Throughout history, the bible and in the appearances of our Blessed Mother in Medjugorje there has always been a call to prayer. Again, at the end of every message she says: Thank you for responding to my call. Her call is to pray, to attend mass, to pray for Peace, to pray with the body in fasting, to pray the rosary, to pray by reading and living the bible and to pray to know and to love God above all else.
There has also been a call for prayer groups which are spreading throughout the world because people are responding to her call.
I ve been asked many times by people either returning from Medjugorje, or who feel the call to possibly start a Medjugorje Rosary Prayer group in their parish. Sometimes it's hard to know where to start, or what the prayer group should consist of. I pray that these guidelines will help you get the start you need for this very important group that Our Blessed Mother asks for.
A lot of the information for this page was taken by my own experience helping lead a prayer group in the family, in the Parish where I belonged and most recently by Nedjo Brecic, who was a close friend, wonderful person devoted to the Blessed Mother and was a member of Ivan's prayer group, Queen of Peace in Medjugorje from the very beginning. He also started an internet prayer group which is tied into Ivan's prayer group in Medjugorje. Right now we have members in this special prayer group from all over the globe. We are joined in prayer with them at the time Our Blessed Mother comes to Ivan's group in Medjugorje and we try to live the messages that she gives there. Nedjo passed from this life to the next on the very day of the anniversary of his prayer group and we now carry on this prayer group with his guidelines and him in our heart.
Some of the information in these pages was also taken from: "Medjugorje “ The Sunset and The Need For Prayer Groups" by Joseph E. McNamara. It was first written in English, and then translated into Croatian and taken to Medjugorje during Christmas of 1989. The Croatian copy was given to the visionary Vicka Ivankovic through her cousin Draga, and Vicka said it was good. The outline was taken to Jelena Vasilj, the locutionist and she said that it was fine and technically sound. Jelena suggested this should be shown to fra. Slavko Barbaric. Fr. Barbaric read the outline and blessed the booklet this information came from and recommended publication for prayer groups to use. The information here was also given to Cyril Abouyneau who belongs to Ivan s prayer group. He had said that Our Blessed Mother s messages and the reference to prayer groups was correct.
I had the honor to be one of the leaders in The Medjugorje Rosary Prayer group, in Redondo Beach California at St. James Parish. We closely followed Ivan s prayer group in Medjugorje. It was wonderful to have that special tie to Medjugorje and it felt special to belong to this group. We all knew that we were called individually to be in this prayer group. We ve had several members become priests and have been so happy to see so many members going into different ministries within the church. The prayer group is a family with special graces and also special responsibilities. I hope that this section on prayer groups will help all to Respond to our Blessed Mother s Call.
Our Blessed Mother's messages on prayer groups.
"I wish for a prayer group...I will guide this group and later, when I say so, other groups can be formed in the world." She continued, "I want a prayer group here. I will lead the group and give rules of sanctification to it. Through these rules all others in the world can consecrate themselves." Words said to Jelena Vasilj, locutionist and prayer group leader in Medjugorje, by our Blessed Mother in March of 1983.
* "All people should be part of a prayer group."
* "Every parish should have a prayer group."
* "I would like to recommend that all my priests start a prayer group with the youth and teach them, giving them good advice."
* "Today I call you to renewal of family prayer in your homes. The field work is over. Now let all of you be devoted to prayer. Let prayer take the first place in your families." (November 1, 1984)
* "Today I invite you to renew prayer in your families. Dear children, encourage the very young to pray and to go to Holy Mass." (March 7, 1985)
* "Pray, especially before the cross from which great graces are coming. Now, in your homes make a special consecration to the cross of the Lord." (September 12, 1985)
Sometimes this desire to start a prayer group is such a strong desire that it's as if you are being called by our Blessed Mother to start a group. She loves her prayer groups and will help them as long as the members realize that SHE is the leader of the group and she will guide you.
The Primary reasons for having prayer groups is to help each other to grow in holiness, and to lead people to Jesus through our Blessed Mother's messages in Medjugorje.
* First of all, you need to ask the pastor of the Parish where your group is going to be to see if he does not object to having a Medjugorje prayer group. This is very important because although our Blessed Mother wants prayer groups to be formed, she still abides by what the priests in the Parish say and we all need to be obedient to the pastors wishes. Also, space might be a problem in some parishes.
