About the role of mass-medias in spreading of the message of Medjugorje
Hans Schotte, 1995
Nowhere in the world has Our Lady ever spoken for such a long time and through so many messages to the people of this earth. This fact alone is so unique that it makes us wonder. The Messages have nothing spectacular nor sensational in them, as we journalists expect and as we are used to in news broadcasting. Many Messages are repetitions, deepening of the same content, offering help to make even the smallest step in faith; they are repeated invitations finally to do and to live what Our Lady already invited us to live. She motivates us again and again to turn to her to learn how to believe, to find Jesus, to find ourselves. All this is not particularly interesting for the demands of a journalist. No wonder, because the Messages are not passing news which seem a sensation today and become "cold coffee" tomorrow, according to the proverb: "There is nothing as old as yesterday's newspaper." The Messages are not like that. They are supports and helps to grow continually and in simplicity.
It caused a sensation when the apparitions in Medjugorje lasted several days longer than in other similar places of apparitions. It was a sensation when they lasted 5 years. On the 10th anniversary, it was a sensation again. Maybe the same thing will happen at the 15th anniversary, if the apparitions continue. In the meantime, Medjugorje lives a daily life, which is of little interest for journalists. It is the daily life of millions of efforts to pray, to live the Gospel, to love one's neighbour, to meet Jesus in little things of daily life, by the children, the women and the men, the visionaries and the priests. I think that I am allowed to say that today, after more than 5000 days of apparitions, we still cannot say what is the plan of the Gospa and where God is leading our world. We are still not able to realize the full dimension of the apparitions of Medjugorje; many things remain a secret hidden to our understanding. This is why we can continue to grow peacefully!
Our Lady does not overburden anyone. We learn in Medjugorje that she evidently has a lot of patience with us. God could change our world in three days or in an instant, and he could make it the way he would like it to be, but what would we, human beings, have to do with that? This, "what would we have to do with that", is what we call Freedom, highly respected and venerated by God, as we can experience it in Medjugorje. This freedom must also determine our own behaviour towards those who have turned away from God, who have been wounded by others in the name of God, who perhaps feel wounded by God himself. How many people turn away from God and from the Church because of the failings of those who represent them. We all know how difficult, sometimes how impossible it is to approach such persons. How can we know about others, the reasons for their wounds, why they are the way they are, since we do not know where we are wounded ourselves, and why it is difficult for us to accept the Messages and to live them. Gospa invites those of us who hear the Messages, to make the same steps, not to get tired, to begin again and again. We have no reason to consider ourselves as better, having a better faith, a more open heart than the rest of our society which doesn't hear, doesn't want to hear or has not yet heard the Messages. I am convinced that only the Messages themselves, and not us, can open to the people of our society the way towards God and the possibility of meeting him. As God has allowed us to feel his help through the Messages of Our Lady, so HE will himself touch every person of this earth and of our society with his love when HE wants to do so.
Does it mean that we have become useless for the New Evangelisation? What is our role, if in reality everything is in the hand of God and is his responsibility, if finally he alone can find the way towards those who turned away from him? Do we still have any responsibility, and where is it concerning our work with the great mass of the public and the spreading of the Messages? What about our responsibility and our work as journalists?
In European and American countries, News broadcasts have achieved an importance, which can hardly be exaggerated. One can say that we are exposed to an immense sea of news, which decides about our political, industrial and social life, and influences even our own private and personal life much more then we want to realize or to admit. Technical developments in the area of the electronic transmission of news, modern mass-medias, will in the near future make this influence total in a hardly imaginable way.
An army of journalists in the mass- medias: newspapers, TV, radio, take care of our daily information and disinformation. They reduce an immense quantity of information from all over the world into a quantity, which we can support, in the form of news. This selection is necessary. It demands a sense of responsibility and represents power. News is power and an object that can be bought and sold, a thing on the market.
Those who work with news and journalists, decide in large measure what will be spoken about in a society. They create a theme out of news. What is not mentioned as news will not become a theme either. There is a opportunity but also a danger, a responsibility and a lack of responsibility.
