*Tony Malone praying at his home in Labasheeda. Photograph: John Mangan
A LABASHEEDA man has spoken publicly for the first time about seeing Our Lady while on a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Retired suckler farmer, Tony Malone was in Međugorje for the fourth time last September and he left with quite the story to tell after witnessing a vision of Our Lady, an event he has only retold to a handful of people before making contact with The Clare Echo.
On June 24, 1981, six youths between the ages of 10 and 16 claimed to have witnessed the apparitions of the Virgin Mary on the Podbrdo Hill in Međugorje. The Marian shrine of Međugorje has become a popular pilgrimages site for Catholics and has turned into Europe’s third most important apparition site, where each year more than 1 million people visit. It has been estimated that 30 million pilgrims have come to Međugorje since the reputed apparitions began in 1981. Pope Francis has previously said the original reported visions at Medjugorje merit continued investigation, but cast doubt on claims of ongoing apparitions at the site, which continues to attract thousands of pilgrims annually.
For Tony Malone, it was the 8th of September 2022 when he had the apparition. “Our Lady’s birthday was on the 8th of September, it was a Saturday evening and I thought to go for a lie-down but I changed my mind. I was with two girls, one from Kerry and one from Cork, Lisa and Mary, the next thing we were going towards the church and someone said ‘the sun is dancing in the sky’, we looked and there was Our Lady, she was all in blue, she had a white ribbon down, she was there for about ten minutes, the clouds moved back and she was there all in white, there was a little brightness in the background and then she disappeared”.
His two companions had a different experience, “Mary saw our Lord’s face, Lisa didn’t see it at all, a few people didn’t see it but I did see her, that was the first time I ever saw Our Lady in Međugorje”. He continued, There was no big crowds around, she appeared, the bell rings at twenty to six for them, it was only by pure chance that I happened to go out that way and see it”.
It was a whirlwind of emotions for Tony, “I was cool, calm and collective like I am always, I just said ‘there’s Our Lady up in the sky’. I saw our blessed lady. The sun was dancing, then we looked up, the clouds moved and went in, she came out then”. He added, “I haven’t seen her before or since, I was speechless, I couldn’t say anything. I got caught for words”.
No words were said by Our Lady for his apparition, “She was up in the sky, she was a bit away. She was standing up straight and I thought she was beautiful, her hands were together”. He added, “The sun moved back and the clouds moved back as well, she came forward”.
Telling people about his experience hasn’t been on the agenda for Tony, until now. “I’ve told a few people but you wouldn’t know how to describe it”. On his reasons for waiting a year before relaying what he saw, he remarked, “I said I’d mention it anyway because it is a story and people might be interested in it, people might come to me to talk about something or about their experiences”.
“I know a lot of people will be giving out but I’ll say no more on that. I got good strength from it so I keep out and keep going, I get on with my life,” Malone said.
His faith was strengthened after the events of September 8th last year, he admitted. “I go to mass here every Saturday night, I like to keep it up, I know a lot of people are gone from the faith and from religion, I do my best, I go to mass every weekend”. He added, a lot of people are gone from the church, they only go for occasions”.
Walking down the road to St Kieran’s Church every Saturday evening for mass has been a constant in his life. “I’ve went to mass all my life, I pray in silent and things like that or an odd Hail Mary”.
Declining numbers at mass has been observed by the seventy three year old. “It isn’t easy like everything else, I know people have their own religion, I know a lot of people don’t go to mass but they might say their prayers on the quiet or say the Rosary now and again. I think people should go back to the church, I know a lot have gone with what happened years ago but that is gone now and I don’t want to talk about it. People are well-gone from religion because they don’t want to go to mass anymore”.
Lourdes has also been visited by the West Clare bachelor on four occasions. “I got a cure there. My aunt died in 2007 and I was all emotional over the whole thing, someone said to go to the baths, they take off your clothes and put a towel around your waist, they put me into the water where it is very cold, you stay there for a minute or two, I didn’t have to dry myself, I just put my clothes on again and I went out I was able to say goodbye to it all”.
In 2021 he had another “experience” in Međugorje. He recalled, “I had one experience before, the year before I was above in Blue Cross, I turned around and there was this man all in white, he said ‘hello how are things’, the next thing I was going to ask was he one of the visionaries and he disappeared, they were the only two experiences I ever had in Međugorje”.
No sightings of Our Lady have been recorded by Tony since that faithful day last September. “Someone would love if she appeared in Labasheeda,” he quipped.