MEDJUGORJE: REPORT ON OUR PILGRIMAGE
By Michael H. Brown
Our pilgrimage to Medjugorje was tremendous. I know there are many who have been waiting for a report, and I apologize for the delay. It's been very busy. There were people from at least 15 different states on the trip, and from as far away as Hawaii and Argentina. Most had not been to Medjugorje before -- which made this trip special. After it was over our great tour agent said she has never gotten more positive response, and so we intend on doing this again, probably next spring.
The route took us from JFK Airport in New York, where I was able to personally greet all in our travel group, to Vienna and then onward to Split, Croatia, and a bus ride down the gorgeous Adriatic Coast. Due to an unexpected limit on tickets, we were forced to travel in three different groups, something that fortunately will not happen next time, when we will be able reserve seats more in advance.
The first day we heard the seer Vicka Ivankovic speak, and among other things she expressed the crisis with youth and the need to reach them. "Our Lady is very preoccupied with the young people, because they are going through a very difficult time," she said. "Satan is using every moment seeking to destroy us, especially the young." But she emphasized that these moments are also moments of "great grace."
That was obvious by Medjugorje itself, which seemed like the old days. It was my sixth trip, and I had not felt this way at Medjugorje since 1991 -- before the war. I remember times during the war when I stood as the sole person in St. James Church in the middle of the day.
This time it was certainly different! We got there just after the 20th anniversary, and our guide, Miki Musa, said the crowds were like they were 11 years ago. I estimated the same by counting those around the church. There were thousands of pilgrims.
On our first full day word came from one of our pilgrims, Craig McHenry of Massillon, Ohio, that a substance seemed to be coming out of a large corpus of Christ behind the church, and most of us saw it in subsequent days and stood in wonderment as a drop of clear fluid formed every minute or two, and we were able to reach up and touch it. By the third day, large crowds were forming around the statue. [see previous story] While we have withheld any conclusion about whether it is supernatural, it was certainly interesting. I viewed it June 29 and 30.
By Sunday we had climbed Apparition Hill, and also Mount Krizevac, with our wonderful priest, Father John McFadden from the Philadelphia area, leading us in reciting a precious version of the Stations of the Cross. Some went to Confession at the summit -- describing it as unforgettable -- while others attended Confession before Monday, when we went to an apparition to Mirjana Soldo -- who received no public message during her monthly visit but who said the apparition, lasting about five minutes, had to do with her secrets. She explained how an image of the Blessed Virgin that hangs in her home on the basement level touches her in a special way that reminds her of the Blessed Mother, and she described how when Mary comes everything else disappears.
I had my own little private experience in the church while praying in front of a statue of Mary that stands at the right part of the altar (as you're facing it). In past visits I have always found it a powerful place to pray, and this time it was like it blurred into something white and I felt spoken to about our recent reporting of an American apparition and its message. I had asked guidance whether to continue this reportage and heard the words, "Defend your country." I realized right after that it was July 4. I also felt a confirmation on Our Lady of America during an episode in which I saw the "miracle of the sun" (as did other of our pilgrims) and "felt" further instructions. Later I learned that at the anniversary's jubilee Mass a few days before a nun and a group of pilgrims saw an apparition of Mary at the same statue [see this story].
Visits to see Father Jozo Zovko, the seer Ivan Dragicevic, and others accented the trip, and while I would like to recount the experiences of all, it's difficult when there are so many. There was so much going on: An unexpected delight was a wonderful little concert given us by our guide Miki. I would have liked to have given more talks (and next time we will probably make room for at least one more), but we tried to carefully balance everything so that pilgrims were not overly "talked to" and had time to pray quietly.
After all, the chief part of the pilgrimage was being in Medjugorje.
And most had the standard reaction: that Medjugorje was unlike anywhere they had ever been and was a high point of their lives. Some pilgrims saw the miracle of the sun. Some (including my own twin sister) has their rosaries turn gold. Some saw images of Jesus and Mary in the moon. All felt the indescribable peace -- unlike anything they had ever felt. I truly loved this group and enjoyed meeting each one. One woman moved me when she said it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to her, and I heard the same from others. Another of our pilgrims had her birthday there and was sung to and expressed total joy at celebrating there.
How can you beat being near the Virgin Mary?
And in Medjugorje, there is no doubt that the Virgin still appears.
Our pilgrims with seer Mirjana Dragivecic Soldo (minus our first group, who left two days earlier)
At Vienna airport with Father McFadden
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