I don’t remember hearing about Medjugorje because it was always part of my life. I have no memory of it being a conversation or Mom and Dad sitting me down and explaining, “This is Medjugorje.” It was just always there.
As I grew up, I learned about when my parents and my family had heard about it and when they had first gone. So I knew the history of it and the legacy that Medjugorje had in my own family. But for me, I was just soaked in it.
The first trip I remember, I was about 7. I mostly remember just being with my best friend. Because when you go on family holidays, you don’t go with your friends, but because it was a pilgrimage, we went with other families. So it was my best friend and me, we sat at the back of the airplane and ate gummy sweets. I remember that, and I remember climbing the hills and just having the best time. Just being outdoors in the sunshine when you’re used to being in Scotland in the rain, it was an adventure.
I remember outdoor Adoration especially, as well. At nighttime. I remember that being really special.
I can remember going to Medjugorje six times.
It’s always just been part of my life, and so I would say that I’ve not really had any profound momentous moment in Medjugorje. It’s more that it has completely shaped my life and my faith and shaped my family. So the evidence of it and the way that it has impacted us is all around all the time. So it’s not like one bang moment. The power of it has always been present.
The time that’s maybe most significant, not necessarily for any spiritual reason that happened to me, is the time I went to the Youth Festival. I was 15, I think. I went with a group from Craig Lodge.
I actually didn’t really enjoy it because I’m quite a shy person, and it was such a massive group, so busy, so crowded, that I felt quite shy and overwhelmed most of the time. I think I had so many memories of going with my family that I was like, “No I prefer doing this just with my family, more relaxed.”
Medjugorje feels like a second home because I’ve been going so often. It was like, “Woah, it’s so busy. I’m used to it being so quiet.” In a selfish, taking-it-for-granted way, I’m used to when it’s serene and quiet and feels like a family home. So I was a bit overwhelmed.
But that time is significant because my Uncle Mark died while we were on the trip in Medjugorje. I think that made Medjugorje even more special for our family because now, when we go back, we visit where he died and where they found his body.
It’s not just the place where Our Lady appears, a place where our family kind of attributes our faith, but it’s also where Mark died.
Mark was adopted by my grandparents. They adopted three of their five children, the first two as little babies, but they adopted Mark when he was much older. He was about 7. He was the youngest. He was adopted after the rest of them were already teenagers.
He had had a very difficult childhood and he was in care, and he was very unwell. The doctors had struggled to ever place him with a family because he needed so much medical care. But when my granny met him, and she saw how he was, and she actually really disagreed with the way doctors were looking after him, so she wanted to take him home and look after him.
He was ill all our life. He wasn’t terminally ill, but we where aware that it could cause complications; that his life would probably not be long.
He wasn’t Catholic when they adopted him. They brought him up in the faith, but he really struggled with it, especially because he was so ill, I think. He struggled with school; he struggled socially. He struggled with mental health and things like that because of his illness.
Then he had a really big conversion in Medjugorje, I think when he was about 21, and his life turned around. So Medjugorje has always been very special to him.
He hadn’t been in a long time. Traveling was really hard for him, but he’d made up his mind, he was determined to go with us. My Uncle Magnus was also there. Magnus has a good relationship with all of the visionaries. It was during the festival, but Ivan knew that Magnus was there, and he invited Magnus and me and some of my other cousins as well. We went to Ivan’s on Saturday evening because he was having the apparition and we could all be present there in the chapel for the Rosary. That was at 8 o’clock, roughly.
Meanwhile, one of my cousins and my Uncle Mark were having dinner, and Mark went on a walk back to the hotel because he wasn’t feeling well.
He wasn’t in the hotel the next day when we were meant to travel home. He was missing for two days. Most of us flew home. My Uncle Magnus stayed behind. Then they found out on the Monday that Mark had died.
Mark died August 4th, 2012. They actually determined his time of death as being while we were at the apparition.
The doctors didn’t have any specific cause of death. He was in a very random little field, nowhere near his hotel. He’d gone for a walk in some opposite direction. He was right in front of Križevac [the Croatian name for Cross Mountain]. He was lying facing Križevac. He’d taken his shoes off and put them to the side, and he’d walked a little bit. They found his body directly in front of Križevac.
We were all so sad to lose him but I remember talking with my dad the morning of the funeral and he consoled me. He said how amazing is it that he is with God now and isn’t in pain.
And he was really good friends with Father Slavko so it was nice that they both died in a pretty close together place.
Song written by Emily’s brother about Mark –https://open.spotify.com/track/1PP4JHk92tXSEqcJ3YyvWK