I woke up compelled to address Fr. Gabrielle Amorth’s strong words - words that condemned our apathy toward Medjugorje.
(See my other articles for an overview of Medjugorje, St. John Paul II's position, and a reflection on the transitory nature of Mary's reported appearances).
Fr. Amorth was the Chief Exorcist of Rome for 20 years, casting out demons in the often unseen battle of Good vs. Evil. For him to make the following remarks, he must understand something that often escapes us.
In an interview with Radio Maria, Fr. Amorth spoke these words in light of a reported message of Our Lady given on August 25, 2011:
“Dear children! Today I call you to pray and fast for my intentions, because Satan wants to destroy my plan. Here I began with this parish and invited the entire world. Many have responded, but there is an enormous number of those who do not want to hear or accept my call. Therefore, you who have said ‘yes’, be strong and resolute. Thank you for having responded to my call.”
Fr. Amorth commented:
“How bitter, how bitter was the last message of Our Lady of Medjugorje, on August 25: 'Many have responded, but there is an enormous number of those who do not want to hear or accept my call.' Now look here; it is very sour, this balance. After more than thirty years! More than thirty years! Now if it is the pagans who don’t listen to Our Lady’s words, then that I can understand. But be you a Christian, it is not forgivable. Be you a Christian! Even priests and bishops don’t even want to hear about it. It is not that they went there and then made their decision fairly after seeing things for themselves, no! They don’t even want to hear it being spoken about!”
Mary’s tells us in her message that “Satan wants to destroy my plan.”
We read in Ephesians 6:12 how real our struggle with Satan is:
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
May these words remind us that we are in a deadly spiritual battle with Satan, who “comes only to steal, kill and destroy” (Jn 10:10). Assuredly, Fr. Amorth’s wisdom and insight fighting spiritual battles enables him to recognize and distinguish between the work of God and that of Satan. His strong belief in the happenings in Medjugorje, therefore, helped me discern amid the lies and false reports often circulated (even by major news sites!) citing the Vatican has disproven the apparitions and declared them to have been a fraud. Remember when reading these reports that:
"Pope Francis has not given his word yet on Medjugorje, therefore no declaration, even from a “Vatican insider”, holds any authority. They are simply personal opinions. Beware of falling into the trap of agitation! The announcement will be given on the official Vatican websites." Sister Emmanuel
Amid this confusion, Father Amorth proclaims how we are to know the truth regarding Medjugorje or other supposed apparitions:
“The Gospel is so clear, it tells us how to discern! By the fruits you will know the tree! It has been 30 years ... [and] Medjugorje has given us fruits that are ultimately exquisite! Confession, conversion, vocations, graces of every kind! For more than 30 years!”
For me, Father Amorth’s experience at combatting the father of lies, makes his understanding of Medjugorje as “a great fortress against Satan” particularly compelling. I believe we must carefully reflect on Father’s words. And perhaps consider more deeply the reports of graces God has given us for over 34 years! For Father says further:
“In the Old Testament God sent prophets to warn of the betrayals of the Jewish people. Now, here, to warn of the betrayal of the Christian people, also the priests, God sends us His Mother! It has been 30 years! Is it possible that people still do not hear? And as for those people who believe themselves to be intelligent by saying they wait until the Church approves? They are fools!”
Similarly, I have heard Medjugorje spoken of as “the heel of Mary.” This imagery reminds us of the great prophecy God spoke regarding the woman who would crush the head of Satan. Saying to Adam and Eve in the garden:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15).
In our day and age, it often appears that evil is winning the battle – as attacks on the family increase daily and more and more people seem to be losing their faith. As world gets ever darker, we can become discouraged and overwhelmed. Yet, in the midst of this darkness, let us keep in mind that conversions and healings are being reported daily from people who have journeyed to or embraced the messages of Medjugorje! In this article I link to dozens of miracles associated with Medjugorje (I could have linked hundreds more).
How incredible are these miracles! And how incredibly each of these accounts of conversion, vocation and healing attest to Mary’s power over Satan and her ability to crush his plans!
And isn’t that how God changes the world? Scripture and history tell us God doesn’t change the world in one fell swoop, but through individuals! Look at Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Jesus, and the Twelve Apostles... God seeks to transform each of us! And then, watch with joy how we witness and become another Christ to each other through the smallest acts of love and through our prayers! In God's goodness, humility and patience, He is at work changing the world, one person at a time! One person who impacts those around them – and so on and so on.
