Comprehending Medjugorje : Original Documents And Conversations with Arnaud Dumouch
Reference (French Edition) :
Daria Klanac, Comprendre Medjugorje : Regard historique et théologique, avec la collaboration du théologien Arnaud Dumouch, Informativni centar Mir, Medjugorje, en coédition avec les Éditions Sakramento, Paris, 2012, 2e éd. (1re éd. 2008, ISBN 978-2-915380-19-4 & 978-9958-36017-6), entretien avec le théologien Arnaud Dumouch, pages 122 à 131.
English Translation by Duško Čondić
Daria Klanac : As regards these apparitions, it is also unusual that all of the visionaries are married — visionaries who are married, and, according to the local Bishop, lead “entirely too normal” a family life. What do you think about this objection?
Arnaud Dumouch : That which distinguishes Christian life at its core is its humility and, as regards the human heart, the seeking of the love of God and having love towards one’s neighbor. Those two properties are not simply associated with one’s religious life. Marriage and a family are its most ordinary path. Now then, even if we were able to imagine that the visionaries could one day encounter difficulties in their lives (divorce, tepidness, etc.), that still would not be the criterion whereby the credibility of the apparitions would automatically be discredited. Jesus appeared to “normal” people. He spoke with a woman who had five husbands. Nothing prevents the Virgin from appearing to whom she will (to heroic saints such as Bernadette Soubirous, or to Catherine Labouré, or even to a person who lives a simple and ordinary life.)
The canonical criteria used to recognize apparitions are a combination of these three facts:
1. That they be in conformity to the Faith: there is no authentic apparition that is based on heresy.
2. Spiritual fruits derived from the apparitions: contrition, joy , peace, humility, and return to the faith. Heroic sanctity is not required. Simply that one be somewhat better.
3. Miracles that result from the apparitions: this is an important and determining criterion of their authenticity.
D. Klanac : Are the visionaries subject to the same rule of obedience as those who are ordained? What does Canon Law have to say about one’s right to disperse and report the content of private unrecognized revelations?
A. Dumouch : If the Franciscan priests were to be ordered by their superiors to abandon the parish they serve and no longer be involved with the apparitions, they would, it seems to me, be obliged to obey since that involves the Vow of Obedience, or the evangelical admonitions that they assumed with their priestly duties.
In the meantime, laymen are not bound by the Vow of Obedience. No one can be forbidden to publish his experiences. The authority of the Bishop is comprised in the right to withhold his official approval (Nihil obstat, or Imprimatur). This is the case in this instance. Hence, relating the messages in one’s own name, the laymen of Medjugorje are not in any manner violating Cannon Law. Had they said: “We have the nihil obstat, or the imprimatur of the Bishop,” they, then, would be in violation of Canon Law.
In the meanwhile, Canon Law contains cannons that can either approve or forbid a layperson from officially teaching in Catholic Universities or chairs:
1. Laymen, so as to live according to Christian teachings, to announce such teaching themselves, or to defend them if necessary, and so as to be able to participate in carrying out an apostolate, have the right and duty to acquire knowledge of those teachings, knowledge that is suitable to the abilities and conditions of each individual.
2. They also have the right to acquire a deeper knowledge of the Church Sciences that they teach at Church universities and faculties and institutes of catechetical sciences, attending lectures, and acquiring academic degrees.
3. In the same manner, and in harmony with the disposition of the necessary abilities they are authorized by permission of the Church authorities to teach Church sciences.
It seems to me, that none of the above decrees apply to any of these laypeople. Their statements are private. They are therefore free, and only they are bound, not the Church.
D. Klanac : At the beginning of the apparitions, the visionaries suffered much. Their only advantage was the fact that they saw the Virgin. Since, one after the other, they decided on the married state, and established families, some of them opted to take in pilgrims. So as to assure the needs of their families, they built family inns, or pansions.
A. Dumouch : Let us compare: Bernadette of Lourdes was not able to so much as touch a piece of money if it was associated with the devotions that surrounded her. When they would offer her money, she would say: “Money burns me,” and she would allow it to fall to the ground. However, all of her brothers and sisters opened some business (a hotel, or souvenirs) that were somehow connected to the apparitions. At first, this saddened Bernadette. In a conversation with her sister, she came to understand it, and became less unyielding. She came to understand that families have some kind of calling (which was not the case in her religious life.)
Accordingly, if the visionaries engage in some sort of gainful activity honorably, and without excessive accumulation of wealth, they do not commit any sin. They are laymen, and have the right to live in dignity .
D. Klanac : If one takes into account that they indirectly live from benefits of the apparition, does that not seem like the visionaries are giving counter-witness?