* If the pastor is open to your prayer group then wonderful!! He will be able to help you and also be a very important part of the group helping with the spiritual direction of the members.
* If the Pastor in NOT open to your prayer group you might want to see if you can use someone's house or another meeting place for your group. Ask him to participate when he can and keep him in your prayers.
* Creating by-laws for your group is also a good idea. Some Pastors of big parishes want to know what your Medjugorje prayer group is and what you will be doing. Some ask for mission statements and it's good to have this anyway, but some want more specifically the rules your group will follow. (For the by-laws of the Medjugorje Rosary Prayer group of St. James in Redondo Beach.)
The leader of the prayer group:
Our Blessed Mother has said, "It would be best if the priests gather the people around, but that a lay person can lead a prayer group. If it is a lay person who takes charge then he or she should really know their faith. They should read the bible and be advanced in spiritual knowledge." They should know the teachings of the church and use frequently the Catechism.
It is best if the formation of the prayer group starts in the family first with parents leading the children.*1
* It is the leaders role to create the environment to help members grow in holiness. You need to practice what you preach by way of the messages of Medjugorje so that you are an example to the others in your group, that they can learn from you.
* Prayer group leaders should be Enthusiastic, filled with God's love and knowledge of His word to help the others grow spiritually.
* He or she needs to welcome new members warmly. Some might have troubled lives and you need to be warm and compassionate to these people.
* The leader must know our Blessed Mothers messages in Medjugorje so that he or she gives correct information to the rest of the group.
* The Medjugorje prayer group needs to be kept free from talk about other apparitions since some might not be known about, or some might even be condemned by the church. The message of Medjugorje can get confused with other apparitions if they are all talked about in the group. The message needs to be kept pure.
* If there is dissention, the group leader must keep the peace and pray. He must respect others in the group and avoid judging others or force his or her judgments or advice on the members; the leaders greatest influence will be felt in the life witness to Christian values.
* The Leader will have a big responsibility and will need the support of each member of the group. It is a good idea to pray a blessing for the leader on occasion before beginning the group.
We try to stick as closely as we can with Ivan's prayer group in Medjugorje, Queen of Peace. It is a special tie to be able to pray and follow basically the same format as they do. Our Blessed Mother is the leader of this group and Ivan takes charge. She is very happy with this group and how they pray so we know then, that this is pleasing to Our Blessed mother and God.
The prayer group can be large or small. Some may last for 30 minutes and others might last for three hours but it all depends on the needs of the particular group. Ivan's prayer group starts at approximately 9:30 with singing and prayer. At about 10:00 Our Blessed Mother comes to the group. There is usually a little more prayer, then the announcement of what the Blessed Mother said if there is a public message, and then the people go home. They also meet twice a week usually when Ivan is in Medjugorje. Once on Monday's and that is designated by the Blessed Mother, where and when that will be and it is private. Friday usually is the public group. Ivan's prayer group is a little late for most people in the states since things are so spread apart.
This is a general guide and format. All prayer groups are unique because Our Blessed Mother is leading it in a special way. The following format is how the St. James Medjugorje Rosary prayer group in Redondo Beach, California held their meetings.
* The person who wishes to start the group should have a nice statue of the Blessed Mother to bring to the prayer meetings. One very nice thing that many groups have done is to take turns taking the statue home. The person who leads that week would have the statue and the next person to lead would take the statue home with them and so on.
* The group leader would arrive earlier to prepare the seating for the group, literature and to set things up. We started at 7:00 and ended the meeting at 8:30. Every week someone would volunteer to lead the group the next week.
* We started out in the church with the Rosary. Every prayer group should include the Rosary, 5 decades or more. Everyone took turns leading one decade and sometimes since we had so many different nationalities in our group, we would say it in different languages on occasion. Special prayers such as the Consecration prayer dedicated to Jelena by the Blessed Mother, Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Prayer for priests, Prayer for Youth and St. Michael. (These were prayed right after the Rosary in the church).
* We would then proceed to the hall for the rest of the meeting.
* New Members and guests were Welcomed and given literature and/or audio tapes that would explain the Medjugorje story.
* In the hall or the persons home, when everyone is seated, we would begin by praying to the Holy Spirit which our Blessed Mother asked us to always do.
* Announcements and any updates on Medjugorje were given.
* Reading Mathew from the bible.
