National Geographic : 2015 Dec
36 national geographic • december 2015 and free? I was like, Wait a minute, what just happened to me? Why is that?” The next morning, with his friends Rob and Kevin, he met another of the “visionaries,” Vicka Ivankovic-Mijatovic, in a jewelry shop and asked for her help. Gripping his head with one hand, she appealed to the Virgin Mary to ask God to cure him. Boyle said he experienced an unusual sensation right there in the store. “She starts to pray over me. Rob and Kevin put their hands on me, and the heat that went through my body from her praying was causing them to sweat.” Back in Boston a week later, a CT scan at Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that his tumors had shrunk to almost nothing. Since then, Boyle has been back to Medjugorje 13 times. “I’m a regular guy,” he said. “I like to play hockey and drink beer. I play golf.” But, he con- tinued, “I had to change things in my life.” Today, Boyle said, he’s become “a sort of mouthpiece for Jesus Christ’s healing power and of course the Mother and the power of her intercession.” Praying for the Virgin Mary’s intercession and being devoted to her are a global phenom- enon. The notion of Mary as intercessor with Jesus begins with the miracle of the wine at the wedding at Cana, when, according to the Gospel of John, she tells him, “They have no wine,” thus prompting his first miracle. It was in A.D. 431, at the Third Ecumenical Council, in Ephesus, that she was officially named Theotokos, Bearer of God. Since then no other woman has been as ex- alted as Mary. As a universal symbol of maternal love, as well as of suffering and sacrifice, Mary is often the touchstone of our longing for meaning, a more accessible link to the supernatural than formal church teachings. Her mantle offers both security and protection. Pope Francis, when once asked what Mary meant to him, answered, “She is my mamá.” Her reported appearances, visions experi- enced often by very poor children living in re- mote or conflict-wracked areas, have intensified her mystery and aura. And when the children can’t be shaken from their stories—especially if the accounts are accompanied by inexplica- ble “signs” such as spinning suns or gushing springs—her wonder grows. Mary is everywhere: Marigolds are named for her. Hail Mary passes save football games. The image in Mexico of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most reproduced female likenesses ever. Mary draws millions each year to shrines such as Fátima, in Portugal, and Knock, in Ire- land, sustaining religious tourism estimated to be worth billions of dollars a year and providing thousands of jobs. She inspired the creation of many great works of art and architecture (Mi- chelangelo’s “Pietà,” Notre Dame Cathedral), as well as poetry, liturgy, and music (Monteverdi’s Vespers for the Blessed Virgin). And she is the spiritual confidante of billions of people, no matter how isolated or forgotten. Muslims as well as Christians consider her to be holy above all women, and her name “Maryam” appears more often in the Koran than “Mary” does in the Bible. In the New Tes- tament Mary speaks only four times, begin- ning with the Annunciation, when, according to Luke’s Gospel, the angel Gabriel appears to her and says she will bear “the Son of the Most High.” Mary answers, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.” Her only extended speech, also in MICHAEL O’NEILL IS THE VIRGIN MARY’S BIG DATA NUMBERS CRUNCHER. ON MIRACLEHUNTER.COM, HE HAS CODIFIED EVERY KNOWN APPARITION OF MARY BACK TO A.D. 40.