"Miracle at Medjugorje"
Part 4: INTERVIEWS WITH LOCAL RESIDENTS WHO HAVE BEEN TO MEDJUGORJE
Published Jan. 15, 1986
I sincerely apologize to all of you for not having this article in last week's edition, but unfortunately the flu bug won out and I was totally out of it for almost a full week. This is the final part of a four-part series begun back in the first week of December. It is in the form of statements from two people who live here in this area who have actually been to Medjugorje to witness first-hand the events happening there.
Rather than doing a question-answer type of interview, I have chosen to do them in statement form for the sake of brevity and easier reading.
The interviews are: Jim Stoffel, who resides in North Myrtle Beach, and Reverend Sylvester Scotti, priest of the St. Phillips Catholic Church in Lake City.
Jim Stoffel is a golf pro at Carolina Shores Golf Club in North Myrtle Beach. he and his wife, Rosie, have been living here since 1972. They were joined by Hal and Peggy Todd, also of North Myrtle Beach, in a trip to Medjugorje in October, 1985. I use the comments of Jim that were given at a meeting at his church back in November, shortly after they had returned. Again, because of the limited space I can devote to this, I use only his comments, even though the others had much to say about the trip. Perhaps at a later time, we can do more on this.
Father Scotti has been the priest at St. Phillips Catholic Church for the past two and a half years. He has been in the priesthood for 14 years. I went to Lake City and sat with him one morning talking about his experiences in Medjugorje.
We'll begin with the comments of Jim Stoffel:
"We had heard about the events at Medjugorje about two years ago through a friend who had heard someone speaking about it at Greenville, SC. Naturally, we got interested and started looking into it. We got some books. There were about six out at the time.
"I had read about apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima, but the big thing here was that this was happening now, here, today, in our time. We got hold of information about going there and went in October, 1985.
"My personal feeling is that everything that is happening in Medjugorje is authentic. There is really and truly something supernatural going on there.
"The purpose of the visits by the Virgin Mary is to relate to the seers 10 messages for the world. She has also told the children that it is important to pray, fast and reconcile oneself with God. After the apparitions cease, the 10 messages, or things, will begin to happen. Numbers seven, nine and ten are grave chastisements for the world because of the sins. I might add that the seventh message has been done away with because of the response of the people to the Blessed Virgin's urgent request for prayer and fasting and reconciliation. She says that the ninth and tenth things will happen, but they can be lessened with more prayer and fasting. I guess that is what the whole thing is about.
"I really don't think it's meant to scare, because Her message is nothing more than what is in the Gospels that we all have every day and every week. The Lord is using the Holy Mother as a means of making the whole thing more emphatic.
"It truly is a unique experience over there. It's just a little village (Medjugorje) that really is now a very holy place. It's almost indescribable, frankly. The message we would like to get across is that this is really the work of the Holy Spirit to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world through the Virgin Mary. People have gotten so far away from God, and this is a very urgent call to turn back to Him. I guess to sum up what She is trying to say is that people need to have peace within themselves, and that this can come through prayer, conversion and of course communion. I'm not trying to transform anyone to Catholicism, nor is that the purpose of the message of Medjugorje. It is a personal commitment for everyone in the world.
"This parish or community in Medjugorje only has 400 families, yet the church of St. James (where the Virgin Mary is reportedly appearing - Ed. Note) holds roughly 2,000 or more. Nobody knows why it was built so large. She is trying to mold the perfect parish here and She has succeeded. Six miles away from here, and you're right back in the "real world".
"As I said, the Blessed Virgin is very happy with the people of the church here. She usually appears at about 5:45pm (the time difference is seven hours ahead of our time - Ed. Note) in the evening and the apparitions last about three-four minutes now. They used to last 20-30 minutes. After the apparitions, Mass is held and then the kids stay in the church for a while longer, staying about three hours daily. They also spend up to four hours a day in prayer and fast three times a week. If you've never tried fasting, you should. It's very difficult for just one day. The people are just so nice and gracious, very friendly and warm. They're really just very simple people.
