I recently spent three days in Medjugorje. And, as a journalist, I have never felt so useless before. For the first time in my career I realise my words cannot express what I would like to share. Call me unskilled or incompetent if you will, but when I try to describe what I have found inside me since my visit to the town I cannot find the words.
I was very sceptical about the Medjugorje phenomenon before my visit. But driven by a somewhat cynical curiosity I went to Medjugorje with a friend who had been there 15 times before and has co-written a book about the shrine.
The whole car journey there was an unbroken dialogue between my mind and his heart; I could not understand with my brain what my friend was trying to share through his heart. And this is exactly what I am doing right now: I want to share the experience of my heart through the words of my mind. Is that possible? Before my visit I found it difficult to believe that Our Lady had been continually speaking for almost 30 years in such a peripheral place. What’s more, I could not accept that Mary would be appearing on earth again to share some secrets about trials humanity will face in the future. Actually, I confess I still find these things very hard to grasp rationally. Medjugorje is completely illogical, if you look at it in a purely rationalistic way. But as soon as I arrived I stepped out of the Kingdom of Reason and into the Empire of the Heart.
I visited Sister Elvira’s community, where people with problems of drug addiction found a way to live again. I encountered a local man, Michele Vasilj, in whose eyes I caught a glimpse of Mary’s sight. I met Sister Cornelia at the orphanage she runs, and there I was given a mysterious sort of prophecy regarding my private life; it was incredible. I cried without reason while I was praying in the parish church. I have cried only once before like this. That happened when I prayed for the first time in a charismatic community (you may recall that I wrote about that experience in this slot last July). But this time my tears were much heavier and meaningful, a gift from Our Lady.
I listened to the visionary Mirjana witnessing to her experience and I realised that some of the words she was saying from the balcony of her tiny house in front of about a hundred people were spoken directly to me. When I listened to one of Mary’s messages I realised the words spoke directly to my heart, giving me the solution to a problem I was carrying around like a heavy burden. Many of you are probably thinking: he is pathetic. That is what I used to think whenever I bumped into one of the many Medjugorje devotees. Reason cannot grasp this phenomenon – at least mine can’t. Reason is inclined to say that Medjugorje relies on coincidence, autosuggestion and emotionalism. But these explanations no longer satisfy me. If you have experienced what I experienced you would understand why. In fact, the point of my trip to Medjugorje has been precisely this: to discover that there is a mysterious spiritual dimension that is far beyond our understanding, that cannot be limited by our mind. So the only words that can be useful are these: come and see. In Medjugorje a new world could be unveiled inside you. At least, that is what has happened to me.
• Paolo Gambi is a contributing editor to the Catholic Herald