After much discernment and prayer, I decided to spend a full week in Medjugorje. Although I would have liked to visit two of the countries I had on my list this week (Austria and Prague), I know that the only thing my heart was truly desiring was to grow closer in God's love. Medjugorje was the place to do it and after discovering I could be in town for St. John the Baptist's day and the Peace March (on June 24th) I couldn't pass up the offer. The anniversary of when the apparitions first starting occurring in 1981 also falls on June 25th, which is a day for celebration in Medjugorje as well. To back track for a moment, I have recorded videos below explaining my connection to Medjogorje, how I heard about it, and what Mary, our Mother, invites us to do to grow closer in our faith. Medjugorje is such a significant place many pilgrims come for worship today because in 1981, Mary, the Mother of God appeared to six children on a hillside, now known as Apparation Hill, and the apparitions continue to take place today. The six visionaries were entrusted with ten 'secrets' and little has been revealed about what these secrets entail. Three of the visionaries received all ten secrets and stopped receiving daily apparitions of Mary. The other three have only received nine of the ten secrets and continue to have daily apparitions of Mary. As you can imagine, these children are now grown adults and continue to testify the blessing that God bestowed upon them. Many doctors, psychologists, and specialists have studied and tested these individuals throughout the years and it was proven that they were experiencing a form of 'unexplainable ecstasy' that would later dissolve. Many criticized the authenticity of these apparitions over the years, yet she continues to appear and speak to all those who are willing to listen. On the 2nd and 25th of each month, two of the visionaries are given a message to translate to the rest of the world. I had the privledge of being in Medjugorje when the message was revealed on the 25th of June. These messages can be found online at www.medjugorje.org. Over the course of history, Mary has appeared on earth in many places, including Fatima, Portugal, Tepeyac hill near Mexico City, Lourdes, France, Knock Ireland, Rwanda, Belgium, and today in Medjugorje. Mary has told the six visionaries of Medjugorje that this is the last time she will appear on earth. I cannot draw conclusions about what this means for our world, but I think she is preparing us for what is to come. All of her messages boil down to five concise thoughts:
We are called to PEACE
We must strengthen our FAITH
We must CONVERT our HEARTS
We are called to PRAYER
We are invited to FAST
So what do these messages mean?
Our Lady's call to peace is a call to peace in hearts of man on earth and in heaven. We can be at peace on earth and get a taste of what heaven is like, only through our submission to God's love. God desires us to be at peace with ourselves and with our brothers and sisters. By brothers and sisters, I mean every human on this planet. In all of Mary's messages to us she calls us her 'little children'. When I look around and see all of the unrest in our hearts, the animosity we have towards one another and our unwillingness to change how could we not be, but little children? By having peace with God we can allow that peace to manifest within our own hearts, families, relationships and beyond.
Our Lady's second message is a call to strengthen our faith, which can only be done by converting our hearts.
Conversion of the heart doesn't necessarily mean converting from Buddhism to Christianity or from Christianity to Catholicism. It is a direct request to purify and cleanse our hearts of all things that lead to sin. By purifying our hearts, we must remove from our lives what is not fruitful. Drugs, alcohol, money, greed, vanity, gossip, putting value on material possessions or goods, blaming or detesting others. A conversion of heart means looking inside ourselves, or looking in the mirror if you will, and understanding that all of our unhappiness in life stems from the choices we make as individuals. When you remove the blame from others and come to understand that we truly are brothers and sisters, then we are able to start loving each other as such. I myself had an extreme conversion of heart this year and was able to start looking at others from this perspective. I realized we are all flawed and so in need of each other's love and forgiveness. There were several days I spent looking at total strangers and reminding my heart, "This is your brother, love him as your love yourself." Even when I looked at people who were angry or unhappy, I was able to identify that their unhappiness only stemmed from the fact that they hadn't yet been exposed to God's love.
When we convert our hearts, we turn away from sin, we love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and "the last will be first and the first will be last". When we become poor in spirit (or give of ourselves willingly to others) we inherit the land of God. Mary also urges us to go to confession and confess our sins to God at least once a month. One priest in Medjugorje compared it to taking a shower. He said "If you don't go to confession it's like not showering your soul in seven years." Medjugorje is known as the 'Confessionary of the World' because so many people have been moved by the Spirit to go to confession. I went to confession twice while I was here, and the lines were impressively wrapped around the church and in every corner surrounding the confessionary buildings. I used to think confession was so daunting and uncomfortable, which is why I understand why many other Christians struggle with this concept today. It is difficult enough to admit our faults to ourselves, but before God and a priest, who is usually a total stranger to us, can be uncomfortable. But there is no confession that a priest has not yet heard and may I gently remind you that priests are only our intercessors to having a closer conversation with God. Yes they are human, but they have taken on a holy life and completely abandoned themselves and everything else to God. Mary calls priests today the 'shepards that look over my flock'. I encourage you to not look at the past corruptions of the church, but rather on the good deeds that so many priests and men of faith have dedicated their lives to today, in good faith. I would like to also include the women or nuns who have devoted their lives to God's call. We should look at them with complete reverence and grace.
