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Medjugorje for Traditionalists
A Reader’s Comment in Jest
Although the above was written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, we believe it conveys a sentiment that is not uncommon among traditionalist circles. Indeed, for many orthodox Catholics today, Medjugorje is treated with a kind of incredulous skepticism. It is a name synonymous with charismatic, progressive, or even liberal, and has become a label connected with fringe groups--to which anything associated with it immediately becomes suspect (ironically, the natives of Medjugorje are far more conservative and traditional than in other regions of the world). Granted, if one’s only source of information was what the most outspoken critics have presented to us, then it would be quite reasonable to reject Medjugorje outright. Disobedience, racketeering, lies, condemnation, immoral conduct--a very grave picture indeed. Many of us had accepted these sound-bytes and one-liners at face value, without investigating further to verify the unreferenced claims, or to really understand the Church's position.
"I have noticed that the people who come from Medjugorje become apostles. They renew the parishes. They form groups in which they get together, prayer groups. They pray before the Blessed Sacrament. They hold lectures, lead discussions and bring others to Medjugorje. And these circles - these prayer groups - spread out more and more. They renew the Church!"
- Cardinal Siri of Genoa, 1989 [Gebet, #4, 1990]
Local traditions of the Villagers
In addition to the messages themselves (which we will quote at length below), the local townspeople have provided a profound witness to the orthodoxy of Medjugorje. One of the most striking aspects of their faith, is their deep reverence and respect of priests. Their reverence for clergy is so deep, in fact, that they cannot understand how we Americans can be so judgmental and disrepsectful of our priests. Many of them in fact are appalled how we treat our priests, even the bad ones. Rather than gossiping and complaining, they know how to practice restraint of the tongue---because Our Lady has formed them over many decades---to rather pray and fast for our priests first and foremost.
Additionally, none of the local villagers will take Communion in the hand, but always on the tongue. Also, the spirit of penance has so imbued Medjugorje that one will often see pilgrims walking up apparition mountain barefoot, or crawling on their knees in prayer as an act of reparation.
Furthermore, none of the local restaurants serve meat on Fridays, and most of them serve special fasting bread on Wednesday's and Friday's. Additionally, there is also a local dress code in Medjugorje; no shorts above the knees and no sleeveless shirts that reveal the shoulders. One will often see in the villagers a simple faith, always welcoming to pilgrims, with a great love and respect for the sacraments (it is not uncommon to see the villagers cross themselves every time they walk past the church). Suffice to say, the faith of the locals is in fact one of the most striking experiences for anyone who visits Medjugorje (assuming the town has not been overrun by "crazy Italians").
SO WITHOUT FURTHER ADO....
Since this page is dedicated to those of a more traditional mind, we shall proceed to delve right in by listing several examples, each quoting directly from the messages on the subject.
Traditionalists have relaxed on this as well, as have most Catholics. Fasting has all but been abandoned by the world in recent times. Yet the Church teaches us that fasting is the highest external penance that anyone can perform, and thus should be preferred above all others. The Catechism of the Council of Trent states that "All kinds of satisfaction are reducible to three heads: prayer, fasting and almsdeeds." And again; "Nothing can be more effectual in uprooting all sin from the soul than these three kinds of satisfaction." But the Church does not stop there. She takes it a step further, stating that those who do not fast--whose bellies are continually satiated--are incapable of prayer! "For the mind of one who is filled with food and drink is so borne down as not to be able to raise itself to the contemplation of God, or even to understand what prayer means."
It should be no surprise why recent popes have been calling for a restoration of this long held practice (Paul VI Apostolic Constitution on Fasting and Penitence, and also Pope Benedict XVI), above the absolute minimum prescribed by Canon Law. Today, fasting on bread and water may seem austere, but it had been common place throughout Church history, even in the early Church. As the Didache states; "But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week; but fast on the fourth day (Wednesday) and the Preparation (Friday)". In the Apostolic Constitutions, we find a similar prescription; "But He commanded us to fast on the fourth and sixth days of the week (Wednesday and Friday); the former on account of His being betrayed, and the latter on account of His passion." And in the canons of Saint Peter the Hieromartyr, we find the following; "Let no one fault us that we fast on Wednesday and Friday, according to a custom rightly commanded by tradition: on Wednesday because of the trial of the Jews for the betrayal of the Lord; and on Friday for all that He suffered for us.” (to read more, see; Fasting: The Key to Authentic Renewal in the 21st Century).
