The study of miracles and supernatural manifestations will always be a subject of great interest for the student of religion, as many religious adherents will claim that their belief has been confirmed and often reinforced by these unexplainable events and miracles.
It’s hard to believe – it’s been thirty years. In 1984 I was invited to travel from Rome to Bosnia (then Yugoslavia) with a Franciscan priest who organized trips to visit the miraculous apparitions of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the town of Medjugorje.
Adventures in the Adriatic
Before leaving Italy we visited the town of Loreto, just south of the port town Ancona, from where one crosses the Adriatic. In Loreto we visited the Shrine of the Holy House, that is the house where Jesus grew up.
No, Jesus did not grow up in Italy, but his house was miraculously flown there, carried by four angels, not long before the final expulsion of the Christian Crusaders from the Holy Land in the 13th century.
We joined a few dozen pilgrims and crossed the Adriatic after visiting Loreto and landed in Split, where we boarded a bus for the small town of Medjugorje.
In Medjugorje the beneficiaries of the visions of Mary were children, who would gather at the same time every day in a side chapel to the right of the altar of the Saint James church.
I had brought my 16mm Bolex movie camera with me to Europe and was able to buy some film before setting out on our pilgrimage to Bosnia. Inside the church, a large crowd pressed toward the door of the side chapel and most of us were blocked from getting too close, until I revealed the camera hidden within the large sleeves of my habit.
On seeing the camera, the priest in charge (who was also a Franciscan) not only ushered me through the crowd, but also placed me in the room with the children. I was caught off guard when the children suddenly stopped praying their rosary and all simultaneously looked up.
I instinctively followed their gaze with the same lurching motion, only to find myself staring at a wall. I then realized it was time to turn on the camera and film the children in their trance as they nodded and smiled in harmony with each other, deep in their vision-state.
Others in the room tested the children by pinching their ears, and leaned in close to the children in order to scrutinize their faces. I later found out that these were members of a Roman delegate sent to investigate the authenticity of the miracles and visions.
The priest who allowed me to enter may have originally thought that I was part of the investigative team.
In the future I will digitize the 16mm footage and post it here. The miracles at Medjugorje have continued for decades, and there are plenty of websites dedicated to the subject; I have included two links below.
Another Miracle of the Sun
On another occasion that same year, a Franciscan priest invited me to a parish just south of Rome to witness a miracle of the sun.
I joined a crowd of over 400 devout Catholics who had gathered to see a cyclical event in which the sun danced around in the sky, reminiscent of the miracle of the sun at Fàtima, Portugal in the early twentieth century.
I have to admit that I was very annoyed with the hysterical behavior of some of the people gathered there that day, and finally ended up informing as many people as I could that the miracle was finished and they should stop staring at the sun because it was dangerous.
The priest who had asked me to come with him explained later that he thought I should see this ‘crowd behavior’, as he called it, for myself.
Our belief in miracles and bizarre events seems to have strangely coexisted with our natural tendency to require evidence, and this desire for, and belief in miracles still exists among many religious people living today.