Our Lady of Medjugorje, also called Queen of Peace and Mother of the Redeemer, is the title given to the "visions" of the Blessed Virgin Mary which allegedly began in 1981 to six Croatian teenagers in Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It was on June 24, 1981, the Feast of St. John the Baptist, that Our Lady was first seen, on that now famous small mountain, known as Podbrdo, overlooking the parish of Medjugorje. Two young friends, Ivanka Ivankovic, 15 years old, and Mirjana Dragicevic, 16 years old, were the first to see her. Ivanka was born in the small hamlet at the foot of Podbrdo, but was living in Mostar at the time, and Mirjana’s family was from Sarajevo, but was visiting her grandparents who lived in Medjugorje. Ivanka describes the event as it began: “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 the Madonna would appear to us!’ And we continued on our way home.”1 Both had been frightened; Ivanka by what she had seen, Mirjana by the look on Ivanka’s face and her claim to have seen the Blessed Mother. As they approached the houses in the village, they ran into Milka Pavlovic, 12 years old, who asked their help in getting her sheep and bringing them home. This meant the girls would have to return to where they had just been. “The time was about six-fifteen. When they reached the spot where Ivanka had looked up and seen the mysterious figure, the girl again cried, ‘Look, there she is.’ Mirjana and Milka, following her pointing finger to a distance of 656 ft (200 meters) or so, saw a young woman in gray, holding something in her hand which she seemed to be protecting. ‘She was a long way away,’ says Ivanka. ‘We couldn’t see her close … just the outline of her body.’ ‘We couldn’t see her face,’ confirms Mirjana, ‘and anyway, we didn’t know what the Madonna would really look like! But something inside us insisted that it was the Madonna. We knew it was her, but we felt confused, and just stood there looking at her.’ Ivanka agrees: ‘We didn’t know what to do, where to put ourselves. We felt a mixture of joy and fear. So much joy, yet so much fear, it’s impossible to describe it.’”2 Earlier in the day, Mirjana and Ivanka had gone to Vicka Ivankovic’s house (no relation to Ivanka) to invite her to join them on their walk. Vicka, 17 years old, was resting, but her mother told the two friends that she would give Vicka the message to join them later. Vicka recounted what happened next.
This is how the area of Podbrdo, above the village of Bijakovici is now referred to. This is where the visionaries claim to have first seen Our Lady. This happened at the end of June back in 1981. Since then pilgrims gather there to pray the rosary. By day and by night, groups can be seen making their way to the place of the first apparition. Up until 1989, there was nothing to be seen there except boulders and rustic crosses which some of the many visitors had left. Today, on the ascent, images in cast bronze, (work of the well-known Florentine artist Carmelo Puzzolo) recall the joyful sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the rosary.Krizevac is the hill above Medjugorje. Here, in 1934, the people of the village of Medjugorje erected an eight-meter high concrete cross in commemoration of the 1900th anniversary of Jesus' death. In this place, both groups and individuals of the faithful pay homage in the way of the Cross, praying as they go from station to station. In the first years the stations were marked by wooden crosses. Since 1988, however, bronze images depicting the various stations have been placed at each cross, again the work of the Italian sculptor Carmelo Puzzolo. Cross Mountain (Krizevac) has become the "Calvary" of the shrine where pilgrims remember the passion of Christ.
The Parish Church and surrounding area is the area where the Mass and sacramental life in general is celebrated. The old Parish Church, built at the end of the last century, was destroyed during an earth tremor. The new Church was completed in 1969. The church as well as the Parish is consecrated to St. James, (the older) apostle and patron of pilgrims. In 1991, twenty new confessionals were added and an outdoor altar was erected for larger gatherings (when weather permits). Within the Church grounds, there is also a building which houses "the adoration chapel" and seminar rooms for church purposes. There are also two large marquees (which can be joined together to make a larger one) at the disposal of the Parish for various purposes. Overall, the need for "sacral-premises" is ever on the increase.
On June 24, 1981 six children ranging in age from ten to sixteen, encountered the Blessed Virgin on a hillside in Bosnia, saying she was a beautiful woman with dark hair and blue eyes who seemed about 25 years old. She wore gray and white, with a white veil. An arc of stars appeared above her head and her feet had clouds gathered around them. When the visionaries asked who she was, she replied, “I am the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Approximately 40 million pilgrims have come to Medjugorje from various parts of the world to witness the Blessed Virgin and hear her message. The six visionaries - Vicka, Ivan, Jakov, Ivanka, Marija and Mirjana - continue to have visions of the Blessed Virgin. Our Lady’s message is received by the visionaries and passed on or translated into several languages. Her basic message is: God is present in the world and prayer and repentance are needed to obtain peace in the world. Her messages emphasize the need for prayer (especially the Rosary), fasting, Mass (reception of the Eucharist), confession, and daily reading of the Bible. Many priests have realized their vocations through Medjugorje, and pilgrims report seeing supernatural signs, experiencing healings, and having deeper conversions to Christ. Some of the pilgrims’ favorite sites for prayer and reflection are St. James Church, Apparition Hill, Cross Mountain, and the statue of the Risen Christ.
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