Confessions of a Medjugorje Pilgrim
Date: September 24, 2016
By Emily A.
“Go to Confession. Unburden yourselves of all sin. In return, I will give you peace in your hearts.” – Message from Our Lady of Medjugorje on the 28th February 1988.
I have just returned from my fourth pilgrimage to Medjugorje where I served for three months as a volunteer. It was during this time that I felt a very gentle and silent nudge within me that Our Lady wanted me to make a General Confession.
A ‘General Confession’ calls us to stop and to really look deeply into ourselves and into our lives. It is a time for us to call on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us to prayerfully and carefully search as far back into our past as we can remember and to reflect on all the ways in which we have offended God, our neighbour and ourselves by sinning against the Ten Commandments, The Beatitudes and The Precepts of the Catholic Church. It is a time for us to re-visit our own painful and often unwanted memories and to finally admit to any of our heavy and unconfessed sins and to verbalise, face them and overcome them within a very safe environment in the presence of a Catholic Priest. It is therefore a liberating time of deep and inner healing from the Lord and it calls us to truly forgive others and ourselves and to receive Absolution from God the Father of Mercy. It is also an incredibly powerful weapon against satan as it enables us to break absolutely everything within us that he is attached to, so that he then has nothing left to hold on to. Making a general confession is a slow, unrushed and prayerful time which can take several hours. It is not a time of scrupulous self-condemnation or a time to re-confess already forgiven sins. My personal experience was actually life-changing and I thus encourage all Catholic Christians to unburden themselves to the Lord in this way.
My own personal desire to make a general confession came at a time in my life when I was seriously discerning the call to Religious Life. Wanting to belong all and only to Jesus, I knew that I had to first let go of everything that was preventing me from giving my whole self to Him. A general confession is therefore both incredibly useful and encouraged when one is about to make a life changing decision in their faith to draw closer to Jesus and to enter into a much deeper union with Him.
It was not at all surprising for me that this call came during a time that I was actually living in Medjugorje - the ‘confessional capital of the world’ - and so I asked the Lord to send me His priest with whom He wanted me to confess. Within one month, I met a Franciscan Friar of the Holy Spirit from Arizona who agreed to hear my general confession and to pray for the healing of my heart.
As we commenced the celebration of this Sacrament, he firstly anointed me with healing oil that had been blessed by both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict and together, we prayed a prayer of protection. The Holy Spirit then gave me all the words I needed to say and all the memories I needed to recall so verbalising everything actually felt very easy. The priest then lay his hands on me and prayed in Jesus’ name to break the attachment to all the evils I had turned to or been affected by in my whole life and during this time he said that his hands became so hot that he almost wanted to remove them from my head. Following this, he both led me in prayer and asked me to use my own words to renounce each individual evil by saying ‘In Jesus’ name, I renounce….’ and then to forgive all of those who had sinned against me as well as to forgive myself all in Jesus’ name. Then Father asked me to start to slowly and deeply breathe out all of the darkness and to breathe in the peace of Christ. This was all an incredibly real and liberating experience and when I received Absolution, I was completely encapsulated by the awesomeness of God’s power, mercy, strength, forgiveness, presence, peace, goodness and love.
The day that I made this confession was the day that Our Lady had told the visionary Jakov that it was Her actual birthday. So, I decided that my birthday gift to Her would be the complete unburdening of myself to Her merciful Son.
A few days later was my 22nd birthday which was actually the same day that the priest who had heard my confession was returning home to America. He felt that this reality was very fitting and remarked on how I was a new person now at the beginning of a new year and a new start to my life.
For the rest of that day and in the days that followed, I felt a deep presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, in prayer, in others, in nature and simply in everything. On the evening of my birthday, I was blessed to go to an Apparition of Our Lady to the visionary Maria. During this time, I felt a beautiful warmth all around me and I felt an incredible, deep sense of peace within me. Whilst my birthday gift to Our Lady was to unburden myself of everything that wasn’t of Her Son, Her birthday gift to me was to fill me with everything that is of Her Son.
So for all of you who may feel anxious at the thought of going to confession and for all of you – no matter what your life has been – who no longer practice your faith and who haven’t been to confession even since the day you first made this Sacrament, rest assured that God actually wants you and thus invites and welcomes you to confess. Jesus knows more about you than you could ever know yourself and there is absolutely nothing that the priest will not have heard before, so there is no need at all for any embarrassment, fear or shame. Be reassured that God is love and mercy itself and that Jesus will forgive and forget all of your sins if you are truly sorry. Place your hands into the hand of Jesus the Wounded Healer and Mary the Mother of Mercy and permit them to guide you out of the darkness. Know that Jesus is the light of life and that if you do unburden yourself, you will truly feel His peace which all of us crave and need.
So in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your past and whenever you last made your confession, be comforted by the words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as He says in Matthew 11:28, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’