Sr Janja Boras is a Sister at the Franciscan Friary, Medjugorje. She is in charge of the parish there which has 2,500 members living in scattered hamlets. The following is an interview given by her to Fr George Tutto, parish priest of St Patrick's, Leicester.
Fr Tutto: Sr Janja, I do not wish to ask questions about details of the Medjugorje apparitions, but about the deeper significance of these events, raising perhaps one or two problems as well.
This extraordinary claim, unique in the history of the Church, that Our Lady has been appearing to five or six young people, daily, for nearly three years. What is its significance and purpose? Is Our Lady training these young people, or, are these daily apparitions only of repetitive nature, like words of greetings, praying together, words of encouragement and the like? If she is in fact doing some spiritual formation in these young people, is it possible to know more about it, so that it could be useful for the spiritual formation of other young people?
Sr Janja: First, these children have been seeing the Mother of God for such a long time, I believe they are telling the truth. There are matters, however, like the ten secrets, the life of Our Lady and the children's own personal lives, they don't talk about, These and other communications are not repetitions. We don't look at these daily encounters as repetition; we simply see that Mary in the Mother of the Church, Mother of us, the Mother of these children who comes to see them every day.
If we consider that God loves us so much that he laid down his life for us, and that now his Mother is coming to us saying that "you have to change your life, you have to go back to the Gospel", it means that she is a Mother, a friend to us, and I cannot think of this as repetition.
I can only think of love, in a special time, in the twentieth century, in a time when so many people say there is no God.
Fr Tutto: In England we have the problems not only those caused by secularism and the technological age, but also, in the Church, the lapsing, the boredom etc. of our young people, in our schools and in the whole system.
We priests find it very difficult how to give them the message of Christ, the message of the Gospels in an attractive and acceptable way. What I have seen and experienced here in Medjugorje is something quite different. I have met a large group of students who are all radiating something simply beautiful. Sr Janja: These young people have found something here which people in other parts of the world, might not find so easily.
The main reason for it is that they stick to the first message of Our Lady: "search for peace, do pray, do convert, and straighten out your faith". Those people you refer to have accepted this first and major message of the Blessed Mother of God, right from the beginning. These people do pray. I know many who pray at least three hours a day. And it is not boring.
Once you decide to follow
Christ through penance, through prayer, through conversion, then you will never be bored, because every day is a new day, and I found, especially here among young people that they are full of life, they do know what to do with their lives, and the message they live is a proof of their witnessing which no one can deny or take away from them.
They are not afraid of any kind of punishment, sacrifice, or persecution, because they found a friend, they feel so secure, it is amazing.
Fr Tutto: In the English versions of the texts we can read about concerning the apparitions. I wonder whether there may be some mistaken translation, or a wrong emphasis.
There is too much point being made about the forthcoming threat of disaster. Should one read it in an indicative sense, i.e. that it will happen, or, is it just a warning, but this is not the main thing. It could be read as spiritual blackmail, and that can give a negative impression about the whole message.
Sr Janja: Our Blessed Mother did not come to us to scare or blackmail us. She came as a mother to tell us that we are on the wrong track, that we are in the wrong direction, and that we have to convert to change and to get back to the Lord and back to ourselves.
She came to ask us to work for peace. She presents herself as Queen of Peace. We can conclude, and even the people who read the mis-translations can conclude that the world is in such a bad state that we have to do everything to prevent war and catastrophe. But this is not blackmail.
Our Blessed Mother is calling us to more and more fervent prayer for peace, but first of all for inner peace, individual peace. World peace depends on individuals, not on weapons, but on people. And the individual should acquire inner peace, spiritual peace. If a person is in sin, realising it through his conscience, it is more than any other catastrophe, more than any war, because you live in catastrophe within yourself already, and the Blessed Mother calls us to conversion to avoid this kind of threat and blackmailing, to come back to God.
She has told the children "I did not come to tell you something new. I came to call you back to the Gospel and to do what my Son tells you in the Gospels."
Of course, there are some misunderstandings about catastrophe, wars, and so on, but that is not what the message gives. Of course there are conflicts, wars and disputes, but as Christians, we have to be happy. Our Blessed Mother never talks here in Medjugorje negatively, she always talks to the children with hope, "Look for hope, took for Jesus Christ, look for God".
Her message here is a happy one, "do convert, do pray, do come and find peace." The sooner you find this in your life, all the problems become smaller, or you can solve them easily.
Fr Tulle: Thank you, Sister, for your word of hope. Finally, may I ask you about yourself. Could you say something about how you found faith here and peace, and how do you manage, because you are so patient and available to everyone? How did this wonderful experience here affect you?
Sr Janja: It is hard to talk about myself, but at least I can tell you that I was born here and raised up in a large family. My mother died when I was born, and my sisters took care of me. In my eighteenth year I entered a convent, and two years later I was sent to America as a missionary nun. I worked there for nine years and came back. Three years ago I was assigned to work here.
We have a lot of work to do. We have no schedule or working hours. we are busy day and night, but all of us are very happy, because we have a very fulfilling job. What we are doing is not just our own doing, somebody very strong helps us.
We do pray a lot, we should pray more, but we just have not enough time. The strength we search for is through prayer and devotion to Jesus and the Blessed Mother.
Fr Tutto: Sister, what are your hopes?
Sr Janja: My hopes are positive. I feel, going back to the Gospel, "by your deeds you will be recognised". The Medjugorje message is for good. We are sure we are in the hands of God, so I have nothing to worry about at all. Whatever happens, we will survive, we will be happy. Again we ask for support through prayer, and also ask for prayers for the pilgrim, people who come here, the thousands who find here their peace, their happiness, their health, their inner healing. And that is our support. We believe that when two or three of us are together with Jesus in prayer, then we are a large family in the whole world, we are strong.
Fr Tutto: It is a wonderful thought to end with. Thank you and God bless you.
Sr Janja: God bless you too. Peace be with you.