Meeting Mary in Medjugorje    by Ron Roth

When one considers the violence and racial animosity that prevails in many areas of the world today, it is easy to become discouraged. And yet, in my work as a spiritual healer and teacher, I have witnessed countless examples of the Spirit working through prayer to heal people of crippling disabilities, "terminal" illnesses and mental disorders. All of this points to an obvious conclusion-that God manifests his great love and mercy even in most trouble times.

If all of these wondrous events were not enough to convince us of God's presence among us, the widespread apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary should dispel our remaining doubts. Even so, there was a time when I looked upon Mary's manifestations with skepticism. Through a series of pilgrimages to the site of the most current apparition of the Blessed Virgin, my skepticism dissolved, and my life began anew.

It all began in 1985. By this time, I had already been involved with spiritual healing work for ten years, yet I was quite aware that something was missing from my life. While I had witnessed many people being healed or cured instantly from various maladies, it seemed to me that my life was disintegrating more and more into a slump----a dark night of the soul if you will.

Around this time, my associate in the healing work, Paul Funfsinn, traveled to the tiny village of Medjugorje in the country of Bosnia, a part of the former Yugoslavia. Upon his return, he shared with me his incredible experiences of supernatural phenomena surrounding the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary that were reportedly taking place there.

At that time, I was still a Roman Catholic priest pastoring a small country parish. Even so, I found it hard to believe in such things as apparitions, although the spiritual healing in which I was involved could be considered a similar "spiritual phenomenon." Paul decided he wanted to return to Medjugorje, and he wanted me to go, too.

After much persuasion, I decided to go along but for only one purpose: I wanted to know and fulfill God's will for me. In other words, it was not my purpose to go and be caught up in what I termed was a "spiritual high." Without knowing it, however, I was in for a profound and unsettling awakening.

Indeed, going to Medjugorje had traumatic and dramatic effects on my life. It was traumatic because I discovered through Mary's intervention that I lacked sufficient love to be serving Jesus adequately. The experience was dramatic because it ushered me into a transitional stage in my spiritual journey through which I was eventually empowered to serve others more completely than ever before. Looking back, I now realize that my visits to Medjugorje prepared me to make a deeper commitment to the God I already claimed to serve.

We arrived in Medjugorje on a weekday, and immediately I could sense that this indeed was an extraordinary place in the spiritual sense of the word. On the surface, however, it was your typical East European "poor" village.

As I was roaming around near the Church of St. James, a Catholic num who worked with the visionaries-those who were said to be seeing Mary-approached me and invited me to join a small group that would be with the visionaries at the time of Mary's apparition. "Indeed, yes!" I responded.

My awakening was about to begin. Entering the room with the others, we each found a spot where we could be comfortable. The "apparition room" was a tiny "cell" in the home of the Franciscan priests who were serving the parish. The visionaries, along with one of the priests and the nun, entered the room. I did not know then that a bright light typically preceded the apparition or that the visionaries would literally fall to the floor on their knees when Mary appeared. Quite honestly, I really did not know what to expect. When the light appeared like a bolt of lightning, however, it knocked me off my knees and "threw" me against the wall!

I was afraid to open my eyes, believing people were staring at me. When I was able to muster the courage and open my eyes, no one was paying any attention to me. In fact, their focus was upon God, to whom they were praying. At the end of the session I left the room bewildered, unaware as yet that what had just occurred was about to transform me and my work forever.

Over the next few days, I had several deeply moving, extraordinary experiences. The chain of my new crystal rosary, purchased prior to my departure, turned gold-a "normal" phenomenon among the many visitors to Medjugorje, I was later informed. In the room where priests were allowed to celebrate Mass for the people coming to Medjugorje, the image of Christ suddenly appeared on a statue of Mary. My associate was able to capture the phenomenon on film. After he snapped the picture, the image disappeared.

We were able to stare at the sun without hurting our eyes. It danced and pulsated and was overlaid with what appeared to be a whole wheat wafer-like a communion host. On the left of this image was the kneeling figure of the Blessed Virgin.

This was only my first trip to Medjugorje and I was given so much to digest. My second trip occurred only six months later. Between 1985 and 1988, I was prompted to make four trips to this remarkable sacred site, I guess I am a slow learner!

During the course of the other three trips, astounding things continued to happen. The chain of another rosary, which I had owned for a long time, turned gold. I witnessed more "light phenomena" in Medjugorje; and upon returning home, I saw the sun spinning over my own parish in Illinois one evening prior to a healing service. Some fifty attendees witnessed this supernatural event with me.

I could go on and on, but these experiences in themselves do not change or transform one's life unless they are pondered prayerfully. In so doing, we allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the underlying truth of these events. My main purpose for going to Medjugorje was to seek God's will for my life. After much meditating on the events which accompanied my journeys to this isolated village, some deeply disturbing revelations were given to me which would enhance the course of my life thereafter.

For instance, I was informed by an inner voice that I had been too "hard" on dealing with people who were sick and in need of help. Although the power and the healing was God's spirit, my lack of compassion was closing the channel for me to experience the same joy people were feeling through their communion with God.

I was also told that I lacked the quality of the feminine energy of God-that is, tenderness and mercy-which Mary, the Mother of Jesus, symbolized. In other words, Mary could be viewed as the feminine aspect of God, or the feminine archetype of God.

This tenderness and mercy was evidently missing from my healing work. There was no doubt in my mind that these revelations were a true characteristic of what I had become. I had been so busy with the work of the Lord that I had forgotten the Lord of the work.

I eventually realized that as I meditated more on Jesus, Mary, the Holy Sprit and the Christ consciousness, God could mold me into an embodiment of love, mercy, tenderness, strength, and power. Recognizing God as a God of love enabled me to rise above the seeming tragedies of life into the very heart of the mother-and-father-God that Jesus himself knew.

I came to see that Mary and Jesus, taken together, express the completeness of both the masculine and the feminine energy found in the "personality" of God. These events and revelations have empowered my personal life and healing work in a profoundly moving way. I am now able, through the Holy Spirit, to be a clearer channel for God's presence and power and to introduce others to their God-a Being not only of power, but of tenderness, care and mercy.

In the gospel of Saint Luke, a legalist approaches Jesus seeking the answer to life itself. Jesus then asks him to interpret the greatest commandment. The legalist quotes the words, "You shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself." Jesus then says, "Do this and you will live." Similarly, God's message through Mary remains: Love God in one another and his peace will radiate from humanity's heart.

This is what it is all about. All other phenomena, including encounters with Mary and Jesus, serve only one purpose-to call us to return to our true natures, and to love and experience life fully. In all of her manifestations, Mary tells how this can be accomplished-through authentic prayer from the heart.

Mary, the tender mother of Jesus, is also our mother. She is the mother of mercy and the companion of all, regardless of one's religion or the lack thereof. No religion can claim to have a monopoly on Mary's motherly love: Mary is for all of us. To embrace her is become a humble servant of the Master. To be in communion with her is to experience the unparalleled empowerment that comes from saying "Yes" to God.

It is my prayer that as you encounter Mary in the life-changing experiences you, too, will experience the spirit of Mary-her humility, her strength, her courage, and her call to each of us to put love above everything else.

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Co-founders Paul Funfsinn (L), Spiritual Leader and Director of Celebrating Life Ministries and the late Ron Roth (R), Spiritual Shepherd Emeritus.

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