The cheers exploded! There was singing and dancing. The outdoor arena was packed with 50,000 teens and the energy was tangible in the air because of their excitement. No, we weren’t at a Lady Gaga concert. We came for the greatest “Lady”—Our Lady, the Blessed Mother. It was the 22nd annual Medjugorje Youth Festival, and I was there to experience the pilgrimage of a lifetime!
After more than 24 hours of travel, a herd of foreigners, long lines in customs, a bad stench of BO, and three hours of driving through the winding streets of Bosnia; I finally reached the hills of Medjugorie.
There were no Wal-Mart’s, stoplights, or fast food restaurants in sight. With majestic mountains to my left and the clear blue Adriatic Sea to my right, and rocky terrain surrounding me, I entered a different world then the flat corn fields of Indiana. I could’ve easily felt lost there for 12 days. But I came to on this pilgrimage to find something … well someone – the Blessed Mother.
The Story of Medjugorje
On June 24, 1981, Our Lady appeared to six youth on a hill in a small village in Bosnia-Hercegovina called Medjugorje. And over the last thirty years, the Blessed Virgin Mary has been appearing and giving messages to the world. You may have heard of other famous apparition sights such as Lourdes or Fatima. But what makes this apparition sight unique is that the visionaries claim the visions are still continuing today.
How often does your mom repeat the same things over and over to you? Like, “Do your homework!” Or “Clean your room!” Well, Our heavenly mother is repeating the same message to us – “Turn to my son!”
Our Lady doesn’t tell us anything new to our Catholic faith. Her message is of peace and love. She is calling us, with urgency, to her son Jesus. She has come to wake us up from, what one of the visionary calls, a “spiritual coma.” Many Catholics and Christians have fallen away from their faith. Like a loving mother, Mary comes to wake us up and bring us into what she calls “the school of love and prayer.”
Consistent pillars in Our Lady’s messages are the following:
- Prayer (Rosary) with the heart
- The Eucharist (Mass)
- Monthly Confession
Can I just say … I love being Catholic! Here I was in a small village in the middle of nowhere Bosnia, waving through the air were flags from Sweden, Ireland, Japan, Canada and hundreds more. Throughout the festival we prayed the rosary, attended daily mass, adoration, confessions, testimonies, and heard live music in all different languages.
“This is what it means to be Catholic.” I thought. Catholic means “Universal.” What I experienced during the youth festival was the Universal Church – a living faith. Mass was translated in over 18 languages, and it didn’t matter the ethnicity, culture, or what flag we waved through the air. We were Catholic, and we were here to respond to our Lady’s call.
I had the opportunity to walk barefoot up Apparition Hill, the place where Mary first appeared. The mountain is covered with big, jagged rocks and the hike to the top is more than my average work out on the elliptical. Did it hurt? Yes, it did. But as I prayed the mysteries of the rosary and huffed up the hill, I took all the intentions of my family and friends with me. And honestly, this was my favorite part of the trip! Each time I would step on a painful pebble I would offer it up my sick parents, Life Teen, my friend, and all the teens I minister to. It was powerful!
Lost and Found
Along with cheesy Mary statues, painful heat, and rocky hills, from the world’s eye, this small village seems lost. In the midst of soccer practice, Facebook, and Entertainment News, why should anyone pay attention to six visionaries in the hill country of Bosnia?
But that’s how God works! Like the small, hidden stable in Bethlehem for example. He comes in the most unexpected ways to small, lost places … so that we can be found.
The miracle of Medjugorje is not in the apparitions. It’s in the long lines to the confessional that last til the early hours of the morning. It’s the countless rosaries being prayed. It’s the praise and worship, tears and 50,000 youth on their knees for adoration.
No, I didn’t get to see any apparition or vision. No lightning or twirling sun.
I found something much greater during that pilgrimage. I found the love of a mother, peace, and a conviction to prayer. In my busy life, I often make excuses to not pray the rosary more. I mean, Facebook and American Idol can take up a lot of time! But if our heavenly Mother thinks it’s important enough to come down to earth and tell us, with great urgency, to pray – I think we should listen. Because she loves us … and she loves her son.
“If you knew how much I love you, you’d cry for Joy” – Our Lady, Medjugoje
For more information on Medjugorje or on Our Ladies monthly messages go to http://www.medjugorje.hr
Church’s Official Position on Medjugorje: The church has not officially confirmed or denied the apparitions in Medjugorje. In conformity to the decree of Pope Urban VIII, and the directives of the Vatican Council II, Life Teen, Inc in regards to Medjugorje© , declares that we do not have the intention to precede the judgment of the Roman Catholic Church in regards to the validity of the supernatural character of facts and messages related to the reported events in Medjugorje. This judgment belongs to the authority of the Church, to whom we submit ourselves fully. Words used in any of Life Teen’s blogs and/or in Medjugorje© literature, publications or on our website – such as “apparitions,” “miracles,” “messages,” “visionaries,” and similar – have the value of human witness and personal faith.