* Read the latest Monthly Message from Our Blessed Mother and discuss how we are living her last message and in relating this, possibly helping others in the group to grow spiritually and be better able to spread Our Lady's messages.
* If there was time, we would also talk about another Medjugorje related topic.
* If there was someone who had something to share, they would do this now.
* We would also then have prayer requests. The new Leader would take the statue home and then plan for the coming week.
Other Prayers or devotions that can be added:
* Mass or benediction of the Holy Eucharist
* The Medjugorje Rosary ( The Creed, 7 Our Fathers, Hail Mary's and Glory Be's)
* Prayer for Healing
* Chaplet of Divine Mercy
* Fatima Prayers
* Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
* Personal prayers of the group.
On a monthly basis:
* It is good to have a monthly mass for the prayer group. If the priest has been to Medjugorje this is wonderful.
* A speaker on Medjugorje.
* Plan outings such as Marian convention, listen to speakers etc.
* It is also good to have a pot luck or special dinner just for the group.
Some guidelines and tips for having a successful prayer group:
* The time you have your group should be consistent and also the place that you meet so it is a regular occurrence for your prayer group members.
* Make a prayer book just for the prayer group to hand out. At St. James we used an 8 by 10 laminated paper with all our prayers on it and this was handed out to all members before we started our meeting. We also had song books and extra Rosaries for someone to use if they didn't have one.
* A library of good Catholic books where the members could check things out one week and return them the next.
* Literature regarding Medjugorje and also a calendar of events for your group would be very helpful.
* Find a nice Statue of Our Blessed Mother, a Crucifix, icons and candles for a prayer table which could be the center of your group.
* Put together an address list.
* Church Bulletin announcements of your Medjugorje Rosary prayer group is a great thing to keep up. You can advertise speakers that you might be having, pot lucks, outings and the like.
* Obtain speakers from your parish or other parishes for helping live Mary's messages.
* Encourage ministries in the church such as feeding the homeless, Sacristy work, cleaning the church, Eucharistic adoration. All in the prayer group need to be good examples of loving Christians.
* Every week, it is good to have a theme for your group such as, living the message of fasting, or one week could be on confession, Devotions and prayer etc.
* In Closing your meeting, it's always nice to gather afterwards for a little refreshment. You will meet some new and lasting friends and it gives the group a warm family feel.
#3. Prayer Group Member Responsibilities
Our Blessed Mother's instructions
Our Blessed Mother has provided us with a living model of what a prayer group should be. She provided Jelena Vasilj (locutionist) with these following instructions that were to be applied to the prayer group:
1. Eliminate Fear
They were to put away all fear from their hearts forever. They should renounce all inordinate desires. They were to avoid television, particularly evil programs, excessive sports where it would take away from their prayer life, the unreasonable enjoyment of food and drink, alcohol, tobacco and other habits.
She urged them to eliminate all anguish and told them whoever abandons himself to God, without any restrictions, does not have room left in his heart for anguish.
She asked that they fast twice a week on bread and water. Gospa says this is the Best fast. Fasting can stop wars and suspend natural laws she also says. Fasting one or two days a week is a form of oneness with the Lord. Maria Lunetti the visionary stated that there were other forms of fasting too. For those people with addictions, they were to fast from those addictions one day a week. Television is another good form of fasting. Giving up something you enjoy.
3. Prayer throughout your day
Gospa told Jelena they the group should devote three hours a day to prayer. A half an hour should be in the morning, a half an hour in the evening. Holy Mass and the Rosary are included in this time of prayer. Set aside moments during the course of the day to pray. Do not concern yourself with the things of this world but entrust all things in prayer to Our heavenly Father.
Gospa said that those who attend school or go to work must pray half an hour in the morning and in the evening and if possible, participate in the Eucharist because it is necessary to extend the spirit of prayer to daily work.
Gospa told them to be especially prudent in their prayers since the devil will tempt those who have resolved to consecrate themselves to God. He will suggest to them that they are praying too much. She wants us to listen to her voice and not to his. When you are strengthened then the devil will no longer be able to seduce you.
The prayer group members are to go to confession at least once a month but when it is especially needed because of hardships then even more frequently. With confession we not only free ourselves from sin but we also are able to perfect ourselves in holiness and be closer to Jesus. "Confession is the remedy for the church in the West" Our Blessed mother has said.
