav Pervan was present in the room with her, in her anxiety, she cried to him,
“Father, please try to get this crazy thing out of their minds. I cannot take it anymore! I have seven other children at home…and Grandma…and my husband is in Germany. And now all these police around the house and all that is happening and all this commotion around the house…and people gathering here. I cannot stand it. I cannot carry it anymore!
“But Vicka just talked to her mother and me and the pastor and all who were present there, ‘But mama, what can I say? I am seeing the Blessed Mother.’”32
In an interview with Mirjana concerning the difficulties they had to endure in these early days of the apparitions, Mirjana said,
“When we shared what the Blessed Mother was saying, we had such persecution; nobody believed us! People said I had brought drugs from Sarajevo. I was fifteen years old; I hardly even knew about drugs then! People thought we were crazy…The first time I heard what people were saying about me, I couldn’t sleep all night long. But the next day the Blessed Mother told me that I should not worry at all. I should never worry about anything that people would say about me. She told me everything would be okay…The Blessed Mother was very conscious of our fear. We talked, we prayed, and we sang. Gradually She led us to understand that She is our real Mother. Later, as time went on and we began to be comfortable with Her, we were able to speak to Her as our Mother about our problems and all our desires.”33
The parish priest, Fr. Jozo, had been more than 248 miles/400 km away from Medjugorje during the first few days of the apparitions. This left the responsibility of dealing with the children up to his assistant pastor, Fr. Zrinko Cuvalo. He was a gruff man and intimidating. As he did not readily believe in the apparitions, he challenged the children with questions trying to trip them up. He tried to frighten them into confessing the whole thing was fabricated and accused them of being on drugs. He was not successful in leading them towards a confession that they had made up the story.
Fr. Jozo had arrived home Saturday and was shocked and deeply troubled upon discovering the events taking place in his parish over the past three days. It wasn’t until after Mass on Sunday that he, himself was able to meet and question the children. Vicka reported in an interview with Fr. Janko Bubalo, “After Church, Fr. Jozo called us into the parish house and began to question each of us individually…” What did he ask? “Everything. Everything…whatever came to his head…There was no end.”34 Fr. Jozo began tape recording conversations with the children:
“…I could listen to them again at night and discover the inconsistencies in what they said. I spoke to them for hours on end, trying to get at the truth. But the more they told me, the more confused I became. They were absolutely overwhelmed by what they had seen: and they couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t believe them. But the more I listened to them, the more insoluble the problem seemed to get.”35
Being that it was Sunday, thousands came this day to the hillside; an estimated 15,000. The days had been extremely hot and people had come without food or water. Many had climbed the hill already by noon on this day and sat baking in the sun. Others stationed themselves by the houses of the children.
Around 5:30 p.m. the visionaries gathered and began to squeeze through the crowd. Vicka said, “If our men folk didn’t make a path for us, we simply could not have gotten to the site.”36 Once up on the hill, the crowd made a little room for the six and they began to pray with the people. Almost immediately the light flashed and Our Lady was amongst them all. On this day one of the villagers had brought a tape recorder and taped the whole conversation of the visionaries with Our Lady. They could hear the visionaries ask the questions and then after Our Lady replied, they reported Her response to the people. Following is a transcription of the tape.
Children: “Dear Madonna! What do you wish from us, i.e., the children?
Madonna: “Faith and respect for Me.
Children: “Dear Madonna! What do you wish from our priests?
Madonna: “That they firmly believe.
Children: “Dear Madonna! Why don’t you appear in the Church so that everybody sees you?
Madonna: “Blessed are they who have not seen and believe.
Children: “Dear Madonna! Will you come again? ‘She will; She will come to the same place. She will come.’ Dear Madonna! Which do you like better: that we pray to You or sing to you?
Madonna: “Do both: sing and pray.
Children: “Dear Madonna! What do you wish from these people who have gathered here? At this point, the children said, the Madonna, before She answered: ‘Looked at all the people and smiled.’
Madonna: “Let them believe as if they see.
Children: “She is disappearing. She is gone.”37
The Blessed Mother had, indeed, disappeared, but She had not said, “Go in God’s peace,” as was usual. Vicka then said: “We will pray again. She did not say anything to us, meaning She did not say good-bye.” They then joined together to pray two Our Father’s, two Hail Mary’s and two Glory Be’s.
Children: “There She is again! Let us sing a song! Marija began to sing a song: ‘Marijo, Marijo, o kako lijepa si…’
Madonna: “My Angels, my dear angels!
