“We have come here, to Medjugorje, to renew our faith in Jesus Christ.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, delivered these powerful words to over 50,000 young people from 54 countries. All were gathered in Medjugorje for the opening Mass of the 32nd annual Youth Festival, at which Cardinal Sarah was the main celebrant.
The sweltering summer heat of Bosnia-Herzegovina did not deter the young people from gathering this week, from August 1-6, 2021, to celebrate the great joy of being a disciple of Christ. At a time in human history when the world has endured tremendous suffering and so many have found it easy to walk away from the Church, the gathering of these young people presents a powerful sign to the world: the Church is ALIVE, and we need her!
At the start of the Mass, the Apostolic Nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, presented a beautiful gift and surprise to the gathered crowd: a letter of greeting from the Holy Father, Pope Francis. In his letter, he stated:
“The Youth Festival is a week of fervent, devoted prayer and encounter with Jesus Christ, especially in His living Word, in the celebration of the Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This event – according to the experience of many – has the power to direct us to the Lord.” You can read the Pope’s letter in its entirety here.
This message from our Holy Father, and the presence of high-ranking Church leaders, brought overflowing joy to the hearts of the attendees and the millions who followed these events via live streaming on the internet. The attention and focus of these beloved shepherds give a clear indication to the world about the role and importance of Medjugorje in the Church.
Over 300 priests traveled to Medjugorje for the Youth Festival as well, acting as the hands of Christ, offering love and peace to souls in need. Through the sacramental life of the Church, Medjugorje has always been a powerful place of conversion, reconciliation, and healing. Never more so than in these times, however, are we in need of the heavenly graces which God is pouring out in this simple Bosnian village, which St. John Paul II once called “the spiritual center of the world.”
On the second day of the Youth Festival, Fr. Miljenko Steko, the Provincial of the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province, said in his homily:
“Let us recall how many young people who have gone astray found their way back to God here in Medjugorje. How many dramatically changed their lives after the profound conversions of minds and hearts. This is where they felt His merciful gaze full of love, His forgiveness. It was here that so many discovered the invitation to priesthood and religious life and they generously and without hesitation placed themselves at the Lord’s disposal in consecrated life.”
This is why Our Lady came to Medjugorje: to invite each one of us to a new life in Christ; to encounter the merciful gaze of the Father; to experience the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to do things which we are incapable of doing on our own. Medjugorje is a place of God’s special intervention in our times. Let us be open to the messages of the Queen of Peace, and allow God, through Our Lady’s intercession, to change our lives, and to lead us into the tremendous joy of a deeper life in Christ.