Peace through faith, prayer, fasting, penance, and conversions summarize the heart of the Madonna’s messages according to the visionaries. These six foundational themes are the basis of the message of Medjugorje upon which other important elements, such as the rosary and daily Mass are developed.

We will take up each theme by examining individual messages given by the visionaries and then look at how that same theme appears in the Gospels. The similarity between the message of Medjugorje as it appears in these themes and the identical themes found in the Gospels affirms the sound Christian doctrine contained in the reported Marian message.

“Believe Firmly”

The message of Medjugorje indicates both a general summons to a more committed faith in God and to a specific belief in the apparitions themselves.

The call to faith has been central and crucial to the message of Medjugorje since the beginning of the apparitions. On the sixth day of the reported appearances, Our Lady requested faith from everyone present.

Visionaries: Dear Madonna: What do you wish from these people?

Our Lady: There is one God and one faith. Believe firmly.

The first spiritual directive specified by Our Lady was faith. According to an interview with Mirjana in 1983, “She (Our Lady) always recommended faith, prayer, and fasting.” Our Lady has also spoken of the necessity of prayer to sustain a living faith, saying, “Faith cannot be alive without prayer.”

There is also a specific call to have faith in the authenticity of the apparitions themselves. On June 26, 1981, the third day of the apparitions, the visionaries asked Our Lady for a specific message for priests. Our Lady responded, “Let the priests firmly believe.” Vicka requested a miracle that would prove to others that Mary’s appearances were authentic. Our Lady repliesd, “Let those who do not see believe as if they see.”

Our Lady has also promised a visible sign on Podbrdo, the hill of the first apparition, for the “unbelievers,” to help them believe in the apparitions. The time before the sign is to be one of profound graces, and she warned those with a living faith not to wait for the sign to begin the path to deeper faith and conversion.

You faithful must not wait for the sign before you convert. Convert soon, for this time is a time of grace for you. You can never thank God enough for the grace God has given you. This time is for deepening your faith and your conversion. When the sign comes, it will be too late for many.

The Gospels emphasize a living faith also. As in Medjugorje, faith is the gateway both to the miraculous on earth and the glories and salvation of eternal life in heaven.

St. John speaks of the effects of faith in the following passages:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day (Jn 6:40).

Miracles can happen as the result of strong faith in God. We see this in the story of the woman with a hemorrhage (Mt 9:20-22). Her faith was initial to her healing, “Your faith has made you well.” Faith is the key to the power of God at work among us as seen in this passage from St. Matthew:

Jesus answered them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Mt 21: 20-22).

The Gospel call for a living faith is every bit as crucial today as it was in the time of Christ. Jesus Christ still asks this question, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth” (Lk 18:8)?

The summons to faith is the same in the Gospels and in the message of Medjugorje: a committed faith in Christ which leads to the Father and to eternal salvation, and is the condition for the miraculous on earth.

Pray, Pray, Pray!

The Medjugorjian message emphatically calls for a greater generosity in prayer, both in quantity and intensity, as an indispensable means in attaining the peace of Christ in our hearts.

Several of the Thursday Messages have simply been a repeated exhortation for more prayer, as seen in the message on April 19, 1984: “Dear children, sympathize with me. Pray, pray, pray!” A later Thursday Message asked for a decrease in work and an increase in prayer: “These days you have been praying too little and working too much. Pray, therefore. In prayer you will find rest” (July 5, 1984).

Active prayer is a necessity in living the full message of Medjugorje:

Dear children, I am calling you to an active approach to prayer. You wish to live everything I am telling you, but you do not get results from your efforts because you do not pray. Dear children, I beg you: open yourselves and begin to pray. Prayer will be joy. If you begin, it will not be boring because you will pray with pure joy (March 20, 1986).

