Private Revelation Medjugorje


Excerpts of Yale University Report by Daniel Kliemek

     In June 1981, six children in the small mountain village of Medjugorje, in the former Yugoslavia (now Bosnia-Herzegovina), reported that the Virgin Mary had appeared to them. She has allegedly been appearing every day since and, thus, to this day - 29 years later - the apparitions continue. Unlike other prominent Marian apparitions, like those reportedly taking place at Lourdes, France, in 1858, and at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, Medjugorje’s longevity, spanning into the technologically sophisticated age of contemporary twenty-first century, has made it very unique and useful for modern study. As investigative journalist Randall Sullivan explained: “the apparitions in Medjugorje had been subjected to perhaps more medical and scientific examination than any purported supernatural event in the history of the human race.”26 The majority of the studies conducted on the young Medjugorje visionaries, which have ranged from lie detector tests to neurological examinations, psychiatric tests, electrocardiogram, blood pressure and heart rhythm examinations, and electro-encephalogram tests measuring brain waves during ecstasies, have supported the validity of the apparitions. The tests have shown that the visionaries were not lying or hallucinating, nor were they in any epileptic or hypnotic state during their daily ecstasies but, indeed, are experiencing something beyond scientific explanation, transcending the boundaries of scientific understanding and the physiological laws of nature.27 Furthermore, numerous miraculous healings have also been reported at Medjugorje, many of them copiously documented with abundant medical evidence supporting the claims.28


     As Amy Hollywood, Harvard scholar of Christian mysticism and medieval history, points out, frequently mysticism—and thus mystical experience, particularly—is denigrated by skeptical scholars through psychoanalytical categories as simply constituting a form of hysteria, among other possible natural disorders. “Most scholars who have wanted to take mysticism seriously have, as a result of such dismissive diagnoses, either avoided the term ‘hysteria’ entirely or have reserved it for those figures seen as somehow marginal, excessive, or troubling to standard religious categories.”30 Religious historian Moshe Sluhovsky, likewise, points to the numerous “natural” diagnoses which are employed by many modern scholars to dismiss the validity of mystical experiences, whether divine or diabolical, especially reported experiences of late-medieval and early-modern Europe. Such diagnoses include: “insanity, hysteria, paralysis, imbecility, or epilepsy…”31 Yet Sluhovsky aptly explains that stereotyping Christians of past centuries, particularly of early-modern Europe, as ignorant of medical or psychological causes for abnormal (if not paranormal) behavior constitutes an erroneous approach, if not an altogether arrogant dismissal, obstructing serious study of such cases. Since matters like hysteria and epilepsy were “all classifications of afflictions that were not unfamiliar to early modern people” the assumption “that medieval and early modern people were simply not sophisticated enough to know the right meanings of the symptoms they experienced and witnessed tells us more about modern scholarly arrogance than about premodern ailments and healing techniques, or about early modern configurations of the interactions with the divine,” Sluhovsky concludes.32

     Yet, again, this is what makes the case of Medjugorje (and its support for Valtorta’s revelations) so unique: by occurring in the contemporary society of the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the Medjugorje apparitions have been able to be scrutinized by exhaustive medical and scientific investigations unavailable to past generations—instead of remaining untested and being prejudicially dismissed by modern thinkers as constituting a case of hysteria, fraud, or any other possible natural explanation. As the French doctor Henri Joyeux, an internationally renowned physician and Professor of Cancerology in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montpellier, explained in regard to the timely significance of the apparitions:

Ecstasy is seen as a sensory perception of realities that are perceivable by and visible to the visionaries but invisible to and unperceivable by all others and, in particular, those who seek to understand. For the first time in history science can study these facts as they unfold in Medjugorje and not merely a posteriori. The most advanced medical techniques and the most up-to-date photographic and cinematographic techniques help us to reach the kernel of these events in order to try to understand them.33

