Scientific Studies

What Happens in an Apparition?

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What, exactly, are the doctors and scientists observing when the visionaries enter into an ecstatic state at the moment of an apparition? In 1984, at the time that most of the testing was taking place with the visionaries, Fr. Rene Laurentin described, in detail, the various stages of the apparition. Generally, the outward appearance of the visionaries have remained the same over the years, with the visionaries who still receive the apparitions every day, which would include Vicka, Ivan and Marija. The apparitions of the visionaries who only see Our Lady periodically over the year, Mirjana, Ivanka & Jakov, are much more intensified, the apparitions normally last significantly longer, and the face and body language is much more compelling to see. However, now that the visionaries are grown, married and have families of their own, they rarely are together for the apparitions, if ever.

Fr. Rene Laurentin

Fr. Rene Laurentin, from France is often described as one of the foremost leading experts in Mariology in the Church. He spent years studying approved apparitions, such as St. Catherine Laboure and St Bernadette at Lourdes, and became involved with Medjugorje early on in the apparitions where it became his life work for many years. He said:

"In the past, I had always studied apparitions as an historian. Now, for the first time, I have found myself in the midst of one. There is no substitute for that experience and now I understand many of the things that escaped me it the past."(Is The Virgin Mary Appearing at Medjugorje, back cover)

These observations were made in 1984 and are found in Scientific & Medical Studies on the Apparitions at Medjugorje, written by Fr. Rene Laurentin and Professor Henri Joyeux.

Every day, a little before 5:00 p.m. in the winter and before 6:00 p.m. in the summer, the visionaries come to the little chapel of the apparitions. Before the apparition they enter the chapel, relaxed and aware of others.

To prepare themselves for the apparition the visionaries, standing, recite several Our Father's, Hail Mary's and Glory Be's until ‘The Gospa’ appears. During the early months they usually recited each prayer twice or three times before the apparition took place. Since the end of 1983, ecstasy begins before they have finished the first Our Father.

First Phase: Contemplation or Conversation

Suddenly their gaze, already fixed on the location of the apparition, becomes more intense. There are hardly any movements of the eyelids…Their faces become almost imperceptibly brighter and turn towards the invisible speaker. They kneel down very naturally, all at the same moment.…

Thus they enter into a first phase of the ecstasy. Some, in particular Ivan and Marija, simply contemplate; others, particularly Vicka and Ivanka, converse, sometimes together, with the apparition. Their lips can be seen moving but no voices are heard…They were not conscious of this and were surprised when we questioned them about this unusual phenomenon. They believe they are speaking normally.

Second Phase: Prayer with the Apparition

Suddenly, all their voices become audible, and they say, in Croatian, ‘Who art in Heaven’; ‘Hallowed be Thy name’ etc.
The opening words, “Our Father’, are not pronounced. ‘The Virgin says these words’, the visionaries respond, when we question them. After the Our Father they recite the Glory Be ‘with the Virgin’, they say.

Third Phase: Contemplation or Conversation

Their voices disappear again for a second period of contemplation or conversation.

End of Apparition

And suddenly the five pairs of eyes and the heads are raised (this is most noticeable in the case of Jakov, the smallest visionary). This detail would indicate that the Virgin appears to be very close, less than a meter away horizontally.

Personal Observations of the Apparitions
by A Friend of Medjugorje

Outside of Ivan’s apparitions with his prayer group on Apparition Hill, the visionaries voices, while praying with Our Lady, are no longer audible in the middle of the apparitions, as was the case in 1984 when Fr. Laurentin wrote his description of the apparition. It was this way up until the time when Marija came to our home during the months from November 1988 to January 1989. After that point, they no longer prayed out loud with Our Lady in their daily apparitions. The visionaries’ daily apparitions are now separate from each other, taking place in their own private homes or chapels, and normally one or more rosaries are prayed before the apparition. Outside of these changes, Fr. Laurentin’s description still holds true.

