I come whenever She says, and it’s been several times. I don’t come looking for miracles. I don’t count. I just come. She says, “Go.” I go.
I can’t even believe I’m here this time. I’m pinching myself. We’re all here because Our Lady invited us.
God is good and through an extraordinary experience while in college, I was introduced to Our Lady. I believe He was tilling the rocky, ill-disposed soil of my heart so that when I would one day hear about Medjugorje, that seed would take root. A few years later, a friend of mine told me about the apparitions and by God’s gift of faith, I believed!
Touched by Our Lady coming to Medjugorje, I began sharing my new joy with my family. Soon, my mother, one brother and sister would join me on pilgrimage. When my brother returned home, that year he entered the seminary. For me, I would begin youth ministry, doing some evangelical work for Our Lady on Radio Maria and, eventually, enter diaconate formation. All of which is Our Lady’s doing.
My recent pilgrimage to celebrate the 40th anniversary caps all, however. In Medjugorje, despite the pandemic, it seemed as if Our Lady’s children had gathered for a reunion! We prayed together and basked in the presence of so many faithful souls. I came not only because I felt called by Our Lady, but also to carry the intentions of others who were unable to come themselves.
Then, the most beautiful thing happened. Following the remarkable anniversary Mass, I stayed behind as 20,000 people peacefully departed. It seemed like the right thing to do. I began to pray, asking for the good of those I came to intercede for. I also prayed to surrender more completely to Our Lord and Our Lady. What surprised me, however, was that I received an insight. I have been keeping Our Lord at arms length… afraid of intimacy or experiencing His love! Was this why Our Lady had called me to come? It seemed so. I then prayed for the courage I needed and the grace to remove the clutter taking space in my heart away from God.
I feel like an ambassador because people cannot come, people don’t know about coming, people are reluctant to come, so I feel I am just coming. If nobody else goes, I will go and carry their prayers, their intentions and pray for those who are not here. That’s why I come.
I love being here. It’s life changing. How can I put this in words?
Medjugorje is not so much about seeing and doing – visiting, climbing, looking – as it is about slowing down, listening, and entering more deeply into God’s presence that is unique there in Medjugorje.
I look at the townspeople. They said yes at the beginning and so they don’t see us as tourists, they see us as guests. You can see that when they serve you in their shops. They’re participating in what Our Lady is doing. It’s a beautiful experience.
I think She’s reminding us that Her Son is real and that She’s called us with purpose. I feel like She has special plans for us, and so the question is what is it, Mother? Mirjana says, “Go to the Blue Cross, and ask Our Lady, ‘For what reason have you invited me here? What is it that I can do? What do you want me to do?’” Everybody should ask that question.
Father Leon talks about the Five Stones, and he begins by saying, “Who would like to see Our Lady?” Well of course we’d like to see Her, but She’s given us these five stones to pick up and change our life, to do and to pray and become holy.
[iMedjugorje note: The Five Stones are five actions Father Jozo Zavko recommends based on Our Lady’s messages. These actions are like the five stones David used as weapons against Goliath. They are Prayer, Fasting, Confession, Receiving the Eucharist, and Reading the Bible.]
This is that opportunity for me to become holy and do all that I can. I try to clean out my heart so that I can bring graces home. That’s all I want I to do, just be a little vessel of God’s grace, to touch the lives of people who don’t know, who do know but aren’t coming, who struggle with things and blocks in their way. If I can just go and share a little bit of God’s goodness, God’s grace, that’s what I want to do.
So fill me up and send me back.
It’s no question in my mind that Our Lady invites us here. I think She invites everyone, but I think sometimes we’re so busy or preoccupied, we miss the invitation. It’s stuck in a pile of other mail maybe. I think to ask Our Lady what She has in mind.
Mother, do you want me to go, and if so, when?
I think that’s step number one for those that haven’t come yet that might like to go. Ask Our Lady, “When?” and go.
iMedj note: Hal shares about his early days coming to know the love of God.
I had been raised Catholic, but once away from home as a Freshman in college, I would only sometimes go to Mass – depending on how late I stayed out the night before.
One afternoon while struggling with my homework, I was daydreaming. I
wondered whether there really was a God after all. Perhaps he existed, but
how was I to know? This thought was so brief, I would not have later
recalled it at all, except for what happened that evening.
When I was getting ready for bed, a thought came to me: ‘Why don’t you
read the bible?’ Simple enough, but for a guy who had never voluntarily
opened one, this thought scarcely registered and I continued getting ready
for bed. Then, five minutes later and now in bed, the same thought came
again: ‘Why don’t you read the bible?’
This caught me cold in my tracks. I sat up, realizing full well that I had never
had this thought before, and now here it was, twice. Therefore, I decided I
would do just that. God has a keen sense of humor, however.
Though my school was not formally Christian, every room in my guys-only
dorm, had a Gideon’s bible. Perhaps they knew something about freshmen
guys. The young men on my floor, however, began throwing their bibles up
and down the hallway. Apparently, they were little moved by the gift of the
Gideons. For my part, I knew I was not going to throw mine, but what
surprised me was that when going down the hall for class or dinner, neither
could I step over them! Instead, I picked them up and took them into my
room. This went on for some weeks. On the evening of my inspiration to
read the bible, I had no fewer than 20 bibles in my room! I could only laugh
at how God works so mysteriously.
Without knowing the front cover from the back, I simply opened it and
began to read. To my surprise, the very first thing I read convinced me to
the core that God was real! It was the story of God appearing to Moses in
the Burning Bush. I then remembered my daydream from earlier in the day. From that time onward, I began going to Mass every Sunday. God was
a priority for me for the first time in my life.
This was like the tilling of some hard-packed soil, readying the ground for
seed. That seed would come each evening as I read a little Scripture and
attended Sunday Mass. Thanks to the wonderful Newman Center priest I
got into the habit of greeting Jesus when I would walk past the chapel. Fr.
Kellogg encouraged us to believe that Jesus is right beside us when we pray.
Late one evening as I passed by and said “hello”, I had the impression that
Jesus was inviting me to come inside. I objected that that would not be
possible. It was nearly midnight, the lights were out and the doors would
be locked. Apparently God had not heard my objection and I found myself
trying the door. To my surprise it opened! I couldn’t believe what was
happening. He seemed to be leading me and so I went next to the dark
chapel. Once inside, I was overwhelmed, for it seemed like the chapel was
packed with people, as if there was a great party going on. In my mind, I
asked Jesus what this was all about, why the party? He seemed to say, ‘I
want to introduce you to someone.’ Still following his lead, Jesus walked
me around the chapel. When he stopped, we were in front of the statue of
Our Lady. He said to me, I want to introduce you to my Mother!
Time passed, I managed to graduate, and a girl I was dating went with her
family to a place I’d never heard of. When she returned and told me that
Mary was allegedly appearing Medjugorje, I felt this warmth pass through
me. I believed it was true. She certainly could appear, so why not in
Medjugorje? This is the grace I believe Our Lord had given me that time in
the Newman Center chapel.
Unfortunately, I was too distracted to inquire into what she was saying
there until, years later, Mirjana would be giving a talk nearby. Finally, I was
ready to listen. Unable to understand why this young woman would come
halfway around the world to talk to us about praying the rosary, I began
praying the rosary. Not long afterwards I would make my first pilgrimage to