Why (not) Medjugorje?
Date: January 21, 2013
By Tanja Popec
Coming to Medjugorje for many is a chance to search for a miracle, apparitions or some special message. Even theologians question about religious curiosity and wonder whether something special indeed happens there. Theologians, perhaps, even more than the others, always have a certain personal struggle since they have heritage of personal knowledge, discipline, obedience to hierarchy and their personal life with God, who even when He is silent, speaks a lot. Many have asked me how I feel about apparitions in Medjugorje? But, I do not think that it is up to me to decide whether those apparitions are for real and where do they come from. Actually, my faith is not bigger because of the apparitions nor it is smaller. I am waiting for the opinion of the Holy Father who will give the final judgment when the time for that comes.
Here, I would like to give the answer on how I feel about witnessing for Christ who is present in Medjugorje, as well as in all Holy Masses throughout the world, really present, so strongly that without saying a word, He moves both soul and our thoughts. Medjugorje has attracted me as a place, in a country dear to me - Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a reality that is completely different than everyday routine in Zagreb, where I live. Sometimes, it is necessary to go somewhere else, to step away from our everyday life, so our thoughts could calm down a little bit and our soul could find a little rest.
A little about the atmosphere
If I ignore the fact that I arrived to celebrate New Year in Medjugorje in the last moment, and the whole day was very distracting ever since I departed my town, I can really be happy that journey from Zagreb through Zadar to Medjugorje was comfortable and without any difficulties. Even though I was asking people about New Year’s celebration in Medjugorje and I got response that there is nothing special but Eucharistic Adoration and Holy Mass, I was able to experience that it was that “nothing special” that attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over the world and faithful from the surrounding area to come into this special spiritual oasis in Herzegovina. Those who came in largest numbers were Italians, many of faithful arrived to the church in a real winter gear, all wearing winter and skiing suits and jackets, coats, wrapped up in blankets and scarves. At first, I could not understand why they were dressed like that; especially I could not understand those who came with blankets, the evening was not too cold (comparing to the temperatures in Zagreb that are below zero). Those who were fastest came into the church and the area around the church was packed with people in winter clothes. The Eucharistic Adoration began at 10 p.m. and all those who were around the church could watch it through the video wall. Yet, even those who could not see video live streaming, were praying in peace, silence, deep humility and dignity and they were filled with the presence of living Jesus Christ. (Having in mind that more than three hours were spent outdoors, all described winter gear makes more sense now!)
Exclusive event in Medjugorje or ordinary Jesus?
When I come to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I am always drawn by yearning for God’s face, and that was the case in that night as well. During the period of more than one hour, I did not see or hear anything spectacular or exclusive, even though it was just couple of days before that message about Our Lady carrying a baby Jesus in her hands, who spoke and said how He was our peace and that we should obey his commandments. But, it was the content that we know already from the Gospel, so there was nothing new in those words. Yet, what was so strong and powerful in Medjugorje in that evening was silence that came and embraced church in Medjugorje with moonlight. It came by looking into the Blessed Sacrament. Meditations were simple, translated in many languages. They were about thanksgiving for the previous year, prayers for New Year, for conversion of hearts and for fulfilling God’s commandments. There were only few words, but lives of all those who adored Jesus, who prayed and sought for God’s face could be recognised in those words. There were many who were celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation in that evening. It is a wonderful feeling to reconcile with God and to end one year and start the New Year in that spirit of reconciliation. Priests from various countries were available to believers of various ages. Celebration of repentance, desire for change, celebration of newness of life! The Holy Eucharist that began at 11.20 p.m. was ordinary, parts of Christmas celebration were present, and yet it was so special. While we were surrounded with different firework creations, the attention of faithful was still focused on the altar, not on the sky. The center was breaking of the Word and Bread! The act of transfiguration that took place exactly at midnight was so impressive. While the whole world experiences that moment as an explosion of fireworks, shootings, champagne, kisses and hugging, we who participated in that Holy Mass were far from that. The surrounding streets were in noisy celebration, and yet the area around the church was so peaceful and all were focused on Christ who is our beginning and the end. Each one of us has brought our lives, our loved ones, our prayers, longings and hopes to that altar. Christ has received that gift from our hearts and he has turned a new page to New 2013th, with his real presence. In Him, we have our genuine reason of joy and He was the main Star in that night, a Star that brings news to us.
What is a miracle of Medjugorje?
Thousands of pilgrims who have arrived here without any special invitation to celebrate New Year in that way, who have not sought for any spectacle, hundreds of those who have confessed in that night, some even after many years of not confessing – isn’t that the real miracle? Recently, I read a testimony of one married couple who have arrived to Medjugorje with their sick children and they came to pray for a miracle of healing. They have not experienced anything from Our Lady, nothing happened even after they climbed Apparition Hill and Cross Mountain. When a father complained to the priest and told him that they have been praying for a miracle, the priest only said to him: “Go and confess!” Father was evidently confused. He was looking a sign for his child and that priest was sending him to confess. But, life of that family has changed after that confession. Father has not confessed for years and he carried many wounds in his soul and lived with mortal sins. Only after the confession, a miracle took place. Their children were better, yet for father it was just the outer sign of miraculous encounter with Christ that he experienced in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That was his real miracle! Let us never forget that Christ is next to us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the one who opens our hearts and heals us with His Mercy, lifts our hearts with His Love from the Cross. On the way to Medjugorje I was listening to the testimony of one young married couple who met on their way to Medjugorje. Even though they both lived in Italy not far from each other, they never met in Italy, but on their way to Medjugorje where they travelled with two different groups. Their meeting took place on the ferry, while Holy Mass was celebrated. They met and married after couple of years. Encounters with God in sacraments and people who meet together, those are the strongest messages of Medjugorje. Many will ask how come that such changes and special events do not happen to us in the parish where we live all the time? The reason is very simple. When we leave our parishes and go somewhere for a pilgrimage, either to Medjugorje or somewhere else, we immediately become different, our mood changes, we focus on that destination and we step out of our ordinary routine. Simply when we do that we already create prerequisites for spiritual experience. It is a psychological impact that opens doors to something new.
And where is Our Lady?
Mary is Mother that brings us to Her Son. He is most present in the Holy Eucharist. Even when she escorts us to celebration of Holy Mass, she surrenders us into His Hands, because He is Her and our center. I do not think that it is Our Lady’s desire to look for Her, just because of Her alone, She is fully devoted to Her Son. Private revelations do not oblige until the moment when Holy Father brings his decision about the whole matter. But, something that obliges us religious and faithful is known for centuries and it is written in the Scripture and in Teaching of the Church. Personally, one of the greatest challenges, in religious and theological terms for me is a miracle of God’s Mercy and Mary’s opened heart when She said to God: “Here is a servant of the Lord, may it be to me according to Thy word!” (Luke 1,38) Every single time I am moved by Her words at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee: “Do as He tells you to do!” (John 2,5). We can study those two lines throughout our whole life, it is in those lines that we will either pass or fail our exam of faith. It will be those two lines that I will bring with me in this New Year!