Showing posts with label Medjugorje. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Medjugorje. Show all posts

Friday, November 29, 2019

Otherwordly Peace and Vibrant Faith Characterize Medjugorje

I recently led a pilgrimage to Medjugorje with 30 participants. In Medjugorje, the Virgin Mary is known as the Kraljica Mira - or the Queen of Peace. "Peace" is the word I would most use to characterize Medjugorje. However, the word falls short, because human language cannot express the deep, all-pervading sense of peace that reigns in that town.

The life of Medjugorje revolves entirely around Catholic sacraments and devotions. Daily Mass is held in multiple languages, including English, Polish, Italian, French, and German. At the evening international Mass, simultaneous translation is provided in various languages via radio. The multitudes of pilgrim groups also say Mass in their own languages. The two main venues for the liturgies are St. James Church in the center of town and the open air chapel behind the church. The church building is not adequate to hold the crush of people seeking to participate, so most Masses are packed beyond capacity, with not even standing room left. The open air seating can hold about 5,000 people, and the seats are often filled.

5,000 people for just one of the many daily Masses... 5,000 people praying the Rosary together on a weeknight... 5,000 people worshipping together in a guided Holy Hour for Adoration... 5,000 pilgrims venerating the Holy Cross in unison on a Friday... Multitudes of priests sit for hours to hear the confessions for pilgrims in various languages. In fact, Medjugorje is know as the Confession capital of the world. What is more, many of the pilgrims here are very young, in contrast to other pilgrimages sites I have visited, like Lourdes and Fatima, where the pilgrims tend to be much older.

At the edge of town stands what the locals call Apparition Hill. According to the visionaries, it was on this hill that the Blessed Virgin Mary started appearing in 1981. Today, a statue of the Queen of Peace, erected by the Korean Catholic community, marks the spot where the first seven apparitions are said to have occurred. The Vatican Commission tasked with examining the Medjugorje phenomenon has recently recommended that the Church approve the first seven apparitions as authentic, while continuing to study the claims of the ongoing apparitions.

Pilgrims ascend Apparition Hill day and night, in groups or alone, to pray. The hill is covered with jagged rocks and prickly bushes, but no path has been made, except by the feet of the 40 million or so pilgrims who have climbed to the spot where the statue of the Queen of Peace stands today. The locals have erected panels depicting the mysteries of the Rosary to aid the pilgrims in their prayers. Some lights have also been added to help pilgrims with their nighttime prayer walks. Day and night, the Rosary, along with many other prayers, is being said on this hill - and elsewhere too in Medjugorje. In fact, the only challenge in praying the Rosary in public in this town is that your prayer is likely to get mixed up with the prayers of two or three other groups who might also be praying out loud near you.

Multitudes of pilgrims also ascend Cross Mountain, where, on a much higher spot, stands a concrete cross that the locals built back in the 1930's. Today, the cross is illuminated at night, and it is the most prominent landmark in the area. As many have remarked, the arrangement of the cross versus the statue on Apparition Hill is very much consistent with Marian theology. Mary is prominent, but she is not the most prominent - she points to the Holy Cross, which is the source of our salvation.

As on Apparition Hill, no path has been made on Cross Mountain, except by the feet of the pilgrims. Multitudes climb the steep mountain, ascending up the harsh rocks amid the prickly bushes. Many do so barefoot as an extra penance. Panels depicting the Stations of the Cross have been placed along the way to aid the pilgrims in their prayer. Thousands upon thousands pray the Stations as they make their way up toward the great cross above.

We do not know what the ultimate decision of the Catholic Church will be with regard to Medjugorje. We certainly cannot expect the Church to give full approval to the phenomenon while there are still claims of ongoing visions by the visionaries. Three of the six claim to see the Virgin Mary daily. The other three claim to see her on some specific dates designated by her. If the Church were to issue a fully positive ruling on Medjugorje, she could only do so after the claims of the visions have stopped and everything can be investigated as a historical event, rather than as an ongoing phenomenon. However, I think it is significant that after 38 years, the Vatican has not issued a negative ruling regarding the site. By contrast, Rome has not hesitated to condemn some other claims of ongoing apparitions in other parts of the world.

Recently, the Vatican has also authorized official parish and diocesan pilgrimages to the site. An annual youth festival is held every year at the end of July in Medjugorje, attracting about 70,000 youths from around the world. This past summer, senior Vatican officials attended the festival and participated in the prayers. Under the guidance of Archbishop Henryk Hoser, who serves as the Apostolic Visitor to Medjugorje, the Vatican is also making plans to expand the religious infrastructure of the town to accommodate pilgrims better. Medjugorje badly needs a covered church space that can accommodate well over 5,000 people at a time.

Whatever, the final decision of the Church will be with regard to the claims of apparitions in Medjugorje, one thing seems clear. The Catholic faith is truly alive here. Millions have had their hearts set on fire for Christ through the experience of Medjugorje. Multitudes have been converted to the Catholic faith here - including my wife, Julie. Many Catholics have felt their first call to religious life or the priesthood in Medjugorje. A number of well-documented physical healings have also taken place.

According to the visionaries of Medjugorje, the Virgin Mary has asked us to commit to five spiritual practices. These are usually called the Five Stones, after the five stones that David had in order to fight Goliath. The Five Stones are: 1) Prayer: Pray from the heart, especially the daily recitation of the Rosary. 2) Eucharist: Attend Mass frequently, preferably daily. Spend time with our Lord in Adoration as often as possible. 3) Fasting: Fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, preferably on bread and water only. 4) Confession: Go to Confession once a month. 5) The Holy Bible: Read the Scriptures daily.