Through Jelena, Our Lady specifically set the amount and degree of prayer for a youth prayer group in Medjugorje that began in June, 1983:

Pray three hours a day…You pray too little. Pray at least half an hour in the morning and evening; and further when I say, “Pray, pray, pray,” I do not mean only to increase the hours of prayer but increase the desire to pray and to be in contact with God, to be in a continuous prayerful state of mind.

On June 4, 1983, Our Lady reportedly said:

You have begun to pray three hours, but you look at your watches, preoccupied with your work. Be preoccupied with the one thing necessary, and let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit.

It is evident that the Medjugorjian message is calling for a greater generosity and quality of individual prayer than ever before.

The importance of prayer is clearly stated in the Gospels by Christ’s own example:

…And in the morning, a great while before day, He rose and went out to a lonely place, and there He prayed (Mk 1:35).

And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. When evening came He was still there alone (Mt 14:23).

And in the Gospel of John, Jesus prays for those who believe in Him:

I am not praying for the world, but for those whom Thou hast given Me, for they are Yours, and I am glorified in them…l do not pray that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil one…I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee…(Jn 17: 9-10, 10, 20-21).

Jesus illustrates the necessity of prayer, particularly in the midst of trial. He prepared Himself, by prayer on the Mount of Olives, for the Passion.

Jesus taught the disciples how to pray in the words of the “Our Father.” This prayer summarizes how and for what Christians should pray (cf. Mt 6: 7-13; Lk 11:24).

The powerful effect of prayer is conclusively stated by our Lord: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it, and you will” (Mk 11:24-25).

The call to pray unceasingly, to pray in the midst of trial, to pray for conversions, to pray as a community, and to pray so as to disarm the efforts of Satan is found in the Gospels and is one of the essential themes of the Medjugorjian message.

Fasting from the Heart

One of the distinguishing marks of the message of Medjugorje is a call to return to the Christian practice of fasting. The neglect of this powerful spiritual discipline was the topic of the message on July 21, 1982: “Christians have forgotten they can prevent war and even natural calamities by prayer and fasting.” The Madonna complained about the virtual disappearance of fasting in the Church and initially asked the faithful to fast on Fridays. She said that almsgiving by the healthy is not a legitimate substitution for fasting. Those too ill to fast can choose some other form of sacrifice along with the reception of the Sacrament of Confession and Holy Communion.

Near the beginning of the apparitions, the visionaries asked Our Lady what was the best fast. She replied, “A fast of bread and water.” During an unexpected appearance to Ivan on August 14, 1984, Our Lady requested a strict fast twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays.

However, fasting must be done with devotion and love in order to be effective. The Thursday Message, reported by Marija on September 20, 1984, concerns the quality of people’s fasting:

Dear children, today I ask you to start fasting from the heart. There are many people who fast, but only because everyone else is fasting. It has become a custom which no one wants to stop. I ask the parish to fast out of gratitude to God for having let me remain this long in the parish. Dear children, fast and pray with your hearts.

The renewed practice of fasting is a principal means of living the message of Medjugorje:

I wish to tell you, dear children, to renew living the messages that I have given you. In particular, live the messages regarding fasting, because your fasting gives me joy. And so you will attain the fulfillment of all the plans God has for you here in Medjugorje (Sept. 26, 1985).

Fasting for the body and prayer for the soul constitute two of the strongest Medjugorjian calls for the spiritual well-being of the human person.

The Gospels often refer to the spiritual discipline of fasting. Again, Christ is the pre-eminent model of true fasting:

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards was hungry. And the temptor came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, summon these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'” (Mt 4: 1-5).

Furthermore, Christ simply presumed His disciples would fast:

And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by Your heavenly Father who is in secret; and Your Father who sees you in secret will reward you (Mt 6:6-18).

The disciples of John questioned Jesus why His disciples did not fast as did the Pharisees and themselves. Jesus replied that when the bridegroom departed, the disciples of Christ would also fast (Mt 9:14-16).

