A pilgrimage in faith
Volume 18, Issue 18
Since 1830, a series of visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been recorded in various places around the world. Through the experiences of St Catherine Laboure, the encounters of St Bernadette of Lourdes and the wonders reported by three young children – Lucia, Jacinta and Francesco – at Fatima, celebrated Christian pilgrimage destinations have developed at several of the venues of these reported sightings.
These are the major ones approved by the Catholic Church, with the visionaries concerned already canonised or their causes in process, but there have been many other manifestations claimed by innumerable committed members of the faithful. While testified miracles have occurred in these centres, we are not obliged to believe that these occurrences are authentic.
Officially, the messages associated with alleged apparitions are referred to as ‘private revelations.’ This is to distinguish them from the ‘public revelations’ to which Catholics are obliged to give assent. This latter body of beliefs concluded with the death of St John the Apostle, and the written record of them is contained in the pages of the Bible.
While there are those who give no credence whatsoever to any reported private revelations, places like Lourdes and Fatima are among the most frequented shrines across the globe. Testimonies of the extraordinary impact, both physical and spiritual, on visitors to these venues are available to be explored, and personal judgement to be made accordingly. I myself visited the Rue du Bac in Paris, associated with the Miraculous Medal, and I have led several pilgrimages to Lourdes and one to Fatima. Each one of these visits has had a profound impact on me and on those who have travelled with me, and kneeling before the incorrupt body of St
Bernadette in the convent of Nevers had a powerful effect on me that continues to permeate to this day.
Until now I have resisted visiting Medjugorje in Bosnia–Herzegovina, where it is reported that Mary has been appearing to a group of seers since 1981. I have been waiting for the Church’s official sanction, which has not as yet been forthcoming. One lady from Melbourne who regularly takes groups there expressed the opinion that the Church won’t make a pronouncement while these reported apparitions are still believed to be taking place.
I have met many people who have visited this place of pilgrimage and have testified to the profound impact that their visits have had on them. For some it has involved a deep spiritual encounter. Others have come away reportedly untouched by their visit.
My twin sister, Mary, has long cherished the wish to go to Medjugorje, and so, when I was seriously ill last year with cancer, I promised her that if I got well I would take her there once I had recovered. Now that I am cancer free, the time has come for me to fulfil my promise.
Accordingly, she and I will join a pilgrimage group that flies out of London in October.
I have certainly prayed to our Blessed Mother about this venture, and I feel deep within myself that it is the right thing for me to do at this time in my life. I am certainly going with an open mind and a ready heart, though I’m not looking for some special divine manifestations for myself as we make our journey.
I ask you to pray for Mary and me that the pilgrimage we share with our companions will be a blessed experience, and that it will draw us ever closer to the heart of Mary’s Son, Jesus.I look forward to reporting back to you on our return.
As broadcast during the Family Counsellor Program over Radio Sport 927 on Sunday, 23 September 2007.