Archive for December, 2016

A Remarkable Autobiography by Medjugorje Visionary Mirjana Soldo: Mirjana Shares of her Persecution under Communism and our Blessed Mother’s Words on the Fate of the Souls of Aborted Children

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

 

mary-defeats-dragon

By Kevin Burke, LSW

December 8th, 2016 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary

In 1981, 16 year old Mirjana Soldo was living with her family in Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia.   She took a train to spend the summer with relatives in the tiny village of Medjugorje.

On June 24th, feast day of St John the Baptist,  Mirjana strolled with her friend Invanka in the late afternoon.   They saw a mysterious woman with a baby in her arms on Podbrdo Hill.  Soon they learned her identity – she was the Virgin Mary, the Blessed Mother of Jesus.  Mirjana and five other children would experience apparitions of the Blessed Mother each day  at the nearby parish of St James rectory.

The children were both in awe and overwhelmed by this experience.

Mirjana:

“My heart whirled with fear and wonder…my heart was in such turmoil that I could hardly identify one emotion before another took over. “Pinch yourself,” I thought.  “You must be dreaming!”[1]  

Fear and wonder were natural reactions to such a supernatural encounter. But they had other reason to be anxious.  They were entering dangerous and complicated waters in communist controlled Yugoslavia.

In her autobiography My Heart Will Triumph Mirjana shares about her family life in the city of Sarajevo.  The account reveals she grew up in a stable and loving family and matured into a happy and well adjusted young woman.   Mirjana was not prone to unusual religious fervor, or exaggerated emotional displays.

Yet after the events of June 24th 1981, the young woman’s life was turned upside down.

Life Under Communism

The citizens of Yugoslavia, as they went about their day to day lives, were well aware of the power of the communist government to harass, hurt and even murder those they felt threatened the regime.

Mirjana shares:

In communist Yugoslavia, religious books were practically contraband, so our knowledge of miracles was limited to the measured homilies of our priests who were always aware that government spies lurked in the pews. Anything misconstrued as an attack on the regime, the priests knew, could send them to prison—or worse.[2]

On June 29th 1981 as word spread of the heavenly visitations, the children were summoned to the Citluk police station for interrogation. An officer inquiring about visionary Jakov, who was not with the other children, asked Mirjana:

Where’s that little shit?”

Jakov is only 10 years old,” I said.  “Leave him alone…”

You lying bitch,” growled the policeman.  The interrogation went on like that for hours.

Failing to get the children to recount their experiences, the officers stuffed them in the back of an ambulance for a rough and painful ride to Mostar hospital.

When they arrived the officer sneered, “Get used to this place…it might be your new home when the doctors declare you insane.”

The police locked them in a dark, windowless room. The air was cold, damp and foul as described by Mirjana.

I thought someone was sleeping on the table, but as my vision adjusted I realized the person was dead. Scanning the room, I saw more bodies.

They were in the hospital morgue.

Next they were examined and questioned by a cold and threatening physician:

You know,” he said, “we have a special place for the insane.” [3]

This physician then locked the children in a ward with severely mentally ill patients.  The children huddled together terrified fearing they would never be released.

It is important to keep in mind the methods of Eastern European communists to control their populations.  All manner of diabolical physical and psychological torture, personality destruction and abuse were used to control and punish those that were seen as threatening the power of the state to form the new communist man and society.

Turning Up the Heat

Thankfully the children were later released but as news spread across Medugorje and beyond about the apparitions, the government went on the offensive. The visionaries’ relatives were threatened with imprisonment and the children with confinement in mental institutions if they continued to “perpetuate this religious hoax.”

The government declared a state of emergency in Medugorje and the military with soldiers and attack dogs entered the village. Federal police took over the investigation of the apparitions and the interrogations of the visionaries became lengthier and more intense.

The following exchange with a federal officer is telling. It reveals the spiritual peace as well as the character and tenacity of young Mirjana.

The communist official pulled his handgun off its holster and laid it on the table between him and Mirjana:

Confess,” he said… “Come clean,” he said glancing at the gun.  “You didn’t see anything.”… “Now give me the truth.”

Mirjana looked at him straight in the eyes:

The truth is that I see Our Lady, and I’m willing to die for her.”[4]

If the visionaries were adults, they would have found themselves locked away in some dark prison cell and likely tortured and killed. The fact they were children was a saving grace.  The government, as corrupt as they were, did not want to be seen as imprisoning children.  This did not prevent government agents from terrorizing the children and their families.