Children: “Dear Madonna! What do You wish from these people here?
Madonna: “Let these people, who do not see me, believe the same as the six of you, who see me.
Children: “Dear Madonna! Will you leave us some sign, here on earth, so that we can convince people that we are not liars, that we do not lie, that we do not play games with You?
Madonna: “Go in God’s peace!
Children: “She left! There’s a light behind Her! She is gone!
The children then sang well-known Croatian religious songs: “Sred te se pecine,” “Marijo, O Marijo,” “Kiste; u tvoje ime.” Then the tape ends.38
With day six arrived the Feast day of St. Peter and St. Paul. As is the custom of the village on the feast days, it is a day in which no one works; it is celebrated by going to the Church and visiting family. But as the visionaries were preparing to go to Mass, two vehicles showed up at the door-to escort them to see doctors in Mostar. It was a frightening experience as all six children were crammed into an ambulance and parents and guardians were stuffed into the second car. Vicka, in relaying the incidence to her confessor said, “…agony and grief, my dear Father! They opened the door to the ambulance, and told us to get in… What can I do? ‘Might does not ask God for permission’ an expression I heard many times from my grandmother. Get in and that was it!”39
They were brought to the neuropsychiatric department of Mostar hospital where Dr. Mulija Dzuda, a professional psychiatrist was ready to examine them, in a second attempt by the authorities to have them diagnosed as mentally ill. The experience was not pleasant and it upset the children. In the midst of the examination, they were brought down to the mortuary and the interrogation was continued there, but in the end they passed every test and were declared sound in mind and body. In fact Dr. Dzuda stated before they left that, “It’s the people who brought you here who must be insane. There’s nothing wrong with you.”40
Mirjana was badly shaken from the experience and confessed to Fr. Tomislav Vlasic that, “‘…it had been like being in prison or shut up with mad people.’ When I asked her if she’d go up to the hill again, she said she very much doubted it: ‘If they question me once more, I’ll have a nervous breakdown.’” And yet that very evening Mirjana did return to the hill. Fr. Tomislav took her to task later for her inconsistent testimony, to which she replied, “When it came to the point, nothing and no one could have stopped me. The question of whether or not I should go simply didn’t arise.”41
The visionaries had arrived back home around 2:00 pm but there was no rest for them. The crowds were larger than ever, and gathered around their houses so that they could hardly move. It was hot and everyone wanted to know and hear directly from the seers their experiences. After the morning they had had, none of them were too eager to talk. The time of the apparition came around quickly, but again they faced having to squeeze through he momentous crowd gathered on all parts of the hill. And again, it was Marinko and the village men who guided them through by making a path to the site of the apparition. As yesterday, the children came with many questions.
The visionaries wanted to know if the Gospa was happy to see so many people present.
They asked, “How long will you stay?”
They questioned Our Lady about Her expectations about those who came despite the heat and brambles.
“What do you expect of us?” the visionaries inquired.
The visionaries wanted to know if they would be strong enough to endure persecutions because of their beliefs.
On the mountain that night was a doctor by the name of Drinka Glamuzina, working for the government. She made her way to Vicka and asked if she could touch Our Lady. Vicka said, “We asked the Virgin, and the Virgin said: ‘There have always been Judases who don’t believe, but she can approach.’”43 The doctor approached and touched the Virgin. Vicka had taken hold of her hand and directed it to the left shoulder of Our Lady. The visionaries testified that she immediately stepped back, and then melted in the crowd. Vicka said about the doctor, “She said nothing in front of the people. Later she stopped at our house and before all declared that when she touched Her she felt some sort of tingling through her hand.”44 Vicka never saw her again. Some who saw her descend the mountain said she stumbled down the hill in a state of shock.
