by Marco Corvaglia
As it is known, the facts of Medjugorje began in 1981. In the previous two decades, the more internationally known “apparitions”, both in Spain, were those of Garabandal (not recognized by the Church) and of Palmar de Troya (condemned by the Church).
In June 1961, in the Iberian village of Garabandal, four girls claimed to have apparitions of angels and of the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Mount Caramel). The phenomenon lasted until 1965 and was heavily advertised, particularly through the Seventies, in a number of books translated into several languages (in particular the Diary of Conchita,who is the main visionary, and the Garabandal histories written by F. Sánchez Ventura and R. Pérez).
These apparitions were well known even in the Catholic side of what was formerly Yugoslavia.
Six years before the start of Medjugorje, a Croatian priest, Josip Sukner, in his book Veliki znak (The Great Sign), wrote:
When these events occurred at Garabandal, the name of this Spanish mountain village has spread throughout the Catholic world.
[Josip Sukner, Veliki znak. Ukazanja i poruke Presvete Djevice, Zagreb, 1975, p. 65]
As we shall see, it seems clear that the Medjugorje youngsters were inspired by the events of Garabandal.
§ 2. The Crown of Stinging Stars
In one of the explanatory notes of the first printed edition of the Diary of Conchita, we read about the crown of stars surrounding the head of the apparition:
One can cite an ecstasy in which the Virgin had left her crown of gold stars to the girls and they passed it to each other. One of the girls, receiving the crown, said:
- Ay, with me lastimé con una de las estrellucas! (Ouch, I hurt myself with one of the stars!)
[Diario de Conchita, Nuestra Señora del Carmen de Garabandal, New York, 1972, p. 52, note 65. Cf. also French edition: Journal de Conchita, Nouvelles Éditions Latines, 1979, p. 59, nota 65]
In 1983, Vicka of Medjugorje was interviewed by Father Janko Bubalo:
VICKA: Recently I was going through some notes of mine and I saw that just before Christmas of the first year of the apparitions, many touched the Virgin at the evening apparition […] One girl screamed when she did so. She said that her hand got stuck in the Virgin’s crown.
FATHER JANKO: Do you recall which girl?
VICKA: Why, of course I do! But, that is not important.
[Janko Bubalo, A Thousand Encounters With the Blessed Virgin Mary In Medjugorje, Friends of Medjugorje, Chicago, 1987, pp. 108-109]
§ 3. "It Isn’t Cloth nor Paper"
Mirjana says that she has received from the Madonna a parchment made of a material that does not exist on earth. In this regard, in 1985, 1990, and again in 2008, Mirjana has used basically the same words [see the page Mirjana’s Parchment], stating that the material at issue “isn’t cloth nor paper.”
Here is a short video of 2008, in which Mirjana speaks (in Italian):
Mirjana, talking about the parchment, claimed in the video:
I can't explain: it isn't cloth nor paper. [Non lo so spiegare: non è stoffa e non è carta]
Well, there's something very singular.
Actually, these are the very same words attributed to Conchita of Garabandal, when the visionary tried to explain how the scapular was made (which she claimed to have touched) usually hanging from the wrist of the apparition:
It wasn’t made of cloth, or of paper, or of wood, or of metal, or of flesh; she [Conchita] couldn’t say what it was made of.
[Francisco Sánchez Ventura y Pascual, The Apparitions of Garabandal, San Miguel Publishing, Detroit, 1970, p. 84]
It is worth noting that, both in the case reported in this paragraph and in the case reported in the previous one, at Medjugorje words have been reused that at Garabandal had been attributed not to Our Lady, but to the seers.
§ 4. Kisses, Good wishes, and "Familiarity"
Let's read another passage of the mentioned interview-book of Vicka of Medjugorje:
FATHER JANKO: Did the Virgin ever touch you the Seers?
VICKA: Why, who is keeping count! How often she hugged us and kissed us! And we her.
[Janko Bubalo, A Thousand Encounters With the Blessed Virgin Mary In Medjugorje, Friends of Medjugorje, Chicago, 1987, p. 109]
In this regard, Father Livio Fanzaga, director of Radio Maria (the main means of spreading the cult of Medjugorje in Italy) said during the program Viaggio a Medjugorje, broadcasted on May 30, 2011, by Rete 4:
For example, on the occasion of the birthday of Our Lady or of the visionaries, Our Lady gives a kiss to the youngsters, etc.: these are things that weren’t in other apparitions. Now there is, undoubtedly, an extraordinary element of familiarity.
