Dan Burke is an award-winning author, writer, and speaker on Catholic spirituality. He has written and/or edited nine books on faithful Catholic spirituality and is the President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News, Inc. Dan is the president of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and the creator of Divine Intimacy Radio and SpiritualDirection.com.
As I was making my way to the Catholic Church, I was deeply blessed by an encounter with a 17th century priest who taught me, through his writings, how to overcome aridity in prayer. This was a significant breakthrough for me and brought me tremendous relief. I developed an instant affinity to this priest and looked for other writings of his that might help me. By God’s grace, I didn’t find anything else about him until I became Catholic and discovered that his teachings were condemned by the Church.
The central lesson of this encounter was that God works through people and situations both because of them and in spite of them. In this case, once I received official word about the Church’s ruling on his writings, I set them aside. It is very important to note that I didn’t set aside the truth and the blessings that I received in this case. What I recognized, though, was that the gifts I received were from God, not from this errant priest.
All this isn’t a setup to say that I believe that Medjugorje is a fraud. In fact, I don’t. That said, I don’t believe the converse either.
How is this possible? Let me outline it for you.
God “Rains on the Just and the Unjust”:
God’s grace can work through a donkey, as he did in Numbers 22, and he can work through a saint. Of course, He more frequently works through saints and holy means. Regardless, God will always respond to a heart that desires Him and wherever he finds hearts open to Him, he responds with His grace.
The Good Fruit:
I know many good and faithful Catholics who have had their lives changed for the better in Medjugorje. The fruit speaks for itself. They spent a great deal of time, treasure, and energy to seek God. This reflects a heart disposed to receive God’s grace. This is the soil necessary for God to work and God will never reject a soul who seeks Him.
The Bad Fruit:
It is incontrovertible that some of the fruit out of Medjugorje is very problematic and must also be weighed in the balance by the Church. Many who argue for authenticity seem to focus only on the good fruit. The rotten fruit of disobedience to the Church is deeply concerning in this case. Obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Magisterium is always a good sign, and lack of obedience is always a bad sign and an indicator of the infiltration of the world, the flesh, and the devil. In this case, it may be that the early apparitions were valid and then the work of the enemy achieved irreparable damage.
We Must Trust the Blessed Trinity to Work Through the Church for Our Final Basis of Judgement:
With regard to whether or not the Church “approves” of the claims of the seers of Medjugorje, I will wait for and accept the leading of the Holy Spirit in and through the Magisterium. I won’t argue for or against it lest I potentially and arrogantly find myself to have led people contrary to the decisions of the Church.
With regard to those who have been changed in and by the events happening at Medjugorje, or even an approved apparition, I would strongly encourage you to attach yourself to the work of God, not to the apparition itself. If, through your engagement with Medjugorje, you have drawn near to God, then you need not have any doubt that He has drawn near to you. If you take this approach, no matter what decision the Church makes, your faith will rest on the authentic work of God in your life.
Image credit: By Llorenzi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons