-And why wouldn=t you also make a short visit to the parish of Medjugorje, and Aright from the place@ pass on to the readers your impressions about what you see, learn and experience there?
Very serious and convinced believers have already for weeks and months been flooding us with these kind of questions and encouragements. So finally we decided to go. One bright afternoon we took off in the direction of gentle Brotnjo. We arrived at Medjugorje on a mild and warm October evening. It was already six o=clock. The time of the daily evening mass in the parish church. A mysterious peace reigned over the village and the harmonious prayer droned in the church. We start to walk faster and there we are under the vaults of the magnificent Medjugorje church. The divine service is already near the end and the faithful are all on their knees. Some in the pews and some on the bare floor. Our curious eyes survey the entire church and among those present we notice a fairly large number of youthful believers and again a pretty good number of young men among them. Stalwart as mountains and youthful as a fresh drop of dew.
The divine service ends, but no one leaves the church. On the contrary, everyone stays on their knees. Then soon a special prayer of seven Our Fathers and the rosary begins. All these prayers are led by the children - the visionaries. This time there were just two of them. Vicka, the oldest and Jakov, the youngest. The others are at school outside Medjugorje. But on Saturdays and Sundays they almost always join Vicka and Jakov. The prayer is clear and distinct. For a moment it sounds like the burbling of a fresh mountain stream. We join in the prayer still looking around at everything in the church. And all of a sudden we notice a rather large group of boys and girls with school bags in their hands flooding into the church. As they come in they kneel down and join in the community prayer. Later on they told us that this is an unavoidable stop of theirs every evening. From school straight to church and only then home. They do it gladly without anyone encouraging them.
Praying the rosary lasts fairly long but nobody in the church blinks an eye. We were especially fascinated at the devotion of the young Christian men. Probably also because we have never ever come across such recollected and contrite young men in our churches!
After the rosary part of the faithful leave the church and a smaller group of them remain for the final prayer for the seriously sick. In the church yard the first ones we meet are the young men who fascinated us in the church with their natural devotion. Without us asking any question they immediately began opening their hearts, overflowing with love for Mary, Mother of us all. They come from different parts of Hercegovina. We speak particularly with those coming from Mostar and the nearby vicinity. They say they are often in Medjugorje. They are drawn there by the unique atmosphere of prayer. On their way back they are accompanied by an indescribable peace of mind which they live in for days. They tell us that just like many of their young acquaintances, they keep a strict fast almost every Friday. Gladly and enthusiastically.
As we say good-bye to the young men, immediately a group of young girls and young ladies come our way. Some of them are from Medjugorje, some from nearby Citluk, and some from more distant places. We do not have time to ask them any questions because they also get ahead of us with their outpouring of enthusiastic faith.. Like the young men, the ladies also speak of prayer that sustains and inspires them, about spiritual tranquility and inner joy. One girl who recently returned from Germany testifies with enthusiasm that since not long ago she can pray even for hours in complete presence of mind and that she acquired a real spiritual taste for prayer.
And still a few more similar meetings in front of the church - at the end of dusk. With almost the same reports and identical enthusiasm.
In all of this one thing is particularly interesting: the faithful talk far less about the children=s visions and the healings of the sick, (although they firmly believe all that) than one would expect. On the contrary, they talk more about their inner transformation, about reconciliation and forgiveness and about all that we mentioned before. And so, little by little, the faithful returned to their homes, singing Marian songs of praise, among which the most often heard are, AMarijo, o Marijo@ and AO mila Majko nebeska.@
With that we moved to the parish house - to talk a little with the visionary children. Vicka and little Jakov gladly accepted. Already at the beginning of the conversation we get the impression that these children are very bright, very open and, above all, very natural. Vicka speaks in unusually lively and sure way but not in anyway imposing. And she always makes a very clear distinction between what she is completely convinced of and what may only be indirectly concluded or just guessed at. She answers questions quickly, cleverly and succinctly (sometimes also picturesquely!). And when she has no answer, she simply and bluntly says: AI don=t know!@ She is neither vain about having become the center of attention in a certain way nor about daily receiving a handful of letters from the faithful at home and abroad. What is more, she will not say about herself that she is particularly good, much less perfect. She just says that she sincerely tries to be better and more honest: both as a human being and as a believer.
Little Jakov acts his age. While we are speaking with Vicka, like a little boy he playfully Apokes through@ the parish books, plays with a bunch of pencils, taps on a typewriter, scurries to and fro, sits down one minute and then continues again with his playing. But surprisingly, we ask him some serious question, he at once gets serious, leaves the toys and very seriously answers the question that was asked.