You can read more in My Heart Will Triumph about the ongoing harassment and oppression of Mirjana and her family, priests of the village and others by the communist authorities in the early days of the apparitions.  Mirjana and her family as well as some of the clergy of that village paid a high price for being faithful to the mission entrusted to them by the Blessed Mother.

The Fruit of Forgiveness

One of the many beautiful fruits of the spiritual events in Medugorje is the cultivation of reconciliation and forgiveness.

Mirjana shares many years later:

“A few years ago a man came to my door. He looked vaguely familiar, but I did not recognize him at first.  He seemed reluctant to speak and he avoided eye contact.”

Can I help you” I said.

“Please forgive me.”

“For what?”

“I’m one of the policemen who interrogated you back in 1981. I’m really sorry for what we put you through.” [5]

The policeman shared with Mirjana a tape of one of their interrogation sessions and he played a portion of the recordings as they both sat and listened. As I reflected on my own experience in abortion and trauma healing ministry, I saw this exchange as a healing ritual of confession and closure for the officer…but also for Mirjana.

Mirjana shared how this encounter led her to recall the events and feelings of those early days of the apparitions. She was struck by the voice of that previously timid teenage girl on the tape who spoke with such confidence and with no fear to her interrogator; truly a gift of faith.

She’s Just Like You and Me

I was deeply moved by Mirjana’s very personal account of the apparitions, our Lady’s messages and mission, and the personal suffering of Mirjana and her family. I now see the apparitions through a different lens.

Prior to reading her account I remained open but skeptical at times given some of the criticisms of the apparitions and challenges to the authenticity of the events of Medjugorje.

After reading her story, I believe very strongly that the experience of the children is authentic and true. As with any powerful spiritual event or movement over many years involving human beings, there will be controversy and confusion – at times even scandal.  This has been true from the time of the Apostles. [6]

What about the Ten Secrets?

Mirjana does touch on the ten secrets entrusted to the visionaries by our Blessed Mother. These are all future events in Medugorje and the world.  Mirjana is careful to present the secrets without sensationalism. While some involve difficult and painful events, (some which can be mitigated by prayer,) ultimately they are properly seen in the context of the overall mission of our Blessed mother as a message of hope in the coming victory of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary over Satan and his agenda.  Mirjana mentions in her autobiography that the events in Medugorje are a fulfillment of the apparitions of Fatima Portugal in 1916.

The information In My Heart Will Triumph about the secrets compels us to return to a fervent practice of our faith that features fasting, daily Rosary, and frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.  This is a special time of repentance and conversion so we can establish God’s Kingdom in our hearts and share the transforming love of God in our families and communities.  It is also a time of preparation for that encounter with the Lord at the end of our lives, but also for the events that will unfold in the world in the years to come.

Mirjana is now married and lives in Medjugorje with her husband Marko Soldo and their two daughters. Despite her very intimate experience of the Blessed Mother, and knowledge of the ten secrets entrusted to the visionaries, she leads a normal marriage and family life.  The book reveals that despite her very unusual vocation, she has the same responsibilities, joys and sorrows that we all encounter each day.   (With that said, her personal description of the visual and emotional experience of being in the presence of Mary is both fascinating and moving.)

Our Lady’s Words about Children Lost to Abortion

Along with my wife Theresa Burke, Ph.D., I am co-founder of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries for men and women who long for emotional and spiritual healing after abortion.

One of the more moving parts of the Rachel’s Vineyard weekend program, are those meditations and exercises where the humanity of the unborn child and their unique dignity and identity engages the heart, mind and soul of the participants. This is an essential emotional and spiritual gift of this powerful and very effective retreat process developed by Theresa.

Women and men can despair when they come to face their role in the destruction of their unborn children and struggle to accept God’s forgiveness and find peace and closure. The spiritual reality that their children are alive in the Lord is so important to recovery from this loss. As St John Paul II declared in Evangelium Vitae, To the same Father and to his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child.”

This was reinforced for me when I read this passage from Mirjana’s book where she asks the blessed mother what happened to the souls of abortion victims after their death. The blessed Mother’s responded:

They are with me in Heaven.” (Pg 108)

A Gift that will Keep on Giving

Reading My Heart Will Triumph was like sitting down with a good friend and being riveted by a fascinating and compelling story.  Mirjana’s personal experience and journey of faith, the messages of Mary and the passages on the ten secrets left me with a sense that while we are perpetually distracted by the unending flow of news, entertainment and information that saturate our daily lives – there is a powerful spiritual drama unfolding in Medugorje.

God through Jesus and His Mother will perhaps manifest their presence in unprecedented ways in this tiny village and throughout the world in the years to come.

