Restoration

Restoration

Posted April 08, 2013:
A Visit to the Visionaries

by Martha Shepherd.

Martha’s Medjugorje pilgrimage continues.

We were taken to talks with two of the visionaries, Ivan and Vicka. When we arrived, the yard and street in front of Vicka’s house were jammed with about two hundred Italians.

About three hundred English-speakers were gathered nearby. When their hour was up, the Italians filed out to the right as we filed in from the left.

Then when our hour was up, and we filed out, about three hundred Germans filed in. And so it goes for the visionaries, day in and day out.

The visionaries gave me a new meaning to the phrase, "being eaten alive by people."

At one point, Marija actually went to Our Lady and said they couldn’t take it any more. The pressure of the pilgrims was too much.

Mary did not chastise her for complaining. Instead she gave her a vision of the face of the suffering Christ.

Before my encounter with the visionaries, if I’d heard that story, I might have groaned and felt that Mary was putting a guilt trip on Marija. (After all, Marija is not Jesus. And neither am I.)

But after meeting them, I understood with my heart, for the visionaries did something similar with me. Seeing them reassured me somehow that when I feel, as I do on occasion, that people are "eating me alive," it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. It is not chaos breaking in. It is the normal Christian life.

Jesus died on the cross. Nothing was wrong. His doing so was the way to life.

I hadn’t really wanted to meet the visionaries. I hadn’t liked the movie star fuss made about them. But when I did, I was very glad.

I was so struck by both of them. They had seen what I had not seen, heard what I had not heard, touched what I had not touched. They were just human beings in front of me, and they had encountered the kingdom of heaven.

I found that meeting someone who spoke daily with the Mother of God in front of a cement bungalow brought the world of God much nearer, made salvation a human reality somehow.

And it occurred to me that what they are is what every Christian is called to be: just a witness. An ordinary person who has nonetheless been in contact with that which is not ordinary, someone who has heard what the non-Christian has not heard, seen what the non-believer has not seen, and who is therefore able to give hope, encourage faith, deepen confidence.

When our guide was telling us about the visionaries, she said in an offhand way, "Of course, they all have their own personalities. You can touch Vicka, take pictures; she doesn’t mind. Ivan is more quiet. Marija is more strict. She says, "No pictures."

Seeing them fleshed out in this way was significant for me.

When we were with Vicka, she never stopped smiling, her eyes moving intimately from face to face. Afterwards I heard several people say, "Did you see her smile at me?" She can love a crowd and give each one in it hope and joy.

Ivan, on the other hand, hardly looked up the whole time he spoke with the crowd. As he said in answer to a question, he’s been seeing Our Lady daily for ten years, and after all that time, he’s much more comfortable with her than he is with us.

Yet he has a kind of authority. Years ago, the Blessed Mother put him in charge of the prayer group she wanted started. And though I could see he was shy, I could feel that he would have no trouble being a leader.

Or rather, he would do it, trouble or not, just as he continues to talk with pilgrims despite the fact that he does not like being with crowds. Temperament and personality are not like sin.

Somehow I guess I always thought that someone able to fast as they do, pray as they do, someone touched as they all have been by God, would lose such personality traits as shyness or strictness.

This touched on my "only one right way" mentality in regard to personality and holiness. Through my encounter with the visionaries, I learned to my great relief, that I was wrong. I really do not have to grow another personality to become holy—though I may have to do things which are hard on mine.

Our Lady asked a great deal of the visionaries, but she has never asked them to become like each other, to have a standard way of greeting pilgrims, or a uniform set of manners.

Many people ask why Our Lady is so hard on the visionaries. For instance, she often invites them to meet her on one of the hills late at night in the cold, rain, and wind. Why? Why not just come to them in their warm bedrooms? She can. Sometimes she does.

Before I encountered them, I might have thought along those lines. But now I’d say: if Mary asks them to make their way up a hillside which is slippery when wet to meet her in the wind and rain on the hilltop at 11 p.m., it’s probably because there’s something she wants to give them which she cannot give them anywhere else or at any other time.

I have learned something about the conditions of receptivity, about learning with the heart. We have to do what we’re told, go where we’re called, because receiving grace is not a matter of words and intellect. It is a matter of our being in a certain state to accept, to hear, to understand, to receive the gift offered and needed.

Besides, when I met these visionaries and the reality of their meeting Our Lady deepened in me, I understood something: You just don’t ask. If Our Lady says, "I’ll meet you in the sewer," I’ll be there. You don’t care. You go wherever, simply because she’ll be there.

to be continued

 

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