It was three years after learning about Medjugorje and starting on my “faith journey” that I finally felt called to go there. Funny this calling came in the middle of the Bosnian War in 1993. Things were quiet in the village, but make no mistake…there was a conflict. Some UN troops had even taken up residence in the village.
It didn’t seem to matter, I felt called to go. Interestingly, I was accused of just going to “see” signs and wonders. I don’t think you go to a war zone just to see signs and wonders. What did seem true was that after everything that had happened to me because of Medjugorje, I felt homesick. Homesick for a place I’d never been physically, but had been in my heart. And I felt the need to make the pilgrimage to say “thank you” to Jesus and His mother for putting me on the right path for my life.
I had never been away from my husband and kids and I think I traveled alone once in college to see a friend. I was not an adventurous sort at all, but I set out with a pilgrimage group for 12 days away from home and security.
The pilgrimage was internal as well as external. Removed from all the comforts of home and with no radio or TV to speak of, it was easy to reflect, to think and to pray. Medjugorje felt like home away from home and so peaceful…even passing tanks on the way into town. Most of the experience was so personal, that I wouldn’t even know how to share it if I wanted. I think I learned a lot about myself that I probably use to this day.
The first and second nights there I lay down to go to sleep. Sleep didn’t come easy. Granted, I was away from home in a strange place. However, there was more to it. Once I settled into bed and tried to drift off to sleep, I felt as if there was a battle going on for me. I don’t know how else to explain it. The feeling was so strong that on the second night, I sat up in bed and said (quietly so as not to wake my roommate), “That’s enough!” From that time on, I felt the sensation of protection so strongly. I had to sit up and look at the wall behind my bed, because it felt as if someone was standing guard there. Someone probably was.
There were so many ways to pray in Medjugorje…it’s almost as if everything you did was a prayer…climbing Mt. Krizevac and Apparition Hill, going to Mass, walking through the fields, even shopping for souvenirs to bring a little bit of the place home with you…everything.
One sunny afternoon, a few of us were back at the pilgrim house where we were staying having a rest. I was in the kitchen with Fr. C, our spiritual director, and my roommate. A few of the girls on the trip were outside in the yard talking. All of a sudden their conversation took on a more excited tone and one of the girls yelled, “Hurry! Come quick!”
We ran out to where they were standing only to find them staring up into the sky…at the sun…and pointing. About all they could say was, “The sun!”
*** Warning: Do not try this at home! ***
I had heard stories of pilgrims in Medjugorje seeing the sun spin and dance and do all sorts of things the sun isn’t supposed to do. This was much like the miracle of the sun at Fatima. I hadn’t even thought about those stories since I’d been in the village…until now.
I took a quick peek in the direction they were pointing, but I mean…come on, everyone knows you’re not supposed to look at the sun. One of the girls told me to give it one second, so I did. The sun was quickly veiled by what looked like a host that we use for Communion. Clouds of pink, purple and gold swirled around it. After a few seconds, the “host” appeared to crack down the middle, as the priest does to it during the Consecration at Mass. Then three dots appeared on one half and suddenly a Cross came forward away from the host. I stood there watching this for a couple of minutes, dumbstruck. You can’t, you shouldn’t look at the sun. But here I was…looking at the sun. I only turned away because more dots started to appear and in my mind I got nervous that I had now done irreparable damage to my eyes. The others told me that the dots and the Cross formed a Rosary after I had looked away.
I only relate this because to be honest…I loved (and still do) hearing what other people experience. Was that the most important part of my trip? No. But it does show that God works outside the world that we as humans know. I didn’t need proof that He existed, but I looked at it more as a little gift for us that day. Just because…
Twelve days in Our Lady’s boot camp and it was time to leave. My heart and head were full of so much, I knew it would be more than just clothes I’d be unpacking when I got home. Re-entry back into our American way of life was a shocker at first. Everything seemed so loud! But I was so happy to see the smiling faces of my family at the airport. And I was happy that I had done this thing, not only for myself, but for all of us. It just cemented all that we had started to do as a family.
Conversion is an ongoing process. Life goes on. People change, situations change. Over the course of the last 20 years or so, bad things have happened and joyous things have too. But at the center of it all…even when we may have slacked off in a few ways here and there…has been God and our faith. Some days you realize it’s the only thing you have on which you can rely. I’ve made people unhappy because of my beliefs and lost a few people too. In the end, I can’t deny that I am the way I am because I said “yes” to something I believe with all my heart is true. God is eternal. I think I’ll store my treasure and my hope there.