     Thus the Medjugorje visionaries have been tested for all of the natural symptoms which are applied by skeptics to discredit mystical experience, passing each time. Dr. Joyeux led a team of French physicians from the University of Montpelier to examine the Medjugorje seers in ecstasy during their daily apparitions of the Virgin, when the children simultaneously fall to their knees and enter a visible trance. This phenomenon takes place daily at the same time (5:45 pm in the winter and 6:45 pm in the summer). Dr. Joyeux’s concluding report, delivered in the spring of 1985, stated: “The ecstasies are not pathological, nor is there any element of deceit. No scientific discipline seems able to describe these phenomena.”34 He explained that “these young people are healthy and there is no sign of epilepsy, nor is it a sleep or dream state. It is neither a case of pathological hallucination nor hallucination in the hearing or sight faculties…It cannot be a cataleptic state, for during ecstasy the facial muscles are operating in a normal way.”35 In addition to medical findings, all psychiatric explanations were also ruled out. The visionaries underwent immense psychological and psychiatric testing. The results showed a group of perfectly healthy young people. According to Dr. Joyeux’s report: “The visionaries have no symptoms of anxiety or obsessional neurosis, phobic or hysterical neurosis, hypochondriac/or psychosomatic neurosis, and there is no indication of any psychosis. We can make these formal statements in the light of detailed clinical examinations.”36 Dr. Philippe Loron, head of the Neurology Clinic at La Salpietre Hospital in Paris who examined the visionaries himself in 1989, concurred in his conclusion: “This is the first time that medical science has been involved to such an extent in evaluating the phenomenon of ecstasy. And, in the process, what was confirmed in several ways was the moral and psychological integrity of the visionaries.”37 After taking all of the examinations and their findings into consideration, Dr. Joyeux had to conclude that the experiences of the children at Medjugorje “do not belong to any scientific denominations.”38

     Additionally, in September 1985, an Italian team of physicians and scientists from Milan’s Mangiagalli Clinic also conducted important tests examining the visionaries. One of the doctors was Michael Sabatini, a psycho-pharmacologist from the faculty of Columbia University. Using an algometer, an instrument used to measure the intensity of pain by applying pressure to sensitive areas of the body, Dr. Sabatini concluded that while experiencing their apparitions the children were impervious to pain, alienated from the senses and significantly disconnected from the physical world around them.39 The algometer showed that “prior to the apparitional experience their reaction to pain was normal (between 0.3 to 0.4 seconds), [yet] during the apparition they did not perceive any pain.”40 The experiments, according to Dr. Sabatini, proved that the mystical experiences were not the product of fraud nor deception. Moreover, Dr. Luigi Frigerio, another member of the Italian team, explained that these results combined with neurological testing, which determined that the visionaries were not only awake but hyper-awake during their ecstasies, presented a paradox that “cannot be explained naturally, and thus can be only preternatural or supernatural.”41 Likewise, Dr. Ludvik Stopar, a prominent psychiatrist and parapsychologist who conducted numerous tests on the visionaries years earlier, reached the same opinion in his conclusion: “I had the impression of coming into contact with a supernatural reality at Medjugorje.”42

      Such facts—pointing to the supernatural through scientific inquiry—have led to many spiritual conversions, even of scientific skeptics, in the small Bosnian village. Sullivan relates the story of Dr. Marco Margnelli, a prominent Italian neurophysiologist and an ardent atheist who came to Medjugorje in the summer of 1988 determined to expose the apparitions as a fraud. An expert in altered states of consciousness, Margnelli conducted an array of medical tests on the visionaries in which he had to conclude that during their daily apparitions the children did, in fact, enter into “a genuine state of ecstasy” and adding: “we were certainly in the presence of an extraordinary phenomenon.”43 Dr. Margnelli’s observations have ranged from conducting medical investigations on the seers to personally witnessing miraculous healings and strange supernatural occurrences which, admittedly, left him bewildered and deeply shaken. Dr. Margnelli described a sequence of events to which he had been a witness at Medjugorje:

     from the “synchronous movements” of the visionaries [during apparitions] to the apparently miraculous healing of a woman with leukemia. What had affected him most deeply were the birds: During the late afternoon, they would gather in the trees outside the rectory where the seers shared their apparitions, chirping and cooing and calling by the hundreds, at times deafeningly loud, until “they suddenly and simultaneously all go silent as soon as the apparition begins.” This “absolute silence of the birds” haunted him, the doctor admitted.44 Thus, a “few weeks after returning to Milan, Dr. Margnelli became a practicing Catholic.”45