Our Lord attested to the profound power that conies from fasting when it is united with fervent prayer. The story of the possessed boy whom the disciples could not cure highlights the spiritual force of prayer and fasting against the presence of evil. The message of Medjugorje clearly parallels this Gospel principle:

The disciples approached Jesus at that point and asked Him privately, “why could we not expel it?” “Because you have so little trust,” He told them. “I assure you, if you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you would be able to say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. This kind does not leave but by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17: 19-21).

Fasting twice a week was a regular practice in the early church as well. A striking similarity with the message of Medjugorje is found in the Didache, authored between 60 and 120 A.D. by the early Christian community: “But do not let your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays; but you shall fast on Wednesday and Friday” (Did 8:1).

Penance for the Salvation of Souls

Penance—a general call to deny oneself for the sake of Christ, the Church, and the spiritual growth of the individual—is a fundamental Medjugorjian theme. Apart from fasting, which is one specific form of penance, there is a general directive involving sacrifice and self-denial.

Penance has been continually stressed throughout the apparitions in Medjugorje. Shortly after the beginning of the apparitions, Our Lady asked the visionaries to climb to the top of the Mountain of the Cross at approximately two o’clock in the morning to pray that people would do penance for the conversion of sinners. An example of the importance of this theme is seen in the Thursday Message of July 26, 1984, “Dear children, today I would like to call you to persistent prayer and penance…”

In an interview in 1983, Marija was asked if Our Lady had given any specific messages for priests and bishops. She replied, “No, but a long time ago she said that they should accept us, help us as much as they can, and pray more and do penance…”

The report sent to Pope John Paul II by Father Tomislav Vlasic and the visionaries states that the ultimate goal of both penance and prayer is the salvation of souls: “The invitation to prayer and penance is meant to avert evil and war, but most of all to save souls.”

The penitential call seems to be emphasized particularly during the Lenten season. Our Lady asked for great self-denial, as is seen in this Lenten message from 1986: “Dear children, this Lent is a special incentive for you to change. Start from this moment. Turn off the television and renounce other things which are useless.”

The summons to penance is certainly present in the Gospels. Penance as a category can be all-encompassing. For example, the evangelical counsels, fasting, and the very crucifixion of Christ all constitute forms of penance. For our purpose, we will look at penance in the Gospels as all forms of self-denial undertaken for the sake of a person’s spiritual growth.

In the Gospel of Matthew, denial of unruly desires and acts of physical mortification in order to safeguard spiritual life are established as a principle of the Christian life:

If your right eye causes you sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell (Mt 5:27-30).

The cost of discipleship is total renunciation of self and acceptance of the “daily cross” in imitation of Christ as seen in Mark 8:34-36:

If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow Me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, but anyone who loses his life for the sake of the Gospel will save it.

Penance is consistently stressed in the Gospels as a powerful and effective means of conversion. This is exemplified, but not exhausted, in the physical self-denial of fasting. The emphasis on penance in the message of Medjugorje is soundly established as a scriptural call.

Conversion of the Heart

The apparitions began on the feast of St. John the Baptist, June 24. The universal call to conversion for both believer and non-believer alike in the message of Medjugorje strongly evokes St. John’s gospel cry to “Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mt 1:2; Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3, 7-8).

Conversion for the believer means to turn one’s heart toward God and away from sin to an ever-deepening degree, experiencing greater faith through contrition. For the unbeliever, conversion is the call to have faith in the one true God and to turn from sin through repentance. Mary’s urgent plea, in the spring of 1983, shows this dual nature of conversion:

Hasten your conversion. Do not wait for the sign that has been announced for the unbelievers; it will already be too late for them to have a conversion. You who believe, be converted, and deepen your faith.

Mirjana has spoken with the same sense of immediacy: “I say to all people, ‘Convert’—the same as she did. ‘Convert while there’s still time.'”