Here is the short video:
But, actually, there is a precedent for the practice both of kissing and of making good wishes: it is only seen at Garabandal.
Conchita wrote in her Diary, referring to the “apparition” of August 17, 1961:
This was the very night when she kissed us for the first time, one after another.
[Diario de Conchita, Nuestra Señora del Carmen de Garabandal, New York, 1972, p. 59: Precisamente esa noche fue la primera noche que nos besó, una por una.]
The footnote on the page points out:
During their ecstasy it was very common to see the girls turning their head as to receive a kiss from the Vision and sometimes one could see the girls kissing her.
[Ibid., footnote 72]
On December 13, 1961, Conchita wrote in a letter to the pastor of Barro, Father José Ramón García de la Riva:
The day of the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin came to wish me good name day. She had already said that she would come and when she came she was smiling and laughing a lot. The first thing she said was: "Happy name day”.
[José Ramón García de la Riva, Mémoires d'un curé de campagne espagnol, Chrétien Paviol, Lyon, 1972, p. 145]
From the Chronicle of the apparitions (kept in the archives of the parish of Medjugorje and of the Curia of Mostar), dated September 8, 1981:
The youngsters had a meeting with the Madonna. Little Jakov wished her a happy birthday. She was very glad and said that that day was one of the happiest.
[Kronika ukazanja, vol. I, 8/9/1981. See also René Laurentin, Message et pédagogie de Marie a Medjugorje. Corpus chronologique des messages. Urgence du retour à Dieu, O.E.I.L., Paris, 1988, p. 155. English edition: Messages and Teachings of Mary at Medjugorje. Chronological Corpus of the Messages. The Urgency to Return to God, Riehle Foundation, 1988]
On March 18, 1985 Mirjana of Medjugorje, after the apparition, reported:
She first greeted all of us [...] and then she gave me the best wishes for my birthday.
[René Laurentin, Dernières Nouvelles de Medjugorje, n° 4. Vers la fin des apparitions, O.E.I.L., Paris, 1985, p. 26]
More generally, the attitude of (fairytale) "familiarity" with the Madonna was born in Garabandal.
On August 19, 1961 only three of the seers were together:
Mari Cruz had the apparition before us and went to sleep [...]. That night we played hide and seek with the Virgin. Two of us were hiding and two others were looking for us.
Diario de Conchita, Nuestra Señora del Carmen de Garabandal, New York, 1972, pp. 60-61: Esa noche jugamos a los tíos con la Virgen. Nos escondíamos dos de nosotras y otras dos nos encontraban]
The idea that the Infant Jesus could fall from the arms of those who hold him, which might seem an original invention by Vicka of 14 January 1985 (see in this site, section "Science: wonders or illusions?", the page A Practical Test... and Vicka's Singular Justification), is actually a suggestion coming from Garabandal. The only difference is that in the original she who is apprehensive is the Madonna and not the seer:
[Jacinta] persisted in asking the Virgin to trust her with the Infant Jesus. Apparently, the Virgin answered:
- No, you you will let him fall,
because Jacinta insisted:
- No, no, I will not let him fall.
At the end the Virgin must have acquiesced, because we followed, in the streets of Garabandal, Jacinta who, with her open hands facing upwards, seemed to carry a baby.
I remember that she was taking him very carefully, not to let him fall, as she had promised to the Virgin. Just before the end of the ecstasy, Jacinta said:
- Here, did you see that I did not let him fall?
Then she raised her arms, just like if she was delivering a child to another person.”
[Testimony of Juan Álvarez Seco (Head Sergeant of the Civil Guard) in Ramón Pérez, Garabandal. Le village parle, Résiac, Montsûrs, 1977, p. 287]
§ 5. The Great Sign (or Great Miracle) and the Procedure to Unlock the Secrets
From the Diary of Conchita of Garabandal:
The Virgin told me the date of the miracle and what it consists of. I have to communicate it eight days earlier, so that people may come. The Pope will see it from wherever he is, and Padre Pio also.