If this is how God works, how integral are we to the plan of God!
Do we take seriously Our Lady’s daily visitation to earth each day and her invitation to pray, pray, pray?
To be peace and love amid hatred and division?
To pray with our families and read Scripture daily?
To go to Confession often and live the Eucharist?
To live her messages, which lead us into ever deeper faith and closeness to God, so we will become her apostles?
How incredibly does each account of conversion, vocation and healing attest to Mary’s power over Satan and her ability to crush his plans! For we must remember that Satan truly exists and his sole desire is to destroy us... To destroy our souls, our marriages, our children, our families, our homes, our relationships, our country… even the entire world and universe!
Therefore, every testimony of conversion is a triumph over Satan’s snares!
Each time an addict is able to live free from drugs and alcohol, it is a tremendous victory of God!
Each marriage that is saved that was on the brink of divorce proclaims that God’s love triumphs!
Every time a person chooses to forgive, he proclaims the power of forgiveness over anger and hatred!
Each time a person chooses to go to confession, all of hell rages because a soul refuses to listen to the one “who accuses us night and day” Rev 12:10, but, instead, listens and trusts in God’s mercy!
Every time a mother and father chooses to cherish their unborn baby, all of heaven rejoices at the great triumph of life over the forces of death!
Each time a person rejects the lies of Satan and remains steadfast in faith, it is a victory!
Each time a person embraces God's plan regarding sexuality and marriage ...
Each suicide that is thwarted…
Each religious vocation…
Each eternal and ever-living priesthood that is embraced… is an annihilation of Satan’s plans!
And so often overlooked, each time a person prays, participates in Holy Mass or adores the Blessed Sacrament…
Each time someone choose to read Scripture…
Each time families pray together…
Each time someone fasts...
God is changing the world one soul at a time...
by changing each one of us!
And all of heaven rejoices, while the demons rage!
Is it any wonder that so many lies have been perpetrated against Medjugorje? A place where the parish has a 3-hour program of prayer every day! Where more confessions take place than any other place in the world! A place of untold numbers of conversions and healings!
As in all authentic and holy works of God, Satan works to discredit them. We need only think about what took place regarding St. Faustina and the messages Jesus gave her on His Divine Mercy, (which were condemned for a time until Pope St. John Paul II rescued them) or the terrible lies people made up against St. Padre Pio (who endured great testing, censure and trials through the hands of the Church) to name a few. Although there has been no denunciations, there are recent reports of restrictions taking place in Medjugorje. I see these restrictions as a necessary step in the Church's process of discernment. Through trial and testing, the humility and the obedience of the reported visionaries and pilgrims will be determined. However, Satan will have a field day spinning these restrictions into condemnations, for he has been particularly adept at spreading falsehoods that undermine the acceptance of Medjugorje in our world. So much so, that many do not even wish to consider or pay any attention to the thousands of reports that attest to the good fruits coming from Medjugorje. This is what Father Amorth is so strongly lamenting!
I pray that this will change. Because Our Lady's sole mission is to lead us to Jesus -- to lead us to union with Him, so that we become saints who reflect the presence of Christ in our daily lives. Saints not only after we die, but here and now in our present moment!
Living saintly lives should not scare us off! I know many, many holy men and women who are doing just that. Every week in Church I notice beautiful families with 4, 5, 6 or more children! It is amazing to see! (How I wish God had given me that many!) Their openness to life and their commitment to raising their children in the faith is one instance of how God is changing the world!
Each person changes the world by living in sanctity - if they seek to love the ones God puts in their path. Even if no one recognizes it... when we seek to fulfill our daily duties with love... when we perform acts of kindness... or are committed to prayer and to providing for our families... when we offer our sleepless nights to Him... or our sicknesses, struggles, joys or sadness are given to Jesus on the Cross... God knows! And united with His Sacrifice, one cleaned toilet... one Hail Mary prayed with devotion... one Scripture verse read with the heart.. one heartfelt reception of Communion... one return to Confession... one smile... becomes infinitely valuable!