The Medjugorjian message is not only personal and individual but universal in scope, as recorded in the message of April 1983:

The only word I wish to speak is for the conversion of the whole world. I wish to speak it to the whole world. I ask nothing but conversion…It is my desire…Be converted…Leave everything; that comes from conversion.

There is a desperate need for prayer for the conversion of sinners throughout the world. On several occasions Our Lady has requested a greater increase of prayer and penance for this specific cause: “Pray these days for the conversion of sinners” (August 2, 1984), and further, “Let all the prayers which you say in your houses in the evenings be for the conversion of sinners, because the world is in great sin” (October 8, 1984).

The depth of suffering and sorrow the Madonna has for the world is beautifully expressed in the message given through Jelena:

Where are your prayers? My gown which is usually radiant with light is now wet with tears. Oh, if you only knew how much the world sins; enter a little deeper into the world and you will see. It appears to you not to sin because you are in a peaceful world where there isn’t disorder. But how many have tepid faith, and so do not listen to Jesus. If only you knew how much I suffer, you would not sin again. Oh, how I need your prayers. Pray!

The means for true conversion—greater faith, prayer, penance, fasting, and the Sacrament of Penance—have been stressed by Our Lady since the beginning of the apparitions, June 26, 1981:

Men must be reconciled with God and with one another. For this to happen, it is necessary to believe, to pray, to fast, and to go to Confession.

Mary also gave directives for monthly sacramental Confession as a principal means of conversion.

Conversion to God and aversion from sin and self is synonymous with the Good News of salvation. Jesus appeared in Galilee proclaiming the good news of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The reign of God is at hand! Reform your lives and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15).

John the Baptist “proclaimed a baptism of repentance which led to forgiveness of sins” (Lk 3:3). He demanded some external sign of interior conversion of heart of the crowds that flocked to hear him:

You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance… Even now the axe is laid to the root of the tree. Every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Lk 3: 7-9).

Christ identifies His mission with the universal call to conversion in this passage from Luke 5:30-32:

Those who are well have no need for a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Jesus describes the heavenly joy over the conversion of a single sinner in the parable of the lost sheep:

Which one of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing… Just so I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Lk 15: 4-7).

Repentance is the essential scriptural element for true conversion. It brings about forgiveness of sins (Mk 1:4), and enables faith to grow to maturity (Mk 1:15). Consistent failure to repent or to turn continually from self to God will result in rejection by the Son of Man on the day of judgement (Mt 11:20-24; Lk 12:8-10). Jesus quickly eliminates the idea that those who die tragically are more in need of conversion than anyone else:

Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will likewise perish (Lk 13: 2-4).

The Medjugorjian theme of conversion stresses the same elements of repentance, faith, and the continual need to turn to God and away from sin as is found in the Gospels. Both emphasize the need to “hasten your conversion” or “likewise perish.”

The Peace of Christ

The most important theme of the Medjugorjian message is that of peace. However, it is also the most easily misunderstood aspect of the message. The peace Our Lady calls for is the peace of Christ in the soul and not primarily a social or world peace. The message accents interior peace as the spiritual fruit of greater faith, prayer, fasting, penance, and conversion. This is simply stated in an interview with Mirjana:

Father Vlasic: So the message of the Madonna is a message of peace?

Mirjana: Yes. Primarily peace of soul. If a person has it in his soul, he is surrounded by it.

A message reported by Jelena conveys this same emphasis. At one point Jelena began reading a book that discussed the possible contents of the third secret from the Fatima apparitions in 1917. She became anxious and afraid over the thought of world punishments and wars. When Our Lady spoke to her later that day, her message was:

Do not think about wars, chastisements, evil. It is when you concentrate on these things that you are on the way to enter into them. Your responsibility is to accept divine peace; to live it.

Divine peace of soul will triumph over all possible temporal disorders, including the chastisements contained in the ten secrets. Spiritual peace must be manifested in reconciliation among humanity. Thus prayer is an integral part of the call to peace:

Dear children, without prayer, there is no peace. Therefore, I say to you, dear children, pray at the foot of the cross for peace (Sept. 6, 1984).

