Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Medjugorje: A Call to Peace and Conversion

Our Lady of Medjugorje
I’m sure that at one time or another you have heard of Medjugorje, and perhaps like me you know very know little about what has been happening there for close to 30 years. All Christians, all believers and non-believers, are sure to find of interest the supernatural nature of the events unfolding in Medjugorje. This past October, I was in Italy with my wife and we had the privilege to visit Medjugorje. Let me share my pilgrim experience there with you in the hope that you may find it helpful in some way with your spiritual life and your witness to life.

The basic story is astonishing but simple. It’s what can truly change hearts and the entire world. Since June 1981, the Blessed Virgin Mary, called by the local people there, the “Gospa”, has been appearing in the parish town of Medjugorje (Citluk, Bosnia-Herzegovina). Six children, Ivanka Ivankovic’, Mirjana Dragicevic, Ivan Dragicevic, Vicka Ivankovic , Ivan Ianvankovic and Milka Pavlovoc, began seeing Our Lady that day and she continues to appear to this day.

Our Blessed Mother has given the children, now adults, a number of messages, over the past twenty-nine years. In all her messages, she continues to call all of mankind back to God. From the first days of her presence on the hill named the Podrdo (currently called Apparition Hill, see photo), She has stressed the importance of peace. In Her words: “Peace, peace, peace, peace and only peace” and added, “Peace must reign between man and God and between people.” She constantly reminds us of what humanity needs to do most: know and live the first two commandments. We must love God and love others. This is a message about the sacredness of all life. While in Medjugorje, this question never left my mind: How can we claim to love God and then kill life through wars, abortion and our inhumane treatment of other people: the old, the sick, the poor and the marginalized?

In Medjugorje our Lady has given thousands of messages but She returns to a few themes. The first one is found in her description of herself as the “Queen of Peace”. When this message of peace was given, one of the visionaries saw a vision of a cross suggesting that only with God can mankind achieve peace. Our Lady is warning mankind, her children, about the need for peace. In a world facing so many problems such as wars, famine, poverty, injustice, diseases, environmental desecration and abortion, our Lady is telling us that the only answer is to turn to God. When we truly turn to God, we become new people. We become people of faith. We become people of love. We become people who care and respect both life and the world.

Beginning with early apparitions Our Lady has stressed the need for faith. Without faith we cannot have peace in our hearts and in the world. In accepting God’s Word through faith it becomes in Christ “our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). By believing, a person becomes a new creation in sharing in the life of Christ. Accepting Christ’s Word will bring us peace with God and with our neighbor.

Conversion is another theme of the Blessed Mother’s messages. She repeatedly tells the visionaries that we need to purify and cleanse our hearts. Peace will come if we turn away from a corrupt heart and dishonest relations. Unjust laws and immoral institutions can only change when we there’s true conversion of the heart.

In many of her statements Our Lady asks us to pray. Her words are to “pray without ceasing”. These are the words which Our Lord taught us in Mark 9:29, Matthew 9:38 and Luke 11: 5-13. We need to pray to strengthen our faith and keep our relationship with God alive. Prayer restores a balance in our lives so we can be at peace with God and our neighbor. In praying we give witness to the Gospel, to the existence of God and this ought to bring us closer to others. She especially wants us to pray the Rosary and read the Bible.

Finally Our Blessed Mother speaks to the visionaries of the need for fasting. This practice is an exercise in self-control. If a person has the will power to control himself, then he is also free to abandon himself to God and his neighbor. Fasting on bread and water, at least once a week, helps us to free ourselves from the slavery of sin which results from not controlling our insatiable appetites, pleasures and desires. Fasting can be a loving reminder of the needs of the poor, the destitute and the gulf which exists between the rich and poor. Curbing our over indulgence of food and material things can bring us closer to others. In this way, we get closer to those who are suffering and in need. This awareness can bring a dimension of peace in our lives and help to bring down the walls between the rich and the poor, the have and the have nots.

In summary, Our Lady stresses peace in her messages. This is a supreme good for all humanity. To achieve this great good we must have faith, pray, fast and have a conversion of the heart. This conversion is a gift of the Holy Spirit, but we can ask for this grace by praying, attending Mass often and going to confession regularly.

Before I end this entry, I want to share with you the message for Oct. 2, 2010, the day we were there with thousands of other pilgrims: "Dear children, Today I call you to a humble, my children, humble devotion. Your hearts need to be just. May your crosses be your means in the battle against the sins of the present time. May your weapon be patience and boundless love – a love that knows to wait and which will make you capable of recognizing God's signs – that your life, by humble love, may show the truth to all those who seek it in the darkness of lies. My children, my apostles, help me to open the paths to my Son. Once again I call you to pray for your shepherds. Alongside them, I will triumph. Thank you."

It was truly a privilege and a blessing to have had the opportunity to travel to Medjugorje. It was a wonderful week for the soul. It’s a trip I highly recommend to everyone. When you go there, you will not return as the same person. You will feel the grace, the peace and the joy of Mother Mary’s prayers for all Her children. Also, Medjugorje was a strong reminder for me to continue to spread in Canada the message of hope and faith in life. By defending life, promoting Our Lady’s message of peace and of truth, we let God know that we love Him and what he has created. Let’s pray for our shepherds. Let’s pray for Canada to come away from “the darkness of lies” and one day soon become truly a country of peace for all its citizens: a country which will declare a truce from the war against the unborn.

(Note to our readers: the apparitions at Medjugorje have not yet been officially recognized by the Church. Pilgrimages are permitted as long as they are conducted privately. The Church has formed a commission to investigate the events for authenticity.)

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