Sorry, lost the run of things a bit and wasn’t able to keep regular posts while away last week. There was an internet cafe near where we were staying and I did manage to do a few postings but had hoped to do more. I’m back in Kilmovee now and would find it difficult to recount what happened other days – other than to say they were full and varied.
I began Friday with a climb of Apparition Hill and visit to the Blue Cross. Not, as you might suspect, my first choice on how to start a day but was invited to do so by Caroline and Margaret to of my fellow “pilgrims”. I felt I could not refuse. I’m glad I didn’t as it was a pleasant visit and I felt it less tiring than the first time. In fact, I asked the two companions if they thought Our Lady had come to meet us since the climb did not seem as long as before!!
We visited a church on our way to Mass on Friday morning that is home to the statue of Our Lady of Medjugorje. I didn’t go too close to the statue initially and when I went back to have a better look, Mass had begun so I couldn’t. All I can say is that I heard many comment on the beauty of the statue. There was a plaque in the church commemorating a large number of Fransican priests who were shot during the second world war. I spent some time with their photos and felt a sadness that their lives had been cut short (in most cases they were very young men) and hoped that their deaths had not been in vain. May they rest in peace.
After that visit we went to the home of “St Peter”, though not a saint yet, he is regarded as a holy priest and the cause is under way for his beatification and that of his brother. St Peter was ordained on his death bed. We met his niece, a Fransican Sister, and she spoke to us (through Aine) of her uncles’ lives and her hopes that they would be numbered officially among the saints.
Fr Tommy celebrated Mass in their home (now converted into a beautiful chapel) and after Mass Aine led us through a very moving prayer and reflective time. It was moving and thought-provoking as she named the members of our group and prayed for each one by name. I could see that people were deeply involved in this prayer time. Fr Tommy’s homily spoke also to the beauty of the Mass and its central place in our lives.
The rest of the day was free and I’m sure people availed of that in different ways. We met a few times and people gathered later in the house since we were leaving very early on Saturday morning for the airport.
SO WHAT DID I THINK OF MEDJUGORJE?
Firstly I’m glad I went and very grateful to Fr Tommy, Dominic and Teresa for inviting me to come along. It was a great experience. I met some of the finest people you could ever wish to meet. Some of them were already known to me but most I had not met before. I hope to meet many of these people again in the future, most immediately at a Mass of Thanksgiving to be celebrated in Charlestown in a few weeks time. There was such good nature and kindness that you could not but be impressed and grateful. I’m grateful too, for some of the heartiest laughter I’ve enjoyed in a long time. Laughter that rested easily with some times of genuine prayer and reflection.
That spirit of prayer is very much alive in Medjugorje. I never went into the church without having a sense of people at prayer. Yes, some were moving around, going to statues and seeing what needed to be seen but doing so with Faith and commitment. In the main, however, people sat or knelt quietly and offered heartfelt prayers. Rosary beads were clearly visible as were bibles, missals and lips moving in silent prayer. Medjugorje brings people to prayer, reassures them in prayers already offered and encourages prayer for the future. That has to be a good thing.
Liturgy was very impressive and the numbers attending Masses, outdoor adorartion, veneration of the Cross and so much more reflected this. The Sacrament of Reconciliation was an inspiration – having celebrated it from both sides, I can say great work is being done beside St James’ Church under the watchful eye of St Leopold (a small man of 4 feet 5 ins) who was renowned for his compassion in the celebration of this Sacrament. Long too may this be the case and I hope to make this Sacrament more available in the day to day life of Kilmovee Parish. I’m convinced if it’s avaialable it will be availed of.
Our guide, Áine, was so sincere and self-giving that she could not but be a good example to us all. We were lucky to have her. Equally our accommodation was homely and there was a real sense of being in a home rather than a hotel or guesthouse. Again, this was a good thing. Thanks to all who made us so welcome.
I mentioned already that there seems not to be a desire to over-charge the visitors or to cash in on people’s emotions or vulnerabilites. Religious objects, though very beautifully made, were not overly-priced. Nor, for that matter, was anything else. Food, drink, transportation and just about anything you could mention was reasonably priced. Well done to Medjugorje for this. Long may it remain so.
The one thing I haven’t mentioned is VISIONS and, by association, visionaries. There is a hesitancy in me to mention either since I am well aware that many look to Medjugorje for messages, signs and wonders. I feel certain too, that there is abolute genuineness in so doing but I have to say it doesn’t work for me. Did our Lady appear at Medjugorje? I believe something very special happened that gave hope to a downtrodden people – not unlike our neighbours in Knock. There was a meeting between Heaven and earth. Such meetings often go un-noticed in our daily lives and thanfully it did not go un-noticed in this holy place. God Bless all who had eyes to see and ears to hear.
I was not looking for signs and wonders nor was I seeking the spoken and translated word. God’s presence and Our Lady’s presence was clearly evident in the gathering of the nations. There was, in my opinion, nothing new said nor perhaps is there anything new to be said. The Gospel message centres on love of God and love of neighbour and where these are found we have arrived. I could have spent the days there without ever seeing or hearing a visionary. As it turned out I did both – heard two visionaries speak at the gable wall of St James’ and attended a prayer time in the chapel of one of them later in the week. I was not expecting to see anything nor hear anything. I didn’t. Part of me, to be totally honest, wishes this were not part of the Medjugorje of 2010 as I fear it leaves people looking for more than is possible – more perhaps than is even necessary.
Well that’s it! I’m glad I went. I believe it’s truly a holy place. The people there are truly good people and a joy to be with. Faith is clearly evident. The Sacraments are celebrated. Faith is shared and objects of faith and prayer brought the length and breadth of the world – maybe even to people who do not share the faith but, in receiving the gifts, are invited to more. There is powerful work done in the Sacrament of Reconcilition for which we must be ever grateful and is a cause for great joy. All of this, and so much more, speaks volumes of a wonderful place. All of this could stand alone, tall and Heavenly focused, without messages and interpretations. That’s the way I see it.
Will I go back? Most likely and with God’s help, some day, I’ll go there again. For now, I’m glad I went and have fond memories of a prayeful place, decent people and very enjoyable company.