But on a deeper and more immediate level, it moved me to have a greater appreciation for the power of the rosary, cultivated an increased awareness of the presence of Mary in my life, and a renewed hunger for prayer. As a Catholic, it has impressed upon me the importance of regular confession and receiving of Christ in the Eucharist.

What a precious and invaluable gift to receive in this advent season.

I encourage you to consider this book as a Christmas gift to yourself, or for a friend or family member that would be blessed to read such an inspirational and moving story.

I close with a message of our Lady Queen of Peace from November 25th, 2015:

Dear children… be carriers of peace and hope in this restless world where Satan is attacking and tempting in every way. Little children, be firm in prayer and courageous in faith. I am with you and intercede before my Son Jesus for all of you…

On this feast of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, let us pray with Mary that she will form us – so that we can fully surrender our hearts, minds and souls as never before to her son Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

[1] Mirjana Soldo, (Catholic Shop, August 2016), page 15.

[2] Ibid, page 16

[3] Ibid, page 59-60.

[4] Ibid, pages 80-81.

[5] Ibid, pages 87-88.

[6] I will respect whatever decision the Catholic Church reaches after they complete their current ongoing assessment of the phenomena.

The Sword of the Prince of Peace – Preparing for Pro Life Battle in this Season of Advent

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

 

sword-of-revelation

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  (Mathew 10:34)

Pro life advocates are rightly encouraged by the outcome of November’s election.

Conditions now are more favorable for the ongoing battle to protect the life of unborn children in our nation. The tide has shifted, for a time, and the overall conditions present a unique opportunity to advance our cause.  The troops are in good spirits and our prospects for success have perhaps never been better.

This advent season presents a perfect time to prepare for the coming battles but also to give us the proper perspective as we move ahead.

The Sword of Christ

When Jesus speaks of bringing a sword in Mathew’s Gospel, this is clearly not a call to physical violence (see Mathew 26:52.) Jesus speaks of the fact that his words, actions and teaching will cause division, foment controversy, and at times provoke a violent reaction.

But this sword also points to to the fearsome power of the Risen Christ as he comes again with his power and glory fully revealed to the nations. Jesus will consummate his victory over Satan and unleash the mercy and justice of God upon the nations:

From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. – (Revelation 19:5)

To Us a Child Is Given

We live our lives within the boundaries of this brief journey through a particular time and place. But mysteriously, our lives are also woven into an eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness that in time will reach their climax with the Second coming of the Christ.

Advent touches upon this great mystery in such powerful ways.

Israel was called forth in time to be a people set apart among the nations to love and serve Yahweh the one true God and turn away from idolatry and sin.  In a similar way, the humble daughter of Israel, the Virgin Mary was set apart for her special vocation from the beginning of her existence.

Mary would receive the first redemptive fruit of her son’s sacrificial death, and be conceived without the original sin, that rejection of God’s providence, that has injured the human family from the beginning.

This Immaculate Conception of Mary was not so much a special privilege for her, but more a precious gift to each of us.  Mary became the Tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, and the mother of the incarnate Son of God.

The Rage of Satan and the Womb of Women

The incarnation of Christ reveals how God used the vehicle of a Jewish woman, and specifically the consecrated womb of Mary and her child Jesus, to save the human family from the power of sin, death and Satan.

Yet this action of God arouses murderous rage in the heart of Satan:

Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born… But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness…The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. – (Revelation 12)

Satan wants to devour Mary’s child as she gives birth. Thanks to an angelic warning of Herod’s designs, and the protection of St Joseph, Satan was unable to destroy the child and abort the mission of Jesus to save humanity.

But mysteriously, Satan and his demonic accomplices continue to have power to wage war on the human family.  It is the all consuming passion of Satan is to corrupt and disfigure the image of God in the human heart, mind and soul and to separate as many souls as possible from eternal union with their heavenly Father.

A Gathering Darkness

Our Blessed Mother appeared to 3 children at Fatima in 1917 to warn the world of the emergence of a gathering darkness and greater war that would envelop the world.

Failing to heed Mary’s warning, we witnessed the destructive rage of the great dragon of revelation unleashed in communist and Nazi attacks on Christians and Jews across Europe, and as communism spread, around the world.

But there is another battleground where the dragon has focused his powers of deception and rage.

Given that the womb of Mary was the vehicle through which God saved the human family from sin and death, we can safely assume that this only increased Satan’s hatred and rage against humanity, and especially of women and their unborn children.

The Hellish Power of Deception

The womb of women is the battleground where Satan is manifesting his agenda with unprecedented powers of deception and destruction in our time. Satan has made a woman’s body and womb, human sexuality and reproduction as battle grounds where he would manifest his passion to deceive and destroy.