5. Strive for Holiness
Our Blessed Mother encourages us to desire to be holy and to help other members of our group to desire to be holy and to grow in holiness. This is what we are called to do.
6. Holy Objects in the home
Gospa says that we need to have holy blessed objects in our homes and also on ourselves. Medals, Crucifixes and holy water to name a few. She also wants us to have the Holy Bible placed in a prominent place at home and to read this daily.
"I invite you to place more blessed objects in your homes and that each one wear some blessed object on himself. Let all the objects be blessed. For then, Satan will not tempt you so much, because you will be armed against him." (July 18, 1985)
The above rules were given to Jelena's prayer group by Our Blessed Mother. They might be difficult for others to follow, such as the elderly or the infirm. Fasting on bread and water may not be prudent for some so substitute something else. This is a basis to go on for our own prayer groups. Although all prayer groups are different, it's good to stay as close to what we know Our Blessed Mother likes.
Problems That Can Arise
Well, when we're talking about prayer groups you would hardly think that they could possibly have problems. After all, you're praying and there should be no problems right? Well, not really. Our Blessed Mother said in one of her messages that Wherever she is, Satan is not far behind. He does not like prayer groups and even there, you will see his ugly face.
I think just about every group will have some problems down the line but if you keep focused, and prayerful and know how to overcome some of these difficulties, the problem might not become overwhelming.
Ivan said that when dissension would start in his prayer group, he would fast and pray at least 3 Rosaries. If you ask everyone in the group to do the same, there' s no way that things will stay the same. They might come to a head but, it should get back to normal and be even possibly stronger then before.
Most common problems
1. Not sticking to the topic of Medjugorje. This might not sound like such a big deal but it is. This is one of the most important. Everyone is very interested in learning about the message of Medjugorje, you are a Medjugorje prayer group, you're there to spread the messages of that wonderful place and stay on the path to conversion so you can be an example to others about Our Blessed Mother and her Sons' plan there. I have spoken with several groups that have started out good but then, strayed for the purpose of creating more interest. A Medjugorje prayer group isn't the place to talk about other apparitions because the message of Medjugorje can get convoluted. It's also not a place to bring up controversial topics, this will cause dissention. It's not a place to bring in books that are non Catholic, New age and to give talks on these things. If you want to talk about all of these things, then a good time to share this might be after the group has ended and just having conversation. The message of Medjugorje needs to be kept pure and focused on Medjugorje. Imagine yourself in Medjugorje, at Ivan's prayer group, or Jelena's. I don't talk about alot of other apparitions, Our Lady, Queen of Peace is enough for anyone. It's enough just to try to live her messages there. Everything you need to know in order to live a good life and pass from this one to the next in Gods grace is in her messages. She says not to be like butterflies. Just to fully go over her message and what it means and how to live it in our every day lives is enough for any Medjugorje prayer group.
2. Ego. This is a toughy because no body's perfect but we need to remember to be humble and think of how Jesus would do it. I have seen this in several groups where there is a person or people who want to change the group and see it take another direction, changing things for their own liking instead of the good of the entire group. Be open to what the group members are saying. You are a family brought together by the Queen of Peace. Stick with her and her messages with love for each other and humility.
3. Gossip. Please refrain from gossip in the group. You're not there for that and it's not a very good example to others possibly wanting to join the group let alone hurting others while you're there to pray and learn to love.
4. This is not really a problem but it is a concern for those who want to belong to a Medjugorje prayer group but are not comfortable with other forms of prayer and that is having the Medjugorje group a Charismatic group. In most churches there are several different types of groups, some Fatima prayer groups, Renew groups, Youth prayer groups, Charismatic prayer groups and hopefully a Medjugorje prayer group. Since Medjugorje is not charismatic and the priests are not, it's best to keep the Charismatic group Charismatic and the Medjugorje group, traditional. Some might think that this is the way Medjugorje is and if they are not comfortable with that form of prayer it might discourage them from learning about the messages of Medjugorje which is the most important reason for having the group so please be sensitive to this when planning to start a Medjugorje prayer group. Some of the biggest upsets in prayer groups that I have seen has been because of this. People end up leaving the group and then the group turns into something else. (In a book regarding Medjugorje, one author stated that Father Jozo is a charismatic priest. He is not Charismatic in the sense of how he prays but he has charisma that attracts many people). In my opinion it is best to keep these two types of prayer groups separate.
