For the past three years as fall approached, I found myself eagerly awaiting a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. The visits to the small village in Bosnia-Herzegovina completely changed my life. Amid the chaos and confusion going on now in the world with the pandemic, social unrest and the upcoming election, I find myself yearning for Medjugorje.
I yearn for the slow pace, the focus on faith, the encounter with the Sacraments, the fellowship with others and the quiet unending prayer time. I yearn to be surrounded by others who are searching for answers through the lens of faith. I yearn to sit shoulder to shoulder in St. James Church during the holy Mass. I yearn to be at the top of Apparition Hill in the peaceful silence to simply sit in the presence of God.
Medjugorje is a place to encounter Jesus in profound ways as the Blessed Mother points us directly towards her Son. Upon leaving, each pilgrim takes the “peace” of Medjugorje home in their heart. It is a “peace” that strengthens us to face daily obstacles with a joyful, hopeful and loving heart. But what happens when we go back to the real world and we begin to lose our Medjugorje peace? Or what if you’ve never visited the tiny village, but still want to experience Medjugorje peace?
Here are some ways to encounter Medjugorje “peace” at home.
- Take care of your heart and mind. At the beginning of our quarantine, I began the process to become a certified life coach. This process taught me that we have to be aware of our thoughts and feelings. So many times we move on autopilot by reacting to our emotions or situations around us without truly experiencing them. By taking care of our heart and mind we take captive our thoughts and feelings.
An easy way to be more aware is to journal. Simply write down everything you are thinking or feeling. Don’t judge, don’t edit…..simply write. Once we see things on paper it is easier to discern which thoughts are true or false. Self-awareness is the first step to building a healthier relationship with ourselves. This relationship is the foundation for all of our other relationships. As we take these thoughts captive, we can then take them to prayer for more insight and direction.
- Pray, Pray, Pray. Prayer can be defined as an intimate relationship with God in which we open our hearts and minds to the Father and in return allow him to speak to us. At times we can fall into the habit of allowing our prayer time to consist of reciting rote prayers and telling God what we need him to do. This type of prayer is one-sided as it leaves God out. Do you have a friend who talks all the time, everything is about them and they don’t recognize you in the conversation? I imagine that is how God feels at times.
Prayer has to become part of our everyday life. An intimate prayer life takes time to form. We must set aside uninterrupted time each day to sit in silence. In this time we share with God our heart and mind. We tell him our feelings, our thoughts, our worries, our blessings, our everything….without holding anything back. Then as we sit in the silence we allow God to speak to us. In the quiet, we sit in “peace” knowing that he is present in our lives. The climb up Apparition Hill can be physically challenging. As you turn the corner and see the Blessed Mother overlooking the village it is worth every bit of effort. Pilgrims from all over the world sit in prayerful silence and look out over the village as the world tends to fade away. It is in that moment that the “peace’ of God fills your heart.
As we nurture our relationship with God, we learn to recognize his voice in Scripture, in conversations with others, in the Sacraments, in songs, in nature, spiritual reading, etc. Once we create an honest relationship with God, we can sit back and be filled with his “peace” no matter where we are on the globe.
- Experience the Sacraments. The sacraments are the heart and soul of our church. The Sacraments give us the opportunity to experience Jesus on a deep intimate level. St. James Church is the heart and soul of Medjugorje as it sits in the middle of the village. The tall spires can be seen from all over as a sign of welcome. Each day pilgrims flock to Mass in their native language. The church is literally packed and overflowing in the courtyards surrounding it. As we push our way into the church to find a seat, I often find myself thinking that if churches were overflowing throughout the world, we would have much fewer problems.
Going to Mass doesn’t solve our problems, but it gives us a different lens from which to view them. It is a lens of trust. Medjugorje is filled with priests from all over the globe. The priests are part of the Mass celebrations each day, as well as spending hours in the confessionals to minister to the thousands of pilgrims who seek the sacrament of Reconciliation. There are abundant graces flowing through Medjugorje because of Reconciliation, the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. These same graces are available to us in our home parish, where the heart and soul of our faith can be found. We simply need to be present to be filled with the Medjugorje “peace.”
We don’t have to travel hours and hours to a foreign land to experience the “peace” of Medjugorje. We can experience that same peace as we spend time in quiet reflection, nurture our prayer life, and participate in the Sacraments. The same graces from Medjugorje will wash over us and we will come to know a deeper more intimate relationship with the Father.
Jennie Guinn has worked with Tekton Ministries to organize several trips with her parish in Nashville, Tennessee to Medjugorje. Her life has been forever changed by encountering the love of Our Lady in this small Bosnian village. Jennie loves to share her love of Medjugorje with anyone who will listen, especially those who have not yet visited, and encourages them to one day make a pilgrimage there as well. You can read this article in its original location and see more of Jennie's writing at jennieguinnlifecoach.com