A. Dumouch : Counter-witness? No— but, perhaps only to those who think that the Church is giving counter-witness to her message when she takes up a collection. If the visionaries carry out their task honestly and do not fall into the trap of lust for money, that will not be a problem in the future; rather to the contrary, it will serve as an example of domestic respect within their marriage. Conversely, if they fall to the temptation of money, they will then be guilty of serious counter-witness. They must, therefore, be careful not to live in excessive poverty (they are, after all, married) nor too lavishly (they are, after all, called to witness); rather, they must live in a moderate and simple manner. In any case, just as Solomon was wise in his youth, and in his old age fell into debauchery, the correctness or fall of the visionaries in the future, will have no influence in evaluating the apparitions. Since, even at the moment of death, when Christ appeared in all His glory, some chose to follow Him, other chose not to do so. What is at play is not Christ; rather, it is man’s freedom of choice.
D. Klanac : One of the best fruits of Medjugorje are religious vocations. There were none in the group of visionaries. Some of the faithful are dumfounded having seen that all of the visionaries of Medjugorje opted for the married state.
A. Dumouch : They are in error. Marriage is a holy calling, and that holy calling and its specific sort of holiness must be accented. The Virgin could never impose upon them that they must dedicate their lives to a religious calling. To the contrary, that serves as a sign of credibility, namely, that the Virgin respects and allows the free choice of each of the visionaries.
And, another point: the personal imperfections of each of the visionaries, who, in the end, continue to be ordinary sinful men and women as are we all, will in no manner directly affect the evaluation of the apparitions.
D. Klanac : What is there that would be seen as being unworthy on the part of the visionaries for having chosen to establish families?
A. Dumouch : In fact, nothing. Without a doubt, that would seem to be in line with John Paul II’s thinking when he encouraged the growth of holy families as witnessed by the fact that he canonized many married persons.
D. Klanac : The Virgin always spoke in the language of children. In a conversation with fra Jozo Zovko, that he held with the visionaries on the 30th of June, 1981, little Jakov goes on to explain his conversation with the Gospa as being something that he experienced deeply within his inner being. This seem to me to be not only interesting but significant. How do you see it?
A. Dumouch : There are three levels of depth in apparitions, as based on Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Disputation on Prophecy (Ia—Iae), namely:
1. Some apparitions are only directed to the senses of the visionary (who does not understand anything). This is the least in depth as to an apparition, as, for instance, in the apparition at Pontmain where the children only saw a picture and the movements of the Virgin. However, the priests and theologians understood the hidden theological sense of what the children saw.
2. Other apparitions extend to the imagination of the visionary, as in the vision of Saint John on Patmos. John did not understand it at all such that what he saw in his dream went off into all directions. This is the intermediate level of apparition.
3. Finally, the third type of apparition extends all the way to the intellect and the heart of the visionary. This is the deepest level of apparition.
Perhaps this is the key to clarifying the length of duration of the apparitions in Medjugorje: the visionaries are entering into an ever deeper internal spiritual life. This, then, would be a heaven-sent form of pedagogy which, for these visionaries, as was the case for John of Ars, serves as a comparison to a life of spiritual growth.
D. Klanac : Recently, I read a conversation with the visionary Marija, the one who transmits the Virgin’s monthly message as it appeared in the Medjugorje magazine, Glasnik mira [Messenger of Peace], (September, 2007). She expressed great joy and great humility for her role in the service of the Virgin, and she stressed that much humility is needed if one is to live one’s everyday life with God. The Gospa gifts herself in love and calsl us to Love. Does not Marija, through her stress on love and humility, demonstrate that she is enrolled in the school of the Virgin Mary?
A. Dumouch : In fact, I would say that from the theological point of view, that is the very basis of that which Jesus offers in His Gospel as being specific to Christianity. The sentence in Saint John (19:34-36), (“… and one of the soldiers pierced His side with his spear, and immediately there gushed forth blood and water. He, who saw, gives witness, and his witness is true. He knows that he tells the truth so that you also can believe.”) precisely means that which is the heart of Jesus—the example for the hearts of Christians: humility (water), and merciful love (the blood), both of which yield the virtue that Saint Faustina refers to as “Mercy.”
So that we can grasp this, let us consider the following:
1. Good earth: that which God loves more than anything else and which is, according to the Tridentine Council (VI Century), the preparation that comes from God for man throughout the Old Testament, namely, a humble heart that does not see itself as being higher in station than others: that is a person who knows he is a sinner. This is what Saint John the Baptist preached in his Baptism of repentance. Humility is like a well-prepared soil that will allow the Tree of Life to grow, and that is merciful love.
2. Wood: leaning on that preparation, Jesus came to preach that which directly leads to salvation through personal union with God, that is, with the love (Agape) of a thirsty heart. That is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit through Christ. It is undeniable that God immediately comes to the heart that is prepared with the earth of humility: “Where sin abounds, grace abounds yet more,” as Saint Paul tells us.
3. The fruits of the tree: these are the moral virtues. God only loves them when they are the fruits of the first two virtues: humility and love. When one possesses those virtues, they can be the source of vanity, that is, pride. In such a case, they are worthless in the eyes of God. We all know persons who are virtuous, but hard of heart.
D. Klanac : The visionaries of Medjugorje always are in awe of the beauty of the Virgin. “I am beautiful because I love.” Did she not, in fact, say to them: “If you only knew how much I love you, you would weep from joy!” Does not our world leave the impression that it is ugly for lack of love?