[Diario de Conchita, Nuestra Señora del Carmen de Garabandal, New York, 1972, pp. 69-70]
These are words from a letter that Conchita wrote to a member of the Commission of Inquiry established by the Bishop of Santander:
I am also certain that the Miracle will come, because the Virgin told me so, and I know the date of the Miracle, too, and what will happen in the miracle that the Blessed Virgin is going to work for the world. I am as certain that the miracle is coming as I am that two and two make four.
[Francisco Sánchez Ventura y Pascual, The Apparitions of Garabandal, San Miguel Publishing, Detroit, 1970, p. 133]
Another written statement by Conchita:
There will not remain the slightest doubt that it comes from God [...] In the pine grove [the spot where some of the apparitions took place], a sign of the miracle will be left forever. It will be possible to film and televise it.
[Ibid., p. 179]
The Great Miracle of Garabandal was promised and announced in the summer of 1961. There has been nothing.
Well, even the Medjugorje visionaries speak of a Great Miracle (the third of the ten secrets), a permanent and durable sign (“a thing from the Lord which remains”, according to Mirjana’s statements), which will appear on the hill of the first apparitions. They claim they already know both the miracle and the date. Mirjana says that it will be unveiled to the world three days before its manifestation (see the documentation on the page Medjugorje: a Genetically Modified Catholicism [Part 2]).
§ 6. Eyes and Legs to Those Who Do Not Have Them (in Conjunction with the Great Miracle)
In the first two pictures: Joey Lomangino at Garabandal, together with Conchita, in the late Sixties. In the third one, Joey in the Seventies.
In the photo on the side, Joey Lomangino in recent years.
Joey Lomangino is a U.S. citizen born on June 27, 1931. Following an industrial accident, which occurred when he was sixteen, his eyes were surgically extirpated. In February 1963 he made his first pilgrimage to Garabandal, where he met Conchita and became a close friend to her.
On 19 March 1964, Conchita herself wrote him a letter containing these words:
Dear Joey, today at the pines, in a locution, the Virgin Mary told me to tell you [...] that you will receive your new eyes on the day of the great Miracle.”
[Ramón Pérez, Garabandal. Le Village parle, Résiac, Montsûrs, 1977, p. 45]
The "visionary" reported also the message of the Madonna:
The first thing he [Joey] will see is the miracle that my Son will do, for my intercession, and, from that moment, he will see permanently.
Joey is a very rich man (he was an entrepreneur in the health field) and could do much for Garabandal. In the early Seventies father Joseph A. Pelletier congratulated:
[Joey Lomangino] has become today the greatest apostle of Garabandal in the entire world. The work he has done and the influence he has had in spreading the story and message of Garabandal are truly exceptional.
[Joseph A. Pelletier, Our Lady Comes to Garabandal, Assumption, Worcester, 1974, pp. 80-81]
Joey Lomangino today is eighty. And he is still devoid of his eyes.
All this is very similar to what happened in Medjugorje.
There is in fact the story of the boy without a leg to whom the Madonna, according to Vicka, promised, "without any conditions" [cf. J. Bubalo, A Thousand Encounters, cit., p. 132] that the missing part will grow again instead of his prosthesis, but only after the great sign, that is, the materialization of the "third secret":
FATHER JANKO: You didn’t say anything as to whether his foot would be healed or not!
VICKA: Well, the Virgin told us it would. But, she told us that later on.
FATHER JANKO: When, later?
VICKA: She told us that he would be healed completely, after her sign. She told us that somewhere about the middle of 1982.
[Janko Bubalo, A Thousand Encounters With the Blessed Virgin Mary In Medjugorje, Friends of Medjugorje, Chicago, 1987, p. 133]
Vicka says that the visionaries have already seen, in advance, the event, during an apparition in 1981:
[The Madonna] showed us a vision of his leg. She removed that artificial plastic portion from it, and, in place of that, his natural foot appeared.
Through the record (almost daily) attended by the assistant pastor Tomislav Vlašić, the “Chronicle Of the Apparitions” [16 December 1981 and January 4, 1982, see also Ogledalo Pravde. Biskupski ordinarijat u Mostaru o navodnim ukazanjima i porukama u Međugorju (The Diocesan Curia Of Mostar On the Alleged Apparitions and Messages Of Medjugorje), Mostar, 2001, p. 115] we learn that this person was named Ivo Juričić (he has become the brother-in-law of Vicka, having married her sister Zdenka).
He is still waiting, as well as Joey Lomangino.