Something can be most easily sold when it is interesting for the one who buys, when it seems unique or sensational. Nobody buys "old hats". What is normal cannot be sold, cannot be offered. This is why a simple information is often blown up into sensational dimensions, is more or less changed, made digestible, made better, modified, to be sold. The amount of news is growing, our ability to trust the truth of the news given is diminishing. People are more and more critical and sceptical, they want to check whether the news is true, whether what it says is real. We become sceptical. Not only because of the amount of information and the impression of being overburdened and of not being able to check its veracity, but mostly because of the form and formulation of the news and the credibility of its formulators. The question about the truth of news becomes the question of the credibility of its author. Aren't we more and more reserved in trusting information? Aren’t we more and more sceptical about what is proposed to us as truth? But isn't it also true that we have the tendency to trust unconditionally those whom we have decided to trust?
It can be noticed that the lack of trust is growing in our society. People feel abused, disappointed and wounded because of inexact and wrong information. They are also wounded because of the choice: it means not only because of what is said but also because of what is hidden and not published. A survey should be made about, how much people are wounded because of the primacy that is given to bad news before the good things in the world. How can a society develop positively in its consciousness of human and religious values, if positive things are not spoken about! With this background, the question of the meaning of Medjugorje and the Messages, as well as the form of their spread and publication seems important to think about.
A year ago, March 25th 1994, Gospa gave us a message which, I think, explains this problem very well: "Dear children, Today I rejoice with you and I invite you to open yourselves to me, and become an instrument in my hands for the salvation of the world. I desire, little children, that all of you who have felt the odour of holiness through these messages which I am giving you to carry, to carry it into this world, hungry for God and God's love. I thank you all for having responded in such a number and I bless you all with my motherly blessing. Thank you for having responded to my call."
Yes, we are not saviours of the world! We are instruments in her hands. The world is not in our hands. The salvation of the world is in her hands. Our part is to be instruments in her hands. Does this not mark at the same time the limits of our importance? We open ourselves to her to be instruments, and not to be formed as saviours of the world
I don't find in this Message any reproach addressed to our society concerning our preference for the negative, instead of the positive. I don't find any accusation for those who are responsible for the spreading of news. Gospa speaks rather about the nostalgia of human beings for the good, about this unconscious desire for holiness, about the hunger of humanity for God and for the love of God, for all that human beings cannot give. Gospa doesn't speak about negative tendencies in human beings, she sees what is good, she sees that point in human being where there salvation can be built, where they can begin to move towards the fullness of life and their own fulfilment. An instrument cannot behave in a different way from the hand that is leading it. Could we act differently (self-righteously, arrogantly, accusingly, without love) towards those who are loved by Gospa when Gospa herself is giving an example.
At the occasion of a meeting for priests in Paderborn (Germany), Paul Zulehner, professor for pastoral theology from Vienna (Austria) spoke about different forms of evangelisation to those who have turned away from the Church. He said that we should not run behind them trying to catch them again; the faster we run behind them, the faster they run away from us. I find much truth in this: we have to control our zeal and give place to God who alone knows how and when the meeting with God should happen. Our duty is to love people, with that we have enough to do.
While I was making a film about Medjugorje in 1984, I also visited the bishop of Mostar who at that time was Pavao Zanic. In our interview, he expressed his doubts and his opposition. I asked myself at that time why God, in his wisdom and his providence, before the apparitions, didn't choose a bishop who would make the apparitions in Medjugorje easier. According to human measure, this question could still be asked today. We think in a human way, and we do not understand why in his freedom God gives us our own freedom in this way. This is why we do not understand why it is the way it is, why people are the way they are. All this evidently does not play any role in God's plan of salvation. Maybe Vicka is right when she says that Gospa loves everybody in the same way, even if we do not love them. This is also a mystery, which will be revealed to us in the next world.
Our task is to follow the call of Mary, of Gospa, and to let her touch us with her Messages. Why should it be different with other people, those who have no experience of Medjugorje? They also should allow Gospa to touch them. Gospa calls, and we do not need to complete her call by trying to prove that she really and truly appears in Medjugorje. Don't we trust that she can call those whom we think should be called? One sometimes has the impression that Medjugorje is a territory where one can get hunting trophies. Isn't it possible that with such an attitude we close the way towards God for those to whom we want to transmit "our" Medjugorje? What is really interesting for our world today that hungers for God is the message that God is Love, that in spite of all human disappointments and wounds he loves every person individually and personally. What we need is the deep experience of this knowledge that is sleeping deeply in us. It doesn't seem necessary to try to make Medjugorje more interesting and more acceptable, with small sensations. There is a small chance to reach that point in the other that God himself has chosen to touch. Wouldn't it be enough to share without any exaggeration, and when we are asked, how did God touched us? Medjugorje will not become better nor more attractive if we decorate the events and the Messages with our own ideas. Medjugorje speaks for itself through the task that Our Lady has given to the parish. Last year's resolution also expresses it: Medjugorje does not need to be completed or corrected and it needs no addition. Medjugorje is authentic. The guarantee of this authenticity is the nearness to the Gospa.