Although the visionaries, when in ecstasy, follow a certain pattern, there are times when that pattern is interrupted, something unusual takes place and to those with observant eyes, there are times when they capture a change. Through persistent questioning of the visionaries, one can sometimes learn that something significant or out of the ordinary took place in the apparition that day. Following is a description of a conversation I had with visionary Mirjana five days after she received her annual apparition of March 18, 1996. For 23 years I have followed Medjugorje with the observation not from the view of science, but through faith. This was the message Our Lady gave her this day:

March 18, 1996

“Dear children! On this message, which I give you today through my servant, I desire for you to reflect a long time. My children, great is the love of God. Do not close your eyes, do not close your ears while I repeat to you: Great is His love! Hear my call and my supplication which I direct to you. Consecrate your heart and make in it the home of the Lord. May He dwell in it forever. My eyes and my heart will be here, even when I will no longer appear. Act in everything as I ask you and lead you to the Lord. Do not reject from yourself the name of God, that you may not be rejected. Accept my messages that you may be accepted. Decide, my children, it is the time of decision. Be of just and innocent heart, that I may lead you to Your Father, for this, that I am here, is His great love. Thank you for being here.”

The apparition lasted six minutes. Afterwards, Mirjana wrote the following: “We prayed two Our Father’s and two Glory Be’s for those present and for those who have not yet come to know the love of God. We also spoke of other things, but I cannot speak of them. There was no talk of the secrets. Our Lady blessed all those present and all religious articles. At the beginning of the apparition, Our Lady was joyful and gentle. After that, She was sad for awhile and in the end was again joyful. I, Mirjana, who saw and felt Our Lady’s love, call you to truly reflect on and to live this message!”

I was very close to Mirjana in the apparition and was drawn to watching her during the time of her ecstasy. I saw things that puzzled him, and went to Mirjana to ask her about what I had seen. What follows will help you to grasp the limitations of science in its approach to the apparitions. Science cannot ask the same questions, or make the same observations that faith can. Because of that, science misses the subtle differences in the apparitions that can be discovered only through faith, differences that enrich the experience and the life of the believer. This interview took place in Mirjana’s home on March 22, 1996. The only other person present in the interview was a mutual close friend that both Mirjana and I share.

When I began to speak of Mirjana’s annual birthday apparition that she had had five days earlier, she showed surprise and interest in my observations. I had several questions I wanted to ask Mirjana concerning her apparition on March 18th. Halfway through the apparition, I saw Mirjana bend her head down, for only a second, and then lift it back up to look at Our Lady again. I had never seen this happen in any apparition before. I wondered if Mirjana had been chastised by Our Lady for doing something wrong. When I asked her about this, she said no, it wasn’t a reprimand. She bent her head down to receive Our Lady’s blessing. This is normal for her to do this.

Something had puzzled me about this apparition at that particular period of the apparition. It had been so short for an annual apparition. Our Lady usually stays longer on these occasions. I had a sense that maybe the apparition was longer than what I saw. This would be a unique experience because I had never heard Marija express this, nor any of the other visionaries. At the most they have expressed that they simply lose track of time.


Mirjana in Ecstacy, February 2, 2009

Mirjana’s apparitions are always moving to see because her face is so expressive and so many different emotions can be seen within the length of one apparition. As her daily apparitions ceased at the end of 1982, she was not included in most of the testing that took place over the years. However, there is much that can be learned through watching Mirjana before, during and after her ecstacies. Her poise, humility, gracefulness, and insightful answers to questions asked of her by pilgrims also demonstrate the truth of Prof. Joyeaux’s statement that common sense can tell us that the visionaries are normal human beings.

But the fact that Mirjana said she was receiving Our Lady’s blessing during the time that she bent her head gave credence to this theory because Our Lady doesn’t bless that quickly. In fact, just last weekend when I had been with Marija and her husband, Paolo, I asked Marija how Our Lady blesses. Marija said that She makes the Sign of the Cross slowly, saying the words: “In the name of the Father…and of the Son…and of the Holy Spirit..Amen.” With these thoughts in mind, I then said to Mirjana, “The apparition was only six minutes, but for you, how long was the apparition?” She exclaimed, “OH—hours! This is why I couldn’t talk about what happened during the middle of the apparition, because there were other things Our Lady said. What I said happened, happened, but there were many other things Our Lady spoke about.”

I responded by saying that I saw Mirjana speak back and forth with Our Lady but that the conversation didn’t last that long, only a matter of minutes. Mirjana answered back that she had a lengthy discussion with Our Lady concerning certain matters that she cannot reveal.

I then asked Mirjana when she came out ecstasy, did she feel that this apparition was a lot longer? Was she concerned during the apparition that it was lasting so long, and that the people would be growing tired? Evidently, this was something extraordinary to her because she exclaimed, “Yes!” Her first thought after the apparition had ended was, “Oh my, I’ve been on my knees all this time. How did these poor people kneel this long. It went on for hours.” She said she felt it was like what she experiences on the second of the month because she kneels down for a long time, so she was really thinking about these people. She turned to her husband, Marco, and asked him how long was the apparition, and he said, “Six minutes.” Mirjana was shocked and said, “Six minutes?” So, for her, this was a big revelation. It was really exciting to hear that. The fact that Mirjana looked down for only a second to receive Our Lady’s blessing was the key. Our Lady doesn’t bless in this manner (very quickly), which She would have had to have done in the amount of time I saw Mirjana’s head go down and back up again. It was as though there had been two bodies there.

I then brought up another question. I told Mirjana that when I have witnessed my wife give birth to our children, she has the normal tremendous urge in her to push and I have seen she could not resist this urge to push. We had five children at the time and every time, it’s with all her might, all her force, she wants to push. There were childbirth classes that we attended to learn how not to push until the doctor says to. But it’s more than she can bare, she just has to do it.

I asked Mirjana to tell me if I was wrong, but I saw this in her face the other day. I noted to Mirjana that Our Lady came 10 minutes earlier than what She had announced. I saw her get up from her chair and that she had this same look of feeling—as though she was giving birth. I said it was unmistakable to me and Mirjana interrupted me and immediately began to speak, explaining that Fr. Slavko had come up to her and said he wanted her to say another decade of the Rosary and asked if she could say it. She said she really didn’t know, and so he continued reciting the prayers himself. Then suddenly Mirjana reached out to tug Fr. Slavko’s robe, saying “I have to pray now!” Mirjana told me that this example of childbirth is exactly what it felt like. Everything in her whole emotion was coming out, like she was giving birth. And so this was a real joy, this discovery. But this was what I had seen on her face, this is what immediately had come to my heart. Why would that even be thought of? And yet I saw it, the exact same thing, not to any less degree than my wife’s face at the moment of giving birth. It was there. And it was something she couldn’t resist, something she couldn’t hold back. I relayed to Mirjana that the whole expression on her face turned serious; all the joy left her because it was like she couldn’t hold this anymore, this tremendous urge that Our Lady was about to appear. I told her she had a look on her face of a very ‘uncontrollable urge’ which immediately turned into a relieved joy when Our Lady appeared, just as if a birth had taken place. This was a real big thing in the way Mirjana reacted because it showed while Mirjana was anticipating that there were 10 more minutes before Our Lady would come, something, a tremendous urge came over her to pray and to pray now. Our Lady was about to appear. This preceded the three flashes of light that normally comes before every apparition. I had asked her to tell me if I was wrong, but instead, she confirmed it completely.


According to the tests conducted on the visionaries, there is very little eye movement recorded during ecstasy. Rather, their eyes are intensely transfixed on the location of the apparition, and nothing distracts them from what they see before their eyes. However, on one occasion there was an apparition in which there was a change from this normal pattern of behavior. Marija was present at Caritas for the August 1-5, 2005 public apparitions for a large gathering of people from across the country to publicly celebrate Our Lady’s birthday. The day before the event was to begin, the Caritas Community was gathered in the living room of my home for the apparition. Also present was Marija’s husband, Paolo, and their four young sons. One of my sons was kneeling right next to Marija and throughout the apparition, he noticed Marija’s eyes were darting back and forth, very unusual for Marija, whose normal ecstatic, contemplative stare while she is peering into the face of Our Lady is so commonly known. It puzzled him when he saw this in her eyes.