We are next called to prayer. Mary asks us to pray with our hearts. This means to not simply state our prayers like we would a grocery list, but rather reveal to God all that we are in need of. She urges us to pray for others that have not yet come to know of God's love so that more souls may be saved in salvation. Who knew that prayer alone could change the outcome of wars and natural laws? Did you know that when Mary appeared in Rwanda in a small village in 1982 by the name of Kibeho, she gave a warning to pray and repent, repeatedly warning them of the blood bath coming in 1989? Did you know that when our Lady appeared in Fatima in 1917, she came to ask for the consecration of Russia and when the Catholic Church denied it, millions of people died because of the communist regime? Did you know that when Pope John Paul II finally did consecrate Russia to Mary's Immaculate Heart in 1984, communism collapsed less then five years later? Each and every one of our prayers count and sometimes when we think our prayers are not being answered by God I encourage you to ask yourself if you have truly converted your heart to Him. Like the parable of the lost son, God favors the prayers of a converted heart far more then the 'loyal son' who has not changed at all.
Another way to pray is with the Rosary. If you already have constant dialogue with God, I would encourage this as the next step. This is like our time machine back into the New Testament and Jesus's life. I didn't grow up praying the rosary, and for me, this was unfamiliar. I bought a small foldable card off of Amazon for $2 about a month ago, containing the various mysteries as a 'cheat sheet' so I could learn them. This card has added so much value to my life because it has not only encouraged me to learn the mysteries by heart, but gave me the courage to add one rosary to my prayers each day. Start off with dialogue and if you feel moved, pray the rosary as well.
The last (and most difficult invitation in my opinion) is our call to fast. Mary first asked us to fast on bread and water on Fridays (the day our Lord was crucified) and then later on Wednesdays as well (the day our Lord was betrayed by Judas). I first heard about this call to fasting through Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo's book 'My Heart Will Triumph'. I was shocked that I had never heard of this invitation, let alone that it had taken me 23 years of life before ever hearing about Medjugorje. The reason the Medjugorje apparitions aren't yet recognized by the Catholic Church is because the apparitions are still occurring to this day (and let's be honest, the church at times can be a little slow to respond to the mystics of the world). So this call to fast is more-so a tool to help us in our prayer life. I tried fasting for the first time on the Wednesday I say the Pope and I have to admit this was no easy task. The first six hours I was occupied with my excitement in seeing the Pope, but when this excitement dissipated, I surely found myself exhausted and envious of all those that were eating wholesome meals. I was so annoyed by my pressing hunger that I even went to bed at 7:30pm. And when I did, I had nightmares related to issues that have affected my own personal self worth and most recent relationship that I desperately wished would come back to life. It was strange because I noticed that despite my restlessness, I was also in constant prayer. It was as if there was a spiritual warfare going on within my own thoughts as I laid my head down on the pillow. But when I woke up the next morning, I felt like I had gained some sort of clarity. When I arrived in Medjugorje, the first time I heard a priest preach about fasting, he said quite plainly, "Fasting eliminates all of the demons inside our minds. It not only helps us gain spiritual clarity, but also dissipates the difference between rich and poor. When the rich fast, they become poor in spirit and in doing so, it helps us remove ourselves from earthly restrictions." I was blown away by this description that had so accurately conveyed my first fasting experience. Little did I know that I was releasing demons that were innately crushing my spirit. Now when I fast, I feel gratitude and love for God. I am in constant prayer all day. I feel less attached to my possessions and even food itself, which I love SO MUCH. Fasting can dramatically change our hearts, and I want to remind you that this is an invitation to gain more spiritual clarity. You do not have to fast if you are sick or recovering from an illness. I would highly encourage those that wish to fast to start off in small amounts. Substitute bread and water for perhaps one meal, instead of a whole day. Then replace two meals, until you feel like fasting for an entire day.
Again, all of these things are an invitation to God's call. No one can prove the mystics of the world, let alone if Elvis is still alive or if this is just a great conspiracy theory of our country today. After being in this place, I feel in my bones that this is truth. Our Lady calls us to Peace, which is God. God is The Way, The Truth, and the The Light. I pray that Our Lady's call can captivate your heart as much as she has mine.
Love and Blessings, M.ELIZABETH
The Risen Christ, (which is pictured above) is a statue made completely of bronze and started weeping 'Christ's tears' after the statue was commissioned. It is a phenomenon which cannot be explained today, but is often a place where many pilgrims come for prayer and healing. I have seen the weeping knees of the statue myself, and there they fall inconsistently, sporatically and in a way that cannot be explained other then by God himself.
The annual Peace March takes place on the feast of St. John the Baptist and on the eve of the Apparition Anniversary. Thousands of pilgrims participate in the peace march, which starts in front of the monastery in Humac at six o’clock and go to the parish of St. James in Medjugorje.