For Christ Alone: Thinking About Mary 101
The Medjugorje Locutions
In the far reaches of Eastern Europe, there is a small mountain town where Mary is said to have appeared to several young people at various times in the course of the past thirty years. Although we will not go into an entire reflection on the implications of Marian apparitions here, the Church's careful consideration of the Medjugorge experience is a good example of the Church's loving response both to lay piety and the plausibility that God shows up in real ways for His people, both directly and through others- and, in particular, through the most blessed young woman who once stood between God and all humanity and said "yes" to Him for them. Although the Church has not yet officialy endorsed the particular visions of Mary in Medjugorje, the fruits of the reported apparitions are promising: healings, conversions, and the resounding approval of two pontiffs.
A friend of mine is part of the second generation of young Medjugorjian Catholics who have been blessed with a personal encounter with Mary- sometimes visually, and sometimes through clear interior locutions. Jelena is now a happy (and busy!) mother of four, but when I recently asked her to summarize what she has received for the benefit of some of my students, she graciously complied. I thought I might pass some of her summary on to our readers. Enjoy...
"My experience is different to that of the other visionaries. I do not have visions in the way they have, although what I experience is a type of vision. More specifically, it is the gift of an intense presence of Mary when I am in prayer. We say that it is an experience of the heart, because it is not just an idea, or a thought which comes to mind, but a true presence of a true person. It takes the heart to really meet another person, otherwise the encounter is superficial; and it is the same with God in this prayer experience. The heart really is involved and thus we speak of locution of the heart.
The first thing that was asked of me was confession, thus, a purified heart so I could see. I think this must be the first step in a serious Christian life; that is, to ask forgiveness. Mary then teaches us to pray the same way, so that when we are before God we ask pardon and mercy. This is the first step towards conversion.
Above all Our Lady was teaching us how to pray. Our Lady always puts prayer before all else, because our Christian lives get strength from the encounter with God. Thus, without this encounter, it is very hard to talk about spiritual life, because it is not something we have to do. I think that in our Christian life we soon realize that we can do very little and that it is instead, grace which leads us. Hence, Our Lady's repeated calls to prayer! Prayer has to become for us a fount of grace for our journey. Hence, Her call to a sacramental life: confession and the Eucharist in particular, which is the heart of our Christian life. You see, it is only through grace that we can be made perfect.
Our Lady has spoken about different forms of prayer, especially the Rosary. This prayer is being reproposed after many years, and I think the reason is that the prayer is very beneficial to our spirituality. If we are called to imitate Christ, to become like Him, to do it through the Rosary is the best way; it is a mini catechesis. All the mysteries of the faith are contemplated in it. To pray the Rosary, I think, makes us similar to Mary, who "kept all these things in her heart," said Luke (Lk 2:12, 2:51). I think that we too are called to keep these mysteries in our heart, through the Rosary. Mary said we should seek two things. The first thing is the Lord's face. The risk is that we often look at ourselves, we want good things, right things, but we do not realize we have someone next to us. Thus, Our Lady asks us to look up, to see Christ in our prayer. Our prayer must be Christ centred. The second step is to seek the Lord's will, because after the encounter with God, it becomes natural to ask oneself: what do You want of me?"
To be continued...