I am a geologist.
Why are rocks fascinating to me? Because they’re down to earth.
It’s the story of something that you have to have the eyes for. It’s understanding the story of creation, having wonder and awe of some of the most magnificent places that God’s ever made.
Part of what drives me as a geologist is seeing these different places across the world, getting to look at rocks and then compare them to other places and then piecing together the story of how they came to be of that variety in that place.
I guess I’m just a really big nerd about rocks.
There’s a lot going on in Medjugorje with the rocks actually.
My friend handed me a rock rosary from Medjugorje. I was like, “Oh, it’s all limestone.”
Limestone is the calcium carbonate remains and other associated minerals of an ancient sea bed and the flora and fauna of that sea ecosystem.
Apparition Hill and Cross Mountain are all limestone. It used to be the sea floor.
If you hike Apparition Hill and saw it through my eyes, you would see that there’s actually a number of episodes of sea level change reflected in the composition of the rocks. You can tell by the texture of the rocks. In some places the rocks look blocky and the bedding planes are thicker with a plain gray color versus other places where smaller texture and thinner bedding planes are observable. There are other clues the rocks contain such as fossils in some places and seemingly nothing in others which can also tell us what depth the sea floor was at that time. Each are different periods within the development of the sea floor.
Imagine if you could look at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea, and look from the shallow area on the coast (in the photic zone) to the deeper areas (more benthic). This ancient sea bed is what Medjugorje now sits on top of.
I knew on this pilgrimage that none of this was about me. It was about the people there and about the souls that God had entrusted to our group. I took personal responsibility for that in my own way and attribute this notion to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
At the base of Cross Mountain, we all started ascending for the stations of the cross, and I’m normally a pretty fast hiker. There was something inside me that was saying, “Slow. Help those that need to be shown the way because they don’t know how to hike, and they’re going to get hurt if they don’t figure out how to step and how to walk on the slippery and rocky path.” This was the Lord.
I wanted to help other pilgrims that needed to figure out how to walk on the wet limestone because everybody was stepping on the really slick worn spots. You only step on the slick areas if you are barefoot. If you’re hiking with boots, tennis shoes or a rubber sole, you’re going to break your face on those rocks.
The big thing was just making sure that everybody was okay, that they had the opportunity to hike and keep up with the Stations of the Cross and really experience it. I think what evolved from it for all of us was this beautiful pilgrimaging together and walking the Stations together.
That’s authentic as a Christian life, that basically you have your own cross to bear, but your brothers and sisters in Christ with their own crosses too, you all bear them and share that together. Each cross has it’s own flavor, but our crosses unite us together through Jesus. That’s so incredibly important for community.
That’s actually one of the conditions necessary to be a real Christian, to be a Catholic. In the Bible, that’s one of the things the Lord was speaking to, “It’s not about you, it’s about picking up your cross and following Me.” To me, that was dying to myself, dying to my desire to run up the mountain or rush through it and help other pilgrims.
[ Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. ]
The first time that we did Cross Mountain was my time to give to others and to help others ascend their own Cross Mountain. I have to die to myself to be united to Him, and He’s given me the grace to do that in little ways.
When we hiked Apparition Hill, Fr. Wee said something to the group like, “Maybe you want to sit this part out, but we’re here together, we’re pilgrimaging together, and this is very important and we will help you get up.” Basically, he was affirming the sense of community and unity to us all, even though everyone was struggling in our own different ways.
I did Cross Mountain again barefoot up and down. It took me two hours. I missed breakfast, but it was totally worth it.
I took Fr. Slavko’s Stations of the Cross and I did all 14 Stations up to the Cross itself. I took my time with it. There were times I was tempted to be like, “I’ve got to get back for breakfast,” and rush it, but I thank the Lord that I was able to resist the temptation to do that and recognize the great importance of completing all the Stations properly and meditating on that with the Lord because it united me so much more to Him.
It was incredible because the graces born from that hike, waking up at 5am that morning and daring to go, were received for the whole day. The Lord set me on fire. I had energy throughout the day through the evening program and was given graces for areas I usually struggle with. I was patient the whole day, and the Lord gave me the love to love everybody. He showered me with a number of graces.
There are fossils on the back side of Cross Mountain. They don’t look like a fish or a dinosaur or what you might expect them to look like. They kind of look like a sea plant blown over and fragments.
On Apparition Hill there are a lot of fossils too. I was seeing them all the way up.
What’s interesting about the top of Cross Mountain is that when you’re at the 14th Station, Fr. Slavko’s Stations of the Cross meditation says, “Here in the tomb I bury my ego because with that ego I cannot be with You, Jesus.”
He speaks that you need to die to yourself, bury those things in the tomb, surrender them to Jesus because they’re not from God. The ego is not from God. It’s your choice, but if you don’t surrender your ego, you can’t be with Jesus.
As I was praying, I surrendered the ego and those things that I was struggling with. I renounced the lie that my identity was bound to my efficacy as a geologist and tied up in my work and announced the truth that Jesus Loves me period.
When I got to the top at the Resurrection Station I pressed my forehead to the feet of Jesus on the big panel and prayed a surrender prayer. When I opened my eyes I looked to the right at the base of the panel and saw a small rock, maybe two inches across, and it had tons of fossils in it. It was beautiful and I would normally pick it up right away. But I was like, “I don’t care, Jesus, if it means I can’t have You. It doesn’t matter. It’s a dead piece of material. It means nothing in the sight of You!”
It was a small symbol of my pride too. I prayed out loud and from the heart, “To Hell with my pride. To Hell with anything that keeps me from the Lord.” My heart and soul were in awe of the Lord.
Die to yourself. Pick up your cross, and embrace it. You’re going to fall. There’s going to be a real human experience with that. It’s in those experiences and those broken moments that God’s going to manifest His glory so much more deeply and convert you and unite you to Himself. Every step is very important. Everyone that you see along the way is also important because they’re made in His image, He wants to bless them through You His willing instrument, and He wants to give you the gift of encountering Him in another person.
That’s how I encountered the Lord on Cross Mountain.
I might add as a last note Miki’s words from the ascent of cross mountain, “Between stations let’s use this time to pray the rosary. Your time is limited. Don’t waste it.“