Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Community of Nazareth, Ealing

Abbot Martin of Ealing Abbey giving the first talk on the podcast (that's me on the right!).

Saturday 12th September kicked off the first of many events on monastic spirituality. The forum, called the Community of Nazareth met in a hall near to the abbey after mass to listen to a talk (which is now a podcast on the website here) given by the abbot of the Benedictine community in Ealing. He talked about 'running in the light of the Rule of St. Benedict'. After this talk was a period of Lectio Divina followed by a blessing of the icon on the table... and, of course, tea; coffee and biscuits.

     The Community of Nazareth: Monastic Spirituality Forum will meet roughly once a month and anyone is welcome to join them at the meetings (which I thoroughly suggest!). There will be so much to learn from the talks and from other people at the forum about implementing monastic spirituality in everyday life.  I have included the events of the year with the forum below (you can also get a copy from their website). 

     So, if you're interested in engaging with monastic spirituality, why not give them a visit? Details for the year are all on the sheets above, but if you would like more information and to catch up on their podcasts, take a look on their website: !

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Marian Apparitions: The Story of Medjugorje


This post on Medjugorje is written by a friend of mine, Frazer Bellfield, who has visited Medjugorje many times. In this post he explains the story of this apparition...

What is Medjugorje?

This is a question that is being asked more and more, especially with news of Pope Francis’ recent words that there is going to be a solemn declaration on the apparitions which have been taking place there since 1981. Being a frequent visitor to Medjugorje, and a believer in the apparitions, I hope to sum them up in a brief history of what happened there and where it has led to!

In 1981 our Blessed Lady appeared to 6 young Croatian children in the small and very poor Catholic village of Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At that first encounter the 6 children, who ranged from 12-16 years of age at the time, all claimed to see something they couldn’t explain. Not so far away from them they said there was a very beautiful lady standing. They described her to be dressed in a grey veil with dark hair and blue eyes- she did not approach them and they were scared to approach her as they had no idea who she was and being humble village children didn’t wish to approach the beautiful stranger, therefore, they backed away and decided to return home. The older children wondered if they had just witnessed a “Marian apparition” but couldn’t know for sure and were confused. They all agreed not to speak of this again, even to their parents... but the youngest of the 6, Jakov, was to blab- the whole village was gossiping within 24 hours and the children were being mocked and thought to be crazy.  As well as those that mocked them, there were those in the very pious village that did believe the children had seen something, even if it was not Our Lady. They were encouraged to return.

The next day the 6 children decided to walk by the foot of what was to be known as “Apparition Hill" roughly about the same time of 6.40pm in the evening of the next day. To their amazement the beautiful woman was already waiting for them; this time she urged them to approach her and appeared to wish to speak with them. Vicka, the eldest of the children, sprinkled Holy water given her by her grandmother over the woman, knowing that had she been an evil spirit she would have vanished.  The beautiful woman smiled and said to Vicka, Ivanka, Mirjana, Marjia, Ivan and Jakov that she was the “Queen of Peace” and that God the Father had chosen them because of their simple, yet deep, faith to be witnesses and messengers on her behalf.  She told the children that she would speak to them about many things but that she mainly wished to promote peace and that all would honour and return to her son, Jesus. She also told them that life was not going to be easy for them but that she knew they had the necessary faith to carry out the mission her son desired for them. The 6 children understood immediately that they were seeing the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The many relatives and neighbours who had followed the children did not see what they saw, but every single people experienced inner peace and knew that they had been present at something special. Our Lady told the children that they were to return the next day.

News of this spread for miles and miles and the very next day hundreds upon hundreds of people gathered in Medjugorje, including the Communist authorities who hated all forms of Catholic events and gatherings. The children were visited and told not to return by the authorities. The children could not be stopped, and all 6 were again present at Apparition Hill, helped and protected by the many people that had gathered there. Our Lady again appeared to them and advised them that she was to give 10 “secrets” to each of them and that, little by little, the full messages would be given to them when the time was right. These “10 Secrets” are for most people the most intriguing or “confusing” part of these apparitions, however, no Catholic can argue with the main messages of Our Lady at Medjugorje which are “Prayer, penance and fasting”. She urges all Catholics to “frequently attend Mass, to prayer the Rosary daily, read scripture and to regularly Confess their sins out of love and trusting in the mercy of God not out of duty, routine or fear”.

To this day 3 of the visionaries have not received all the messages and the other 3 have. She
continues to appear to all 6 of the now adults, yet only on a daily basis to those still waiting for all of the secrets- which they are to reveal to a Priest of their personal choice. The Holy See has received these messages and (those that have been revealed) have been taken into consideration.  The only secret to be revealed is that a visible sign will be made present in Medjugorje at some time in the future which will be visible to all there and that all present will not fail to believe in God through seeing it. This has happened before: in Fatima, Our Lady gave 3 secrets to 3 children and the 3rd Secret still causes much interest as it has not yet been fully revealed or understood.  Many theologians working on the Medjugorje phenomena have likened the secrets of Medjugorje to those of Fatima, claiming that there may be a link.  It is of course “human nature” to want to know all there is to know about “the secrets”, but that is not all that Medjugorje is about.

Over the years the daily apparitions continued, the parents and families of the visionaries
were hounded by the Communist authorities, threatened with prison sentences and even death, yet the children would not retract their statements. The Parish Priest of Medjugorje, Father Jozo, at first did not believe the children and thought it all to be lies, but within weeks of the apparition he prayed for guidance and for a sign, only to find in that moment the visionaries knocking on his door for sanctuary as they were being chased by the Communists. Father Jozo was arrested and spent 2 years in prison where he was tortured and beaten, yet he would not retract his statements of belief and support. The apparitions were to continue on the property of the Parish in the future and in a “private room” until the fall of the Communist regime, and even this did not stop thousands and thousands of people flocking to the small village up to the present day. During the Bosnian War in the early 90s not one bomb fell on the village of Medjugorje as Our Lady had promised to children.

Many things have happened in the more than 30 years Our Lady has been appearing in Medjugorje. All 6 visionaries have undergone extended psychiatric tests and have all have been declared 100% sane and that they are not simulating or lying about what they are seeing.  Their medical files and many documents on their testimonies and writings have all been submitted to the Holy See, including the many conversions and physical healings that have taken place in Medjugorje.

Medjugorje has become known as “The Confessional of the World” it has become the 3rd most visited Marian Pilgrimage in the World and is known as the greatest for spiritual renewal and healing, especially through Reconciliation.  Many thousands make annual visits to Medjugorje and readily await the Holy Father’s approval. Surely bad fruit cannot come from a good tree? There are of course those who deny Medjugorje, just as there were those who denied Lourdes and Fatima... but how can so many conversions and healings, both spiritual and psychical, come from a bad and ungodly source?

It is now in the hands of Our Holy Father!

Frazer Bellfield

Edited 26/04/15: Spacing format issue resolved.