Birdsong at Midnight
This is another story that I created when writing my book. Unfortunately, it wound up on the “cutting floor” when trying to improve the book’s pacing. It is a personal story about faith involving Elaine, my wife, Kate, my daughter, and myself.
This is a modern story, still unfolding today, at a place that you can visit. It is an experience shared by Elaine, Kate, and me. While there are many narratives about what people experience when they die, there are far fewer accounts about people who have died and come back to visit the living. While the story appears to be within the Christian faith, it has universal appeal because it makes us think about possibilities beyond our world.
During Kate’s high school years, she performed with her mother, Elaine, in an original production called Birdsong at Midnight1, at Priscilla Beach Theatre in Plymouth, MA. It is a story about the six children in Medjugorje who had seen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Elaine and Kate each played one of the visionaries.
Medjugorje is in a small village in Bosnia-Herzegovina.2 There is a long history in this area attached to the Catholic Church, going back to gravestones intermixed with Roman ruins. In the Middle Ages, a monastery was built, and in the early twentieth century, a twelve-meter crucifix was built on a site now called Cross Mountain. During the Second World war, the communists killed 66 Catholic friars of the Franciscan order. Some of them were burnt in their garden next to the monastery. At this site, some 40 years later, residents began reporting seeing apparitions, which called for prayer, penance, and peace.
This is the narrative of the children-visionaries of Medjugorje. On June 24, 1981, two young girls were walking when a woman holding an infant appeared high on a hill among the boulders and bramble of Mount Podbrdo. Instinctively, they knew it was the Virgin Mary, but they did not approach her. They felt called to return the next day, and they brought with them four other children. This time, Mary appeared as a figure in white who was calling to them. She drew them to her and effortlessly transported them up the mountain, over boulders and thorny bushes. As the Blessed Mother introduced herself as the Queen of Peace, the children fell to their knees, praying. When finished, she promised to return the next day. These children, Ivan, Ivanka, Jakov, Marija, Mirjana, and Vicka, are now the famous visionary children of Medjugorje. In the play, Kate played Vicka and Elaine played Marija.
Each of the six children were to receive ten secrets to be made known later to a selected priest. Ivanka, Mirjana, and Jokov, having already gotten all ten secrets, no longer see Mary except on special occasions. The remaining three visionaries have each gained nine of their ten secrets and still see Mary almost daily. She has also appeared to people other than the visionaries.
The story of Medjugorje is one of the most fascinating in modern church history. However, pilgrimages were initially discouraged by church leaders until 2019, when they became officially authorized by the Vatican.
Approximately 50 million people of all faiths, from all over the world, have visited Medjugorje. Many bring back stories of miracles in the form of healings, supernatural visual signs, and sincere conversions back to God. Elaine and I hope to visit there in the future. Maybe after reading this, you will want to visit there as well.
1 Melody, T. (1997). Birdsong at Midnight.
2 Medjugorje, a Short History. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2, 2020, from https://www.medjugorje.org/shistory.htm