“If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household,
which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
1 Timothy 3:15
I made my first pilgrimage ever in September, 2018 to Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is a place of alleged apparitions of Our Lady that began in June of 1981.
I know some find this to be a controversial place, so this will be my only comment about it because in the end, if it is authentic, I have no need to defend it, God’s truth always wins. And whatever that truth may be, as revealed through God’s church, I will accept it.
I have read both pros and cons about Medjugorje and conflicting reports about all that has gone on there. Many others have already written about this.
As for me, in my prayer God tells me it is authentic. He tells me though, because of us and our sinful ways, it comes with all the muck of our modern era attached to it. By that I mean, whenever something great and Godly is happening, you can also count on people bringing their own mess to it. And you can count on Satan to attack it. There are two main reasons I believe it is authentic.
The first is the vocations to the priesthood I have personally seen come out of there. The priests who found their calling from there are numerous, and most telling is their acceptance of authentic Catholic Truth. On this alone, I can conclude something wonderful is happening there. If there is one thing I know, the devil does not want priests and is not going to be sending priests out in the world who preach authentic Catholic Truth.
The second is the main message of Medjugorje itself. Our Lady speaks of these 5 things, called the 5 stones:
- Prayer from the Heart.
- Mass and reception of the Holy Eucharist.
- Reading Scripture every day.
- Monthly Confession.
With all this in mind, I began my pilgrimage to Medjurgorje with an open heart and an open mind. It was my first time ever on an international flight (unless my honeymoon to Mexico counted, back when you didn’t need a passport to travel to Mexico.) I have to say, I used to suffer from great anxiety traveling. My anxiety about things would sometimes get to the point I cry and break down. But in my journey with God, He has slowly and gently walked me to a place of freedom. I had absolutely no anxiety at all about this trip – and I am telling you, that is a miracle.
It took over 24 hours to get there and we arrived late in the evening, after having to spend much of the trip surrendering to God the travel delays. The first thing I noticed about Medjugorje, even in our hotel, is the hospitality and the slower pace of life. Phones put away and relationships nurtured. A glass of wine and a conversation.
We had about 28 people on our pilgrimage including our priest and pilgrimage guide. Most were from one parish in our diocese, with a few others sprinkled in. I really didn’t know the people well, but by the time I left, they were friends.
My first full day there started with Mass – the English Mass at 10:00 a.m. This is something everyone just goes to every morning. It isn’t a question. Mass is so packed it overflows outside.
In the evening is International Mass and it is a sight to behold. It actually took my breath away to see this many people going to Mass, a daily Mass at that. There were, Croatians, Italians, Africans, Poles, Americans, Irish, Britons, Indians, Canadians, Germans, Chinese, I could go on. All there to worship God in the Mass.
The lines for confession were long. The Adoration Chapel was packed. It was commonplace to see people walking and reciting the Rosary. I could listen to the Croatian Rosary and respond in English. It was a vision of the Mystical Body of Christ. This is how we should all be living. This is how the Mother of God calls us to deep contemplative prayer and worship of her Son. Why in the world are the rest of us not living like this?
October 2 was the day of the apparition to one of the visionaries. I will pause here for a moment to say this: Mary’s appearance in any place has always been a call towards her Son. Though I of course wanted to be there for the apparition, it was the sight of the people praying in unison that captivated me the most.
Perhaps the biggest impression of all upon me was the faith of the people who lived there. They are just one generation away from communism. Their parish priest was jailed and tortured. The Franciscans were martyred nearby; the people woke to murdered priests. The pain was great, but the faith is authentic and unmistakable.
Left: The Franciscan Monastery of Siroki Brijeg. Middle: Franciscan Martyrs of Siroki Brijeg. Right: The cave where the bodies of the Franciscan Martyrs were burned by the communists.
As for my personal journey, this was a place of healing for me. When I climbed Apparition Hill I cried. I cried about my journey to cling to my faith and about how all of that was preparation for the times we are living in now in the church. I know it is through forgiveness and the sacramental life that we are free.
I had two very profound moments I will speak of. The first happened on October 2. I have felt the Lord lately tell me to “pay attention to the dogs.” Yes, the dogs. I know that is strange but it is what he said. I went to confession and was finishing up my penance when a dog walked past. The Lord told me to follow him, so I did. The dog took me to the middle of the field, where I saw the sun dance. It had a large white host in the center of it. And it danced a blazing pink, the color of joy. This is known as the miracle of the sun and many have experienced this in Medjugorje. Later when I looked at the cross on top of the mountain, it was also pink. I will only say this, it was joyful to be there because many things I have received in prayer seemed to come together in this place and start to make sense.
Left: At the top of Apparition Hill. Middle: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. Right: The cross on Krizevac in Medjugorje, marked "33-1933." Built in 1933 to honor the 1900th anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus who died on the cross at age 33.
The second moment was in climbing Cross Mountain and doing the Way of the Cross. I got to the sixth station, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus, and I recalled how my journey of faith really began with the murder of my friend Veronica. I prayed for her and I wept, again, hiding it from everyone. And I thanked God for the good He brought from such evil circumstances.
In the end, the message I have felt the Lord tell me over and over has been reinforced. Medjugorje’s message is clear. It is the age-old message of the church: Do God’s will. Live the sacramental life. Be a living sanctuary. Live in the Peace that surpasses all understanding.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.