Back in my ultimate frisbee-playing days, I’d travel throughout the Midwest and South for tourneys. One of my teammates (I’ll call him Shmuel) was finishing rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College and decided to pull a prank on an unsuspecting waitress. Our meal stop took us to a greasy spoon that showcased a full roast pig (apple and all) in a counter window. Shmuel introduced himself as “Rabbi Shmuel” and enquired about the price of the pork. When he received a straightforward answer, he tried a few more times to emphasize his Jewishness and provoke an outraged response. Puzzled, he turned to the rest of us and explained, “See, it’s funny because I’m a rabbi and I’m asking about the pig.” The waitress saved us from an awkward explanation by asking, “What’s a rabbi?”
I felt a similar estrangement when traveling through the South. As a Catholic in an overwhelmingly Protestant area, I was hard-pressed to find Sunday Mass. That’s all changing, though.
The long-running Marian apparitions at Medjugorje (in Bosnia-Herzogovina) have opened a “satellite” in Alabama. One of the visionaries has been living there since 1988 and her experiences have attracted thousands of pilgrims. What does the Church have to say about all this?
Nothing yet. Some of the messages related by the visionaries are inspiring. (I especially like those in which the Virgin Mary seems to side with the Franciscans in a dispute.) Others are a bit troubling, such as the endorsement of a book telling how Joseph gave the young Jesus a screwdriver set to help with his carpentry. (Time travel aside, would it really be helpful to have a screwdriver set when screws had not yet been invented?) The apparitions have attracted many passionate believers, though, and they cannot quite understand why the Church has not given her approval to these events.
“I don’t have a sense this is going to go swimmingly. I am very impressed with a number of the positive things I have experienced there. I have a lot of respect for the good things that have occurred. But I’m not going to be naive about some of the problems. It has to be dealt with, with full integrity.”
When will that happen? According to Michael D. Murphy, an anthropologist who specializes in Marian apparitions: “The typical strategy is to wait until all the critical people are dead.”
So, if you’re an eager fan anxious for the Church’s answer, don’t hold your breath. Unless, of course, you’re one of the visionaries.
Photo courtesy of digital art/freedigitalphotos.net.