MEDJUGORJE – a surprise awaits you
From The Mountains of BC Canada to the Mountains of Bosnia Herzegovina
First Time Pilgrim Elizabeth Ash Peacock
Residing in Whistler, Nr Vancouver, Canada tells her story.
Elizabeth aged 29 originally from Tyneside journeyed 2 days from Canada to join the Medjugorje North East Pilgrims at Dubrovnik Airport
I went to Medjugorje with no presumptions or expectations, I did not go in search of wonders, miracles, renewed Faith or religious obligation, but to visit the place my Mum holds close to her heart and to share the experience with her. I wanted to understand why from 1989 she has kept returning to this little known village and why she loved Medjugorje, so that I could take that memory forward with me into my future. What I gained from Medjugorje was unexpected....friendship, patience, forgiveness, acceptance, peace, love, gratitude, connection, renewal, faith. (I could go on)
Over 10,000 people descended on Medjugorje for Mirjana's Apparition on June 2nd. The tiny village was over taken with pilgrims who wanted to support and share the Visionary's experience.
Many people question apparitions as they are difficult to comprehend in human thinking but in Medjugorje I felt surrounded with a tangible energy of Love and Peace which helped me believe in the Message of Our Lady of Medjugorje........ There is no denying it, it is a special place that changes the lives of those who come to pay homage to Our Lady.
The 1st day was a little overwhelming. I hadn't been to church to receive communion in about 10 years and at the sign of Peace, I responded 'Hi' to my neighbour! Also, the liturgy had changed and I had forgotten a lot of it. My Mum and fellow pilgrims helped me through, supported me and guided me, didn't judge me or try and push me out of my comfort zone. I was there, that was the main thing. They shared openly and fervently their personal experiences.
I was grateful to the Priests who accompanied us, Fr John Cooper and Fr Martin Morris who were sensitive, knowledgeable and discreet. Fr. Cooper was like an angel on my right shoulder offering meaningful parables and experiences. Fr Martin, our Spiritual Director, a fitting title as he helped guide our spirits throughout the pilgrimage. It was significant that the two Priests accompanied the group, it made the pilgrimage real, legitimate, more viable.
Reminiscing, there were key moments of realisation, something awakening in my heart.
The first day we hiked Podbrdo (Apparition Hill) and prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary (I listened rather than prayed). At the Fifth mystery ‘Finding Jesus in the Temple’ my senses became heightened and looking out over Medjugorje and Bijakovici, I felt the wind blowing, I heard the birds singing and I saw the seeds of the dandelions dance in the breeze. At that moment I became totally aware of the beauty of nature and creation. ....’Go into Nature...there you will meet God the Creator.'(1) The Priest's words touched me and the voices began to sing Ave Maria.
A day or so later we hiked up Mt Krizevac (Cross Mountain) to pray the Stations of the Cross.
The beautiful Bronze Plaques that make up ‘The Way of the Cross’ are the works of the Florence artist Carmelo Puzzolo. Again, I listened to each Station and the prayers of the group, read from Fr Slavko's book ‘The Way of the Cross’.
Each Station followed by a bible text and meditation was read by Fr Martin and Fr Cooper with such feeling, respect and remorse and evoked heartrending images.
We arrived at 6th Station, ‘Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus’; the compassion and love of Veronica amongst all that hate brought tears to my eyes. Moving on to the next 7th station ‘Jesus falls for the Second Time’. The following lines pierced my heart: Jesus falls…’embracing the rocks which are softer than the hearts of the people who are torturing you.... Jesus, I am ashamed to say this...Thank you for all the suffering you accepted for us.'(2)
Suddenly at that moment I felt ashamed that I had been so apathetic and ignorant to the terrible suffering that Jesus went through for us... and I had never said THANK YOU.
When we reached the last station ‘Jesus is Risen’, the wind picked up again and brought with it a butterfly who rested nearby, the voices started to sing 'He is Lord, he is risen from the dead and he is Lord'. It was so beautiful. My heart pounded, the song brought back memories... I used to know this, this was a part of my life and hasn't been for so long. I had missed it, without even realising. And all the time Our Lady's words, 'Thank you for having responded to my call’ felt like they were meant for me.
