A Croatian woman says she sees the Virgin Mary on a daily basis. In doing so she drew a whole lot of people to a small Alabama town, with many of them traveling long distances to be near the self-proclaimed visionary. The fact that Roman Catholic leaders have discredited private visions has not stopped 60 volunteers at Caritas of Birmingham from working year-round to organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje in Croatia and running an extensive religious printing operation.

While I do believe there are times when Christ or the Virgin Mary may appear in response to a private prayer, I do not believe that one should continue draw the masses for such personal visions.  By doing so, this Croatian woman reminds me of a lot of Benny Hinn.

Dateline NBC reported in December 2002 that Benny Hinn has been scamming people for their money, falsely claiming healing that cannot be proved.  Mr. Hinn was asked to provide medical proof of the miracles he and his follower claim to be experiencing, but to date not one shred of definitive evidence has been provided. Still Mr. Hinn’s continues to draw millions of followers.

 In truth, many claim to have seen Jesus or the Virgin Mary.

Diane Duyser of Florida claimed her grilled cheese sandwich had the image of the Virgin Mary. Duyser claimed her sandwich had mystical power and actually helped her $70,000 at a nearby casino. Apparently in accordance to proper Christian ethics, she put that puppy (i.e, sandwich) up for sale on eBay and received $28,000.  Jesus once appeared on a dumpling. And of course, wanting to spread the passion of Christ, the owner sold it on eBay, receiving $1,775.

Jesus has also been known to show up on a Walmart receipt, an MRI, an iron, cat’s fur, in a bag of Cheetos and a frying pan. Likewise, the Virgin Mary has popped up on windows, the African sky and on top of a Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt – for two years, etc., etc., etc.

From a scam perspective, all I can say is, “Don’t believe these people.”  Why?  Because on the second day of the Croatian’s Alabama visit, she announced the Virgin would appear at 6:40 p.m. As about 2,500 people gathered to pray in a field decorated with a statue of Mary, each prayed the rosary. The Croatian entered the room, prayed aloud, fell silent, moved her lips and looked upward. In end, the Croatian said, “She blesses you all.” That’s sort of like saying, “Thanks for coming folks and have a good trip back.”

Seriously, give me a frick’n break. Hell, I could do that.  I could even cook a cheese sandwich, wave it over your head and say, “Alleluia!”  From my perspective, it’s no different than what Hinn or this woman provided.

In truth, if you want to find Christ, follow his commands (Mathew 6:6), “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Truly, God will probably not bless you because of a burnt cheese sandwich, a dumpling or Walmart receipt. God is more readily to be found in an intimate heart-filled conversation of prayer and love, between Father and child.

It is the intimacy that a door unto another world opens. This interaction is so dynamic that not even a Croatian woman in a field will ever fulfill.