"The Virgin Mary has messages for the western world, too. We seem to think we're better than the rest of the world. She talks about too much drugs and far too much television, which takes up so much of our time. We waste an awful lot of time that could be spent on better things. Also, we have too many religions in the United States; too many cults and worship of false gods, this sort of thing. Another thing, we have advanced far ahead of the rest of the world in technology and we seem to think we have done it on our own, that is, without the help of God. It's man's technology so to speak. If you really want a perfect description of the way people of the western world are living today, you need only to pick up your bible and read the first chapter of Romans, verses 18 through 32. It's amazing that something written so many centuries ago can so perfectly fit our lifestyle today.
Father Sylvester Scotti:
"In October of 1984, I went to Rome for a meeting of priests from all over the world. Just prior to leaving, we were asked if we wanted to make a pilgrimage or side trip to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, a place where reportedly, the Blessed Virgin Mary was appearing to six young people on a daily basis.
"I had heard such vague reports about Medjugorje, originally through a local newspaper where a story appeared about a priest from that parish being arrested for stirring up trouble. Yugoslavia is, of course, a communist country, and while they allow church services, they do so only as long as it does not interfere with the daily goings-on there. The article stated that the priest had been arrested for taking part in lies about supernatural things occurring there.
"Later, from other priests and my own research, I learned more of the events taking place there, so of course, I was excited about the opportunity to go there myself with this group of priests.
"There were 110 of us (priests) that went there after the trip to Rome. This was the largest group of priests ever to visit the site of the reported apparitions. In order to get there, we had to go through a town called Mostar, some short distance from Medjugorje, and 'pretended' we were all tourists. It went so far as all of us buying bathing suits to convince the authorities that we were there to enjoy the recreational interests of the area. Finally, we ended up going to a small town between Mostar and Medjugorje. It was very bad accommodations from what one is accustomed to. That is, not really bad, but very primitive from where we stay in our country. Such things as outside plumbing and such.
"Our group finally went to Medjugorje as I stated, it was the largest group of priests ever assembled there at one time. We were taken to he basement of the church rectory, because there were so many of us. We were going to meet with the children (seers) after the apparition. It was very hot and stuffy and very crowded. Soon one of the nuns there at the church who works closely with the children came into the room and announced that the Blessed Virgin had told the children that She would appear to them in the basement where we were because She has a very special message for us.
"What can I say? We were absolutely enthralled that She would appear to the children there. Shortly, the children came into the room and stood just on the other side of the table where I was standing with a fellow priest who was a good friend. They began their prayers and shortly thereafter, fell to their knees, which was an indication that the Holy Mother had appeared. We looked at the line of where the children's eyes were looking, and it was directly over our heads!
"After the apparition, the children wrote something down on paper and the nun who could speak English translated it to us. The Blessed Virgin's message was directly to us: 'Thank you for coming when I called you. Those of you who love me have been specially called.'
"Well, you can imagine how we felt. We all prayed and then went upstairs into the church for Mass. I could hardly believe what happened next. Several of the seers, the children, began vesting (dressing) us for the Mass, me and my friend! What a blessing! Then during the Mass, they were right there next to us and we were holding hands with them and praying. I cannot describe to you what this meant to me.
"I have to tell you of two 'miracles' that happened while we were there. On the way to Medjugorje on the bus, we were all talking and praying about what was taking place there. The sky was totally clear and cloudless. Later, someone noticed up in the sky two small clouds shaped in the form of a cross. I tell you the sky was completely clear except for this cross of clouds. Later, it turned into a perfect shape of a dove.
"After the trip to Medjugorje and when we were back in Dubrovnic, we were stopped at this beautiful church there for Mass and prayer. All of us were sick. I mean bad sick with the flu and colds and the kind of scratchy throat you get when you catch it. We were praying in this beautiful church and when the prayers were over and we were preparing to leave, a young Canadian stood up and said: "Brothers, I have to tell you this. I was praying here with you and certainly not praying for something as unimportant as a little flu or cold. But suddenly, I felt this warmth come over me and all of a sudden my sore throat, all my symptoms of the flu are gone! I'm completely well.' We continued to pray for awhile after that.
"You asked me about reaction after I returned to Lake City. Well, naturally, I was filled with the wonder of all this and I went to all the media in the area and in Columbia. The result? Absolute blank stares and nothing. But that is all right. I personally feel that the events taking place there are real and I thank God for that."
This is the final part of our series about the events of the reported apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia.
Next Section - Personal Thoughts on Medjugorje