Our conversation with the children is friendly, direct, and in good spirits, and sometimes we even joke a little between ourselves. At one moment we somewhat provocatively called Vicka=s attention to the fact that they are many people who are not taking the children=s apparitions seriously, although they are serious believers and some also even outright church officials. But Vicka does not at all get upset with that. Rather she calmly answers that nobody has to believe their visions if they cannot or if they think differently. Then she starts telling us how even she herself was not completely convinced after the first apparition. And that she did not want to say or admit anything to anybody until she was Aa hundred percent convinced herself that she is seeing and speaking with Our Lady.@ And Vicka speaks about her Aconversations with Our Lady@ in such a natural way, it is as if she were talking about a conversation that she just had with her own mother a little while ago. From these Aconversations with Our Lady@ she mostly emphasizes the messages that refer to prayer and penance, faith and fidelity to God, peace and reconciliation among those who are at odds with each other, honesty and humanity, love and goodness. So, it is something like what the believers mentioned to us earlier in front of the church, and then again it is completely in tune with what constitutes the heart and framework of the true believer. After the conversation with the children, we spoke a little with the local Franciscans - the pastoral ministers. Immediately, among their first and strongest impressions about Medjugorje believers and Medjugorje pilgrims, they unanimously emphasized much of what we already heard in front of the church: a deepened devotion and prayer, the frequent and contrite reception of the sacraments, are indubitable facts in Medjugorje. On the other hand, the inner joy and calm are the indubitable testimonies that the faithful very often show and communicate in various ways. Fr. Tomislav give us two of the most recent such examples. The first refers to some orthodox believer who came on pilgrimage to Medjugorje sometime toward the end of this summer. Just a few days before we arrived in Medjugorje, he telephoned the Medjugorje parish office. First he mentioned that his sight (he was almost completely blind) has not improved even after his pilgrimage to Medjugorje, but he immediately added enthusiastically that now he feels such peace and joy in his heart that it is far more precious to him than sight in his eyes. A similar testimony was reported by a Catholic lady from our country who works in Sweden. After her pilgrimage to Medjugorje, she was completely freed from her unbearable spiritual anxieties and is now immeasurably happy and profoundly grateful to God and the Mother of God.
In addition we find out that there is a pretty large number of Orthodox and Moslem faithful who have come on pilgrimage to Medjugorje during the past several months and that according to their own written and spoken admissions, took away unforgettable memories. Thus some Orthodox believers were moved to tears when a Medjugorje priest spoke to them with a warm welcome about our common Father in Heaven and our common Mother Mary, who love us all alike regardless of a certain difference in confession of faith. Others again were touched by the care and hospitality of the local believers who received them in their family homes as their own brothers and sisters. And then in turn the local believers and the priests in turn were touched by the profound faith and love for God of those who belong to another confession of faith. They were particularly fascinated by the faith and penitential disposition of a group of Orthodox Roma people, who from some distance [the bridge by the post office over the Lukoƒ Creek op. trad.] came on their knees all the way to the entrance of the Medjugorje church. Fr. Tomislav told us that he never ever saw such a dignified approach to the cross as was shown by these Roma people on one occasion when they approached the cross and kissed it according to their ages. Orthodox believers have been coming to Medjugorje from very distant regions. For example, from Leskovac, Zaje…ar, Šabac, Smederevo, Belgrade, [towns in central Serbia, op. trad.] and Subotica. And there have also been Moslem pilgrims from very distant places. For example, one group came all the way from Zagreb.
Each of these two groups remained in prolonged prayer and followed the divine liturgy with exemplary behavior. Catholic pilgrims have been coming from almost every territory of our country even from out of the country. We tried to get some figures, but the local Franciscans do not want to give out any unverified data. From June to October  in Medjugorje have there been 150,000 confessions, 200,000 communions, a million pilgrims, a little more or less - it is impossible to be sure of. Certainly it must have been a great multitude. The most important thing is that the great majority of that multitude made haste to Medjugorje on the wings of faith and sincere devotion. That would be the whole answer to our questions about figures.
Then again we moved on to what is really more important and more salvific than ordinary dry statistics. Particularly significant and meaningful, the pastoral ministers of the place emphasize, is that the local believers and pilgrims are beginning to look into their own interior, their own soul, - in order to see in their soul what is so plain to see in the Bible. It is from this that the ever more frequent demand for deeper confessions, the demand for spiritual conversation and counsel come - leading up to a complete enlivening of faith and life. It is probably also from this that incentives for mutual reconciliation come, including Fr. Tomislav=s fresh piece of information that recently on one Saturday he gave communion for a fairly long time just to adult men between ages 20 and 25. And by the way, evening masses on Saturday and Sunday are significantly more attended than the evening masses on week days - which is understandable. Thus one October Sunday evening, according to estimates of careful observers, next to the overflowing church, there were twice as many believers in the yard around the church!
Finally, summarizing all the facts and impressions, one young priest from a nearby neighborhood makes the statement that over the past several months Medjugorje has been transformed into a quiet place of prayer, where God is glorified in a penitential way and not in the sense of festivity. And Fr. Tomislav adds that amid the whole atmosphere old and somewhat forgotten spiritual values are also coming to life, such as strict fasting and prolonged, undistracted prayer. (Some believer admitted to him that he had only heard of strict fasting or Adrying out@ from his deceased grandmother a long time ago and that now he is a witness of many young people who have voluntarily taken up such a way of fasting.
Indeed, in Medjugorje we heard and felt a lot of things, beautiful, inspiring, and educational. And all of these lessons, messages, and testimonies could be summed up in one desire and expectation: let humanity increase in every man, and faith increase in every man - believer. In any case that is something good. Because with man being more human and the believer more faithful, the totality of human life will be more meaningful and joyful. That is something we certainly all desire, regardless of religion and personal conviction. And something like that is glimmering in Medjugorje. With hope and prayer that it be so, we left the Medjugorje parish house. Stars were twinkling in the sky. And peace reigned over Medjugorje.
Naša ognjišta, XI, 9 (77), Duvno, November 1981, pp. 10-11.
[Our Hearths, a Catholic monthly published by the Hercegovina Franciscans in Tomislavgrad (formerly Duvno) op. trad.]
Source: © Informativni Centar « Mir »-Medjugorje www.Medjugorje.hr