Understanding Medjugorje review - ISBN 0955074606
Review by Eric Hester, which appeared in the Catholic Times, 25 June 2006
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The twenty-fifth anniversary of the first claim of a vision at Medjugorje falls on 24th June of this year and it is a good time to have a cool look at the claims and the truth. This is done admirably in this book by Donal Foley - an expert on the appearances of Our Blessed Lady and, even more important, one with great devotion to her. It is well written, examines all the available evidence and is, above all, clear. It even has what is often absent in this kind of book an excellent index, comprehensive and logical. A select bibliography gives sources for further study and the many references and citations are given very clearly in notes at the back but enable the general reader to carry on without interruption. This is a scholarly book but is easy to read even when it guides the reader through the Hampton Court Maze of Balkans history and church feuds.
One might as well say at the outset that the author is critical of, and is finally unconvinced by, the claims. However, I hope that those who have looked to Medjugorje will not dismiss the book out of hand. They are, in fact, the very ones who should read it carefully. After all, the author is most careful to state that he is simply following the lead of the Church. One has no doubt that Donal Foley would accept the miracles of Medjugorje if the Church were officially to back them.
However, it is very much his case that the Church does not support the claims. He carefully gives relevant statements to show this. In his approach to the claims of visions, he rightly gives great weight to the very earliest statements of the visionaries as evidenced in tape-recording transcriptions. These constitute the basic evidence. The author sifts that evidence carefully and his tone is not aggressive but fair and almost judicial. His very style reflects this: he uses frequently such phrases as “In fairness to the Franciscans…this is not to suggest…this is not meant as a general criticism…naturally enough…which is understandable…” and many others. The writer does give us the scale of the visions: the Bishop of Mostar, the diocese that includes Medjugorje, has not approved of the visions which he says would amount to 6,940 appearances of Our Blessed Lady.
Most importantly, he does not arraign the good faith of most of those involved: he grants that people are trying to do their best. Nor does he dispute that many individuals have had blessings from Medjugorje. What he does question is the general effect of Medjugorje on the Church as a whole.
Here is the heart of the book and what makes it so important. The author, contrasts Medjugorje with Fatima. With Fatima we have visions clearly approved by the Church: by papal visits, by the quotations of the Popes, by the dedication of the world, and by the beatification of those who saw Our Blessed Lady. The book states very convincingly that the Catholic Church and individual Catholics should be putting all their efforts behind Fatima, by, for example, practising the devotion of the Five First Saturdays. I think this point is vital. We must as Catholics await the Church’s judgement on Medjugorje but meanwhile we must heed the message of Fatima with its call to repentance.
If you only read one book on Medjugorje, then make it this one. It is comprehensive and lucid. It does not avoid mentioning the support that Medjugorje has had from some big names such as the theologian Von Balthazar. However, he does inform the reader, too, of the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger and how Cardinal Pell of Sydney refused to allow one of the visionaries from Medjugorje to speak in any Church building in his diocese. He also shows how what has been said at Medjugorje in effect denies that Our Blessed Lady is our mediatrix. The book has apposite quotations from St John Bosco, St Catherine Labouré, and St Louis de Montfort to delineate the characteristics of true devotion to Mary.
I have one suggestion of my own for the Church in Britain: can all those who love Our Blessed Lady ask for the restoration in our parishes of the crowning of her statue that used to be a feature of the first Sunday of May everywhere? Our Blessed Lady should be honoured in simplicity and truth and then, most certainly, she will lead us to her Blessed Son. This is the message of this book.
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Understanding Medjugorje is Demy Octavo size (8.5 in. x 5.5 in.). It has 23 chapters, 310 pages, and a comprehensive index.
It costs £12.95 / $19.95 / €19.95
Extracts from the proposed book in PDF format, including the table of contents, introduction, sample chapters and the bibliography, can be seen here ...
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