Medjugorje in the Beginning, June 24, 1981
The Franciscan parish of St. James, in the village of Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, became known in Herzegovina and the world because of six young people who claim to have seen visions of Our Lady. One of the nearby hills, called Crnica, has another hill attached to it, called Podbrdo (“sub” or “under hill”), and the village of Bijakovici is at the base of this hill. Podbrdo is the locale of the apparitions that are alleged to have started on June 24, 1981. Another hill, on the other side of Crnica, was called Sipovac until 1933, when the parishioners built a large cross on it to mark and honor 1,900 years since the death of the Lord. The name of the hill was then changed to Krizevac (“cross mountain”). Since then, people from the parish and from the surrounding areas have gathered there every year on the first Sunday after the feast of the Birth of Mary to celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross.
The Franciscans, who came to the area in the fourteenth century as missionaries, preserved the Catholic Faith in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Holy See gave them the responsibility of being in this very difficult region under Turkish-Muslim rule from 1478 to 1878. It was a time of many tough trials and much suffering. Hard work in this small, dry land - in its vineyards and tobacco fields - constant struggle in good times and bad - has taught the villagers persistence in their ways and their goals. Unfounded optimism has never carried them away, nor has pessimism impaired their zeal for life. Emerging from this varied and rather hidden history, Medjugorje has become a destination for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. [(Adapted from The Apparitions of Our Lady at Medjugorje by Father Svetozar Kraljevic, 3rd edition published by Informativni Centar, Mir, 2005. Some excerpts from the beginning days have been extracted from Vicka…Her Story by Finbar O’Leary, published in 2006) ]
IVANKA'S STORY: In an interview with Fr. Svetozar in February 1983, Ivanka, the first young person to see Our Lady, spoke about the extraordinary events that took place on June 24, 1981, the feast day of John the Baptist: “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 Our Lady would appear to us!’ And we continued on our way home. We came to Milka's house, (younger sister of visionary Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti), and she said, ‘Let us go to bring the sheep home.’ So we went there (near where the Community of Sr. Elvira is now located), talking along the way. When we arrived I saw Our Lady holding Baby Jesus in her hands, and then Mirjana and Milka looked and saw her too.”
VICKA'S STORY: In an interview with Fr. Tomislav Vlasic on March 15, 1982, Vicka recounted what had happened: “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 - Our Lady!’ I said, ‘What do you mean, Our Lady?’ I did not even look -did not take the time to bother to look. I kicked off my slippers and ran barefooted, toward Cilici, along the macadam road.
"On my way back, I met Ivan Dragicevic and Ivan Ivankovic. They were picking apples, and asked me if I wanted some. I said, ‘No,’ and then I said, ‘Ivan (Dragicevic), Our Lady - they said that Our Lady has appeared up there. Let's go there, you and me because 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 and I turned toward Ivan to ask, ‘Do you see anything?’ he was already gone. I saw him running away. Then I asked Ivan Ivankovic, ‘Do you see anything?’ He said, ‘I see something completely white, turning.’ Milka was with us then, and I asked her if she saw anything. She said, ‘I see Our Lady.’ 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 was in shock. I felt stiff and could not move. The girls were describing Our Lady. They described how beautiful her gown was, the color of her gown and the way she was standing. I felt something strong was blocking me inside. It would not allow me to even look towards Podbrdo. Then in one moment, I could feel something unblocking inside of me. Something was coming out of my own heart and soul. As it did, my head went up and I was able to look towards Podbrdo. As I looked up, I was able to see exactly what the three of them, were describing to me.
"We were standing on the road and Our Lady was up on the Hill. 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?’ I went home before the others. They remained there five or six minutes after me.
"Then I and little Milka went to Marija and told her that we had seen Our Lady on the hill. She just laughed and did not want to talk about it seriously. Then some people tried to tease us. ‘You should have caught her,’ Marija's uncle said. ‘Did she send greetings to your mothers and fathers?’ My sister said, ‘Maybe they saw a flying saucer.’ This is what happened the first time; but we did not pay any attention to what people said. We thought, ‘Let them talk’.”
|Vicka, Jakov, Ivanka, Mirjana, |
Marija, and Ivan in ecstasy, 1981