We all know how real this battle is –
Mary is God’s answer to our pleas for help! She is God’s answer to our cries to Him to save us! In His Mercy, He has sent our Blessed Mother to reveal His Presence, His Love for us and to reveal to us the battle plan that is winning the war against evil!
This battle plan is nothing more than living the Gospel with our whole lives. How untiringly Mary invites us to seek God first in our lives and to develop a deep personal relationship to Him through prayer, because prayer unites our minds and hearts to God, and allows us to hear Him and listen to His Voice! When we hear and listen to God, we no longer want to sin -- for we understand we have so much more than what sin offered to us! When we commit to prayer, we are strengthened in our faith, and we are emboldened to never cease fighting for our freedom -freedom that Christ died to give us - for "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free!" Gal 5:1 - freedom for our families, our loved ones and the entire world... because sin itself is the great destroyer of freedom, because “the wages of sin is death” Rom 6:23 and “all who sin become slaves of sin” (Jn 8:34).
Mary, the most loving of Mothers, and the most powerful prayer warrior, leads us in this battle and gives us the strategies that will win this deadly spiritual war! The messages she gives are often likened to the five small stones of David – who was able to kill Goliath through his great faith in God, saying:
“All this multitude shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves. For the battle belongs to the LORD, who shall deliver you into our hands.” (1 Sam 17: 46-47).
May we take these great weapons Mary gives us in her messages to heart, striving to live them ever more fully each day:
1. Pray Scripture Daily. By praying and meditating on His Holy Word as a family, we grow closer to Christ. The Holy Word of God is not merely a book! The Divine Person Who brought the entire universe into existence still speaks, teaches, heals and guides us to all Truth if we listen to His Word: “When I found your words I devoured them; your words were my joy, the happiness of my heart!” (Jer. 15:16).
2. Pray the Rosary Daily. The Rosary is such a beautiful prayer! No other prayer is like it, for in it we daily meditate on Jesus' entire life (!) – from the Incarnation, life and death, Resurrection and Ascension, to the outpouring of His Spirit and the raising to heavenly glory of Mary, (who goes before us in glory). How deeply we fall in love with Christ when we are led to Him and see Him through the eyes and the heart of His Mother! She aids us with her prayers, so that we are able to: “treasure all these things and ponder them in our hearts” (see Lk 2: 19).
3. Live the Eucharist Fully. To fulfill His promise to be with us until the end of time, Jesus gave His very self in the Eucharist to feed and nourish us for the journey unto eternal life – “For My Body is true food and my Blood is true drink….anyone who eats this bread will live forever! (Jn 6:55, 51, 58). Jesus died to give us this ability to be united to Him body and soul – and to remain with us always! How wonderful to live in union with so great a Gift?! May we unite ourselves deeply to the Eternal Sacrament of God’s Love.
4. Go to Confession at least Once a Month. Each time we repent and go to Confession, we become more humble, more aware of God's mercy! Through the priest in confession, Jesus, HIMSELF, speaks words of infinite power, healing and forgiveness. He strengthens and challenges us by His Mercy, saying: “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more!” (Jn. 8:11).
5. Fast Twice a Week. Beside our wills being strengthened through denial, (so that we are not tossed here and there by our bodily wants and emotions), Jesus told his disciples that “certain demons can only be cast out by prayer and fasting” (Mk 9:29; Mt. 17: 21). How difficult it is to fast! And yet, how vital it is if we are to be able to cast out these demons that seek to destroy us! May we strive to fast on bread and water; but most importantly, let us fast from our sins, which weaken us and make us susceptible to the Enemy's snares.
Knowing firsthand the darkness of the times, let us be ever more vigilant in fulfilling the messages Mary brings us from heaven, because Satan never sleeps, but is always “prowling like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8) as he attempts to strip away our religious freedoms and our faith in God! How furious Satan must be at losing the battle in Medjugorje!
Confidently, therefore, let us hold fast to God’s Word with peace and joy, for He tells us:
“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but mine, says the Lord” (2 Chron. 20:15).
We praise You for Your infinite love and care for us in sending us Mary to be with us and guide us! May we never take Our Lady’s presence or her messages for granted or dismiss them easily. Instead, help us to be transformed by the prayers of Our Mother, and so become apostles that spread Your peace through our faith. Help us to rejoice with great faith like David, assured that our triumph is near at hand! We pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
© Janet Moore 2015. All Rights Reserved.