Photo: Felix Carroll
By Felix Carroll (Feb 2, 2010)
There is no delicate way of asking this: Is he delusional? Is he fibbing? Or is he really having visions of Our Lady?
It's one of the three. And it's ultimately up to the Church to decide.
But in the meantime, when 6:40 p.m. rolled around last Thursday at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., a man with a Croatian accent stood up as scheduled and kneeled before the altar and appeared to be carrying on a two-way conversation with someone that no one else could see. He says it's Our Lady. He spent about 10 minutes in prayer, occasionally nodding his head and speaking softly.
The man, Ivan Dragicevic, 45, is one of the visionaries of the alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Our Lady has reportedly appeared to him daily at the same time since June 24, 1981.
Ivan was the special guest for the Shrine's monthly healing Mass on Jan. 28.
But before the Mass, before the alleged apparition, and before the Rosary began, Shrine Rector Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, set the record straight.
"The Medjugorje apparitions," he told the standing-room-only crowd, "are presently neither officially approved by the Church as being of supernatural origin, nor are they condemned by the Church as being false or invalid. They are, at this time, in a type of middle category of evaluation referred to as non constat de supernaturalitate, which allows for personal belief in the authenticity of the apparitions along with personal, non-diocesan-sponsored pilgrimages to the apparition site, while the Church's official investigation is ongoing."
Father Anthony added, "The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy remains obedient to the final decision of the Holy See and, as with the Church, our position is to wait and see."
A Medjugorje History
Following Holy Mass, Ivan, through an interpreter, shared the history of the alleged apparitions and the message Our Lady has been giving him throughout the years. But first he asked how many in the crowd had visited Medjugorje, where 30 million pilgrims have flocked to ever since apparitions there were first reported.
At least half of the people in the Shrine raised their hands.
He was 16 when the alleged apparitions began. He described himself as a very quiet and shy boy who was attached to his family and who worked grueling days on the family farm and who loved to play soccer with his friends.
On June 24, 1981, on a hill known as Podbrdo, six children, including Ivan, saw what he described as "an incredibly beautiful young woman." The woman didn't speak to them but indicated that they should come closer to her. Though they identified her as Our Lady, they were frightened. Ivan, for one, ran home as fast as he could and shut himself in his bedroom.
The next day, the children agreed to meet once again at the same place in the hope of seeing her again. They were not disappointed.
"Our Lady was already there," Ivan said. "She was waving her hand telling us to come closer."
When one of the children asked her who she was, Ivan said she responded, "I am the Queen of Peace."
Ivan then spoke in general about Our Lady's message these 29 years. She calls for peace, he said. "Peace, peace, peace, and only peace!" he said, allegedly quoting her. "Peace must reign between God and man and between people."
She also continually stresses the need for a return to faith, he said. Conversion is another theme, Ivan said. He said she stresses that without a radical change of heart, mankind will not find peace. For this reason, Our Lady continually calls for confession at least once a month, he said. Prayer is another theme she continually stresses, he said. In particular, she calls for people to pray the Rosary and to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, which helps strengthen our faith and our relationship with God.
She also calls for fasting, which helps us to free ourselves from the slavery to sin, he said.
Our Lady's messages, he said, underline that peace is the greatest good, and that faith, conversion, prayer and fasting are the means by which we can attain it.
Why has Our Lady appeared so often and repeated the same messages? Ivan explained, "Every mother has to repeat things so that her children will not forget."
Here are some other things he said:
"She wants to bring hope to this tired world. She wants to bring hope to this entire mankind."
When he sees her each day, "behind her I can see the light of heaven."
"Our Mother prays for us. She intercedes with her Son for every one of us. She prays for our needs, for our problems, for our troubles, for our crosses, for your families."
'An Enormous Gift'
"My dear friends," Ivan said, "for the past 29 years I have been living in such graces. Truly God has given me an enormous gift." But he hastened to add, "I don't want any of you here this evening to look at me as a perfect man or a saint, because I am not. I have been trying to be better, to be holier."
He said, one question keeps going through his head these past 29 years: "Mother, why me?" he said.
He said he posed the question to Our Lady, and "she smiled and she said, 'My dear child, I am not looking for the best ones.'"
Of being a visionary, he said, "It is not easy and it is not simple to be with Our Lady every day, to talk with her every day ... and then, after meeting with her, return to the reality of this world."
As to his alleged vision that evening at the Shrine, he said Our Lady appeared happy. "She greeted us all," he said. "She opened her hands and prayed over all of us, particularly all who are sick."
One attendee said afterwards, "I believe Ivan, and I was struck by his humility and true heart. Perhaps he claimed he was not the 'best' and was perplexed as to why Our lady had come to him. He speaks with true heart, prays with true heart, and loves with true heart. What could be any better than that? "
In an interview before the healing Mass, Fr. Anthony said, "Even if people come out of curiosity, that's fine! God can work in people's lives when they just crack the door open a little bit in their hearts. I've heard of so many conversions from Medjugorje from people who just went out of curiosity. God accepts any intentions, even if it's just people who are curious.
"We still leave the final decision of Medjugorje up to the Church, and the way the Church discerns a private revelation is to see the fruits of it," Fr. Anthony said. "Anything that bears good fruit comes from God. Anything that bears bad fruit is not from God. There've been so many good fruits from Medjugorje. There have been so many conversions and vocations that have come from it, and the Church considers these in its discernment process. That's why we just need to be open."
The healing Mass was the first major event of the Golden Jubilee (1960-2010) of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.