My mom was always talking about Medjugorje for as long as I can remember. I’d hear stories about people going and the golden rosaries and the sun dancing and everything. I would always hear that growing up.

The first time I came, I was hoping to see something like that. My mom brought me and my younger sister in 2018.

I was at a point where I was raised Catholic, but I wasn’t believing it anymore. That’s what I was told at school, that you’re stupid if you believe in anything like that. 

The first time I came, I was kind of going down a bad path. I was like, “Okay a vacation to eastern Europe sounds fun. I’ll see what this weird place is all about. And who knows? Maybe I’ll even get a crazy sign that God is real. This seems like the place to do that.”

While I was here, I didn’t get any crazy signs or anything like that. I feel like God could’ve given me a sign right in the face, and I still would have been like, “Meh. I hallucinated it.” Or I wouldn’t think it was from Him. Even if I had gotten a huge sign, it would have been useless.

I was spending so much time searching that I didn’t notice the impact the atmosphere was having on me. It’s like being in the sun. You’re still going to get sunburned. It’s the same with adoration. Even if we’re not doing anything, just being near Jesus in the Eucharist, that’s going to transform you without you even realizing.

Being in Medjugorje, people describe it as being in Mary’s heart or being wrapped in a hug by Her. Even if you don’t notice it, you’ll notice it when you leave, which was the case with me. I had just been looking around not noticing that I was in an embrace from Mary. I still didn’t see it that way until later, but I did notice, “It was really peaceful there, and I don’t feel that way now.”

I didn’t really pray. Maybe when I was really little I would really pray, but apart from that, I would pray if I wanted something. I’d use God as my vending machine. I’d be like, “I want someone to do this,” or “I want to go here, and it’s really important to me. If you’re there, that means you love me so you should give it to me.” That was how my prayers would be worded. 

In Medjugorje, I wasn’t really trying to pray. I was just looking for signs. In adoration I remember looking at the little candle and being like, “Make a shape or something. Do something cool.”

I think the first time I really prayed was after coming to Medjugorje. It must have, not opened the door, but unlocked it so that I could push it open a little bit.

My first real prayer was out of a place of deep distress with my life. I’d have fun with my friends and in the moment I would think I was happy, but then I’d be like, “Why am I not actually happy?”

I remember my first prayer because I was really angry, and I was angry at the ceiling. The ceiling was like God. I was like, “If You’re real, You have to show me. Prove it to me. I’ll be Catholic. I’ll believe everything the Catholic Church teaches,” because I was so far against it that it was almost like I was giving Him an impossible deal. I was like, “That’s not going to happen so then I’ll know for sure that He’s not real.”

Then a priest came to my church, Fr. Matt Williams. He was so full of energy. He changed my perspective on the faith. Medjugorje is also where his vocation is from. 

Medjugorje then praying that prayer which opened my heart a little bit, led me to Eucharistic Adoration at a Steubenville conference. In a split second, I don’t know why, I knew everything was real and that Jesus loved me and that He was looking at me and that everything the Catholic Church teaches is real. It was a very overwhelming moment. That changed everything.

I had a way different perspective coming back to Medjugorje. I was like, “Now I can appreciate everything, the peace of Medjugorje.”

Every trip is so different here. You never know what to expect when you come to Medjugorje, even if you’ve been here loads of times. 

This trip sticks out a lot because usually I come with my mom and my sister. We do the same things, go around on our own and hang around the church, but this time, being able to be with a guide like Miki, I learned so much from him that I didn’t know.

I didn’t know about these places. If you’re on your own, you can figure it out eventually and go there, but there’s a chance you’ll never hear about some of the places around here and the history of it.

And being able to bond with a group of strangers, there’s something beautiful about that. You’re all thrown together and then you become like a family. Being able to see other pilgrims experience Medjugorje for the first time was beautiful. Even if they didn’t have a huge transformation, they’re still not the same after encountering this place. 

I’ve really learned how Mary meets us where we’re at, how Jesus and Mary meet us where we’re at. The group that came this time on pilgrimage, it seemed like everyone was in different places, but we were also united at the same time in that we were experiencing something new together, even if some of us had been here before. Everyone had different things that they noticed or Mary would give them little nudges, and those nudges were so specific to them. If I had gotten a nudge like that, I would have been like, “What?” It shows how Mary knows our hearts just like a mother does. That’s something that I’ve been learning during this trip.

The whole world should know they have a Mother. 

I encounter a lot of skepticism about Medjugorje. You’re not obliged to believe. You’re not obliged to believe Fatima or Lourdes, but think how much you would miss out on. You’re missing out on so much of the beauty of it and also the urgency in Our Mother’s messages to us. 

There’s also something different about a place when you come and see it. You can’t come here and not be changed by the experience, even if you still don’t believe in it when you leave. Even if you don’t believe in it, come. You’re going to encounter people who have great faith, you’re going to learn something from that. 

Be open. It’s up to you to open the door. If you’re closed off, sitting in a corner like, “No. I’m not going to look around or see anything or believe in anything,” then that’s how it’s going to be. You’re life isn’t going to be very fun if you’re stuck in that mindset. 

If I could go back, instead of searching for signs and wonders, like shapes in the clouds or even seeing Mary walking on Cross Mountain, I would tell myself, “Just go to adoration. Instead of looking at the candle trying to get it to do flips, just look at Jesus.” I know it’s hard to believe that it’s really Him, but all you have to do is open your heart the tiniest bit, and He’ll do the rest. We can’t rely on ourselves for our faith, we have to rely on Him.