OUR LADY OF MEDJUGORJE
"The best fast is on bread and water. Through fasting and prayer, one can stop wars, one can suspend the laws of nature. Charity cannot replace fasting. Those who are not able to fast can sometimes replace it with prayer, charity and a confession; but everyone, except the sick, must fast."
"Satan is enraged against those who fast and those who are converted."
"Fasting has been forgotten during the last quarter of the century, within the Catholic Church."
"The fasting which you are doing in eating fish, instead of meat, is not fasting but abstinence. The true fast consists in giving up all our sins, but one must also renounce himself and make the body participate in it."
"Pray and fast! All that you can do for me is to pray and fast."
"Dear children! Today I ask you to start fasting, putting your heart in it. There are many people who fast only because everyone else is fasting. It has become a custom which no one wants to stop. I ask the parish to fast out of gratitude to God for allowing me to remain so long in this parish. Dear children, fast and pray with your heart."
In the early 1800's, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton once had a vision in which she saw "in every American home, a black box through which the devil would enter". Likewise, Padre Pio was known for encouraging people to throw out their television sets. It is no question that the TV is an unprecedented novelty in history---one which can present a serious distraction in the spiritual life---and an idol that the most people are unable to detach themselves from. Granted, some channels are relatively benign (EWTN, family-friendly channels, Hallmark, etc). Yet these channels are a minority (and even so, even these can become an inordinate attachment and distraction from prayer).
"Unplug the television and put aside so many other useless things."
3. Reverence due to the Holy Eucharist and to Priests
"The Mass is the greatest prayer of God. You will never be able to understand its greatness. That is why you must be perfect and humble at Mass, and you should prepare yourselves there." [...] If you would know what grace, and what gifts you receive [at Mass], you would prepare yourselves for it each day, for an hour at least. "
"My children, priests' hands are blessed hands of my Son, respect them."
"It is very beautiful to remain Thursdays, for the adoration of my Son in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. It is likewise beautiful to venerate the cross each Friday. I wish that every Saturday, which is the day that the Church had dedicated to me, you will consecrate to me at least a quarter of an hour. Meditate during this time, on my life, my messages, and pray."
“Pray for priests. My Son gave them to you as a gift.”
On the Catholic Church:
"If Catholics lived their faith, the whole world would be Catholic."
On Eastern Philosophies:
Fr. Vlasic: "What do you say about Oriental meditations?" (Zen, Transcendental meditation)"
"Be prudent because the Devil tempts all those who have made a resolution to consecrate themselves to God, most particularly, those people. He will suggest to them that they are praying very much, they are fasting too much, that they must be like other young people and go in search of pleasures. Have them not listen to him, nor obey him. It is to the voice of the Blessed Virgin that they should pay attention. When they will be strengthened in their faith, the Devil will no longer be able to seduce them."
5. Penance and Self-Denial
"You cannot imagine what is going to happen nor what the Eternal Father will send to earth. That is why you must be converted! Renounce everything. Do penance. Express my acknowledgement to all my children who have prayed and fasted. I carry all this to my Divine Son in order to obtain an alleviation of His justice against the sins of mankind."
"Renounce everything. All that is part of conversion."
"Renounce all passions and inordinate desires. Avoid television, particularly evil programs, excessive sports, the unreasonable enjoyment of food and drink, alcohol, tobacco, etc."
"They will give up what they cherish the most, drink, coffee, pleasures, television. It is necessary to have persons who wish to consecrate themselves more specifically to prayer, and to fast."
"In this season I specially want you to renounce all the things to which you are attached but which are hurting your spiritual life. Therefore, little children, decide completely for God, and do not allow Satan to come into your life through those things that hurt both you and your spiritual life."
"Little children, renounce that which hinders you from being closer to Jesus. In a special way I call you: Pray, because only through prayer will you be able to overcome your will and discover the will of God even in the smallest things. By your daily life, little children, you will become an example and witness that you live for Jesus or against Him and His will. Little children, I desire that you become apostles of love. By loving, little children, it will be recognized that you are mine. Thank you for having responded to my call."
