By Fr. Paddy Byrne
For over 20 years, thousands of Irish people continue to make pilgrimage to a tiny village in a mountainous and remote part of Bosnia in search of something that, when discovered, is truly wonderful.
Medjugorje, for so many, is not just a place. It is a way of life.
It tells so many stories of human conversion, healing, forgiveness and most importantly brings God’s people to a place of peace. A peace celebrated by thousands of addicts who now live lives freed from the chains of addiction because of a spirituality that builds inner confidence and renews faith and hope in life.
Medjugorje began with the story of young people who claimed to have had a real experience with the Mother of God.
As they shared their experiences, millions of pilgrims throughout the world every year travel to Medjugorge in search of its fruits and to experience its greatest gift – a sense of peace and hope in life.
Ever the subject of debate, this contentious site of mystery and prayer continues to be controversial. The Church continues to observe and reflect on what is a place of prayer and sign of resurrection. I have visited Medjugorje many times and I have always benefited greatly as a result.
Medjugorje points us to our God, present and available to us wherever we find ourselves to be. Perhaps one of the greatest fruits is the joy that millions of people discover when they experience true reconciliation in this place. It is in the letting go of hurts and wounds that are often buried and alive in all our stories that so many are afforded with a renewed sense of opportunity and enthusiasm of life.
The simplicity of life in this very poor place offers pilgrims an invitation to avail of the wealth of God’s presence in abundance.
Life is difficult, it is not easy and so many are overwhelmed and burdened. God seeks us out, not where we are comfortable and in control; instead our God visits us in the places where we are wounded and broken.
This is the spirituality of Medjugorge, a way of life that offers renewal every day when we focus on our own poverty and acknowledge in the midst of all our limitations our God is available as a source of nourishment and sustenance.
Personal conversion is our life journey. That is, an inner movement that connects us deeper to our God. There are many fruits associated with Medjugorge, the late Pope John Paul II called it the “confessional of the world” when he considered the importance of reconciliation in all our lives.
Many young addicts now are living lives of contentment and fulfillment because of a real encounter with God’s love. Medjugorje is the home of the Cenacalo communities that accompany, through prayer and fellowship, young people whose lives were once destroyed by addiction to harmful substances.
The testimonies of healing and recovery by these good people are truly inspirational and life giving. In a time when so many are struggling and are burdened I think of this great gift given to inspire and heal.