At Medjugorje in Hercegovina -- the most attended apparition site since Fatima -- the Blessed Mother warned, from the start, that along with her visitations, evil would also manifest there.
This would be in two distinct ways, it was indicated: as an actual spiritual force -- demonic intrusions -- and through people who would attack the apparitions themselves, which soon occurred first by way of Communists who relentlessly tried to quash the apparitions (even detaining the seers) and soon with various other means.
These were visionaries in their teen years who at least in the case of one, Mirjana Dragicevic Soldo, were for a period of time interrogated daily before school by harsh intelligence agents and police (frightening for anyone, let alone teenagers), repeated searches and ransacking of her home, with threats of life in jail or a mental institute if she did not renounce the apparitions, blaring headlines in Sarajevo, claiming the apparitions were an attempt to undermine the government, harassment at school, which at one point she was forced to leave, and other intimidation.
One can believe what one will about what they were seeing (we respect all fair discernment), but to think these kids were faking it all as a hoax, in light of such harassment -- including threats against the parents -- indicates a lack of familiarity with this aspect.
So it is now detailed in a book by Mirjana, My Heart Will Triumph.
"Nearly every morning, the police came to our apartment and took me for questioning before school," writes the seer, who unlike the others attended school in the larger, more hostile, Serbian-held city. "These were not ordinary policemen. Wearing suits and ties, they were members of the state police, similar to the FBI in America or the KGB in the Soviet Union. When the interrogation made me late for school, I had to give my teacher an excuse from the Secretariat as if I was some notorious criminal. Sometimes the police forced me to spend the entire day at the station."
It was during this period that the parish pastor was thrown into jail and the local bishop, under duress from the government, reversed his initially favorable position on Medjugorje.
Ironically, it would be Communists and government officials who, eventually seeing that they were not going to be able to intimidate the youngsters nor completely stop the pilgrimages, decided to profit by it, opening hotels and gifts shops across the way from the church (which tried, but was not able, to buy the land so such commercialization, also witnessed at sites like Lourdes, would be at a distance).
It is not an unfamiliar scenario to those who have studied apparitions and know how ardently Satan always attempts to contaminate and destroy, for example, the apparitions at Lourdes, or how the devil inspired even an explosion at Guadalupe in an attempt to destroy the image, and even orchestrated an attack on Fatima by local Masons (and local officials who, as at Medjugorje, detained the seers).
For those many who subscribe to the apparitions (we respect all discernments, and will follow anything ruled by the Church), comes a confirmation of all this -- that is, the involvement of evil -- in vivid prose by Mirjana.
"She was preparing the people of Medjugorje, it seemed, for something greater," writes Mirjana of the early days, when Mary was emphasizing prayer, fasting and Confession. She quotes Mary as telling them: "my Son and I have a special plan for this parish."
But adds the seer,
"Our Lady also continually warned the parish that the devil was angry, saying in one of the weekly messages, 'these days Satan wants to frustrate my plans.' Likewise, she once told me that Jesus struggles for each of us, but the devil tries to interfere."
"Whenever I come to you, my Son comes with me, but so does Satan," the Blessed Mother once informed them.
"The devil, she warned, prowls around us and sets traps. He tries to divide and confuse us so that we will detest ourselves and abandon ourselves to him. An invisible war rages all around us, but Our Lady is here to help us win." There are those who attempt, even in the name of religion, to vilipend it.
Perhaps his attacks should come as no surprise, in that the parish was soon to attract millions, including tens of thousands of priests (inspiring many others to become priests), build what may be the busiest set of confessionals (there are dozens) in the Catholic world (yes, more than the Vatican), and establish an annual "youth day" in which up to five hundred priests concelebrate (as just a few examples).
"Although I rarely speak about the devil, I can tell you with certainty that he exists," writes the visionary. "I saw him once. All I will say is that it was the most terrifying experience of my life, but love drove him away. In that moment, I learned that nothing in this world compares to his ugliness and his hatred for God -- but unlike God's power, his is limited."
Although she often avoids details given in the early days, back during the 1980s she had depicted that encounter as Satan coming in the form of an overwhelmingly handsome man, promising her "success in life and love" if she would follow him instead of Mary.
Others at Medjugorje have sometimes reported strange sounds in wooded areas or visions of dark spirits, even in the way of a horrible animal, attempting to scare them away.
At Lourdes, howling and other sounds issued from the grotto before Our Lady banished them. There was also an onslaught of bogus seers. Later, certain Church authorities tried to condemn Lourdes. Saint Bernadette fought with the devil on her deathbed.
"My awful encounter with evil taught me something about his tactics, too," says Mirjana. "The devil will try to convince you that following God only leads to suffering, and that living according to the teachings of Jesus will rob you of your freedom."
But the devil only has as much power as we give him, and that, she says, can happen only through free will. If Jesus and the Blessed Mother are at the center of our lives, she notes, then the devil cannot do anything to harm us. Love always triumphs.
"Medjugorje was a target of his attacks from the beginning. He could not watch so many people praying, going to Mass, confessing and converting without trying to do something. But unlike in the movies, he doesn't come as some grotesque creature lurking in the shadows -- he attacks through people who have allowed him to reign in their hearts. Most do not realize how easy it is to get under his control." All it takes is a little pride.
It is hard to synopsize all that is in this truly useful, inspiring book. Our suggestion is that skeptics read it (and visit Medjugorje) before making a discernment (and especially before declaring a hoax). Does this mean the seers have been perfect? It does not.
About her "secrets" -- which she currently plans, just before they occur, to give to a designated priest -- Mirjana says that she would instead give them to the Pope if he so requests, when the time comes. Will she live to see all the secrets?
She doesn't know.
She does not fret about the future, nor about evil.
With love that comes forth from humility, said Mary, "you will bring light to where darkness and blindness rule."