Captured on March 12

It was kind of spontaneous. There’s a part of me that always wanted to make a pilgrimage here to Medjugorje. But I had never thought about planning it until Zach’s invitation. And then it was really obvious that this was something I wanted to do, and it worked out that I could do it. So it’s a both/and kind of thing – something I’ve wanted to do and the opportunity presented itself and I took the invitation.

I came here with a lot of discernment questions. I’m at a place in my life where I’m really asking the Lord, “What do You want me to do next?” And it’s not that Our Lady has given me anything clearly specific like, “Go do this.” But it’s almost like She’s given me really good discernment advice of how to go about asking those questions and being able to trust in Her prayers. Truly, to Jesus through Mary. I want to know the will of the Father for me, and I want to unite my will with that, and She’s going to play a big part in that now that I didn’t see before.

[The letters AMDG are on Jonathan’s sweatshirt] It’s Latin for ‘Ad maiorem Dei gloriam’ which is a motto that comes from St. Ignatius of Loyola. It’s the motto of the Jesuits. In English, it means ‘For the greater glory of God.’ It’s a motto that we, as men, have written on our hearts to live in every moment in every way. It’s something we take pride in. It’s at the heart of our fraternity with each other. I think, to say what does it mean, specifically to me, it’s about not fretting about little things. It’s about taking each day and saying, “Okay. This day belongs to You, Lord, and we’re going to live it well, and we’re going to glorify You in everything that we do. Or we’re gonna try.” We don’t always make it perfect, but we give it our best, and He picks up the slack. 

I think it’s a message of not having fear. The world is kind of freaking out about this [COVID-19] because I think people are afraid. They’re afraid of getting sick, or they’re afraid of dying.

There’s another Latin motto that’s a lot more popular, ‘Frater, memento mori,’ ‘Brother, remember your death.’ We’re not going to live in fear of death because we know the One who has conquered death.

We were planning this trip and seeing the news and things were escalating with Italy and Cameron said, “The worst thing that happens is we die.” It’s not something we’re afraid of because we know where we are. We know that our hearts are set on the Lord. We know we’re in a holy place. If it should come to that, then Lord so be it. 

But we also trust that we know that He has a plan for all of this in some divine way, and just not to give in to the fear; not to give in to the hysteria, but to continue to live our lives as aimed to God. 

For me personally [my faith] started in high school with an encounter with the Lord where I knew that He was real and I knew that He loved me. And then encountering these guys [Zach and Cameron] at Franciscan [University in Steubenville] was where that grew deeper as we grew together, always supporting one another. That’s been an essential part of this journey for me is doing it in community.

We started in Spain. We went to the Benedictine Abbey in the mountains of Montserrat where we spent two days praying with the monks and eating with them and exploring the mountains. The first part of this pilgrimage was designed to be very Ignatian. St. Ignatius wen to Montserrat which was a very beautiful part of his journey. We also visited La Cova which is this cave in Manresa in Spain, it’s all in Catalonia, where St. Ignatius prayed and he wrote Spiritual Exercises

Then from there, we originally had a layover scheduled in Rome, but we cancelled it because of all the craziness around Rome. So we had our layover in Athens which was more like a leisure day. We were there for less than 23 hours so we just took our time and enjoyed Athens and some good food and some good drink.

And then from there we came here which is where it’s gotten to more hardcore retreat mode and pilgrimage mode which was an interesting change of pace. Because we were in vacation mode and we were just having a good time, and then we come here and it’s like, wait fasting? Penance? It was just difficult to adjust to that, but Our Lady calls us and so we are here.