When John the Baptist became a ‘voice crying in the wilderness’ and called on the people to make a straight path for the Lord, he told the them he baptised only with water and someone else would follow who would baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire.
The first apparition of Our Lady at Medjugorje occured in the late afternoon of Wednesday 24th June, 1981, a day of unbearable heat in the village. It was also the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. Surely not a coincidence?
Luke’s gospel is unclear if Mary remained with her cousin Elizabeth for the birth of John. The account records that Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home. So perhaps Our Lady’s first visitation to Medjugorje may be seen as a simple sign to confirm that she did remain at Elizabeth’s side for John’s birth!
Earlier that day, lightning had struck and set fire to the community hall in Medjugorje that also served as the local post office.
Was this also another sign, one of the Holy Spirit accompanying the arrival of a new postmistress in Medjugorje whose messages would set hearts on fire?
Our Lady’s first call to the people was “Peace, peace, peace. Only peace. Reconcile with God and each other.” It was the same call John the Baptist had made in the wilderness – (Medjugorje at the time was but a wilderness with St James church serving as an oasis). It was the call of all prophets sent by God, but this time from the Queen of Prophets appearing with her Son in her arms, carrying the Word, inviting the people to make room in their hearts for Jesus.
To believe, we had to become like little children (like the six seers) with hearts untainted by corruption and skeptism. Many did and still do.
The fire has never been extinguished at Medjugorje.
Now there are two post offices in the village, processing thousands of postcards sent by pilgrims to family and friends all around the world with a simple but heartfelt message: “Wish you were here!”
We are led to understand that the Medjugorje Commission voted in favour of accepting the first seven apparitions at Medjugorje. Whether that is a reference to the fist seven apparitions to the seers as a group, or just the first seven days, it’s not clear.
If it is the first seven days then it is likely that the Commission has analysed and accepted the testimonies of the visionaries that were recorded on 22 audio tapes.
In 2013 Fr James Mulligan, a priest of the Westminster Archdiocese in England, published a book outlining the events of the early days of the apparitions as well as transcriptions of the 22 tapes. The book is titled: Medugorje, The First Days.
It is interesting to note that 10-year-old Jakov Colo was the first of the seers to be interviewed. The interview was conducted by Fr Jozo Zovko, parish priest of Medjugorje, and his assistant Fr Viktor Kosir. It took place in the parish rectory on the morning of June 27, 1981, the fourth day of the Medjugorje phenomenon.
The book can be obtained via Amazon at this LINK
Here is the Foreword:
The basis of this account of the first days of the claimed apparitions at Medjugorje is the transcription of the translation from Croatian of twenty-two tape-recorded interviews/on-the-spot commentaries with the alleged visionaries. All the recordings were completed within the first seven days of the alleged apparitions and provide invaluable source material. The recordings were carried out by the Franciscan priests of Medjugorje – mainly the parish priest, Fr Jozo Zovko – and by a parishioner, Grgo Kozina. The bulk of the recordings were confiscated by the Yugoslav State Security police when they raided the Medjugorje parish rectory on 17th August 1981, but fortunately copies had been made. These copies have found their way all around the world and only now has the opportunity come to have them all collected.
Snippets of transcriptions from these recording have been published sporadically – but this is the first time that all the material has been collated, translated and published. In 1988 a Medjugorje-born Franciscan priest, the late Fra Ivo Sivric R.I.P., who was then living in Canada published, translated into French, in his book, La face cache de Medjugorje, a substantial tranche of the recordings. This was a valiant attempt, and his translation is basically sound, but Fr Sivric was hindered by a large amount of the material being missing, and was also frequently flummoxed, it seems, by the modern-day terms and the colloquial expressions of the young visionaries.
These transcriptions of the tape recordings are a treasure from many angles. They provide a very graphic, on the spot description of those fast-moving, unprecedented events of June 1981, and they leave the reader in no doubt of the absolute conviction of the young visionaries that they are seeing Our Lady. As might be expected in the ad hoc and un-choreographed manner in which the recordings took place, there are some moments of confusion – but such moments are rare and there is overall a remarkable consistency and coherence to the visionaries’ narration of events.
The steadfast conviction of these young people that they are seeing the Blessed Virgin Mary shines through against the backdrop of outright hostility from the Communist State authorities and the scepticsm, at the time, of the Franciscan priests in the Medjugorje parish, and points very strongly to the authenticity of Medjugorje.