Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Apparition Hill 
Apparition Hill  (written and directed by Sean Bloomfield) is an excellent documentary about the Madjugorje Apparitions enjoyed a week-long run recently at the Laemle Town Center Theatre in the San Fernando Valley here in Los Angeles. Many viewers would / will be surprised.
A Catholic would have to have been living under a rock for the last 30-40 years to not know of the Madjugorje Apparitions and unsurprisingly they have proven to be about as divisive in the Church as anything that one could possibly imagine. Honestly, no matter what position one could take on the still ongoing Apparitions, one is more or less certain to be dismissed by a large percentage of contemporary Catholics.
So in this regard, I do want to thank the writer / director and his crew for making this remarkably accessible arguably "Reality Show style" documentary about the phenomenon.
The project began with the film-makers publicizing a contest: send us a short video explaining why we should pick you to go with six others on an all-expenses paid week-long pilgrimage to Madjugorje. Yes, they advertised this contest in English language generally Conservative Catholic media, which would _somewhat_ limit "the pool of contestants." On the other hand, two of the seven people they picked, one from England, the other a police officer from Chicago, were basically young / middle-aged skeptics who thought that their families (or _inlaws_) "were NUTS" :-) to be taken up by the Madjugorje phenomenon (and PLENTY of rank-and-file Catholics, both Madjugore-philes and non, could EASILY relate to them and their families ;-). Could the two have been feigning their skepticism? If so, honestly, film-makers look these two up, because they would have given Oscar level performances here. Among the others were a husband and wife, with the wife suffering from Stage 4 Cancer and another a middle aged man suffering from advanced ALS. There was also a young woman, Catholic Convert, from a Mennonite background, who just found "the whole focus on Mary" to still "be odd" (and arguably heretical).
So the film-makers picked well.
Then skeptics of the phenomenon WOULD BE SHOCKED, HONESTLY SHOCKED, to see Madjugorje looking NOTHING LIKE one _could_ imagine it to be (filled with a multitude of "old ladies" hobbling up some random hill in still medieval, still bombed-out former Yugoslavia (from the _still_ quite recent wars there) _snarling_ that those relatives _not_ with them were almost certainly going to Hell when they came home ;-). INSTEAD FOLKS, Madjugorje turns out to look like a quiet, thoroughly modern, "Olympic Village" -- think of Nagano or Lillehammer filled in good part by SMILING YOUNG PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. A miraculous, wrought-metal statue of Jesus in the center square (it "weeps" water, "sometimes...," strangely) out of the back of one of his knees ;-), could have been made by Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dalí ;-). Yes, the trek up the Apparition Hill is still precarious -- honestly looked as if it could have been "sent over" from Mel Gibson's set for the Passion of the Christ. I _know_ (EVER _NICE_, SMILING! ;-) "old ladies" who've visited Madjugorje (repeatedly) and I honestly marvel, now, that they could have gone up said hill ;-). And then the group's conversations with one of the visionaries, again ever-smiling, ever-nice were also very nice. (I knew that from before ... that the visionaries from Madjugorje were _always_ reported to be really nice, ever-smiling people)..
All in all, this film, _can_ make one "think" ... I myself have never been to Madjegorje (mostly honestly because of time) and I'm _not_ necessarily someone who'd be "naturally predisposed" to believe in these Apparitions. Indeed, with a science background, and _generally_ on the "pro-Vatican II Council" side of the contemporary Catholic Church divide, I'd be _assumed_ to be "on the skeptics' / rejectionist side" (by both sides in the argument). HOWEVER, over the years, I've known a lot of good people, good parishioners, who've gone to Madjugorje, generally _repeatedly_, and I've seen over the years THE GOOD WORKS that MOST OF THESE SMILING "MAGJEGORJE PEOPLE" DO on a routine, day-to-day basis. As such, I came to the film "with an open mind" and LEFT HONESTLY SURPRISED / IMPRESSED. I now understand better WHY so many people who go to Madjugorje return there over, and over again. It's lovely, beautiful, peaceful, modern ... emphatically _not_ a "condemnation of our time" ... instead, a vision of what our time could be.
Oh, yes, did the lady with Stage 4 cancer (or the guy with ALS) get healed? No. At least she died a month or two after her trip. But anyone with a heart would see that the trip, the pilgrimage, was worth it anyway. We do say that Healing involves far more than the physical. It was obvious that she died in peace, and her family was in greater peace as well.
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