Regardless of the authenticity of the apparitions of Medjugorje, the Five Stones constitute sound advice. These practices are at the very heart of Catholic spiritual life. Having spent a week in Medjugorje, I feel a renewed desire to commit to these practices, and I will encourage my fellow pilgrims to do the same.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

In Medjugorje with Julie

Two months ago, my wife, Julie, returned to the practice of the Catholic faith, after 33 years of being away. Her return journey started one year ago, on September 2, in Medjugorje, when she had some powerful experiences on Apparition Hill, where the initial apparitions of the Virgin Mary are said to have happened in 1981, and where many of the ongoing apparitions are also said to be taking place. Below are pictures from our experience in Medjugorje.

She wrote about the story of her return at her blog: The 32 Year Minute


Julie after her experiences on Apparition Hill.



In the home of Vicka, one of the visionaries. The home is now open for anyone as a place of prayer. The statue in the background marks the spot where Vicka is said to have experienced dialy visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary for years. The spot was charged with incredible spiritual energy.



The home of Vicka, one of the visionaries. The home is now open for anyone as a place of prayer.



The statue of the Queen of Peace at the site where the apparitions are said to have started. The statue was a gift of Korean Catholics to Medjugorje.



Pilgrims pray at the statue of the Queen of Peace on Apparition Hill.



Stuate of the Queen of Peace overlooking Medjugorje.



Stuate of the Queen of Peace overlooking Medjugorje.



Stuate of the Queen of Peace overlooking Medjugorje.



There is no path leading up to Apparition Hill. Pilgrims must climb over jagged rocks to reach the shrine above.



View from Apparition Hill.



On the third day of the apparitions, Marija, one of the visionaries, is said to have had a vision of Mary standing in front of a wooden cross on this spot on Apparition Hill. According to her, the vision relayed the following message: "Peace, peace, peace! Be reconciled! Only peace. Make your peace with God and among yourselves. For that, it is necessary to believe, to pray, to fast, and to go to confession." The wooden cross now at the site was placed there in later years to commemorate this vision.



On the third day of the apparitions, Marija, one of the visionaries, is said to have had a vision of Mary on this spot on Apparition Hill. According to her, the vision relayed the following message: "Peace, peace, peace! Be reconciled! Only peace. Make your peace with God and among yourselves. For that, it is necessary to believe, to pray, to fast, and to go to confession." A part of this message is on the plaque next to the cross in Croatian.



Plaque bearing words attributed to the Virgin Mary on the third day of the apparitions in 1981.



Crowds wait in preparation for an apparition of the Virign Mary to the visionary Mirjana, who is said to be experiencing apparitions on the second of every month.



Statue of the Queen of Peace by the Blue Cross, where Mirjana is always situated when she is said to be experiencing a vision of Mary on the second of each month.



Julie climbing up to the shrine on Apparition Hill. Given her weak back and knees, a climb like this would normally cause her a lot of pain. But she felt no pain during the climb or after she descended from the hill.



With Julie at the shrine on Apparition Hill.



The Church of St. James in Medjugorje. Interestingly, long before the alleged apparitions started, a church far too big for the town was constructed in the town center. The church was also named after St. James, the patron saint of pilgrims. Since the visions are said to have started, an estimated 40 million pilgrims have traveled to Medjugorje.



St. James Church in Medjugorje.



St. James Church in Medjugorje.



St. James Church in Medjugorje.



Interior of St. James Church in Medjugorje. Interestingly, no image was placed behind the altar in the original design. Perhaps an image of Our Lady of Medjugorje will go there one day?



Statue of the Virgin Mary inside St. James Church in Medjugorje. Some of the early visions are said to have taken place inside the church.



Stained glass windows inside St. James Church in Medjugorje.



St. James Church at night.



The exterior altar behind St. James Church.



Italian language Sunday Mass at the exterior altar behind St. James Church.



Many priests concelebrate at the Italian language Sunday Mass at the exterior altar behind St. James Church.



The exterior altar behind St. James Church.



Statue of the Virgin Mary inside exterior altar behind St. James Church.



Panel from a Rosary walk behind St. James Church.



Panel from a Stations of the Cross walk near St. James Church.



Abstract crucifix behind St. James Church.



Julie in Medjugorje.



Julie by the Blue Cross, where Mirjana is said to be experiencing visions of the Virgin Mary on the second of each month.



Statue of the Queen of Peace at the square in front of St. James Church.



Statue of the Queen of Peace at the square in front of St. James Church.



Statue of the Queen of Peace at the square in front of St. James Church.



Statue of the Queen of Peace at the square in front of St. James Church.



Statue of the Queen of Peace at the square in front of St. James Church.



Street sign in Medjugorje.



Street sign in Medjugorje.



The image of Our Lady of Medjugorje painted on the basis of descriptions by the visionaries. The image is displayed inside the social hall of St. James Parish. The visionaries say that the image they see is far more beautiful than the painting.



Sunset in Medjugorje.



Cross Mountain at the outskirts of Medjugorje, where a giant concrete cross was erected by the townspeople, decades before the apparitions are said to have started.



Cross Mountain.



The way up to Cross Mountain is also full of jagged rocks.



The way up to Cross Mountain is also full of jagged rocks.



The Stations of the Cross line the way up to Cross Mountain at intervals.



The view from Cross Mountain.



The view from Cross Mountain.



The giant concrete cross atop Cross Mountain.



At the top of Cross Mountain.



Statue of the Queen of Peace overlooking Medjugorje, the town where she so clearly reigns.