Google will very quickly introduce you to many pages (probably the Wikipedia article already linked here, and its internal links, provide the best place to start, especially for the unfamiliar or sceptical (!) enquirer) dealing with the village, and with the history of Marian pilgrimage to the area. You will easily be able to trace the various controversies surrounding the site, from the early disagreements with the Communist authorities of Yugoslavia, through the Bosnian War of the early 1990s, to the current inquiry by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
But none of these – and as you may imagine I had read plenty before we travelled – had prepared me even slightly for the impact that most Franciscan of places would have on me. It is hard to explain how this came about, and it is this difficulty that has made me strangely reluctant to begin this post.
Certainly I experienced nothing “supernatural” in the external way. The widely reported and well-attested miracles of healing still go on, but I did not experience these directly during our stay. The experiences I did have were entirely spiritual and internal, and too private to write of here or anywhere.
What has remained, apart from a greatly deepened love of our Lady herself, is an odd kind of spiritual certainty – a sureness of heart, if I can use such a phrase. This life that I have lived, its twists and turns, the many things I would have wished otherwise, is a gift from God’s own hand. It is thoroughly permeated by the Holy Spirit, and so lived-in by Christ. I cannot choose the best bits. All that I have lived through works in the end together for my own good (Romans 8.28!); somehow for the healing of my tangled heart.
Yet again the call is to prayer, to the simplification of life. I seem to be incapable of living without getting caught up in stuff. Increasingly I’m coming to understand why men and women are called to live in community, where “stuff”, physical and social, is owned by the community, and they themselves are not caught up in it in such a personal way as we are who live in the world.
I know too how easily trying to live with less stuff can in itself become a hobby, can become “stuff” in its own right. Try entering “minimalist blog” into your favourite search engine, and you will find a legion of (mostly) young (mostly) American women and men whose waking hours seem to be devoted to working out how to live with increasingly less stuff – not all of it physical stuff, by any means. That isn’t what I’m getting at.
There is a passage in the Principles of the Third Order Society of St. Francis which reads, “Those of us who have much time at our disposal give prayer a large part in our daily lives. Those of us with less time must not fail to see the importance of prayer and to guard the time we have allotted to it from interruption.” I have made a fairly poor showing on either count, on the whole, and it is mostly to do with my attachment to stuff: social, intellectual, even spiritual stuff quite as much as physical stuff.
I am rambling. Medjugorje has been for me about far more than un-stuffing. It is, though, about living one-pointedly. The mistake some Protestants make is to imagine that Catholics worship Mary. They love her, honour her, turn to her; but she herself is continually pointing them to her Son. Medjugorje has been for me an experience of being called to leave everything and follow him, being called far deeper into the place Paul describes in the opening verses of Colossians 3:
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.In the end, it’s simply about trust – trusting Jesus enough actually to believe the Beatitudes, I suppose…