It was in this apparition that they presented to Our Lady, for the first time a sick person and asked Our Lady to heal him. He was a small boy by the name of Daniel Setka. Vicka relates,
“…His father held him in his arms. The little boy looked half dead. He hung his head on his father’s left shoulder. Really, he looked pathetic…The father pleaded and prayed to the Virgin that She cure him, and he asked us to pray and ask the Virgin to help the boy… We asked. In fact, I was the one who asked. She, the Virgin, looked upon the boy. Tenderly, tenderly…And She said, ‘Have them believe strongly in his cure. Go in the peace of God.’”45
And then, once again, even after this long day, the crowds from the mountain descended upon the homes of the Visionaries. Vicka later told Fr. Jozo:
“We were shouting at the top of our voices from Marinko’s terrace, telling the crowds everything Our Lady had said to us, over and over again. They wouldn’t leave us alone till long past eleven. They just wouldn’t go home.”46
These days remained troubling for both Fr. Jozo and Fr. Zrinko. Fr. Zrinko put it this way, “It’s as though you see something coming at you, but your not sure what it is, what you should be doing about it, or how you can protect yourself. But you know that, whatever it is, it has the power to destroy you.”47 As the number in the crowds continued to swell into the thousands each day, the police became more, and more concerned. The communist government, who always has reason to fear when scared that an uprising among the people was beginning to develop and that these “demonstrations”, as they saw them, on the mountain were moving the people toward a revolution. The local authorities, were therefore, getting pressure from Belgrade and Sarajevo, to stop the ‘sedition.’ Their plan was to stop the gatherings on the hillside. Orders went out to the villagers to stop going up the mountain. With those orders came threats. They forced some of the villagers, themselves, to block everyone going up-and if they failed to do so-they’re homes and fields would be confiscated. In a communist country, the greatest threat to a family’s existence was the loss of their home and land. There was no welfare, so you and your family starved. And so some villagers stood with guns and pitchforks blocking the entrance to the mountain, while others refused to allow threats to separate them from the apparitions of Our Lady. They were placed in a position to make a choice.
The communists had also hatched a plan to keep the seers off the mountain this day. They arranged for two social workers, young women near the ages of the older visionaries, both who were known by the visionaries and their families, to offer to take them for a little afternoon excursion. Considering it a relief to get away for a bit, all but Ivan agreed to go. The two girls drove the five other visionaries all throughout the local region. It eventually became apparent to them, that they had been led into a trick, as the social workers prevented the children from being back in time to climb the hill for the apparition. Seeing the hill the visionaries asked the girls to stop the car, but their request was ignored. Vicka stated,
“We already realized while on the road that we made a mistake in going for the outing, for, in the end, it seemed to us that they just took us so that we might not be present for the Virgin…on the way through Cerno, we asked that they stop so that we might pray to the Virgin…It was somewhere about six in the afternoon. When we usually meet with the Virgin… They were somewhat reluctant to stop. They pretended not to hear us. But, when we said we would jump out of the car if they didn’t stop, they stopped. We then got out and went off the road a bit.”48
In an interview with Fr. Jozo that took place later that evening Ivanka told what happened next.
“First, we prayed our usual prayers. Then, not thinking about what I was doing, I looked up the hill and saw a light and the light was coming towards us. On the hillside where the people were, they-and everything-were bathed in the light. Those two girls, who had driven them on the trip, saw this. I said: ‘Do you see the light?’ They said: ‘We see it.’ I looked at the light all the time. Then we knelt and sang.”49
Mirjana was next: “I asked Her if She was displeased that we had left the hill and gone to the other place. She said that She does not mind... Then we asked if She minds if we do not go to the hill anymore and, instead, to the church. Somehow, She seemed undecided when we asked Her this. Even so, She said that She would not mind.”50
Ivanka added that the apparitions would be at the same time.
The visionaries had asked the two social workers to bring them to the parish office after the apparition because quite frankly, they were afraid to go to the hill after having disappointed the thousands who had wanted for them this evening. The police had warned them not to go back to the hill as well. The Visionaries were divided as to what they should do. “…it was awful for us. A large crowd gathered on Podbrdo. They waited for us and the Virgin, and neither us nor the Virgin were there. The poor people! They wait, and wait…but nothing. All kinds of rumors went around: that we ran off somewhere; that they took us off to jail. Why, everything…”51 It was then that they decided to go to Fr. Jozo.
Fr. Jozo learning that they had not been on the mountain that night, began to question them-each one individually and then altogether, until near 9 p.m. at night. Arriving at home, they learned that their parents had been terribly upset, wondering what had happened to their children, if they had been taken by the police, if they had gotten into an accident. They imagined everything possible. And so began the long explanation of their day, not ending until late into the night. As they got into bed, grateful to see the end of this day. But it was not meant to be. News came to them this late night that Marinko had been arrested. Accused and suffering because of them, the visionaries went to find him and though they were unsuccessful, they protested his arrest and told them at the police station… “arrest us if you want, we told them, but leave the Marinko alone.”52 Having the children gathered there the police let loose upon them a great deal of threats and verbal abuse. Finally, at 2 a.m., they were sent home.
