On our way home, we drove through Croatia, towards Dubrovnik, and enjoyed such beautiful views of mountains, irrigated lands, and then the Seacoast near the Adriatic Sea with higher class cities and the bluest waters and inviting beaches. We toured the Old City of Dubrovnik, had a delightful dinner by the water’s edge and watched boats coming and going.
Our time in Bosnia, visiting the Medugorje site of the apparent apparitions of Mary to some 6 children of the village (some 30 years ago, and still claiming to be continuing through the present moment), could be more aptly called a 9 day retreat. The day, from morning through night, in between some very good or not so good meals, was filled with opportunities to pray. The day began with Mass (Church filled with over 1,000 Pilgrims at each Mass with the overflow sitting or standing outside, the loudspeakers keeping us focused). Crowds were waiting to burst through the doors as soon as the English people left the Church. Masses were held in Italian and other languages.
Trips to the Apparition Mountain were highlights for everyone, climbing the very rocky slopes, with mysteries of the Rosary engraved in bronze by the sides of the path (hard to call the rocks a path) for people to meditate upon on their way up the mountain. I enjoyed this climb and the peaceful setting and place of prayer at the top. I found a little spot for solitude. There were throngs of visitors who were there with me.
The streets of Medugorje were distastefully lined with souvenir shops, and the occasional coffee shop, and restaurants…but mostly souvenir shops. The Church (built before the visions ever started) was the destination place of every Pilgrim every day. The Confession lines were long and steady and for many people, myself included, a highlight of the trip. Priests were there from all over the world, and yes, we were encouraged to go to a priest in our own language!
Holy Hours in the Adoration Chapel, Benediction, Veneration of the Cross, Rosaries, the Croatian Mass in the evening….these were some of the other happenings each day. The few days before the scheduled monthly apparition, there were around 10,000 people at Adoration…and at the Masses. We did hear two presentations by two of the visionaries, a presentation by Sister Emanuel ( her lovely testimony of her conversion we had listened to before we went – my brother, Ralph, had interviewed her and had it taped)….we also heard a testimony of conversion by a very wealthy man who sold everything and moved his family here.
So, Medugorje was very different from other tours and this was a relief to me. I enjoyed staying in one place and life being simple. I enjoyed some lunches and coffee with a few younger women (younger now is mid-fifties) who were as skeptical as I was about the visionaries, but who were also inspiring, successful in their careers (but sadly, not their marriages), and lighthearted. This friendship was important for the week that could have been very long. A very special moment happened for me at the time of the Appartition….a very ,very deep moment of prayer… of conversation with Mary… of my petitions flying to her! I felt the connection physically as well as spiritually.
It is something I won’t ever forget.
I wasn’t expecting this at all,
and maybe why it was so startling and beautiful for me.
Bob and I both came home fairly refreshed, and blessed by our trip. I’ve made a few simple changes in my life…. (well they aren’t really changes until I carry them through)…. I want to go to monthly Confession (it really blessed me…the Priest was perfect for me), one decade of the rosary a day (My mother taught me that one hail Mary was enough if said well….so, this is a big jump for me), and actually going to daily Mass less often, but hopefully more meaningfully to me.) Would I ever recommend anyone going to Medugorje? No. Would I ever discourage anyone from going? No. Would I go back? I couldn’t say No. Regardless of the imperfect sides of things (as I see them… and you must realize, that I might be the one who is blinded), one couldn’t help but be touched by the faith of thousands of Pilgrims and the deeper call to prayer and union with God.