Mladifest - Youth Festival: One Body
Date: September 17, 2006
Author: Francesco Cavagna
Category: Medjugorje News , Festival Mladifest , Testimonies
A song, warm and rhythmical, rises from their joyful hearts, as also their minds and bodies praise the King. In dozens of different languages and prayers, with hundreds of different colours and thousands of voices, there is something new and unique going on in Medjugorje. It cannot go unnoticed by anyone, but rather, the life it brings urges you to come and be part of this one body, which is the springtime of the Church, and the mystical body of Christ.
It is the Youth Festival… in its 17th year! Each year, though, is new, with new grace, new people, new prayer and new enthusiasm. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, is this year’s theme. Young people – of different extract and from different countries - came in response to an irresistible call. All young people have in them an authentic seed of goodness, as well as a desire for the truth, generating an inner quest in their souls. Young people have the capacity to recognize what is real and authentic, and are thus able to leave everything for it: sell everything and depart, and offer themselves…
So here they are singing and praising the Lord amongst these barren hills and trodden stones. Here they are adoring Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. A chosen people, they are true Christians who live the faith, who know how to see in that piece of bread the Saviour, the Redeemer of mankind. And they are ready to adore Him and give everything to testify that He is God, true God, the only God.
God is the centre; He alone the motor, the source and the purpose of so much joy. They know this and are ready to witness, and this alone endows this gathering with something that goes beyond passing enthusiasm… Jesus too is present, and He gathers all together under His Name, and they become one body, His Body.
The very first evening the 50 nations represented were presented one by one, each one cheering and happy to be here. When Br. Jean Paul, practically the only pilgrim present at Medjugorje from Lebanon, came to the microphone, loud applause filled the entire plaza.
The void created by the absence of Lebanese pilgrims was greatly felt, because a group of pilgrims from Lebanon have been attending for some years. “We didn’t forget you, dear people of Lebanon,” said Fr. Marijo at the beginning of Mass. “We had set aside a frequency for you (for the simultaneous translations). Your flag is flying along with the others. If this year the frequency destined for you is unused, there is nonetheless another frequency that can reach you because it knows no barriers. It is the frequency of prayer, and of love.”
What joy and what strength come from participating at holy Mass – the plaza full beyond capacity, and the sun setting in its glory! Each holy Mass is so priceless; it truly makes up for whatever discomfort one might have experienced to get here, including voyages of 20 and 25 hours. And what joy and what strength to see how everyone around you is participating in a living liturgy of salvation: not passively, but by allowing oneself to be moulded and transformed by God’s grace which is given freely; by the heavenly gift of a God who abides in our midst and who reveals Himself in the face and voice of the brother or sister next to you.
What joy and what strength to relive the most discreet and the greatest miracle of Christian life: God who descends from heaven into the bread on the altar around which are gathered today 30,000 youth. Then, from the alter He descends even lower to visit us: He descends amongst us, and disappears in our midst. Carried by the hands of the priests He walks on the gravel, amongst the benches, the sweat, and the tiredness of the people to reach each one singularly and visit each one personally, and to touch each one there where he most needs to be touched by God’s love.
And it is as though prayer is rising from a single body. Each soul the Lord encounters is lifted up in prayer, and receives His blessing.
“Come sanctifying Bread. Come and transfigure us. Come and live in us; come and transform us; come and make us holy. Come now in this brother in front of me; come and fill that gaze so full of desire; come with your seal to protect forever the hope shining on that face… Come in this sister, come and dwell in her. Come in this friend; come so he can take You back with him. Come and accept the renewed offering of my life…”
The awe and gratitude shines on faces; and joy explodes into a song of thanksgiving that rises up to heaven as one voice. Jesus is with us to sing the praises of the Father, happy to be here amongst His beloved creatures.
What joy and what strength… Yes, it is so: joy gives strength! It is vital strength that cannot be contained but must be shared; it is courage for the future; it disperses doubt and defeats the burden of fear and indifference.
Without a doubt holy Mass is the most important part of every day, and the most appreciated, even if not everyone is aware of this. I think only in heaven will we fully comprehend the salvific value of every prayer offered up round the Eucharistic sacrifice of the altar. Only in heaven shall we know what ample spiritual realities are moved and healed because of this prayer.
Here then are the young people who now return, each to his own reality. Here they are, as they leave and are dispersed. With their prayer they will remain united and strengthened, and be spiritually sustained by each other. Each has his own dose of daily difficulties to deal with, including many other young people who do not know and do not accept this God who is so humble and so immanent. Each has the desire and the certainty, however, that he is a child and a witness of Mary for these times.
Now over to them
Susanna, 25 years old:
This is the third time I have come to Medjugorje. The first time friends had brought me. It was a wonderful experience, and I discovered a new dimension of the faith. I think if Mass at our parishes were accompanied by singing like this, and with the same degree of enthusiasm, people would live Mass in a much better way.
This time the pilgrimage wasn’t a group experience. I came on my own, and I’m living it on a more intimate level. Being here has awakened in me a desire to know more, to seek more profoundly and to find some answers to my life that I know only God can give.