At the top of the Mountain it was busy and noisy with the hundreds of Pilgrims, it was as if someone had turned up the volume after such a peaceful ascent. I found a quiet spot where the wind took the voices of those around me away. I looked down over St James' where my Mum was and I sent kisses on the wind to her (3) and to my husband in Canada.
I thought about my life; everything conspires and leads you to that moment in time, I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now.
I didn't carry a stone up with me to leave at the foot of the Cross on the summit (a symbol of leaving ones troubles and remorse with Jesus) there was no need, the wind took mine from me. I descended feeling contentment, acceptance of myself and those around me and refreshed.
Later it was wonderful to hear the testimony of Jakov the visionary, he spoke with humility, truth and wisdom.
Fr Marinko Sakota, Parish Priest of Medjugorje spoke after Jakov. He affirmed that 'Our Lady says nothing new, but reminds us of what we have forgotten, she is waking us up from our dream...Medjugorje is waking up from the dream... a call to return, a call to change...' . 'When you start getting to know Jesus, then you start to know yourself, correcting yourself'. Fr Marinko expressed how we can focus too much on the negative, weaknesses and mistakes of others, consistently wanting others to change, but it is us that needs to change first.
Celebrating the uniqueness of each person was an emphatic message for me, accepting, embracing our 'cross'. Saying 'I choose you'. 'Help us to respect the uniqueness of each person...' (5) Love and acceptance brings inner peace. Our Lady invites us to be new, be open and become a new person. I left Medjugorje a different person, aware of what I needed to work on to help bring peace in my life.
During Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament I was always drawn to The Sculpture of The Risen Christ and The Stations of The Cross asking myself—
'What was my personal cross'??
On the last evening I remained in the presence of The Blessed Sacrament and I seemed to reflect more deeply, suddenly it hit me; upon this realisation, I offered it up and tears flowed freely, they were pure, peaceful tears. .... ‘The Gift of tears is the greatest gift that we can expect from the Holy Spirit' (4). I thanked God for bringing me to Medjugorje, to this beautiful place, for being able to share the experience with my Mum, for the new friends I had made and for the peace I had received. Then I drifted to sleep under the aura of love and God's grace.
My experience in Medjugorje was unexpected and enlightening, it brought me closer to Jesus, Mary, my Faith and ultimately God – not that I was intending this to happen. Since returning to Canada, I have wanted to attend Mass, I have wanted to Pray and most importantly give thanks for.... everything.
I see the church, my religion, my faith in a new light, not rules and regulations, long and complicated bible texts that seemed to have no relevance to me and modern life. But compassionate, forgiving, accepting, guiding; messages and parables that make sense, that connect with me – it was as if a light had gone on in my head and everything clicked. Church is peace, peace is prayer, contemplation.
I would recommend a Pilgrimage to Medjugorje, not in search of sensations or miracles but to experience the peace and love filled atmosphere emanating from the thousands of people gathered in prayer.
I will never forget the joy filled ‘Humanitarian Concert’ to raise money for the Victims of the Flood Areas of Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina with the groups of Irish pilgrims dancing outside to the music around St. James Church and also the echoes of singing ‘Our Lady of Knock’ in the Cafés and Restaurants until the early hours. (Oh yes!! there are enough cafés and restaurants to enjoy)
No matter what your views of the Apparitions, or negative comments received from others, please don't be influenced and let it STOP you going to Medjugorje; as Pope John Paul II said 'Medjugorje? Medjugorje? Medjugorje? Only good things are happening at Medjugorje'. (6)
1) Our Lady's message, October 25th 1995
2) The Way of the Cross, Fr Slavko Barbaric. Pg 43
3) The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
4) Medjugorje North East Newsletter June 2014, report from Sister Emmanuel of The Community of The Beatitudes, (www.childrenofmedjugorje.com)
5) The Rosary, Aid to the Church in Need, text by Fr. Joaquin Alliende-Luco, pg 22:22 from the Fifth Joyful Mystery, 'Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, Prayer
6) Our lady's call from Medjugorje, Mirjana Stanislava Vasilj-Zuccarini, Pg 294 from Archbishop Harry J. Flynn