I first learned about Medjugorje when I was growing up because my mom came here in the 80s and brought me back one of those gigantic rosaries. I was raised a cradle Catholic and my faith and love for our Lord was strong but nevertheless I would also become distracted and fall off the path at times. My mom had started a prayer group at our family home just as Our Lady had asked of those who had returned home. I think I was in college at the time. I would come home and go, “Why are all these people in our living room?” I see now that at that time in my life I was focused on myself rather than what was going on around me. I thought it was a wonderful devotion my mom had organized and that this is what “church ladies” did but that this “invitation” did not really apply to me.
Fast forward to 2014. I was married to a wonderful man, a true gift, we had three children, life was good. We were raising our children with all the joys and struggles of life and on November 1, 2014 my son, Dominik, died in an automobile accident. This tested our faith and there was only one way to turn – towards the Lord.
Then, in 2016, a priest I know wanted to come here on a pilgrimage so I helped him organize one, and I came here with the group.
At first, I didn’t really know anything about what was happening in Medjugorje or understand it. I knew vaguely that Our Lady was appearing to 6 children (now adults). But at the time time I did not understand the significance of Our Lady’s message. I was actually not very charitable in meeting the second pilgrim group we were to join. I had heard that pilgrims always asked new pilgrims how many times they had been to Medjugorje. Mockingly in my head, I decided to use this icebreaker to meet some of the other pilgrims.
When I got out of the bus and I stepped onto the dirt road for the first time and I was like, “What is this place? I don’t think I’m coming back here for a long time.” Maybe one time I will come back here with my family for a family pilgrimage. Then I proceeded to ask a few pilgrims how many times they had been to Medjugorje. “Five, seven, nineteen times” some responded. Again in my mind I thought to myself, I’m only here this one time and maybe I will come back one day.
I was open, but I didn’t understand the message and I didn’t really understand why people were so drawn here. That was just my first day.
I was in Adoration the second or third night, and I heard a voice interiorly that told me I was going to come back in January or February with a group, and I did bring a group the end of January to the beginning of February!
Then, upon my return in January, I was in Adoration again and I also heard interiorly that I’m going to come back with another group in September/October! I also did! -it was the end of September to the beginning of October!
At first I could not understand how organizing these pilgrimages and returning to Medjugorje happened so quickly and easily with very little effort of my own. But I know God has a sense of humor and when He wants something to happen He opens wide the doors and Our Lady definitely had her hand in this too.
After that I just kept coming back with pilgrim groups. For me Medjugorje is like a little slice of Heaven. It’s the closest you can get to Heaven. The peace is palpable.I would just say to others to come and be open and try to experience all the things that pilgrims do, like climbing up Apparition Hill and praying the Rosary and climbing up Cross Mountain and meditating on the Lord’s passion during the Stations and especially Adoration and Confession because it’s life-changing. In Confession, the priests are so kind it’s unbelievable. I always want to come back here. It’s sad to be on your last day because I don’t want to leave.” Many people share this belief that they do not want to return to “the world” back home, they wish to stay in the peace of Medjugorje always. But that is what we are called to. We are called to live in the world and to bring the peace and love back to others.
The experience of Medjugorje and Our Blessed Mother’s immense love for her children has touched and blessed my family in countless way. I try to live and arm myself with the “Five Stones” of prayers, fasting, reading the Bible, confession and the Eucharist that the Mary gave us as weapons to use to overcome evil and sin our lives.
For one, I truly feel the power of the rosary! It is said that holding the rosary is like holding Mary’s hand and meditating on the mysteries of the rosary is me walking with Mary through all the joys and sorrows of this life. It renews my confidence in her intercession over and over again! Fasting has taught me to rely less on myself and more on the Lord. It is freeing to not bound by what my human desire wants right then and there. God is greater than my self reliance. I know that my sacrifice is being united in some way and used for some greater good for myself, others and the world. Maybe one day I may come to know. Reading the Bible fills me with “the truth.” It too nourishes me, inspires me and helps me persevere in the struggles of this life. Frequent confession for me continues to purify me and root out my vices. And Holy Eucharist…I could not live without the Holy Mass and Holy Eucharist. This supernatural grace is beyond explanation in human words. In addition my daily holy hour is my favorite time of day to sit and be with Jesus-that same palpable peace of being in Medjugorje.
The struggles, joys, ups and downs of this life, family life, the worlds problems will continue, come and go but I am fully confident I have my Blessed Mother’s intercession. I don’t have the quote/apparition message at the moment but I know she told the visionaries to have confidence in her intercession and I do even when times appear dark. Mary is with me and my family and her immaculate heart will triumph, I just need to do my little part and trust. “Jesus I Trust in You” I repeat many times. Every last detail is in the providence of God, I need to trust this because Jesus is Lord!
Oh and about that gigantic rosary, I had put it away safely in one of my dresser drawers when my mom gave it to me. But when I returned from that first pilgrimage I put it a very prominent place in my bedroom and when I look at it I am reminded of how much Our Lady loves us and continues to point us to her Son.