This is my sixth time at Medjugorje. Coming here means getting away from the world, and being given a spiritual overhaul. Each time I go back home the smile on my face lasts about a month… so Medjugorje is something that leaves its mark.
Each year is a different experience; something that makes you want to come back. I don’t think I have as much fun as I have here in any other place. It’s so neat to see so many others of my own age all here together to witness that Our Lady appears, and to rejoice in her real presence which touches the heart. This is Medjugorje.
Anna Delia, 23:
This festival has helped me overcome definitely my sense of solitude. I have never felt this comfortable in the crowds at concerts; crowds always made me feel lonely… but not this time! I met people who have truly given so much!
Just like every other believer, I knew that we had to work to build the good in the world… and here I saw the commitment of so many others, and I felt called to give my participation. I have finally understood that it is possible.
I had fun taking photos, but even this was not without meaning. I saw and understood how beautiful the human person is, in all his various expressions – of joy, inward attention, even sadness. I noticed a particular sweetness in the persons that I have never seen anywhere else. One wouldn’t think that guys “like this” could actually exist. My only fear is not being able to pray again the way I have prayed here.
I didn’t know anything about this place, and when I read the messages of Our Lady I didn’t believe them. I thought they were all alike, so I came here to Medjugorje without expectations; and I found something fantastic. Today in the western world, to pray is almost a crime, instead here I feel the desire to pray, and after having prayed five rosaries with the others I still feel like praying more, on my own. Here I seem to be my real self and to enter into communion with the others. It is like taking off your heavy armour and being truly free; and things take on meaning.
All this recharges you for your return to Italy, and you face life in a new way, knowing that everything you do is not an end to itself, but can have a spiritual meaning. To be able to tell others about this place it isn’t enough to visit the visionaries, know the messages, or hear certain testimonies. Here there is an atmosphere, something that goes beyond and involves your whole self. It can’t be explained; besides, there is nothing more complex than understanding the faith.
I will surely return and try to bring others back with me, because it isn’t easy to transmit all this with just words. Yes, I hope to make this place known, also and especially for those who derided me when I said I was coming here. I would like to be able to pull those people out of what they call life but in reality is mere survival. I am grateful to Mary for having brought me here at 16 years of age.
Fr. William, 27:
This event at Medjugorje is always an intense moment of interior life also for us priests. We need to return to the essential, that is, to Jesus in the Eucharist and in the Word. We should always do this, but these (extra occasions) are always very special. Here, Our Lady calls also the young people to the essential, to build up a life according to the heart of God and the Gospel.
For the civilization of love to be born young people need to see that there are persons who want it, others like them. Today, the response of the world weakens this enthusiasm, and discourages. To experience the Church alive gives a shaking to your faith. This type of encouragement is able to awaken surprising resources of enthusiasm and generosity within young people. The motto we chose for our little group in this pilgrimage is precisely: “As long as there is Christ there is hope.”
This is my first time at Medjugorje. If I had to say why I came, I think it’d be to find the truth. Last year I went to Cologne, and I think the atmosphere is similar, but here there is more spirituality. You can tell it’s a blessed land. The best moment was night adoration. I don’t have the right words to say what I felt, but I got to the church when it was nearly dawn; I was tired and sleepy, but then I began to pray and I felt something inside of me, and the tiredness left me instantly. It was a beautiful experience.
The first time I came here it was because the pilgrimage was the prize for a literary contest. Today I am here for the fourth time. This time confession was so different for me, thanks particularly to the preparation our parish priest gave us. I understood what it meant and how to prepare for this sacrament. I hope that the group that has formed with this pilgrimage might continue to get together for community prayer. We are already organizing when to come again, and we want to bring new people with us.
Barbara, Stefania, Carla:
The days here have allowed us to see how the voice of Christ is really present in the depths of hearts, and how His word is unique and a certainty for your life. Together with thousands of young people we have contemplated the face of Mary, she, who from heaven keeps us close in her loving embrace and calls us her children
Medjugorje is able to touch the heart of anyone who visits this blessed land. Here, the voices of Mary and Jesus are louder and clearer. Each person here is given something precious to carry in his or her heart and transmit to others, to keep it and make it multiply in one’s own life.
To come back to Medjugorje, to the source of my priestly vocation is to fall back into the arms of Mary, Queen of Peace. She takes care of the true needs of her dear children. To be here amongst so many young people who desire life, truth and a healthy prospect helps you rediscover how only God can fulfil one’s expectations. Young people are the hope and the future, and here you can see how their hearts are touched by the superabundant joy for a church called to be the good of the world. It is both fascinating and contagious to see how so many youth respond with joy. Their testimony reminds us of Mary’s “yes” to the will of God.
Thanks to this pilgrimage I have discovered the value of prayer, especially what Our Lady calls prayer with the heart, which is to simply and sincerely dialogue with Mary and Jesus, and thus be able to offer up with joy each little gesture of daily living which at the same time abounds in such grace that we are often unable to see it. Thank you Mary!!