The outcome of this very long, agonizing day was that the apparitions would begin taking place in the Church. The government authorities would be happy to have the crowds off the mountains. “They can pray all day long, and all night too if they want, so long as they don’t do it on the hill. The law makes no provision for worshipping on a hill.”53 This statement was made by the Chairman of the League of Communists in Citluk. And so ended the seventh day.
July 1, 1981-Wednesday
On day eight, a new threat was leveled at the children. The Secret Security police made an announcement to the villagers that the children were banned from both the hill and the Church. This pronouncement was made in a meeting held in the Medjugorje School after a summons went out to all the villagers. What if they refused? The parents were threatened that if they did not cooperate, it would be spread that they are mentally unfit, would have no more possibility of future education, and that they would face defamation of themselves and families. Even with the threats, the parents deferred their children. Fr. Jozo would say later, “Those poor parents were treated terribly bad. They were really the heroes who took the brunt of this treatment and by us priests, by the Communists and by the sensation-seekers. I think the parents were the real martyrs of these days.”54
Of the time Marija said, “We felt quite strong. Our Lady helped us through. Somehow, the more problems we had, the better we coped. We spent all day talking to pilgrims, and every evening praying, so at most we got two or three hours of sleep. Yet in those days we seemed to be living under a special grace.”55
The two social workers, who had participated in yesterdays trick, were greatly moved by the apparition they had witnessed. They ended up resigning their position with the government as they had a change of heart and became believers. Even so, a police van pulled up the next day, apparently with the same plan-to keep the children from going to the hill. The police officers were content, at first to watch from their car, but as the time of the apparition neared, they forced the seers in the van. Jakov’s mother was able to drag her son out before the doors closed. Inside were Marija, Vicka and Ivanka. The police drove them past the hill and past the Church-all the while they were beating their fists on the windows until they finally stopped the van.
And yet even in the midst of all this commotion, the children had the apparition. Vicka tells what happened to Fr. Bubalo.
Janko: You didn’t see the Virgin that day?
Vicka: Why of course! And how we did! Why, I’ll never forget it.
Janko: Where did you see Her?
Vicka: Why, in the car!
Janko: In the car?
Vicka: Yes, yes. Right in the car!
Janko: And how? Was the car in motion at the time or stopped?
Vicka: That I don’t know.
Janko: And how is that, again?
Vicka: Quite simple! At the time, nothing of the car could be seen.
Janko: I don’t understand!
Vicka: When the Virgin appeared, there was neither a sign of the car, or of anyone.
Janko: Again, I don’t comprehend.
Vicka: Why, it’s the same as when we see the Virgin in that room. We see the Virgin, but we don’t see anything else or sense anything else.
Janko: And did you pray that the Virgin appear?
Vicka: No, no. Who could even think of it at the time?
Janko: Then how?
Vicka: Why, the Virgin, as on so many other occasions, appeared among us, and that was it!
Janko: Were you surprised, frightened, or…
Vicka: Why, you didn’t even have time to think of anything!
Janko: Nonetheless, that was strange!
Vicka: Why, yes. They were quite frightened, but I wasn’t at all.
Janko: Who is, they?
Vicka: Marija and Ivanka. They became actually stiff from fear. That’s why those two called them witches, and everything else…
Janko: How long did the Virgin remain with you?
Vicka: Not long. She said something to us smiled, and left.
Janko: What did She say to you?
Vicka: Nothing special. She told us not to fear. And the like…Her main concern was to appear to us; that She didn’t forget us. The
Virgin is good!56
And so ended the eight day.
Once the apparition ended, the police left them off at the Church.
And so for the second day in a row the people waited in the rain for the children and the Virgin. The visionaries felt very badly for them, those who waited and prayed. Yet the people did not give up. The faith sustained them as they waited, being that Our Lady would not disappoint their faith.
July 2, 1981-Thursday
The police continued their harassment of the children on this day as well, showing up near their homes around noon. The children, realizing what they meant to do again, slipped out of their houses in an effort to elude them.
“We really didn’t know where to hide.” Vicka told Fra Janko Bubalo. “In the end we went towards the church, not via the road, but through our tobacco fields and vineyards, so that they wouldn’t spot us. The church was locked…We thought, ‘Oh God, where can we go now?’ But, as luck would have it, one of the friars was praying in the church and…”57
As the children were running through fields and vineyards trying to escape, Fr. Jozo was alone in the church, in deep anguish over the situation in his parish. He had, at this moment, placed himself before God crying out to Him to understand what he must do.
