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We just got back from a week long trip to Croatia & Bosnia Herzegovina. Over the past 7 days we spent about 20 hours in a car, plus we have been up and down a few mountains on foot. The tiring bit is the sun & heat factor…
Visit to Medjugorje
While planning to spend our one week vacation in Croatia, we already had the thoughts of visiting Medjugorje. It is claimed that apparitions of the Virgin Mary appeared to a group of small children here in 1981, and ever since this small town has become the Mecca for Catholics in the vicinity.
The trip to Medjugorje took us about 2 hours from Trogir, where we stayed in an apartment.
After (twice) crossing the Bosnian frontier, we headed for Medjugorje. Twice because Bosnia has a very short Adriatic coastline that the highway passes through. Medjugorje is up in the mountains. The name literally means “in the middle of mountains.” The Catholic Church has not officially sanctioned the visions of the Virgin Mary, yet Pilgrims come to Medjugorje in large numbers.
Wikipedia describes Medjugorje in a nutshell; located in the Herzegovina region around 25 km southwest of Mostar and close to the border of Croatia.
Upon entering the town, I was instantly surprised by the amount of apartment blocks, hotels, restaurants and shops.
Arriving at the center of Medjugorje at around 11.45, we first visited the church. A Holy Mass in French was going on as we entered the church. After the Mass, we drove to the apparition hill.
The view of Medjugorje from Apparation Hill
More interesting than the Church in the town is Apparition Hill, a rocky, rather steep hill, where the visions were received. In order to get to the actual location, visitors must climb a hill that is paved with rocks. I noticed that even elderly people attempted this hike. Some walked with canes, some took a break every few minutes, and some were assisted, but they all made it just to say a prayer or bring a picture of a loved one to leave at the statue’s feet. I must say that the energy and atmosphere was so overwhelming, that I even had a moment of tearful eyes. Maybe watching so many people begging and pleading for help reminded me of my own troubles and how comforting it must be to think that this visit could ease some of life’s burdens and misfortunes we all must face eventually.
Whether or not you believe, there is one real, serious “miracle” that may be attributed to Mary. In the Homeland War, the Serbs did drop a few bombs on Medjugorje. The shells did not explode. Compare/contrast with the destruction of Mostar, a city not too far away.
The message of “Our Lady” was and is a very Catholic one: pray, fast, confess, celebrate the Holy Mass, read the bible.
But there is one resounding message that comes again like a guiding thread: peace. On the 25th of June, 1981, Mary said to the six young Bosnian Croats that they should pray for peace. “Peace is all we have”, the poor villagers said at the time. On the 26th of June, 1991, almost exactly ten years later, the forceful disintegration of Yugoslavia began. Then, peace was all they longed for.
My wife and I certainly found a kind of inner peace in Medjugorje, in that oasis of peace in the middle of a former war Zone.
— Hector Pascua