There is the danger in the work of a journalist of trying to establish his credibility by giving the impression of dealing with particularly important or exclusive information which others do not have, of having a special source of information, and all this with the purpose of having his news accepted. In this job concerning news, exclusivity is a particularly efficient means to make oneself an interesting person. This pretended nearness to the source of information is often a self-deception and usually a sign of a deformed, manipulated and even false information, which spreads itself all the faster if the person who gives the information, has gained the trust of the public. Truth and untruth are independent of the nearness of the source of information. It serves the personal gain of the one who gives information, and has nothing to do with being an instrument in the hand of God. Such persons run the risk of becoming victims of their own uncontrolled "hunt fever".
I would like to make you aware of another danger in our work. Unfortunately, our experience shows that wrong information spreads faster than the right information. Perhaps it is linked to the fact that human beings are more open to unusual things than to what is normal. All those who work with spreading the news, journalists and others, have here a great responsibility. This is why I would suggest that different Medjugorje-Centres in the world should try to attract or to form journalists who are sufficiently formed and who have a sufficient knowledge of the job. It seems to me that the spreading of the faith and of the Messages is at least as important if not more important than the spreading of other news, a work that is usually done by very qualified specialists.
I would like to mention once again the Message of March 25th 1994. It says: "I wish, dear children, that all of you who have felt the perfume of holiness through the Messages that I give you, carry that into the world which hungers for God and his love." It says "all of you". Gospa speaks about all, and means all those who can receive Messages and who have recognized therein their responsibility. All are not charged with a public work, but all are public. And many people around us will observe us with an examining eye, to see whether Medjugorje is something they should have to do with themselves. Thus, all the more should we make our own the idea of being an instrument and allow the hand that guides the instrument to be visible. A tool should not deform the sight of the hand. The same is valid for the spirituality of Medjugorje. We are also responsible for the purity of the spirituality of Medjugorje. God speaks today through the apparitions and Messages in a modern, actual way, to our world, which is full of dangers for humanity, full of difficulties, which seem unsolvable within the Church, and with profound oppositions between peoples. Gospa speaks about the "Salvation of the world" which is necessary and intended by God. This is not an apocalypse. This is a call for a new beginning, a renewal of the world. With the sense of spirituality of renewal and not of the restoration of old times, we should try to distinguish and not confuse Medjugorje with other cases of apparitions. All of us who work with the public have the responsibility to take care so that the authentic spirituality of Medjugorje may continue to develop and that the Messages themselves may be put in the lime light, and not general desires which we often confuse with Medjugorje. Now when the apparitions are still continuing to take place, it doesn't make much sense to try to make the link between the content of the Messages and the general theology of salvation of the Church. Gospa has chosen this place to say what she is saying. She could have done it in another way. She has chosen Medjugorje as it is. We have to take it seriously.
This Message expresses that for a new age and for a new Church, God wants a renewed people. I am convinced that Medjugorje is not just a cosmetical correction of the Church or of the world in difficulties. The Messages say often that every person is called to the fullness of life in God. The Church will have a new face and a new figure. We are called to contribute to that and to think about and change the way we are living our job and its ways, traditions and laws. We should discover again the dignity of those who receive the news and out of respect and love for them, we should transmit true news, that whish can help them develop as human beings and can allow them to come closer to God. We should spread news that awakens and quenches the hunger for God and his love. Where can journalists develop who are conscious of such a responsibility, if not there where one can breath the fragrant perfume of holiness?
Hans Schotte, 1995
Hans Schotte - was born in 1944. He graduated from the Diocesan evening high school in Essen. He furthered studies in theology, philosophy and pedagogy, and went on to study the pedagogy of media the university at Bonn. After a number of years working in journalism and fulfilling the obligations as director of the diocesan office in Augsburg, he was involved in journalistic activities for the International Catholic Missionary Association "MISSIO", in Munich. In 1983 his work brought him again to Augsburg as pedagogue within media and televised journalism. He produced and directed over forty documentaries for television based on experiences on his many travels through Asia, Africa and South America. His office is one of help to the pedagogical function of the Church, and in this position he has made two coverages of Medjugorje as a place of pilgrimage. At the moment Hans is working on a new film about Medjugorje.