Spirit Daily is happy to announce a pilgrimage to the apparition site of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

It is our first such pilgrimage in six years and is set for June 4-12 (seven nights in the village).

The pilgrimage will be conducted by author Michael H. Brown and wife Lisa in conjunction with native Croatians Bozica Bartulica of Kansas City -- who has led dozens of pilgrimages to the sacred spot and who first visited the apparition site within days of the first sighting in 1981. Bozica's husband Nick is a psychiatrist who evaluated the seers and believes the apparitions are totally authentic. The Bartulicas have close personal ties with villagers, priests, and the visionaries.

Slowly but surely, events in the world have been graduating in intensity since the onset of the apparitions and recent messages have indicated a pronounced emphasis by the Blessed Mother on warnings and signs of the times. This we will investigate as a group, and in meetings with principals at the site of apparitions.

As of this moment, Medjugorje appears to be one of the half a dozen most powerful apparitions in history -- ranked in our opinion with such historic appearances as Le Puy (France), Lourdes (France), Fatima (Portugal), and Guadalupe (Mexico); it is the most publicized apparition in nearly a century.

We have never seen a situation that has so potently caused major conversions -- both in those already "converted," those who are lukewarm, and even skeptics.

In our nearly two decades of looking at the situation, we have noted that at least ninety percent of those who have gone there describe not just a good pilgrimage with special grace, but a life-changing experience (with peace as they never knew peace existed).

The fruit is obvious: tens of millions have visited, many hundreds of priestly vocations have been the result (the majority in at least one European nation, according to a cardinal), and the entire Marian movement was brought back to life by the events in the 1980s.

Tens of thousands of priests, hundreds of bishops, and dozens of cardinals have visited, often with the encouragement of John Paul II, who had a private devotion to Medjugorje and followed its monthly messages.

We are also aware of the controversies. The last two local bishops, Pavao Zanic and Ratko Peric, have been vehemently opposed, although their power to rule on the apparitions was removed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1987. The matter is now in the hands of a national commission that includes the Cardinal of Sarajevo, whose vicar has told us there will be no determination on authenticity until the apparitions end. We will adhere strictly to that final determination, whatever it is.

"The Vatican has said that dioceses or parishes should not organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje," noted the U.S. bishops news service. "But the Vatican has also said Catholics are free to travel to the site, and that if they do the church should provide them with pastoral services." At least one priest will accompany us.

Three of the six original seers still receive daily apparitions while the other three -- who each have all ten of their promised "secrets" -- receive periodic visitations, reputedly.

We will be staying with and in proximity to seer Mirjana Soldo, the first to receive all ten secrets and the one who appeared to have the most serious messages for the world. All seers are equally special in their own missions, and we will seek to visit whoever is in the village at the time of our pilgrimage (along with local priests and others from whom we may benefit). Treks will  be made to local points of interest, including the exuding statue of Jesus behind the church; Apparition Hill; the blue cross; and Mount Kricevac.

Michael Brown will be in the village for five days and nights and will be giving at least one talk each day as well as holding question-and-answer periods at the pilgrim homes or behind the church. It is a beautiful time of the year in the village.

Deep and prayerful involvement with the Blessed Mother is the primary goal in leading us to a more profound relationship with her Son.

The stance of the Vatican is clear and verifiable. As the news service for the U.S. bishops has reported, private pilgrimages are allowed for faithful and clergy alike, while formal parish pilgrimages are not allowed until a final ruling on authenticity is made.

If Medjugorje is ever rejected by the Church, we will change all involvement with it -- both in the way of pilgrimages as well as in the way it is reported.

John Paul II spoke in a positive way to more than a dozen bishops and cardinals about the events at Medjugorje, and even told them to encourage the pilgrimages there.

Private letters between the late Pope John Paul II and a couple in Krakow, Poland, have confirmed, in writing, that the late pontiff had a positive view of Medjugorje and even a daily devotion attached to the site of apparitions in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

The letters, dated March 30, 1991, May 28, 1992, December 8, 1992, and February 25, 1994, and addressed to Zofia and Marek ("Z. M.") Skwarniccy, make several references to Medjugorje (in Polish, "Medziugorje") by name.

"And let everything be well on the journey to Medjugorje-Rome," wrote John Paul II. "I thank Zofia for everything that regards Medjugorje," the Pope apparently wrote. "I am also going there every  day in prayer: I join everyone who is praying there or who derives the call to prayer from there. Today we have understood this call  better."

In the presence of Archbishop Harry Flynn of Minnesota the Pope said: "Medjugorje? Medjugorje? Medjugorje? Only good things are happening at Medjugorje.  People are praying there.  People are going to Confession. People are adoring the Eucharist, and people are turning to God.  And, only good things seem to be happening at Medjugorje." Similar testimonies have been related by august figures such as Archbishop Philip Hannan of New Orleans.

For now, it stands as a place of singular grace -- the most intense spiritual experience we have had, along with Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, St. Peter's, and the Holy Land. "I have been there seven times," says Brown, "and have found each trip as powerful and fresh as the one before."

We are encouraging those who can to join us. Those who can't will be prayed for.

[click here for pilgrimage]

[see also: Cardinal says new commission to investigate Medjugorje and Official statements]

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