It became evident to everyone in the apparition that something different was happening than what is normal for Marija’s apparitions. Half way through the apparition, Marija began to pray out loud while still in ecstasy, which hasn’t happened in many years with Marija, though it is common with Ivan when he is on Apparition Hill for prayer group meetings in Medjugorje. Everyone heard Marija pray an Our Father and a Glory Be with Our Lady in the apparition. We were all shocked when this happened, including Marija’s husband and children who also noticed this highly unusual departure from what is normal in her apparitions. Marija’s sons, in fact, had never heard Marija’s voice while in ecstasy. Paolo was very surprised and even translated into Italian from Marija’s explanation in English to his boys what their mother was saying. Then he questioned Marija in Italian and explained more to his sons. The second factor was that the apparition lasted an unusually long time—almost six minutes.

Community with Marija in Living Room after apparition

Some of the members of the Caritas Community are gathered in the Living Room where the dramatic apparition described here would take place on July 31, 2005. This picture was taken on July 24, 2005 just after Marija’s apparition took place in the Bedroom. Marija can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the room, speaking to some of the community.

During the apparition on July 31st , Marija was at the very front of the room by the fireplace. It is here that Our Lady appeared. The room was crowded and the community filled the room, even to the very back and some on the staircase. There was no way by earth’s physical restrictions, Our Lady could have reached every member to bless them with Her hands over each of their heads. But Our Lady somehow, did just that. Our Lady is not restricted to time and space as we are.

At the end of the apparition, Marija was excited. She had just had a similar experience as to what was described in Mirjana’s appartion of March 18, 1996. To Marija, the apparition had been a very long time. She said that Our Lady prayed over everyone present, what seemed like at least five minutes apiece. But what was really unique, even for Marija, was that Our Lady was stretching over Marija to reach the different community members to pray over them individually with Her hands. Marija said she felt like she was a fence or a barrier to Our Lady whose body was actually leaning right near Marija’s face, as Her arms reached past Her. Marija felt she was in the way of Our Lady, or rather that Our Lady was too close, that Marija needed to move back. Marija said it was something like the first days, when Our Lady said people could come up to approach Her. This had never happened to her in an apparition, and it was something that brought her special joy.

What my son was seeing in watching Marija’s eyes moving back and forth, was Marija watching Our Lady praying over each person, although Marija could not see each indiviaul as Our Lady prayed over them. But just as mentioned in the previous story, that Our Lady is never in a rush when She is blessing, Marija’s eyes were in something of a time warp, moving quickly in our time, but in the time she was with Our Lady, she was following Her movements much slower. What was also difficult to comprehend was how Our Lady reached each person, as we were all scattered throughout a large room. It was impossible in human terms, for Our Lady to reach everyone, without physically walking to those in the middle or in the back of the room, and yet Marija said that Our Lady had place Her hands over each of our heads.

Again, this was something that had a doctor of science been present, he could have made the observation of seeing Marija’s eyes moving back and forth as my son had. He could have noted this was highly unusual behavior of the visionaries as compared to what they have observed over all these years. But without faith, there can be little meaning attached to this unique movement of Marija’s eyes outside of the fact that it was outside the realm of what has become known as “normal” behavior in the visionaries. However, this observation of Marija’s eye movement was important to us as it confirmed Marija’s testimony of the actual event of Our Lady praying over each person in the apparition. We did not need the knowledge of this to believe what Marija had told us, but it gave us a greater joy and actually led to greater faith and belief in the apparitions themselves.

Jakov in ecstacy

The youngest of the visionaries, Jakov only 10 years old when they started. Our Lady did not protect him from the knowledge of the approaching chastisements to the world. In one apparition, She showed him one of the secrets. It happened to be in an apparition in which the visionaries were being tested. Jakov was attached to an apparatus that was monitoring his breathing. While being shown one of the secrets, Jakov stopped breathing for 10 seconds. This is a sign for all of us to take seriously these prophecies from Our Lady to the Medjugorje visionaries.

Another example of this was an apparition in which the scientists performing the tests observed that Jakov stopped breathing for a 10 full seconds during the apparition. The notation was made, but the impact of that observation wasn’t felt until Jakov revealed that he was shown one of the secrets, a chastisement for the world, during the apparition. He stopped breathing in response to the shock of what he was seeing. Suddenly, the simple observation of seeing Jakov stop breathing had a much greater impact upon those who combined that information with their faith that the visionaries are truly seeing Our Lady.

The Cross at Caritas on Penitentiary Mountain