The elements of world-wide, Christ-centered peace and the means to bring it about are evident in this early message from June 26, 1981:

Peace, peace, peace… nothing but peace. Men must be reconciled with God and with each other. For this to happen, it is necessary to believe, to pray, to fast, and to go to Confession. Go in God’s peace.

Many townspeople and pilgrims at Medjugorje reported seeing the word “MIR,” Croatian for peace, written in large letters in the sky on August 6, 1981. This phenomenon is part of the summons to peace, a sign in nature rather than a message in words.

The Madonna has identified herself as the “Queen of Peace,” and has requested June 25 to be a feast day honoring her as the Queen of Peace. Just as the title “Our Lady of the Rosary” summed up the Blessed Virgin’s message at Fatima, the title “Queen of Peace” signifies the importance this theme has in the message of Medjugorje.

The peace of Christ comes from greater prayer, fasting, penance, and conversion. Interior peace is the foundation for family peace, social peace, and even world peace.

The Gospels urge us to accept the gift of Christ’s peace into our hearts, a peace that is the goal of the Christian life.

Jesus describes peace as a serenity of heart that the world cannot give:

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give it to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (Jn 14:27).

It is significant that peace is the first word the Risen Christ spoke to His disciples. In the Gospel of John we read:

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them: “Peace be with you.” Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.” Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20: 19-20, 26).

During His public ministry, Christ gave His gift of peace to individuals often in connection with miracles and healings. This is evident in the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage: “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mk 5: 34); and in the pardon of Christ to the penitent woman who anointed Him: “And He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace'” (Lk 7:50).

The gift of peace seems to have entered the world from the very moment of Christ’s birth, as proclaimed by the multitude of angels in their Christmas praise: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Lk 2:17).

The disciples were to bring the gift of peace to those with open hearts:

Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace be to this house!” And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you (Lk 10: 5-6).

The individual’s peace should even surpass that of family, of community, and of society. The peacemakers are praised in the Beatitudes for bringing about social peace (Mt 5:9); Christ proclaims the need for the “salt of the earth” to remain in peace among themselves (Mk 9: 50).

The peace the Christian experiences in this world is a foreshadowing of the ultimate peace to be experienced in the glory of eternal life. The Canticle of Zechariah points to peace as the goal for those followers of the Lord who will “… give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:79).

Yet, the Gospels state that not all will accept the peace of Christ. As Jesus neared the city of Jerusalem, he wept in sorrow for those who refused to accept His message of peace. Their rejection of Christ and His way of peace eventually led to the destruction of Jerusalem. Our own generation would do well to reflect upon the sorrowful words of Jesus, “Would that even today you know the things that make for peace” (Lk 19: 41).

Despite the turmoil of the world, Christ assures His followers of His final victory over earthly tribulation through the peace found only in Him:

I have said this to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (Jn 16:33).

Peace as a divine gift from Christ, peace as a goal of the Christian life, and social peace as a result of interior peace—are all present in the Gospels. There is a notable conformity to the Gospel in the message of peace attributed to “Mary, Queen of Peace.” It is evident that the way the message of Medjugorje speaks of faith, prayer, fasting, penance, conversion, and peace is solidly grounded in the heart of Sacred Scripture.

It is also worthy of note that the Medjugorjian message seems to be a calling for a return to the more committed ascetical practices of the early Church. This is seen, for example, in the request for Wednesday and Friday fasts. Certainly the fiber of Christian living in the first centuries of the faith, in generosity of prayer and penance, stands as a convicting example for contemporary Christians who have discarded these ascetical practices. The eternal truths of the Gospel decisively dispel any notion that the authentic Christian life can be bereft of committed faith, prayer, fasting, penance, conversion and peace.

This article was excerpted from Introduction to Medjugorje, Queenship, 2004.