5. Get Permission. Another big problem is a group who won't ask permission from the pastor to do specific things. The pastor gets upset and so do the members of the prayer group. We need to remember that if you have a group at a church, in the parish hall or on church property that we need to be obedient to the authority of the pastor. When getting a speaker to talk for your group, ask permission, when wanting to use the church for a mass and if another priest comes in, get permission, planning special pot lucks, get permission and then, if he gives you an answer you don't like, well, he's the pastor and you need to offer this up and remember to pray for your priests.
6. By-laws. It might be a good idea, especially if you see your group growing in leaps and bounds, to write up some specific by-laws that would keep things going smoothly if there's ever any doubt. The St. James Medjugorje prayer group was very large and we needed 4 leaders and by-laws. It gives those something to go by and stick with when you are not around, or leave on an extended trip, hopefully to pilgrimage in Medjugorje.
by Rev. Robert Hughes
Fr. Bob Hughes is well-known to various prayer communities in California. Based in the San Jose and Saratoga area, he has been involved in the formation and/or operation of two dozen prayer groups on the west coast. He is a priest committed to Our lady, and to prayer. His comments on prayer groups follow:
Prayer groups present a wonderful opportunity:
To promote living the Medjugorje messages (faith, conversion, peace, prayer, fasting and penance).
To nurture the grace of Medjugorje in individuals.
To receive spiritual formation in a Marian context.
As such, prayer groups stand as an almost unlimited resource for continued growth in the vision and through Medjugorje. She has highlighted in so many ways their special importance and significance. "Satan has become aggressive, because he is losing power...Therefore, protect yourselves by prayer, fasting, and , above all, community prayer." (April 14, 1982).
Without going into the question, I think it is highly important to probe continually the "mystery of Medjugorje in order to appreciate more and more what is really taking place, to perceive its fuller meaning and its far-reaching implications. This kind of prayerful reflection will help indicate the central place that prayer groups enjoy.
In trying to establish a format for our prayer groups here, we decided from the start not to copy completely the prayer groups in Medjugorje, but rather to select what was suitable to our circumstances. On at least two occasions, individual priests asked Our Lady through the visionaries if they could start prayer groups like those in Medjugorje back in their own countries. Our Lady's response was the same on both occasions; "prayer groups-yes, they should be established in every parish of the world, but as for the rest I would like to talk to the priests individually." This means she does different things with different people according to their special culture, circumstances, etc.
We have two kinds of prayer groups here: open and closed. The closed prayer groups limit their membership, usually because they are pursuing a more intense type of formation or are pursuing a special objective. The open prayer groups take on a variety of forms, but generally they fall into two groupings; those connected with the celebration of the Eucharist, and those that take place in private homes.
The basic structure for these groups is:
Renewal of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (using the prayer-formulas dictated by Our Lady to Jelena);
The Recitation of the Rosary; and,
This basic structure is introduced by a prayer or song to Our Lady inviting her into the group, a prayer or hymn to the Holy Spirit, and sometimes a prayer or hymn in honor of Jesus. Groups are advised, at least at the beginning, to use the norm of one hour as a time frame, and to sustain the atmosphere of prayer all during the meeting. Announcements, etc., are made after the closing prayer or hymn.
The basic structure was adopted because these three elements were emphasized in a special way by Our Lady as being important. Each element was requested by Our Lady to be done on a daily basis, and each of the three elements lend themselves in a special way to formative experiences. The existence of these three elements as a basic structure in the prayer group, then, are a continual reminder to the participants of what they should be doing on a daily basis and how they can grow.
*1. Ivan has said: "In the world today, priests can also be of great help. Our Lady is asking priests themselves to form prayer groups for the young in their parishes; and in this way, the priests would be instructing and directing them in their lives, giving them true counseling. It must be emphasized here, however, that not even a priest can be of any help if the parent did not take the great right step in raising his young child. Many times, a parent does not even know what it means to raise children. Many of today's parents have grown to prefer other kinds of enjoyment and satisfaction with other things while they have neglected their children and put them at a second place in their lives. We must direct our attention to the parents regarding the present times in this modern world. The influence of drugs alcohol and an unclean life, especially with the young, is increasing rapidly. I repeat that parents of today play a very important role in bringing up their children."
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