“I was in anguish because of all the events. It was at this time that something began to happen in me, which led me to become more than just a listener to the children’s reports.
“People from the government service were brought in to put a stop to the events. Those who were believers did not do it happily. The two girls who had experienced the events at Cerno resigned because of their own experience. The police came to intervene directly. Someone came to Vicka’s mother and said, ‘Zlota, let the children go no more to the church, let the children give that up. It is going to be difficult for you.’
Zlota answered, ‘I will see. I do not know. Who can order a child what to do?’
“Sometime in the middle of the day the police came to find the children, to try to stop them after the two girls had failed. They asked throughout the village where the children were. They wanted to remove them from the hill and from the people. The people responded in various ways: in the fields, in the village, here, there. Meanwhile, the children, who knew they were being sought, were running from the village through the vineyards, toward the church, in the process of escaping, they even changed their clothes in order to change their appearance. It was like playing a game of hide and go seek.
“While all this was going on, I was in the church praying, feeling great responsibility in front of God as pastor. The people were asking questions and I had to say something to the people, to the priests and the sisters. In a way, I felt like Moses before the Red Sea and I knew that I could speak only to God. No man could have answered my need. I prayed, ‘God, I know you talked to Abraham, to Moses and to others. Now there are thousands of people here these days. Tell me where the river is going. I do not know where the mouth of that river is, nor what its source is.’
“No one was in the church with me at that moment. And then, something happened that for me was important and decisive. It was both a turning point and a moment of revelation. While I was praying I heard a voice say, “Come out and protect the children.” I left my Bible and breviary, genuflected and with no further thought nor delay left the church. As I was leaving the church through the middle door, with my foot still in the air and the door handle in my hand, the children ran toward me from the left side of the church, escaping from the police. They told me, ‘The police are chasing us. Hide us.’ They had gathered around me and were crying. Ana, Vicka’s sister was with them, sharing their fate. I embraced the children and took them to the rectory. I locked them in an unoccupied room of the house.
“Soon the police came. They asked me, ‘Did you see the children?’ ‘I did,’ I answered. The police kept running very fast toward the village of Bijakovici to catch them. After the police left, I went to talk with the children. I asked them to stay in the rectory so they would not be caught. Shortly after the Madonna came to them in the room. Later there were seven visions in that same room.”58
For the third day in a row, there would be no visionaries up on the hill-and therefore, no apparition. But the crowds of people had still come. However, it began to circulate among them that there was going to be a service at the church that evening. Fr. Jozo said, “I wouldn’t have believed the church could hold so many people. I was scarcely able to push my way through to the altar and when I got there and began to say Mass, I had no room to lift my arms to give a blessing.”59
The people gathered in the church had been praying together at 5 p.m. when Fr. Zrinko led the prayer of the Rosary. At 6:00 p.m., Fr. Jozo celebrated Holy Mass. He said his “motives” in having Mass together with the apparitions, “were based on the value of Mass. I would have nothing even close in its value to offer to the people gathered there. In that Mass, I wanted the people to cease being spectators and become participants in the events.”60
Fr. Jozo, that evening in his homily, spoke about Moses ‘leading the children of Israel out Egypt and across the Red Sea,’ how God granted them signs throughout their 40 year journey to show His love and His nearness to them. Of Mary, Fr. Jozo said, She was, “the first believer who completely obeyed God and His call…Mary, as the first Christian, is here today with me, your priest, and with you as faithful Christians…”
He ended his homily with an invitation.
“…I beg you to start fasting, to fast tomorrow, to fast the day after tomorrow, taking only bread and water, so that God may reveal Himself to us and tell us what we are to do. There is no heaven so closed that, prayer, fasting and penance may not find a way into it…”61
“That mass of people,” Fr. Jozo reported, “responded to my request with great exclamation, full of faith, ‘We will’.”63
Fr. Jozo then brought the six children into the church, in the sanctuary behind the altar. The apparition had already taken place earlier in the day but, at the conclusion of Mass, the children prayed the seven Our Fathers, Hail Marys, Glory Be’s with the congregation.
And so from this day the people began to gather at the Church to pray the Rosary at 5 p.m., Holy Mass at 6 p.m. ending with the seven Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Be’s. The visionaries continued to be harassed by the police in the days that followed, which prevented them from being at the church every evening. But often they would be there and the apparition would take place during the Rosary before Mass. Today, in Medjugorje, pilgrims who come become, as Fr. Jozo said, not mere spectators, but participants in the event of Medjugorje, in the life of Medjugorje.