A. Dumouch : That which distinguishes the Virgin is that her glorified body no longer hides, but perfectly reveals her soul. Hence, when one sees her, he does not see her face only; rather it is as though he directly sees that which comprises her internally. In fact, her humility and love are the first thing that strikes the eye. Here on Earth, our face is a mask that often hides the true value in our heart. Hence, there are physically unpleasing people whose hearts are hidden from all, but are seen clearly by God. Conversely, those who glow on the exterior, are often bad as based on the words of Jesus, (Mt 7:22-23), “On that day, many will say to me: ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Thy name, and cast out devils in Thy name, and work many miracles in Thy name?’ And then I will say to them: ‘I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity.’ ”
In the meantime, that which you are driving at in your question is, in fact, the true internal ugliness of this world that can only be seen by the heart. It is the result of a lack of those two linked virtues, namely, humility and love.
D. Klanac : The Virgin showed herself to be a fitting teacher. How do you understand her teaching as it relates to the six children from Medjugorje, especially as it relates to their freedom of choice?
A. Dumouch : If, eventually, the apparitions are recognized by the Church, we will be astounded by the following: The respect accorded by the Virgin towards freedom of choice and personal determination of the persons she engaged in Medjugorje.
She does not urge them to enter a monastery at all costs, and when one of them chooses not to, she fully respects their choice. In short, the Virgin supports the persons she wishes to bring to spiritual maturity throughout their lives. She makes of them her co-workers and friends of Christ (who must act on the basis of their own judgement), and not only as children who are waiting for instructions from above. This is a good sign, and serves as an example for Christians…
D. Klanac : Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his disputation as to how to discern spirits, tells us that we must carefully differentiate in our spiritual lives that which comes from God, from that which is offered to us by the Adversary.
Can an ordinary visionary differentiate spirits through his own power, or come to do so sooner through a spiritual advisor?
A. Dumouch : An ordinary visionary can differentiate them on his own, that is, if he already possesses a mature spiritual life. On the other hand, two main things associated with a lack of spiritual maturity can lead a person to be blind to himself and to believe in everything and anything:
1. Vanity, that leads many people to long for a particular calling that comes from God. This is truly the biggest danger. In other words, every person who has such a desire and who dreams that he is “somebody,” is unable to properly discern for himself, and will end up believing in that which suits him best…
2. Improper curiosity, that urges us on to be interested, for ourselves, and for others, in all that is “miraculous.” This is the most frequent danger and is quite widespread among those virtuous people who go from one place of apparition to another place of apparition.
However, if a person is washed in true humility (that allows one not to be deceived as to who he really is, and who knows that he is not deserving and that he is the same as others), and lived under a spiritual plan long enough and still desires sensory satisfactions, such a person is prone to easily succumb to false apparitions that spring forth from his own imagination, or worse, from the Adversary. Thus, the holy pastor from Ars, Saint John Vianney, clearly grasped that the Devil creates an entire array of that which is unfit in his rectory.
However, since we are rarely humble and free of curiosity, some third person (a spiritual director, a Christian psychologist, or a sensible Christian friend) can be of great benefit in discerning such things dispassionately.
D. Klanac : Are the Virgin’s messengers duty-bound to associate themselves with a spiritual director?
A. Dumouch : No, they are not—they are no more bound to do so than any other Christian. Nonetheless, to do so is highly recommended. Meanwhile, the aid of a third party, one who must be on guard to be neutral and open to other possibilities, has two goals: 1) spiritual discernment of the origins of such apparitions, and 2) protection from exterior publicity and its passionate agitation, (for or against).
This proved to be of benefit to Saint Bernadette: her superiors correctly discerned, since they remained dispassionate, and later came to protect her from fierce attacks on the part of the authorities, as well as from falling into the trap of public adulation.
D. Klanac : The visionaries from Medjugorje state that they are able to touch the Virgin and even hug her. This is an unusual sort of experience. How is a corporal, physical being able to embrace and touch a Heavenly, spiritual entity?
A. Dumouch : Saint Thomas Aquinas responds to that query by stating that a resurrected body is a true physical body (hence, one made of matter, namely, not a phantom) and is fully subject to the intellect of the risen one to such an extent that, at will, it can make itself visible or open to the senses of persons in Heaven or on Earth.
In brief, it depends entirely on the Virgin as to whom she wishes to reveal herself and in what manner she wishes to do so. In Pontmain, she only extends a sensory vision to the children that is close to an earthly picture or image. At Lourdes, she allows Bernadette a vision of glory that in her eyes, looks like she is touching Heaven. In Bac Street, she allowed a physical touch by Saint Catherine of Labouré.
12. John 4:4-30: the parable about the Samaritan. [↩]
13. Code of Cannon Law: c. 229. [↩]
14. A didactic term: (from the Latin: idoneus) competent in a field, aptness. [↩]
16. Romans: 5:20. [↩]
17. Cf. Supplementum ad Summam, the properties of glorified bodies. [↩]