In Revelation John says Satan is “the deceiver of the whole world.”

If you want evidence of this power to deceive, consider this statement by Christian pastor Rev. David Selzer, of Concerned Clergy for Choice found in this “blessing” he wrote for abortion facilities:

Bless this building and those who work here… who provide safe, legal, caring and loving reproductive services, including abortion… they are doing God’s work.

While the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Medjugorje are still under discernment by the Vatican, the following reflections by the visionaries on their exposure to the reality of Hell help us to see the eternal nature of our struggle:

Vicka: We saw many people in hell…The Blessed Mother says that those people who are in hell are there because they chose to go there…It is their choice. In this way they choose to enter the fire of hell where they burn away all connection to God.

Marija:  At the moment of death, God gives everyone the grace to see his whole life… And each person, when he sees himself in the divine light of reality…chooses for himself what he personally deserves for all eternity.  Anyone who goes to hell chooses hell. God condemns no one.

Jakov:  The self-chosen suffering there is beyond your ability to comprehend.

When asked if this vision was a painful experience for him Jacov replied: More than you can understand…Because no one needs to go to hell. It is the ultimate waste.

A God of Justice…and Mercy

Our Creator is a God of Mercy, reconciliation and healing. He desires that no woman or man is abandoned to their grief and despair after abortion. Most of us, if we are honest, have aborted God’s will in our lives in times of weakness and fear.  We are continually in need of the repentance and healing of Christ.

The heart of Christ burns with a passionate love for sinners, and desires their reconciliation and healing.  No sin is greater than God’s love and mercy.  He only asks that we have a humble and repentant heart, and he will bless us abundantly with his forgiveness and healing.

But sadly, some will persist in their promotion of abortion as a social and moral good and basic human right. Those who have been wounded by abortion can be tempted to avoid the very natural spiritual and emotional pain and grief that follow abortion.  They instead may justify and fiercely defend their choice.  Some even become aggressive advocates for abortion rights and lead many others astray contributing to the death of countless unborn children and the sin and suffering that flow into the lives of their parents.

This places those who advocate for abortion rights as accomplices in the death of countless unborn children. They are in grave risk of ongoing deception and eternal estrangement from God.  This includes those who serve in positions of public office, medical and counseling professionals and others who act in ways that facilitate the death of unborn children.

Silence is Deadly

This is seldom something we hear from the pulpit. There is an understandable desire to be sensitive to those who have experienced this loss and to invite the wounded to healing.  God’s mercy and forgiveness must always be our first response and proclaimed on a regular basis from our Churches.

But are we neglecting to preach about the justice of God, and the risk of eternal estrangement from our Heavenly Father for those who are persistent in their pro abortion advocacy? Is it merciful to be silent?

This is the greatest tragedy and the endgame of Satan. He not only wants to destroy and desecrate unborn life in the womb.  Satan wants to separate as many souls as possible from eternal union with their heavenly father.

As the visionaries of Medjurgorje suggest, God condemns no person to hell. Tragically, a human heart and soul can become so twisted by lies that they recoil from the light of truth, and when the time comes to encounter their Lord, they may experience the holiness of God as a repulsive darkness.

This is the ultimate horror and tragic fruit of abortion and similar types of sin that lead the soul into such deep darkness and blindness.

Prepare for Battle

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

In this Advent season we have a time of preparation to once again welcome the Savior into our hearts, homes and communities. In this time of peace and preparation – let us also prepare for battle.

We are not led by a particular political leader or party in this battle.  God can use current events and even weak and sinful men and women to accomplish his will.  We must read the signs of the times and fight the good fight to advance the cause of life and reduce and end the destruction of unborn children.

Yet the larger battle is for the heart and soul of the human family. While we fight against abortion and other attacks upon marriage and the family, we do so not in anger, derision or with hatred toward those we oppose.  We do so with love and concern for the unborn and all who are being deceived by Satan.[1]

We know that without God’s grace, we can do nothing. We rely on continual repentance and the deepest humility, immersion in the Word of God, prayer, rosary (and for sacramental Christians, Reconciliation and Eucharist.)

It is also important to take time to grieve our losses in this ministry.  This will strengthen us in our pro life vocations.

Perhaps this prayer to St Michael the Archangel can be particular focus for us in this advent season as we prepare for the coming of our Savior and the battles that lie ahead to advance the cause of life.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God  Thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

[1] In my personal experience, this is indeed the heart of the pro lifers I have encountered around the world.  They are humble, faithful servants of the Lord acting out of love for the unborn and those wounded by abortion.