A final revelation was made to the visionaries themselves on Saturday, July 4th. Fr. Jozo, in his first meeting with the visionaries questioned them about what they knew of other apparitions. Mirjana stated, “I’d never heard of any other apparitions. I didn’t know about Fatima or Lourdes. I suppose I’d never been interested in that kind of thing. In those days I only went to Church when I had to.”63 Fr. Jozo handed them a book called The Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin. Reading the stories in the book they became fascinated by Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes, France, in the apparition that took place in 1858. They read that she had had 18 apparitions and reasoned from there that they, too, would only have 18 apparitions. Counting up the number of their apparitions they already had, had they calculated their last one to be Friday, July 3rd.
Contrary to the children’s expectations, however, the apparitions did not end on the Friday. So sure were they of the approaching end that they did not even meet on the Saturday evening. Ivan was at home stringing tobacco leaves for drying, Vicka was picking flowers to take to the hill. In the act of picking them, her hand went stiff, and she dropped to her knees. Marija walked into a room at home, and all “all of a sudden, there was the Madonna, and I fell to my knees”. Her brother, Ante, who was with her, rushed out of the room, leaving her alone to pray.
And that was the beginning of the apparitions’ semi-clandestine phase. From now on, they would take place in random locations, wherever the children happened to be: in a neighbor’s house, out of doors, in the clergy house, and only sometimes in the church.
All six of them saw the Madonna that night. On Saturday, therefore, “we got together and She came to us. We decided that we weren’t going to be the same as Lourdes after all.”64
And so the first 9 days of the apparitions began a foundation to change the direction of the world. No one could have imagined the apparitions would still continue three decades later. We still do not grasp, even a little, the magnitude of Medjugorje. But one thing is clear, had Our Lady not come, the world would be a complete inferno. Through these decades of apparitions, there is a separation of the light and the dark, and through Our Lady, we, at least, have hope the light will conquer.
A Friend of Medjugorje
1. Between Heaven and Earth, the story of Medjugorje, by a Friend of Medjugorje
2. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig
3. Between Heaven and Earth, the story of Medjugorje, by a Friend of Medjugorje
4. A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, by Fr. Janko Bubalo O.F.M.
5. Queen of the Cosmos, by Janice Connell
6. The Visions of the Children, by Janice Connell
11. Queen of the Cosmos, by Janice Connell
12. Interview with Vicka by Fr. Tomislav Vlasic, March 15, 1982
13. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig
16. A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, by Fr. Janko Bubalo O.F.M.
18. Between Heaven and Earth, the story of Medjugorje, by a Friend of Medjugorje
19. A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, by Fr. Janko Bubalo O.F.M.
20. Words from Heaven, 11th edition, by A Friend of Medjugorje
22. A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, by Fr.Janko Bubalo O.F.M.
23. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig
24. A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, by Fr. Janko Bubalo O.F.M.
25. Interview with Vicka, March 3, 1982, by Fr. Tomislav Vlasic
26. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig
27. Words from Heaven, 11th edition, A Friend of Medjugorje
28. The Queen of Peace Visits Medjugorje, by Fr. Joseph A. Pelletier, A.A.
29. A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary In Medjugorje, by Fr. Janko Bubalo O.F.M.
31. The Queen of Peace Visits Medjugorje, Joseph A. Pelletier A.A.
32. In the Company of Mary, Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic O.F.M.
33. Queen of the Cosmos, by Janice Connell
35. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig
36. A Thousand Encounters with the Blesssed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, by Fr. Janko Bubalo O.F.M.
37. The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje, Fr Svetozar Kraljevic O.F.M.
39. A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, by Fr. Janko Bubalo O.F.M.
40. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig
42. Words from Heaven, 11th edition, by A Friend of Medjugorje
44. A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, by Fr. Janko Bubalo O.F.M.
46. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig
48. A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, by Fr. Janko Bubalo O.F.M.
49. Interview with the visionaries, June 30, 1981 by Fr. Jozo Zovko
50. Ibid .
51. A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, by Fr. Janko Bubalo O.F.M.
52. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig
56. A Thousand Encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, by Fr. Janko, Bubalo O.F.M.
57. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig.
58. The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje, by Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic O.F. M.
59. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig
60. Interview with Fr. Jozo, August 11, 1983, by Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic O.F.M.
61. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig
62. Interview with Fr. Jozo, August 11, 1983, by Fr. Svetozar Kraljevic O.F.M.
63. Spark from Heaven, by Mary Craig