November 23, 2008
By Anonymous

“U ime Oca i Sina i Duha Svetoga. Amen.” With rain jacket on, umbrella overhead, and radio in hand tuned to “MIR” Medjugorje-Live, I make the sign of the cross on my body. I am standing outside of Saint James Catholic Church attending Holy Mass in Croatian. Through the outdoor speakers I hear the priest pray in Croatian, through my right earphone I hear the English translation, and in my left ear I hear the pitter-patter of the rain. The congregation duly responds in unison, and we sit down on our benches. As I listen and attempt to follow along in my English missal, I get caught up in the beauty of the Croatian language, and my mind begins to wander. These people are so in love with the Eucharist, so devoted to Our Lady, and so kind and welcoming to the pilgrims. Their joy is not in money or possessions but in something much greater. I can see why the Blessed Mother appears in the small, humble village of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It’s their faith, even through the rain. If only I could believe as deeply as they believe…
Six of us pilgrims make our way through the more rural part of town, and slowly the path between the houses begins to widen, guiding us into open fields. Following my friend Andrew, I trek across the countryside, anxiety beginning to settle into my stomach. “Andrew, are you sure you know where you are going?” I ask about one hundred more times. His answer is always a simple but confident “Yes.” He is sure the mountain ahead is Mount Krizevac; therefore, all we have to do is keep parallel to the mountain, and we will eventually reach our destination. I trust; I have no choice. I observe my other friends’ faces, hoping to detect the same feelings of uncertainty, but I find only laughter and a lighthearted peace. Allison is enjoying the breathtaking view of mountain and sky. Lauren is joking about the drastic measures she will take if we don’t run across a restroom soon. Kyle picks a bright wildflower and tucks it into Rachel’s hair. “Lord, I know you want me here, but why? Why am I here?” I direct my silent question toward the heavens. I feel lost, in both the literal and spiritual sense. I am not to recognize God’s answer until months later, although His reply lies so close on the edge of the vast, wide-open field...
It’s June twentieth—my last day in Medjugorje. The Croatian soccer team has just won their match, and the locals spill out of pubs and restaurants onto the streets. Shouts of “Croatia!” fill the air and soar alongside red and white checkered flags. Amidst the jubilant celebration, Kyle and I walk down the main street and passed Saint James. We pray the Luminous Mysteries along the way, our voices becoming one with the night’s joy. Upon reaching the Risen Christ, we discover another crowd, and together we reverently witness the miracle before our eyes. All eyes gaze lovingly toward the bronzed statue above us. Christ is raised from His cross, and from His knee seep human tears. I wait in line, and when it is my turn I reach up to touch the glistening knee. I feel the cool liquid on my forehead as I make the sign of the cross on my body. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

A friend told me that “mir” is Croatian for “peace.” Each of my encounters of the people and country of Medjugorje, sowed a seed of mir in me, and it is only now that I am beginning to understand the fruits of my pilgrimage. Faith, trust, and joy that end with peace. The people taught me by their way of life. Every occasion, from Holy Mass to a soccer victory, was seen through eyes of faith and celebrated with the joy of heaven. The miles of fields were a metaphor of life’s journey and a lesson in trust. The feeling of being lost that I found most troublesome led me to trust in the Lord’s knowledge of my destination. Finally, at the foot of the cross, Our Lady cried with me. I found joy in the Risen Christ, in the promise of life with Him. The six of us did end up reaching our destination—a small, beautiful adoration chapel, appropriately named the Oasis of Peace.

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