"It is necessary to convert oneself to God, in order to obtain peace. Tell the whole world; tell it without delay, that I ardently wish conversion. Be converted, do not wait. I will ask my Son that He not chastise the world. Convert yourselves, renounce everything, and be ready for everything."
"Do what the Church tells you."
"One must follow the authority of the Church with certainty. Yet, before she expresses an opinion, it is necessary to advance spiritually, because she will not be able to express a judgment in a vacuum, but in a confirmation which presupposes growth of the child. First comes birth, followed by Baptism, then Confirmation. The Church comes to confirm him, who is born of God. We must walk and advance in the spiritual life, affected by these messages."
"I wish from day to day, to clothe you with sanctity, goodness, obedience and love of God, so that you may be from day to day, more beautiful and better prepared for your God. Dear children, listen to my messages and live them. I want to guide you."
(on the day the bishop set restrictions on the parish)
"Pray very much for the Bishop and for those who are responsible for the church.. Pray my dear children...he is tormented by anxiety. He has taken upon himself all the problems of the diocese...I will ask Almighty God for the grace to be able to comfort the bishop. [...] It is necessary to respect the leaders and to obey them."
7. Sound Counsel from The Mother
"Carry blessed objects with you. Put them in your house, and restore the use of holy water."
"Give witness by your life; sacrifice your life for the salvation of the world....Pray and let the rosary always be in your hands as a sign to Satan that you belong to me."
"Pray also, in the evening when you have finished your day. Sit down in your room, and say to Jesus: 'Thank you.'
"Dear children, this evening I ask you very specially, to venerate the heart of my Son, Jesus. Make reparation for the injury inflicted on the Heart of my Son. This heart has been wounded through all kinds of sin."
"I would like for you to try to conquer some fault each day. If your fault is to get angry at everything, try each day, to get angry less. If your fault is not to be able to study, try to study. If your fault is not to be able to obey, or if you cannot stand those who do not please you, try on a given day, to speak with them. If your fault is not to be able to stand a proud person, you should try to approach that person. If you desire that person to be humble, be humble yourselves. Show that humility is worth more than pride. Thus, each day, try to go beyond, and to reject every vice from your heart. Find out which are the vices that you most need to reject."
"Do not go in search of extraordinary ways, take rather, the Gospel and read it. There, everything will be clear. You only learn to pray, through praying."
"Jesus wishes to give you a special gift. This gift of my Son is my gift. Here it is. You will be subjected to trials and you will endure them with great ease. We will be ready to show you how to escape from them if you accept us."
"I'm going to reveal a spiritual secret to you: if you want to be stronger than evil, make yourself a plan of personal prayer Take a certain time in the morning, read a text from Holy Scripture, anchor the Divine word in your heart, and strive to live it during the day, particularly during the moment of trials. In this way, you will be stronger than evil."
"Always pray before your work and end it with prayer. If you do that, God will bless you and your work."
"Dear children! You do not yet know how to love, nor do you listen with love to the words I am giving you. Be assured, my beloved ones, that I am your Mother, and that I have come on earth to teach you how to listen with love, how to pray with love, and not be compelled by the cross you are carrying. Through the cross, God is glorified in every person."
"Dear children, today I invite you to pray everyday for the souls in Purgatory...By this way, dear children, you will gain new intercessors, who will help you during your life to discern that nothing on earth is more important for you, than longing for Heaven."
"You know that I wish to lead you on the road to holiness. But I cannot compel you by force to become saints. I wish that everyone of you helps me, and himself, by your small sacrifices. In this way I will be able to guide you, and make you more holy, day by day."
"I desire that you convert the world and that your life be a conversion for others."
On the children's incessant request for a sign, so that others will believe;
"Be aware, dear children, that He loves you and that it is for that reason that He tests you. Always present your burdens to God and do not worry."
"Dear children! Today I invite you to put more blessed objects in your home and may every person carry blessed objects on himself Let everything be blessed. Then, because you are armored against Satan, he will tempt you less."
"Pray, you will not be sorry for it. God will present you with gifts for which you are going to glorify Him all your earthly life."
"Let all the prayers that you say in the evening in your homes, be for the conversion of sinners, because the world is truly in sin... the world is immersed in a great moral decay. Recite the rosary each evening."
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